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Age crisis arrives at model rail club
ABINGDON has a secret treasure trove worth a small fortune to its creators.
Known only to a few, its location a closely-guarded secret, the artisans of the Abingdon Model Railway Club have been crafting their miniature world for almost 40 years.
But the 60-strong club has an age crisis – 25 years ago half its members were under 30, now just five are.
Members say that they have to compete with computer games, and youngsters are not joining up like they used to.
Club member Ivan Cadge said: “It used to be people would join at 15, then they leave a little later as other interests took precedence, but they would come back.”
By day, Mr Cadge, 51, works as a receptionist for Abingdon and Witney College.
But for the last 10 years he has been painstakingly building an exact model replica of Abingdon Railway Station as it was in 1948.
To make it perfect he has trawled through local history archives, looked at hundreds of old photos and even talked to people who remembered the station as it was.
He has amassed so much knowledge in the process that he now gives talks to local history societies.
Mr Cadge, who lives in Abingdon, said: “My layout is the product of 10 years’ work by numerous people.
“Materials alone have cost thousands.”
Minutely detailed, hand-crafted landscapes feature gardens that have individual cauliflower, cabbages and beans.
Club chairman Andrew McMillan, 65, said: “It is rather like painting, it is a three-dimensional art.
“It is all about something that is moving.
“It is living and breathing – but not human.”
His interest was kindled growing up in North Oxford and going to a playground next to the railway line, and he joined the club when it formed in 1974.
When Abingdon Town Council visited the club a few years ago, councillors declared it a town treasure.
Mayor Monica Lovatt said: “As one of the only women, I wasn’t sure I would enjoy myself but it was absolutely fascinating.”
She added: “Their local history knowledge is such a valuable resource for the town.”
The club is hoping to forge some interest among potential new members at its annual exhibition.
Members will display all their layouts, as well as those of invited guests, at the White Horse Leisure and Tennis Centre in Abingdon, on Saturday, March 2.
Mr Cadge said: “We are open to all age groups and we would love to get some younger members in.”