Great Model Railway Challenge

Back in January I received an email about the Great Model Railway Challenge, a new TV show for Channel 5 in the UK.  The idea was broadly a bake off for trains.  I was abroad so just forwarded it on but the NMRA British Region President, David McLaughlin, met the Executive Producer and apparently raved about how good I would be as a judge.  David then rang me and encouraged me to get in touch with the production company.  I phoned the Exec Producer, went to London a couple of times to meet them and had a screen test and was lucky enough to be chosen as a judge.  My friends are now all calling me the Mary Berry of model railways.

To cut a long story short, the filming has just finished!  There were 5 heats with 3 teams of 5 or 6 people each week and a final, all filmed across 6 weeks.  Unfortunately, it was a key time at work but I was blessed with an understanding boss who let me have the time off!

So what’s it been like?

One of the key complaints I heard across the internet when the idea was being touted (as an aside – what a negative hobby this can appear to be when you read some forums – thankfully it’s not at all like that elsewhere) was that the TV channel wanted to take the mickey out of the model railway community.  I can assure you that this is not the case in filming.  They have treated it as a serious endeavour and tried to show the trials and tribulations evenly as well as the achievements.

It’s been stressful for the teams as creating a working model railway in 24 hours is a big ask even without being on TV with the requirement to stop and be interviewed regularly or just to be quiet whilst someone else is interviewed in the same room.  They’ve all done really well, had some really innovative ideas and produced some amazing work in the time.  Each week is themed and we’ve seen a huge variety of layouts, even within the same theme.

There were two presenters and two judges and plenty of time to go around and chat to those taking part.  I had some great discussions on everything from bootlace crimps and TouchCab to water products and animations.  It’s been great!  I also got to know my fellow judge, Steve Flint, editor of Railway Modeller really well but he hasn’t dared use that Stern Steve face on me yet!

The peacocks were fairly noisy (not a phrase you hear every day) which did cause some pieces to be recorded several times before several airplanes flew over and made us do a few more takes but overall it has been great fun and I’ve learnt a lot from everyone taking part.

Being behind the scenes on a TV programme has been fascinating and the production company and crew were a really great bunch.  A lot more goes on behind the scenes than you realise and there must be weeks of footage to edit up now.

Once the programme airs, I’ll put out some behind the scenes posts but until then, I can only talk about it and post a few photos of me driving the diesel loco there!

14 thoughts on “Great Model Railway Challenge”

  1. Sounds a lot better than building a railway track for miles. Hopefully will show creativity and encourage people to become involved.


    I have heard about this show. can’t wait to see it. The Mary Berry of model railways, eh? Well I hope you avoided a soggy bottom? 😉 Did they give you an idea of when it will go to air yet? I wish I had known you were coming to London as I could certainly do with a few tips on how to make my own layout look a little more realistic, as I definitely don’t have your talents!

    1. Hi Eddie

      They are editing at the moment but it will take until September to get it all finished. It may air September or October but the schedules haven’t been finalised yet I’m afraid.

      I was a bit outside of London in Fawley Hill – you can only get there on narrow single track lanes with passing places – great fun and occasionally a little bit of a tight squeeze with much reversing required!



    Hi Kathy, have you a start date for the new program. About time our hobby has been reconised properly. Could tell us when you know, thanks David


    Well … WOW! You sure have been a busy girl. Can’t wait for the behind the scenes and mishaps stuff.


    Kathy, they would have been bonkers NOT to have you as a judge. In addition to your excellent modeling skills and your eye for details, you are very photogenic and always look great on camera. I do wish we could see the episodes here in the US, but I’m sure your behind the scenes info will be awesome.


  6. Fantastic site Kathy and it was wonderful to meet you on the Great Model Railway Challenge set. Ive been looking at your modelling skills videos with great interest – hopefully now I’ll be able to get away from my birthday cake looking scenery :-))))))

    1. Simon

      It was great to meet you! That was one of the best things about the show, meeting so many great people.

      Let’s hope there’s a second season for you to show off your scenery skills again!


  7. I had a great time, and it was lovely to meet you too. It will be interesting to see how the hours and hours of filming will get edited down to probably less than 10 minutes air time for each layout. I hope the good spirits, comradery and harmless banter between the teams comes across too.

    As for the nay-sayers, creating a ‘serious’ model railway within the constraints of time and resources available was never really feasible, and would probably not make interesting TV for the general public. However, the creativity, productivity and techniques displayed by the teams was inspiring, and should strike a chord with viewers. Hopefully, viewing figures will be sufficient to assure a second series.

    1. Ian

      It was great to meet you too.

      I have no idea how they are going to edit so much footage down but that’s the magic of TV!

      The layouts may not have been totally “serious” but they were great fun to watch being built and I was amazed how much the teams created in such a short time.

      They certainly inspired me in so many ways.

      Here’s to a second season!


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