Belonging to the club
I have asked members to provide items for the website and this is an account of membership by our longest serving member, Cliff Homer.
When I was asked if I could give thought to an item for the web page, I thought that a brief resume of my ‘belonging’ to the club might be of interest to our newer members. By ‘newer member’ I mean anyone who has been a club member for less time than myself! As I joined in 1959, that makes (I think) everyone in that category!
The Stafford Railway Circle was formed in 1957 as a ‘spotters group’ for those ticking loco numbers in their ABC notebook. The aim was for visiting loco sheds around the country, usually on a Sunday, by a hired coach, often leaving at 6am and returning hopefully by 8pm. I joined in 1959 and was allocated membership number 199. One memorable trip to Crewe works and the three sheds, Crewe North, Crewe South and Gresty Lane (GWR) produced no less than about 750 ‘cops’ or locos not seen before. Today I don’t think the whole railway system has many more locos in total.
After a number of years it was decided to add a model railway section for something extra to do. An old lock up garage in Jerningham Street, Stafford, was located and attempts made to make use of it. Not all was well as it had only a floor made of earth which was not conducive for any kind of modelling. Around this time, 1963, I defected from the Circle as more interesting things came my way – girls!
After some years of courting (and being told ‘it will never last’) I rejoined after getting married; that was in 1968 (and still with that original girlfriend, now my wife). By this time the club had moved into our former clubroom in Meyrick Road and I had been elected as Honorary Secretary, a job I kept for several years.
The clubroom which consisted of five linked rooms, needed a lot of work to make it useable, such as replacing all the wooden floors, most of which had dry rot in places. Saturday work parties saw to that problem though. Many layouts were built over the years, but one that was a permanent resident was a coarse scale gauge ‘0’ running through four rooms in a straight line. It was memorable for one main reason – LIVE STEAM! I hate to think today of the way it operated with ‘drivers’ setting their meths powered locos off from one room and chasing it to the last room in order to close the regulator!! Over the years many layouts belonging both to the club or members own, were built, too numerous now to count. The longest ever produced was over 65 feet long, in ‘00’, which ran via holes in the walls through three rooms. It was so large that it only went to one show, but it was very impressive indeed. It consisted of four parallel tracks forming an enormous circle and even had automatic colour light signalling operated via track circuits.
Showing off our layouts became an important source of income. They started off with a tiny show in the old St. Mary’s schoolroom alongside St. Mary’s Church. I don’t think more than twenty visitors at a time could even get in the place it was so small. Our next venue was the old ‘Assembly Rooms’ (now demolished) in Tipping Street. The most memorable happening while there during one show was that W H Smiths in Greengate Street caught fire and blocked the town roads. As it was reported on TV news, great crowds flocked to town to see the conflagration, needing about eight fire engines, so much so that we had the best crowd for years.
Needing larger space for a show we moved to The Borough Hall, now The Gatehouse. It served for many years but we had to leave when it was renovated for its latter names use. For a single year we held a show in Blessed William Howard school before we were offered the use of the small hall at GEC Stychfields. This was part of the work’s canteen, but unfortunately my layout needed very frequent track cleaning to make it run as the vapour of the chip fat fryers (in use for lunchtime!) settled on the track! From the small hall we went into the larger hall for several years, with me thinking ‘we can’t fill all that area’ but we did. After here we held shows at Weston Road High School for several years. A memorable happening here was that on my ‘0’ gauge layout, ‘Midfield’, wagons kept running away when left loose, only to find that the apparently flat-looking sports hall floor had quite hump it!
We next moved into one hall only at The County Showground but soon outgrew that, making use of all three halls as in now standard. So it was only time before we became what we are today, one of the ‘Premier Shows’ in the country. By now those current members will be familiar with events and the way shows ‘happen’. What was originally organised by one or two individuals now needs a large team to share all the tasks, both beforehand and during show weekend, and it is to all those who must be thanked. For myself, I’ve not helped as much as I would have wished, due to ageing and health problems, but I still fully enjoy all ‘The Circle’ has to offer. It is unfortunate that we could not have our show in 2021 but we must consider ourselves lucky that we only missed one year, unlike many who missed out in 2020 and still not clear for 2021.
Having had a lifetime in a club environment, I would thoroughly recommend it to all as the best way to enjoy such a wonderful hobby with lots of likeminded friends. Long may it continue.