The Queensland Society of Model and Experimental Engineers was founded by Mr. Norm Shannon on 17 February 1932.
The first meeting took place in Room 413, 4th. Floor, Colonial Mutual Building, Queen Street Brisbane, next door to the G.P.O. There were 10 persons in attendance. They were: Mr. Norm Shannon, Mr. Hardy Eustace, Mr. Bill Kenyon, Mr. Doug Vincent, Mr. Harry Smith, Mr. Vic Darra, Mr. Harold Tate, Mr. Hunt, Mr. Percy Benson and Mr. Chas Guymer. Norm Shannon was the Society’s first President and Vic. Darra the first Secretary/Treasurer. (The Secretary and Treasurer’s positions were combined until 1966.)
The QSMEE was the first model club in Queensland and for many years catered for those also interested in model cars, aeroplanes, boats and electric/clockwork trains. Other societies were formed after 1948 to cater more specifically for the needs of these sections of the hobby. The first exhibition of models of members’ work was held at the home of Mr. Hardy Eustace in Teneriffe on July 16, 1932.
To 2013, 17 people have held the position of President, the longest serving being Mr. Len Thompson with 14 continuous years. Charlie Garner, an early identity of the Society, held the position of Secretary/Treasurer for 18 years, a position he never nominated for, but accepted 18 times, as there were no nominations for the position. He was later elected the first life member of the Society.
The Society’s first patron, Mr. Cliff Isles, from Isles Love & Co Pty. Ltd., held the position until 1965. He donated a cup to be awarded annually for a model constructed by a member of the society. Mr. Isles retired from the position of Patron in 1965 due to ill health. The Commissioner for Railways at that time, Mr. Alva Lee, then accepted the position of patron for 3 years, after which the position remained unfilled until 1983 when Mr. Barrie Hardie accepted the position. The Society then became incorporated and adopted a new set of rules which did not have provision for a Patron.
The cup mentioned above, although inscribed as the ‘Championship Cup’, was for many years known as the Isles Trophy, then the Patrons Trophy and then the Presidents Cup. After the Society’s Incorporation, the cup has been known as the Championship Cup.
An ambition of the Society for many years was to have its own live steam railway on its own property. Long before this became a reality, the Society’s first railway was erected at the Yeronga home of Mr. George Chalmers. This was a simple up and down line, 2.5” gauge being the largest gauge accommodated. The track was owned by the Society, and was in operation from 1939 to 1948. It was later sold to member Mr. Ron Clarkson, who built his own ground level railway around his Annerley home in 1951.
In 1947, the Society leased land from The Brisbane City Council in Yeronga Park with the intention of constructing a live steam railway, a boat pond and a club house. Although earthworks were organised, no construction is recorded as having commenced and the lease was terminated in 1949.
Members constructed tracks in their own properties and were used by the Society for regular track days. These were at Annerley (Clarksons, in operation from 1951 to 1969), Mitchelton (Jim Jackson, 1961 to 1967), Kuraby (Eric Evans, 1964 to 1969, the first with 5” gauge) and The Grange (Merv Olssons, 1968 to 1973). Merv’s track had 7.25” gauge added during its use by the Society. All these were ground level tracks.
The Society commenced leasing part of the Warner property belonging to Mr. Jim Jackson in 1967 and began construction of a permanent club miniature railway. The official opening was held in 1973, with Mr. Chris George driving the first train to complete a circuit. Since then the track has been added to considerably, and continues to be so.
The other early track on the property was donated by Eric Evans, reclaimed from his Kuraby & Central Line, and was laid on the ground around a dam (long gone) under the power wires at the back of the property. In 1976, this track was relocated to an elevated position nearer to the canteen area where it remains to this day, although a substantial extension was completed in 1994 doubling the length of the elevated track. Some of the rail from Eric’s original Kuraby track is still in operation between the station (Koala Junction) and the steel truss bridge.
In 1986, the Society purchased an interest in the property from Mr. Jim Jackson, which was later converted to subdivision, the Society owning the back half. The purchase price was raised by members’ interest free loans, debentures and donations. All moneys loaned were paid back by 1993.
For many years, there was no mains power connected to the site and no water other than tank water. Power was finally connected in the early 1990s and the bore for water other than human and locomotive consumption was sunk in 1990. This bore was privately financed and donated to the society by a club member.
There have been eight Australian Live Steam Conventions held by the QSMEE; in 1978, 1982, 1990, 2000, 2005, 2010 and 2013 and 2019. In 2019, it was the 63rd Annual AALS Convention. The Convention in 1982 helped celebrate the Society’s 50th anniversary.
For the Society’s 60th anniversary in 1992, the very railway-like signal box was opened, helping to control the movement of trains around the complex.