Temple Newsam Park, 1960 – 1980

In the early years activities had focussed on formal meetings at Salem Chapel with visiting speakers, workshop activities and the running of an ‘O’ gauge layout at the premises of Francis Cooke in Kidacre Street near the centre of Leeds. In addition a key activity which provided the main source of income was the operation of a portable passenger carrying railway at events around the Leeds area.

The decision to build a permanent passenger carrying railway changed the focus of activities of the Club and started a new era of social  activity within the Club. There is a commentary in the Club Minute Books concerning the construction of the permanent track at Temple Newsam and this gives an indication of the large amount of work which was carried out by a small number of people. One entry stated ‘177 footings completed, 170 spans erected and 3,500 sleepers cut’. Advice was sought from other Clubs and a Mr. Glover, Chairman of Nottingham S.M.E.E, came to a meeting and provided advice. The track was built by just a handful of working party members headed by a Mr. Hainsworth who was clearly a driving force behind the project. It is also clear that Mr. H. Donald of the firm Messrs. H. & A. Donald of Garforth did much to provide building materials to assist with the build. He was President of the Club at that time.  The construction of the track was a tremendous achievement given that at the time the Club had barely half the membership it has today.

After five years of hard work by members at Temple Newsam Park the new miniature railway track was opened on the 9th July 1960 by Mr. W. J. Hughes the well- known model engineer and technical author. Commensurate with the start of running the railway the Club Rules were revised since there was now a focus was passenger carrying in a public park. Locomotive boiler details were formalised and printed on card and three experienced members were nominated to assess the competency of any driver who was to pull members of the public. There was mention of the appointment of Boiler Inspectors, although there does not seem to have been a formal testing procedure at that time. One simple rule which was added was that any members ‘Private Running’ must not carry the public as passengers.

The year 1960 was a busy one.  Following the official opening of the track there were a number of ‘invitation running days’ when clubs from around the region were invited to come and make use of the track. It had also been intended to have an exhibition once again at the Corn Exchange in Leeds but the event was cancelled due to rising costs coinciding with a depleted bank balance as a result of track building.

Formal meetings continued to be held at Salem Chapel with an active programme of visiting speakers but in 1963 workshop meetings were discontinued at Francis Cook’s premises in Kidacre Street and the activity transferred to Temple Newsam. Speakers at Salem Chapel in the early 1960s talked about draughtsmanship, mill engines, making injectors, gear cutting, petrol hydraulic locomotives, brazing and many other topics.

During the 1960s the pattern of activities comprised public running of the permanent track between March and October on Sundays and Bank Holidays plus Saturdays in some years, recommencement of portable track events albeit to a lesser extent than previously, visits to other societies, an annual coach trip to the Model Engineer Exhibition, an annual dinner, a visiting clubs day, an annual photographic competition and a traction engine night when members and visitors were given trolley rides.

In 1961 a Ladies Committee was formed and in 1962 the foundations were laid for a new pavilion to replace an existing tin shed which was dismantled. An existing ladies tea hut was moved to the rear of the new pavilion to become a ladies toilet and changing room.

In 1962 there were a total of 46 members, the President being Mr. J. Hainsworth, Chairman Mr. Faulkes and Secretary Mr. R. Jeffrey. Membership cost 15/- for the first year including a club badge and 10/- a year thereafter. Positive news in 1962 was that Leeds City Parks Department renewed the Club Lease for seven more years and the Ladies Pavilion and new carriage sheds were completed. The huge disappointment was that a severe storm blew down three large trees which fell onto the track smashing the beams whilst a further two trees fell onto the fencing causing extensive damage.  Undeterred, Alf Bennett’s Traction Engine Night continued un-hindered and was a big success for the fifth year in succession. The same year an invitation Leeds SMEE Traction Engine Rally was held at the works of McClaren Fabrications Ltd. at which there were one hundred people and twenty-three traction engines. Also in 1962 the Club recommenced its exhibition at the Corn Exchange but now on a shared basis with the Leeds Model Railway Society. The exhibition was also held in 1963, 1964 and 1965.

In 1964 work started on the construction of a traction engine track and locomotive sheds. However, vandalism occurred when the workshop and carriage sheds were broken into.

During 1967 there were 5646 passenger rides given at Temple Newsam which raised £77 whilst the portable track ran at Messrs. Crompton Parkinson’s Children’s Day, St. Georges Hospital, Harrogate and at Harwood House in support of the Leeds and District Traction Engine Club.  In the same year outgoing President Mr. E. Wanless said that he proposing to award a trophy annually for work done by junior members. As we all know, the Wanless Trophy is still awarded annually on Trophy Night. Also in 1967 the Club enrolled a group of members at the Foxwood Evening Institute, Seacroft and they jointly began work on a locomotive powered by a petrol driven generator driving traction motors.

In 1968 there were 7364 rides given at Temple Newsam but there were also further instances of vandalism and also complaints from neighbouring properties concerning excessive noise after dusk including the blowing of whistles.  (trains had guards who were issued with whistles!)

The period from 1965 to 1970 was a period of high activity for the Club. There were of talks at evening meetings at Salem Chapel on a variety of topics including boiler making, valve gears, painting and lining, model ship construction and brazing. There were visits to other model engineering societies including Sunderland, Bournemouth, Newcastle, York, Grimsby and Buxton as well outings to Weymouth, Stapleford Park, Torquay, the Birmingham Museum of Science and Industry and the London Model Engineering Exhibition. There were many visits from other Clubs including Hull, Tyneside, York, Sunderland and the local Clubs including Bradford, Keighley and the West Riding Small Locomotive Society. The portable track was also in use on a handful of occasions each year and there were annual bookings at Messrs. Crompton Parkinson’s Children’s Day and the Yorkshire Association for the Disabled  in Harrogate.

In 1970 the Club held its own exhibition at the Foxwood School, Seacroft and in 1971 an exhibition was held in the entrance hall of the Yorkshire Evening Post in Wellington Street, Leeds.

In 1972 there was a lot of discussion about boiler inspection and insurance. Leeds S.M.E.E was insured directly with the Royal Insurance Company of Liverpool and as such although there was a register of boilers there was no formal procedure for testing boilers and no boiler certificates were issued. This began to limit club members running on other local tracks due to boiler certificates being a requirement of the ‘group’ insurance that these clubs had via membership of one or other the National Federations. Boiler procedures were therefore drawn up and Martin Evans was asked to review the procedures to confirm their suitability. It was to be a further ten years before the Club joined the Southern Federation and transferred to the group insurance scheme.

In 1974 disaster struck the society. Vandalism at Temple Newsam was on the increase and three buildings were broken into and the pavilion set on fire and destroyed. Morale was badly affected by the vandalism and some members lost their enthusiasm. There was a shortage of locomotives for public running despite many being owned within the club and the planning of speaker evenings for the next year at Salem Chapel was proving difficult. The situation was made worse by major damage being caused later the same year by vandals, this time to the passenger trollies. It was decided therefore to start a search for an alternative site on which to build a new track. Locomotive running ceased although members met on Monday evenings to do what they could to protect the assets at the Temple Newsam site.

In January 1976 more damage was sustained when two large trees blew down during a gale damaging the track and the carriage shed. A start was therefore made on dismantling the track just sixteen years after the official opening. By October the track had been lifted and the beams and pillars stacked awaiting future use. The search for a new site gained impetus and enquiries were made with Leeds City Council for an alternative site. Sites were also sought at Sherburn in Elmet, Becca Hall, Leeds University, John Smith’s Brewery at Tadcaster, Saville Brothers Garden Centre and Seacroft Hospital.

By 1977 members seem to have ‘rallied round’ and meetings at Salem Chapel had better attendance. One meeting which took place considered converting the Club to a limited company. In November 1977 the hut storing the track at Temple Newsam was broken into and as a precaution the track, beams and pillars were all removed to storage.

For various reasons none of the sites being investigated looked promising.   However, Arthur Bellamy reported back in November 1977 that a site might be available at Eggborough Power Station. A group at the power station, which included some Leeds S.M.E.E members, had formed a Railway Society with the intention of preserving a standard gauge locomotive and there appeared to be mutual interest in Leeds S.M.E.E moving to Eggborough. In January 1978 a ‘verbal ok’ was given.  By April 1978 70% of the track had been moved to Eggborough but Temple Newsam was in a poor state with the workshop having been demolished and the Pavilion being progressively torn apart by vandals.

Working Parties were established to tidy up Temple Newsam and a Track Committee formed to build the new track at Eggborough. Not only had the track to be built but new riding cars were needed as four of the six Temple Newsam cars had been badly vandalised. The Track Committee comprised Arthur Bellamy, David Beale, John Powell, John Dickinson and Ron Jeffrey. An early decision was that the track would be built as a three rail 3 ½ and 5 ins. gauge track rather than the four rail system which had been in use at Temple Newsam.

Agreement was reached with the Power Station that Leeds S.M.E.E would retain its own identity, that water and electricity supplies would be available and that the power station would assist with landscaping. In addition 40% of members could become Associate members of the Eggborough Sports and Social Club which was quite a concession since at that time such Clubs were essentially for use by power station employees. The Associate Members were chosen in descending order of the number of combined attendances at Salem Chapel meetings and Eggborough working parties.

Track construction started in 1978 and on the 23rd June 1980 the ‘golden rail’ was welded signifying completion of the track circuit after two years of hard work. The track was completed just in time for the 28th June when trains ran around the track for the power station Open Day and a model display was put on for visitors in an adjacent marquee. This was a busy day as the portable track was also running at Crompton Parkinson’s in Guisley for their annual Children’s Day, an annual commitment that the Club had met for many years.

After the trauma of the vandalism at Temple Newsam and the huge effort required in relocating the track, a new era commenced at Eggborough.