By John Dalton

IT WAS 31 years earlier, in May 1981, that the Chelmsford club last hosted the Southern Federation Summer Rally and according to the Club records model engineers from all over the country attended the event. The highlight of that day was Geoff  Haythornetwait’s  5” Garratt locomotive that came all the way from Leeds and had to be steamed up on the ground because the steaming bays were not long enough. It was nice to meet Tony Wall and Arthur Bellamy at this year’s Rally who also came with Geoff all those years ago, Tony and Arthur are members of a small group of travellers known as the ‘travelling  steamers’  who travel all over the country with their caravans attending rallies. 

This year’s event held on the 15th September 2012 and we were blessed with near perfect weather for steaming. The Sunday was a Public Open day giving rides and raising money for the club.

Preparations for the event had begun a year or so earlier when Mr Southern Federation, Brian Thompson, asked if we could handle the task. We then set up a sub-committee of three members and visited the previous two rallies to pick up tips on organising the event. Of course many things have changed over the last thirty years including the way our site has developed but the one thing we found most difficult to manage was deciding how many people were coming so we could arrange a buffet lunch. A large Gazebo was set up and this was filled with member’s models (above) and in the clubhouse we had a selection of smaller models and stationary engines.

First on the ground level track and I think he was the last off on the Sunday as well was Brian Remnant with his 5” gauge modified sweet pea Lady Margaret(above) a sweeter running engine you will not see and she purred around the track from morning to evening both days. Brian was joined on the ground level track for most of the day by John Walker with his Marie Estelle (left).

A loco not often modelled these days is a Princes Marina in 3.5” gauge and Mr Rushmer from Cambridge came with loco and a selection of scale wagons and with the aid of Francis Rogers from Canvey who brought six 3.5” gauge fully fitted wagons we made up a proper goods train of 19 wagons.

From just south of the river Thames came Sue and Martin Parham from Maidstone they brought little and large locos  Jack  a small 3.5” gauge tank loco that looks as if it is based on LBSC’s Juliet (above) and Lord President a 5” gauge Gresley Mikado P2 Class loco  (left) that purred around the track all day long.

Another visitor from south of the river and builder of unusual models was Jim Wilks he was giving his LNWR Webb compound a rest and so brought his 4 cylinder European Mallet loco for an outing and it certainly created a lot of interest, other locos steaming were David and Frances Mayall with Conway (left) Tony Wall with his
Speedy (above). Richard and Alex Linkins steamed their Black 5 and G. Ewers bought his 9F from just up the road from the Colchester club (below).

A difficult loco to build and get looking right is a B.R. Class 4 tank loco and Bob Richbell came from Welling with his magnificent 5” loco (above) this type of loco is well known at Chelmsford as one of our members Don Ketley built a 71/4” version that won a gold medal.

Not far from here is the London Tilbury Southend line and Graham Gain had brought along his award winning Suburban 4-4-2 tank loco (above) these locos were built around 1910 and scrapped in the late 1950s all except Thundersley which was preserved.  Graham had come for the weekend in a camper van with his wife and on arrival Friday evening was keen to get the loco unloaded so that his wife was able to open the fridge door so that dinner could be cooked! He spent the Saturday running on the ground level track and the Sunday helping us out passenger hauling on the raised track.

One of the furthest travellers to the rally this year were Glyn and George Winsall with their 5” gauge S.R. U class Mogul this is a type of loco not often modelled and it ran effortlessly around the track all afternoon as one would expect from this family of master loco builders. Later on in the day Glyn was awarded the Australian Association of  Live Steamers Trophy that was presented by the Federation Chairman and after an examination of postcodes and having not won the award before it was found that Glyn had also won the award for member travelling furthest and steaming which this year was a hand painted wall clock with the Chelmsford badge and rally date.

I was disappointed that a few more road vehicle models had not attended the event but being a steam roller fan was delighted that Paul Clarke had brought along his 4.5” scale model of a Wallis & Stevens 8 Ton Advanced Roller (above)  the full size engines were built in the 1920s  and were the pinnacle of steam roller design at that time but inevitably gave way to Diesel. A nice finishing touch were the scale road works signs, oil lamps, barriers, brazier, teapot, wheel barrow, shovel and brush and when set up with the loco gave a lovely 1920s diorama. He was joined by John Gray and Mervyn Greeves from Chelmsford club making up the numbers.

We wanted to make the event special so planned a fish & chip supper and entertainment in the evening, we were fortunate that two members of the club Ian & Stewart Gabriel both talented musicians and together with their friends formed the ‘Gabriel Jam band’ playing mainly 60s rock n roll music in two large Gala tents that we set up in the centre of the site and around 60 people stayed on for the lunch and music or perhaps it was the lure of a 36 pint polypin of Real Ale that really made them stay!

Sunday was a general running day for the club and it had been widely advertised on local radio we even managed to get a friend to bring his full size Rolls Royce Merlin engine that came out of a Lancaster bomber to the show, this is mounted on the back of a trailer and on every hour during the day for 4 or 5 minutes we stopped all trains whilst he coaxed this magnificent artefact into life the noise certainly brought a large crowd over every time it was started up.

Finally thanks all of our visitors, the Chelmsford members who put the hard graft in setting up the site the week before the event and helping out during the weekend and the Chelmsford ladies who worked tirelessly keeping everyone fed.