The summer holidays are well under way and Making Tracks 2 at Chester Cathedral gives us yet another wonderful reason to head to Chester city centre for memory making with the kids.
You and your budding train enthusiasts can get up close and personal with this 64ft x 12ft model train exhibition in the majestic setting of Chester Cathedral’s South Transept. First, a bit of background info for you: Making Tracks original incarnation was during summer 2021 at a time when most events were being cancelled. It was a such a great success that Chester Cathedral has welcomed its return with a new layout and new interactive elements.
Making Tracks was created by Pete Waterman OBE (Yep! The record producer, songwriter, and DJ turned Pop Idol judge is also a huge railway enthusiast) along with the Railnuts modelling group and is sponsored by family owned business Chester Model Centre.
We arrived at Chester Cathedral at about 2pm through the main entrance on St Werburgh Street. Myself, husband and our 5 and 7 year old daughters were greeted by a friendly pair of volunteers before making our way to the ticket booth. Entry was just £2.50 each – free for kids 6 and under – and included full access to the Cathedral. After an obligatory stop at the toilets (standard day out with kids) we headed down the hallway of The Cloisters and into the main Cathedral Nave.
The signage to The South Transept is a little subtle but exploring is all part of the fun and we quickly found our way by listening out for the sounds tiny OO gauge tracks. My daughters were instantly entranced by the display and ran towards it to look closer.
In all honesty, my kids are not particularly fascinated with trains but they love tiny things and found the scale of the whole display fascinating. They are pretty typical children who love to run around, have new experiences and whenever possible persuade me to buy them a toy and/or sweet treat.
They spent an initial chunk of time watching the many different trains travel along the tracks. Then they picked up a little sheet which had a list of tiny animals that had been hidden in the display for kids to spot. They found most of them with ease – they were at the right eye line after all. The pheasant proved rather tricky which kept them occupied and we had to ask someone what a railway dalek was (I’m not telling, you’ll have to ask yourself).
After circling the full display and seeing ALL the trains parked along the backside of display, we started chatting to one of the volunteers who kindly asked if they wanted to control the trains. As you might have guessed, they did! Using small tablets with a simple sliding bar to control speed the volunteers gave them simple instructions about when to go at full speed and when to slow down. My 7 year old took to it like a fish to water while my 5 year was slightly less in control but still managed to keep the train on the tracks.
While we were there I talked to several other visitors. There was an 11 year old boy who had also been there the day before. Talking to his parents they told me he had already spent hours controlling the trains and talking to the volunteers about the various models.
My two found the Chester Model Centre stall which was packed with different brands of trains, as well as starter model kits for all ages. Paul, owner of Chester Model Centre, advised me on which were suitable for their ages and we walked away with AirFix Quick Build kits for them to start their model hobbying journey. The stall was really well stocked but if you want to see even more you can pop to the shop itself just a short walk away on Bridget Street Row.
All in we spent about an hour and half experiencing this event. We could easily have spent much more time experiencing the rest of the Cathedral but as locals we are a bit spoiled and get to call into the Cathedral about once a month. We grabbed a quick milkshake from Funky Cow and happily drank them in the Cathedral garden before heading home.
Although I am writing this with a family perspective, the event itself is not just for families. There were plenty of tourists who stumbled upon it on a visit to Chester Cathedral, as well as adults who made a specific journey to see this impressive display. The whole set up in pretty casual and self-guided but supported by an incredibly knowledgeable group of volunteers. Just look for someone with a name badge on and have a chat.
My advice: make a day of it! Talk to the volunteers, stop by Chester’s Visitor Information Centre and explore this great city.
When: 18th July – 3rd September 2022, Mon-Sat, 10am-5pm
For information on planning your trip visit Chester Cathedral.
Written by Emily Ghazarian
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- Tags: bachmann, event, hornby, making tracks, mega points, OO gauge, pete waterman, summer