Miniature railway hit by arson attack is back and giving free rides for families in Calderstones Park
1 year ago
The historic model railway at Calderstones Park will be open to families this weekend, giving them the chance to enjoy free rides on miniature trains around the park track.
Merseyside Model Railway club was started more than 70 years ago and is operated on a not-for-profit basis by a group of enthusiasts aged 16 to over 80.
It suffered a devastating arson attack last spring, but is now back up and running thanks to the dedication of members and volunteers.
The club runs miniature trains around a 600-foot twin track layout set in a beautiful garden area opposite Calderstones School on Harthill Road, just past Harthill Lodge. The entrance is opposite the newly-established Nature Reserve in the park.
This Sunday, it will be holding an Open Day from 2pm to 4pm for families and young train fans to experience the thrill of riding on a steam or electric train, free of charge – although they say any donations would be gratefully received!
The model railway has its own battery electric locomotives – Harthill and Casper – and other locomotives, some of which are live steam, all built and owned by members which will be on site during the day.
Arthur Brooks, the club’s chairman, said being able to host open days and welcome families back again to the Calderstones Park attraction, giving them the opportunity enjoy “a wonderful free amenity”, had been a massive team effort.
The group was hit by a devastating arson attack in May 2021 which caused serious damage to the clubhouse, sheds and grounds and left it facing the prospect of having to close its doors for good. The fire destroyed tools, equipment, personal belongings and also all the history books and paperwork collected over the years, and left the club without any power.
But an amazing response from the local community, and supporters who’d visited and loved the railway for generations, saw them turn an awful situation into a positive.
A Just Giving fundraising campaign was set up, and in just over three months it reached its £12,000 target. So far, the fund has managed to raise more than £13,000 to pay for a rebuild.
The dismantling of burnt-out sheds and electric power reconnection has now been completed and the disaster kick-started a major local community refurbishment by more non-member volunteers to tidy up the surrounding garden areas.
Now back on track again, family rides on Sunday afternoon will be free, and if anyone is super-keen and wants to be trained and allowed to drive the trains, the cost is £20. Annual membership of the club is also £20, and members build their own models and engines using engineering skills and club equipment which are freely shared.
By Dawn Collinson