The Society started in 1980 and quickly found accommodation in the basement of Victoria Chambers in the High Street, Clay Cross. A 4mm scale layout, based on Highley on the Severn Valley Railway, was constructed and ready for exhibition in 1982. Membership increased to the extent that there were 45 members on the books and the Society started to hold regular local exhibitions. Coach trips were arranged to popular venues such as Pendon Museum and Didcot and society layouts were exhibited around the country.

Ashford in the Water

In 1986 a large new continuous layout based on the Matlock to Buxton line through the Peak District in the 1950s was ready for exhibition. This was a large and entertaining continuous layout, which enabled a variety of trains to be run in succession together with a branch platform and shunting in a goods yard. Long trains of mineral wagons were carefully set back into refuge sidings to allow expresses to pass.

This layout was taken to exhibitions in England and Scotland in the succeeding years and won many an award.

Accommodation Problems

In 1991 the Society had to vacate its clubroom at the Victoria Chambers and from then on there followed a succession of four abortive attempts to settle in rented accommodation, but each time for various reasons we were forced to move on. As a result of these moves, membership dwindled and it was realised that we would never be able to afford to pay commercial rents for sole occupancy. An urgent survey of the area failed to turn up any more suitable venues and it was realised that an entirely new initiative was required. 

The Solution

In 2001 the members of the Society decided to re-incorporate themselves as an Educational Trust and a new Constitution was prepared. Members realised that they came to society meetings to meet people who share their interests, to develop their skills through mutual improvement and produce large historically accurate layouts to exhibit to the public. These became the aims and objectives and on that basis, Charitable Status was granted. At this time members were invited to join a local initiative to set up a Heritage Trust to record the part played by the father of railways, George Stephenson, in the founding of the Clay Cross Company. The importance to Clay Cross of preserving interest in our railway heritage and our skills in railway modelling has been recognised, and we enjoy the full support of the Local Authority.

With the help of Links CVS, the local Council for Voluntary Service resource, successful funding applications were made to both Awards for All and Bridging The Gap. The Derbyshire County Council Education Department offered to supply a redundant portable classroom block and an ideal site on an overgrown tennis court was leased. Members cleared the site themselves and prepared foundation pads for the new building which was craned onto site in June 2005.