2000 – To the present day

 

In 2000 a new opportunity came for the club to once again rise out from the ashes as a new technology college was emerging out of the old Budmouth Comprehensive School . Following an invitation to establish the club at Budmouth Technical College we once again found ourselves move lock, stock and barrel across town.

With the active support of the school, the club was able to establish a rudimentary club house in a disused double garage donated by the school. A new Technology Block had just been built and this formed the centre around which was built a ground level 7¼ and 5″ track. This was back breaking work as the ground was not level and the clay, of the hardest kind! Nonetheless, after many months of toil the track was finally completed with embankments, a bridge and a station. The “Wren” and “Juliet” had been returned from Purbeck College who by now had their own locos.

The “Juliet” did sterling work at weekend on a very rough length of portable track but it earned us much needed cash.

The small but dedicated band of club members then set about digging and cutting the new track bed through impossibly hard clay but eventually a complete loop was achieved around the new technology block.

As we neared completion, news leaked out that the school planned to extend the technology block and half the loop would have to be taken up and re-laid after the extensive building programme. This saw the demise of the embankment and bridge neither of which was deemed a loss as the grass cutting became easier and the new track had a solid ‘crush and run’ base we pursuaded the builders to leave behind.

So, out with the shovels again but the result was a much longer and very usable track that was more of a challenge to drive than apparent at first sight. The north curve was tightened to a radius of 20′ due to the new Sports Hall being placed a few metres out of intended alignment. This, coupled with a gradient of 1 in 30 at one point, would catch out the unwary driver who dared venture up the bank without a full head of steam!

The “Wren” and “Juliet” finally had their own track and in addition to providing the ‘non-loco owning’ club members a chance to drive, they provided a steady and much needed income on their outings to school fetes.

“Juliet” did sterling work at weekends on a very rough length of portable track which had started life as part of the club track retreievd from the former stone quarry site at Yeates Corner on Portland. This track was eventually replaced with lighter and more easier to assemble portable track in 2005.

Track-moving apart, the move to the College provided a period of welcome stability and mutual benefit during which facilities were added rather than rebuilt or taken away. Permission was granted to use the College workshop, and the Technology Block sprouted a small but heated and lit clubroom which on a cold winter’s evening was light-years away from meeting in the garage. The kettle, microwave and loo make us feel very civilised! The garage by now had been relegated to storage duties but no matter how many times it was tidied and re-organised, never seemed to be quite big enough for everything it was required to contain. The track gained a passing loop with station platform and a turntable with steaming bays. An attempt was made to ‘beautify’ the otherwise sterile environment around the college building with the addition of shrubs most of which survived in the ‘hostile’ surroundings!

The development of the track brought about a wave of engine building and visitors. Members’ projects seemed to get larger and more ambitious, with a large 4″-scale Quarry Hunslet and a Sweet William becoming regular performers and the occasional guest appearance of a Romulus. Nontheless the “Mighty” Wren remained the mainstay of the Club’s fund-raising efforts.

By 2007 everything was running as smoothly as a well-oiled Myford. Membership numbers were stable at around 25 and there were regular Saturday steam-ups, plus a full programme of fetes using the portable track. Successful summer barbecues replaced the more formal Annual Club Christmas Dinner.

Another milestone was reached in 2008 with the Club ‘Diamond Jubilee’. To mark this occasion the Club once again held a month-long exhibition at Weymouth Museum, Brewers Quay. At the AGM that year, the train well-and-truly hit the buffers again. A new Phase 1 of the College redevelopment programme would mean that half the track would have to be lifted while new building was erected adjacent to it. Uncertainty also existed as to how extensive the redevelopment was going to be and therefore whether the original track could or would ever be relaid. The Club once again entered a period of uncertainty.

The 2009 New Year’s Day Steam-up with hot pies and mushy peas was a poignant affair, knowing that it would be the last on that track. And so, mobilising any Club Member who could wield a spanner, push a barrow or make a cuppa, the track was lifted in only a few hours on a cold Saturday just a few days later. The other half of the track remains for the time being, but playing “out-and-back branch lines” has little appeal for the members. The offer by the College of a piece of ground not due for immediate development lead to the calling of a Special General Meeting where a vote was taken to take up this offer and once again prepared to move ‘lock, stock, barrel and garage’ to an overgrown ex-nature garden once used by the College science department. Age was now taking its toll on members but thanks to the loan of a JCB for a weekend, the overgrown site was cleared in double-quick time. Wood for shuttering, concrete slabs, topsoil and even a concrete mixer have been donated and the first concrete was laid on 2nd June 2009.

2009 also saw the arrival of 16mm guage railway into the Club. Dark cold Tuesday nights in the Club House with nothing to do but to talk about politics lead to the building of a 16mm portable layout that can be used on-site or transported to outside events. While work continued on the modular track boards, several members embarked on in building locos, mainly to ubiquious ‘Dennis’ or ‘Eric’ designs. The question remains as to whether we are having a 1954 ‘deja-vu’ moment again, only time will tell.

2011 saw the club move its track within the Budmouth site for the third time as a major rebuild of the school site took place. We were offered a piece of overgrown ground on the boundary of the site well away form the main buildings and alongside a new set of all-weather football fields (see Track page for pictures). At first the site looked very unpromising but after major site clearance activities and with the assistance of a mechanical digger, a trackbed was established. Track laying continues into 2012 and it is hoped that by late summer, a full circuit will be in operation.

The club also had a clear out of materials including the sale of the club’s 7 11/4″ Juliet which had been such a mainstay. Without knowing the exact dates but it looks like Juliet has been around since the mid ’60s. She has not gone far as she was bought by a club member. The proceeds of all this fundraising allowed the club to buy a new 7 1/4″ petrol-hydraulic loco to support the Wren. Of equal importance, we were able to buy a new trailer for moving the portable track around on. The fear with the old trailer was being stopped by the police because it was is such poor condition.

2011/12 also show an increase in membership and with this an increase in activities. As new track is laid other members are refurbishing the rolling stock and the 16mm portable track layout is almost complete. The club is alive and well.

In 2014, premised rebuilding and other difficulties at Purbeck School (Wareham) forced Purbeck Miniature Railway, started there 30 years previously with W&DMES help and material-donations, to close. The railway was dismantled, and parts sold or donated elsewhere included the turntable originally built in 1966 for the W&DMES raised track on Portland, and installed in a brickwork pit for the ground-level PMR lines. The few remaining members, including former W&DMES member Noel Donnelly who had overseen the school project, now help maintain and operate the Clay Mining Museum’s 2ft-gauge railway at Norden. By return, PMR donated two fully-operable semaphore signals to W&DMES.

2015 saw phase one of the 16mm outdoor track being completed in the Spring time, with the second stage phase of constructed starting in early 2016. The full report of phase one of the construction can be found on the track section of the website.