Road and Rail Locomotives of Richard Trevithick
b1771 Tregajorran - d1833 Dartford
Founded in 1945
Incorporated in 2019
The Welling & District Model and Experimental Engineering Society was originally formed, in 1945, by a small group of enthusiast who initially met in a local public house – and then in the parish room at All Saints Vicarage, Belvedere. The main activity of the Society in the 1940s and early 1950s was model boats, and regattas were held in the Belvedere lake. The last of these regattas was held in 1962, by which time the membership had migrated towards steam railway locomotives. The “Experimental” in the Society’s title was dropped around this date.
A 100 feet long wooden, portable track was built in 1952, which was set up at local fetes and company “bean feasts” to raise money for the Society – an activity which is continued in this present day. This track was worn out by 1965, so a start was made on building a steel track to a design from Eltham MES. As the track was stored in Fred LaRoche’s garage, meetings were held at his house.
By 1967 there were only eight WDMES members left, but a proposal to amalgamate with the GECMEC was defeated by five votes to two. Following this decision, a slow revival increased the membership. It was then offered use of some land at Russell Park, Bexleyheath and was able, by 1971, to build a 70 feet long permanent, raised track, which offered rides to the public on Sunday afternoons.
Following problems caused by neighbouring householders, and despite being supported as “in the right” by the Council, the Society started investigating alternative sites in late 1972. It was offered a new location at Falconwood – on land, then owned by the London Electricity Board – which looked ideal. It removed the oval track to this site in 1975 and, over the next 49 years, improved the facilities to a 1268 feet long raised track, with a “club-room” (an ex-WWII Pre-fab), a signal-box, carriage shed, toilet block, station, tunnel and water tower.
Public Running sessions were held every other Sunday afternoon, between April and October, as well as booked parties on Saturdays, and we hosted occasional visits from local schools, Cubs, Brownies, Scouts and Guides. It, also, ran a Santa Special Day each year, in mid-December, when up to 450 children traveled by miniature train to meet Santa in his Grotto.
In 2008, the Society was informed by the National Grid, that its site was required for a head-house as part of the new electricity cable tunnel project from Woolwich to Hurst (Bexley). Various “stays of execution” followed whilst the Society investigated a number of possible – and impossible – sites in the Greenwich and Bexley areas.
As an outcome of the COVID Pandemic and associated government restrictions on movement and public meetings, it had to suspend public and member events in March 2020. By the time the restrictions were completely lifted in early 2021, the Society was already dismantling the Falconwood site in preparation for removal to another site.
It finally had to vacate our Falconwood site, after 49 years tenure, in May 2021.
The Society settled on removal to Hall Place – and is currently building typical railway facilities around a new permanent track – ticket office, water tower and a signal box. Future plans may include a tunnel and other attractions. Our new “club-room” in the Gardener’s Yard is open and in use, but still has a few “fixtures and fittings” to be completed.
Members currently meet each week on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday mornings from 09:30 to build some of facilities the Society had at Falconwood and to test models and locomotives. Formal and Informal Thursday “Club-evenings” – suspended in March 2020 due to COVID restrictions – are held from 19:30 in the new Society “Club-room”.
In order to work with Bexley Council as a corporate entity, and to protect the members during future commercial transactions, it was agreed that the Society should become a Registered Company, Limited by Guarantee (£1/member) and this was achieved on 02 May 2019.
To promote the advancement of public education in the art, science and construction of Models of Engineering in all its forms.
By bringing together persons interested in the design, construction, operation or testing of models, engines, apparatus tools or the like and the exchange of knowledge. we hope to keep alive these skills for future generations.