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Let the train take the strain at Barton's Point Sheerness

By John Nurden

Imagine driving your own train around a track? For some, it's the ultimate big boys' toy.

It's what Sheppey Miniature Model Engineering Society's 50 members can do on their third-of-a-mile circuit at Barton's Point Coastal Park, Sheerness.

They have been giving rides to youngsters, and their parents, for the past 40 years but many Islanders are still unaware they exist.

Retired bank manager Nigel Ingram, balancing the books at the Sheppey Miniature Model Engineering Society at Barton's Point, Sheerness (2713853)
Retired bank manager Nigel Ingram, balancing the books at the Sheppey Miniature Model Engineering Society at Barton's Point, Sheerness (2713853)

"It's Sheppey's best-kept secret," admitted treasurer Nigel Ingram.

The retired HSBC bank manager from Sittingbourne has to balance the books.

It costs £4,000 a year to maintain the track, pay for insurance, repair vandalism and add new attractions.

But there is only so much the £1 rides can pay for.

Now the Sheppey Pirates' annual landing and water-fight has been cancelled (a new Pirates' Pitch Party will be held at the Sheppey Rugby Club next Saturday, August 4) the committee is bracing itself for a £700 financial hole.

The club is in danger of being derailed.

Station sign at the Sheppey Miniature Engineering and Model Society at Barton's Point, Sheerness (2713881)
Station sign at the Sheppey Miniature Engineering and Model Society at Barton's Point, Sheerness (2713881)

Mr Ingram, 68, said: "The repercussions of losing the Pirates will hit us hard. We want to remind Islanders we are still here and should not be forgotten."

So they are pulling out all the stops this weekend (July 28 and 29) for their 40th anniversary bash.

On Saturday, visiting clubs from across Kent will run their own locomotives on the raised model railway track.

There will be 11 steam traction engines from miniature to half-size and there will be sweet treats for youngsters riding the trains and a limited number of 40th souvenir gifts for the "big kids."

Steam punk group Great Kentspectations will be on site both days with its tea-pot racing.

There will also be model boats sailing on the boating pond which has been specially refilled with 6,380 gallons of water for the anniversary.

Sheppey FM roadshow will be present.

Members come from all walks of life, including a lorry driver and a real train driver.

Boat fans Martin Nealey, left, Mick Culverwell, centre, and Rodney Atkins at the empty pond of the Sheppey Miniature Model Engineering Society site at Barton's Point, Sheerness (2713877)
Boat fans Martin Nealey, left, Mick Culverwell, centre, and Rodney Atkins at the empty pond of the Sheppey Miniature Model Engineering Society site at Barton's Point, Sheerness (2713877)

Among them are former London cabbie Mick Culverwell, 68, from Halfway who has a radio-controlled model tug;

Musician and actor Rodney Atkins, 74, from Wards Hill, Minster, who is building a replica of Lord Nelson's flagship the Victory;

Martin Nealey, 69, from Southsea Avenue, Minster, who drives a £32,000 road-legal scale model steam traction engine;

And Ian White, a 57-year-old paramedic with the London Ambulance Service from Minster. Ian has a Class 29 British Railways diesel train which is so detailed it even has a model bacon sandwich in the cab for the driver.

Paramedic Ian White administering some tender loving care to his Class 29 diesel at Sheppey Miniature Model Engineering Society at Barton's Point, Sheerness (2713879)
Paramedic Ian White administering some tender loving care to his Class 29 diesel at Sheppey Miniature Model Engineering Society at Barton's Point, Sheerness (2713879)

But it's not all about chaps.

Mum-of-two Akeza-Maria McCallister, 31, from Faversham runs a pink locomotive.

Her dad Phil Harpum, 68, who worked at Sittingbourne's brick fields before retiring, has five trains including the popular Halloween Special made from an old coffin.

Family affair: Alex-Maria McCallister from Faversham and dad Phil Harpum from Sittingbourne at the Sheppey Miniature Model Engineering Society site at Barton's Point, Sheerness (2713856)
Family affair: Alex-Maria McCallister from Faversham and dad Phil Harpum from Sittingbourne at the Sheppey Miniature Model Engineering Society site at Barton's Point, Sheerness (2713856)

For details, visit the club's website www.sheppeymodelengineering.co.uk

Martin Nealey with his Brutus traction engine at the Sheppey Miniature Model Engineering Society site at Barton's Point, Sheerness (2713875)
Martin Nealey with his Brutus traction engine at the Sheppey Miniature Model Engineering Society site at Barton's Point, Sheerness (2713875)
Bob Dawson, chairman of the Sheppey Miniature Model Engineering Society in the workshop at Barton's Point, Sheerness (2713870)
Bob Dawson, chairman of the Sheppey Miniature Model Engineering Society in the workshop at Barton's Point, Sheerness (2713870)
Nigel Ingram driving Minster florist Kalina Wierszycka and her son Antoni, 3, round the Sheppey Miniature Engineering and Model Society at Barton's Point, Sheerness (2713885)
Nigel Ingram driving Minster florist Kalina Wierszycka and her son Antoni, 3, round the Sheppey Miniature Engineering and Model Society at Barton's Point, Sheerness (2713885)
On track: treasurer Nigel Ingram on driver duty at for the Sheppey Miniature Engineering and Model Society at Barton's Point, Sheerness (2713883)
On track: treasurer Nigel Ingram on driver duty at for the Sheppey Miniature Engineering and Model Society at Barton's Point, Sheerness (2713883)

History

The Sheppey Miniature Model Engineering Society was created in 1978 by two teachers, Les Bryant and John Wheeler, and engineer Ken Halls.

Chairman Bob Dawson said: "The three asked newsagents for the names of anyone ordering model-making magazines and invited each one to attend a meeting at the Ship Inn, Queenborough (now the Aviator)."

Further meetings followed at the Sheppey Comprehensive School in Minster (now Oasis Academy) and Sheppey Yacht Club in Sheerness before moving to the Sea Cadets' site at Barton's Point.

The mayor opens the new track of the Sheppey Miniature Engineering and Model Society at Barton's Point, Sheerness, in 1985 (3276455)
The mayor opens the new track of the Sheppey Miniature Engineering and Model Society at Barton's Point, Sheerness, in 1985 (3276455)

Members built a five-inch portable track to give rides at fetes and open days to raise money to build the current raised permanent railway line.

In July, 1985, the society was given a licence by Swale council to build and operate the track along with a circuit for radio-controlled cars. The model boating lake came later.

Members acquired an old railway boxcar for a station building and built a timber clubhouse which was destroyed in an arson attack in 1998.

A replacement now stands next to the station.

The original wooden clubhouse of the Sheppey Miniature Engineering and Model Society whihc was destroyed by fire at Barton's Point, Sheerness, in 1998 (3276452)
The original wooden clubhouse of the Sheppey Miniature Engineering and Model Society whihc was destroyed by fire at Barton's Point, Sheerness, in 1998 (3276452)

Most members have their own locomotives. The club's carriages are kept in a low-level store.

The railway runs Sunday afternoons during the summer plus bank holidays and Saturdays in the school holidays.

Charred ruins of the Sheppey Miniature Engineering and Model Society clubhouse at Barton's Point, Sheerness, after an arson attack in 1998 (3276458)
Charred ruins of the Sheppey Miniature Engineering and Model Society clubhouse at Barton's Point, Sheerness, after an arson attack in 1998 (3276458)

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