CONSOLIDATION OF THE SOCIETY
Mention has already been made of the Golden Jubilee celebrations planned for 1998. In fact, this history will form part of that programme and effectively went into planning at about the same time during 1992.
In 1992, it became evident that if the facilities at Balleny Green were to be able to provide the necessary infrastructure capable of mounting such an event then a fairly massive up-lift was essential.
A Sub-Committee was formed under the management of Colin Davis, a fresh planning application was submitted to Lichfield District Council and work commenced on the following installations and accommodation:-
Modernisation and extension of electrical system.
Modernisation and conversion of the main building to provide a rest room.
Provision of additional windows and access to the main building.
Construction of a canopy to the main building.
Provision of storage buildings in the N.E. comer of the site.
Subsequently, two additional Sub-Committees were appointed to deal with improvements to rolling stock and ground level track facilities.
To enable the decanting of the workshop facilities out of the main building, a steel container was brought onto site and has proven to be most useful as a temporary secure store.
Work has progressed well within an overall budget of£ 15,000 and, provided weather conditions remain favourable then all will be in place for the new millennium. It has been, and still is a tremendous task. In spite of the attendant capital expenditure, which has included quite major maintenance, the financial assets of the Society have been maintained at a high level. Additionally the financial reserves have been kept intact.
It is interesting to record that the basic costs of running the whole of the affairs of the Society, exclusive of any capital expenditure, during the period 1996-1997 worked out at approximately £3,500 per annum or, expressed as a cost per member, some £25.00 per head per annum. To this must be added forward financing of events plus capital intensive additions and improvements to the estate. Thus, the running of fee paying events to which the public are admitted becomes an integral part of the Society's operation. Were this not so, then annual subscription would have to rise steeply above present levels.
Currently in regard to membership and subscriptions, the position for 1997-1998 is as follows -
Full member £32.00 p.a.
Senior £18.00 p.a.
Junior £08.00 p.a.
Associate £11.00 p.a.
These figures are based upon a total membership of some 135 persons of all categories. They are a far cry from the inflation free days of ten shillings per year in 1948. We have to live in changing and very challenging times, where the Treasurer's tasks become more and more demanding where forward financial planning has had to become the order of the day. The Society has grown from the inaugural group of members meeting at the Station Hotel to the present, fully member Limited Company with valuable assets. As most societies operate on leased or rented ground, we are rather unique in owing our own site and all the facilities thereon. The problems facing the membership must surely be in the continuing development of the structure and management of this corporate body of present day enthusiasts into the next millennium.
Questions which require to be addressed, to move into the next half century,
are : -
(a) Will model engineering be able to survive and prosper as a machine/workshop hobby?
or (b) Shall we all end up with a factory produced kit of parts and a spanner to put it all together?
and (c) How will the average age of members of such societies be lowered by attracting new and younger active members?
or (d) Will there, in future, be any model engineering suppliers in business able to offer the services we need at an affordable cost?
Recently, the Society received a rather interesting talk from the Director of a well known local model engineering supplier, who was patently seeking answers to the above questions. His unease was quite simple, if model engineering as a hobby goes into decline so does his business, along with the businesses of the publishers of model engineering journals and those who run exhibitions.
It is interesting to speculate that, with the demise of steam locomotion on both rail and road, preservation societies and societies such as ours may be the only link with historic forms of transport and motive power to be seen in action. More worrying is the continuing decline in the number of skilled craftspersons and craft apprenticeships in the UK. Where will the next generation of modellers come from and how will they be imbued with such enthusiasm as the founders of this Society? However, nostalgia is
a powerful force and, hopefully, that emotive beast, the steam locomotive, will continue to be seen puffing its majestic way around the tracks - standard gauge,narrow gauge and miniature - for the wonderment and pleasure of future generations.
Let us not become a nation of observers rather than thinkers, innovators and practical "doers". Let not the 'Myford Lathe' become a cherished museum exhibit or a collector's valuable asset to be traded through the auction rooms. The Model Engineering movement as a whole has a responsibility to remain a repository of important skills and knowledge and a responsibility to encourage the continuity of practical engineering in the generations to come.
Page 36 Return back to Contents Page