Easter Shows 1961-73
The A & P Show organizers approached the club with a proposal to arrange an exhibition at the forthcoming show, at Epsom Showgrounds over the Easter weekend in 1961. The club agreed to put on a display and erect 100’ of straight track for running locomotives and carrying passengers. Although the club was unaware of it at the time, these shows were to be the club’s main source of income for nearly 10 years.
Easter of 1961 saw Basil’s portable track installed in the show pavilion that had been provided for the club. An ML7 Myford lathe on loan from the firm of John Chambers for the duration of the show was unpacked.
The trade exhibitors were arranged in bays along one wall and included Jackson Cycles Meccano exhibit. Jackson Cycles donated the first cup for competition to the club and it was decided that it would be awarded as the Championship Cup for the best model displayed at the Easter Show each year.
The club’s exhibits were shown on a tiered stand; and included finished and unfinished locomotives, drill presses, dividing heads, beam engines, gas engines, and a triple expansion engine with a comprehensive number of small stationary engines driven by compressed air. The 3 ½” gauge track was laid the length of the hall and Saturday morning saw Arthur Perryman’s locomotive ‘Betty’ in steam until Dave Watt’s ‘Britannia’ took over in the late afternoon; it was virtually non-stop till 10.30 that night. Over 800 passengers were carried at sixpence a time on this first day’s running, with a further 1200 on the Sunday.
While driving Dave was asked by one lady what size battery he was using, and another gent wanted to know how hard he had to push.
Arthur was making boiler stays for his 5” ‘Speedy’ when an observant young lad was heard to ask his dad, “What’s that man doing”? His father replied, “He is cutting the metal bits up into little bits just to show you how to cut it up’! The workshop was used by several members during the show and one mum asked one of the operators. “Please could I borrow the oil can? My pram wheels are squeaking.” She duly proceeded to give the perambulator a lube. Two old ladies heard the drum hissing in the water raising gear and said “Aren’t they clever. They even brought their own steam with them.”
Pop Wright in front of part of the stand at the first Easter show in 1961
On the subject of how the locomotives were powered, even the firebox door open to display the glowing coals would not influence one elderly gentleman who insisted that Dave’s Britannia was electrically driven; he remained unconvinced until invited to rest his hand on the firebox top. His language nearly blistered the engine’s paintwork!
The last Easter show attended by the club was in 1973 as in 1974 the fairground people were protesting to the Show’s organizers that the club was placing them in an invidious position with low charges for rides, their fares being 4 to 5 times more than those of the club. The club was also placed in an awkward situation by the authorities offering a venue close to the fairground people and of all things this to be in the open air! Obviously this was unsuitable, so the club reluctantly “folded its tents” as it were, and departed into the sunset!
One of the most important benefits to the club in displaying at the Easter shows was the high profile of the club in the eyes of the public, and many members were introduced to the club throughout the years that the club attended the shows.
A very poignant observation made in a comment by Phil Isaac after the end of the show one year, summed up the club members’ feelings about the shows rather well. “There is no business like show business, but thank God it’s only once a year”.
Line up of models and workshop equipment at the Easter show in 1972
Easter Open Weekends and Exhibitions
The first of the regular open weekends after the Easter shows at Greenlane was held in 1977 at ASME’s facilities at Peterson Reserve, and was a huge success with around 35 visitors from Christchurch, Nelson, Petone, Maidstone, New Plymouth, Rotorua and Hamilton clubs attending. There were 28 engines that ran on the track, and another 25 unfinished and finished engines on display in the exhibition in the club basement.
Ships engine room Easter – 1977
Some of the highlights of the weekend were: Bruce Gouk running his partly completed 3 ½” loco ‘Maisie’ around the track for six hours before a broken spring in the lubricator caused him to retire. Keith Walker driving his little free lance coffee-pot loco at ever increasing speeds. Murray Lane at the controls of his ‘Speedy’ pulling around nearly a ton of carriages and passengers up the 1 in 70 grade, arriving back at the steaming bays, with the smell of burning, to be told that his jacket was on fire. Groups of fascinated people gathering around Alec Holmes’s latest creation, a Congreve clock, watching the ball roll slowly down the table, and on to the next track at the end of each Zig Zag.
Alec’s Congreve clock at the Easter exhibition – 2003
In 1979 Gerry Gerard from New Plymouth brought up his magnificent 5” Mountaineer locomotive. He transported it in his Triumph car, mounted across the position of the rear seat; both the doors required cutouts in the internal wall for it to fit in. Rather a job to get to the steaming bays, but once in steam on the track it ran for most of the weekend.
The club basement was completely ungraded in 1982. The walls and ceilings were repainted and new lights installed and new display shelves built. There was a very good display of models and the public turned up in droves. The Scale Marine Modellers displayed some of their boats and gave operating displays in a portable pond that they had set up below the car park. Basil Wilson completed his magnificent NZR Garratt ‘G’ class locomotive in time for the 1984 exhibition for which he was awarded the Jackson cup for the best completed model and also the Frank Roberts cup for the best NZR locomotive.
3 ½” scale NZR G class Beyer-Garrett – 1984
In 1991 club visitors came from Whangarei, Hamilton, Tauranga, Rotorua, New Plymouth and Hutt Valley and attended with their engines. In the exhibition Allan Roberts’s ‘Hercules’ radial aero engine with all the gear drive to the sleeves immediately caught the eye. There was a beautifully made Swiss paddle steamer by Roy Lake with individually carved figures of crew, passengers and stewards etc., each one a work of art in itself. On Sunday there was a display by the Auckland Engine Restoration Society with operating engines.
In 1995 the exhibition had a locomotive theme depicting the evolution of the steam locomotives and in 1998 the theme was ‘Power through the Ages’. An additional attraction in 1997 was Wayne Larson’s beautiful steam launch ‘Victoria’ which was able to take passengers for a sail due to the convenient tide at the time.
It was decided that the 2000 open weekend would be restricted to three days, Friday to Sunday, because of the lack of support from members; it was also thought that many members were now using the Easter breaks to go on holidays out of town. Due to the poor public attendance the exhibition was held during the Panmure Basin Festival between 2005-7 and a trial weekend during the September holidays in 2008 prior to the planned 50th Jubilee exhibition, held in 2009 at a similar time.