Within the track world of miniature model railways as Yorkshire collectors see rising boom

There's a neatness that pleases, perhaps, to miniature model rail. To the fine lines and tiny figures and in the tinny whistle of a train as it gently rolls down the track.

Shaun Taylor a model railway collector and exhibitor from Howden. Image: Jonathan Gawthorpe
Shaun Taylor a model railway collector and exhibitor from Howden. Image: Jonathan Gawthorpe

This is a whole world set to scale that folds nicely away. And then is rolled out again for exhibitions and shows that are rising in popularity.

Now there are notably more families at shows on the circuit. Major toymakers Märklin and Hornby reported a steep rise in lockdown sales, as people returned to their hobbies.

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To enthusiast Shaun Taylor the draw has always been in recreating the past. But it's also a great boon for the brain, he added, to focus on simple tasks.

Shaun Taylor a model railway collector and exhibitor from Howden. Image: Jonathan Gawthorpe

"I like to look at it and think 'I made that'," he said. "A lot of it, I've built from scratch."

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Mr Taylor, as a boy counting out his pocket money, had longed for a toy shop engine. It wasn't until his own five-year-old daughter asked for a set for Christmas that he gave in.

The novelty for Cara, now 22, soon wore off, he laughed, but he has kept it going.

Shaun Taylor a model railway collector and exhibitor from Howden. Image: Jonathan Gawthorpe

"I've ended up with four layouts, of various sizes, that I take to shows," he said. "There's a permanent one, that goes right around the loft. It's a brilliant hobby, I love it."

Model railway shows in the region have long drawn enthusiasts, to exhibitions such as one in November by the Yorkshire Wolds Railway, and another at York Racecourse at Easter.

To those exhibiting, they have seen a change. In what was historically a male dominated hobby, more women are now involved. And more young families are turning out.

Fashions

Shaun Taylor a model railway collector and exhibitor from Howden. Image: Jonathan Gawthorpe

Ian Woodward was among a "generation brought up on Meccano", he said, at a time when it was "weirdly cool" to collect train numbers on the platform at Doncaster or Leeds.

Now aged 67, fashions have turned full cycle. "Trainspotting is not so much a done thing nowadays," he said. "But we still see the youngsters watching the trains go by."

It took Mr Woodward two years to build his 16ft layout known as Wardwood, based on the West Riding of Yorkshire from 1968 to 1972, and three more years of tinkering. It's never quite finished.

Time scales matter - this is between the end of steam and before the changing of the livery for British Rail, and it's in the detail where little differences will be noted.

Ian Woodward's layout Wardwood, at the Yorkshire Wolds Railway show at the Rix Pavilion at Driffield Showground last year. Image: James Hardisty

A tiny figure, with notebook in hand, is poised to note numbers at the end of a train platform.

There is a window cleaner, perched on a ladder, and a house proud woman scrubbing her front steps. With advances in 3D technology and laser printing, anything is possible.

"It rekindles happy days from our youth I suppose - we always look back with rose tinted glasses," he said. "It's the satisfaction of building something that reminds us of our past."

'There are always questions'

At Mr Taylor's Howden home, he is building a new layout, stretched out across the table. It's a chemical works, in what's known as 'modern image'.

Some buildings come 'ready to run', some from kit boxes. The enjoyment comes from putting it together with the bits he builds, said Mr Taylor, and seeing it brought to life.

Shaun Taylor a model railway collector and exhibitor from Howden. Image: Jonathan Gawthorpe

At shows across the region, he too is seeing more young families and children, with a resurgence in interest once more.

"They come up and ask questions, there are always questions," he said. "Then they're looking at the lay outs and saying to their parents 'can I have one of them?'.

"As daft as it sounds, they have good knowledge. They might be five or six years old, but they know all the train names and makes. You go to shows and they're full."

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Shaun Taylor a model railway collector and exhibitor from Howden. Image: Jonathan Gawthorpe