Railway Club

 ‘Albert Richmond ran the Club in the forties, a North Countryman, who called the boys “Great Donkeys”.  From 1948 it was organised by Ivor Cheale

1.  Donation of £25 from Parents Committee in 1949     Richard Hall (1946)

2.  What actually happened at the Railway Club.     Terry Gotch (1954)
3.  Railway club as stage hands

4.  Club's Closure

The Railway Club was valuable to me. Ivor decided that we needed to build a model railway but none of your Hornby Dublo. He decided to go for Bassett Lowke O gauge and that was real modelling. The track had to be constructed in the same way as the real thing with sleepers, chairs, rails and keys. The difficult part came with the points which also had to be constructed from scratch. The experience I had with soldering and the other metal work has been invaluable to me all my life since leaving WGS. The other skill learnt from the club was with the electrical work for the layout. Ivor managed to come by some ex-GPO telephone relays which we spent hours adapting to operate a sophisticated automatic signalling system which we also designed. I remember Ivor covering the board in the physics lab, where we did much of our work, with circuit diagrams which we all criticised, altered and added to in order to get a workable system.

Not only did we play with model trains but every half term or school holiday Ivor would arrange a trip to a railway establishment. We visited railway works, engine sheds, carriage works, signal boxes etc. all over the country, travelling by train, of course. What an experience! We saw steam engines being built from scratch at Derby and, ominously, the first two diesel electric locomotives 10,000 and 10,001 which hauled passenger trains experimentally between St. Pancras and Leicester via Wellingborough. This was the beginning of the end of steam traction in this country and we saw its genesis. We also visited York when that had railway workshops. What a pale reminder the engine shed is now, converted into a museum. We saw it with real steam engines using it when it was alive with smoke and steam and the smell of hot oil. Little did we know then that within our lifetime virtually all of this would be gone.   Richard Hall (1946)

1.      Donation from Parents Committee to Railway club of £25 in 1949  Newspaper information

2.   What actually happened at the Railway Club.   Terry Gotch 1954()

A most ubiquitous organisation which, although I was a member for a number of years, I never quite figured out its raison d’être.

My earlier membership centred around my interest in model railways. The school had a massive model railway, although only the members of the Railway Club ever got to see its full potential. Meetings were held weekly on a Friday night and once a month on Saturday mornings. The latter corresponded to the layout being assembled in the hall on Friday night and being operated, not played with, on the latter part of Friday evening and the whole of Saturday morning. That was if we could get that darned thing to run. It seemed that this was the teenage version of men messing about in boats – it never seemed to run until five minutes before it was due to be dismantled. This was probably due to one of two reasons. The main boards, two of them, were stored in Charlie Ward’s room, room 2, probably because Ivor Cheale invoked the holiday connection to get Charlie Ward to allow the boards to be kept there. Nevertheless this offered great scope to the budding Clive Sinclairs of WGS to experiment with wring modifications and extractions – how many different coloured wires could you collect before the master came in?. All the subsidiary boards were stored in the loft over the Physics Laboratory and had to be manhandled through the loft aperture – this placed a considerable constraint on the dimensions of the board and hence the design of the layout which meandered all over the hall – was this cause or effect? This manhandling process vied with the amateur electricians of the lower school in ensuring that the layout never operated without considerable scratching of heads and reconnecting leads.

I never stayed in the Railway Club for this activity for more than two years. I never seemed to graduate from tearing up newspapers into one inch squares to produce papier mache. It seemed that slave labour in the third world would not even attempt this soul destroying task. I never got to actually applying the papier mache, which seemed to be the preserve of the more Senior boys. The only relief seemed to be when Ivor opened the tuck shop – that was if John Bridgeford had not bought up the entire stock before it was your turn. Once again seniority seemed to hold sway here.

I continued in the Railway Club up to the Lower Sixth for my other interest – train spotting. To us what would now be called anoraks, Ivor’s annual Railway Club excursion took us to many far flung posts of empire, or at least British Railways, in furtherance of getting those vital numbers. Such was my devotion to this pursuit that I went on an overnight trip to Newcastle and Sunderland between my two Latin O level papers. I seemed to manage without any sleep in case I missed those vital numbers. The outcome of this devotion to my hobby was that my Latin result was quite exceptional – I got the highest score in any of my languages including English! I should have thought of this novel way of approaching exams when I took all my other subjects the previous year.

Having said all this, I did admire Ivor Cheale’s fortitude in providing the various experiences which, together with many already posted on the net, gave me a most memorable seven years at the Old School.

3.   Railway club as Stage Hands   School Play 1959        “Lifeline”

The photo was originally supplied by Neil Sinclair, a second copy was supplied by David Powis.  

List of names:

Back Row:      Peter Clark, Michael Payne, Richard Nobes, David Hill, Mr.M.S.Cheale, Richard Sherwood, Poppit (Mrs.Cheale), David Pope,

                        Dave Hanger, Richard Blunt

Middle Row:  Michael Leach, Terry Wood, Paul Coleman, Robert Buckler, Neil Sinclair

Front Row:     Chris.Norman, David Powis, Philip P.Jones, Michael Prior, Alan Robinson,  Ralph Baxter

Since writing the above received this letter:

I have identified myself on one of the Railway Club/Stage crew photos, I am on the extreme left of the one with the "warming pan" which also has Bob Buckler, with whom I am still in touch, to the right and behind Michael Leach. The photograph by the way is from the production of Bird in Hand which took place in 1960.   Bill Parkin (1957)  Bill is referring to another photo, which is on the Nostalgic Web Site:  www.wellingboroughgrammarschool.co.uk 

What on earth has the railway club got to do with the school plays? - now I expect to be educated here, but I thought you played (sorry) with toy (even sorrier) trains. So what were you doing with the plays? Graham Tall (1955)

Neil Sinclair's answer:       Creating the Stage Sets   
It’s a long story that began before I entered WGS but maybe it happened in your time. The drama master of the time (name unknown) was complaining in the staff room one day about lack of support for the stage sets. Ivor was listening and volunteered that his Railway Club members would do something for him and so it all began. From then forward, the Autumn Term Railway Club was always devoted to preparing the stage for the Christmas production. We did some model railway building in September and October but progressively became more ‘stage work oriented’ as the term progressed. For the final two weekends before the play began we would spend all of Friday evening, all of Saturday until late in the evening and often Sunday afternoon preparing the set. We would also be on duty as stage hands during the productions themselves – hence the ‘photos were probably taken after the final performance on the last night. We were very proud of the sets which did take a vast amount of time. It is only now, looking back, that I realise the incredible team management skills that Ivor had. Each year, he would take a bunch of unskilled lads and produce some fine sets on time.
Although I cannot remember fully, I think we did the same for the house drama competition – giving each house equal attention!
The stage units were stored in the bunker behind prefab. 19 (Beery Ward’s room).
      Neil Sinclair (1958/9)

My name is Robert John Buckler, (usually "Bob" ), and I was at the Grammar School from 1957 to 1963.

I was a member of the Railway Club and therefore enlisted to help with School Plays.

On approaching the Sixth Form I assisted John "Ernie" Huddart with the lighting.  The bug now started to bite and I shifted scenery, worked in the "flies", and helped lighting at other local productions at the Palace and Lyric in Wellingborough and also at Rushden and Kettering.

Instead of going to university from the 3rd Year 6th in 1964, I "jumped ship" and joined the BBC as a Technical Operator in 1963. Not very popular with "Harold" Wrenn!

After nearly 40 years working in TV Sound, Studios then Outside Broadcasts, I took early retirement in 2001.  I still work part time, having just finished Wimbledon and looking forward to a few Proms starting next week. Bob Buckler (1957)



4.   Club's Closure

The club listing suggests that the railway club was last known in 1969...well I joined the School in 72, and left in 77, and it was still just running, although it’s popularity had waned by then..at this time it was still led by ‘Ivor’ and the club had taken over half of ‘Jocks Hole’....the old boiler room under the 6th form cloak room, where we built an operational 00 guage layout....the club disbanded shortly after I left...i never did find out what happened to all the equipment, nobody knew...or would let on.  Lots of vivid memories of the school...didn’t enjoy it much at the time....but with hindsight, not such a bad place, and what a shame more schools aren’t like this one was now....

Regarding the connection between the Railway Club and the Stage Staff…as they were known in my day…there may have been some pupils involved with both… I was for a while, but the two were completely separate entities…the link being that ‘Ivor’ was in charge of both of them.


As for the model railway layouts, I believe that after your time (1950's), and before my time (1970's), they used to set up an ‘0’ gauge layout in Penney Lab….this would be started on Friday evening, and run on Saturday mornings. All the parts were stored in the loft above the labs…there was still some remaining when I started there in 72…I believe all the ‘0’ gauge stuff was sold off to buy ‘00’ gauge.     Martin Percy (1972)