IN THE BEGINNING:
16mm scale railway modelling dates back to the days immediately after WW1. A few forward thinking people stated to convert proprietary clockwork O gauge mechanisms to depict narrow gauge railway models by making tinplate bodies to fit on them.
An early article by R E Tustin appeared in 1950, but probably the first articles to really highlight the new large scale of 16mm to 1 foot were written by Alan Pratt and Brian Rogers. They had been making large scale models of narrow gauge railways and running them on a garden line, their articles appearing in the Model Railway News for 1959, 1960 and 1961. These models were scale models of the Welsh NG railways, mostly clockwork drive, with one being electric and one being a steam freelance model based around a Bassett Lowke 4-6-0.
The Model Railway Club
In the late 1950’s a small group of the Model Railway Club’s narrow gauge section decided that this new scale would be great for an exhibition layout. Two of the group – David Newham and Roger Marsh – had already been constructing models to 16mm scale and 14mm scale, David’s detailed modelling of the Glyn Valley Tramway carriages (14mm scale on 32mm gauge) appearing as a series of articles in the Model Railway News. Roger, meanwhile had been making a caricature of one of the early Festiniog Railway's England locomotives, and a model of Talyllyn Railway's locomotive "Dolgoch" that was named after his wife Sylvia.
These locomotives were electric stud contact, 12 volt using the motors of the period, the best of which were by Bonds O’ Euston Road, a very well known supplier of the period. Bonds also produced course scale 0 gauge brass rail which was suitable for this scale/gauge ratio.
Thus was born the layout known as "Abermarsham" named from the joint names of Marsh and Newham. This first appeared at the Model Railway Club’s Easter Exhibition of 1962, supposedly representing a section of the Merioneth Railway – a proposed, but never built, extension to the Festiniog and Blaenau Railway. The writer, who was then a small boy, recalls standing for ages looking in wonder at these narrow gauge models. The long electricity pick-up skates beneath the locos providing a very realistic squeaking noise like the wheels would do on a real railway when traversing the points – something that has been lost with 2-rail power. Due to a shortage of rolling stock, bogie coaches were borrowed from Brian Rogers. The layout also appeared in 1963, after which the whole thing was disassembled.
The MRS is born
At that time David and Roger were joined by Tony Jenkins, John Kimber and Donald Boreham, all members of the Model Railway Club, who formed a small group calling themselves the "Merioneth Railway Society" after the never built Merioneth Railway.
The MRS met every Friday at Dave’s home in Northwood, the regular evening meetings being a discussion forum for anything narrow gauge, models or prototype. The club had only two rules:
Rule 1 – the society shall be called the Merioneth Railway Society
Rule 2 – there shall be no rules.
However one informal rule that we always adhered to was to insist that any new potential member produced a 16mm scale model before being admitted as a member.
The Middle Years
Late in the 1960’s a small layout was again exhibited at exhibitions, now 2-rail electric, following which we were asked to provide a layout again for the MRC Easter Exhibition. Thus was born Betws-y-Bryn, a layout that grew like topsy over the next few years and ended up being about 40 feet long with a large station and slate yard and cutting shed. By this time battery power in the garden had arrived and thanks to a few battery powered models the MRS were the only layout that could continue when suddenly the Central Hall Westminster succumbed to a power cut.
Unfortunately this layout rapidly became a noose round our necks due to the need to store the layout for the vast majority of the year, so again this was disassembled with the track becoming integrated into members’ garden lines.
About this time the "Merioneth Mercury" magazine was born as a way to keep our little group in touch with each other. Its popularity became legion, with many issues now having become collectors’ items.
Morgan’s Organ Works
Following Betws-y-bryn we decided to try to other extreme and constructed a layout called Morgan’s Organ Works that tried to keep things minimalistic, with small industrial locomotives and rolling stock. This proved a popular concept and appeared at a number of shows in the 1980s.
With the demise of the "Merioneth Mercury" the Society returned to being a small group of like minded narrow gauge modellers who enjoy both researching prototypes, and modelling the narrow gauge to 16mm scale. A few of us have ventured into other scales with the emergence of 7/8” and 1” scales on 32mm gauge, and O scale on 16.5mm and OO9. We are still meeting informally on a regular Friday evening at members homes, and having irregular Friday running evenings during the summer months.