It’s been praised for its meticulously-crafted and lifelike detail – and now the award-winning model railway that captures one moment in the wartime history of Rowlands Castle is on display for all to enjoy.
The Rowlands Castle Model Railway is available to view at Stansted House until the end of summer, thanks to the fundraising efforts of the Rowlands Castle Heritage Centre (RCHC).
The newly-established group purchased the £8,000 creation after 30 contributors from the village pledged their support to ‘bring it home’.
The model features Rowlands Castle Train Station as it may have appeared in 1944, a de-training station and an important place during the later years of the Second World War, where troops and equipment were massed.
Over seven years, master modeller Peter Goss used his skills to replicate the railway, characters, buildings, tanks and other details he uncovered during a period of intense research.
The 59-year-old architectural technician from Yorkshire says: ‘The detail comes from books, the internet, pictures and other sources – I didn’t invent anything.
‘I used my skill to model what I saw had been there previously, including everything from the military unit to the people standing about. Everything created is based on real things and real people.
‘More than anything else I’m interested in creating miniature worlds and in the early-2000s I decided I wanted to do something based on D-Day.
‘After doing some research, my wife Julie and I decided to head to Portsmouth to have a look at Southsea’s D-Day Museum. Inside was a book called D-Day In Hampshire, which stated Rowlands Castle was an important place during the later years of the Second World War.
‘We went to the village and started out at a chapel called the Church on the Green. One thing led to another and before I knew it I was surveying the building.
‘To be able to make the railway we started making contact with people in the village, including those with a historical knowledge of it, such as Paul Marshman.
‘I ended up finding out so much more information than I originally expected, that Paul put together a booklet based on my research called The Model Railway And What We Learned’.
‘Out of the six-year conflict that was World War Two, my model represents a moment in time. That’s what I’ve captured.
‘I’m very pleased it’s ended up back home and I’m happy with how it turned out. If I had to make it all again I wouldn’t change anything.’
Peter also put on talks for villagers and schoolchildren about his historical finds.
The model railway is 16ft by 9ft 6ins wide. It has attended more than 55 shows since 2008. It’s been all over the country as well as to mainland Europe and has won several awards, including the Railway Modeller magazine cup.
The curve through the railway station is mirrored in real life and continues on an embankment as it passes the village green. Major village buildings are also represented in the piece.
Alan Drinkwater is the co-ordinator of the Rowlands Castle Heritage Centre. The new group, which has just applied for charity status, purchased the model railway in January.
Alan says: ‘I think it’s important for the model to be at home. It’s an iconic, historical module of what life was like in 1944, in the short period leading up to the Normandy landings.
‘The reason people were so keen to buy it is because some years ago Peter brought the model down to the Church on the Green, they got to see the creation for themselves and everyone in the area thinks it’s amazing.
‘It’s the meticulous way Peter’s researched all elements from buildings to the railway, rolling stock, hardware, tanks, Jeeps and so on.
‘The model depicts the village green and well-known places, some of which have now changed their names, such as the Commercial Inn, now the Fountain Inn, and The Railway Hotel, now The Robin Hood Inn.’
The Rowlands Castle Heritage Centre is actively looking for a permanent home for the model ready for when its time at Stansted House is up on September 30.
But until then, director of the Stansted Park Foundation James Cooper is happy to host the attraction.
The 58-year-old says: ‘We were approached by the RCHC, who had been alerted the railway was going to be sold. They wanted to buy it, but had nowhere to put it in the village.
‘For two years long discussions around a suitable place to find for it at Stansted took place and we’re very happy to house it in one of our rooms because it’s such a fabulous railway. The details are phenomenal, you’ve got magpies sitting on poles, doves on the ground, a chap weeing under a tree, and Spitfires flying past. It’s very cleverly done and is also historically accurate. Having seen photographs of it, I can tell you nothing beats seeing it in the flesh.’
Stansted House attracts a wide range of visitors and has developed greatly over the years.
James adds: ‘My job was to rescue an estate which was in a pretty poor state financially and in terms of physical repair and facility.
‘We’ve steadily been building up our facilities, to give us a much wider appeal to the visitor. ‘The model railway adds to that, because it appeals to families, railway enthusiasts, men in sheds.
‘We’re delighted to be able to show it to the public.’
To see a video of the model railway in action, go to portsmouth.co.uk