Edge Hill University student Paul Lawrence assesses his model railway layout on the set of The Great Model Railway Challenge.
Edge Hill University student Paul Lawrence assesses his model railway layout on the set of The Great Model Railway Challenge.

An Edge Hill University student with a love for steam locomotives and model railways has championed his passion on a new TV programme.

Paul Lawrence, a third-year Film Studies with Film Production student, was a competitor on Channel 5’s The Great Model Railway Challenge, which he described as “the model railway version of Great British Bake Off”.

The railway enthusiast jumped at the chance to take part in the programme which focuses on one of Britain’s most popular obsessions, a hobby thousands of people across the UK have been enjoying in their attics and spare rooms for generations.

“I used to get bullied in school for liking trains but now I don’t care who knows,” Paul said. “I get a lot of enjoyment out of model railways and it’s been great to meet so many other people who do too.”

Paul Lawrence and fellow members of Team Phoenix walk towards the camera with their tool kits.
Paul Lawrence, second left, with fellow members of Team Phoenix

The 20-year-old, originally from Kent, first took an interest in trains as a toddler thanks to his grandad, Robin Shreeve, who was a real enthusiast with a model railway in his garden shed.

“I used to sit on his lap for hours watching the trains go around the track, it was really special.”

Paul felt the loss of his grandad keenly and not talking to anyone became a coping mechanism.

“I didn’t speak for three years and by the time I was due to start nursery my parents ended up sending me to a speech therapist. But it was Thomas the Tank Engine that really got me talking; I used to watch it all the time and try and copy the narrator.

“So it makes sense that I love real and model railways so much now. There’s something therapeutic about building model railways and watching the trains go around; it takes your mind off things and takes you back to a lost era.”

The Great Model Railway Challenge teams are given their brief.
Paul Lawrence, centre, and Team Phoenix with their competitors on The Great Model Railway Challenge

Paul thoroughly enjoyed his first experience of being on television and the behind the scenes insight he gained into the world of television production.

“As a film studies student it was really interesting to see how everything worked,” he added, “to see how all the different elements come together to create a TV programme. And to be able to take part in a programme all about model railways was great.”

Edge Hill University’s Film Studies with Film Production degree gives students an opportunity to study 100 years of film, adding practical experience to an academic degree.