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LMSS Masthead

Fostering Interest in Research & Modelling of the London, Midland & Scottish Railway

28th July 1937 - 11th November 2023

Nelson Twells pictured around 1986

Nelson Twells pictured around 1986

I first met Nelson as a customer when he called into our small model railway on Temple Road Matlock Bath, just after we had moved Slater's Plastikard from Manchester in 1973.

I remember taking him down to show him the exhibition layout in 7mm scale of Millers Dale and Monsall Dale that we were building in an adjoining factory. I must have mentioned at the time the difficulty of finding photographs of the railway in Midland days the period we were modelling was 1906, because sometime later Nelson turned up with a load of old photo's which were a great help.

Nelson would call in occasionally to see how the layout was progressing, if I remember correctly he was still living down in Leicester and had not then moved to Wingerworth.

The other problem we were having with the layout was rolling stock there was little in the way of kits and those that were could best be described as an aid to scratch building so we decided to produce the MR wagons we needed as kits in plastic which Slater's would sell, the only problem was accurate information, all that was available was articles in the Model Railway News or the Constructor, I must have mentioned this to Nelson because I suddenly received an invite to attend an LMS society Autumn meeting to be held at Derby from Nelson which I duly attended, I remember after the meeting the society members produced rolls of general arrangement drawings of Loco's coaches and wagons, to a fledgling kit manufacture like me it was like looking at the holy grail I was asked if I would like to join the society which I was delighted to do.

Nelson had been an LMS society member since 1972 and had attended a LMS society teach in at the London Model Railway club's Keen House Pentonville road London and I suspect probably helped with organising it. He served for over 40 years as either secretary or treasurer besides being the event's organiser at the same time, he certainly organised some very enjoyable meetings in various parts of the country and in very pleasant hotels at very good rates, although Nelson never mentioned how he managed to get such favourable rates we began to realize that it was his contacts with the hotel industry and the Export Club of Great Britain of which he was the Chairman that made our weekend meetings very pleasant. It was for his work the Export Club of Great Britain for which he was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the late Queen's Birthday Honours in 1995.

Nelson's particular interest was in the Lineside of the railway, the items that used to be missed off of Model Railway layouts but are just as important to the recreation of an accurate picture as loco's and rolling stock e.g. station barrows, luggage, horse drawn deliveries dray's and motor delivery vans and he published 2 volumes of LMS Lineside in conjunction with Gregg Anderson on these topics as well as 3 volumes of 'LMS Miscellany', books which looked at the more unusual aspects of the LMS Railway and a book on LMS Road Vehicles, the latter co-authored with 'Smokey' Bourne. He also contributed to various railway periodicals over many years.

Nelson never mentioned much about his banking career and I only discovered after he had retired from the bank just how well he had been respected in the National Westminster Bank, in late 1998 there were four shareholders in Slaters, three working ones and one sleeping shareholder, my other two working directors who were both older than me wanted to retire and to sell their shares, I did ask our bank if it would loan me the money to buy their shares but the RBS was not interested, so I could see the company being taken over and me being out of a job as my other two directors could out vote me, I asked Nelson for advice as to what to do, he asked to look at the companies accounts, had a discussion with the other two directors and just said "leave this with me there is no reason why the company cannot buy the shares back", a fortnight later he had organised a meeting for me with the local Nat West manager in Matlock, and had arranged a meeting with a Solicitors company in Chesterfield who specialised in company share buyback options, when I met the local Bank Manager he made it quite clear that the offer of a loan to fund the buyback was being made on the recommendation of Nelson even though he was retired, the only condition was that he became a non executive director of Slater's which I was more than happy to agree to.

To sum up although Nelson never talked much about his early career he had done his national service in the RAF in the early 1950's as a clerk but his organising skills must have been recognised even then as he ended up as the station commander's secretary, a Group Captain which meant that his uniform had to be immaculate at all times, however there were perks he rarely had to go on parades and unless his CO needed him on a Saturday morning he had a 48 hour leave pass most weekends to go home.

Nelson's wife, Gill died some years ago but he is survived by his daughter, Alison, and his two sons, Richard and Mark. Our thoughts are with them at this sad time.

David White

Nelson was inducted into the LMS Society in the Autumn of 1972 at the Buxton meeting along with Greg Fox and Peter Robinson. Nelson's main interest was anything LMS which wasn't on rails so his knowledge of barrows, trolleys, paperwork & publicity and quirky things Midland fitted in well, we now had someone to cover the horse drawn side of things (which led to his great friendship with road motor historian Smokey Bourne).

The then Secretary, Martin Waters, resigned a little later and Nelson stepped into the breech. Using his skills learned during National Service, he began organising a bunch of enthusiasts whose approach to a society was not to waste time with organisation, constitutions and the like but get on with recording and publishing what we'd found out as well as describing models made from those researches. Everyone (except me) could remember the LMS (I was 13 months old when it was vested with the nation) and it wasn't going to be forgotten; explaining what the biggest joint stock company in the land actually had done was paramount. So HNT began the process of organising meetings, possible public appearances at exhibitions and promoting our own functions such as Teach-Ins. It was just the focus that we needed.

Bob Essery and David Jenkinson knew the value of publication whether about the full size railway or models made and Nelson fitted in nicely with the 'let's help modellers get it right' approach. He was a modeller himself, initially of horse drawn vehicles, but he set about creating a diorama of 8 LMS scenes only one of which had any rolling stock – I don't count the Railway Air Services De Havilland Dragon he included in the clouds as rolling stock! - which appeared at many functions. After a few years we became an annual feature at the Derby Model Railway Exhibition in the Assembly Rooms there, building up to taking over an entire room behind the main bar which was filled with models, photographs and small artefacts, a lot of them being of Midland origin which ensured that the parade of visitors was huge. At the time, a lot of them were ex LMS employees and could relate a few stories. Nelson was the one who suggested 'The LMS Trophy' for the best model of something LMS at the show.

As Jenks had moved over to be Education Officer for the new NRM and with HNT's skills from managing in the NatWest Bank all sorts of doors opened for the LMS Society, visits to all manner of places ensued and his love of ex LMS Hotels was often a part of this. Who else could get us a private whisky tasting at Gleneagles? Lots of other members contributed their help to these events as well and he co-ordinated this brilliantly, halcyon days.

Then came the books, new publisher Colin Judge with his Oxford Publishing Co or OPC began to print quality, glossy A4 size books and Nelson's LMS Miscellany was the first of three volumes (1982, 87 & 89) full of bits and pieces LMS, anything else the Company had done which wasn't on rails or about signalling or architecture and pushed the boundaries of knowledge.

Around 1990, after over 15 years as Secretary (and organiser), Nelson thought he'd done enough and passed the Secretaryship to Robin Barr. About two years into my Chairmanship, Robin died suddenly and HNT quickly stepped back into office. One couldn't ask for a better person to do the job and our friendship was enhanced by often sharing twin rooms in hotels such as the Midland at Derby (with which he had a special affinity and route to a decent overnight DB&B price!). He really cared about the LMS Society, always promoting us as the group to go to for information, about doing things the right way and we will always be grateful to him for that. I could go on about jaunts such as a Railway Modellers' Weekend at Brean Sands (even getting John Edgington to build a model), his declaration that we needed a Society tie (based on the one worn by Directors of the LMS) or his knowledge of early Dinky Toy models…

We have lost another great member without whom we would have been so much poorer.

Noel Coates

[Editor's Note] Anyone wishing to make a donation to a charity supporting dementia sufferers and their families in memory of Nelson may do so to Dementia UK.

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