In June 2012 the Vale of Aylesbury Model Engineering Society celebrated its 40th anniversary. Although Aylesbury had been the home of “The Aylesbury Gang” in the fifties, by the 1970s there was no active society in the area until four intrepid men decided at an informal meeting in May 1972 to see what interest there might be locally.
The following month nine people met in a local hall and set up the society which has since become known by its acronym VAMES.
With no track and almost no locomotives, progress at first was steady and meetings were held every two months to allow time for model building. As the membership grew meetings were held monthly with talks on subjects by the members.
In the mid seventies the Society was approached by Quainton Railway Society who offered a permanent site at The Buckinghamshire Railway Centre at Quainton, about ten miles north of Aylesbury.
Just as the society was taking on the track site at Quainton Road it was discovered that a 5" Cromer White track was available for purchase locally. The deal was for £50 to be paid over a 5 year period on the condition that the entire track was removed including all the full-sized sleepers it was fitted to. The job was completed over several weekends with club volunteers and a borrowed lorry. It was this source of track that gave the name, the Golding Spring Railway; being the name of the bungalow where the track had been originally laid. It was enough to give the first circuit at Quainton, a circuit of 1200 feet at ground level with 7 ¼”, 5” and 3 ½” gauges.
In the early days steaming up and getting locomotives onto the track was from a siding. Then a small brick carriage shed was built with raised steaming bays and a spur down to the track from the car park. In the early 80’s the chance arose to acquire a builders' hut from a site in London. It had become surplus to requirements because it had some damaged panels. A price to cover fuel etc was agreed and it was delivered for £25! Prior to that a caravan and table tops had been used to sell teas, cakes and bric-a-brac. The hut was cannibalised into a station building and a kitchen for serving tea and coffee then became a permanent feature. One of the initial problems faced was access to the centre of the site. This was tackled in the early 80’s by building a bridge over the track with a walkway using railway sleepers laid in two rows for public access. Infill was tons of rubble donated by people and delivered by car and trailer.
A brick built ‘shop’ was also constructed close to the station building which enabled much donated bric-a-brac to be sold to augment club funds. By now the society had two home built club locos: a petrol hydrostatic Hymek and a 4 battery operated Deltic, both 7 ¼” gauge.
By 1994 income was good and the track was extended to enclose the car park, the small carriage shed and the steaming bays, via a level crossing. This justified increasing the cost of rides in 1995 to 20p! Around this time Quainton Railway Society acquired more land and in 1997 a further extension was embarked upon which gave a total length of 1km.
The number of engines owned by members was increasing both in number and size so the ‘long track’ was constructed to accommodate 7 ¼” and 5” gauges only.
By the year 2000 we were giving 25,000 rides each year at 50p a time and the society could look ahead to see what other improvements could be planned. We already had a corrugated iron carriage shed erected in 1996 to house 16 passenger wagons which each carry up to 5 adults and more secure storage space was needed. The big problem however was handling the customers at peak times. We got very long queues on Days Out With Thomas with just one platform road and a through road. The station needed a complete redesign and greater capacity.
This took the whole winter of 2000/1 but we ended up with two platforms and an avoiding line, two headshunts and 3 sidings together with a new ticket office. We could handle passengers much more easily by unloading at the south end of either platform on arrival, then drawing forward to the north end to load up again: a system which works very slickly.
Having solved the queuing problem we next turned to resolve the storage needs. A new concrete garage style building was constructed with 3 storage roads and a spur for dropping ashes and loco maintenance.
The floor, which is 4ft higher than the surrounding terrain due to sloping ground, is on brick pillars and the track leading to it on a metal viaduct.
The next big project was construction of a tunnel opened in 2004. It has a 20cu. mtr concrete base, hollow block walls filled with concrete,
concrete beam and block roof with a layer of concrete on top and then covered with soil. The reason for so much concrete is that unless all building foundations are at least 2 metres deep everywhere, everything moves due to the thick layer of clay underneath Aylesbury Vale. The tunnel mouths are of brick skin.
The following winter a toilet block manufactured to our own design was delivered. The ‘portakabin’ style, with metal walls, was camouflaged by building a sloping roof on top. A large sewage tank with pumps was installed and a pipe laid down to the other end of the site. The cost was over £12,000 but it is an extra facility for the visitors.
After turning the old Bric-A-Brac shop into a new washroom and exhibition area, by November 2010 we were ready to start the new station building project. By 1st November the site closed and we were ready. The Wednesday gang demolished what was left in the space of a morning leaving the site cleared. Vandals! The new building was opened by Sir William McAlpine, Bt. On 7th June 2012.
The exterior of the building is designed to reflect the style of Quainton Road Station at The Buckinghamshire Railway Centre and can seat up to 40 people at a time. It was completed within the budget of £60,000.
So, what next? We have a number of projects on the list for the future. An improved Carriage and Wagon Works building, a new club loco to supplement the Deltic and the Hymek, a tarmac surface on the car park. Each time we think we have finished, somebody comes up with a new idea; which usually costs money so we are saving up again!