In the late 1970’s, a teacher at Birkdale High School (Mr Jack Keegan) started an evening class for boys interested in metalwork and invited any parents who were interested to come and assist.
As time went on and word got around of this activity individuals, not connected with the school, asked if they could attend the classes, with the emphasis being on building model steam locomotives.
This led to a fledgling club being formed and in the autumn of 1979 an advert was put in a relatively new magazine “Engineering in Miniature” to help attract new members.
Although official meetings were being held at the school, in a separate room, it soon became apparent that another venue would have to be found for these meetings. Some of the venues used were the old Southport Drill Hall and the original Richmond Hotel, until subsequently, with the kind permission of Zoo owners, Douglas & Carole Petrie parents of one of the members (Jeremy Petrie), the club was allowed the use of the lecture room at Southport Zoo.
In the early 1980’s the members decided that as they were building miniature steam locomotives, they would have to find somewhere where they could construct a track on which to run them. A search for suitable venues included Ainsdale Sports Club, Carr Lane Playing fields, Botanic Gardens and Victoria Park.
Sefton Metropolitan Borough Council were approached, and a suitable plot of land was offered to the club at the south end of Victoria Park with access from Rotten Row. It was agreed to accept the offer for this plot of land and the club immediately applied for planning permission to construct a combined 3.5”and 5” gauge track.
At this stage it was realised that extra funding would be needed to purchase the essential materials etc. before work could commence. Ten members offered to provide finance to give the club sufficient funds to make this a viable project. One member later pulled out of the agreement, which left only nine members to finance the project. These members were to be classed as the “founder” members of the club.
In 1983, when the club’s application was accepted, work started by casting concrete stoops and sawing wooden sleepers etc. The point rodding used to build the track was acquired from British Rail at Preston in exchange for a donation to the Railway Benevolent Institution. Although some of the work was done at members’ homes, the vast majority of this work was carried out at Southport Zoo, again with the kind permission of Mr & Mrs Petrie, for storing materials and also for the use of the workshop. When the contract was agreed with Sefton MBC, at a peppercorn rent for ten years, the Club was also given permission to use a redundant air raid shelter for storage. (This site is now a Caravan Park).
All that remained now was to transport the completed stoops, track and sleepers from the Zoo to Victoria Park to start constructing a 500ft track.
In 1984 the track was completed and then work was started on making passenger trucks and steaming bays. About six of the members physically carried the runners for the steaming bay traverser from the Zoo on Princes Park down to the track at Victoria Park.
The club acquired a portable track and passenger truck in 1986 to enable them to go to various local events to help raise funds for future projects. A trailer was purchased in 1987 to accommodate the portable track and passenger truck.
Life membership was offered in 1988 to increase funds and seven members took up this offer.
In 1990 the club purchased castings to build a battery powered club Loco “Charlatan” and a coal store was built.
In the early 1990’s the club purchased some bricks that were originally intended for the doomed “SIBEC” Winter Gardens Project, with a view to building a clubhouse on the site in Victoria Park. In 1993 the club applied to Sefton MBC for planning permission to build a clubhouse, and also to NAME (Northern Association of Model Engineers), for a loan of £2,000 to help finance the building. A loan scheme was also set up by the club and bonds were purchased by members for £50 per bond. It was agreed that these bonds would be repaid to members once the clubhouse was completed and the loan from NAME had been repaid. (25 members agreed to purchase bonds).
In 1995 work started on the building of the clubhouse, the building work was done by outside contractors with members helping with the roof work. The ceiling, electrics, plumbing, painting and veranda work was all done by members. In 1996 MANWEB connected electricity to the site and the clubhouse was completed in early 1997. The only water supply at this time was a water tank in the clubhouse loft, this was filled up regularly with the help of the local Fire Brigade.
The members were now able to hold meetings in the clubhouse, after meeting in the lecture room at Southport Zoo for the past 14 years.
In 1997 the club started holding open days for members from other clubs to attend and run their locos on their track.
In 1998 the club was now able to start to repay members loans, some of which were turned into donations.
The club purchased castings for a steam locomotive in 2001, which would be for club members use, and would be named “SOUTHPORT”.
The club then applied to Sefton MBC for additional land to construct a new track, adjacent to our existing track, and alongside the Model Boat Pond that was being constructed by Sefton MBC.
Planning permission was granted, and work started in late 2003 constructing the new track which when completed would be approximately 1/3 of a mile long. A track sponsorship scheme was made available to anyone wishing to sponsor a stoop, at £20 per stoop, to help fund the building of the new track.
A new toilet block was delivered, ready built by Sefton MBC for joint use of the Model Boat Club and the Model Engineering Club. This meant they were now able to connect the Clubhouse to a mains water supply.
The new track was completed and opened by Lord & Lady Fearn in May 2005.
Work was then started on the building of a new Truck Store in which to house passenger trucks and gardening equipment.
In 2006 the club hosted NGLEC (Narrow Gauge Locomotive Efficiency Competition).
The following year the Chernobyl children were invited to visit the club as part of their recreation when they were on their annual visit to Southport, which the club continued to do until 2019 when the world was hit by the Covid pandemic.
In 2008 the club hosted IMLEC (International Model Locomotive Efficiency Competition) and started to construct a Gauge 1 track, which was completed in 2010.
2009 Started building new trucks.
2011 Purchased the club loco diesel outline kit from the widow of one of our members, this Class 20 loco was named “John Laws” in memory of him.
2012 The Club hosted NGLEC (Narrow Gauge Locomotive Efficiency Competition) for the 2nd time and a website was set up for the club.
2014 Work started on a 16mm track and a new prefabricated garage was purchased.
2015 New signal Box and club alterations.
2017 Hosted IMLEC for the 2nd time.
2020 Work started on the new steaming bays.
The club now has over 120 members. They range in experience from raw beginners, some of whom had never cut a piece of metal before joining the club, to professional engineers.
The most popular projects are live steam locomotives. Other interests include large-scale electric locomotives, model traction engines and stationary engines.