THE FORMATIVE YEARS
The Society effectively came into existence during the autumn of 1948 when a notice appeared in the window of Gill's toy shop, High Street, Sutton Coldfield. This notice invited interested persons to attend a meeting at the Station Hotel, Sutton Coldfield, with a view to the formation of a model engineering society.
The notice, together with a locomotive chassis also on display, were the work of the late C. F. (Fred) Palmer, a toolroom foreman and inspector with the Cincinnati Milling Machine Company. Fred possessed a comprehensive workshop at his home in Hartley
Road. Kingstanding, Birmingham, where he pursued his interest in all aspects of model engineering with a bias toward sailing ship models
The enthusiasm and dedication of Fred, together with his son David, were to be central to the early development of the society.
At around the same time a change of circumstances occurred within the already established Birmingham Society of Model Engineers. Meetings of that society were being held at Sheldon, south of Birmingham, so that members residing in north
Birmingham and Sutton Coldfield were finding travel by public transport over such a distance difficult. This impediment focused their attention on the possible formation of a similar society able to cater for the needs of model engineers in the north Birmingham area
Already, four model engineering enthusiasts, Dudley Priestly, Harold Bosworth, Owen Prosser and Jack James met together regularly at the Station Hotel to discuss model engineering matters and were working towards a similar goal.
From the amalgamation of these two groups, the first meeting of the proposed new society took place at the Station Hotel, Sutton Coldfield, in November 1948. At this meeting the foundation of the Sutton Coldfield and North Birmingham Model
Engineering Society was laid. Records show that the nucleus of the new society was formed by the following persons from these two aspiring groups of enthusiasts who attended that first meeting.
Dudley Priestly Ron Addenbrooke
Harold Bosworth Owen Prosser
Jack James Les Roberts
Jack Orme Fred Hawthorne
Fred Palmer. J. P. Bertinat
John Bertinat also recalls that Sam Howard, Harry Barr, Frank Emmerson, Walter
Laight and Frank Shrieves attended along with several others.
At that meeting the following appointments were made:
Chairman : J. James F.R.H.S.
Secretary : C. D. Priestley - Founder
Treasurer : H. Bosworth
Social Secretary : P. Sambridge.
A subsequent list of members from the early 1950s contains the names of some 79 persons; and of these, the following are noted as carrying the appointments listed below:-
J. D. L. Orme : President
J. James : Life Vice-President
D. G. Morgan : Life Vice-president
H. Bosworth : Life Vice-president.
By this time the Society was a member of the 'West Midlands Federation of Model
Engineering Societies', a body which Ron Addenbrooke was instrumental in forming. In 1949 the officers of this Society comprised the following:
Chairman : J. James. F.R.H.S.
Committee : F. Shrieves, 0. Prosser, F. Emmerson,
. M Hobbs, F. W. Hawthorn, J. Orme
Hon. Secretary : C. F. Palmer
Treasurer : H. Bowsorth
Hon. Soc. Sec : P. Sambridge.
However, returning to our own Society, great enthusiasm existed during these formative years. Meetings were held on alternate Tuesdays at the Yenton Hotel,
Sutton Road, Erdington, and subscriptions were ten shillings (50p) per annum.
On the 11th-12th November 1949, the first model engineering exhibition of the Society took place at the Church House, High Street, Erdington. This first exhibition, for which the room hire charge was £25.00, was organised by Fred Palmer and formed the basis of many subsequent events.
In order to ensure that the event should be a financial success, each member was required to contribute the sum of £3.10s (£3.50). The catalogue of exhibits was priced at 3d (1.25p) and the entrance fee was 11- (10p) payable on admission. The whole affair raised the handsome sum of £300.00. The exhibition was officially opened by his Worship the Mayor of Sutton Coldfield and, such was its success, that an influx of new members resulted in the existing meeting place at the Station Hotel becoming no longer adequate.
Subsequently similar exhibitions were held during the years 1950, 1951, 1952, 1953 and 1955. Also, during the latter part of this period, the regular meetings of the Society, previously held at the Yenton Hotel, Erdington, were moved to the Swan Hotel, High Street, Erdington where they remained until the early 1960's.
Subsequent changes of venue resulted in meetings taking place at the Rose and Crown Hotel, Gravelly Lane, Erdington; the Hare and Hounds Hotel in Marsh Hill, Erdington, and at the Co-operative Society Assembly Rooms, Marsh Hill, Erdington. The Society finally moved to the present venue at Wylde Green Library, Emscote Drive, Sutton Coldfield, in 1978.
With the growth of the Society there was an urgent need to cater for the running of members' locomotives. One of the earliest of such facilities became available at the Lucas Sports Grounds in the form of 3 1/2 inch gauge and 5 inch gauge parallel ground level tracks. This facility was made available for Society use through the good offices of Jack Orme who was employed by Joseph Lucas Limited. At the annual Lucas Company Sports Day, held each summer, the Sutton Coldfield, and North Birmingham and Sutton Coldfield Model Engineering Society operated one track while the Birmingham Model Engineering Society ran the other.
Also, as a means of raising funds - additional to annual subscriptions - Jack Orme provided a portable 3 1/2 inch gauge and 5 inch gauge brass rail track. In conjunction with any group wishing to run a steam locomotive event, the hirer was required to provide all transport and paid a standard fee to the Society for the provision of this portable railway system operated by the members.
Virtually each Saturday during the summer months, these portable track events became a regular feature. One of the earliest was held at St. Peters Church, Maney, Sutton Coldfield. Many such events were held at other church fetes, school events and company sports days.
One of the most enjoyable of such outings was that held in conjunction with the
Midland Car Club's annual rally. This was held on their own site for the benefit of the Woodlands Orthopeadic Hospital. The car club owners collected children from the hospital and in conjunction with the Model Engineering Society members provided a most memorable day for those hospital patients.
Though the use of the Lucas tracks along with the portable facilities continued, there still remained an underlying desire for more permanent arrangements on a fixed track system. However, the problem of neither being able to rent, lease, nor own a suitable site persisted.
Meanwhile, the officers of the Society jealously guarded their £300 capital. First acquired in 1949-1950 it was held intact for such an eventuality. The basic problem was that, with only a comparatively small amount of capital, purchase of a suitable site was out of the question. Much discussion and debate took place during the early 1960's as to how the Society should move forward. This long running saga resulted in attention inevitably turning to leasing or renting a suitable piece of land, regardless of the consequences.
It was at this juncture, during the usual questions under 'Any Other Business' at a regular meeting that John Harding informed the then Chairman –
R. L. Tarrat - that he had a friend, Joe Pearson, who owned a plot of land at Lea Marston. The plot was adjacent to the Hams Hall Power Station and it was, he said, thought possible that the Society could lease this land to construct a permanent track along with a range of basic facilities,
Thus the Society acquired its first fixed assets by way of permanent running facilities on 10th May 1964. Only a 'peppercorn' rental of one shilling per annum was required and this paved the way for the Society to develop its own identity and greater cohesion, where members, wives and children could meet in a relaxed social atmosphere. This was to be the home of the Society for sixteen years, before finally moving to its present location at Little Hay during the early 1980's
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