St.Albans and District Model Engineering Society

December 2023 Club Night Report

Several of us got to the Christchurch Centre early and chairs and tables were all put out to welcome club members as they arrived.  It was a planned free evening with hot food as well as cake and the usual refreshments.  Terry our speaker, arrived in good time and was setting up for his evening contribution when it was discovered that the Audio Visual suite was not working because a vital piece of equipment had been removed and not replaced!

A few words came to mind but I repressed them, it looked disastrous and I could not think of a plan B! 

Rob came to the rescue by moving out the AV rack to gain access to the internal wiring and located the direct feed to the ceiling projector and used that cable to connect directly to Terry’s laptop.  

Bingo!  We had the laptop screen showing on the large screen but no sound! Rob got the ‘walk about‘ lavaliere microphone, which was working, and placed it close to the speaker of the laptop. Suddenly we had sound to go with the pictures although it was very poor as you might expect. Rob then found an alternative cable and was then able to connect the laptop headphone output to the audio system and we now had satisfactory images and sound.

So to all members and guests who enjoyed the evening it was a close thing, but it all worked out in the end!

Our Chairman opened the evening with the latest financial situation at the Puffing Field.  Then handed over to me to say what we had in store for the evening and then I handed over to Terry.  Terry who was now a much happier bunny, then took over the first part of the evening.  We started with an old film, reclaimed onto current format, about the many and varied models made by Bassett-lowke  

The main part was about a commissioned large liner called QSMV Dominion Monarch.  I checked up on her and the suffix means Quadruple Screw Motor Vessel.  The laying down of the keel of the full size ship began in 1937 destined for the route to New Zealand.

For more interesting information check:

The model was made at a quarter of an inch to the foot scale and 14 feet long and for anyone challenged on scale references she was 1/48th full size. 

It was super-detailed down to the lounge chairs in one of the luxury communal rooms.  As the model progressed through construction we were also shown the locos and track and accessories they produced for sale to the public.  You had to be well heeled to afford them though!  We also saw how the locos, all steam driven, were assembled and then complete trains running very fast.  Even by todays standards they were very nice models

Some of the smaller working model boats, this time electric, were running on a lake and one I recognised as Streamlinia under steam running very well, and much faster than one I saw a few years ago.  Then back to the liner model to see her finished and most resplendent in her new paintwork and ready for the builder's boardroom, where no doubt only a few privileged souls would ever see her.

A fascinating film where many people were seen working with basic workshop equipment but otherwise most work was done slowly and meticulously by hand.  The Bassett-Lowke catalogue, of which I have an extant copy, shows almost everything you could want to build your own models, but I now wonder who would have bought them.  Perhaps the better off gentleman for 'his man' to assemble as required as even the accessories were expensive to the working man.

However next we moved on 20 odd years to the Puffing Field track, this film was taken by Terry's father-in-law in the 1960's.  It has various locos running with one or two members we recognised. The largest loco was the 'East African' the original ran on the 3 foot 6 inch gauge, so was very large in model form in 5 inch gauge.  I recall it took 4 stalwart members to move it safely, the engine is currently  believed to be residing with David Saunder's son, bought by David after Mr. Ward died

We all knew that Mr. Ward the owner of the loco and the Puffing Field would secrete more than a tipple of Scotch in the old tunnel.  Brought out when a nice running day occurred!  I knew Mr. Ward vaguely but only as a club committee member when we, the committee, were invited there perhaps for a day during July.

Nice to see the old film again reclaimed onto modern media so preserving the content.   We then had a charming set of stills depicting nativity scenes from around the world and in many different materials.  Rather nice and appropriate for the time of year.

Lastly we were treated to........ and here for various reasons the content is redacted, but I can reveal that the lesser of the 2 protagonists came out on top, again!

Terry was thanked for his contribution to the evening and it was all perfectly timed as well, as when he finished the shutters were thrust open and the smell of hot sausage rolls etc had us all queuing for food.

At the start of the evening Dave and Brian had brought in 2 aircraft to show us.  Brian had an old type i/c flier, so several members went down memory lane. on that.  Dave had brought his magnificent Vulcan bomber.  It is so big it has to be separately assembled when on show, the smell of jet fuel still lingering after its last outing.  Although scheduled to be with us their presence was most welcome as a talking point when the AV issues were being resolved.

The food was very good and thanks go out to the catering members and ladies who brought in and put together the eating part of the evening.  

Perhaps I can mention a special point here as Barbara was with us and it so often happens that when a member passes-on, we lose touch with his widow. 

However, in Barbara’s case she knows us all and we all know her.  Barbara has made so many contributions to the past success of our exhibitions over the years and has made several friends amongst the members.  And let's face it if you had emailed Den it was Barbara who replied!  Anyway we did not want to lose her.

I said the committee would be very pleased for her to continue as an Honorary Associate Member of the Society for as long as she wishes. She was happy to be  so invited.  We all look forward to continuing seeing her at all our functions.

Now Clive took over the last part of the evening, he had lined up all the gifts brought in by members as raffle prizes.  There was none of the picking and choosing.  No, we do not operate like that, we have brought back the Authoritarian State!  If your number was selected then your prize was already designated and so on down the line.  Just to make sure, should you not like your prize, then Rob was on hand to photograph you with your prize to ensure you did not slip it back into the raffle the following year.

The raffle went to plan, hmm.. well I am not so sure about that!  It is customary under this regime that if you are a committee member then you are on the 'preferred list' for getting a prize!  Three of us conferred and agreed that this year none of us had won!  This will be on the next committee agenda.

Now I must admire both Terry and Clive for their timing, it was absolutely spot on.  There was enough time at the end for a final 'scoff' and then came the clearing up, last farewells before Christmas, not forgetting the many Christmas cards exchanged.

Thanks again to all the behind counter members who supplied the refreshments.  Thanks also go to the chair stackers and table folders who cleared up. 

For me the man of the evening was Rob!  He saved the evening with his ingenuity and his novel by-passing of the non-working parts of the AV System!

I hope all enjoyed the evening and hope to see you all in January when Frank Banfield will be giving us a film show.

Regards to all especially our visitors.