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Model Railway Fundraiser for MS

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It was while watching the Bathurst 1000 car race one evening that Allie Thackray and her husband Evan had a ‘crazy idea’ to combine model railways with fundraising for Multiple Sclerosis (MS).

Their ‘crazy idea’ was proposed to the Board of the Hornsby Model Engineers Co-op Ltd, who operate the Galston Valley Railway.

The Board ‘excitedly accepted’. They dubbed it The Galston500… an exciting annual endurance event featuring teams operating 5-inch gauge miniature trains over a combined total of 500 laps of the 1km Galston Valley Railway track – to take place all in one day!

Allie,47, has been a volunteer member of the Hornsby Model Engineers Co-Op Ltd (Galston Valley Railway) since 2016 and currently holds the position of treasurer. She and Evan are also avid model railway enthusiasts.

This year, The Galston500 will be held on Saturday 29th October, starting at 10am. The aim is to complete a minimum of 500 laps (500km) before 10pm that night.

The issue is very close to Allie’s heart. In 2013, she was diagnosed with MS. Six months earlier, her younger sister Liz, was diagnosed with MS. Her brother Neil, 50, is experiencing symptoms but has not been diagnosed.

MS is the most common acquired chronic neurological disease affecting young adults, often diagnosed between the ages of 20 to 40. In Australia, MS affects three times more women than men. As yet, there is no cure.In MS, the body’s own immune system mistakenly attacks and damages the fatty material – called myelin – around the nerves. Myelin is important for protecting and insulating nerves so that the electrical messages that the brain sends to the rest of the body, travel quickly and efficiently. There are 25,600 Australians living with MS.

“For years I went to the doctor with odd symptoms and they told me it was all in my head. Well, the joke is on then – it really was,” Allie explains.

“I woke up… and as I went to climb out of bed, my right arm and leg were numb, I landed face-first on the floor. The Emergency doctor informed me that they believed I’d had a series of mini strokes.”

Eight months earlier, a similar incident had occurred… that time Allie was told by the hospital that she was tired and should go home to rest. “Because my sister had been recently diagnosed with MS, I questioned the neurologist ‘Are you the same doctor who diagnosed my sister with MS about 6 months ago? Is it possible I have something like that too?” The doctor confirmed Allie’s diagnosis shortly after.

Allie said she was confronted by the lack of information and support offered to the newly diagnosed. “At the time, there was little information offered and the few treatments available, were either daily injection or monthly infusions.”

“Now with the support of fundraising events like The Galston500, research in Multiple Sclerosis has led to a number of advancements in treatments,” she explains.

Since its inaugural event in 2018, The Galston500 has donated more than $21,000 towards Multiple Sclerosis research. In 2018 and 2019, the funds went to MS Research Australia via their Kiss Goodbye to MS program.

Unfortunately, due to Covid, the 2020 and 2021 events were cancelled. But Allie and her husband Evan – who were married at the Galston Valley Railway in 2017 – are hoping this year’s event will be bigger and better.

For Allie, the event not only raises money for MS Research, but also raises awareness within the community about the Hornsby Model Engineers.

The Co-Op is a volunteer run, not-for-profit, established in 1973 by a group of model railway enthusiasts. The Galston Railway operates the second Sunday of each month, from 10am to 3pm.

The Galston500 will take place from 10am on Saturday 29th October at the Galston Valley Railway site, 29 Mid Dural Road, Galston. Entry is $10 for adults, children under 18 are free. Rides on the train cost $3.50. For more event information, go to www.galston500.com

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