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How a West Norfolk model railway helped one man recover from a brain tumour

PUBLISHED: 11:26 14 March 2018 | UPDATED: 11:38 14 March 2018

Approach to Downham Market. Picture: Courtesy of John Colquhoun/Megan Slade

Approach to Downham Market. Picture: Courtesy of John Colquhoun/Megan Slade

Courtesy of John Colquhoun/Megan Slade

A model of the railways around King's Lynn has helped a man in Australia get his life back on track after suffering a brain tumour.

John Colquhoun's model railway, showing an overall view of The King's Lynn curve approaching the junction. Picture: Courtesy of John Colquhoun/Megan SladeJohn Colquhoun's model railway, showing an overall view of The King's Lynn curve approaching the junction. Picture: Courtesy of John Colquhoun/Megan Slade

When Aussie John Colquhoun was born in 1958, his late father had already a collection of 4mm scale items for a rudimentary model railway of the Eastern Region of British Railways.

Mr Colquhoun, 59, has been modelling the West Norfolk railway since he was a child, after making several trips to King’s Lynn during the 1960s and 70s.

He said he still makes a trip to Ashwell, in Herts, where his family lives, every alternate year which involves a trip to Lynn.

Magdalen Road main station building. Picture: Courtesy of John Colquhoun/Megan SladeMagdalen Road main station building. Picture: Courtesy of John Colquhoun/Megan Slade

He added: “What we as a family love about King’s Lynn is the history, and the incredible hospitality warmth of the place.

“My wife, an Italian, finds it so friendly and casual, the bars and cafes quality, but set in another time.

“My eldest son, Alexander, and I, set about renewing the old model of King’s Lynn railway,” Mr Colquhoun said.

King's Lynn station. Picture: Courtesy of John Colquhoun/Megan SladeKing's Lynn station. Picture: Courtesy of John Colquhoun/Megan Slade

“It was of course scratch built to a degree and loosely based on the real thing, including the station terminus and branch-line to Hunstanton.

“As the boys aged the model was assigned to the garage for a decade. I could not bring myself to trash it, due links to my Dad and then my sons.”

Mr Colquhoun worked for Australian airline Qantas for more than 20 years, but in 2013, he was struck with awful news after being diagnosed with a brain tumour.

The Magdalen Road level crossing. Picture: Courtesy of John Colquhoun/Megan SladeThe Magdalen Road level crossing. Picture: Courtesy of John Colquhoun/Megan Slade

He underwent eight-hour operation to remove the tumour which left him partially disabled and unable to work or drive.

It was at this time that he dusted off his 30-year-old model railway to help him on his six-month-long road to recovery.

“A neuro-surgeon suggested I resurrect it to tune my fine motor skills in recovery from surgery,” Mr Colquhoun said. “As I improved, the railway took my interest, as a way to amuse myself.

John Colquhoun with his wife Francesca outside King’s Lynn station. Picture: John ColquhounJohn Colquhoun with his wife Francesca outside King’s Lynn station. Picture: John Colquhoun

“Whilst not entirely accurate, the model is fun to operate and visitors find it interesting. I hope my sons will, like me, keep it in the family for their children to gain pleasure from.

“It also honours the memory of my dear cousin Lindsay, whose wonderful family took us through the magic that is Ashwell, the Nene Valley Railway, York, the NRM and of course King’s Lynn.”

A family reunion at a Lynn pub. Picture: John ColquhounA family reunion at a Lynn pub. Picture: John Colquhoun

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