The Cambridge Model Engineering Society welcomes you. The Society enjoys a quiet and peaceful location bordering fields on the south western edge of the city. The M11 is nearby (but not too close!) giving easy access from all directions.
We run ground level steam, electric (and occasionally gas turbine) trains on 7¼in, 5in and 3½in tracks. On a nicely sized table top we have a new 32mm and 45mm garden railway.
With the Covid-19 restrictions now easing, we're considering how best to re-instate our public open days. While we'd love to open up as soon as is possible, our top priority is obviously the safety of our members and visitors. As we're sure you'll realise, a large proportion of the people who operate our railway are not in their "first flush of youth", and therefore are probably at a greater risk from the virus.
We also appreciate that a large part of the railway's appeal is the free-format nature of your visits, allowing our guests free access over the field etc. We feel that opening the site with overly onerous rules in terms of distancing, facilities, ticketing and train rides would detract from both your and our enjoyment of the day.
We've therefore decided to cancel our public open days until at least Sunday 30th August. As that date approaches we'll review the situation and the government's rules, and make a decision as to how to proceed. Please keep an eye on our website for our latest update.
Thank you for stopping by. We look forward to welcoming you back to our railway at the earliest opportunity. We're missing the trains as much as you are!
For the origins of the Society, we must go back over seventy-five years as it was formed in 1938 when there were fifteen people in the Cambridge area that had a common interest in Model Engineering and they eventually formed the nucleus of the Society.
Meetings in those early days were held in the Old Railway Band Room, off Argyle Street, and the Society continued in a small but active scale until 1939 when, at the outbreak of World War II, it was disbanded for the duration. However, Society activities were kept alive by several members who, despite the troubled times, still managed to run their model locomotives at local events to raise money for charities.
After the war, there was renewed interest in creative hobbies. The Society gradually expanded in numbers and the late Alderman H C Banham was elected as the first President in 1948. An exhibition was organised, and it was such a success that £150 (a lot of money in those days) was added to the Society's funds.
The Society flourished because of the President's guidance and the original members' experience and soon the cry went up for a meeting place and workshop facility. Thanks to the generosity of the local Education Authority, the Headmaster of Chesterton School made available the metal workshop on one or two evenings a week. This was acceptable but not very convenient and to obtain our own premises was the next goal. This was not so long in coming and in 1950, the Society acquired premises in Union Road. They were rather dilapidated but with enthusiasm and vigour, the place was knocked into shape to become the first Headquarters.
At this time, the President made available, 'rent free' a piece of land on which to build a continuous track. This was at Cam Road, Chesterton. An immense amount of time and effort was put into building the original track there. This experience was put to good use when the track at the present site at Newnham was built eight years later.
In December 1954, it was reluctantly decided the cost of maintaining the workshop, which incidentally also held a 00 gauge layout, had become prohibitive so the lease was not renewed and once again, the generosity of the Society's friends came to fore. Mr T B Smith offered, rent free, part of his garage premises in Herbert Street and these were retained until the business was sold in February 1958.
In January 1958, whilst planning an exhibition to be staged in the University Examination hall, we started negotiations for the piece of land at Newnham on which our present Headquarters and track are situated. Immediately the exhibition finished at the end of March 1958, attention was centred on the development of the site.
A few members designed the clubhouse as a joint effort, planning permission was obtained and work started on the two-acre site that had been lying uncultivated for several years. By the spring of 1959, the track was completed, the clubhouse erected and on June 20th that year, Sir Vivian Fuchs officially opened the site.
Many additional facilities and attractions were added to the site as time, money and materials permitted. Trees, shrubs and grass provided pleasant surroundings for visitors, not forgetting the catering facilities for that often much needed cup of tea. The site is private, and the aim has been to provide a place where the members can enjoy the fruits of our labours and entertain families and friends.
After more than 20 years of use, the elevated track became due for extensive repair and it was decided to replace it with a more ambitious ground level track. This multi-gauge (7¼in, 5in and 3½in) ground level railway track, approximately oval in plan and with a station avoiding loop, gave a continuous run of about a quarter of a mile. Steaming bays, access to which was gained via branch sections and turntables, allowed easy preparation and servicing of locomotives. A footbridge, level crossing for vehicles, station and signals completed the railway scene. A second dual-gauge (5in and 3½in) line was constructed on raised steel piers and runs along the southern boundary of the site to provide an out-and-back ride although this was subsequently scaled-back as it was little used, and it blocked the extension to the south.
In 1995, a new section was opened, this being devoted to 16mm scale, 32mm gauge garden railway. Over the next two years a railway was built which was laid out in a garden setting on one side of the site. The engines that run on this track may be steamed using butane gas, meths or coal. Battery powered locomotives are also used.
On the 16th May 1992, the original Clubhouse and Workshop, together with their contents, were destroyed by fire. The whole of the following year was filled with raising funds and reconstruction work. The Club now owns a substantial Clubhouse made of blockwork with timber cladding and was re-roofed after about 25-years. This provides a better and much more comfortable accommodation than previously. The secondary timber building, which was formerly a store and was used as a temporary Clubhouse during the reconstruction, had now become the new workshop and was fitted out as time and funds permitted. Further workshops and storage space were added as suitable buildings became available.
In the early 2010s the Society was offered the land to the north of the Fulbrooke Road site on which was constructed a loop turning the track into a figure 8 and extending it by approximately 1000 feet to over a third of a mile. The new loop included a flat-crossing and the opportunity was taken to re-signal the entire track with fully interlocked, microprocessor-controlled LED signals. A second locomotive preparation area was built with locomotive handling facilities included a traverser with a scissor lift to help in transferring locomotives into and out of trailers.
With the conclusion of work on the northern loop interest turned to replacing the worn-out garden railway. A new site was chosen which allowed for a bigger dual gauge (32mm and 45mm) table top layout which was closer to the public and generates a lot of interest during the public running days.
In the mid-2010s the field to the south of the site was bought by the University tennis club who relocated to it. Fortunately, a 15m wide strip adjacent to the site was added to the Society’s lease with the intention of constructing a paralleling line along the southern boundary. While drawing up the planning application for this extension a coach storage shed was added to the planning application. This allowed for the ground level storage of coupled rakes of coaches reducing the time and physical work required to prepare for and tidy up after a public running session.
As part of the ongoing management and development of the Newnham site, approximately 1000 trees were planted both individually and to form a hedge along the new southern boundary.
On the second Sunday of each summer month, April to October, the track is open to the public to inspect and ride upon these miniature trains. Car parking facilities are signposted nearby, and light refreshments are obtainable.
Steam railway locomotives and train rides are perhaps the active aspects of our work that people most often see, but the interests of our members cover the whole range of Model Engineering - traction engines, clocks, marine engines, mill engines - in fact whatever can be modelled in working or static form.
Regular, informal, meetings are held on Thursdays and Sundays throughout the year at the Newnham site although it is not a surprise to find members working to improve the site on other days of the week. Not only are track facilities available to members but there is also a wealth of good advice for the novice which may be readily obtained from the membership.
On 31st December 2016 all the activities of CMES were novated to Cambridge & District Model Engineering Society Ltd. (No. 10504908)
Located on the southern edge of Cambridge, we enjoy a beautiful park location where miniature trains of varying scales and methods of propulsion meander between trees and through grassy areas with a welcome stop for tea and cakes in the club house.
Yes, it really is as idyllic as it sounds. Some members particularly enjoy the pleasant surroundings as one way to switch off from the stress of their working lives. (No, we didn't say 'and to get away from their families'! In fact family members of all ages join in with the work or just enjoy the atmosphere.)
Most members do not have a professional engineering background and in many cases do not not pursue 'engineering' as a hobby. What they do have is a shared interest (sometimes a passion) for all things in miniature.
There is lots to do so why not join the Society? Please contact us via the Membership Enquiry Form.
Our miniature railway can be found on the western side of Cambridge in the Newnham district. We are behind Cambridge Rugby Club's ground and access is via Fulbrooke Road. When we are open to the public the site is signposted from Barton Road. At the end of Fulbrooke Road there will be yellow sign pointing you in the correct direction.
Where and when possible we will display signs showing where parking is available. Please note Fulbrooke Road is Residents Only Parking which is enforced by traffic wardens who patrol the area each day of the week.
A collection of both recent and not so recent images can be found on Flickr.
During the months from the end of October until the beginning of April we are busy carrying out essential maintenance on the track, improving the facilities, extending the track, tidying up, gardening, painting and many other activities.
As you travel around the track on your train you will notice that there are improvements taking place and where we have not quite finished things off. We are all volunteers and no-one gets paid for the work that gets done around the site. Work gets done as we have both the 'manpower' and the money to afford it. (For example, the track extension required almost 2 tonnes of rail which was not cheap!)
On Public Running days we get a number of non-human visitors. You might see a teddy bears' picnic taking place, a monster trying to climb a tree, cuddly toys watching you or, perhaps most surreal, a dolphin in a tree. Don't worry, they all go home when the trains stop running where they remain warm and dry until the next Public Running day.
Our members have a variety of engines that they bring down to our open days. Some of these are electrically powered (typically 'car' batteries hidden underneath the body), a couple are powered by petrol engines but the majority of them are real steam engines. They have a coal fire that is used to turn water into steam which is used to drive pistons which in turn are used to turn the wheels. They do not have batteries but have a very hot coal fire so please mind little hands! Our engines may be small but they use the same principles that the 'big' trains do and are just as hot. They are most definitely not toys!
Our members have a variety of engines that they bring down to our open days. Some of these are electrically powered (typically 'car' batteries hidden underneath the body), a couple are powered by petrol engines but the majority of them are real steam engines. They are most definitely not toys!
Yes, we have a café that is open inside the clubhouse that sells hot and cold drinks, cakes and biscuits and sometimes ice creams.
Children of all ages are welcome on our trains but if they are under 5 and adult needs to accompany them. We believe that a single adult can sensibly manage up to two children at once.
We are, at heart, an engineering society and as such we do not have extensive facilities especially when the weather is not too good. Generally speaking, if we have advertised an open day then we will run the trains although we may stop if the weather becomes too wet - it's no fun for anyone. If you have tickets that you have not used then don't worry since you can use them at subsequent public running days.
Although our site covers several acres it can become quite busy on public running days so we would respectfully ask that you refrain from playing balls games or other games that involve objects flying around such as frisbees. There is a further issue which is that objects can land on the track and while our drivers pay the greatest attention to the track ahead of them an object landing on the track will cause a train to stop until it is cleared (by a Society member) and delay everyones' journeys.
Yes. The drivers of the trains have to obey the signals which are modelled on the same principle as the 'big' railway. They are an essential part of the safety systems that we use to ensure that your ride is safe.
We are a model engineering society at heart and we open to the public on, usually, 7 times year. The money that we raise from providing rides is ploughed back into our site to improve and extend the track and, for 2013, a new locomotive and coaches. Generally speaking we are not able to accommodate requests to hold private events for non-members of the Society.
Our railway supports 3 different gauges of track (the gauge is the spacing between the rails). Our track works with engines that have wheels that are spaced at either 3½", 5" or 7¼". The recently added extension only supports the larger two gauges.
Regrettably dogs are not allowed on our site. This is due to the large number of people who visit us particularly excitable youngsters (and not quite youngsters!). Guide dogs are, obviously, excepted.
We open to the public for Running Days on the second Sunday of the month from April to October inclusive. The gates to the site are open from 12.30pm and trains run from 1.30pm until 5.30pm.
|The dates for 2020 are:|
|☛ 12th April ☚||☛ 14th June ☚||☛ 9th August ☚||☛ 11th October ☚|
|☛ 10th May ☚||☛ 12th July ☚||☛ 11th September ☚|
While we do have a small amount of car parking available on our site there are times when there will be signs on Grantchester Road directing you to alternative, nearby, parking. We are very grateful to Cambridge Rugby Club for allowing us to make occasional, where possible, use of their car park which adjoins our site. Please note Fulbrooke Road is Residents Only Parking which is enforced by traffic wardens who patrol the area each day of the week.
Many of our visitors cycle or walk where possible.
The café is open on Public Running days selling hot and cold drinks should you need a drink.
Each train ride requires a ticket although under-3s are free. Under-5s require an adult to accompany them.
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There is no expiry for unused tickets; Tickets can be used at any of our future Open Days.
Tickets can be purchased from the station Ticket Office during our Open Days.
Please note we can only accept payments by Cash/Cheque; We do not have the facility to accept payments by Card.
A question that we are frequently asked is 'can I hold my son or daughter's birthday party at your ground?'. We welcome people to hold their parties at our site during our Public Running Days but would respectfully remind your that we are a model engineering society and do not have facilities to entertain children nor to provide cover in the event of rain. People who have held parties in the past have generally brought 'patio marquees' with them to protect against the rain.
If you would like to hold your party then please note that while the trains will not start until 1.30pm the gates are open at 12.30pm. If you wish to unload your party equipment from a car we ask that the central part of our ground be kept free of cars between 1.30pm and 5.30pm.
One of the joys of our site is that it is tucked away in a fairly quiet (except for the sound of steam whistles!) corner of Cambridge.
We do not have a rubbish/refuse collection so we ask that you take any rubbish home with you and dispose of it there.