Bexhill Museum patron and international film star Eddie Izzard will realise a dream on Monday September 16 when he opens a giant model rail layout in the museum dedicated to the memory of his father.
Rail modelling enthusiasts led by museum volunteer Ken Bywater have been toiling for two years to create a scene symbolic of the Bexhill that Eddie’s late father Harold John Izzard would have experienced when as a war-time evacuee he returned to the town for Christmas 1940.
The museum’s Egerton Park Gallery is given over to displays commemorating the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of war in 1939.
They include the giant wall map on which local estate agent Percy Webber logged every bomb and incendiary that dropped on the town. An alcove has been decked out as an air-raid shelter.
But the gallery is dominated by the “snow” covered model rail layout.
From the barbed wire anti-invasion entanglements guarding the sea front back to the distant viaduct which then carried the Bexhill West to Crowhurst branch line across the marsh, the layout compresses the maximum number of local landmarks into the available space.
Retired architect Bill Hill has crafted the town’s then railway stations – Bexhill Central, Bexhill West and Sidley -in scale-perfect detail together with the Town Hall, Drill Halls, Hospital and the like.
Above the snow-scape back-drop is a frieze of famous war-time posters such as “Dig for Victory.”
Eddie Izzard’s aim was to fund the project and time its official opening for his father’s 90th birthday. Sadly, Harold did not live to see the project but Eddie was able to dedicate it to his memory at a ceremony last September.
Sidley-born Harold Izzard worked tirelessly for local charities throughout his life before his sad death aged 90 earlier this year.
As a young man commuting to London he used to travel on the old Bexhill West branch line, featured in the war-time rail layout. Harold, Eddie and his brother Mark also donated the model railway layout that Harold built for his boys in 2016.
The vast project is still very much a work in progress. Eventually, defending Spitfires and Hurricanes will battle Messerschmitts over the layout and computer-controlled rolling stock featuring sound efforts will work a time-table along the rail tracks.
The museum will open at 11am on Monday as usual when 23rd Sussex Home Guard re-enactors will begin displays and talks at the front entrance.
The public will be given access to the Park Gallery after Eddie cuts a ribbon to open the WWII exhibition at 11.30.