The Yeovil Model Railway Group was formed in September 1974 and was located in a small room in St Michael’s Church Hall, Yeovil. This we believe is Paul Montacute’s layout and it appears to be the only picture that we have that was taken in the Hall, the occasion being unknown. This layout was transported on Paul’s sidecar with his wife Mary looking out of the middle of it; people were clearly made of sterner stuff in those days!
The hall was not an ideal home for a clubroom, and YMRG had an unexpected setback when a riotous reception following a gipsy wedding left the hall resembling a battlefield, with the layout in an adjoining room one of the casualties. A panel was kicked in, some trackwork was scattered and a few coaches went missing but, considering the damage to the rest of the hall, the group considered that they had escaped lightly!
In around 1978 at the York Show then held in the Assembly Rooms we have Brian Draper operating Lyme Regis; a layout owned by Ian Issit and built with the assistance of the Taunton Area Group of the EMGS, and which Bob Alderman and Brian helped to operate at several exhibitions. It was fully described in the ‘Railway Modeller’ for December 1979. It returned in an incomplete state for our first exhibition that we ran to celebrate our tenth anniversary. Looks like Brian has cracked with our first recorded case of ‘exhibition fatigue’.
A layout based on Templecombe was started to the original EM gauge standard of 18mm in St Michael’s Hall. A move to the attic of a minor stately home at Coker Court gave it a more secure and suitable home. This layout was flawed in using 18mm rather than 18.2mm gauge and the layout was not entirely successful as a result. Few photographs exist of this layout, but it featured in the Western Gazette at least once.
Bob Oaksford and Brian Draper observe a not entirely appropriate selection of trains on our layout of Templecombe. The lessons learnt from this layout were carried forward to South Junction.
South Junction was started in around 1982 and was first exhibited in 1983 at ExpoEM South West at Taunton Cricket Ground. Tracklaying in progress at Coker Court:
The very cunning operating mechanism for the crossover on the viaduct. Dave Elliot (of Tornado fame) fairly quickly replaced this with the fully operational near scale above board point rodding that is still operating the crossover 35 years later. Whilst this was mainly to prove that it could be done, access to the original mechanism inside the viaduct would have been extremely difficult if not impossible! Track is Brook-Smith (rivets in timber sleepers) and we can still reverse a train over it when required:
The layout at its very first appearance in 1983 at ExpoEM South West at Taunton Cricket Ground. Whilst there is a severe lack of scenery, there is a functioning and fully stocked turntable:
Your author first encountered South Junction the following year in 1984 at the same exhibition (also at Taunton) when it was much more complete, and it made quite an impression! This initiated a move to Yeovil (good value housing in those days) and marriage. Whilst he can reasonably (and frequently does) claim that South Junction changed his life; the friendships he made certainly have!
To crown a successful year Westland News of Nov/Dec 1984 ran an article celebrating the 10th anniversary of YMRG, illustrating the usual journalistic misunderstanding of scale vs. gauge; South Junction is of course EM gauge, which is the same scale as 00 gauge:
YMRG have only organised two public exhibitions, the first of which celebrated our tenth anniversary and both were held at East Coker Village Hall. The program for this first exhibition which gathered layouts from all over the West Country can be seen here. South Junction was only the first of our layouts to be Railway Modeller Layout of the Month.
Bob Alderman then Honorary Secretary cutting the 10th anniversary cake marking the completion of a very successful decade for the club. Amazingly even more has been achieved in subsequent decades!
The original layout badge as modelled by Bob: