Association of


Railway Modellers

Reports prior to October 2022 can be found here.

Below are the most recent reports.

Modelling the Past for the Future

For our May meeting we were lucky enough to have a talk by Chris Webber from Pendon Museum, which is well known by many of us as a benchmark of the highest quality modelling.


Chris relayed to us how Pendon uses models to show life and transport in the Vale of the White Horse in the 1920’s and 1930’s.

The model started when Roye England came to the UK from Australia and went to live in the Vale of the White Horse. He could see things were changing quickly with the modernisation of transport so he decided to create a model to capture the beauty of the English countryside before it changed forever. The model recreates the farms, cottages and lanes, horse drawn traffic, with the railway making its way through the idyllic landscape.


The trains that run in the museum are representative of the traffic from that time and place - often based on Roye’s notes and observations from his time watching from near his favourite signal box. As such these observations have become a part of the museum’s unique value, as a historical record of the transport of the era - the goods being carried, and the means of doing so.


Chris explained how the buildings models are created, starting with extensive research, measuring, photographs, notes, sketches and dimensions to make a record - to capture the reality of the building at a moment in time, including patterns in the stonework, leaning walls and damaged roof tiles, sizes of timbers and the details in the window frames.


Building walls are typically made from sturdy card, with lines for stonework or brick mortar scribed into the surface to match the measured research drawings, then meticulously painted with permanent artists watercolours. The corners of the building would then need to be folded by scribing away a V into the back of the board to allow the card to fold neat and crisp to the required angle, which would inevitably require some practice before folding up the precious painted stone walls. The walls are generally made with excess material at the bottom - a ‘basement’ in effect, so that the building can be set into the ground seamlessly, while also providing a way to handle the model without touching the painted areas too much.


Thatch roof has been made in the past from human hair - though now they tend to use hemp instead, laid in bunches to replicate the thatchers art in miniature. It would then be trimmed with scissors and painted.


The ground itself is made on a card ‘crate’ construction, where the lie of the land can be cut from pieces of card to make the contours, then covered over with plaster and scrim to provide the surface, and further worked with plaster for the finer details in the shape of the ground.


For the trees, Chris recommended seeking out the books by Gordon Gravett, and that making a tree is best when you use a record of a real tree as the reference material rather than trying to invent one - model what it looks like, rather than what we think it looks like.


For the construction of buildings, Chris also referred to the book Cottage Modelling for Pendon by Chris Pilton, which details the processes used. While out of print, the book will sometimes come up on ebay so it is worth looking out for.


An inspirational evening.

Andrew Vaughan