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MOTAT

A Little Model Railway For You

Todd Dixon, Exhibitions Curator and Model Railway Video Voice gives us a potted history of one of MOTAT’s star attractions. 

With MOTAT closed and the nation in lockdown, many of our visitors (and staff like me) are missing out on their regular Model Railway fix. And fair enough, too. Our Main Trunk Line model has been charming visitors young and old for forty years.

Opening Day

Check out the crowds at the opening ceremony, 7 June 1980.

Carpenter, Anne. (7 June 1980). [Photograph of opening of MOTAT model railway]. Ref: 14-4157. Walsh Memorial Library, The Museum of Transport and Technology (MOTAT)

Nice to see the Pump house operating in the background. And look. You can see my office! 

Carpenter, Anne. (7 June 1980). [Photograph of opening of MOTAT model railway]. Ref: 14-4163. Walsh Memorial Library, The Museum of Transport and Technology (MOTAT)

Grown-ups lining up to see the model. Maybe in the past people didn’t know that kids liked model railways too. 

Carpenter, Anne. (7 June 1980). [Photograph of opening of MOTAT model railway]. Ref: 14-4168. Walsh Memorial Library, The Museum of Transport and Technology (MOTAT)

Nothing says “we built a model of the North Island Main Trunk Line under a band rotunda” quite like a 19th Century military regiment.

Much of the scenery in the model was made by the late great broadcaster Merv Smith. After recording his 1ZB radio show, Merv would nip down to MOTAT and join electrician Don Allen under the band rotunda to assemble the perfect miniature native bush. It’s entirely possible some of the painted lichen, spiraea and twigs on display today are the same stuff Merv and Don installed forty years ago!

Ref: 04-4362. Walsh Memorial Library, The Museum of Transport and Technology (MOTAT)

The legend himself demonstrating his craft to an almost-completely-impressed audience.

Ref: 04-4362. Walsh Memorial Library, The Museum of Transport and Technology (MOTAT)

A new railway is traditionally opened by a dignitary hammering in a gold or silver railway spike. In the case of our railway, Merv had the honour.

MOTAT has had a steady stream of keen beans working on the model over the last forty years. When we’re open again they’ll be right back into it. For now, I hope my short history tides you over.

Watch more about the model railway here

If you’d like more of me rambling on about this subject, here’s the video currently on display in the model railway.