80 Years of the Swindon Model Boat & Engineering Club

As reflected by George Kirkham

This Article was first seen in Modelboat magazine in June 2011

Members at Lotmead Lake March 2011

GEORGE KIRKHAM reflects on his club’s 80 year history

Swindon Model Boat

& Engineering Club

The Swindon club, when formed In 1931, was named Swindon Model Power Boat and Engineering Club to include those modellers interested in steam and early i,c model boats as well as model engineering which was very much a part of the hobby in those days. Many of the founding model makers were at that time also out of work due to the depression of the early 1930's.

   The club after sailing at various venues around Swindon eventually adopted Cheney Manor Lake (an old clay pit) where a 5 inch gauge 150 foot long raised railway track was built During the period up to WW2 several

regattas were held for straight running boots and hydroplanes, the last being in 1939.

During WW2 the club was largely inactive. but in December 1944 members met and to show they were active once again, several exhibitions were held in the local library and in shop windows in the main street of Swindon which increased the membership. The club attended the 1946 Grand Regatta at Victoria Park in East London and more outings followed to Bourneville, Southampton as well as several of the well known London venues such as the Round Pond, Wimbledon Common, Brockwell Park etc. An association was formed with the Cheltenham and Trowbridge clubs and many inter-club competitions were held.

Cheney Manor Lake was used for many years, but the area with the railway track was lost to new industrial building. Several regattas were held in the following years, which in addition to straight running and hydroplanes now included radio controlled boats due to the rise in interest in r/c scale and speed.

Eventually the lake was lost and the club moved to a small facility at Coate Water, as well as a local reservoir and park. This was ideal for r/c boats but unsuitable for straight running models. Regattas were held for steam r/c boats when competitors from France and Austria attended to support us. With the move to Coate Water there was an influx of members interested in yachting and to accommodate them the main reservoir was used, so the club decided to drop the word

‘Power’ from its title. These members were very competitive and eventually they left the club due to the layout of the course and  the water facility causing much wind fluctuation during races.

In recent years the lake became unserviceable after June due to the dreaded weed, so the club was moved to Lotmead Lake which is an irrigation lake at a local strawberry farm where members have installed launching facilities and erected a clubhouse. Unfortunately the level of the water drops in hot weather and thus at present discussions are in hand for yet another operating facility!

The membership is current more than 30 and most prefer to be social r/c scale sailors with scratch and kit built models, usually electric power although 25% are interested in steam with mostly home built plants. So the club has maintained its engineering roots.

 Shows & Competitions

About 25 years ago the club built a 16 foot square portable pool from old ladders with a purpose made liner, which has recently been replaced. We receive invitations from more than 30 miles from our Swindon base to attend all sorts of shows and where possible we support these to promote our club and the hobby. In 2010 we added a compressed air system to our display to demonstrate the member's steam engines and vehicles actually running at such events. This has received many complimentary comments.

The club also exhibits at model shows such as Beale Park, Weymouth. The International Model Boat Show and The Midland Model Engineering Exhibition, where several members have received awards in the competition sections

Club steering regattas are held each year for three trophies and others are awarded for individual types of boats based on their sailing ability at events attended. The trophies are presented at a skittle evening held each December.

So 80 years on and the club is in a strong position despite the average member's age slowly rising, but we do now have new younger members joining us, so the future seems good. The club is affiliated to the MPBA and meets socially at the Coleview Community Centre on the first Tuesday of each month at 1930hrs.

George Kirkham (right) and Brian Freegard testing boilers. This one of the services this club can offer.

Pool at Fairford 2010

Lotmead Lake March 2011