The present Society is the successor to the formerly named "Preston Society of Model Engineers". The Preston Society was active during the 1930s but at the outbreak of war it fell common to the attitudes of the time and more or less died through lack of interest and members. At cessation of hostilities about eight members re-incarnated the Preston and District Society of Model Engineers.
From this stage the society grew and was able to stage an exhibition of models to coincide with the 1952 Preston Guild. The problem of finding space for a locomotive track arose and it was thought logical to approach Preston Corporation for assistance in the matter. They in turn made it very clear that no such assistance would be forthcoming. Undaunted, the members continued prospecting and land was located in Towngate, Leyland. This site housed the Lancastria Co-op. in 1982, and now is the site for the new mega Tesco. This part of Leyland has changed out of recognition in recent years! No security of tenure was possible but the members were satisfied to build a track and run on it for a few years.
An approach made to the then named Leyland Urban Disrict Council met with a very different response to that experienced with Preston. They provided the present idyllic setting at Worden Park at a peppercorn rent, the only stipulation being that "Leyland" was incorporated in the Society's title.
The re-naming very quickly produced the Leyland, Preston and District Society of Model Engineers. Armed with this ponderous title the members set to work during the winter of 1952/53 and erected a 2½ 3½ and 5 inch gauge track.
This 300ft long track was opened at Easter 1954 by Mrs Kelly who was then the Chairman of Leyland UDC. Happily Mr & Mrs Kelly were still regular visitors to the track in 1982. Consequently, on the increase of society membership and locomotive population, the track was extended to in 1968 to 565ft. About this time the Society took in the Darwen SMEE which had been running under the guiding hand of W Ewart Baxendale since before the war, but had few members. The track was further extended in 1972 to 805ft, in 1978 to 851 and yet again in 1983 to its present length of 1617ft. in 1995 a ground level 7¼ and 5 inch track was laid between the club house and the main car park.
Not having an Off season we run all the year round, weather permitting, and can claim to have delighted generations of children with rides in picturesque surroundings. Worden Park railway has become a way of life for many children. (Although these words were written in the less worldly year of 1982 I think they are still true as the queues at the station on a Sunday testify.)
In 1981 it was decided that to streamline our title we should rename the society and we are now officially known as Leyland Society of Model Engineers.
In case the casual visitor should think that building and running locomotives is our prime concern, it must be emphasised that we are Model Engineers, and stationary engines, traction engines etc populate the members stock of "goodies"
These words were originally written in 1982 by Jack Coulson, the then chairman,for inclusion in the brochure for the 1982 IMLEC. I have just updated them where necessary.
The Society has hosted IMLEC three times since 1982: 1989, 1993, and 2000
Members gather most Sundays to operate the miniature railway in Worden Park, Leyland, from late morning till teatime, and every other Thursday evening at 8.00pm in the function room of the Farrington Conservative Club where a full programme of social events is arranged. In addition, there is a "maintenance gang" of club members, many retired, who meet on Tuesday afternoons in Worden Park to maintain and develop the facilities which include, as well as the elevated and ground level tracks, a clubroom, workshop, carriage shed and a fair amount of grass that needs mowing! The club has a library of books and magazines of interest to model engineers, and a portable shop offering a variety of fasteners and other small parts at competitive prices.
The Thursday programme includes talks by guest speakers, project nights at which members bring and discuss their current creations, bring and buy sales at which members can buy useful tools and materials often at knockdown prices, quizzes and the like. The society arranges open days at the track site, often with a theme, to which members of other clubs are invited, and periodically hosts national and international events. Of recent note for example the Sweet Pea Rally (1995), the International Model Locomotive Efficiency Competition (1982, 1989, 1993, 2000), The Northern Association Exhibition (1975, 1992,1998) and others.
A number of trophies have been endowed to the club over the years, and these are awarded annually for such things as best project (President's Trophy), regular Sunday driving (RunningTrophy), the Marsden Trophy and the Society Rosebowl, to name but a few.
The club is a member of the Northern Association of Model Engineers and provides boiler inspection and testing services in accordance with the Northern Association code of practice. This gives members automatic access to the public liability insurance provided through the Northern Association. Personal accident and all-risks cover is available at extra cost through the same scheme. Anyone operating a steam boiler at a club event must have a current boiler test certificate, and be a full member of a club affiliated to the body under which the certificate is issued.
In 2005 we commenced redevelopment of our ground level track. The new layout consists of a continuous circuit of approximately one kilometre. There is a station with two roads and eventually there will be sidings and a reversing loop.The seven and a quarter gauge track is made of flat-bottomed rail secured to wooden sleepers with stainless screws and plastic clips ballasted with black limestone on a foundation of crushed recycled buildings! This is proving very popular with members and public alike.
Application forms etc can be obtained from the club secretary, Mark Entwistle on 01772 422411, or membership secretary Geoff Baxendale on 01254 775963. At the time of writing membership fees are £25 per year, due at the Annual General Meeting in January.
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Page updated: 05/06/07