History of SSME

About the Society / A little history

The members of the Society practise model engineering as a hobby followed by people from many walks of life. The hobby embraces a wide range of engineering interests and includes miniature steam locomotives, road traction engines, vehicles, boats, clocks, tools and machinery of many lands. Many Model Engineers are self taught and members learn from each other. New members are always welcome and the only attribute required is an interest in model engineering. 

It is generally accepted that our Society was founded in 1912 as the Southampton Power Boat Club around the boating pool on Southampton Common. Indeed the archives show a very active boating presence on the ‘ornamental lake’ in the early 1950s. One regatta (October 4, 1951) shows some 20 different boats, tugs, destroyers, speed boats, racers in boat power and sail in evidence and all being watched by a crowd of some 1,500 as reported in the Echo. The enthusiasm for boats in the Society continued into the 1960s.By the 1950s the ‘club’ became known as the Southampton and District Society of Model Engineers and ‘we’ put on a grand exhibition in September 1958 at the Central Hall over 5 days. Photos show at least 25 boats on display and a sign saying ‘This way to passenger carrying railway!

Early Track .jpg

In early 1960s, the Southampton council agreed that the Society could build a raised track for rail operations in the area known as Cobden Meadows (or Riverside Park). This track, for 3 1/2” and 5” miniatures was opened in 1962 and seems to have been the start of a shift away from a preponderant interest in the boating side to an emphasis for rail. A visit to the ‘historical archive’ in the picture gallery will show much of the Society’s previous activities. It is also of interest that in 1962 the railway carried 10,991 passengers. The additional 7¼” ground level track was opened in 1997.