Model approach to recreating railway past

RECREATED: Fred's model of the old station. Below, the station being demilished.
RECREATED: Fred's model of the old station. Below, the station being demilished.
Have your say

A WEARSIDE model-maker travelled back to the past when completing his latest project - but it was no easy ticket to ride.

Pallion man Fred Gooch has crafted ships, planes, bridges, guitars, churches and even a nuclear submarine since developing a passion for model-making as a child.

DEMOLITION: The station clock - as modelled by Fred - is demolished in January 1966.

DEMOLITION: The station clock - as modelled by Fred - is demolished in January 1966.

But when pal Michael Callaghan suggested he try his hand at recreating the old north end of Sunderland’s railway station, Fred’s creative talents almost went off the rails.

“I thought it was a great idea, as I still remember how the station looked before it was demolished back in 1964,” said Fred, a former shipyard worker from Ancona Street.

“But when I started my research, I just ran into problem after problem. There were no plans to work from, so instead I had to make guesses about scale from old photos.

“It was definitely a challenge - without a doubt! But it was a project close to my heart, as I remember starting, and ending, many a journey at that old railway station.”

Fred’s passion for modelling was sparked by making craft kit planes as a youngster, but he gave up the hobby after starting work as an office boy at Edward Thompson’s.

His interest was rekindled, however, after securing work as a clerk at Sunderland Shipbuilders - where he was inspired to create replicas of the ships he saw built.

Models of the Cedarbank, the yacht Radiant II and the first Superflex ferry, Alfa, were among Fred’s first creations - with his craft skills honed in the garden shed.

And his hobby even helped him land his dream job in 1989 - building a 10ft model of the nuclear submarine on which the Trident missile-carrying sub would be based.

“I’d been made rededundant from the shipyards the year before and never dreamed my hobby of model-making would help me get an amazing job like that,” said Fred.

“Every tube, pipe and electrical wire had to be included. Today it would all just be done on a computer, but I was getting paid for doing something I loved. It was great!”

Although on rather less of a grand scale that the 10ft Trident, Fred’s new 2ft 6ins station model still took several months of hard work and is made to a 1:100th scale.

Several parts of the model, including paintwork and exact designs, are the result of educated guesses - with Fred using Google Maps to try and size the design to scale.

“If you ask people what they remember most about the old station, the typical answer involves the machine which you could use to print out your name,” he said.

“I can remember that machine very clearly, as well as the shops and taxi rank, but I just don’t recall the colour scheme so well. I wish I could, but I can’t bring it to mind.

“Obviously, working from black and white photos doesn’t really help, but if I’ve got it wrong, then hopefully someone will come forward and tell me - so I can change it.”

Three “widely-spaced” railway stations - at Monkwearmouth, Fawcett Street and Hendon - originally served Wearside’s train passengers in the mid-Victorian times.

Bosses at North Eastern Railway decided, however, to bring all rail traffic together with a central station in the 1870s - and the new complex opened on August 8, 1879.

“By the late 19th century Sunderland was a railway hub of great importance. People could travel across the North East, to places like Durham and Newcastle,” said Fred.

“Architect William Bell was given a generous budget to provide an impressive station - and the result included the French Gothic-style clock tower that I’ve modelled.

“Sadly, the station was damaged in an air raid during the Second World War and in 1966 the surface buildings were demolished, along with the distinctive clock tower.

“Our station today is not a patch on what we once had. Without a doubt we could do with a new station - a classic building that really stands out, like the last station did.”

Fred is now hoping to put his new model on display within the city, as exhibitions of his work - including the Town Hall and local pubs - have proved popular in the past.

l Can you provide Fred with details of the original colour scheme of the station, shops and taxi rank? Anyone who can help should contact him on 567 8718.