by Derek Brown

Recent articles in the SMEE Journal by Mike Tilby (turbines) and Neil Heppenstall (drilling spindles) brought back memories to me, insofar that they referred to some of the work done and published many years ago by Edgar Westbury (below). Those references recalled that great (in more ways than one) man, who made so many contributions to Model Engineer, in the years spanning the second World War, and indeed until the 1960s. In turn my memories prompted me to reminisce, and to recall a couple of coincidences in more recent years.

I joined the Sutton Model Engineering Club in the mid 1950s, full of enthusiasm for building some sort of a model and still based in my parents’ home within cycling distance of Sutton, so  I was able to attend the monthly meetings at the site where they are still based (just off the Sutton Bypass). I found myself a member of a small band of junior members, who were quite useful for performing some of the more agile tasks around the site. It was at these meetings that I first met Edgar T Westbury, a rather large gentleman who was obviously well revered and respected by the membership. Standing well over 6ft. tall and with rather droopy, but piercing eyes, he was not to be argued with when he made one of his statements of fact. His literary output was really phenomenal in the magazine, but I respected him for having time and willingness to talk to and encourage the younger generation, of which I was part. He used to call me ‘Laddie’. So my memories of ETW as he was known are really positive. He was always to be addressed as ‘Mr Westbury’, never by his Christian name. They don’t make them  like that these days.

So my memories of the Sutton Club were cemented by getting to know two of the other members of similar age to myself. Both had made a flying start in the hobby; David Howard had built a 5in. gauge Maid of Kent, using I believe his father’s workshop facilities and John  Merritt had a 3 1 /2  in. gauge Virginia; both kindly taught me to drive.

In 1960 I moved far away from the area, so I lost touch with the Society, taking the fond memories with me. It was not until the second half of the 1980s when, as chief mechanical engineer of British Sugar, I was involved in buying a new steam turbo-alternator for one of our factories. One of the manufacturers, ABB, recommended that we visit one of their installations at Courtaulds’ factory near Derby, since it was of similar type to the machine which we wished  to buy. I duly drove over to Derby with a colleague, where we had to wait in the office of the power station engineer until another colleague arrived. As we were made welcome in his office talking about steam generation and other riveting things, I recognized a certain little chuckle in his voice, which confirmed to me his identity as the David Howard whom I had known 30 years before. Somehow I had not until that time connected the name of our host with my past experiences, but having made the recognition, we were again on common ground  and were able to reminisce about life in the Sutton area.

It was some years later that I was invited by the Sutton Club to judge their summer exhibition. I decided to make the easy journey by train, using the Thameslink line through our (SMEE’s) very own Loughborough Junction to Sutton Common, very close to the club’s premises. They  insisted on meeting me at the station and, to our mutual delight, the person who met me was John Merritt. That was good cause for more reminiscence and we swapped news about David and our experiences during the late 1950s. All three of us had maintained our interests in making or rebuilding things and looked well on our happy early days in the Sutton Club.

From that early rush of enthusiasm, the Sutton Club fired my interest in the hobby and a couple of years after moving away I completed my first locomotive, a Juliet, which still resides in a box within my workshop. Still in working order, although currently without a boiler

ticket, it forms that vital link for me with my early days in the hobby.

Our thanks to Derek Brown (below) - his article first appeared in the SMEE Journal.