Model brings Sidmouth railway back to life

PUBLISHED: 19:30 04 June 2016

Richard Harper's model of Sidmouth's railway. Photographed by Barry Norman

Richard Harper's model of Sidmouth's railway. Photographed by Barry Norman

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Trains will be pulling into Sidmouth Station nearly 50 years after its closure at a model railway expo this summer.

Richard Harper's model of Sidmouth's railway. Photographed by Barry Norman Richard Harper's model of Sidmouth's railway. Photographed by Barry Norman

Richard Harper spent more than a decade crafting the replica – going as far as counting building bricks or consulting architects’ drawings to ensure its accuracy.

That precision was enough for enthusiast John Alleston to use for his own model railway, and the two have become firm friends.

Richard said: “Why Sidmouth? Having been involved over many years with club exhibition layouts, I decided that the time had come for me to build my own.

“Whilst leafing through a book of railway photographs I soon identified Sidmouth as having attractive architecture, a relatively compact track layout, that could be accommodated in model form and which would not be too over-ambitious a project to complete.

Richard Harper's model of Sidmouth's railway. Photographed by Barry Norman Richard Harper's model of Sidmouth's railway. Photographed by Barry Norman

“The fact that some of the buildings were still in existence was a distinct advantage and the clincher was that the town was served by the predecessors and the successor of the Southern Railway – my favourite!

“Since the decision to proceed with the layout I have been to Sidmouth many times for research and have grown to like the town immensely. I should mention too that Sidmouth Museum has been an excellent source of assistance.”

He said he was seeking to create a model as close to the prototype as possible. Using photographs of lost buildings and counting the number of bricks is not new in the railway modelling fraternity, but it works.

His other techniques include leaning a pole marked in sections against a building, or using his wife for scale.

Richard Harper's model of Sidmouth's railway. Photographed by Barry NormanRichard Harper's model of Sidmouth's railway. Photographed by Barry Norman

John has sung the praises of Richard’s model of Sidmouth in the late 1950s since he travelled to Leamington Spa for its first airing last year.

“It’s absolutely stunning,” he said. “People who knew the railway at the time might want to take a look at it. It’s super-realistic and unbelievably good.

“I’m modelling Sidmouth as well – mine’s a toy compared to his. It’s so good I can do my model off it.”

He, too, has also spent 10 years working on his railway, off and on.

Richard Harper's model of Sidmouth's railway. Photographed by Barry Norman Richard Harper's model of Sidmouth's railway. Photographed by Barry Norman

“It’s a labour of love,” he said. “I first came down here in short trousers from London. My first time was on a steam train. It’s been a lifelong interest for me.

“A lot of enthusiasts have more than one railway. I have only one. I only want Sidmouth. I was brought here on holiday and I’ve holidayed here with my own children.”

Richard’s model will have it first airing in the West Country at Exeter’s Matford Centre when the Exe Model Railway Society meets on July 2 and 3.

The show will boast 43 other railways, as well as trade stands.

Richard Harper's model of Sidmouth's railway. Photographed by Barry Norman Richard Harper's model of Sidmouth's railway. Photographed by Barry Norman


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