Geoff Bashall - Chairman 2015
The Worthing and District Society of Model Engineers in its present form was founded in late 1974/early 1975 following three meetings in the Broadwater Parish Rooms arranged by John Rea, Andrew Breese and Bert Perryman. A number of interested people also attended including some who are still members. These remaining founder members have recently been made life members of the society.
Founder Members Left to Right
Andrew Breese, Victor Hodgson, Bert Perryman, John Rea, and John Edwards
The result of the meetings was very positive and an inaugural meeting was held to establish the Society. Meetings continued to be held in the Parish Rooms until Worthing Council offered the use of a barely used area of grass in the public park at Field Place, Durrington. Meetings then transferred to the Pavilion building at Field Place. During the time before the track site was obtained a 100ft portable track was constructed and this was used to take to fetes etc. and raised funds for both the society and for various local charities.
The Original Patch of Grass at Field Place
While lease terms were negotiated with the Council there was much discussion among the founder members together with diligent work at the drawing board to determine the optimum layout to fit into the site. Gradients and the radius of each curve were needed to be calculated before work could commence on the final design of the "folded figure of eight" seen today.
Aluminium rails carried on wooden sleepers with a steel underframe supported on concrete "A" frames was the preferred method of construction. Everyone was keen to get on with the job but there were obviously financial constraints. Therefore, whilst several fund raising activities began it was decided to press on with the construction of a smaller single oval track so that public running could commence on a regular basis.
Thus, during 1976/1977 work began on the construction of the first phase of the raised miniature railway track at Field Place. Materials for the embankments in readiness for phase 2 were brought in by a fleet of tipper trucks and this became the base for what can be seen today.
A number of members began building various component parts of the raised track. Some parts were made at Worthing College and some at a farm on the south downs. Parts were also made in member's own homes and workshops. The first phase was completed during the 1970s and opened by the then Mayor of Worthing.
Public running in the 1970s on the first phase track.
Whilst the first phase was being constructed work had already begun on preparing and building up the embankments for the second loop. Each weekend would see a gang of members shifting truck loads of soil which had been begged and scrounged from various sources. Back in their workshops, between locomotive building, members were assembling panels of sleepers and rails ready to be bolted down onto the supporting steelwork. At this time the club's first jointly built steam locomotive "Speedy" took shape and she still carries passengers today.
The second phase of the track construction included the outer loop and the tunnel and was completed in the early 1980s.
During this work, thought had also been given to a method of moving locomotives from member's cars to the track. A safe pedestrian route was also needed across the tracks, so following the first steaming bays and traverser, the footbridge began to take shape in 1989. Our Patron, Dennis Marshall very generously donated the necessary steel.
The next major project was the construction of the clubhouse. With the help of students of the building faculty at Worthing Tech. the members completed the clubhouse in 1992. After 17 years, the Society now had it's own home where members could meet without having to hire premises.
Official Opening 1992
Easier access to the inside of the track for the less agile was the next priority and so the disabled access was constructed. This was shortly followed by the carriage shed that sits just to the south of the track.