Coventry Model Railway Club
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The origins of Coventry Model Railway Club lie in the history of the much older Coventry Model Engineering Society, which had existed before World War II, and catered mainly for live steam modellers, with a circuit of track in the Memorial Park, which disappeared about 1970.

There was interest in smaller scale modelling too and about 1953, a small  group of model railway enthusiasts, as opposed to model engineers, began meeting to discuss the possibility of starting a club in Coventry.

The early meetings were actually held only a few hundred metres from the present clubroom, in a room in the now-demolished GEC Centre Ballroom, in Holyhead Road.  If this sounds a bit odd, Coventry was still recovering from World War II and there were not too many places available for meetings.  The Centre Ballroom used to hire small rooms for meetings to a lot of societies and after some discussion, a move was made to find a home for a layout.

In time (about 1955), the idea came to fruition, and these early heroes managed to rent a hay loft, above a stable at the rear of No. 20, Central Avenue, in Stoke Park.  Access to this palatial residence (16ft x 8ft – say 5m x 2.5m) was by a vertical ladder, through a trap door, under the layout, and into the middle area. The layout was built on slotted angle iron legs called Handy-Angle and supplied at a VERY favourable price by our secretary, Ron Ellis, who happened to work for John Hall Tools, located just behind Trinity Street, who by a happy coincidence, were the local stockists

From this came Winford Stokes, and this was featured in the July 1959 edition of the Railway Modeller.  The level of poverty and the innate skill of those early efforts really comes to light, when you realise that all the track was made by the indefatigable Ron Ellis, who could be seen on meeting nights, wheezing up the road on an incredibly ancient push bike, with a rucksack full of tools on his back and another bag hanging from the handlebars, carrying his latest creation

The nominal membership was generally about two dozen – half a crown a week for full members, a shilling for juniors (12 1/2p and 5p), but normal attendance tended to be about eight to ten, so economy was the watchword. It was in 1960 that we got 15 people in for the AGM. and we nearly asphyxiated!  Not much room to get that many in, all at the same time.  Perhaps small turnouts were a blessing in disguise.

At this point we should emphasize the huge debt of gratitude that railway modelling in Coventry owes to Ron Ellis.  Almost single-handedly and at times, almost alone, Ron carried CMRC. He made almost anything needed and taught others how to do so as well.  He came up with fund raising schemes (e.g. we sold a special four colour ball point pen for about one and sixpence – seven and a half pence in current coinage).

He also organised trips to many of the then major centres, but we did get to see some marvellous things like the early parts of Pendon, the superb Derby Museum Gauge 0 layout – all Midland Railway, and they opened it up and operated it specially for us  on a Sunday.  Another major event was the annual trip to London for the Model Railway Club show, at the Methodist Central Hall, or the Horticultural Halls.  The journey, usually in an incredibly motley collection of vehicles and only a bit of the M1 open then, was usually an epic in it own right, but we knew no better.

1961 brought a new development.  Ron and others had spent years trying to find a new clubroom, but we were always hamstrung by both a lack of suitable accommodation and an even greater lack of funds, but suddenly this all changed.  Out of the blue, we were contacted by Mr. Roland Bennett, the managing director of the local machine tool manufacturer, Webster and Bennett.  Mr. Bennett turned out to be a marvellous benefactor and ally, becoming our first president. Quite simply, he had contacted Ron and said, ‘I understand that you are trying to run a model railway club.  As a Coventry citizen, I would like to offer some help.  What do you need?’.

The upshot was a cheque (possibly £50.00 – a lot of money for a club that had been struggling the way we had) plus an undertaking to talk to his contacts to see if any suitable premises were available.

Part 2 >

History - part 1

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