The Merstone layout was started by one of the Group’s former Chairmen Rod Lerew who very sadly died in 2015. AMRG member Mark Pretious took on the completion of the layout and FebEx2016 was its first outing. Coincidentally the Saturday of the exhibition was also exactly the 60th anniversary of the closure of the real Merstone station. At the exhibition on the Saturday morning there was a short re-opening ceremony which was attended by Rod’s widow and two daughters.
Merstone station was located in the middle of the Isle of Wight island and served the local communities of Merstone and Rookley.
The Isle of Wight Central built the railway line from Newport to Sandown with completion in 1875 and closure in 1956. The Ventnor West was the last line to be opened on the Isle of Wight opening in 1900 and closing in 1952. The line to the north is to Newport via Blackwater and Shide. The line to the east was the route to Sandown via Newchurch, Alverstone and Horringford. The line due south was the Ventnor West branch which was usually operated by a Terrier and push pull set. In later years an 02 with a 2 coach LBSC bogie push pull set would run the branch, normally W35 Freshwater or W36 Carisbrooke. The Ventnor West line was often described as the prettiest of all the island lines particularly at St Lawrence where the line emerged from the tunnel onto the under cliff. Closure of the Ventnor West line came in 1952 along with the Freshwater and Bembridge Branch lines. In 1956 the Newport-Merstone-Sandown route succumbed to the same fate.
The layout itself is all built to a scale length with hand built point work using SMP code 75 rail. The track is to a minimum of 5’ radius. The station consists of an island platform with up trains for Newport with an ash pit siding off of the up platform line and a siding running parallel up to the signal box. On the down platform there was a long stock siding where the Ventnor West push pull set was stored overnight. Over the level crossing the two lines diverge, East to Sandown and South to Ventnor West. On the Sandown line there was a short siding that was used by the permanent way department.