History of the Railway Modellers' Courses

Some past tutors:

Martin Brent

Mike Sharman

Iain Rice

Tony Wright


The first Modellers' Weekend was held in 1971 at Hassocks in Sussex. It moved to Missenden Abbey in 1981 and, apart from a short time when the Abbey was destroyed by fire and underwent restoration, has been there ever since.

2012 was the 30th year at the Abbey and in that time the courses have grown to take over the whole of The Abbey. This was due in particular to Martin Brent who took over as Chief Tutor in 1996.

Ian Rathbone & Martin Brent
Ian Rathbone (l) and Martin Brent (r)

Martin created a new, more practical format. He wanted participants to acquire new skills and build something to show for their weekend's work. He introduced Bob Alderman, Mike Sharman and Ian Rathbone, and as a result attendance steadily increased. The concept of a weekend of uninterrupted hands-on modelling with one-on-one tuition has proved to be a great success. Places sell out quickly and attendance has increased year on year.

Programme March 1989
A snippet of the programme from March 1989

It was Martin who introduced the Missenden Abbey Railway Modellers Manual, in which he passed on useful tips and techniques gained during his long and successful modelling career. This manual is updated every year, and is now available on a CD-ROM.

Mike Sharman, Martin Brent, Iain Rice
Mike Sharman, Martin Brent, Iain Rice

After the Weekend in 2000, Martin was diagnosed with leukaemia and Christopher Langdon, who had been to the courses since the early 1980s, became the Course Organizer. The format has remained the same, but additional tutors now come to help the increasing number of modellers, currently approaching 70. Participants have come from South Africa, France, Germany, Holland, Denmark, Australia and the USA. We also have several ladies on the courses.

The Spring Weekend in March, has proved very popular, so three courses on two additional weekends have been added:

In 2005, the first 'Electronics for Railway Modellers' was run in conjunction with MERG (Model Electronics Railway Group). This now forms part of the expanded Autumn Modelling Weekend.

October 2006 saw 'Locomotive Kit Construction' running with Tony Wright and Bob Alderman as tutors. This has been a huge success.

On the same weekend in 2007, Barry Norman started 'The Craft of Scenery'. This, too, has attracted many enthusiastic participants.

2010 saw the first 'Railway Modellers’ Week', now called The Summer Retreat, during the Missenden Abbey Summer School. This takes place in early August.

2011 was the beginning of an expanded Autumn Modelling Weekend with a guest tutor.

In 2012, the Autumn Modelling Weekend was expanded to include Electronics for Railway Modellers and another Guest Tutor. The original Modeller's Weekend in March will become the Spring Modelling Weekend.

The organization of the gatherings has become much too great for one person and in 2013 Chris Langdon shared the load with Tim Shackleton, David Brandreth and Mick Bonwick to help and he became 'Tutor without Portfolio'.

From the first course in Hassocks through 30 years at Missenden Abbey, the Modellers' Weekends have come a long way. There are now three courses a year, all designed to give railway modellers a weekend of uninterrupted modelling with expert tuition on hand.

These weekends are among the most popular items in the Railway Modelling calendar.

Loco in front of Abbey
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Current tutors, each of whom bring unique skills:

Chris Langdon - Chief tutor and electronics

Tim Shackleton - 4mm locos and weathering

Tim Watson - sprung and compensated chassis

Barry Norman - scenery and baseboards

Ian Rathbone - painting and lining

Norman Solomon - track building

Tony Gee - 4mm loco and stock construction

Bob Alderman - 7mm loco and stock construction

Guest tutors:

Martin Lloyd - 2011 - servos and signal building

Kevin Wilson - 2012 - 7mm loco construction

Bob Gledhill - 2013 - Laser cutting

There is more information about each tutor on the Tutor's page.