Nostalgia: ‘The train now arriving at Osborne Road, Hornchurch’

Alf (top right) blows his whistle to let another train through.

Alf (top right) blows his whistle to let another train through. - Credit: Archant

Model Engineering was a popular hobby during the last xentury in the Romford area - and still is today.

Alf (centre) getting steam up for a trip to the bottom of the garden

Alf (centre) getting steam up for a trip to the bottom of the garden - Credit: Archant

My dad Alfred Holby worked as a chauffer at Romford Brewery during the 1920s and 30s but his hobby was building a train.

Alf blows his whistle to let another train through.

Alf blows his whistle to let another train through. - Credit: Archant

Alf set out to build a 20” working steam model of a Great Western Hall Class Locomotive, his ambition was to make almost every part himself in his well equipped shed in Osborne Road, Hornchurch.

I remember as a child the amazing collection of a lathes, drills and grinders, all powered by a huge electric motor and a series of clattering leather drive belts with a wonderful smell of oil. He even had a small homemade forge.

The train was completed in 1930 and was a popular attraction with local model engineering enthusiasts who took advantage an Alf’s 60 foot of 2.5” track the entire length of his garden.


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My Mum told me how busy she was kept making tea, sandwiches and cakes for the visitors who brought their own model steam trains to 206 Osborne Road on small trailers towed by their bikes.

Alf’s private railway was his pride and joy until the outbreak of war in 1939, it was considered to be a danger from the air as it could be a rocket launching site and was only two miles from Hornchurch Aerodrome. The track was taken to help the war effort. He intended to rebuild the track after the war but sadly died in 1952, when I was seven, my mum offered it to his friends who belonged to Romford Model Engineering Club and I remember the day they came to take it away.

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I contacted the club last year and they went to a lot of trouble to trace Alf’s train, the club was formed in 1934 and it appeared that he was not a member as the membership fee was quite high. They invited me to one of their Steam Days at their extensive track in Ardleigh Green were today’s enthusiast still run the tiny steam trains.

You can find out more about Romford Model Engineering Club at www.romfordmec.com.

I would love to hear from anyone who knows what became of the 20” long Dark Green Hall Class Engine.

Email: chris@vanholby.com

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