Our Society was established on the 16th July 1965, mainly due to the efforts of the late Ken Elder, who considered that Melbourne needed a model railway club with its own layout. He quickly found a small area for rental over a locksmiths shop in Lonsdale Street, Melbourne, and encouraged around 30 other persons to join him. These “Clubrooms” measured only 832 square feet (about 10 x 8 meters).
Never-the-less, a layout was quickly started, but not quite completed. About 2 years later, a visitor offered us a huge area for a “peppercorn” rent for a sub lease, comprising the whole 2nd floor of a factory in Coppin Street, Richmond.
A huge and excellent layout was constructed, which provided a point-to-point line. And two “continuous running” lines. In May 1972 the business occupying the lower two floors was sold, and despite us having a sub-lease, the new owner made our occupancy so difficult that we decided to look for new premises.
We had in our membership an Anglican Priest (the late Alan Clarke) who was the vicar of a church at North Richmond. He arranged for us to take over the basement of the Cairns Memorial Church in East Melbourne in May 1972, where once again, we constructed a large layout, this time with a conversion facility for continuous running. We also had access to the adjacent church hall (which was used for our meetings and for assembling exhibition layouts) and extensive kitchen facilities.
We enjoyed this location for about 16 years until vandals decided to squirt petrol through the ventilators and light it! The result was a famous multi-million dollar fire which gutted the whole building in August 1988.
Next to nothing was recovered of our layout, but fortunately we were well insured, and had little difficulty in claiming an amount equaling the full insured value. This time, we had no where to go, but our plight was well known. Luckily, in August 1989, we were approached by a proprietor of a hobby shop in Burke Road, East Kew, who had a modern upstairs room vacant. We quickly came to an agreement at an affordable rental with him.
This time, we decided to build a MODULAR layout as insurance against a further move. This time, the layout included a facility to convert a dual point to point layout to two continuous running lines.
After about four years, a change of business ownership to a person with less tolerance to our tenancy, we became aware that the bowling club premises at East Camberwell were vacant. These premises were owned by the then Metropolitan Transport Authority.
We were able to take advantage of our decision to build MODULAR, and the existing layout was modified to fit into the wider but shorter "layout” room. The club premises had other rooms, (one for a library/meeting room) and a huge kitchen, not to mention a bowling green. We were honoured by a visit from the Minister of Transport, the Honourable Alan Brown.
We enjoyed these premises, despite being subject to continuing vandalism (and possums in and out of the ceiling!), until the MET decide that they wish to re-develop the site. They gave us generous notice, during which time we invited the then Minister for Transport, the Honourable Robin Cooper to come and see our layout. He was very impressed, so we “happened to mention” our premises problem. He really set the wheels moving in his department, and after several (unsatisfactory) offers, we agreed on the freight room at Auburn Railway Station.
This time, we had adequate time to arrange the move, and decide whether to “re-modify” the layout, or start afresh. A special meeting decided on the later, so we were able to design a layout to meet the shape of the room, to introduce many new features, and to overcome difficulties with previous layouts.
SO HERE WE ARE IN OUR 6th HOME