What is the Ulster Model Railway Club?
The Club was founded around 1963 by a small group of like-minded individuals in order to promote interest in, and knowledge of, railway modelling in its various forms. It caters for anyone interested in railway modelling, from beginners seeking to learn the ropes right through to the more experienced modeller who enjoys building their own rolling stock.
Where does the Club meet?
At the start meetings were held in a small rented room on the 4th floor of 95 Royal Avenue, right in the centre of Belfast.
By the mid-60's the Club had moved to larger premises within the workshop area at the Ulster Transport Museum, at that time based at Witham Street off the Newtownards Road. When the Transport Museum relocated to Cultra, the Club moved to premises in the basement of the Donegall Road Library.
The Club met there for over twenty years until threats of closure forced it to look for new premises again. The Club presently meets on most Monday and Thursday nights accept Bank & Public Holidays between 7.30 and 10.00 p.m. in Euston Street, between the Castlereagh and Cregagh Roads in East Belfast where we have the sole use of two large rooms.
How many members does the Club have?
At present we have around 60 members including at least one Junior member (aged 14 to 18 years). Average attendance on club nights ranges from 25 to 30 members.
How much does it cost to join?
Membership costs only £10 for a calendar year, payable on joining or at the start of each subsequent year (in January).
Reduced membership rates are available to junior members [aged 14 to 18 years], and those over 65 years, or unwaged members.
Members also pay an attendance levy each night they attend – presently £3 per night and only a £2.00 for Thursday if you attend both nights of the week.
This helps to meet our running costs and provides for some tea and biscuits.
What happens on a typical club night?
There are various activity options available to members on a typical club night.
Some bring locomotives and rolling stock to run on the Club test tracks which cater for OO – both coarse and fine scale - and N gauge rolling stock.
Others join one of the work parties carrying out modifications/improvements to another of the club’s layouts, a great opportunity to learn new skills. A few gather to watch the trains running or to talk about their latest project or any other topic of interest – not always rail-connected!
From time to time there are talks or demonstrations from some of the more experienced members, as well as visiting speakers. Topics usually cover some aspect of railway modelling or focus on the historical railway scene or prototype railway practice. Members seeking modelling advice or information on prototype practice can at any time talk to some of the more experienced club members as well as scouring the club library on all manner of railway topics.
All this serious stuff is interrupted around 8.30 pm for a cuppa and biscuits. The majority of club members model in 4mm (mostly OO gauge) scale, largely reflecting United Kingdom, Continental or Northern Ireland/Irish Railway interests, while a small number dabble in the American HO gauge. There is a small but increasing number of 2mm activists (N gauge) with interests in both United Kingdom,Continental and Canadian railways.
A few members have looked with interest at the 7mm (O gauge) offerings now available from manufacturers, but no one appears to have taken the plunge in that area as yet. An increasing number of members are moving away from the traditional Direct Current (DC) or analogue control system to the latest Digital Command Control (DCC) systems because of the potential to add working lights and sound to the models, even in the smaller N gauge.
Does the Club hold any exhibitions?
The Club holds an Annual Exhibition in Methodist College Belfast, known as Methody and using the sports hall, usually in the month of August.
The Club has one N gauge exhibition layout and two OO gauge exhibition layouts in working order at present.
As the Club owns only a limited amount of rolling stock, Club members bring along their own stock to run on these, when in use at exhibitions.
The route serves a mainly rural community and still retains some local freight traffic as well as the occasional diverted mainline passenger train. There is also a short branch line and the town has a small goods yard that handles mainly container based traffic which serves to take farm produce to markets in the major cities in the area. The yard includes a small diesel servicing depot
The up track has a passing loop that allows diverted trains to pass straight through
The layout features steam and modern image rolling stock and is usually operated by DC although there is the option to use DCC on the Branch line and goods yard. This allows three trains to run simultaneously; one on each of the up and down lines and one on the Branch
Moorehead Sidings is a large layout featuring a set of passing loops on a short level section of a secondary main line "somewhere" in northern England. The passing loops were added by the railway companies to increase line capacity using the only level stretch of line available.
This involved the use of two additional girder bridges as the line crosses a river and skirts a stretch of water. This is a popular layout for watching the trains go by.
In addition to the trains passing on the busy main lines there are working colour light signals and some interchangeable scenic features to provide extra interest to the observer. Each main line is fed by a set of storage roads capable of holding up to nine trains of varying length.
When being used at exhibitions we can operate stock covering a number of broad time periods – "steam" "steam and early (green) diesel", then "corporate blue" and finally "sectorisation / privatisation".
LISBURN This layout is an alternative “front end” for the Ulster Model Railway Club’s popular OO Gauge Moorehead Sidings layout which is built on standard interior flush panelled household doors. The layout can also take on another identity as the fictional junction town of “Silburn” and we run UK stock instead of Irish stock.
Most of the station track plan and the structures in the immediate area are based on Lisburn station. The period covered by the layout offers a wide operating period - from 1950’s GNR(I) steam up to the present day. The layout features main line operations along with local trains on the branch to Antrim. Occasional shunting may be carried out in the goods yard as well.
Working from photographs, several members have scratch built the station platforms, footbridge (over 600 individual brass pieces!!), the goods shed, the stationmaster’s house and the Antrim Street and Magheralave Road bridges. Also the island platform building and signal box are all scratch built. We still need to devise some way of adding the main station building as well as “something” for the Knockmore (left!) end of the layout. Colour-light signals and other illuminated features will work (once connected to an appropriate power supply!). Some line side huts or scenic features can be lifted off for “maintenance”.
Club members own most of the locomotives and rolling stock you see running on Lisburn today. The scarcity of suitable ready to run locomotives and rolling stock is an on-going challenge. Some early Lima and Bachmann models were produced to represent “Irish” alternatives. Dublin-based Murphy’s Models, working with Bachmann, has a growing range of excellent diesel locomotives and coaches that are unique to Ireland, North and South. Some coaches and goods wagons may be available from some of the smaller suppliers or can be repainted from ready-to-run UK originals. The alternative, especially for steam-era modellers, is to build what you need from a kit (if one is available!!) or ….. from scratch……….. Some of our members are currently responding to that significant challenge!!!