The Blyth Model Railway Club was formed in Blyth in 1968. There were 10 original members and they met one night a week above an Estate Agent’s office in Waterloo Road, Blyth. Over the next 14 years membership increased to 24 and the Club relocated to Seaton Sluice Community Centre in 1982 when the existing premises became too small.
The club changed its name to Blyth and District Model Railway Society.
The Society held its first exhibition in the Community Centre in 1983. By 1997, an increase in membership and change of management at the Community Centre led to a search for a new larger clubhouse. Gordon Redpath was appointed Secretary, and he opened negotiations with North Tyneside Council to identify potential premises. The council offered the society a disused building in Dukes Walk, Whitley Bay, behind the well known Rendevous Café on The Links. The premises were rent and rates free, but were prone to flooding in heavy rain.
The Society signed a five year rent free lease in 2001. The annual exhibition moved from Seaton Sluice Community Centre to Hirst High School in Ashington and then the new Community College in Blyth. Attendances rose from 300/400 per exhibition to 1,500+. Interest in the society increased and membership continued to grow.
By 2005, with membership in excess of 45, cramped accommodation and regular water damage to layouts, a new clubhouse became an urgent issue. The society eventually rented rooms above The Harbour Market in Lower Bedford Street, North Shields. These premises offered a lot of space, but the building was old and lacked suitable heating for model railways. Security of tenure and high rent were also issues.
The large space was an attractive proposition to railway modellers and when the exhibition was moved to The Parks Sports Centre in North Shields, interest in membership increased and new members brought the society membership to 75+, ages ranging from 14 to 87!
Narrow stairs limited access to our older members and it was difficult to move layouts for exhibition purposes.
During 2009, meetings were held with North Tyneside Council to identify new premises.
Eventually, the society agreed with North Tyneside Council to lease the shell building above the Netto Supermarket at 40, Saville Street, North Shields.
A 10 year lease was offered, with an annual rent of £5,000 per annum. Agreement was reached for a 5 year rent free period on the condition that the society made the building habitable. The society gained access to the building in May 2010 and embarked on a programme to paint walls and seal the concrete floor. Once the floor was sealed and painted, the layouts were moved from The Harbour Market building and notice given to terminate the letting.
A grant enabled the society to commission the lift, and £10,000 was spent on installing an electrical supply with sockets and lighting, installing a water supply, creating two toilets, an office and kitchen.
The lease was signed in October 2011, and over the next 10 months a library area was created, together with a basic workshop.
The society changed name to reflect the new location – the Blyth and Tyne Model Railway Society. The name has a higher profile in the railway community through the well known Blyth and Tyne Railway.
The working relationship with North Tyneside Council has been improved and is reflected in the exhibition being located at The Parks Sports Centre over the August Bank Holiday weekend. The society has an agreed booking at this venue for the next five years.
The society now has a firm foundation.
Membership is healthy with a constant influx of new members.
A ten year lease is in place with an option to extend in 2022.
The bank account is healthy, with known costs manageable for the next 10 years.
Most of the building work is complete.
The exhibition has a 5 year base with manageable and stable costs.
The exhibition is now regarded as the premier exhibition in the North East of England.