BLACKWATER VALLEY MODEL RAILWAY GROUP

About the Group

Blackwater Valley Model Railway Group was formed towards the end of 1996. How did it all start? Very simply, two friends – Colin Grafham and Stuart Erlebach, who had been model railway enthusiasts and members of another model railway club for many years, decided to build their own model railway layout and wished to have a separate identity for exhibiting purposes, hence Blackwater Valley MRG was born.

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The Group Layouts

Due to space limitations, 15 feet was about the maximum we had available, a decision was taken that we build 4 boards, each 1 metre long by 0.5 metre wide (this would give us a layout approx. 14ft x 1ft 9ins). Also, as we had no permanent site for the layout, it therefore had to be portable. In that case, why not build it to an acceptable standard with the hope of exhibiting at model railway exhibitions.

Next came the question of 'what type of layout', steam or modern image? Quickly followed by, which part of the country is it situated? The first question was answered reasonably easily. It was our first project therefore we'd keep it easy and simple, not to many points thereby also keeping the electrics simple. This meant it had to have minimal track work; therefore a 'modern image' layout would be ideal. However, the location was beginning to prove more difficult, but thankfully EFE were about to release, or had just, a Bristol VR bus in Crosville Cymru livery on route 51 to Denbigh. Some further research revealed that Denbigh did have a railway station but it had closed many years ago (April 1962). However, it proved to be a location which could be used.

Once built, DENBIGH was been exhibited at various model railway exhibitions including Andover, Chippenham (Wessex Exhibition), Fareham, Farnham, Lords Hill (Southampton), Witley and Yeovil (Wessex Exhibition) to name a few. However, towards the end of 2003, with Denbigh now some 6 years old, it was decided to commence work on a further layout. It has since been sold.

Denbigh had been a 'modern image' layout; therefore the new layout would be set during the 'steam era'. It was decided to keep the layout to more or less to the same size as Denbigh, namely 4m x 0.5m as this size had proved extremely beneficial in many ways. A design for the new layout was established and the baseboards built.

The new layout, BURYAN - set on the Western Region of British Railways in Cornwall – was first exhibited at Wincanton in 2005 and subsequently made numerous visits to local exhibitions. However, during 2007/08 a number of new Southern Region models were released by the various manufactures and the layout was subsequently re-named FOXSTOW and moved to the Southern Region of British Railways in the North Cornwall/North Devon area. In this new guise it was first exhibited at Fareham in October 2008 and subsequently at various exhibitions, making what would be a final appearance at Poole in 2011, following a decision that it would be 'mothballed' for the short term.

However upon his retirement, Stuart Erlebach moved away to Mid Wales in 2013. It was then decided that with the two group members now living nearly 250 miles apart, the layout would basically be put into retirement. However in spite of this, following an approach from the Railway Enthusiast Club towards the end of 2015 to exhibit FOXSTOW at Woking the following year (September 2016), it was decided to dust the cobwebs off and exhibit it once again.

But like all good things, circumstances can rapidly change. In April 2016, Stuart Erlebach was taken seriously ill and sadly died two months later. Fortunately a good mutual friend of both members immediately agreed to help exhibit the layout at the REC Exhibition in Woking, where the layout duly appeared as a tribute to Stuart.

The layout has once again been 'mothballed' and is unlikely to make any further exhibition appearances, but could well become a permanent layout in the home of remaining member during the coming year.