The madness of Chester Machniewski 

What an enormous pleasure it was to meet Chester Machniewski today!  Here is a man whose welcome and smile were eclipsed only by his fanaticism for model trains.

Lots of people have passions, but few take them to Chester’s affectation.  As far as I could tell, he does nothing on a small scale.  Need a large mill in 7mm scale?  Build one big enough for a child to sleep in, along with 14 other similar stone buildings to go with it!  Want a coach?  Don’t stop there, build twenty!   Gotta feed three guests?  Prepare for an invasion!  Promising mega projects were deranged throughout the layout room, and it was hard not to get infected by the glee Chester clearly gets from his industry.

I caught wind of Chester through the local British model railway club, Top Link.  They brought the wonderful Albion Quarry to the Vancouver Train Expo in 2015, although Chester was unable to join them, sadly.  Albion Quarry had come up for sale when its builder, Bob Alderman, had wanted to move on to new projects.  By then, Chester was already a veteran of trans-oceanic railway pilfering, and leaped at the chance to hoard a second one.

Ah, but it was his first acquisition that bedevilled me to pick up the phone in the first place.  Ever since hearing about this expansive 2mm finescale opus through Model Railway Journal, I’d wanted to see Chee Tor.


Chee Tor did not disappoint.  It is truly a masterpiece of evocative railway modelling.  I could hear the lonely curlew and felt the chill pass over the moor as the clouds capered above.  Sitting there on that hillside, oh how I longed to hear the bark of steam!

Sadly, it was not to be.  While it took enormous energy to build the huge crates that brought the layout to our shores, and tremendous foresight to suggest to the Manchester Model Railway Society that he would be interested, so far, Chester doesn’t have it running.

Well, that just meant that we had time for a couple of very nice beers, and a very large lunch.  Another Top Link modeller, Dave Underwood and his wife, Julie, dropped by for a visit as well, and all was extremely congenial.  I had a super time, despite nearly missing our ferry reservation.

Chester may very well be mad, but I’ve always liked him.

9 thoughts on “The madness of Chester Machniewski 

  1. Thank you for the link to the Chee Tor YouTube video. I seldom watch these all the way through but he a great story teller as well as an amazing Modeler.

    I was not aware of 2mm finescale until looking it up tonight and now am thoroughly impressed. The models run like watches and allow the scenery to dominate. Good stuff that I can only dream of doing in 1:48.


    1. My pleasure, Neil. The truly amazing thing about 2mm finescale is the amount of support the association has been able to put together for their members. Where did Proto87 go wrong?

  2. Wow. I remember Chee Tor from Railway Modeller’s November 1991 issue. I still have that copy and I return to re-read the article and admire the layout often. I think I’d struggle to provide another example of a railway that better showcased the potential of railway modeling or how to leverage the choice of modelling scale to model, well, the scale of things. That river valley itself is a scene that must truly isolate the trains that run through it and was created in a space that so many modellers would use for a complete model railway in the finest train set style.

    So that magazine article was from 1991, which itself is now twenty-six years ago. Sure I’d love to see the layout just to continue to admire it and I’m so happy to read that it exists. Equal to an interest in learning more about the work to bring it to Canada, given the layout’s age, I’m also curious what we can learn from it in terms of how it is aging.

    Thank you for sharing this experience with us.


    1. Having never seen it before, it’s hard to say how the layout has aged. To my eye, it may have been a little faded; if it was, it had shifted to a dry time of year. So perhaps it was intentional. The electrical system was clearly dated, and the fiddle yard is infested with relays. It apparently came with a large manual, and I’m certain it could be made to snap back into action, but alas, electronics is the area that seems to defy Chester, or else it would probably be done.

  3. As a member of the team that originally built Chee Tor, I was delighted to find this article about it in its new home in Canada. We had not heard anything about the layout after we “exported” it all those years ago.
    I can see that the boards are not clamped together in the photos, so presumably, it was on temporary display; we took such care to ensure everything lined up and we made the gaps as unnoticeable as possible, which wasn’t easy in 2mm scale.
    It would be great to learn if Chee Tor is still in reasonable condition and what Chester is doing with it, though it sounds as if he’s never had it working.
    Thanks for the article, John Harden, MMRS, UK

    1. Hi John, Chester is more mechanically inclined than electrically, and the electrical boards have so far defeated him. I believe he is ever sanguine of getting it running, however. Cheers, Rene

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