The Club History

The club was first started in November 1963 by five railwaymen from Thornton Motive Power Depot as a club for the sons of railway workers. The leader of the group was Willie Smith (Fitter) who had come to Thornton from Inverurie Works where he had tried to start a club previously. The others were Willie Laird (Cleaner), Jim Duthie (Fireman), Dave Simpson (Shed Master at Leith Central) and Charlie Meacher (Running Foreman). A grant of £25 was received from the Railway Staff Association for Scotland (a social club for railway workers) to get wood to build the baseboards on condition that only sons of railway workers were admitted. The use of the Railway Ambulance Hut was secured as premises, on condition that the layouts were dismantled every weekend to allow First Aid training to be carried out.

The club’s first layout was a model of Thornton Station and although the platforms were slightly shorter than those on the actual station and the track curved away to the fiddle yard immediately after leaving the station, it was a good representation and was well received at exhibitions. The first exhibitions were held in the clubrooms on summer Sundays (when there were no first aid classes), during the height of the train spotting frenzy of the mid sixties. This was the time when coach loads of “anoraks” tried to see as many steam engines as possible before they were scrapped. As the Ambulance hut was at the bottom of the road leading up to the shed, whenever a coach passed Willie Laird followed in his Mini and badgered them to come back to see the exhibition on their way out. The exhibition consisted of the layout, a small selection of museum pieces (obtained from the sheds) and a slide show of the local railway scene.

Eventually being fed up of having to dismantle the layouts (we now had two) every weekend, suitable new premises were sought. The new premises were a disused shop on Thornton Main Street with two big windows. As the premises were right at a bus stop and we had a small layout in each window, news of the club soon spread and we were soon inundated with young boys and girls wanting to become members. At least now we didn’t have to take the layout down each week, even though we now only had room for one large layout (as well as the two small ones in the windows). During this time Glenrothes ran a festival week and the club exhibited at this in St Margarets Church Hall every weekday evening and all day on Saturday. This was the start of Model Railway Exhibitions in the area. After a year in the shop premises new ones were found: the old Billiard hall. This was the best yet as we now had enough space for two large layouts. The Billiard Hall provided great premises especially in the winter months when a roaring fire was lit in the old fashioned open fireplace. If boredom set in the younger members, as long as no adults were present, used to have cycle races around the layouts.

In 1968 Decorland, a fitted Kitchen and DIY retailer, who had the shop in front of the clubrooms bought the Billiard hall from the landlord for an extension to their shop. This left the club homeless and the layouts were put into storage. Willie Smith badgered the local councillors, especially (Sir) George Sharp, who still worked on the railway at that time, for new premises to “keep the young lads off the street”. Eventually we were rented a room in the newly refurbished Balbirnie Wool Mill, and although we have changed premises we are still in the Wool Mill Complex.