Pietermaritzburg Model Engineering Society

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Pietermaritzburg Model Engineering Society

Chairman: Martin Hampton

Club Details:

Email Icon   andrieskeyser@yahoo.com

Website: www.pmes.co.za

Address: 78 Rudling Road, , Pietermaritzburg, , 3201, ZA

 

Club & Track Details

The Pietermaritzburg Model Engineering Society was originally formed in 1922, after an extensive inactive period it was resurrected in the 1970's. After using various venues, including member's homes, for meetings etc, it was decided that a permanent base had to be found at which a track could be laid and normal club activities could take place. Following an intensive search for a suitable venue the present site at 78 Rudling Road was identified, the city council sent two of their members to assess the land, in their report the conclusion stated that "if anyone can make any use of that land they are welcome to it!". Needless to say, the lease was duly signed in 1985 for an initial period of 20 years followed by an optional period of five years giving us a total of 25 years. The grounds were named after Halley's Comet as it was visible at the time of the signing, the signal cabin now officially bears the name "Halley Park". Work was started immediately on levelling what was in effect a series of dongas and heaps of builders' rubble, at the same time the club's president, Leslie Simon who was also a city councillor, organised that the city council build the concrete causeway to allow access to the grounds. The club bought some ready made track from the then chairman, Don Baker who had built it for his own use on his property in Howick some years previously. What is today known as the "inner circuit" of about 250 metres was laid, and steam train rides started on the first Sunday in November of 1987 at 50 cents per ticket. A small wooden structure was built and covered with shade cloth, this was called the "kiosk" as the members' wives made and sold tea and biscuits to the public. All of this happened without the benefits of electricity, toilets or any other infrastructure other than one water point! At the end of 1987 the original club building was started through the kind donation of materials and structures scrounged by the long serving club secretary, Charles Polkey. During 1988 we occupied the building which had a club room for meetings, toilet, kitchen and storeroom together with an electricity supply! In fairly short order over the following years the steaming bay with its facilities was built together with a few extra bits of track, and other bits and pieces to make the members' lives a little more comfortable. During 1991 the club's first steam loco, Brutus a 7.25" gauge Sweet Pea, was completed and put into service to enable us to give members' locos a well-earned rest. The diesel, Julius, had already been earning revenue for us running birthday parties for a number of years. This year marked the official opening of the club as well during the October "Running Day", where Deputy Mayor Rob Haswell performed the honours and seemed to enjoy driving Brutus around the track. In 1992 we hosted the second 7.25" gauge meet together with an exhibition of various models of the Model Engineers' interests. This meet was probably one of the more important milestones in the club's history as it was the event that put the club on the map so to speak. We had also at this time offered to run the National Meet of 1996 and made a start on the second stage of the track which included what is known as the outer circuit of about 450 metres. The diamond crossing and a number of additional points were built and the new track was built and laid in about four months. The inner circuit contained all three of the popular gauges namely 3.5", 5", and 7.25", the outer circuit was limited to only 5" and 7.25" gauge as there were very few of the small locos and it is not easy to drive them on a ground level track. The club building was extended with the addition of another garage with a toilet, shower and hand basin block added to the back. The foot bridge and a ticket office were also added and we were ready to run the Steam meet. At this stage the cost per ticket was boosted to ZAR2.00 to fund the extensions! The meet of 1996 was an overwhelming success that saw a total of 38 visiting locos and a huge amount of fun, this was held over the running day weekend of August. The proceeds of the meet allowed us to build the tunnel for fun for the passengers and for storage for the train. An additional tunnel was later built alongside the original and now houses the second train complete with its loco. This was followed by the signal cabin a couple of years later together with its ground level storage for the lawnmower, etc. In 2001 we committed ourselves to the third stage of track building, this involved an additional 250 metres of dual gauge track out in the bush giving us a total length of just under a kilometre. This project was completed in short time, largely by Rob Steiger, and includes some very steep gradients that are sure to test the mettle of the most experienced loco drivers! For those who do not want to tackle this difficult section the option remains for them to simply stay on the outer circuit by the push of a lever on the track side. Again at this stage the cost per ticket had to be raised to three rand as it is today. Our grounds, track and facilities probably rank amongst the best in the world other than some of the private setups in the USA. We aim to keep it this way and of course hope to continue making improvements and additions as is our tradition. In 2003 we were once again able to host the most memorable of steam meets and to attract many people from the most populous areas of Gauteng and the Western Cape, we believe that although our target group is very small, the community at large benefit in being able to be a part of a national event of this kind. We hosted about 40 visiting locomotives. We have had may great members over the years that have helped make the club what it is today - Thank you to everyone! As a short post script, one of our primary aims other than having a lot of fun is to foster and develop engineering in general amongst our members and the greater community. In trying to do this we make ourselves available for consultation for anyone who has a query. Should we not be able to help we would in all likelihood be able to direct them to the relevant experts. The community, in particular the more disadvantaged members, are also not forgotten, it is our committed aim to include a number of parties for various organisations that look after the disadvantaged during each year. If this can give them a little enjoyment in their sometimes trying lives, then we have succeeded. The joy that is witnessed on these occasions being experienced by the children is utterly overwhelming to say the least and extremely gratifying that a difference could be made. We have also undertaken to assist our own members with the provision of club facilities for those who are just starting out and for those who do not have the means to acquire the necessary equipment. In the workshop we have a drill press, milling machine, lathe, welder, bench grinder, bending rolls, cut-off saw and two compressors as well as some of the necessary hand tools. Amongst the completed railway /rolling stock we now have two steam locos, two diesel locos, ten passenger cars, a track sweeper and a weedkiller spray car. These are all the result of club projects that have involved at least some of the novices.
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