The big model event organised, for over 20 years now, by Shoeburyness Model Railway Club is always well supported by SE Essex and other model clubs of all disciplines, including r/c aircraft and boats. I have attended every one of the 24 shows held so far and always enjoy it. I’ve always had pretty wide interests and, on top of being a long time member of Southend Model Powerboat Club, am a member of the Bassett-Lowke society with interests in gauge 0 tinplate toy collecting and other spheres of vintage modelling and collecting. Plus I actually started out in early r/c aircraft and have always had an interest in aviation.

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Pic 1:Our vintage writer Dave Wiggins visited a long established winter model show in SE Essex. Pic 2:One wing of a large display of marine models shown by the Southend club - behind the Thames Sailing Barge are a line of hovercraft. Our photographer shot these pictures during the lunch period - attendance was much busier later on! Pic 3:A line of boats on show at this exhibition. Pic 4:Graham Fright’s Fairey Huntsman. Graham is talking about putting glow power back into her. A Billing’ Mercantic is, I think, the model in the foreground. Pics 5 & 6:A large model of HMS Rodney attracted much attention and comment from show visitors.

In fact, I don’t see how anyone can attend a general modelling show like this or the ‘ME’ without becoming enthused in the other model areas one sees. Live steam passenger locos, all the model rail gauges, vintage tinplate and Meccano, radio and control line aircraft, miniatures and yes - other peoples’ angle on the model boat - all are worthy of study and all offer something new or different to learn. For a four quid entrance fee I don’t see what one can possibly lose actually! So next year, go and have a great time if you live in SE Essex is my recommendation.

There were boats

I started my visit - as always - by visiting my (Southend), club stand and chatting to old friends about the boats, some of which were familiar to me and some not. A large and recently completed model of HMS Rodney took my eye, was new (to me), and was exhibited by a relatively new Southend member - Mr. Les’ Bell. His warship attracted a good deal of comment and question from passers by. Les’ said the model had taken him a mere three months to build from plans but admitted, under questioning by your amazed scribe, that he had worked long days and pretty much full time on this rather big project. Two nice steam launches were shown by Canvey club members, one clearly a Marten, Howes and Baylis kit.


...interesting engines...

Both were very nicely finished craft and sat well alongside this club’s more usual large live steam locomotives, traction engines and stationary steam and stirling cycle (hot-air), engines - the latter a genre that was attracting a good many fascinated spectators, your writer included. I had always imagined that Stirling engines were rather ‘flea powered’ affairs of limited use but the maker of those shown easily persuaded me otherwise.

One or two of these gems produced decent power from a mere candle and one could easily see that one of these engines could produce sufficient power to propel a scale boat if no great speed were required. But be warned - good standards of workmanship and very low friction / close fits are required when making such an engine I was told.

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Pic 7:Graham Fright’s ‘frightfully good’ canal boat. Pic 8:Southend member Roger Cumbers explains model boating to some interested passers by. Pics 9 & 10: Southend member John Saterlay showed these impressive items - an ex AMPS grp hydro’ hull and matching petrol outboard. Pics 11, 12 & 13: Two attractive model steam launches graced the Canvey club display. I think this is Topaz, a Marten, Howes & Baylis craft power plant.

...more boats!

Other boats on show included the well known Southend member Graham Fright’s (rather too clean for a working boat don’t you think Graham?) canal boat built on a George Turner Models moulding, a string of Graham’s other small models but including a large and nowadays almost ‘vintage’ Fairey Marine Huntsman, a large Thames Sailing Barge, a Billing’s Mercantic’ (a kit that must be approaching vintage status itself surely?), and many small novelty models including the tiniest working submarine toy that I have ever seen operated by Southend members Bridget and Roger Cumbers on a tiny table top pool.

This, now quite well known, indoor pool has all new boats on it this season. Roger tells me that he built these from tiny toys he bought on holiday for just £2 each and modified for tiny r/c himself. I took some pictures of these really very tiny toy boats including Roger’s own engineering for adapting them to twin screw drive. Amazing! I cannot commend Roger’s efforts strongly enough - that tiny ‘pond’ had a constant stream of small children happily operating the boats throughout both days, as it does indeed every year at this show, and there is always the chance one or two of these little tots will go onto more serious modelling and that we might see them at the lake in later years. And goodness knows - our hobby needs them if it’s too survive even into the next decade or two as the present ‘greybeards’ exit stage left! So Bridget and Roger - I take my hat off to you both without reservation - it’s a great and generous job you do for the future of model boating year after year after year. Well done.

I also chatted briefly to member Graham Fright about his ‘Frightful Company’ livery canal boat. As I took the photographs he told me “it had been in Model Boats before” but that’s no reason for not showing a nice boat in my opinion. In answer to my question he told me it “was useless for steering comps”, which may not please the kit maker much but did not surprise me. After all, real canal boats are made long and slim for a reason and that reason is that they operate strictly in a straight line down a narrow waterway! Thinking about it then, a big one ought to make a good straight runner? - with a 10cc Merco or some such eh?!

Moving to i.c. and at the other end of the size range entirely, Southend member John Saterlay showed a huge grp r/c hydroplane hull and a matching 23cc Zenoah two-stroke outboard, all formerly AMPS (Agnew Model Propulsion Systems) products designed for offshore model powerboat racing. I had a good old look at these items and was most impressed by their obvious quality. AMPS were in business for some years and I remember their props especially. That was a long time ago now though. At one time offshore racing was a quite popular - if maybe fringe - model activity hereabouts (Southend-on-Sea is a seaside town after all), and races, a few of which I attended as a fascinated spectator, were held out on nearby Canvey Island. Fun days indeed.

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Pic 14:Lady Sarah was the other steam launch spied on the Canvey stand. Pics 15 & 16:Some of the smaller boats were well worth a look too. Here is a line of fishing cutters, etc., on the Southend display. Pics 18 & 19:The tiny tabletop model boat pool operated, for some years now, by Bridget and Roger Cumbers, is a great child puller. This year it had new boats. Note the tiny engineering and motors put in by Roger.

...hovercraft, planes and tanks...

Equally fascinating non marine exhibits included a large display of r/c model aircraft shown by Southend Radio Flying Club.

Many years ago now us boaters used to go over to their really great rallies on Two Tree Island, Leigh-on-Sea, and assist in flagging aerobatics / pylon racing and in frequency control, etc. Readers, if you haven’t flagged in Goodyear or FAI pylon you just haven’t lived. Frightening just isn’t a strong enough word! Six hot ‘40’ powered pylon racers heading for you at the number:1 pylon are, well - bloody hell! There are few things you can do in modelling that are more lethal. Or exciting.

There was a quite magnificent armoured fighting vehicle (AFV or Tank), seen on the Canvey ME Club’s stand. I failed to find out who was the builder of this but it was a splendid bit of modelling in far more pristine condition than any tank I’ve seen or ridden in. It was too good to be true really but a lovely thing. I think it is a German Tiger but am standing by to be put right by any tankers reading this if I’m wrong! The Southend club stand boasted a lineup of more hovercraft than I think I’ve ever seen in one place before. And they worked too - not something that can be said of all full size hovercraft and I have worked on and ridden in one or two in my time, just as I have tanks.

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Pics 20 & 21: There was plenty of really high quality and fascinating modelling on show outside of marine modelling. This stationary steam engine from Stuart Turner castings and this truly amazing AFV were both on the Canvey stand. Pic 22 & 23:This terrific jet fighter was shown by Southend Radio Flying Club amongst an array of other high quality flying models. One or two even featured art. Pic 24:And finally - there were of course all the trains on show. Your vintage writer has of course chosen to show vintage! - the large Hornby gauge ‘0’ clockwork layout shown by the Webster family.

...and - surprise surprise - even a few trains!

There were at least two vintage ‘0’ gauge tinplate model railway layouts including a small Canadian / US Lionel Trains scheme and a big Hornby clockwork track operated by the Webster family for Shoeburyness Model Railway Club – all amongst the usual range of N, OO, and O gauge and a sprinkling of dealers and trade stands, etc. All in all, it was a great weekend. As it is every year indeed. So well done Shoeburyness MRC.