Skipton & District Railway Society is this year celebrating its milestone 50th anniversary – and on track for its annual exhibition to mark the Golden Jubilee this month.

It will be staged as usual at Skipton Academy in Gargrave Road over the weekend of Saturday and Sunday, August 11 and 12.

Skipton & District Railway Society was founded at a meeting called by three railway enthusiasts and held at Skipton Liberal Rooms, on January 22, 1968, when 41 people attended. It was an era when steam was dying and such bodies were springing up to keep interest alive.

Society secretary Trevor Shaw, who lives in Addingham, takes up the story. “At the first meeting it was agreed that a model 00 gauge layout based on the local area should be built. We had yet to find a successful way to raise funds, so decided to hold a model railway exhibition in Skipton Town Hall in September the same year, featuring our new layout, named Shipton & Helenfield, eight months after first starting to build it. The event proved a great success.

“In 1971, the go-ahead was given for a second 00 layout, with a budget of £30! This became the Cravendale layout, later renamed Kirkby Garrett. In the early days we held two exhibitions per year – Spring in Settle or Ingleton and early Autumn in Skipton, where we secured the Town Hall for our three-day August bank holiday annual exhibition. This venue and date remained the standard for the exhibition for many years. In 1973, there were 11 working layouts, three trade stands and 14 other stands.

“In the weeks following our 1977 exhibition, members developed a plan for a radical new 00 exhibition layout. It was named Cheslyn Bay and was chosen as Railway Modeller magazine’s Railway of the Month in August 1980.

“In 1981, we began to build our most ambitious layout ever – Marsden on the ex-LNWR line between Huddersfield and Manchester, and this too featured as Railway of the Month in 1988, going on to win other best layout in show accolades, among them the main trophy at the Festival of British Railway Modelling show in Harrogate.

“In 1986, it was agreed that a finescale O gauge layout based on Lofthouse on the Nidd Valley Light Railway should be built. It was exhibited for the first time at our own exhibition in 1990.

“We began work in 1999 on an American Sn3 layout representing Dolores, Colorado on the Rio Grande Southern line. In 2003, one of our most valued members died and his family donated his home O gauge layout, Wards End, to the club. It later underwent a serious rebuild and has been exhibited many times. Another O gauge layout donated by a member in 2012 has since provided a useful back-up layout.

“In 2010, it was agreed a new 00 layout should be built based on Kirkby Stephen East and constructed as an oval, 16ft x 8ft. It was named Croglam Castle after an Iron Age hill fort near Kirkby Stephen. This continues to be a work in progress and we hope to exhibit the layout in almost-finished form at our 2019 exhibition.”

In the interim, members are busy preparing for this year’s imminent exhibition, which has all-round family interest and will feature eight layouts, while other attractions include demonstrations of railway modelling techniques by Keighley Model Railway Club, Gauge 0 Guild stand, club second hand stall and trade stands.

The entry fee is £5 for adults, free for accompanied children under 16. Refreshments are available and there is free parking. The exhibition runs from 10am to 5pm on the Saturday, until 4pm on Sunday.

Skipton & District Railway Society meets weekly on Monday evenings in the society’s own club rooms and while its main focus remains on building and exhibiting model railway layouts, there is also a year-long programme of special activities and varied events, including slide shows, quizzes and demonstration evenings. New members are welcome.

Full details are at Club secretary Trevor Shaw is on 01943 831935, email