The Great Model Railway Challenge: Scarborough Flyers


Team captain of The Scarborough Flyers, Iain Hale, gives us an insider’s view of his time at the show.

As the dust settles from heat two of the Great Model Railway Challenge, we catch up with team captain of the 'Scarborough Flyers', Iain Hale to find out what it was like being part of Channel 5's hit show.

BRM: What made you want to take part in the show?

Iain: As the credits rolled at the end of the first series, there was an invitation to apply to be on the next series. Chris Martin, a fellow railway modeller and I discussed the idea of a team to take up the Challenge and so the Scarborough Flyers were born. Three of our team had never before been involved with building a model railway, so the first thing we did was organise a skills-building workshop to introduce the types of materials and techniques used in the hobby.

BRM: How much preparation was needed ahead of filming?

Iain: Once we had been accepted as contestants, things moved very quickly. Within 12 weeks, we had signed non-disclosure agreements, the themes for each heat were released and baseboards measuring 5ft x 10ft were delivered. We had to arrange enough space to set them up for the pre-build. It was stated in the rules what could and couldn’t be done ahead of the recording.

We had to submit a detailed design of our layouts together with lists of items from each sponsor, though strict financial limits were applied.

During this period a production crew visited us and spent a day with the team doing interviews in Scarborough. Once we were on track with the first build, the themes for the semi-final and final were issued. The process of design validation and list of kit began over again with the added complication that if your team became the wild card winner, you have to prepare a semi-final layout design for each of the two different themes. All this is no mean feat to accomplish in just four weeks.

BRM: What was it like arriving 'on-set' for the first time?

Iain: We arrived at the location and began to set up the layout and have all our electrical items tested by the electricians. I spent most of my career in the television broadcast industry, so I was quite at home on location and I had a ball. A lot of time was spent doing interviews on progress with the build, so there wasn't much modelling for me. The rest of the team gave their all and without them we wouldn't have achieved so much.

BRM: Do you have any regrets or advice for those wanting to take part?

Iain: The competition rules are comprehensive and encourage you to think 'outside the box' and be adventurous, not only with visual effects but in the use of sounds too.

We took the interpretation of using height to mean not having the track all on one level. We received little acknowledgement for the fact that our track had a steep climb, which worked perfectly. Given that the other teams had mainly flat level track beds it appears this was of no advantage. I would urge caution in the use of any sound effects. Our experience was they were never used or heard by the studio audience or the judges or included in the final edited programme. Two voice clips specifically cleared with the production team in advance of recording were not used. We also created a narration read by all team members and fifteen sound effects to enrich our entry.

BRM: What’s next for the Scarborough Flyers?

Iain: That depends. We could not keep the layout complete, but the rotating platform, Mosque, and the moving travellator with the camels have been retained for now. The Flyers have had their brief dalliance with fame and will return to creating new and interesting models for their friends and family's pleasure.

See below previously unseen footage of how the team planned to present its layout to the audience and judges on the final day. 

The Great Model Railway Challenge continues on Friday at 8pm on Channel 5.

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