History

Promoting education and re-creation for recreation in South East London

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 a 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 45 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.  We, 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

Members currently meet each week on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Sundays to carry out site maintenance and to test models and locomotives.  Unfortunately, our formal “Club Evenings” – held every Thursday from 19:00 to 22:00 – have been suspended following the COVID-19 pandemic and its associated social distancing regulations.

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.  We have settled on removal to Hall Place – subject to final negotiations of the lease – and it is planned that we shall vacate our present site in 2021.

In order to deal with Bexley Council as a corporate entity, and to protect the members during future commercial transactions, it was agreed that we should become a Registered Company, Limited by Guarantee (£1/member) and this was achieved on 02 May 2019.

Mission

To promote the advancement of public education in the art, science and construction of Models of Engineering in all its forms.

Vision

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.

Values