A short history of the Chelmsford Society of Model Engineers.
The Society had its beginnings in 1931, at a meeting held in an atic by eight men and one lady, with an interest in Steam Locomotives, was originally known as "The Locomotive Brotherhood." Early meetings were held in Silver End Library. With increased membership and interest the scope of the society was extended to other spheres of Model work, including Marine Models and Model Aircraft.
1931 to 1950
In 1933 the Brotherhood demonstrated their portable track in Colchester where it is reported that it was something quite new for the natives to see they also attended the Chelmsford Hospital Carnival in July of that year at that time the membership of the Brotherhood stood at 22.
It is thought the Chelmsford Society was founded in 1935 by Dan Crittall and Jack Clark.
Dan Crittall a director of Crittall Windows, built 10.25 inch steam locomotives which he ran on at track in the grounds of his house in the village of Silver End.
Dan Crittall, third from left, at Silver End village
Jack Clark worked for the BBC and in his spare time was a prolific builder of 5 gauge locos having built at least two B17 class locos Sandringham and Arsenal one of which is still running at the club, 75 years later. He had his own ground level track in Hatfield Peverel and occasionally members were invited to this track.
Jack Clark on his loco on his own ground level track in Hatfield Peverel
During this time there were several sections within the club including Railways, Naval and a strong Aircraft section that several members initially joined. A library and workshop were acquired and progress was rapid until 1940, when war delt us, in common with other Societies a blow which obliged us to disperse our equipment and put all our activities in to winning the War.
Diploma of Merit awarded with Bronze Medal to F Swain at exhibition held in 1938
In 1940 an Exhibition took place at the YMCA in Victoria road in support of the Spitfire fund - buy a Spitfire for £5000 and help the war effort this was organised by George Foden and Leonard Sills.
After the war Doug Wyatt had taken on the job as secretary and he organised several fine Exhibitions at the Shire Hall in Chelmsford whilst the club raised funds by taking a portable track to fetes and Galas around Chelmsford. It was during this period that the club had a strong contingent of members from the local firms Marconi, & Hoffman.
Exhibition poster 1949
A copy of the Official Catalogue for the 1949 Exhibition had be obtained here
1950 to 1957
The clubhouse at this time was based in a Nissan Hut just off the Wood Street roundabout in Chelmsford and without a raised track to use the club had to erect their portable track at various events around the area.
During 1955 the CSME discussed the possibility of building a permanent outdoor railway in 5 & 31/2 gauges but many members appeared to consider it was beyond both the physical and financial resources of the Society so it was agreed to shelve the project for a further twelve months.
When the subject was brought up the next year a surprising amount of enthusiasm was found reflection having apparently convinced everyone concerned they were fully capable of meeting any demands that might be made on them.
An approach was made to the Borough council for a grant of land in Waterhouse Lane and assistance with regard to material and for a fence to be erected. The Council was sympathetic and, in 1975, after a deputation from the Society it was agreed the Council would supply the ground at a peppercorn rent and all the ballast and cement necessary to construct the foundations of the track.
This we thought was all we could reasonably expect and we were very glad to have so much assistance. Now we had the means we needed the design and Leonard sills took a group to Chingford who were doing great things in Ridgeway Park, at the next meeting Bob King arrived with plans and we followed a similar design. Now we had to begin to survey the ground which we found to our delight was as near as flat and level as made no difference. The land is rectangular approximately 180 yards long by 50 yards wide and enclosed on three sides so the problem of fencing was reduced to 180 yards. Pine stakes were purchased and chain link fencing but the thought of having to dig ninety holes was daunting. However we were lucky again as our Chairman had contacts with local Ferguson tractor agents Messrs Eastern Tractors Ltd who came to our aid with a tractor fitted with a special borer made just for this purpose, and so on 13th April 1957 the holes for all these posts were drilled using the Tractor in one hour flat.
Straining the fencing to the posts
After digging the foundations concrete was needed in large quantities and the real hard work had begun.
Here Bill Aylet, Jeff Trim, Fred Tap, John Ship, and Tom Barratt get stuck in
By September 1957 this was the progress made
In October 1957 the first lengths of were track laid.
On the 13th May 1959 the railway was opened by the Mayor of Chelmsford Alderman Tom Howes. Here he is being introduced to the club President Pop Sigrist watched by Chairman Doug Dickie and Secretary Bob King.
1957 to 2015
June 1985 New Club house and track opend by Mayor of Chelmsford
The Pedestrian foot bridge over raised rail tracks was built in 1993 and formaly openened by the Mayor of Chelmsford in 1994
In 1995 work commensed on a Ground Level track suitable for operating large 7 1/4 inch steam locomotives