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History of the Society

An Oxford and District Society of Model and Experimental Engineers was in existence in 1946, but seems to have lasted only a few more years.  Several of the names of its members appear again in the Witney and West Oxfordshire Society of Model Engineers, which was founded in Witney in 1955, meeting at the Technical College in Witney. The Society ran trains on a portable track at various shows in the area, but was unable to find a local site for a permanent track. After running regularly on the portable track in the grounds of Blenheim Palace from 1955, negotiations for a permanent site were finally successful, and for some years the Duke of Marlborough was the President of the Society.

Members of the Society built the track in Blenheim Park in only 6 months.  Articles describing the work appeared in the "Model Engineer" magazine for May and June 1961. The operation involved cutting 4000 oak sleepers and fixing the rails with 25,000 screws driven by hand (no cordless screwdrivers in 1959), not to mention laying 250 feet of water pipe, drainage, and two swing bridges.  

 

Public running continued on summer weekends for 27 years, from 1960 to 1987. During the storms of February 1974 a good many old trees, particularly elms, were blown down in Blenheim Park.  Three of these trees caused considerable damage to the track, narrowly missing the station. The damage took several weeks to repair.

 

In April 1962 the Marchioness of Blandford and three of the Duke of Marlborough's grandchildren were thrown off when a train stopped suddenly. Apart from a few bruises nobody was hurt, and there seem to have been no hard feelings.

After rumblings for some years, in the summer of 1987 the Blenheim Estate required the Society to operate trains seven days a week during the tourist season. The members of the Society could not undertake this commitment, so the track had to move; the last trains ran at Blenheim on 6th September 1987, and the dismantling of the track started on the following day.

Plans for a new site in Cutteslowe Park in North Oxford had already been drawn up by May 1987, and a lease on the site was arranged with Oxford City Council. The new track was ready for Easter 1988;  press reports of the Opening Ceremony refer to the WWOSME, but about this time the society changed its name to the City of Oxford Society of Model Engineers. In spite of the new name it is still the same Society, and in 2005 it celebrated its 50th anniversary. The new site was formally opened by the Lord Mayor of Oxford.  

Two more landmarks were reached in 2005: for the first time the we carried 20,000 passengers in one year, and we also carried the 250,000th passenger, seen here.

 

The Cutteslowe Park Miniature Railway has now been running for more than 30 years on the first and third Sundays in each of the summer months. In 2008 the Society negotiated a new long lease on the site from Oxford City Council.

The Dreaming Spires Rally is held each year in July. A special Charity steaming day was held each year up to 2005. After a short lapse a Charity Day was again held in 2009.