I am amazed at the level of detail that the Club members talk about. There's the ‘V2', the ‘Black Five' and a ‘Crosti boiler', which sounds like an unappetising chicken but is actually the name of the person who designed a type of engine boiler. ‘It's railway speak', said Terry helpfully.

Terry's father bought him a Hornby 00 train set when he was a child. ‘He was posh', said Keith. ‘No I wasn't!' he replied.

‘Malcolm and I found my first train set on the top of mom and dad's wardrobe, before Father Christmas came one year', said Keith. ‘It was a Trix Twin Cadet Goods set but I really wanted a Hornby  Dublo Passinger set.'

Tamworth station was a popular haunt for the boys because both high and low level trains ran through it. ‘You could have upwards of a hundred kids in the field next to the West Coast Mainline some days', said Keith. The signal would go up (or ‘peg on the mainline' in railway speak) and ‘all the kids would know a train was coming in. There would be a stampede down to the tracks to see the engine flying through the station.'


Club Night has a fairly rigid structure. It starts with three cups of tea and some ginger biscuits downstairs, which sets the scene for the railway and modelling news of the week. Then it's up to the attic for Keith to show the boys what he's built since the last meeting. Malcolm invariably tells him how it could be improved while Terry says he thinks it's OK.

From Malcolm's point of view, Club Night is all about Keith building his model railway and ‘us telling him what to do when we go round. I love the banter we have; it's all part of the fun. After all, I think I've gently bullied Keith all his life!'

‘We swap ideas and help each other out,' said Terry diplomatically, ‘and exchange bits and pieces of equipment.' Keith had been trying to make a little Bewdley signal box and having a few problems with it, so Terry suggested using a different sort of glue.

After another cup of tea, which Keith makes, and some more ginger biscuits, Terry and Malcolm run a few trains round the track, always in the right combinations of engine and carriages. ‘We're not rivet counters but it has to be right.' They also discuss any new engines that have been released for sale that week and share railway memories.


The boys go on occasional Club Days Out to events like the Warley Railway Exhibition in December. They are already getting excited about this as it's the highlight of the year. Keith's daughter bought him a special rucksack recently for big days out so that he has somewhere sensible to keep his packed lunch.

They also have Club videos which they lend to each other. This week's selection is from Keith to Terry and it's Retford on the East Coast Mainline. ‘That's stunning, thank you', said Terry as he took the box.

Keith's wife Christine is an honorary member of the Club, but she doesn't attend meetings. ‘I can hear the occasional mutter and mumble as they talk about what they're doing, but that's about all really,' she said. ‘I'm not really interested in steam but  I can understand why the boys like it so much. The old engines are huge, steam driven pieces of machinery which are much more aesthetically pleasing than modern trains.'

After nearly forty years of marriage to Keith, Christine has undergone a process of train osmosis, an indoctrination into the world of steam engines through love.

‘I can recognise the main classes of engine now', she said. ‘Keith had a train set when we first got married and this is the fourth layout he's built. It's his most impressive yet.'

As I go to leave and Christine shows me out, the phone rings. It's another one of Keith's railway friends. ‘He always phones on a Tuesday night because he knows its Club Night,' she tells me. ‘He'd really like to be invited to join.'

On my way back home I see a lone trainspotter at New Street Station. Like the Club members, he's middle aged and wears glasses but there's no sign of an anorak.  He looks like a displaced birdwatcher with his binoculars in his hand.

Trainspotters are an endangered species and I'm reminded of Keith and his hundred or so friends running along the tracks on a never-ending sunny day in the 1950s. Was this man one of those children?


As I watched, a green and white striped Central Train shaped like a giant stick of rock pulled into the station and the man watched it reverently until it stopped.  I wondered whether he too has a train set hidden way in his attic, giving him another world to play in.