BRMNA history

Last September 1st, 2023

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.


The first issue was in August 1968 as a Newsletter, 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. 13 Newsletters were issued monthly until August 1969, number sequentially. 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, Peter Cunningham and, currently, Terry Hill. 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 - the map of North America over which was superimposed a locomotive (a Jinty) which became the BRMNA logo. It was still on a Gestetner however and was identified as the start of Vol 2. The October 1969 issue was renamed to the BRMNA JOURNAL and that was also when the logo first appeared. It was Vol 2 issue 2. Subsequent Journals were issued on a "roughly" monthly basis with one or two issues such as Jul/Aug as combined months. The May/June 1973 issue of the JOURNAL was the first that was offset printed.

Then, in October 1975, another change was made to the cover: a rectangle appeared 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 proposed the Journal use pictures on its front cover. The editor concured, especially since Geoff had backed up his suggestion with three years worth of cover photos. That month's picture was a very smokey engine in a very dark tunnel hence the total obscurity. But from November we got 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, EAS Illustrators, took on the printing of the JOURNALs at which point the front cover was redesigned to incorporate a larger photograph and, soon after, issue 100 appeared as Jan 1978. In February 1979 Graham Parsons took over as Editor and under his guidance the JOURNAL progressed further. The September 1984 issue was number 166 from the start of BRMNA and from that issue on showed the month(s) for the issue and the issue number which continues to the present day. Issue 200 appeared in January 1988 which heralded the start of the current cycle of 6 issues per year (sep/oct, nov/dec, jan/feb, mar/apr, may/jun, jul/aug) with 2 of them being larger issues (nov/dec and may/jun). The first Journal with digital printing was issue 273, Jan/Feb 2000, by Pro Printers who are still our printers. Issue 300 was Jul/Aug 2004. Garry Cornel took on the job of Editor in 2009 and was instrumental in giving members their first glimpse of colour versions of the photographs by way of a "colour supplement" on the web site of the images from each issue. This continued until the July/August 2014 issue. In 2010 Garry handed the job on to Peter Cunningham who continued the development of the Journal. The choice of subscribing to the printed monochrome version or the digital colour version began with the September/October issue in 2014 with the availability of the complete Journal in colour in the Member Zone of the web site. After five years at the helm, Peter was succeeded by Terry Hill in early 2020 and issue 400 was Mar/Apr 2021.

Over the coming months the remaining issues of the Journal back to issue 1 will be added to the Member Zone thanks to the efforts of Ian Grimwood, an Ottawa member, who has been scanning all the outstanding issues that were never in a digital format. So, keep a watch on the "What's New" page for announcements as they are added!

The Web Site

BRMNA joined the internet community with the first web site that made its appearance in September 1995. Over the next few years, the site was developed and new pages were added based on both experience and feedback from members. However, it was a "passive" site in that members and others could only look at the content as there was no facility to have an interactive session.

That changed in 2014 when the Member Zone was added which provided the ability to securely house the digital version of the JOURNAL and the interactive Forum for members only.


Of the first 15 members, three are still members: Geoff Howe (Ontario), Jim Jones (Nova Scotia) and Terry Nowell (Nova Scotia); we are aware of eight who are deceased (Don Bain, Ron Bryant, Frank Carter, Brian Fayle, Mike Hughes, 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


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


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


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 2020
Terry Hill: 2020 to present

Web Manager:

Dave Venables: 1995 to 2023
Ian Grimwood: 2023 to present

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