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David Holman

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Just back from a short holiday in the West Country, which included a visit to Pecorama in Beer, Devon. Have met Andrew Burnham, editor of Continental Modeller, several times at exhibitions & he came along to the Chatham show in June. When I mentioned my wife & I would be staying near Beer, he immediately offered to give us a tour - something I was not going to miss out on!

We arrived at 10am and Andrew kindly give up the next three hours to show us round - not just Pecorama itself, but a tour of the editorial offices, the Beer Heights Railway and the factory itself. Never again will I look at a humble piece of flexitrack in the same way.

As the home of two major national magazines, the offices are relatively small, but pretty high tech, while on the stairs leading up there are several original Cuneo paintings. RM Editor Steve Flint was there & studying the latest edition of BRM as we arrived & I'm sure the other editors do the same. The new RM was just in [not published until Thursday], so I was able to see my own article in 'Talking Points', reviewing 30 years of exhibitions with my own layouts & the Chatham club.

A tour of the exhibition layouts followed, all beautifully presented in 'home settings', to show that everyone can find space for a railway. Next we went into the gardens [fabulous] and across to the Beer Heights railway sheds. Lots of 7.25" locos present, including some actually built on site. The tracks wind their way around the gardens, with superb views of the local countryside, in a route totalling over a mile. The line is fully signalled too and up to three trains can run at once.

The highlight though was the tour of the factory. Nestled into the hillside, it is a significant local employer of over 100 people. Andrew showed us the new moulding machines [installed at a cost of over £3 million]. Though they are of a 'standard' design, all the masters are machined on site. Lots of high tech stuff involved here too, but also good old fashioned, very skilled, workshop practice - no wonder they can build miniature steam locos on site...

We saw track and points being assembled on the production lines, along with N gauge wagons, while in the paint shop was a fascinating new printer which can do things like private owner wagon sides in N gauge upwards. We finished off with a ride on the railway & indulged ourselves with tea in the Pullman car before we left. We felt extremely privileged to have been behind the scenes of one of our household names in modelling. Next time you pick up a bit of Peco track, reflect on the amount of skill and engineering that goes into it and marvel that it costs so little.

Pecorama is well worth a visit at any time and is a super day out for all the family. You are unlikely to get a tour like I did, but the rest is still fantastic on its own.

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