Model museum ready for big day in a scaled-down world

Oxford Mail: Chris Webber in the Vale scene Chris Webber in the Vale scene

ITS trains are known for sticking to their timetables.

And this year Pendon Museum is set to celebrate 60 years of its model service.

The Long Wittenham museum, on High Street, boasts a scale-display of Vale of the White Horse in the 1920s and 1930s.

And the trains that trundle round its track run exactly to their original timetables.

Oxford Mail:

Eric Bowman with with a train on the Dartmoor Scene.

Museum director Chris Webber, a volunteer since 1973, said its long-term success lies in being different to other model railway museums.

He said: “The aim is to make everything as authentic as possible.

“Heritage railways these days are very good but even with Didcot Railway you have the power station looming in the landscape.

“When you come to Pendon our landscapes are very accurate and everything just as it was in the past, which was like a different world.”

Mr Webber said the model trains run to scaled speeds and their landscapes feature faithfully created building replicas.

Visitors are taken for two-hour tours around three different sets by guides who explain what it was like to live in the area back in the 1920s and 1930s.

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The museum is to celebrate its 60th birthday by inviting residents who live in homes or work in buildings modeled in its sets, to a special evening event on July 12.

The museum was founded by a man called Roye England, who arrived in England aged 18 in 1925 from Perth, Australia.

Mr England fell in love with the landscape of the Vale and vowed to preserve it in model form for future generations.

It opened on July 10 1954 in the Three Poplars pub, Long Wittenham, which Mr England also opened a youth hostel in.

By 1955, the attraction was moved to an ex-RAF hut off High Street.

In 1971, the hut was replaced with the present building, in order to house the impressively-sized Vale model.

The oldest model is still there, which Mr England completed aged 29. It is a replica of an old pub, the Calley Arms, from where he lived in Horton, near Swindon.

Only its thatching has changed, from human hair to plumber’s hemp.

The museum has a scale model of the Vale, measuring 23-metres by 10-metres - representing about 0.8 square miles.

Mr Webber said: “It is like a Thirties watercolour painting.”

Pendon’s attention to detail, he said, has also resulted in about 20 passionate volunteers supporting the museum, which is a registered charity, on a rota-basis.

But volunteers are always needed at the attraction and those interested are encouraged to get in touch with them.

Oxford Mail:

The very first model, the Waggon and Horses, Wanborough.

He added: “We have people who come from all over the place, as far as Somerset, South London, Portsmouth, Lincolnshire and Suffolk.

“I’ve been involved since 1973, I married my wife and we moved to Didcot.

“I knew about Pendon and during a visit I offered to help.

“I’ve been involved ever since.

“It is only when you come and see it for yourself that you realise how special it is.”

  • Pendon Museum opens every weekend, bank holiday and some Wednesdays during school holidays, between 11am and 3.15pm.
  • For more information visit pendonmuseum.com

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