News & Reviews News New Train Show: The National Festival of Railway Modelling to fill a void

New Train Show: The National Festival of Railway Modelling to fill a void

By Lucas Iverson | June 26, 2024

United Kingdom’s Warners Group Publications looks to pick up where Warley left off

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Crowds observing a model railroad layout during a big train show.
Warners Group Publications hosts the London Festival of Railway Modelling at Alexandra Palace. The publication plans to organize the all-new National Festival of Railway Modelling at Birmingham’s National Exhibition Centre this fall.

In early 2024, the United Kingdom’s Warley Model Railroad Club announced they were discontinuing the renowned Warley National Model Railway Exhibition. As the club pivots in a new direction, there’s another organization looking to fill the void left behind with the cancellation of the national event.

The need for a national event

On Feb. 16, and announced they will co-host a new show, the National Festival of Railway Modelling, Nov. 23-24 at the National Exhibition Centre near Birmingham, U.K. Warners Group Publications will be the event’s main organizer – known for its British Railway Modelling, Narrow Gauge World, Garden Rail and Traction magazines, in addition to hosting the aforementioned websites.

Organizing train shows is nothing new to Warners Group. The company has a long resume that includes several noteworthy U.K. events: The London Festival of Railway Modelling at Alexandra Palace, the Festival of British Railway Modelling in Doncaster, and the Bristol Model Railway Exhibition. The former’s 2024 showing in March welcomed more than 10,000 attendees, according to publisher Steve Cole.

“We pride ourselves on providing visitors with the best layouts, a well-rounded mix of trade, and an array of clubs and societies,” he says.

The Warley Exhibition was a cherished event for U.K. model railroading, and the NEC served as a great location to host the international showing. Both Cole and Warners Group reinforce the statement when looking back on what they saw as a “damn good show,” and one they wish to continue.

“We believe that U.K. railway modelling needs a national event and that it should be hosted at the NEC in Birmingham,” Cole says. “We have a proven track record of producing top-quality shows and felt we are best placed to produce a show worthy of the name: The National Festival of Railway Modelling.”

A sense of familiarity with new programs and activities

HO-scaled steam locomotive running on a layout.
The new, national event is staged to feature 60 layouts, many of which have been featured in British Railway Modelling over the years.

What can one expect at this new event later in the fall? Cole confirms that so far, 60 layouts will be set up, many of which have been featured in British Railway Modelling over the years. The hobby’s best manufacturers, retailers and specialists, plus a vast array of clubs and societies are also expected to be in attendance, according to the publisher.

Even with the sense of familiarity from past showings, Warners Group plans to offer new programs and activities. “Visitors can experience driving their favorite locomotives in our rail simulators,” says Cole. “There will be a World-of-Railways Cinema showcasing videos of great layouts and must-know modelling skills.

“We have a Ride-On Railway coming along, a Kids’ Zone, plus an Innovation Zone where a leading manufacturer will be designing a wagon live. We truly want the show to offer something for everyone and keep visitors busy throughout the weekend.”

“The hobby is in a good place”

The National Festival comes at a time of further rectification towards the “model railroad hobby is dying” narrative since the original closing of Hattons and M.B. Klein/Model Train Stuff at the same time of the Warley Exhibition’s discontinuation. To Cole, the concerns initially voiced in U.K. mainstream media and beyond are complete rubbish.

“We’re currently seeing a growth in magazine sales and website traffic,” he said. “Social media is getting the hobby to a new, younger audience and all our 2024 exhibitions achieved the highest attendance for over five years.

“The hobby is in a good place, and we feel exhibitions like the National Festival of Railway Modelling will only help it grow further.”

Visit the National Festival of Railway Modelling website for more information.

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