ALRESFORD Festival of Toy Trains celebrated its 25th anniversary with 23 spectacular track layouts featuring models ranging from 1910 to 1980.
The miniature rail extravaganza brought 700 visitors to Perins School last Saturday to enjoy what is the biggest model railway event in the UK.
Bob Leggett has been organising this train-lovers’ event since it began and each year as well as giving toy train lovers a treat, it raises money for charity.
While the visitors enjoyed real ale, teas, coffees or a welcome ice cream on such a sweltering day, they took time to enjoy the layouts in the school hall and those in the school grounds, as well as browsing the 90 trade stalls.
As always there was a wonderful variety of trains, all running simultaneously – from a 1910 Angel Live Steam to a 1920s and 1930s Ace and Darstead, alongside a good selection of Hornby O Gauge modern trains. The Lego display also drew a crowd.
To mark the occasion, there were also some Silver Jubilee trains, but dating back to 1935 which were made to celebrate George V’s 25 years as king.
As it is the biggest toy train event in the UK, Mr Leggett said how pleased he was everything had gone so well and that so many people had come, some transported by a vintage bus from Alresford station to enjoy this special anniversary occasion.
He added: “I’m not likely to do another 25 years, but I hope the show will continue for a few more years.”
The Alresford Vintage Toy Train Show, as it was first named, was inspired after organiser Mr Leggett saw James Day’s and Chris March’s superb Tri-ang Super 4 layout at a small show in Ditchling, East Sussex, in 1992.
This gave Mr Leggett, who at the time was looking for ways to raise money for a children’s playground in Alresford, where he lived, the idea of running a toy train show.
Using James’ knowledge of other exhibitors and a few traders from local swap meets, the first show took place in June 1993 at Alresford Community Centre.
It was so crowded that one layout from Alton Model Railway Club could not fit in and had to be left out and one trader had to make do with the first-floor corridor. The show included Mike Allen’s Hornby O Gauge layout and Trix and Hornby Dublo layouts.The show was a great success and raised more than £300 for charity.
Over the next few years the show completed its money raising for its original charity and by 1999 was solely organised by Mr Leggett, who continued to raise money for groups who helped at the show.
In 2000, the bold step was taken to move to Perins School and have two large halls and use the local Scouts to organise refreshments and parking and the local branch of Save the Children to man the doors.
With more than 20 vintage layouts, 90 sales tables and regular live music, the show began to establish itself as one of the most popular events on the toy train calendar.
Today the show, now called the Alresford Festival of Toy Trains, continues to offer a variety of 20 vintage layouts and more than 80 sales tables, inside and out.