British Region of the National Model Railroad Association

On the 2nd September 1945, on the deck of the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay, Douglas MacArthur and Mamoru Shigmitsu were signing the Japanese surrender, bringing the Second World War officially to an end. On the same day, the President of the National Model Railroad Association, Ed Ravenscroft and Secretary Bernard Gottlieb, were signing another momentous piece of paper granting the British Region its charter. It is hard to believe this took place when it did and as such we should marvel at the motivation shown by these people to put the war years behind them and to pursue this great hobby. British Region therefore has the honour of becoming only the second NMRA Region to be formed.

10 years earlier, the NMRA had itself been formed when a group of modellers found their models were incompatible on each other’s tracks. Each manufacturer then had its own standards so the principal objective of the newly formed NMRA was to lay down standards to ensure one manufacturer’s equipment would run with the products produced by another. These basic standards included the scales, track gauges, wheel contours, operating voltage and even which direction the train will go for a particular polarity.

So what attracted modellers in Britain to model the North American prototype in the late 1940s? It seems that interest first grew in the 1930s and was further inspired by military associations during the war ears, the tremendous efforts of Wm.F. Bolton (soon to be Region secretary) and with cooperation from NMRA President Larry Sagle. Membership being spread across the country prompted the development of the Region based around its regular magazine “Highball”until 1948 and since 1949, “Roundhouse”. Another consequence of a distributed membership was the Annual Convention, which took the form of a member’s weekend at a hotel, the venue moving around Britain each year. In 1951 the Region entertained Mr & Mrs Wm. K. Walthers and later that year Mr & Mrs Gordon Varney. During this time the suggestion of an International Model Railroad Meet to coincide with the Region Convention was received. Sadly the following year when arrangements had been finalised, including those with the BBC, British Railways Board, the Lord Provost of Edinburgh and various other city dignitaries plus a steam special train, the American delegation were forced to cancel as support had withered. Bill Walthers having to cancel the chartered KLM aircraft bringing the American delegation. 1953 saw the presentation to the Region by Mr G.K.Nield, PRO of the Canadian Pacific Railway, of an inscribed bell from CPR D6b locomotive #536. The next few years also saw the Region
acting as the go-between for Australasia members until they could form their own Region.

1971 was a momentous year in that the NMRA held its Annual Convention in London, the only time that it has held its convention outside of North America. This involved years of planning by members of the British Region and a huge effort over the 5-day period of the Convention. It included “Clinics” (illustrated talks and demonstrations on railroading topics) given by such notable legends of model railroading as John Allen, John Armstrong, Linn Westcott, Hal Carstens and Paul Mallery. It also involved taking large numbers of people to such diverse sites as York and Horsted Keynes (Bluebell Railway). The culmination was a banquet at the then Clapham Museum of Transport. (The collection since relocated to the National Railway Museum at York)

The Region currently comprises 22 Divisions/Groups spread throughout Britain with a membership around the 700 mark. Most groups meet monthly and enjoy club facilities where they can run their models.

Our close NMRA friends from Europe (Holland, Belgium, Germany and Luxembourg) also manage to travel to Region meetings and to our Convention, often bringing layouts
for display and participating in our contests.

The British Region 65th Anniversary Convention, “The Six-Five Special”, was held at The Yew Lodge Hotel, Kegworth, Leicestershire, with layouts, traders, bring & buy tables, contests, clinics and ‘modelling with the masters’, plus a celebratory banquet. Two special Guests of Honour attended; the newly elected NMRA Vice President, Bill Kaufmann and thanks to the sponsorship of Model Junction of Slough, Pelle Søeborg, who gave several clinics thoroughout the weekend.

Members of the public were welcomed on the Sunday – the principal aim being promotion of the hobby, the NMRA, and the initiation and fostering of an interest in North American modelling.

For more details about British Region go to

Compiled by John Firth (Region Membership Secretary) and Terry Wynne (former Calder Northern Group Chairman)