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Milestones in the History of the IWMES …
With the passing of our 75th Anniversary on 20th October 2009, it seems appropriate to mark the more significant points in our history as portrayed in the archives and Press coverage. What follows is a selection of the more important points which might be termed -
After some Press coverage of the hobby earlier in the year 20 prospective members came together in Newport on the 20th October 1934 to form the Isle of Wight Model Engineering Society. The first meeting proper, at which Officers and Committee were elected, was held on 20th November, with attendance of 30. By Christmas membership had risen to over 50.
The first of many exhibitions took place in January 1935 amidst much Press coverage both Island and mainland, including pictures of the Committee with the Hon. President, Sir Alliot Verdon Roe, who was to remain in that post for over twenty years regularly presenting awards to Exhibition prizewinners. Later in the year, an Aircraft Section was formed whose flying demonstrations and competitions also gained a favourable 'press'.
With the threat of war, attendances diminished until Meetings were suspended after July. The Hon. Sec., Vic Richards wrote in the Minute Book, "In view of the present condition of war rendering the meetings of members impracticable, the activities of the I.W.M.E.S. have, with the approval of the General Committee, been terminated for the duration of this war or [until] such time as may be considered suitable for the resumption of meetings and active membership."
Whilst Society activities were held in abeyance during hostilities, contact was clearly not lost between the members, as the IWMES was quickly re-activated only weeks after the end of WWII at a preliminary meeting held on 6th October. A General Meeting on 27th October saw the re-election of pre-war Hon. Chairman, Arthur Cunnington. Sadly, he was killed in a road accident three weeks later. The Hon. Vice-Chairman, George McClure was promoted to the Chairmanship.
Replacement of the pre-War 2 1/2”g. portable track with something more suitable for passenger-carrying was started with the building of a 5in g. multigauge track 72 feet long. It was in regular use by 1954 and still forms the first 12 sections of the present track 55 years on.
It is difficult to pin down when exactly the track site was purchased, but with Allotment holders as sitting tenants to contend with, the Society only got full control of Broadfields in March of 1959 when the legal niceties had been observed, and the second instalment of the cost of £120 had been paid. Planning the track layout had been under way for some period before this. The earliest picture (right) shows the site with the line of the track "pegged out" around 1961.
Aside from the Society's foundation and the purchase of the land at Broadfields, surely the biggest milestone must be the opening of the multigauge raised track there. Such a mammoth civil engineering project didn't happen overnight or cheaply.
After surveying, actual construction began in 1962 when the supports and beams arrived. The circuit may have been complete in 1963 but a traverser was added to service the small Steaming Bay on the outside of the track by No1 Shed ready for the Official Opening.
Finally, after a five year period of money-raising and hard work, the track was opened on 10th May 1964. That day eight members brought ten locomotives to run around the 400+ foot circuit.
In 1966 the first piece of development at Broadfields other than the track commenced, when a wooden building (acquired from British Road Services in late 1965) was erected roughly where the prefab is today. This was later known as No2 Shed and primarily used for storage. This year also saw first thoughts of extending the site to lengthen the raised track.
After some years of debate over the best method of construction, the first 50-foot-square model boating pond was opened at Broadfields for the first meeting of the year.
Redevelopment of the raised track commenced in 3 phases completed in two years. Concrete supports were replaced by steel pots and beams and steel rail with aluminium. Keeping close to the earlier plan, the curves were eased and the gradients evened out producing a very smooth-running circuit. During the rebuild, several improved locomotive handling facilities were incorporated.
The picture on the right shows the pond a few years later in 1977 when the Prefab had replaced the previous No2 Shed.
In my view, the fourth most important event listed here is the completion of the 7 1/4” gauge Ground Level Track circuit. This will be familiar to most members, but it was at that stage without turntable, passing/station loop, points, signalling, etc. which all have to some extent been added since. Presently with a number of 7 1/4” gauge engines under construction this seems to be the way the Society is going for the future, so watch for further developments.
At this point it would be wise to break off as whether more recent developments actually constitute "milestones" should be left to the judgement of a future commentator, perhaps to be presented to the Society's membership in its Centenary year in 2034.