MODRAIL exhibition manager Ian Burbidge caught the bug for model railways in his childhood.

It was an obvious choice of hobby for 49-year-old Ian, whose first railway set was laid out on his bed. “Dad worked in the railway for 52 years and I’m Swindon born and bred,” he said.

Now the treasurer of Swindon Model Railway Club, he was responsible for coordinating dozens of exhibitors and scores of visitors to this year’s Modrail.

Now in its 59th year, the annual exhibition of model railway layouts and stalls packs out the Great Western Hall at Swindon’s Steam Museum.

“We’ve got different locations and different sizes of models here. It’s showcasing different people’s views and interpretations of the world,” Ian said.

The layouts ranged from a massive 30ft long set depicting a rail stop in south Australia to a representation of a 1930s Malmesbury train halt.

“It shows you what you can do,” said Ian. “There’s no excuse. There’s no house that doesn’t have room for a model railway.

“A lot of children will start with a train set at Christmas. But events like Modrail are showing them what that train set could end up like.”

Swindon club member, John Stephens, was overseeing the picture-perfect Malmesbury model: “It was due to be in the skip. One of our club members rescued it. I think the guy who had it before had had enough of it and offered it to three other clubs.”

The Stonehouse man, 30, has been working with model trains since he was a child: “I got into it when I was young. I was going round steam shows and one weekend I disappeared from my mum. I was in the model tent, just watching the trains.

“It’s something I have always enjoyed – and it gets me out the house.”

Dominating the middle of the Modrail event was an enormous oval track 29ft by almost 9ft 6ins in size – complete with its own Santa sled pulled by a team of kangaroo.

The giant set is the brainchild of Iain Hunter and is a representation of central Australian town Broadford, around 50 miles north of Melbourne and the home town of Iain’s son in law.

He started building the layout in 2007, first exhibiting it in 2010. Since then, the set has been enlarged and now needs to be packed into special crates and transported in a Luton van.

“Possibly I wish I’d known more about the geography. When you’re modelling a line the other side of the world you need all the information,” said Iain, who picked the brains of Broadford’s signalman when he was building the layout.

He said of the attraction of the hobby: ““For me, it’s the fact that you’re building things. It’s a hobby that requires you to have different skills.”

Ian Burbidge, the Swindon club treasurer, called the pastime relaxing: “It’s something you can pick up and put down. There are only two rules in model railway. One, it’s my railway. And number two: refer to rule number one.”