“There’s more to it than just watching miniature trains run around on a track!” Roy Walsh should know, he’s been involved with model railways since he emigrated to Australia in his early twenties. In his luggage were two prized Hornby locomotives.
His passion for trains is hardly surprising; the house he grew up in in Cumbria’s Lakes District was next to a railway yard and one of his favourite playgrounds was the shunting yard, where mountains of coal offered endless climbing challenges to a small and energetic boy.
Now the President of the Redlands Model Railway Club, based in the Redland Museum, he has a collection of 50 locomotives and nearly 200 wagons and carriages. As well as collecting and maintaining exquisite working models, Roy says that one of the most satisfying aspects of railways in miniature is being able to create dioramas – the model landscapes that the trains run in – that remind him of the mountains and cliffs of his first home.
“Creating the landscapes for your model trains calls on a lot of different skills and taking the time to make them as close to reality as possible is really therapeutic,” he says. “The secret of localising a scene is to include something that’s iconic in that area, that will have people saying oh, look, I’ve seen that tower – this is Paris!
“Of course, you can make a diorama that’s created totally out of your own imagination; there’s no reason that Alice’s Wonderland can’t have a train running through it.”
Model trains, like most working machines, have undergone changes as a result of microchip technology. Roy has seen the changes first-hand, having run a hobby shop specialising in working models, for nearly ten years in Capalaba.
“The old model trains had headlights and track lights and such which responded to the speed the train travelled – and later, were operated by remote control. Now we can use computers and iPads and mobile ‘phones to control speed, lights and sound, smoke blowing out of the chimney and even the sound of firemen shovelling coal into the locomotive’s firebox.”
Roy says that members are more than happy to train (pardon the pun) new members in the creation of dioramas and the selection, operation and maintenance of their locomotives and trains. The club has nearly 30 members – with one lone woman member striving to keep the gender balance – but Roy says that women members are more than welcome.