Interview by Gary Radice
: Added November 2005
Do model village owners keep in touch with each other in UK (and worldwide?) and are there any conventions?

I’m trying to get all model villages talking to each other and this year it’s starting to come together.

There are more than 20 model village sites in the UK and each is completely unique – yet each can benefit greatly from the others. None of us compete as we’re all very regional or local attractions, and the more we work together, the better we can work.

It’s been proven to work internationally – we’re members of the International Association of Miniature Parks (IAMP) and have annual meetings all over the world. Almost 20 of us, ranging from small local attractions to multi-million pound miniature theme parks – but we all have common ground and share so much.

Do model villages swap models?

In the next year or so, we’re looking to swap models internationally – so watch this space!

Bekonscot has provided locational shots for the following: Blue Peter, Treasure Hunt, BBC 10 O'clock News, McDonald's, Sky News, Working Lunch, National Film School, Discovery Health Channel, Discovery Home and Leisure, London Tonight, London Today, One Foot in the Past, Dad, Muffin the Mule, BBC Radio, British Satellite News

Tim, have you any model village stories you would like to share with themagiceye?

People keep stealing our model people! They do seem to like a souvenir of their visit…thankfully it’s quite rare now.

There are some wonderful stories to be told, like how guests used to be allowed to swim in the main pond, how we keep on digging up disused branch lines of the model railway, how we discovered a complete 2-feet gauge train buried underground, or how Princess Margaret crashed the model railway!

I do recall about ten years ago coming in early one foggy morning and was startled to see a full-size robed figure swish past the ruined castle on the Downs, and up the valley. It turned out to be our MD at the time, who was also a preacher at a local church and was practicing his sermon!

When the public aren’t there, it can be very spooky; especially either in early morning fog, or when the autumn nights draw in.

There’s nothing to compare scale to – so it’s almost as if everything around you is full size. It’s quite magical, in a foggy or dark empty park, to hear a train trundle past, brakelight swinging, and a semaphore signal clunk down. It’s rather like travelling back in time.

There are now well over 3,000 shrubs and trees in the Model Village; many of these being of bonsai style, in scale with the models.
They are, however, not strictly 'bonsai', merely skilfully trimmed and gradually reshaped standard garden plants.

Do you get many model railway enthusiasts visit?

Hundreds! The railways are the main attraction. We’ve got Britain’s largest public outdoor model railway with 10 scale miles of fully-signalled track, a dozen trains and seven stations. It’s a massive draw.

I like to call it “Britain’s smallest heritage railway” – it’s been running for 75 years. There’s a lot of info about this Gauge 1 line on our website: www.bekonscot.com.

In 2001 we opened the 7.25” gauge Bekonscot Light Railway to run at weekends and school holidays – it’s a brilliant addition, carries more than 60,000 people annually and gives a lot of enjoyment to a lot of people - including the drivers!

 There are normally between seven and ten model trains running at any one time, either by automatic computer control or by the fully-interlocked ex-BR lever frame in Maryloo Signal Box.

Tim, themagiceye believes you are interested in starting a Model Village museum of sorts. Could you tell themagiceye what your plans are?

Too many model villages have shut. There were once more than 80 sites in the UK – most have gone now. It’s our aim to try and preserve the memory of a very English type of tourist attraction – at one time almost every seaside town had one.

We can’t preserve whole financially unviable sites – but we can preserve parts of them. And here – Bekonscot, as the original village and the one that inspired the others - it’s the perfect place for a museum.

We’re desperate to hear of any old models, exhibits, guides, photos or paraphernalia that we could acquire, or just record for posterity. We’ve got a rapidly growing collection, ready for restoration and display. I want people to realise the importance of model villages on tourist towns - and the memories that they gave people.

 Bekonscot is closed during the winter months for refurbishment. Each year, many models are renovated, renewed or replaced. Because the site is a building site at this time, Bekonscot cannot permit visitors.

So how can anyone help?

If anyone has any details of any old model village buildings – in any state – then please do get in contact with me. (See below for contact details).

We would also love to hear from anyone with memories of Bekonscot or other model villages.

I’ve got basic information yet no details of model villages at Ilfracombe, Weymouth, Scarborough, Wooburn Abbey, Weston-Super-Mare…the list goes on and on!

With more than 20 left in the UK and possibly about 100 worldwide (of various sizes) we’ve got a lot of research to do – and a lot of models to preserve!

Contact Tim


Telephone: 07973 174 357.

Bekonscot also has a magnificent website at: www.bekonscot.com

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More on Bekonscot and Model Villages

Bekonscot website
Book on Bekonscot from Amazon
Pleasureland Memories features a section about Southport Model Railway Village
Buy a postcard of Fred Slaymaker's Wonder Village
DVD featuring the vintage slot machines at Merrivale Model Village
Wikipedia on miniature parks
Blackpool Model Village website (erroneously excluded from the Wikipedia list)

themagiceye last visited Bekonscot in 1999 on its way to Legoland in Windsor. To this day, memories remain more vivid of Bekonscot than they do of the original destination!

Wife, daughter and I were totally captivated by the magic of this place. The love, care and dedication that has gone into keeping this 1930s idyll of rural living alive should be congratulated. Bekonscot is a little corner of Buckinghamshire that is forever England.

To celebrate Bekonscot's 75th anniversary a brand new 36-page guide and history of the Model Village has been published. Complete with dozens of new and archived photos, maps and information. Only £3.00 (2005 price) from Bekonscot's shop.

Contact: 01494 672 919 for more details.

Bekonscot Model Village
Warwick Road

About Tim Dunn

Tim Dunn is Bekonscot’s development co-ordinator and a well-respected authority on model villages and miniature parks.

For 12 years he’s helped manage, develop and promote Bekonscot, and advise other model villages on their own strategies.

More recently he has had a pivotal role in researching and preserving the history of British model villages.

He and a team are aiming to set up a museum, which will tell the history of the many model villages that have existed – and still do exist – in Britain.

He aims to foster interest in the genre, whilst providing consultation to other miniature parks on future development to guarantee their long-term success.

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