Bury St. Edmunds Model Railway Club

70th Anniversary - 1949 - 2019

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Club History

When the land from our club house in Bury St. Edmunds was required for development in the 1970's, a railway-minded farmer offered the use of a pig shed on his farm in Drinkstone for a nominal rent. The members turned the bare room into a functioning clubhouse, complete with lighting, tea-making facilities and, using parts of the original layout, built a new 30' x 20' one representing GER action in East Anglia during the 1960's, and featuring two large termini, a through junction station and two smaller branch line stations. The layout was worked into a sequence, through a fog of cigarette smoke and the sequence would take many weeks to complete.

Photographs of the layout appeared in the Railway Modeller in the late '70's and was used for some years in Peco's advertising literature. Much of the building and club-owned stock were the work of the late Norman Willis, the club's first treasurer in 1949. Norman was a Great Western man at heart, having been born in Swindon, but he also had a great love of the Great Eastern and the wonderful depiction of Bury St. Edmunds Station (our Abbotsford), with it's imposing lift towers, was his work. Sadly, as there years passed, the membership numbers declined to the point that there were not enough people to run the sequence and it was decided that alterations be made to convert the layout into a folded figure-of-eight design, albeit retaining three of the termini, so that the dwindling membership could still run trains. By this time smoking had been banned and we joined the land fit and healthy. Over the past years, the club saw an influx of new members, (45 at the present time) to the extent that we ran out of space. Our Honarary President and landlady very graciously allowed us use of an adjoining barn, which has been converted, by the members themselves, into a wonderful new clubroom.

We now have three rooms:

  • Room 1 - This has our N Gauge test track and a large OO track, which is currently being added to and re-worked

  • Room 2 - Has a seating and kitchen area along with bookshelves and workbenches

Links to articles about the club's layouts
Here are some links to articles about the club's layouts, which have appeared in The Railway Modeller magazine.

They do make interesting reading.


We were recently emailed by Chris Turnbull, an ex member from many years ago, who has lots of memories of the club in the 1960's.
His email is set out below for your perusal.

"I have just spent a most enjoyable hour browsing your club website which brought back many memories..

I was a member of the Bury MRC in the 1960s and remember the original clubroom well. My parents lived on the Mildenhall Road estate and, although I was too young to join (you had to be 18 if I recall correctly), my father would take me to the clubroom on the bank of the River Lark in Mildenhall Road where I would be in seventh heaven. As soon as I was old enough I joined. The layout first appeared in the January 1964 Railway Modeller (copy attached) and on non running nights I would be allowed to operate the wonderful club locomotives, many of which had flywheels and required a great knack to drive, just like the real thing. They were mainly the work of Roy Clarke who had his own layout in his house at Thurston and which was as much an inspiration as the Broadland Railway. Roy owned Harold Clarke & Co. (photo attached) and had a fine house and a huge layout.

The building of Abbotsford (and also Mossy Green) was, I was led to believe, the work of Jack Hill, a great railway artist and modeller. He did many paintings for O.S. Nock - see:

https://www.abebooks.co.uk/book-search/title/railway-picture-book-the/author/nock-o-s-and-jack-hill/

Jack was a quiet, unassuming man, and very meticulous. He lived not far from the clubroom in Mildenhall Road and was a draughtsman with eastern electricity, if I remember correctly, his painting being his hobby.
Stacks Image 129

"Abbotsford" - our club's model railway layout from the 1960's and 70's.

Apologies for the poor quality image. It was the only one in existence.


Of all the members of the club at the time the one who had the greatest influence on me was Norman Willis. He was a lorry driver until his retirement and he would regale me with tales of the road well into the early hours. A great raconteur! Norman's forte was scenery, not buildings, and his techniques for scenic work live on with me to this day. His house in Bishops Road was a treasure trove of all things railway, perhaps the most impressive to a lad such as myself were the many volumes of professionally bound Railway Modellers going back the the year dot.

Many thanks for the memories."

He also included a PDF file of the January 1964 edition of Railway Modeller, which, on page 2 has an article about the BSEMRC. We were then called the Bury St Edmunds and District Model Railway Club.

You can access the PDF from here.