BRMNA history

Last September 6th, 2018

The beginnings

In early 1968 Jim Jarrett was thinking that it required an act of determination and willpower to model British railways here in North America. There seemed to be no fellow modellers and it took at least 6 to 8 weeks when items were ordered from the UK. Moreover, you had to be very specific - if you forgot to request wheels and a motor when ordering your locomotive kit it was another 6 to 8 weeks after you remembered!

Obviously he was not alone as was evidenced by the appearance of two adverts in the British Model Railway press: one by Jim Jones looking for some Hornby Dublo items; the other by George Harrop offering to sell a Hornby Dublo Duchess (which, incidentally, Jim bought and modified).

Jim wrote to them both about the idea of forming an Association for the exchange of ideas with the result that they formed a national group with members from coast to coast: Jim Jones in Halifax; Jim in Ottawa; and George Harrop in Vancouver.

Jim contacted Cyril Freezer, then editor of the Railway Modeller, and to S.W. Stevens-Stratton, editor of the Model Railway Constructor and asked if they would announce this newly formed group in their magazines. A very nice mention appeared in both magazines and they started getting members at a remarkable rate growing from 3 to 39 by December 1968.

It was not until November of 1968 that the current name for the group was selected by the members from a choice of five with BRMNA getting more than twice as many votes as the second choice.


A newsletter was started and with the help of an early recruit, Derek Moon, it was run off on a Gestetner. Many a Saturday, Derek and Jim would get together in Derek's office to run off that month's edition. Derek was also the first Secretary/Treasurer followed by Geoff Rowe and, currently, Dave Venables.

Subsequently the JOURNAL has been edited by Geoff Rowe, Chris Vernell, Calman Szombathy, Graham Parsons, Garry Cornell and, currently, Peter Cunningham. Each of them has been responsible for improving the quality of the JOURNAL with today's professionally printed versions being a far cry from the first efforts on the old Gestetner!

Credit for much of the change is due to the combined efforts of Graham and our previous printer for many years, Ted Steel. They put countless hours of their own very precious spare time into making these improvements which we know from comments made when annual dues are sent in have been much appreciated by the members. Incidentally, each issue of the JOURNAL is put to bed by people who are more than fully occupied with their own jobs and demands of their families which is why, occasionally, they may be late.

From September 1969, the JOURNAL began to sport a cover - still on a Gestetner however. This first cover was the map of North America over which was superimposed a locomotive (a Jinty) which has become our logo. By the end of 1973 we went to a printed JOURNAL and then in October 1975 a change was made to the cover, a rectangle appearing on the first page framing a large question mark and entitled "What is it?". The editors comments enlightened everyone as follows: "Readers wondering about the odd title page this month can blame Geoff Rowe (BC) former editor and gadfly. Mr.Rowe proposes the Journal use pictures on its front cover. The editor concurs, especially since Mr.Rowe has backed up his suggestion with three years worth of cover photos. This month's picture is a very smokey engine in a very dark tunnel hence the total obscurity. But for November we will get down to business seriously." And, as promised the November 1975 sported the first photographic cover with the appearance of a 57XX pannier tank outside the shed at Neath.

Towards the end of 1975 Ted Steel took on the printing of the JOURNALs at which point the front cover was redesigned to incorporate a larger photograph. In February 1979 Graham Parsons took over as Editor and under his guidance the JOURNAL progressed further. Garry Cornel took on the job of Editor in 2009 and was instrumental in establishing the Journal supplement on the BRMNA web site giving members their first glimpse at colour versions of the photographs. In 2010 Garry handed the job on to Peter Cunningham who continued the development of the Journal and of the availability of the complete Journal in colour on the web site.


Of the first few members, five are still members: Brian Fayle and Geoff Howe (Ontario), Mike Hughes (British Columbia) and Jim Jones and Terry Nowell (Nova Scotia); six are deceased (Don Bain, Ron Bryant, Frank Carter, Jim Jarrett, Derek Moon, and Dave Perkins); one changed hobbies (Ron Campbell); and we have lost touch with the other three (George Harrop, John Inkpen, and John Roxborough).

And this trend seems to continue today with members joining and invariably remaining as members, which speaks volumes for the value that members feel they receive for their annual membership fees.

One important thing that has been done over the years is to have reciprocal memberships with other clubs. BRMNA makes them honourary members and sends their editor the JOURNAL and they reciprocate by sending BRMNA their magazine. This has resulted in a very healthy exchange of articles between clubs with benefits accruing to more than just the members of the club to which the contributors belong.

Two other very good things have taken place since those early days. First, several other clubs have been spawned both here and abroad with varying degrees of affiliation with BRMNA. Vancouver has a very active group, Top Link, as does Toronto with the Platelayers. Overseas, the British Railway Modellers of Australia and the British Railway Modellers of New Zealand also had their genesis in BRMNA.

The other is the increase in the number of members who operate as suppliers who now handle UK items at very competitive prices and without the considerable delays that can still accompany overseas orders. Although still somewhat distant from many of their patrons they have taken on the look of ones "local" hobby store and provide a first class service.

The future

So much for the first 50 years. What of the future? Well that is very much up to you!

Honour Roll

President: J.H.Jarrett 1968 to 2009
Graham Parsons (interim) 2009
Derek Uttley 2009 to present

Secretary/Treasurer: Derek Moon: 1968 to 1970
Geoff Rowe: 1970 to 1974
Dave Venables: 1974 to present

Editor: Derek Moon: 1968 to 1970
Geoff Rowe: 1970 to 1974
Chris Vernell: 1974 to 1976
Calman Szombathy: 1976 to 1979
Graham Parsons: 1979 to 2009
Garry Cornel: 2009 to 2010
Peter Cunningham: 2010 to present

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