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Congratulations John Shields – Life Member of Sydney Model Railway Society

John and his wife Anne

SMRS held their 2021 AGM on Monday, 6 December 2021. This was the first in-person for AGM for a little Covid while, and it was great for everyone to catch up, including the members who couldn’t make it but were able to Zoom in.

One of the motions that was passed unanimously was the awarding of life membership to font of knowledge and club stalwart, John Shields. John has been around the club for longer than many of our younger members have been alive, and during this time he has been able to impart knowledge, history and advice. John lives in Victoria these days but is still a member, and contributes via our regular club zoom calls.

John was generous with his time to provide some amazing background:

1. When did you join the club – how long have you been a member?

I joined in 1982, not long after the move to Arncliffe, so that makes it 40 years next year.

2. What lead you to join the club?

I was night shift manager at XPT and a mate who was an SMRS Member, Dave Siddens, came to work at the Depot. We were both interested in trains as a hobby including modelling and Dave suggested I come down to the club for a visit. I liked what I saw. I liked the friendliness of the members and that it was a small club. I liked the atmosphere, facilities, and location (I lived in Arncliffe) and I joined that first night.

3. What positions have you held in the club and what periods were they across?

I’ve held a couple of positions. The first was probably Social Director where the main role was organising club outings and the annual Christmas night. We had quite a few minor Monday night outings including visits to Train Control at Central, signal boxes such as Meek’s Rd and Sydenham and Dinner in the Southern Aurora Dining Car before departure. There was an annual visit to Newcastle for the exhibition in August where we’d rent a mini-bus and had visits to Broadmeadow Rail Car Depot, Ready-Power at Koorogang, Goninan’s works, Cardiff Workshops (with Ron Preston as our guide) and the Rail Motor Society at Paterson. My network of work colleagues helped immensely in organising those visits.

We usually held the Christmas function with a family BBQ in the station waiting room, much to the surprise of the evening commuters on their way home.

I was on the Running Committee from 1987 until 2005. This involved organising the Annual Calendar which usually set the 1st Monday as a work night, the 2nd Monday as a theme night, the 3rd as a free-run and 4th as a timetable session. The theme nights included all steam or all diesel or electric, British, European and US trains as well as Olympics and ‘fallen-friends’ where members would bring in bequeathed models and run them in memory of those who had passed away.

I came home from a European holiday in August 1989 and was surprised and humbled to find I had been elected President at the AGM. I vowed to never miss another AGM. I held the position from 1989 until my move to Victoria in 2005.


4. What have been three of your top highlights you’ve had being at the club?

The highlight that stands out is the members having the confidence to elect me as President and to continue to have the confidence to re-elect me over all those years.

Another highlight is the continuing viability and vibrancy of the club. It caters to a great mix of ages, experience, knowledge, abilities, and interests. It is progressive and inclusive which is everything a club should be.

The third is that it is a hell of a lot of fun. Many clubs take themselves too seriously and forget that it is supposed to be fun.

5. What are your favourite trains you have operated at the club?

No favourite, except to say that the modern r-t-r fan is well served by sweet-running authentic models that glide along compared to the often-clunky offerings of the past. Still, I’ll always turn my head towards a standard goods on a string of four-wheelers plodding up the hill past Wit’s End Jct.

John’s 3616 (pigsteen) takes its’ rest alongside Eric Moss’ scratchbuilt P class in Glenvale Loco 2003

6. What era is your favourite and why?

NSWGR transition 1960-72. It was the era in which I was a participant. Steam still dominant in many places, diesels arriving and taking over, vast variety of passenger and goods stock, interesting track layouts and operations.

7. How involved are you in the hobby these days?

Like most of us, not as involved as I’d like to be. I have room for yet another layout and the baseboards are almost complete. Track laying awaits. My vision has shrunk a bit and for now ‘ll just stick to a basic oval with a couple of yards to shunt in.

Quick Questions with John Shields 1. DCC or DC? DCC with about 100 decoders still be fitted. 2. Steam, Electric of Diesel? Steam, diesel and a couple of 46s – just because. 3. RTR or Kitbash? Mostly RTR with a smattering of DJH, brass and kits. 4. Timetable operations or free running trains? Both, there will be a timetable 5. Prototype or Freelance? Freelance NSWGR

John and his wife Anne in front of 62005 in England


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