There is some debate as to when the Taunton Model Railway Group (TMRG) was founded, but by mutual consent with some of the original founder members we decided that it was 1968.
Our story starts when the person who, arguably is our founder, Graham Warburton, moved to Watchet in the Summer of 1957. It was here that he constructed his first model railway. A subsequent move to Taunton with the benefit of a 16’ X 8’ shed enabled a dedicated space for a larger layout.
The Summer of 1963 saw the next founder member surface. Graham was visiting the Bath and West Show where the Taunton and District Model Engineers had a small marquee, where a 4mm scale model of an LMS Class V was on display. Having enquired who had built it, Graham was next day knocking on the door of Mike Cook who had an LNER based layout around the walls of his garage.
Other similarly minded modellers became part of what was a quite casual group, including two who, while not modellers, enjoyed the camaraderie and railway chat. After six years of meeting informally it was decided the group needed a name! So it was that the ‘Taunton Model Railway Group’ (TMRG) was born.
It was decided that the TMRG should look to build a layout which could go out on the exhibition circuit. An overall size of 28’ X 8’ (around 8.5 X 2.5 metres) was agreed. This was to enable express trains to be run, provide for a working level crossing, with goods loops and possibly a large viaduct. So, the seeds of what was to become our famous award winning ‘Tamerig’ layout were sewn.
The layout was now formally known as Tamerig Central after one of the group members came up with the idea of adding vowels between the consonants of TMRG. At this time the layout was housed in a barn but having been given 3 months notice to quit, new premises were urgently sought.
The Minehead branch had closed in 1971 and subsequently purchased by Somerset County Council who then leased the track bed and stations to the emergent West Somerset Railway Company. A colleague of Graham’s knew where a 48’ X 24 Nissen hut was in the way of development. Ultimately it was offered to the Group. Work commenced in May 1976 with many of the then members getting stuck in to get it erected on Platform One Bishops Lydeard Station on the West Somerset Railway including amending the exterior cladding to something more attuned to the style of a GWR station. With our ‘Tamerig’ layout duly installed, the premises were eventually formally opened by the Mayor of Taunton, Graeme Moses on the 15th May 1978. (Just over a year later, on the 31st May 1979, Major Olver of the Railway Inspectorate passed the WSR for passenger working.)
(It should be noted that our two founder members, Graham Warburton and Mike Cook are still valued members of the group, albeit Honorary Life Members! Proving that railway modelling is very good for your longevity!)
While other layouts figured in our history, mention must be made of our Bath Green Park layout, which still resides in our premises, together with the extension sections which see it at its full length (60 foot) when on the exhibition circuit.
The seeds of its development were sown in the mid-1990s when a sub-committee of members was convened to decide on a new project. One of these put forward Bath Green Park as a possibility. It was decided to put this to a meeting of all the members in October 1996, receiving a unanimous vote of approval. Extensive researches commenced with the Somerset & Dorset Trust and Bath City Council who as ultimate custodians approved of the release of a substantial amount of drawings to the group. Further contact with Green Park Station (Bath) Ltd ensued, who in turn referred us to Stride Treglown, architects overseeing the restoration of the station to its present use. They were able to supply several drawings to a scale of 4mm to the foot. Further researches were carried out until enough information was available to start construction. Particular mention should be made of Alan Gibson, who converted artwork prepared by Graham Warburton of the station overall roof, bridges, gantry signal, together with all the windows for the station, goods and locomotive sheds into brass etches (many still appear to be listed in Alan Gibson’s catalogue).
Bath Green Park has been featured many times in the model railway press over the years. It has been exhibited at model railway exhibitions up and down the country gaining many awards and plaudits along the way. As part of our agreement with the West Somerset Railway we open our doors to the public on many of their Gala days when we have Bath Green Park running, together with visiting layouts. Our visitors and members have the benefit of enjoying the sight of the prototype right outside our front door! We also are in the process of finishing a ‘OO’ layout of Bishops Lydeard Station as it is today.
Our Tamerig, layout having become somewhat time worn, has now been dismantled and we are in the early stages of construction for its replacement. It will be a ‘freelance’ location so that we will have the excuse to run trains from all regions. So, there is an invitation to modellers in the area who would like to be part of a group of like-minded individuals to come and see what we get up to.