Preview: Lincoln & District Model Club’s Annual Exhibition

February comes to an end this weekend signalling the phasing out of winter and the ushering in of spring.

The lighter nights and slightly warmer weather provides the perfect opportunity to get out and visit some of the sights the UK has to offer. March and April are a great time to see the nation's heritage railways in all their glory. Clubs and societies will be hosting a number of special days throughout the spring where people will be able to view the countryside from the comfort of a steam locomotive.

With February coming to a close, what better way to enjoy the final weekend with a trip to model railway exhibition? The Lincoln & District Model Club is holding its annual exhibition and has billed it to be bigger and better than ever before. It is the first time the club has held an event of this size in its history.

The 'First Major Model Railway Show' will be held at the Lincolnshire Showground on Saturday and Sunday (February 28th and March 1st). It is the perfect opportunity for everyone from the hobbyist to the committed enthusiast to gain some inspiration of what they could achieve with their own layouts at homes.

Layouts

As with all model railway exhibitions there will be a host of layouts specially designed by modellers both in the society and from others across the region. Among the displays already confirmed for this weekend's show are the Bostcroft 00 gauge, Waterloo Road MPD 00 gauge, Loughborough Derby Road N gauge and the Clee Valley Railway 09 gauge.

The great thing about building a model railway layout is that they can either depict a real life railway or go completely left-ield and create a totally fictional landscape. This can provide the inspiration modellers need to set up their own layout either at their club or at home.

Vendors and demonstrations

The Lincoln & District show already has an abundance of vendors confirmed to be in attendance. The likes of Hobby Holidays, Modelmania, Modellers Mate and Elaines Trains will all be at the show allowing people to purchase models, accessories or even parts of scenery to add to their collection.

Visitors will also be treated to a number of expert demonstrations from the likes of Ruth Frampton, Peter Brinded and Jacquie Perratt, where they can see these impressive layouts in action. This also offers opportunities for people to ask for advice for when it comes to building their own collection.

Societies

People may also be travelling to the Lincoln & District show curious about the workings of a model railway society and how they could get involved. Five clubs in total will be at the event and they can run visitors run everything they need to know about signing up. These societies offer opportunities to work on major projects while also embracing all different types of models available on the market.

Prices

Admission is priced at £6 for adults, £3 for children while family tickets (2+3) are available for £15. The fun kicks off at 10:00 GMT on Saturday.

Mamod’s love affair with the Saddle Tank

Mamod, and its customers, has had something of a love affair with the Saddle Tank ever since the first one rolled off the production line in 1980.

Back then it was the RS1 and RS2 but since then there has been an affinity with a model that has captured the hearts of its customers. The Saddle Tank has gone through a number of different incarnations since its launch in the 1980s. One of most memorable is the Brunel engine which took a completely different slant on model steam engines with an upright boiler.

However, before we move into the modern day, let's take a step back through history from the beginnings of the Saddle Tank and see how it has evolved over the years.

The beginning

The first Mamod Saddle Tank was launched during the Malins era. The RS1 and RS2 were released in 1980 and were first launched in 0 gauge with a small range of rolling stock and track. It was the first-ever mass produced live steam set to be sold in the UK. The engine struck a chord with the modelling community and was embraced.

Such was the popularity of the RS1 and RS2, Mamod followed it up with the launch of the RS3 in 1981 and the SL1 kit in 1983. Armed with a pair of double acting oscillating cylinders connected to a rotary reversing valve, they were also well received by modellers. Among the final models of the Malins era was the limited edition in SL6, which became a relic of their tenure.

A change of approach

As the Malins reign came to an end and Mamod entered receivership, the future was bleak. However, once the Terry family came in, they were able to not only steady the ship but then launch more Saddle Tank models. As the years went by design engineers at the company's Smethwick plant were able to revive the Saddle Tank engine.

Among the new models was the MKII which was one of the first Saddle Tanks to be created since the 1980s. However, one of the most popular models was the Diamond Jubilee Saddle Tank. To coincide with Queen Elizabeth II's 60th anniversary on the British throne, Mamod released a model Saddle Tank train which ran on tracks.

The model remained a huge success right up to when the final units were sold in the latter months of 2014. When it comes to era-defining Saddle Tank models, nothing compares to the Brunel engine.

While previous efforts had seen a horizontal boiler, Mamod decided to introduce a vertical one for the Brunel. This proved to be a huge success with its demographic and is currently one of the best-selling models in Mamod's portfolio.

So what next?

Anticipation is already building for the latest Saddle Tank. It has been a number of years since Mamod has brought a new model to the table and this latest version. It will no doubt continue the proud tradition of launching successful Saddle Tanks over the past 30 years and this love affair with the Saddle Tank.

What’s on: March steam rallies

The chilly nights of December and January are melting and as we head into March people are looking ahead to the spring.

As the weather improves, the steam rally season gets into full flow. Societies and railways across the country will be holding special events which people can involved. With the lighter evenings passengers have the opportunity to glide through the British countryside aboard a steam train, there are not many better experiences.

So what is going on this month? Here are our highlights to what is planned in the steam community during March.

Spring Diesel Gala – East Lancashire Railway, Bury (March 7th and 8th)

Kicking off the month is East Lancashire Railway's Spring Diesel Gala. Situated in the town of Bury, the railway is spread over 12 miles passing through the village of Ramsbottom and then on to the market town of Rawtenstall. This popular railway will be showcasing the very best diesel engines on the opening March weekend.

Visitors will be able to enjoy a relaxing trip through Lancashire countryside across the weekend. There are a number of special events going on including the return of the Saturday Night 'Beer-ex' Special. There is also the ELR Diesel Diner which will be pulled by the 50015 Valiant – visitors who do want to attend should book to avoid disappointment.

Other diesel locomotives confirmed for the event includes the D9531 'Ernest' and D9537 'Eric', 33109 Captain Bill Smith RNR and Hymek D7076 among others.

Day Out With Thomas – Kirklees Light Railway, Huddersfield (March 14th and 15th)

For many people of a certain age, Thomas the Tank Engine will have played a large part in their childhood. Whether it was watching the series, narrated by Ringo Starr, on the television or building their very own Thomas train set, this little train has featured prominently. So why not treat the kids to a Day Out With Thomas at Kirklees Light Railway?

The Huddersfield site will be visited by Thomas, Percy, Mavis, Toby and not to mention the Fat Controller who will be making sure they are behaving themselves. Families will be able to enjoy the day with Thomas and friends while there will be a whole lot more going on at the station itself.

Children will able to give Thomas a drink with the help of his driver and the Fat Controller thanks to special Culdee Fell water brought specially from the Island of Sodor. There will also be donkey rides and bouncy castle, weather permitting.

Spring Steam Gala – West Somerset Railway, Bishops Lydeard (March 26th to March 29th)

Rounding off the month is the Spring Steam Gala at West Somerset Railway in Bishops Lydeard. The railway, near Taunton, will play host to some of the most treasured steam locomotives the country has to offer. Already confirmed are the GWR locomotives 4270, 5542 and 6695.

A real highlight of the event will be the Pacific 70000 Britannia which will be in attendance as a "guest" engine.

Paul Conibeare, West Somerset Railway general manager, said: "We believe we have an attractive line-up of  locomotives lined-up for the four days including the two West Somerset debutants 4270 and 46521 and look forward to welcoming old friends and new faces to the line for the four days."

Are the younger generation embracing steam?

In our Why I love Mamod series we have focused on the seasoned pros of the model steam community but what about the younger generation and is the hobby translating well into the 21st century?

During the last feature with 17-year-old Callum McGrory he explained his love of model steam engines and despite his age is totally fascinated with them. Young people have so many avenues for entertainment open to them at the moment with the rise of mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets so embracing steam may not be at the top of their list of priorities.

Sadly, the days of children playing in the street until the sun goes are on the decline and even young children now have their own mobile phone or are logged on to some kind of social media website. However, Callum believes that having a hobby such as steam modelling is still viable in this environment.

The Buckinghamshire teenager has been collecting Mamod models since the age of ten and loves nothing more than firing his favourite TE1A engine or the newer Mamod Challenger. He believes that more and more people of his age are becoming interested in steam as the heritage movement becomes bigger.

Heritage railway lines are a huge part of the nation's steam community and Callum thinks that as they continue to expand they could attract more young people. Embracing the internet is one way in which the steam community can boost its profile and attract the next generation to the hobby.

Callum is already a member of unofficial Mamod forum as well as the Beds and Bucks Internal Combustion Stationary Engine Club. Organisations and societies of this ilk he believes can introduce young people to steam and give them some great ideas about which engines to buy into first or how they can expand their collection.

Explaining the advantages of steam modelling, Callum says: "I do believe that in the past 10 or so years there are more young people getting into proper hobbies but whether that’s because I’m just getting a bit older I don’t know.

"An advantage would be the pure simple pleasure you get from it. if you’re all steamed up (pardon the pun) after a long day you can come home and relax the throb of a Mamod!"

However, he admits that it is not all plain sailing and people need to be fully committed to the hobby if they want to get the best of their steam engines and collection. It is a very time-consuming pastime and also one that may not suit everyone's wallet.

Callum adds: "Unfortunately it can get quite expensive but I do believe the price is a fair price considering the work that goes into each model."

While the world seems to be moving at an extraordinary pace and new technology keeps on being developed, for people like Callum nothing will beat the thrill of firing up a model steam engine.

Who knows maybe in ten years time youngsters are embracing steam models and ditching the iPad? One can dream.

Meet the Mamod team: Design engineer

When purchasing any form of product the most that the average buyer will see is the finished article.

While they will appreciate the time and effort that has gone into making it, they will never properly understand the processes that have gone into it. At Mamod, a dedicated team painstakingly puts every piece together to ensure that the steam models which are sold to the consumer are the very best they have to offer.

Since the Terry family took over the company in the early 1990s, Mamod has come on leaps and bounds and remains a popular brand across the UK, and even further afield, to this very day. So who are the people behind the Mamod brand, in the first of our series into the workings of Mamod we start with a key job role – design engineer.

The job of design engineer is a vital one to the way Mamod operates. It forms the basic idea of a new product and then can put the wheels in motion to get a project off the ground. The company has had the same design engineer for over 20 years and despite him originally wanting to a be train driver, he has helped to bring some of the most memorable engines through.

Starting out in engineering in 1992 they held down a position at fellow engineering company Thomas Johnson. At the time they were tasked with checking the tools when they arrived and then to establish a plan of repairing and refurbishment. This ensured that the firm would be able to identify why certain products did not work.

Moving to Mamod in 1996, they originally started in the tool room before moving across the quality control and eventually becoming a design engineer. The role has allowed them to become creative and with the years of experience assessing what does and does not work for certain engines, it was a perfect opportunity to build some new and exciting models.

Under their stewardship, Mamod has produced some innovative models not seen before in the steam world, none more so than the Brunel. This model, which has an upright boiler as opposed to a horizontal, was a first for Mamod and one that the design team was especially proud of.

It was not just a case of being pleasing to the staff but it also resonated with the public and has since become one of Mamod's most popular models. There have been obstacles along the way, such as when working with the Diamond Jubilee locomotive, but with a number of tweaks or sometimes major overhauls the designer has been able to amend any problems that may have occurred.

So what does the future hold in the design side of things more Mamod? Well, the design engineer believes there will be a shift towards new and better high spec engines as well internally fired engines and maybe even electric models.

But what is the best part of a design engineer's day? Quite simply "going home, coming up with an idea and designing it before seeing it go into production".

Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway looking for volunteers

Ever fancied working on the railways? Well here is your opportunity.

Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway (GWR) is on the lookout for volunteers to get involved in all aspects of the railway. Ranging from engineering and electrical work to gardening, the organisation wants more people to get involved in a cherished part of the community.

Cotswold Journal reports that the railway will be holding a special recruitment day where people can learn how they can get involved. The railway relies on the work of volunteers to maintain and operate steam and diesel trains along the 25-mile route. It currently has a core of around 200 volunteers but has benefited from the help of more than 800 over the years.

Philip Young, volunteer recruitment director and a volunteer himself, explains that the job suit the needs of anyone who wants to be involved. Even if it just a few hours a week, it can be a real help.

Speaking to the news provider, Mr Young said: "Our volunteers range from school age to retirement age. There’s something to suit everyone, men and women. We are of course very grateful to everyone, whether they offer just a few hours from time to time or turn up to get stuck in most weekends."

GWR provides breathtaking tours through the majestic Cotswolds countryside. Starting off from Toddington, it passes over the famous Stanway Viaduct and past landmarks such as Cheltenham Racecourse. The former Honeybourne Line comes to a stop at Laverton, providing passengers with a great journey across the county.

Those interested in getting involved can register either online or when they arrive at Toddington station. The recruitment fair will be held on March 21st and 22nd.

So if you have an interest in railways and want to be a part of one of the nation's most-loved heritage lines, don't delay and register yourself today.