Identifying the prototype for the Airfix/Dapol booking hall

The Airfix/Dapol station booking hall plastic kit is a OO scale model railway classic, first issued in 1958.[1. Booking Hall at Vintage Airfix.] An old catalogue listing says it was “based upon an actual structure”[2. Brighton Toy & Model Museum] – but which one?

It is not dissimilar to late C19th/early C20th Great Western Railway buildings, with the hipped roof and two chimneys, but I haven’t been able to identify a good match in the way that the Airfix church, signal box or windmill kits match prototypes.

The wide open doorway in the middle of the platform side of the model building is quite distinctive. Other potential identifying features which don’t feel like they would have been invented are the clock above the door, and the style of canopy.

So, has anyone got any ideas where the real thing is (or was)?



The Airfix/Dapol church at Bonchurch on the Isle of Wight

The Airfix (now Dapol) plastic kit for a village church is a true classic of OO scale model railways, and is based on the real Old St Boniface church at Bonchurch near Ventnor on the Isle of Wight.

Old Church of St Boniface. Bonchurch, Isle of Wight

On 10 October 2020 I went to see the real thing, and then bought a Dapol kit to see what details could be added to make the model more closely match the prototype.

Old English churches tend to be quite complicated structures with centuries of accumulated modifications and additions, and the kit captures this well with details such as the small window by the porch.

The prototype is a very small church, as churches go, which helps for a model; a more conventionally sized church could easily dominate a typical model railway layout.

The main differences between the plastic kit and the real thing are the tower, which seems somewhat oversized and simplified on the model, and the roof.

The first thing I noticed was just how well designed the kit is. Despite being a pretty ancient kit first released in the late 1950s, it goes together well.

I added some internal bracing from plastic sheet to keep everything squareish.

The buttresses need stonework scribing into their plain sides, and I also used plastic card to thicken up the walls around the porch and door so that they look like solid stone rather than thin plastic; it’s a small change but makes quite a big difference in appearance.

The walls of the real church are very thick. I started to install false walls to create some depth around the windows, but then decided this wasn a bit pointless as the interior can’t be seen.

The windows were glazed using clear plastic sheet with a pattern of diamond bars printed on it; I ordered this online from a modelling materials company, and it was well worth the slight extra cost.

I abandoned plans to install some interior details after realising they would be pretty much invisible, even with LED lighting.

The roof is the aspect of the kit which most benefits from being replaced, as the moulding is a bit soft and the coping stones at the end and the ridge tiles on top are somewhat different to reality.

Fortunately, a Wills plastic sheet fits perfectly to length above the nave, with a pack of four sheets providing plenty of material to do the chancel and porch as well. The coping stones can then be replaced with something more to scale, which makes a huge difference to the appearance of the model.

If you only change one thing, make it the roof!

I cut down the tower a bit, and modified the pyramidal cap. While the kit has crosses to go on the tower, nave and porch, one is also needed for the chancel. I used the cross from the porch on the chancel, and made a new one for the porch.

Gutters are from black card, and the downpipes in the kit were replaced with thick wire.

I added the little plaque on the west end wall.

The gravestones are knocked up from balsa wood and plastic sheet.


See also

Identifying the prototype for the Airfix/Dapol windmill kit

Is the Airfix (and now Dapol) plastic kit for a OO scale model windmill based on a real prototype? The church kit is based on the real church at Bonchurch on the Isle of Wight, and the signal box is famously based on one at Oakham in Rutland.

After comparing various details, I suspect the windmill kit is based on the real one at Outwood in Surrey.

Factors leading me to think the model kit is based on Outwood are:

  • an Airfix advert from the October 1960 issue of Model Ralway News says Airfix kits are “exact replicas” and has a photo of a real windmill looking very similar to the model. [1.] This makes me think a prototype probably does exist, and as with the church kit it is not simply a freelance model
  • the model kit is of a post mill
  • the roundhouse is circular rather than polygonal, and made of brick
  • there are two doors to the roundhouse, at least one of which is decorated with a horseshoe
  • there are three-pane windows above the roundhouse doors – these seem a distinctive feature of Outwood
  • the Airfix kit has a represention of spring sails, where each sail is divided into a bays with shutters. A new pair of spring sails were fitted to Outwood in 1955 [1. Outwood Windmill article on Wikipedia] Many windmills have other types of sail
  • there is one window in the side of the wooden mill body; some other mills have more
  • the mill is turned to face the wind by a pole sticking out the back, rather than a fantail

More speculatively, Outwood mill was said to be the oldest working post mill in Britain,[2. Outwood windmill official website] and attracted interest from preservationists[3. Outwood Windmill article on Wikipedia] before the kit was first introduced in 1958,[4. Windmill, Vintage Airfix] so might have come to Airfix’s notice.


  • the model has prominent windows on both sides of the wooden body; Outwood mill doesn’t have a window on one side
  • Outwood has traces of other openings which are not present on the model (but could have been omitted for simplicity?)
  • the rear stairs aren’t quite the same


Some photos of Outwood mill on 2 August 2021, in case they are of use to anyone planning to superdetail a model kit.

Historic England describes the Grade I listed Outwood windmill as:[2. Outwood post mill, Historic England]

Post Mill. 1665 restored in C19 & C20. Oak substructure on whitewashed brick circular base with felt pent roof. Weatherboarded above with 4″ slatted pine sails. Steps and post to rear with board door under shallow pent roof. 2 casement windows in sides and boarded openings to rear, further doors under transome lights in sides of circular base.

Interior: Mill machinery remains largely in working order. Oak crowntree 21 inches square is inscribed with date 1880. Reputed to be the oldest working Windmill in the country.

Other candidates

Various other candidates for the real windmill have ben proposed on web forums and elsewhere. Addressing some of the possibilities which have been raised:



Oakham level crossing signal box

[front view]

Built in 1899 to Midland Railway design 2b, the Grade II listed signal box at Oakham in Rutland achieved fame as the prototype for the Airfix plastic kit, now made by Dapol (catalogue no.C006).

On 22 August 1999 I happened to be passing through Oakham, and I stopped off to take some photos of the signal box. Jim Filby has kindly supplied some photos of the interior, taken in 2004.

[Dapol model kit]

The June 2001 issue of Railway Modeller magazine had an article on detailing the Airfix/Dapol 4 mm/ft scale kit to resemble the real box more closely.

[right hand end view]

[back view]

[left hand end view]

Inside Oakham signal box

Some interior photos by Jim Filby in 2004.

[Inside view]

[Inside view]

[Inside view]

Village church

The Airfix/Dapol village church kit (Dapol catalogue no. C029) is based on the Old St Boniface church at Bonchurch, near Ventnor on the Isle of Wight.


The Airfix windmill kit might be based on Outwood windmill in Surrey.


I would be interested to know the locations of the prototypes (if any) which the other Airfix building kits were based on.