Club History

Laying of the first raised track 1985

There was a group of railway men at Mount Maunganui who felt that they wanted to play trains rather than work trains. These men got together and each week contributed some of their income to a fund which was the basis of the Tauranga Model Engineering Club.

There was also a group of people interested in marine modelling, both yachting people and scale model boat people. The Club was first started in 1979 by the combining of two Clubs, the Tauranga Model Marine Club established in 1974 and the Tauranga Model Engineering Club established in 1976.

In July 1979 a meeting was held with Tauranga Model Marine Club and the Tauranga Model Engineering Club, which was a group of people who had recently completed the overhaul of a steam locomotive for the Tauranga Historic Village and decided to build model steam locomotives.


Those present at this first meeting in 1979 were Bob Butler, Ewen Baird and Dave Toms for the Model Marine Club, and Trevor Chapman, Selwyn McCauley and Peter Jones for the Model Engineering Club. At this meeting it was decided to form a new club combining the modelling interests and to call that club the Tauranga Model Marine and Engineering Club. It started off as a portable track which was bolted together. On a running day it was necessary to bring the track on a trailer, bolt it together and then set up a tent especially if it was showery or it was very hot, but they could manage without a tent if the weather was average. By Christmas 1983 the club had moved to Memorial Park, Tauranga.

The Track Development

Laying the concrete base for the ground level track

The move to Memorial Park enabled the building of more permanent facilities and with the help of the Lions Club, by 1984, 254 metres of 2- 1/2", 3-1/2" and 5"' gauge raised track was completed. The same year the first club locomotive was completed as a club project. It was an 0-6-0 loco, based on a NZR DSA class loco, powered by a 50cc Honda motor cycle engine. This locomotive was named Pioneer.

The need for a permanent base was soon evident. By the end of 1987 a station building was erected. 1989 saw the first tunnel constructed across the raised track. 1991 saw the first ground level 7-1/4" and 5" track started. This was completed and opened in 1992 by the Mayor, Noel Pope our present Patron. A second tunnel was built with the new track and landscaping over the tunnels was completed. During 1994 the club put in a submission to hold the International Model Engineering Convention in January 1998. This was accepted and by 1996 a track extension of 330 metres running completely around the existing two tracks was proposed. The council gave it's approval and by June the extension was completed. Preparations for the 1998 Expo were well underway.

How Palmerville station got its name


Palmerville was named after Harry Leslie Palmer, a former Medical General Practitioner and Dental Surgeon who retired to Tauranga from Masterton. Harry Palmer had always had a number of interests including gun dog competitions, radio ham operation and model engineering. He attended engineering night classes at Wairarapa College and thereafter, on occasion, had to be enticed from his small workshop and back into his surgery to see patients. He subsequently joined the Model Engineering Club in Tauranga, built another steam locomotive and a steam traction engine. He was fond of children, having had six of his own and regularly took children for train rides. He died during  August 1988 and his funeral was largely attended by club members.


International Model Engineering Convention 1998

This was a huge event with visitors from all over the country and other parts of the world. Displays were set up around the station area with traction engines and stationary engines as well as an extensive display of modelling of various kinds, in the QE2 hall close by. The public were able to ride behind some of the finest examples of miniature steam and other motive power locomotives seen in New Zealand. The convention was over five days and proved a great success giving exposure of the club to Tauranga.

Club Locomotive Pioneer

25th Anniversary: Tauranga Model Marine and Engineering Club

2004 saw the 25th year of the club and appropriate celebrations were arranged. These were held in conjunction with the annual open weekend in November. Again visitors from other clubs with their locomotives joined to celebrate the occasion.

On Sunday 02 Jun 2014 the milestone of 750000 rides was achieved. 

A short video of the club history is available here



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