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History of the Society

Formation and early tracks.

The Newton Abbot and District Model Engineering Society, was initially formed by 15 individuals, getting together at the Penn Inn public house in 1948.

This small group quickly held their first exhibition in July of the same year.  Then in 1949, permission was granted for a railway to be erected in Penn Inn car park.
The 400ft raised track was officially opened on Saturday 9th May 1953, by Councillor N.P. Roberts J.P.   Within the railway was also a 50 feet diameter track for rather noisy 'round the pole' tethered car racing, which survived for a few years.

This location continued in regular use until 1961, when the track (and some houses) then had to be dismantled to make way for the changed road layout associated with the new Penn Inn roundabout.

Extended to 580ft, the raised track was re-constructed by members at the other end of the public Penn Inn Park, opening in 1964.  This track complete with the turntable and steaming bays, was on a gently sloping grassy section [on the site of today's Sainsbury's supermarket], in full view of the main-line railway; separated only by a stream and an embankment, so inviting waves and toots from passing trains.  As the park also contained a wonderful toddler's paddling pool, the track also received a constant supply of mums with children; though often with wet bottoms !

Up until the mid 1980s, the Society had rather informal meeting arrangements, visiting the homes of obliging members.  Regular Sunday afternoon steam-ups were supported in the main by several older members, but slowly as younger recruits came along, the dwindling membership was revitalised, and meetings became established in hired halls allowing the membership to expand.

More Recent History.

The 2nd Penn Inn track was in use until 1986, when the site was cleared to allow construction of a superstore, raising much local complaint.  Having displaced us from a public park (along with the local outdoor swimming pool), the Council were sympathetic to our case, allocating the Society a new location in Sandringham Park, Newton Abbot, about 1/2 mile from the previous site.  The opportunity was taken to design a slightly more interesting shape, and we were granted permission for a 660ft (202.5 metre) raised track, encircling some established oak trees.  As a measure of good-will the Council handled the earth-works for us as part of a job training program, and laid the piers and concrete beams to create the new track bed.

Club members then took over, making numerous parts at home, and descending on the site with welders and grinders until the track and steaming bays were finished, allowing trains to run by November 1988.  The track was officially opened by the then Mayor of Newton Abbot, Councillor Rowena Forster, on the 28th May 1990, with a small exhibition of current projects by the members.  The official train hauling the Mayor was hauled by a shiny black 'Simplex', driven by owner Roy Clarke.

Latest History.

With the new track established membership slowly continued to increase, and we have become the main Model Engineering Society in the area, drawing in members from the Plymouth and Exeter districts.  With an established regular meeting place, we often welcome guest speakers, members bring along part built models, and there's nearly always a second opinion available for when a problem needs solving.  Although the major interest is in locomotives and traction engines, the Society has many members involved in the construction of marine and petrol engines, steam boats, clocks, workshop tools and much more.

The Sandringham track served the Society well, and was in use until 2006, when we tired of vandalism problems.  At this point the track was dismantled, and the Society concentrate all efforts on a new fourth track in a different location, which was officially opened in 2009.