Midlands MEX 2019

Rudyard Kipling
Visited the Warwickshire show on Thursday and the first thing I noticed was that the usual large Warco stand was no longer welcoming visitors by the main entrance having been replaced by a number of smaller trade stands. So this year by the door was Station Road Steam, 17D Miniatures and Keith Robinson Engineering Tools whilst RDG had taken a couple of the spaces to add to their very large sales area.

There were a few new exhibitors this year one of those being Eric’s Railway Art, he had plenty of prints available to buy and was painting a new masterpiece during the show. The image from his flyer is reproduced on the left and his website is worth a look.

Another layout change was that the “lecture theatre” had moved to a screened off area of the main hall. Apparently some attending lectures found the noise from outside a bit off-putting. This also made the show area a bit smaller than normal.

Other new trade stands included: CL9UD or Cloud Nine if you prefer selling various phone related gizmos and cables; ExGlo UK demonstrating something to do with power drills; Just the Ticket traction engine and large scale rail model engineering supplies; Large Scale Locomotives and Steam Age Nameplates, were the ones I noticed.

Hall 2, where the majority of the club stands are located, seemed slightly emptier than usual although according to the plan in the show guide the layout was similar to last year but with a small competition stand placed between Wolverhampton MES and the Gas Turbine Association stands.

Working clockwise around the hall I started at the Guild of Model Wheelwrights who had one of there usual fine displays. I am always impressed by the level of detail in these relatively small models. The combination of metalwork, woodwork and other skills is incredible. I was particularly taken with the Kessler Dumping Wagon by Brian Young but the whole display was excellent. A couple of images below to encourage your wagon building and wheelwright ambitions. (Click On An Image To Magnify)

I note from their website that, sadly, the Guild is no more. Closed from October last year due in the main to declining membership. It is to be hoped that the individual members continue to provide an excellent display at the various model engineering shows for a few more years yet.

Meccano Tower
The Meccano Eiffel Tower
Apparently it is the 130th anniversary of the “La Tour Eiffel” this year and the Midlands Meccano Guild had several representations, ranging from quite small to enormous, on their display in a corner of Hall 2. They had a good selection of other models as well and I was interested to note that Mecanno has moved into the 21st century with the adoption of allen headed bolts. I was told these have been available for a number of years but I haven’t “played” for about the last 55years so a bit out of touch.

The Meccano display was near one of the doors so I stuck my head out but there was very little to see. The Fosse Way Steamers had not yet gathered in force and there were only two exhibits outside, the Polly Owners Club portable track the other side of the field and the usual gas turbine running area from the Gas Turbine Builders Association. A couple of porta-loos and a small coffee stall completed the outside arrangements. It was though quite a pleasant day weather wise as the blue sky in the image below shows.


Continuing on in clockwise fashion Wolverhampton and District Model Engineering Society had an good display which featured quite a few interesting “work in progress” exhibits. The Wolverhampton club runs the Baggeridge Miniature Railway in Dudley. This is an extensive ground level railway so as might be expected quite a few of the exhibits were railway related.

I liberated the overview shot from the club website as I couldn’t get a clear view when I was there, hope they don’t mind. Featuring prominently on the display was Penelope a small scratch built shunter that seemed to owe a good deal of her heritage to recycling. I think I identified among other parts a lawnmower engine, and old car horn and a computer fan. At the front of the display a few smaller exhibits and this Vulcan beam engine caught my eye.

Gas Turbine
Gas Turbine Demonstration
Next around was the Gas Turbine Builders Association with a display inside and the noisy demonstration outside. Regular show goers may have noticed that this image was actually taken last year but was better than the one I managed this time round. The dB level may be judged by the number of spectators with fingers in ears!

(Click On Image To Magnify)

Kingsbury Water Park Model Boat Club had an excellent display conveniently sited next to the refreshments area, which I visited after taking a few photos of the models.

Plenty of different models on display ranging from sailing yacht to steam launch. I counted 13 in the image but there might have been some more hiding out of shot. The Clyde puffer “Banton” looked pristine having only recently been completed according to the brass plaque. The narrow boat Amelia Rose was from a Riverside Models 1/12th scale kit having been finished to a high standard by Eddie Russell. The close up shows Amelia cooking breakfast, being 1/12th scale fixtures and fittings are readily available dolls house accessories, so says the exhibit label.

Refreshments not altogether a success as someone had forgotten to take the gluten free bread out of the freezer to bring along. Coffee was OK though and I had actually brought suitable fodder with me for lunch later in the day.

A couple of images from The Model Steam Road Vehicle Society A Fowler showman’s engine Warrior of Punjab, although the name plate says Princess, so a bit of a conflict of interest there. On the floor a rather nice 3″ scale Marshall 7nhp Traction engine.

There was an awful lot of information on the London and North Western Railway Society stand along with a couple of cracking models. I tried to read some of the information but my attention span and eyesight are not what they used to be. I must admit that I had never heard of a “Problem Class” locomotive but Prince of Wales (291) is just such a loco. Designed by John Ramsbottom and introduced in 1859 the 2-2-2 single with 7′ 6″ driving wheels. Some 60 of this design were built often referred to as “Lady of the Lake” class apparently.

The Birmingham SME stand had a good display mainly rail related with some fine models of rolling stock from O gauge upwards. I found a bit of interesting lathe tooling displayed including a George Thomas design rear toolpost made by Cyril Millward. Unfortunately I didn’t take a photo of the info sheet for the top-slide also on display, I would much prefer labels rather than the info folder which is not always easily accessible, perhaps both? I was hoping to see the gauge 1 Cowans-Sheldon breakdown crane this year but it was not on display so I cheated and put up an image from last year, an excellent model by Ken Toone.

If you can’t decide on a colour scheme for your loco then this is the way to go. A class 8 diesel-electric shunter ex-BR and was in use at Bombardier’s Derby site. It apparently ended up with this colour scheme as a following a local schools colouring competition. The model on the Nottingham SMEE stand was exhibited by the Harrison family. Also on the Nottingham stand was this steam plant layout, boiler and several small engines, not in steam unfortunately.

Knightcote Model Boat Club had one of their usual fine displays in the centre of Hall 2. The model of HMS Fly from an adapted Amarati kit by Laurie Hopper was just one example of the many fine models on display.

Next door was the Northampton Society of Model Engineers. Nicely laid out stand with some interesting exhibits. I liked the York Bolton steam plant which I think is a kit from Historic Steam Models or possibly Station Road Steam. The overview of the stand I borrowed from the club website as I couldn’t get a clear view on the day. Similarly with the 3″ Wallis and Steevens road roller which looks to be an excellent model in the making.

Out in the main hall the Rugby Model Engineering Society had a large stand near the entrance celebrating their 70th anniversary. I probably should have taken a few more photos of their stand but the 3″ Savage traction engine by Peter Lee, which caught my eye, was very good.

The Rugby stand was adjacent to the main competition and loan section display which as usual had some fine models. First is a small oscillating engine and boiler by Luke Mason. One of a number of exhibits by the same builder in the Young Engineers class, proving there are non-retired model engineers, great work. The Snow engine is a model of one of the gas driven pumping engines common in America a hundred years ago. Available in various sizes from around 400HP to over a 1000HP these engines were used to pump natural gas for domestic supply systems. Unusual for a gas engine being a tandem arrangement of twin cylinders. Being 4-stroke this arrangement provided a power stroke every half revolution. The engines were also often in twin layout with two cylinders either side of the flywheel.

The label on the beam engine described it as a”Twin Cylinder Oscillating Marine Engine” having looked closely I think this is an error or the label should be somewhere else. It is, as far as I can tell, a twin grasshopper beam engine, the label on the baseplate casting says Mercer who do indeed make model kits but I couldn’t track this one down. Whether the model it is by Laurence Drybrough as per the label I don’t know. The Trojan vertical steam engine by J.Wing was apparently made in 2005 according to the brass plaque. This is from a Reeves casting set the original design being by Edgar T Westbury, 5/8″ bore x 5/8″ stroke. The hot air engine by Malcolm Green is a small gamma configuration engine. I’m afraid I don’t know if it is scratch built or from a kit but nicely finished.

Russell Taylor’s ⅓rd scale 10 barrel Gatling gun is a superb model. Combining excellent wheelwright work in American white maple for the carriage with some very detailed engineering for the gun barrels and mechanism. The plank on frame model of La Toulonnaise, a French schooner c1823, was very well made. Photographing the detail is always difficult, for me anyway. I do though wish Meridienne would invest in some slightly more discrete alarm systems, a thin black wire would be much less obvious. Eric Keggan’s 1942 WW2 Grant Tank in 1/6 scale was very good. It was interesting to see some of the assemblies displayed in front of the model giving an idea just how much detail there is in the finished item.

The Station Taxi Wagonette replete with luggage and the Waring and Gillow furniture van were fine examples of the model wheelwrights craft. Unfortunately I cunningly managed to avoid taking a picture of the builders details, apologies. The wagonette with removable omnibus hood is from a John Thompson plan and the furniture van is based on an article in April 2003 Model Engineer magazine and John Thompson’s book Horse Drawn Trade Vehicles. The compass by Nicholas Farr is described as a “Basic Magnetic Compass” it looks slightly more than basic to me but there was no information as to it’s working. Very nicely made instrument though.

The horizontal mill engine by Malcolm Green was interesting. I noticed that most of the studs and bolts were fitted with domed cap nuts (acorn nuts if you prefer), not sure if any actual engines were finished in this manner. The ‘Galloping Goose’ was a cracking model of a railway utility vehicle. Apparently there were no plans for the originals, of which there were 7, they just made it up as they went along in the workshop. The model has 24v electric drive rather than an IC engine, the original made use of of a Ford V8 Flat-head engine.

The City of Oxford Society of Model Engineers had a stand just to the right of the main entrance and one loco caught my eye. A 5″ gauge model of a Hunslet Alice Class quarry locomotive. The original was a narrow gauge (2ft) engine used at the Dinorwic slate quarry and is currently at the Bala Lake Railway. This much renovated model was originally built by R. Crawford and restored by Simon Mulford. Also to the right of the main entrance was a rake of 7 Pullman coaches by Ben Lyons and Brent Hudson. There are actually 18 of these superbly modelled 5″ gauge ‘K-Type’ Pullman cars. The photo of the line of cars did not come out well, too many people for a clear shot, so this close up of the interior with table lamps lit gives, I hope, an idea of the quality. I regret that I only managed one somewhat fuzzy photo of the Coventry M.E.S. stand but there was plenty to see.

Melton Mowbray & District Model Engineering Society were next to Oxford and the National 2½” Gauge Association. It seemed to be particularly dark in this part of the hall so I had to use flash on the camera to get a half decent shot. Galloway’s Non-Dead Centre Engine by Martyn Shenton I have seen before and it is a very nicely made representation of the 1838 prototype which claim to fame is that it would be self starting from any position. The Shay Type B Logging Locomotive is a cracking model. Fascinating loco designed for the logging trade narrow gauge designed to cope with steep gradients and twisty and often temporary track. All the wheels were driven, two main bogies and the tender, through an arrangement of universally jointed drive shafts from the vertical two or three cylinder engine (the model is of a three cylinder version). The boiler was offset to one side to counter-balance the weight of the engine.

A couple of larger locos for you. The 10¼” Gauge Society had Roland George an LMS Patriot class loco on display near the entrance. This loco apparently began life as Royal Scot at a seaside railway in Kent, didn’t steam very well so was converted to petrol/electric drive. Converted back to steam in 2007/9 but never worked well. Rebuilt by Chris Knibbs as a Patriot from 2014 to 2018 including re-piping and re-porting the cylinders. Named ‘Roland George’ for Chris’ father.

If you are impatient and don’t want to spend years building your own loco. Then if you have £7000 + VAT this 7¼” Class 20 (battery electric) Diesel loco can be yours from 17D Miniatures.

Bromsgrove Society of Model Engineers had stand in front of the lecture theatre. An interesting display with the centrepiece being a cut away model of a railway workshop with locos and machines inside. There were plenty of exhibits outside the workshop too. I think Bromsgrove were after the prize for most models in the smallest space! Come on chaps how am I supposed to get photos of those stationary engines? I did try to separate out the model steam hammer from the background (not too successfully) no labels about the models though so I can’t identify it I’m afraid.

Altogether a pleasant day and a good journey there and back. The next major Model Engineering Exhibition is the Alexandra Palace Show 17th-19th January 2020