LEA MARSTON - THE CONSTRUCTION PHASE
Having gained the facilities to develop a track system and limited accommodation at Lea Marston in 1964, attention now turned to accomplishing this quite formidable task. As is the eternal problem in any voluntary body with limited financial resources, ingenuity and physical effort are the twin keys to a successful end result.
Within the now well developed, albeit informal structure of the Society, there resided many diverse skills waiting to be utilised. It has been commented upon. on many occasions, that any society functions at its best when faced with a challenge. Unity, together with purpose, develop naturally so all that is required is that clear targets are set - and a lead provided. So it was with the north Birmingham and Sutton Coldfield Model Engineering Society.
Lack of funds coupled with a desire to conserve capital inevitably resulted in the initial steel track set on concrete blocks being a rather unsatisfactory solution to providing suitable running facilities. Many de-railments of locomotives resulted and members would not use the track on a regular basis.
At this juncture two of the members, Bill Hall who by now worked with the civil engineering contractors - R. M. Douglas Ltd - along with David Palmer, collaborated on a suitable design approach aimed at providing an effective new track facility. This was based upon cast concrete beams supported at high level.
As a result of this collaboration, Bill Hall was invited during a meeting held at the Co- operative Society Assembly Rooms, Erdington, to present his views on the subject. This was further explained in an article 'Reconstruction of an elevated track' published in Engineering in Miniature.
Here, again, conflict of ideas developed and a proposal to erect a timber high level track by another group of members was put forward for debate. The outcome was that a longer term assessment of the problem prevailed and, eventually, a track on a concrete foundation was brought into use as the agreed solution.
One of the first members to run on this new but incomplete track was Ray Humphreys, of the Kinver Society. He lost his balance on the curve adjacent to the gentís toilet and managed to roll off his locomotive - 'Acabod' - onto the soggy grass. It is understood that, relieved of its load, the locomotive accelerated until its speed reached some 15 mph before it was eventually caught and stopped.
Later a fence was erected beside the pavilion, which had been constructed from packing cases provided from the Cincinatti Company works.
Page 15 Lea Marston Early Years 4 Photographs of Marston
Another problem, which plagued visitors to Lea Marston was the presence of bees
kept on site in hives belonging to Joe Pearson's brother-in-law. Although several members, including Fred Palmer, had been stung on a regular basis, only when Joe Pearson was severely attacked by these offending bees did the problem cease -he had the hives removed.
Water supply to the locomotives was obtained from a local stream via a hand pump and galvanised steel tank mounted on brick piers. On one occasion, at the point in the stream where a dam had been formed, flooding of the site occurred. As a consequence Joe was called out during the night by the Water Board as flooding was also taking place in the adjacent woods. He was not at all pleased. Generally, the whole area of Lea Marston constituted a rather low-lying wet land mass which always caused problems during inclement weather.
Bill Hall, then Chairman, recalled that, when the Lea Marston site was to be evacuated in the early 1980's, the start on clearance and re-instatement was delayed by the wettest weather for years and it was not until March that entry could be made into this water-logged site. Eventually, after some difficulty with the earth moving plant becoming bogged down, the site was finally cleared to the satisfaction of all concerned by the 31st March 1981.
Much of the track beam material was moved to the new site at Balleny Green, Little Hay, together with the old steel framed asbestos sheet clad storage building. Nothing was wasted; all scrap material found use in road construction and storage at the new location.
Lea Marston had served the Society well in spite of the absence of any public water supply, mains electricity or permanent sanitation. It was all rather self-help and very basic, but it gave great pleasure and enjoyment to all who were privileged to have contributed to it during its 16 years service as the first permanent home for the Society.
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