The first national model railway convention was held at the Railway Social Hall in Wellington in 1966. Organised by the New Zealand Model Railway Association (NZMRA), formed by members of the New Zealand Railway and Locomotive Society, it fostered several discussions on the future of the hobby in New Zealand. As a result, the New Zealand Model Railway Guild and the New Zealand Association of Model Railway Clubs were formed.
The New Zealand Model Railway Guild (NZMRG) emerged as a model railway club in its own right and assumed responsibility of the NZMRA’s magazine, the “Journal’. Over the next forty years the club evolved into a specialist New Zealand Railways modellers’ club and its magazine became the highly respected specialist magazine it is today. The “Journal’ has now been in circulation for nearly sixty years.
The New Zealand Association of Model Railway Clubs (NZAMRC) was formed as an umbrella organisation for all of New Zealand’s model railway clubs. Among its aims was the dissemination of club information—remember this was the time when toll calls were expensive, NZ Post Office was the primary source of communication, there was no internet or credit cards, and an order for railway models or model parts from the United States or Great Britain usually took around 3 months to receive. There were also restrictions on the amount of money one could send out of the country at any one time, and on top of all that there were a bevy of taxes on imported hobby goods— especially model railways which were classified as toys and thus attracted so much tax their value was virtually doubled or trebled by the time the individual modellers received their parcels from far away places.
The NZAMRC was therefore tasked to work with the various government agencies to remove or reduce these taxes and tariffs. Representations were made to the various government departments over the next few years and some significant reductions were made. However the reforms of the 1980s freed the market up and removed tariffs so we can enjoy the purchasing ability we enjoy today.
This magazine, "Journal" was originally a series of cyclostyled sheets for a number of years with club and convention information for member clubs. It evolved sometime later to a photocopied item with other relevant modelling information included, and lately in the late 1990s into the magazine format we enjoy today. As the NZMRG Journal became more and more NZR and NZ prototype focussed the Coupler team provided other modelling interest items that weren’t being presented nationally in any other publication.
Since 1966 there have been twenty one national conventions in most locations, apart from the far north and deep south, of New Zealand. Several towns and cities have had more that one convention. The basic convention ideals have remained over those years, and even with the recent development of an exhibition circuit in New Zealand the relevance of the national convention appears to remain extant. Not only is there an abundance of local exhibitions there are also a large number of special interest groups who hold mini-conventions and annual get-togethers.
While there is one school of thought that the national convention could be combined with a national exhibition held annually in Wellington to promote the model railway hobby to both known modellers and the general public, the success of the 2012 convention in Wellington confirms the desire to continue to hold the Bi-Annual Conventions. This association will continue both assisting exhibition organisers with hobby promotion and to work on the development of a national model railway magazine as ways of promoting both the hobby and the exhibition circuit.
Fifty years on, those who saw a need for this association and those who have continued to run and support it should remain proud of it’s achievements, particularly in that today there continues to be a need for it.
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