Ashford in Kent is on track to get a £4 million model railway centre which is expected to attract up to 500,000 visitors a year to South East England.
The local council has agreed to provide a secured loan to purchase land for its new home which will allow Ashford International Model Railway Education Centre (AIMREC) to buy land at the former Klondyke railway works. This will assist AIMREC to raise funds to press ahead with their ambitious plans to build a model railway education centre in the heart of the town, making it the model railway capital of the UK.
Enthusiasts want to raise £4 million to build a centre that would rival the National Railway Museum in York. It will be built on the historic Klondyke railway works site, a short walk from the town’s international station, with its HS1 fast links to London and Eurostar services to Continental Europe.
The 30,000 sq ft project has attracted some big-name support – for example, Roger Daltrey, the legendary frontman for The Who, visited Ashford in July 2014 to discuss plans for the model railways museum. In press interviews, Daltrey said model trains were his “number one passion”. Musician and TV presenter Jools Holland and music producer Pete Waterman have also voiced their support.
AIMREC will include an exhibition and display area, lecture and demonstration theatre, specialist model shop and first-floor cafeteria overlooking Ashford railway works. The second-floor observation deck will enable visitors to watch Eurostar trains travelling over the viaduct.
The model railway centre is expected to become a hugely popular visitor attraction and act as a boost to Kent’s tourism economy. Its backers have forecasted up to 150,000 visitors a year through the doors in its first full year of operation, rising to 500,000 in the fourth year.