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'A bit of a shock' - Development plans send tiny trains off the rails

PUBLISHED: 15:53 28 September 2019 | UPDATED: 17:01 28 September 2019

Gordon Ford, chairman of North Norfolk Model Engineering Club, at the club's current site at Holt Railway Station. The club is now searching for a new site. Picture: Stuart Anderson

Gordon Ford, chairman of North Norfolk Model Engineering Club, at the club's current site at Holt Railway Station. The club is now searching for a new site. Picture: Stuart Anderson

Archant

It is an unfortunate case of a bigger train shunting a smaller train out of the way.

Gordon Ford, chairman of North Norfolk Model Engineering Club, at the club's current site at Holt Railway Station. The club is now searching for a new site. Picture: Stuart AndersonGordon Ford, chairman of North Norfolk Model Engineering Club, at the club's current site at Holt Railway Station. The club is now searching for a new site. Picture: Stuart Anderson

After more than 16 years, the North Norfolk Model Engineering Club has to move from its base at Holt's heritage railway station because of plans to develop the site.

And although the club's roughly 30, mostly retired members have known they would have to relocate eventually, chairman Gordon Ford said the news had still taken him by surprise.

Mr Ford said: "It did come as a bit of a shock. It's disappointing but it wasn't unexpected.

"We're now looking for a new location and we have some funds that we've been building up over the past couple of years to make the move possible."

Gordon Ford, chairman of North Norfolk Model Engineering Club, at the club's current site at Holt Railway Station. The club is now searching for a new site. Picture: Stuart AndersonGordon Ford, chairman of North Norfolk Model Engineering Club, at the club's current site at Holt Railway Station. The club is now searching for a new site. Picture: Stuart Anderson

Club members build and run miniature steam and battery-electric trains which can carry a driver and four adult passengers. The club also has around 1,000 feet of track, which is now being dismantled, and a small building with a kitchenette and engineering facilities.

"It's like a miniature men's shed," said Mr Ford, who has been part of the club from the beginning.

Andrew Munden, general manager of the North Norfolk Railway, said he was not renewing the club's lease in order to move ahead with plans to develop Holt station into a heritage "country railway station and goods yard".

The space the club uses is needed for a wooden signal box, which has been donated by Network Rail to become a new attraction at the Holt site.

Mr Munden said: "The signal box will be moved from Reedham Station in the Broads - it will be dismantled and transported up in February.

"Visitors will be able to go in there and pull the levers and understand how trains are controlled. Regrettably the signal box will fit onto land occupied by the model engineering club," Mr Munden added.

"For us, this is the next stage in what's quite a long journey, developing the site to its fullest extent."

Mr Ford said the club was looking for a flat plot of around two acres to become its new base, and was hoping somewhere could be found in the Holt-Cromer-Aylsham triangle.

Anyone who can help can call 01263 512350, email northnorfolkmodelengineeringcl@gmail.com or get in touch via the club's Facebook page.

'A huge thank you': Kind words for supporters

Mr Ford said in a letter to supporters: "We look back on our time at Holt with great fondness. When we arrived in 2003 there was nothing this side of the tracks, just an empty yard full of four-foot high nettles and thistles. Our first run was at the 1940s event in September 2003 and from then until the 2019 August bank holiday Monday, we have operated for the public on 662 occasions and carried 57,163 passengers, seen 91 different model locos on track, covering a total of 6,623 track miles which would take us to Singapore.

"We have made many good friends with the other volunteers and staff over the years, sadly some are no longer with us. We will miss their company, friendship, fun and banter.

"Many of those who first came as children for a ride on the miniature railway, now adults, return to see us with their own families.

"We would like to take this opportunity to say a huge thank you to our passengers and supporters."

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