The unveiling of a town centre model of the famous old Axminster to Lyme Regis Railway has brought with it a surge of affection for one of the golden eras in local history. 

The team that inspired the building of the model is enjoying a flow of congratulations from people who have fond memories of the days when Victorian steam locos, known collectively as  ‘Lyme Billy’, ran the near seven-mile journey along a tortuous but scenically stunning route. The line ran for just 62 years before closing in 1965.

Axminster’s Town Mayor, Cllr Jill Farrow, was joined by local railway veteran Terry Guppy to perform the official switching of a specially made signal to ‘go’ to bring the model to life in the otherwise empty windows of the former River Cottage restaurant in Trinity Square. It will now remain there on street display through Christmas and beyond.   

Cllr Farrow said: “When most people think about model railways they imagine a child’s toy. That couldn’t be further from the reality of this project.  It’s been lovingly built over months by a team of highly gifted modellers and is a wonderful representation of the much-loved branch line which once connected Axminster with Lyme Regis.  It is truly beautiful.” 

“Every time I’ve been past there have been people gazing happily at it.  I’m sure once people know it’s there it will attract more railway enthusiasts to the town.  The whole team deserves hearty congratulations on its magnificent achievement.”

The model includes not just an innovative scaled-down and technically excellent layout but a spectacular collection of architecturally perfect local buildings, plus scenery and explanatory display panels. It is the product of a team effort led by Axminster Chamber of Commerce, the Community Waffle House, Axminster Community Shed and Axminster Heritage Centre. It follows close on the heels of the Chamber’s colourful street banners, which each celebrate different aspects of Axminster’s past or present. 

Axminster Chamber of Commerce secretary Barrie Hedges praised the South Western Railway and the Devon & Cornwall Rail Partnership who had provided sponsorship, and Axminster Town Council who make workshop space available. Local model railway specialists PECO and Buffers have both given valuable input. Palmers Brewery made their town centre premises available for display and Symonds & Sampson made it possible to lay on the power. Several other businesses also contributed. 

Barrie Hedges said: “The bringing together of volunteers to great community effect is without doubt one of the great successes of this project. But that’s what Axminster does time and time again. If you have a cause, you will always find willing hands. I hope that what we have delivered will give the community some extra Christmas cheer and maybe it will also bring the town a few more visitors over the coming months.“

He promised that, with the model as its focus, consideration would be given to other ways in which the town can continue to celebrate its love for the old railway and memories can be captured before they are lost. You can follow progress on the Facebook page ‘For the Love of a Railway’.