The CANBERRA SOCIETY OF MODEL AND EXPERIMENTAL ENGINEERS (CSMEE)
(INCORPORATED IN THE ACT IN 1978)
CLUB HISTORY 1973‑2007
The Society was formed in 1973 following an advertisement placed in the Canberra Times in l972. Many of the original members are still in the Society. Total membership is 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 Special 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 that 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. 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 have gone mainly to developing the Society’s facilities at the Kingston Miniature Railway. These are located on a block – formerly rubbish dump – at Geijera Place Kingston, adjacent to the Australian Railway Historical Society’s Museum.
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, ditchwitches, 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 sell 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 has been held during the ACT’s Floriade Festival every year since 1993; last years 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.
Every year the Society is a major exhibitor at the Malkara Special School Model and Railway Show and the Annual Model Railway Exhibition at the Lyneham Hockey Centre.
SOURCES OF INFORMATION/PUBLICATIONS:
(Australian) Australian Model Engineering published bi-monthly. Members of
CSMEE have featured prominently and regularly as authors of articles in
The Australian Model Engineering Magazine that is circulated widely in Australia and overseas. Indeed, four members of the Canberra Society started the magazine in 1988. It is now produced, edited and printed in Canberra.
(English) Model Engineer – since 1898 published twice monthly.
‑ Engineering In Miniature published monthly.
‑ Locomotives Large and Small published every three months.
(American) Live Steam published bi‑monthly.
Modeltech published bi‑monthly.
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 Code Committee. This is a sub committee 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 is 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 open to the public on the 2nd and last Sunday of each month except December when it is usually the second Sunday. Current prices are $3.00 a ride or all day for $15.00. Numbers on running days range up to 150 in parties and other visitors and passers-by can substantially increase this number. It has been estimated that 350 persons or more attend on some days.
The Railway now attracts thousands of visitors a year but numbers are restricted by the area available. Negotiations with Government have been continuing for over many years with the aim of securing longer term and more secure tenure over an enlarged area. These negotiations have been protracted and the Club is still on a short term lease. This is most unsatisfactory, but better than nothing!
A signal box has been constructed using a former broadcast Box at Manuka Oval and much work has been completed on track signalling and point interlocking over the past four years. This has improved the safe working and the running procedures. Eventually a fully automated system is considered feasible.
Toilet facilities have been high on the list of priorities for many years and a special fund was implemented whereby 10% of income from the monthly runs is placed into that fund. Portaloos have been installed in the meantime, with the assistance of one of the Club’s sponsors, but these can only be regarded as a short-term solution. One hurdle is the location of the site for a connection to the main sewerage system.
Work has continued to improve and upgrade visitor and operational facilities and maybe provide those toilets so urgently needed. In view of the short-term lease over the area, work commenced in 2005 on a portable canteen to replace the old caravan. It has been strategically located to ensure easy removal to an alternative site, should this be necessary. Firms from the Canberra/Queanbeyan area donated much of the material for this structure. The Club also has spent considerable funding on this project. Construction has been done by our members but there is still work required to bring this project to completion. Also in this upgrade is the continuing work for a better electricity supply. This emanated from a proposal for more a secure and improved power supply and lighting of the area and discussions have been held with power professionals, and plans and estimates prepared for this work, much of which has been completed.
A demand for smaller gauge (3½” and 5”) facilities has seen a raised level track of 100 metres constructed to circle the Picnic area. The design for this trackwork required the relocation of the new safety fence set out as recently as March 2005 and saw some minor changes to this track location. Plans are in hand to have permanent BBQs, tables and seating, placed around the picnic area. It is also proposed to build a high shed like cover over these tables and seats to contain up to thirty people in a picnic party. This would save much manpower on running days as at present all these facilities have to be manually placed at an estimated eight man hours.
Permanent track access was completed in 2004 into the two 40 foot containers for the storage of the club’s and members’ locos and rolling stock. This has eliminated lifting heavy pieces of track and the likelihood of jammed fingers. Work has commenced on a new steaming bay at the nearby carriage shed, formerly used for the elevated track rolling stock. This will eliminate the necessity at present of pushing heavy locomotives up to the current steaming bays. A steel storage rack was constructed adjoining this shed and the area at the rear of the KMR site cleaned up.
Lack of money, time and manpower are the things that delay much of this project work. A larger area would be most useful, particularly that to the north of the site, in making for more interesting running and to locate the toilets as the area is accessible to the Canberra sewerage system. It would also provide an area for the Traction Engines to be displayed and run.
As the current KMR site is in the area designated for redevelopment under the East Basin proposals, the future is indeterminate. However, sites have been looked at in other Canberra locations and one site in Queanbeyan. While the latter site proved quite positive in terms of an interesting layout, it was not favoured by some members as it is outside of the ACT. The CSMEE, however, may have no option if the redevelopment of the Kingston Foreshore and East Basin area is extended over the site. Recently a study for a Railway Masterplan for the ACT has been announced and its ‘brief’ notes that the CSMEE will certainly be impacted.
If the site has to be moved all infrastructure will need to be lifted and relocated. A costing of this is difficult to determine as most of the work has been accomplished over a long period of time and the age profile of the Society precludes a lot of work to be done by the members. The man hours involved is considered enormous and while a costing is still being reviewed, it is considered to be in excess of $350,000 (man-hour costs included). While some track could be reutilised, much existing track would need to be discarded. It needs to be remembered that most of the track is laid to scale standards which takes time to set out, weld and ballast, as was demonstrated in the carriage shed entrance tracks that took two months for four persons to complete.