RON Geeves, 80, has been a member of the Canberra Model Railway Club for 22 years and he is busy helping to prepare for its upcoming exhibition.
The club was founded in 1960, with only 12 train-enthusiast members as part of the group. Now, the team of 50 is preparing for the club’s 33rd Canberra Model Railway Exhibition at the University of Canberra High School, Kaleen.
“All up, we expect to exhibit approximately 30 layouts, modelling a variety of scales and showing landforms from Australia, the US, the UK and Japan, plus Lego trains,” says Ron.
In his younger years, Ron caught a bus and three trains to and from school every day, for four and a half years.
“I got used to train travel and learnt to like anything about trains and rail travel.”
Ron worked as a school teacher across NSW and the ACT for 52 years, before retiring at 70.
But his love for trains dates back to his father, a railway worker who fired and drove steam locomotives, and diesel and electric trains.
Ron’s passion grew as he helped restore 1923 vintage railmotors at Cooma on a tourist railway. He eventually became a qualified guard and driver of those trains.
At the Model Railway Club he continues to share his love of trains.
“The club is a welcoming environment to develop skills in modelling, to learn how to build and operate a model railway, learn electronics and layout wiring, as well as building realistic scenery,” he says.
But there’s also companionship. Vice-president Chris Neil, 75, says the club is really a men’s shed.
“We find that a lot of members come along and instead of actually doing anything, they sit down and they talk and eat biscuits and drink coffee,” he says.
Chris has been a member for six years, after retiring from aeronautical engineering.
“Once I retired, I was looking for things to do so that I didn’t get bored, and I remembered that I’d been a model-train kid, so I decided to try it again. I came along and I was hooked.”
Phil Felstead, 95, feels the same. He became interested in trains when he was only 17.
“It’s not always about railroads. Everybody’s got something that they are pretty good at,” says Phil.
He points out that many people say they “play trains”, but Ron clarifies saying there’s an important distinction. “We operate them”.
“Neither of my wives were interested, and we’ve got quite a few members who don’t have space at home, but we know we can come here,” says Phil.
The Canberra Model Railway Club is a hobby group, but the members agree, it’s also a social group with a sense of humour.
“One day I was here at the club and I said to Chris, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to do a railway layout of the Lithgow Zig-Zag, and next bloody thing you know he’s on the computer taking over,” says Phil.
“I just supervised and told Chris what he was doing wrong.”
The Zig-Zag layout will be present at the exhibition, along with their main layout the “McEvoy Junction”, “Hybrid” and their U-shaped layout “Charlestown”.
Ron says there will be five information displays and modelling clinics, including Magnorail and Canberra Railway Museum.
“Underneath a Magnorail there is a motor and a track with little magnets on it, and under the vehicle there’s a magnet also, and it follows around the path. We have a bus, a cyclist and a boat going around,” he says.
The exhibition will also have 15 modelling and hobby equipment suppliers, including model trains, scenery items and modelling items for sale.
Canberra Model Railway Club Exhibition, March 26-27, 104 Baldwin Drive, Kaleen. More at cmrci.info
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