Frequently Asked Questions

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• What are these Railway Modellers’ Weekends about?

BistoPrimarily, they’re all about the skills associated with railway modelling – acquiring them, polishing them, developing them, demonstrating them, expanding them, passing them on. Different skills apply to everything we do, and without them we’ll struggle. Learning how to solder, how to use an airbrush, how to programme a locomotive, how to build scenery, how to wire up your track – these are the essentials of railway modelling. Whatever level you’re aiming for, our courses are designed to equip you with the skills necessary for taking an active and enjoyable interest in the hobby.

• I’ve been a railway modeller for 40 years. What can you teach me?

BinderAs well as covering the basics, our policy is to offer courses based around the latest developments in the hobby, such as laser cutting, CSBs, servo control and especially the growing impact of digital technology. We also recognize that even experienced modellers sometimes need a refresher course, or want to explore aspects of modelling they’ve never previously dabbled in.

• What scales/ gauges to you cater for?

BR Lion & WheelAlmost any you’d care to name. Most of our courses – such as Weathering, or Scenics, or Electronics – aren’t scale-specific, but reflect the general popularity of the different scales and gauges. While 4mm and 7mm naturally predominate, we also have modellers working in 2mm, 3mm, HO, S scale and their narrow-gauge equivalents. Our bias is definitely finescale but we have one regular who builds locomotives for his Hornby Dublo three-rail layout, and of late we’re seeing growing interest from 16mm scale modellers.

• Is Missenden Railway Modellers a posh club that you have to join?

Railway workersNot in the least. Our meetings have the warm, intimate, informal atmosphere of a club and indeed we have many people who come along year after year, session after session. But there’s no club as such, merely a loose-knit association of people who enjoy coming to the Abbey (and coming back time and again) to improve their skills and enjoy the company of like-minded individuals.

• It's a lot of money to find upfront. Can I pay by instalments?

We do not have a regular arrangement for paying by instalments for the Weekends but there is a system for the Summer Retreat, details of which are available on request. If you have problems paying all at once for a Weekend, have a word with the Course Organiser (use our Contact page)

• Not quite sure where Great Missenden is but am I right in saying it’s a bit off the beaten track?

MilestoneNot a bit of it. Missenden is just a few miles south of Aylesbury on the A413. It’s about 20 minutes from J18 on the M25. Couldn’t be easier to reach by car or train – we have one regular who travels by bus and for visitors from abroad Heathrow is close at hand (not that you’d notice it amid these wooded Chiltern hills) . . . Have a look at the Abbey Location page.

• What's the accommodation like?

BedsVery good. We had one student who imagined it would be like a Youth Hostel, but the Abbey’s facilities are as good as many equivalent hotels – as you'd expect from a top-class management college. But please be sure to book early as we have only a finite number of rooms available at the Abbey. We can always take late bookings but it may sometimes be necessary to offer you B&B of equivalent quality elsewhere in Great Missenden.

• What’s the food like?

Very good. The breakfasts are something else and we make sure the Abbey provides modeller-friendly grub for lunch and dinner, served buffet-style with plenty of choice. If you’d prefer to live on lettuce leaves this is always an option.

Palethorpe's sausages

• I live not far away, and would prefer to eat and sleep at home. Do you accept non-residents?

Suffolk posterYes of course. The fee is adjusted accordingly. When making your booking, please be sure to specify that you don’t require accommodation at the Abbey.

• My partner would like to stay with me over the weekend. Is this possible?

BlacksmithOf course. And don’t forget that ours is just one of many courses available at the Abbey – have a look at to see what other subjects are running at the same time. We often have husbands doing the Railway Modelling courses while their wives do something more useful and/or socially acceptable. In at least one instance it’s been the other way round . . .

• When do I need to decide which course I want to do?

LetterboxIn principle, the quicker you let us know exactly what you’d like to do, the faster we can allocate you to a particular group. In practice, you book for the weekend you want and then, 4-6 weeks ahead of time, you’ll receive an email (or a letter) asking you to state which particular course you want to do. Our tutors are happy to discuss any aspect of your proposed course and they’ll do all they can to deliver exactly what you want providing you let us know in good time. But if you leave it to Day 1 to advise us that you want to model live steam in Z gauge, we might have a problem.

• I’ve been several times in the past, and wondered how far things have changed.

Signal leversWe like to stay abreast of developments in the hobby at the same time as we ring the changes with the courses. Nothing stays the same for very long. Five years ago, for instance, we could see that weathering was very much the coming thing so we brought in a tutor specifically to run a weathering group. It’s now one of the most popular courses we offer. The electronics courses are always cutting-edge and new technology is a regular feature of our Autumn gathering. Barry Norman’s long-running scenery group now includes diorama-building while Norman Solomon has expanded the scope of his PW department to bring in the construction of test tracks.
If you want to be kept up to date, let us know via the Contact page

• I’d like to build a train set for my nephew. Is this the kind of thing you can help me with?

Nectar teaClip-together track and Thomas the Tank Engine are a bit beyond our scope, to be honest, but we could certainly give you advice. Missenden is primarily about acquiring the skills necessary for building models to finescale standards, usually from kits. The typical Missenden railway modeller already has basic experience of the hands-on aspects of the hobby and wants to take things further.

• Some of the groups cover very specialized topics. Do they need a minimum number of bookings before they run?

BlacksmithSome courses – such as Track Building with Norman Solomon, or Tim Watson’s Advanced Loco Construction – only run at the Spring Weekend, while the Autumn session is where the new technology and electronics groups are concentrated. We’ve not yet had to cancel a course due to lack of numbers but we recognize that one day this may happen, and we reserve the right to do so. In the future we may offer some courses on a cyclical basis to allow us to introduce fresh subjects at the Spring and Autumn weekends.

• How many in each group?

Lazy dayUsually in single figures to allow the maximum amount of one-on-one tuition. In larger groups such as 4mm and 7mm loco-building, a lot of people will be working on their own projects at their own pace but the tutors will always have time for the individual.

• Do you cater for beginners?

Bike & barrowOur courses aren’t designed for outright beginners, but we can certainly help if you’re planning to move up a notch or two from RTR-based modelling, or if you’re returning to the hobby after years devoted to work, families, gardening, DIY etc. Our approach is all about learning and developing the skills necessary for making progress as a railway modeller, at whatever level you choose – whether you’re a novice or someone who’s already had articles published in MRJ.

• What if the course I want to do is over-booked?

BarrelsThis only happens if you’re late making your booking. Even so we will do all we can to fit you in but in some instances it may be necessary to offer you an alternative.

• Are there other organisations offering courses like yours?

Fry's choco;ateMissenden Abbey is unique. Although we know of two or three places that provide tuition, no one else can offer residential courses in such high-quality accommodation with the best tutors in the hobby. Nor will you find such a range of course options running concurrently, with the opportunity for looking at what modellers in other groups and disciplines are doing.

• Are you open to suggestions about future courses?

DialsDefinitely. If there’s something you’d like us to cover – either as a new course or as part of an exisiting one – we’d love to hear from you. Let us know through the Contact page.

Guest Keen & Nettlefold products
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The bottom line:

We want you to get as much as you can from your time at Missenden.

Let us know what you want.

Use the Contact page.