CANBERRA SOCIETY OF MODEL AND EXPERIMENTAL ENGINEERS, Inc. (CSMEE)
(INCORPORATED IN THE ACT IN 1978)
CLUB HISTORY 1973‑2007
SOCIETY FORMED 32 YEARS AGO
The Society was formed in 1973 following an advertisement placed in the Canberra Times in l972. Some of the original members are still in the Society. Total membership was 113 with an increasing number of student and junior members and many seniors. The ages of members range from about 11 years for the newest juniors to 80 plus.
The Society has participated in every Malkara Specialist School Railway and Model Exhibition since the second one in 1973. Many members became aware of the Society at this and other exhibitions and joined as a result.
TRACK – PORTABLE
The first track was about 25 metres of straight 3.5″ gauge elevated track that operated at Malkara Special School Exhibition in 1979. This was developed into a circle of 72 metres run and first operated at the Old Canberra Brickworks at Easter 1980. It appeared at the 1980 Malkara Exhibition. At the same time a ground level 5″/7.25″ dual gauge track was built in the clay pit area of the old Brickworks.
In 1982 a 5″ gauge rail was added to the portable elevated 3.5″ gauge track and it took the form it now has. It has operated at in excess of 50 events in the Canberra Queanbeyan district since then, appearing in public about 45 times a year until the Kingston track became more popular. Two-day events are especially favoured since a lot of effort is required to move and set up the track. With rides then at $1.00 per head, it was once the Society’s main money earner.
Profits earned from the track went mainly to developing the Society’s facilities at the Kingston Miniature Railway. These were located on a block – formerly rubbish dump – at Geijera Place Kingston, adjacent to the Australian Railway Historical Society’s Museum. In 2017 the Kingston Miniature Railway moved to a new site on Jerrabomberra Avenue, Symonston after about eight years of work and changed from Kingston Miniature Railway to Canberra Miniature Railway.
GROUND LEVEL TRACK KINGSTON 1983
In 1983 CSMEE moved to the Kingston site from the Brickworks where a commercial project to establish a museum had collapsed.
During 1983/84 work to fence and clear the rubbish tip and to level and prepare a track base continued unabated. A tree and shrub-planting program accompanied this.
The rubbish tip site presented many problems, thorny shrubs, old bottles and pieces of metal resulted in a succession of costly punctures to tractor tyres. Most of the tractor work was done by a small Kubota front-end loader owned by a member. A 2 tonne tipper loaned by another friend of the club supported this. Hundreds of trailer and truckloads of debris were removed and hundreds of tons of fill and ballast were spread.
Hollows were filled by soil excavated and donated from the new Parliament House Construction site. Rock retaining walls and drainage were installed alongside the ARHS Car Shed that was then being built.
GROUND LEVEL 3.5″/5″/~7.2S” GAUGE TRACK 1985
By 1985 the site was ready for track laying. A jig was made and welding commenced in earnest on Australia Day. During the following 12 months thousands of hours were spent welding, laying & levelling the ground level track. The track at the former Brickworks site was recovered and reconstructed for the new site.
By Australia Day 1986 the mainline was complete and trains could run continuously on 705 metres of track. Several turnouts were installed and in 1987 the circle at the top end was completed, extending the run to about one kilometre.
PASSENGER LOADING LOOP 1990
1990 saw a new loop installed to help passenger loading and a primitive ramp was provided to move heavy engines from vans and trailers onto the track.
ENGINE FACILITIES & IMPROVEMENTS – 1993
In 1992 it was decided to improve the track and to remove the 3.5″ gauge rails, as turnouts with all three gauges were too difficult to build. The following improvements were completed between 7 January and 28 May 1993 just prior to the inaugural ACT Invitation Run on the 29 – 30 May.
Steaming Bays -To service ~ steam up engines
Turntable -To turn engines
Traverser -To enable engines up to 1 tonne to be safely transferred from trailers and vans to track
Passing/Relief Loop -in ARHS museum at halfway point of mainline
Improved water reticulation -for locomotives and grounds maintenance
Power to Site -for lighting, signalling and driving tools. (Previously all work was done using a cantankerous 1940s vintage ex Navy diesel generator owned and restored by a member.
Signalling -to protect train movements at the top junction.
Many more improvements were made during this time for members and visitors amenities. More shrubs and trees were planted, the lawn extended, a barbecue was installed, fencing constructed and a second hand catering van was purchased.
Thousands of dollars worth of assistance has been received in kind from sponsors who are represented on the advertising carried on the club’s passenger cars and in the Club’s journal, The Whistle Blower. Without the help of these Canberra firms CSMEE would not have the facilities it now has. Donations included free use of plant and equipment, trucks, excavators, ditch witches, lawn mower repairs, sheds, steel, bricks, electrical fittings & conduits, soil, ballast, sand and gravel.
Wives, partners and daughters of members volunteered to form an auxiliary to manage all food and drink sales on running days. Proceeds go to purchase equipment such as chairs, tables, umbrellas and barbecues for use by party groups. Ladies sell the tickets and manage party bookings. They purchased the food van. They sold T-shirts and other souvenirs to boost the toilet fund. The Society could not operate the Kingston Miniature Railway without them.
INAUGURAL INVITATION RUN 29/30 MAY 1993
The Inaugural Invitation Run of CSMEE was held over the weekend of 29/30 May 1993. 103 registrants came from NSW, VIC, and SA and brought with them 30 visiting locomotives. With the CSMEE engines the total present came to 35.
The Railway was officially named by Mr Bill Wood MLA who drove the leading engine of a double header on the official grand parade of trains around the track. The weekend was the culmination of nearly a year of planning and construction.
An Invitation Run was held during the ACT’s Floriade Festival every year since 1993; last year’s was the thirteenth. These events attract visitors and their families from as far away as Queensland. We had nearly 30 visiting locomotives in 2004 and similarly in 2005 and 2006.
When possible every year the Society is a major exhibitor at the Malkara Specialist School Model and Railway Show, Pegasus Rising for the Disabled Annual Fete and the Annual Model Railway Exhibition at Kaleen High School.
SOURCES OF INFORMATION/PUBLICATIONS:
The Society now runs Facebook pages, Instagram and communications via other electronic media.
Some members scale their plans from Railway’s official blueprints & drawings and build very finely detailed accurate models. A tender engine in 5” or 7.25″ gauge takes about 3,000 hours to build.
Engines for 5″ and 7.25″ gauge operate on the ground level track. 7.25″ gauge engines are (almost universally) confined to the ground level track because of their size and weight (2 metres (6ft plus) long and up to 1 tonne.
Smaller steam engines usually have copper boilers while larger engines have welded steel boilers. Boilers are built to standards set by the Australian Miniature Boiler Safety Committee (AMBSC) and the Australian Live Steamers Safety Committee (ALSSC).
These are sub committees of the umbrella body; The Australian Association of Live Steamers (AALS). The AALS sets standards for operation, interchangeability and safety of miniature railways.
In addition to railway engines some members build and operate steam tractors or traction engines. These engines were used around the world until the 1940s by which time full size construction of these machines had ceased. Most models owned by CSMEE members are to 1/12, 1/8 or 1/4, scale. There is a strong traction engine following in the Club.
Some members are interested in building clocks. There was a very active clock group lead by a professional watch/clock maker member. These members build and restore particularly fine examples of the clockmakers art and in doing so preserve a centuries old craft that is seldom practiced commercially today. Many members of this group are also interested in locomotives and traction engines.
Some members specialise in the construction of workshop machinery such as small precision milling machines, grinders and high speed drilling machines. These can then be used for other model engineering activities.
About half a dozen members are very enthusiastic about steam boats (full size). Several excellent examples of their work, the largest being a 26 foot steam launch, can be seen on Lake Burley Griffin and Lake Tuggeranong on special occasions. They are silent (except for their whistles) and seem to glide along with barely a wisp of steam escaping from their funnels. Several members have built their own hulls from fibreglass, wood and metal (especially ornamental brass). They also build their own engines but generally have their boilers (particularly the larger ones) built from steel (under Government boiler codes) by approved welders.
THE KINGSTON MINIATURE RAILWAY
The Kingston Miniature Railway is now closed. The railway now operates as the Canberra Miniature Railway on Jerrabomberra Avenue, Symonston. It is open to the public on the second and last Sunday of each month except December when it is usually the second Sunday only. Current prices are $4.00 a ride or all day for $18.00 with prepaid tickets @$15.00. Parking is free and a canteen operates each public running day. An area is available for children’s parties. For details contact the Society or call 1 800 731 954.
Report prepared for DW, March 2006.
File: D:/Colin/CSMEE/History/CSMEE his 2007.doc as amended
Note: This report is based on a former history of the CSMEE prepared by J Nicolson. Updated January 2022.