As editor, it’s one of my hopes to visit various Model Engineering societies and see their facilities for myself. Having visited a few already, it’s apparent that there is a great variation between them in facilities and the interests of members. What they all seem to have in common is a shared facility with good sized lathes and milling machines - and often other machines like shapers and surface grinders. This combination of heavy equipment and plenty of friendly advice should be borne in mind by any ‘lone hand’ hobby engineer. While many will join a club to use its track and perhaps take advantage of a boiler-testing service, the other benefits of membership should not be ignored.

My interest was particularly piqued by discovering that the Chesterfield Model Engineering Society had constructed a new purpose-built workshop. Although it has still not been fully kitted out, this was still something I wanted to see.

My helpful host was Ian, a very sprightly seventy year old who, if my memory serves, had been a member of the the club since the late fifties! The club still encourages youngsters today, and membership fees for ‘juniors’ might best be described as ‘nominal’. There is a good sized clubhouse, and light meals were available. I won’t go into great detail about the railway tracks at Hady, as the site is known. Suffice to say that the club knows how to squeeze a quart into a pint pot, with generous facilities from gauge 0 up to 7 ¼”, six gauges in all. 5” gauge is best served with the run of the raised track and the ground level track, which is signalled and has pneumatic points.

The story of how the club came, after many years and a few setbacks, to own the freehold of the land. The security of tenure this offers gave the club the confidence to invest in some serious building work. There are civilised loos, which include baby change facilities, but I am sure readers will be most interested in the ‘new workshop’, completed in late 2013.

The workshop, which also houses the club shop and some of their storage, was built partly with funding loaned on generous terms by several members.  Although not fully kitted out, the members are already making good use of the new facility.

Note the model of the prototype Deltic in the back of the shot. Clearly a pragmatic bunch, I appreciated their ‘engineer’s flowchart’.

Among the equipment waiting to be properly installed was a huge Herbert pillar drill, probably about seven foot tall.  Perhaps this is one drill that really is ‘suitable for light milling’! As might be expected there was a Myford, in this case a nice late ML7, if memory serves me right, under a dustsheet. An even bigger lathe, of considerable age and about three-feet between centres was nearby. Probably of about 4 ½” centre height and with flat belt drive, neither I nor my host had any idea of its type, and we could not find a maker’s plate or a cast-in name on the bed. It looks a very useful piece of kit, despite its age, and the slides worked very smoothly. Presently ‘just visiting’ a wooden desk, I trust it will find its final home on its elegant cast legs.

On the opposite side of the workshop, was the control panel for the pneumatic point switching on the complex dual gauge 5”/7 ¼” ground level track. I should have taken a photograph, as with its big dials and glowing lamps it looked like something from a 1940s power station.

Next door to the workshop proper is the curiously named ‘Aunty Wainwrights’s Shop’. If you get a chance to attend one of Chesterfield’s open days, make a beeline for the shop.

It’s an Aladdin’s Cave full of light engineering equipment and materials, and all at very fair prices. Things that caught my attention included two small lathes – a lovely little Pultra and a Boxford - I think the latter is the early model A, but I stand to be corrected.

There were many smaller items, a boxed Mitotyu dial gauge for just £10 looked an excellent buy for a beginner setting up a workshop, as would some small instrument vices at ‘pocket money’ prices.

Unfortunately the day of my visit was a bit rain-sodden, so there weren’t a huge number of locos running, although there was another nice Deltic and Ian’s lovely Pansy (a GWR 14xx) on the raised track and a Sweet Pea and a nice diesel outline shunter busy on the ground level. I was made very welcome and enjoyed myself, and I look forward to returning to Chesterfield on a sunnier day, once the workshop is truly up and running. I will also remember to take my pocket money with me next time!