The Society was formed in 1974 and was originally based in rooms on Scarisbrick New Road. For the first couple of decades it inhabited a variety of premises around the town, some more salubrious than others. The last one was on a local geological fault line, and allowed track gradients to be built-in to layouts simply by laying the track on the baseboard - the house provided the vertical component for free.
It moved to its present location at 57a Portland Street in 1987. This building was the Stationmaster's house for the original Southport station, part of the Liverpool, Crosby and Southport Railway, which opened on 21st July 1848. The Southport Terminus is now at Chapel Street, a little further down the line.
Our current premises are more conventional in gradient but unusual in being an old stationmaster's house, the first railway building in Southport.
The house and its garden are all that remains of the station. It's a Grade 2 listed building, which meant that RailTrack (remember them?) couldn't easily demolish it, so they rented it to us.
When the club acquired the building it was in a derelict state and required complete restoration. As these early photographs show the entrance was at the side of the building. For safety reasons access on the lineside was stopped and a new door created on Portland Street. The old style barriers have now been replaced, and the adjacent signal box demolished. The hedge has been removed, which gives more light into the garden and has allowed us to construct a garden railway.
The building was restored by 1989, but because of its age it requires constant maintenance, which is carried out by SMRS members. One little conundrum is that to get a ladder up the east elevation requires footing it against the 3rd rail of the down line. And they never turn the current off....
The location means that we are within the loading gauge of the grown-up line. We therefore need to be careful to avoid sudden movement whilst taking the air near the garden fence, or else stress-related illness in Merseyrail drivers would reach greater heights than ever before.
The lease on the building requires us to maintain it, so we have to periodically find funds for repairs and renovations. An important source of income is the annual exhibition, which so far has helped us to remain in the black (or at least the pale grey) within needing to raise the subscription beyond its current modest level.
Current membership is a little over the round score; fortunately not all of them try to attend at once as they would not readily get in, certainly not in the front lounge. However every member has a key, and can use the clubhouse at any time.
The name Southport was carried on an LMS Patriot, no. 44527. The nameplate in this photo was cast from the same mould, but not carried on the loco.
Talking of history, this is Steamport, the preserved Southport engine shed. It was open to the public for some years, but the building was in a poor state.
Eventually Preston Borough Council made them an offer they couldn't refuse. In 1999 they relocated and rebranded as Ribble Steam Railway.