History of the club

Written largely by Doug Rundle:

According to a report in the “Andover Advertiser” newspaper of the time on November 1st 1945 a meeting was held in the George Hotel with 28 people in attendance to form a new club in Andover, the “Andover and District Model Engineering Society.” Mr Thomas Meechan(?) was in the chair and thanked in particular Mr George Crouch who had worked hard to organise this gathering. George Crouch and W.H. Crothall became officers.

The first meetings were held in the Western Café that was opposite the main post office in Bridge Street and after a while they moved to the Home Guard Club (Wolversden Club) in Dene Road. Annual subs in 1945 were £1.1.0 plus entrance fee of 2/6d. An Andover businessman, Mr G.D. Young had premises in and around the old West Street / White Bear Yard more or less where Boots the Chemist is now, letting the Society have space for a workshop with machinery and tools being donated by local engineering businesses. It all came to an end when a member was using a large lathe to machine a cylinder block and put a notice on requesting people not to touch the setup preventing other members from using the machine. It caused such an upset that the machinery was eventually sold and the premises given up!

Exhibitions were regularly held in the Andover Guild Hall with a very short piece of 71⁄4in track being laid on the cobbles where a member, Cecil Barnett of Over Wallop would run his “Royal Scot.” Unusual for a model engineering society certainly in those days and again aiming to be trend setters for 25 years ADMES organised and ran what many think to be the first proper traction engine rally in the country; in other words a rally that was not set up just to be a race between engines. The reason why the first one was organised seems to be lost but it was held in a field off Vigo Road on Easter Monday 1953. Perhaps it was something to do with the fact that two members, the late Gordon Howell (former President) and Derek Marder (still an ADMES Vice President) each owned a full-size engine. A rally seems to have been held sometime at Balkesbury but the first rally at Finkley Down was in 1954 and from then on the ADMES traction engine rallies were a nationally well-known and popular event on the calendar. After many years the rallies moved near the village of Longparish the last one being the 25th in 1977.

During the mid-1960s thoughts turned to acquiring land on which could be built a 31⁄2in and 5in raised track. An offer was made by Andover Borough Council for a piece of land in New Street upon which the council would build a workshop and carpark at an annual rent of £125 plus rates. This was rejected by ADMES on the grounds that despite the rally income the Society would be bankrupt within 5 years. Actively continuing to find somewhere suitable we came close to renting land behind the Goodworth Clatford Village Club. Meanwhile, Mr. E Scott of Redrice, who was involved with the Society because he had a collection of locomotives (our size) offered a parcel of land for a very small rent that was part of the old Red Rice House walled garden owned by him. So during 1968 work was started with Gordon Howell donating the timber for the track bearers and the sleepers, Mr Bob Stock, a maintenance engineer with Kings Builders donating the concrete block for the track pillars and Mrs Scott donating the aluminium rail for two gauges of the 720ft track.

During my first years with the Society I remember the previously mentioned and by now of senior years George Crouch, arriving on Sunday mornings riding an NSU Quickly moped with a wooden box on the carrier inside which was a “Juliet” or something similar which he then steamed and ran for a few laps before putting it back in its box and disappearing down the road.

Another notable event of the mid 1970s was that our chairman, Gordon Howell, somehow or other got himself invited along with other UK model engineers, to take his 2” traction engine to a fringe activity of the Japanese Expo 76. His engine, riding truck and another trailer and a bunch of tools and other equipment were crated up and sent by sea to Japan in time for the Expo. Various steaming events were organised around the country. Once again a full report appeared in the “Andover Advertiser.”

In the early 1980s we held a fund raising event for an Andover Hospice. This took the form of continuous laps of the Red Rice track starting at 3pm on a summer’s Saturday and finishing if all went well on the Sunday afternoon. The Society's Simplex was the engine with a team of drivers relaying through the 24 hours. It was intended to have regular service stops, probably every hour, but it soon became apparent that this period could be considerably extended. Surprisingly, neither engine nor drivers suffered any problems and at the end just over 100 miles had been driven which was about 740 odd laps.

By this time, apart from subscriptions, the hire of the portable track to fetes was the only other source of income. Thinking that we would be better off doing public running from a fixed facility we agreed with the council to build a track at the Charlton outdoor leisure centre. Quite a good start was made with a decent length of up and down track being laid but for a variety of reasons after a couple of years the project was abandoned. The Society very happily stayed at Red Rice gradually improving the facilities and adding a ground level 5in and 71⁄4in track until 2003, when, because Mr Scott, by then being elderly and needing to prepare for passing his considerable assets on, gave us notice to leave. A lot of effort was made to find new premises without success so Derek Marder offered us use of a Portacabin and other sheds to store our equipment and to meet at his premises along elsewhere in Andover. This lasted until 2008 when Upping Copse became our current home.

We have since added a ground level railway, the initial loop of which is 5" and 7 1/4" dual gauge, with a great deal of 7 1/4" only extensions now taking this all the way around our 36 acre plot. This was followed later by a raised 5” 3½” & 2½” gauge track. Finally we also have raised garden railway tracks of gauge 1/45mm and coarse 0/SM32, as well as a small boating pond, an outdoor 00 gauge layout and a grassy loop for miniature traction engines. We are building a reputation as one of the most interesting and challenging tracks to visit with a loco - not many miniature railways genuinely require a map to get you back to where you started!