Reviews Of Recent Meetings

20 December 2017

The Great St. Trinian’s Train Robbery

Starring Frankie Howerd, George Cole and Dora Bryan and featuring Reg Varney, Richard Wattis and Terry Scott, this 1966 colour film in which the all-girls school foil an attempt by train robbers to recover two and a half million pounds hidden in their school, was enjoyed by all with laughs a-plenty. Two Ministry of Supply Austerity 0-6-0ST Tank Engines featured, one mocked up to resemble a J50 and temporarily renumbered 68961, but in reality was WD157 Constantine. The other was WD196 Errol Lonsdale, which was at the Watercress Line when the line was in its infancy. A green Hampshire DEMU, no. 1102, also appeared carrying the police contingent as they charged back and forth chasing the robbers. Good old-fashioned fun this evening with a very enjoyable buffet courtesy of the Wote Street Club.

David Hinxman


6 December 2017

A View from the Window … A Look at Sweden's Railways with Alan Norris

The window in question was in the house of Society member Alan's son who has lived in Gnesta, about 40 miles outside Stockholm, with a view of the main line south west to Malmo and Goteborg, for the last 15 years. Alan's visits to see the family have given him an intimate knowledge of Sweden, its rail network and its trains.

Alan's presentation was enhanced by the inclusion of many maps of the rail network past and present which gave those of us without a knowledge of the country a good understanding of what we were seeing in his pictures and where they were. To set the railways in context, we learned that Sweden is a country of only 9.8 million people, that Stockholm is a relatively small capital city of 1.35 million and the second city, Goteborg, some 282 miles distant, has a population of 540,000. 

Whilst the rail network, begun in 1856, extends north over 900 miles to Narvik (in Norway) much of the 7,967 mile network is in the south of the country. Only 1,250 miles of the network is double track but 4,920 miles are overhead electrified at 15kV. There are 171 miles of an unusual 891mm narrow gauge suburban network. Having suffered significant closures in the 1950 – 1980 period, the railways have more recently seen a resurgence with investment in speed enhancement, easing of bottlenecks and new rolling stock.

Long distance services run at up to 200 km/hr, many with X2000 push-pull tilting trains or with X55 4-coach EMUs. Alan showed us these trains and local services using 3-coach double-deck EMUs (also capable of 200km/hr) and 2-coach EMUs, often articulated, and rural lines operated by a variety of DMUs, some single-coach. We also saw smart stations, historic and modern. In rural areas the railways run   connecting bus services, some using large vehicles accommodating luggage, mail and even palleted cargo. 

Public transport in Stockholm is provided by a single operator, coordinating heavy-rail trains, underground trains, trams, the narrow gauge network, buses and ferries. A new link in the city has an   underwater bridge. Work that one out!  

Train travel has increased by 80% in the last 25 years, with a commensurate increase in the frequency of services on the main routes. To increase capacity and flexibility, double-track sections are bi-directionally signalled and new 'bypass' lines have been constructed. However, lest we think that all things Scandinavian are successful and efficient, Alan showed us two recent embarrassing projects – a 5-mile tunnel on the Goteborg to Malmo line begun in 1993, abandoned in 1997, recommenced in 2003 and   finally finished in 2015 at a cost 10-times the original estimate and the trains on the new airport line at Stockholm with door openings well above the standard Swedish platform height which precludes their use on any other lines.

Alan's absorbing talk was packed with interesting details and accompanied by excellent and varied photographs of his subject matter. 

David Hinxman


22 November 2017

Gosling’s Gallivants Again with Paul Gosling

As was to be expected, Paul put on an interesting and varied show tonight as he romped through his   Gallivants in 2016 and, as usual, there was plenty of amusement and laughter as he shared his experiences with us, beginning with an RCTS visit to Arlington Services in the former Eastleigh Railway Works. Space here was rented out to all sorts of activities by the owner, many railway related but not all. Locomotives and multiple units were maintained and repaired there and repainted but it at was also home to taxi services, bus services and acted as a depot for Eastleigh Borough Council vehicles. Work came from all over the UK.

Next up as a trip to Croydon’s trams followed by visits to Reading for some imaginative railway photography making the most of the new station’s soaring lines and self-cleaning windows and Didcot before crossing The Solent for the naming of the new Red Jet 6 by the Princess Royal and associated special events. Another visit to the island centred on the Isle of Wight Railway at Haven Street and the new maintenance facilities and museum there.

At Kensington Olympia Paul had joined the Weybourne Wanderer to the North Norfolk Railway and return with Hastings demu 1001. Crowds had gathered at the Sheringham level crossing as the special made its way across and we saw 9F 92203 Black Prince and 8572 in pristine condition. Despite its title, the train passed straight through Weybourne Station on both the outward and return journeys! 

Nearer home, 2016 had seen the 150th anniversary of the opening of Netley Station with its associated celebrations and also the 40th anniversary of Southampton FC winning the FA Cup. Both events had involved Paul’s bus group and he had been on hand to record proceedings. We also saw the results of photographic opportunities Paul had taken whilst doing survey work at Millbrook Station: double headed Class 50s from Derby to Swanage, Network Rail’s all yellow HST banana train and steam specials featuring Jubilee Galatea and Royal Scot Scots Guardsman among the highlights. Paul rounded the evening off with a visit to Salisbury recording plenty of varied activity there with 6201’s manoeuvring catching the eye. 

Paul’s fondness for all things transport shone throughout his presentation and his enthusiasm never diminishes. An enjoyable evening for one and all.

David Hinxman


8th November 2017

The Railways of Southampton with Gordon Adams of the Reading Transport Group

Railways in and around Southampton had been in Gordon’s family for 120 years and, this evening, his family connection was to serve him well. Gordon crammed plenty of information into his presentation covering the Docks, Southampton to Redbridge, Southampton to Netley and, via Northam, to Southampton Terminus. 

Gordon's admirable and extensive collection of prints, photographs and postcards showing changes over the years provided invaluable pictorial evidence of the subject matter. It is hard to believe that The Solent up the 1920s lapped so close to the walls of the Central station and towards Millbrook and that so much land has been reclaimed from the sea but it will still be fresh in the memories of some just how extensive the railway system within the docks became and the interesting variety of locomotives and rolling stock which could be found there: the USA tanks, Class 07 diesel shunters, Ocean Liner Expresses and, still now, the Class 66s which cross Canute Road on a regular basis.

Gordon's presentation was well received and generated much interest and comment. You could tell his affection for his home town and its railways and I know that I have not mentioned every aspect here.  However, his last two images were telling: Britannia Class 70004 William Shakespeare, an exceptional visitor to the area in the 1960s, leaving the docks with a banana train and passing an area known as Chapel which had changed beyond all recognition since. These were his favourite ever photographs and clearly their local significance resonated with him very strongly.

David Hinxman


27th September 2017

Society Photographic Competition

Here are this year’s results:

Steam: 1.  Sandra Brace

             2.  Ian Francis

             3= John Clark; Tony Wright; David Brace

Non-steam: 1.Ian Francis

                    2.Andy Fewster

                    3.Ian Francis

Metros and Light Rail Systems

            1.Malcolm Bown

            2.Sandra Brace

            3.Andy Fewster

Infrastructure & Miscellaneous:

            1= David Brace; Ian Francis

            2  .David Hinxman

            3= Wally Stamper; Andy Fewster

 The overall winner was Ian Francis’ non-steam entry, a Class 59 on an up stone train passing Crofton.

All of these photographs can be seen on the Society’s website. I plan to have the winning shot on the cover of the December newsletter with the category winners’ shots on the inside page, all in colour. Well done to everyone who entered.

David Hinxman


13th September 2017

150 Years of the London Underground with Barry LeJeune

Tonight Barry LeJeune brought us a history of London Underground from 1850 to 2000. He was well  qualified to do so - Barry's entire working life had been with London Underground, from leaving school in 1963 until taking retirement in 2000 from the post of Head of Customer Relations. He currently continues his association with 'The Tube' through his Chairmanship of the Friends of the London Transport Museum.

His story began with the growing influx of people to London in the middle of the 19th Century, a situation exacerbated by the Great Exhibition in 1851 which attracted even greater numbers and rendered journeys across London very difficult. A solution had to be found and it was from this situation that the first sub-surface railway emerged: the beginnings of the Metropolitan in 1863 between Paddington and Farringdon Street. The largely 'cut and cover' excavations created havoc in the capital for some years. By 1886 the Circle Line was in place and in 1890 the Prince of Wales opened the Central London Railway from Shepherd's Bush to Bank (the 'Twopenny Tube'). This is now part of the Central line. In 1905 the first electric services were operated, steam locomotives having hauled trains until then from the 1860s: loco numbers were reused so Metropolitan No. 1 which many of us may have seen operating on preserved lines is not the original No1. That is in the London Transport Museum.

In the 1920s and 1930s architect Charles Holden created a range of iconic station designs reflecting his simple modernist style, many of which survive today and have been listed as being of considerable historic interest. As London grew during this period so routes expanded and existing lines were extended. Growth continued at such a pace that in 1933 all underground services were unified and became part of the London Passenger Transport Board. The Board took control of all the Capital's railway, bus, tram,  trolleybus and coach services.  Also in 1933 Harry Beck's diagrammatic Underground map first appeared. 

During WWII many tube station platforms were used as air raid shelters whilst some were closed to store British Museum treasures and to provide accommodation for Government. Some 5 years later the first   aluminium train entered service on the District line. Demand continued to rise and in 1969 the Victoria Line opened followed in 1970 by the GLC taking over the Underground; in 1971 steam motive power was eliminated; in 1977, H.M. The Queen opened Heathrow Central station (Terminals 1, 2 and 3) on the Piccadilly line and in 1979, the Prince of Wales opened the Jubilee line which itself would be opened further in 1999. Meanwhile in 1986 the Piccadilly Line had been extended to Heathrow Terminal 4.       Operational requirements also saw quite a number of station closures over the years as well as the Central Line branch from Epping to Ongar but continued passenger growth and technological change   demanded ongoing development alongside the introduction of new rolling stock, signalling and  infrastructure. By 2000, when Barry retired, the Docklands Light Railway had been introduced and the Canary Wharf development provided new opportunities for further expansion of the London Underground. Barry experienced phenomenal change in his time with the Underground. What would those digging tunnels with picks and shovels in the early days make of modern tunnel boring machines I wonder? 

But tonight it did not all stop there. As an additional part of his talk Barry went on to tell us about the reintroduction of Steam on the Met and the part that the Friends of the Museum had played to bring it about. It seemed that being offered coach 353 from a private garden in Sussex in 1974 had played a major part. This turned out to be an original Metropolitan Jubilee vehicle built in 1892. It was accepted gladly by the Friends in return for a garden seat! It was restored to immaculate condition at the Ffestiniog Railway and in 2013 it ran in passenger service as part of the Underground 150 steam train programme behind Metropolitan No.1. As well as shots recording this and other similar London Underground events we also saw 'behind the scenes' images of trial runs and testing, sometimes behind LSWR Beattie well tank no.30587. In conclusion and bringing us up to date, we also saw Met. No. 1 and coach 353 at other locations, Class 20s in London Transport liveries and the Museum's 4TC stock which recently had been at the Swanage Railway.

Apologies for this review being a tad longer than usual but I found it difficult to decide what to leave out and still present a comprehensive picture. For me the chronology was an important part of the story of how and why the Underground has developed as it has. Barry's talk was very well received as clearly shown by the enthusiastic response when he brought it to a close and he will, hopefully, have caught his train home feeling that he had done a good job. Don't forget that you only need hop over to the Isle of Wight to see examples of the 1938 stock still in operation.

David Hinxman


23 August 2017

South Africa with Norman Hogg

Society member Norman gave us a striking video presentation this evening of three tours of which he had been a part starting with The Golden Thread in August 1997 from Cape Town to Oudtshoorn and back, The Cape Namibian in 2004, and finally, starting just two weeks after the first tour, The Zambezi from Cape Town to Victoria Falls.

Although just 20 years ago, the two 1997 tours, and for that matter the 2004 trip, illustrated just how different things were then although footage of steam locomotives looking the worse for wear dumped in yards and at sheds was indicative of the direction in which things were going. That said, there was still heavyweight steam in operation sharing freight and passenger work with diesel traction. There  were too many different classes of each for me to keep up with but there was plenty of impressive footage of powerful Garretts shunting in yards as locals wandered across the tracks or double heading with other locos and creating explosive scenes.  Run pasts were part of all of the tours and many impressive locations featured allowing loco crews to put on a good show. The curvature of the 3' 6'' track added to the impact as the long trains and a telephoto lens emphasised the visual effect.

Each of the three tours had a different attraction but comfort and good food seemed to be pre-eminent. The Golden Thread, headed by North British built 4-8-4 Class xx no. 3417, set off for an area well known for its grapes and wine. The Zambezi's objective, again starting with 3417 in charge, was a stop on the famous bridge over the Victoria Falls, footage of which Norman had enjoyed from the air during what he described as a precarious helicopter trip. During this tour, Kimberley and Mafikeng were names to conjure with from a historic perspective as the special ventured into Botswana whilst Bulawayo teemed with steam and railway activity.

Our appreciation of the third tour, The Namibian in 2004, was aided by Norman's brief history lesson explaining how, over the last 150 years or so, the country had gone from being part of the German empire before falling under British control and finally gaining its independence in 1990. The railway had developed over  this period with different gauges before setting on the South African norm of 3'6''. En route across the desert we stopped at De Aar which Norman described as the Namibian equivalent of Crewe. The capital, Windhoek, housed the national railway museum and was also a very busy railway centre.

For those who love their steam locomotion this evening was a treat and there were plenty of diesels operating too for those with a more modern bent but there was also plenty of social, economic and cultural interest. 

For Norman it must have brought back some wonderful memories whilst for the  audience I suspect there were some who said to themselves that they would have loved to have been there savouring the sounds and smell of steam (tinged with oil vapour at times). 

David Brace


9th August 2017

An (incomplete) A-Z of Pre-Grouping Railway Picture Postcards with John Hollands

This evening John presented an amazing selection of railway picture postcards from the  pre-grouping era. He reminded us that, in its day, the picture postcard was used like present day text messages and emails. In the early days, the address of the receiver was put on one side and the message and sender on the other leaving only a small space for a picture. Senders got around this by putting the message on the same side as the address and soon Royal Mail specified splitting one side in two so that the address and message were on one side and a full picture could be put on the other. The golden era of postcards was between 1902 and 1914. The pictures also improved when the UK adopted the Continental size of 5½ by 3½ in. Not many people owned cameras so postcards were a good alternative.

Main publishers numbered only a handful and some railway companies also published details of their trains and the areas they served. The most prolific publisher was the Locomotive Publishing Company, set up by two former employees of the GER. In order to supply colour postcards, they used a technique of black and white photographs overpainted in oils. Of the railway companies, the most prolific producer of postcards was the London & North Western who sold at least 10 million cards.

John worked his way through the alphabet, each letter being illustrated with cards covering subjects such as locomotives from companies or locations. The Great Central included Woodhead. The Great Eastern had the Decapod, the Great Northern an 0-8-2T and the Great Western the Great Bear. The LNWR selection was fairly extensive and included Bushey Troughs, Shap, flooding at Walsall and the accident at Shrewsbury in 1907. Q was neatly dealt with – the worst railway accident in the UK – Quintishill in 1915 – for which a number of postcards were produced showing different scenes from the multiple crash. 

We also had examples  of overseas railways such as Austria, Belgium, Canada, Egypt, France and Germany. The Canadian cards were of particular interest being part of a set of 8 showing the spiral tunnels on the Canadian Pacific route through the tunnels at a time when expensive works were carried out to ease the gradients. A French locomotive from the PLM company was also interesting – a Windcutter – streamlined to cope with the Mistral wind in southern France. Russia, South Africa, Switzerland, Turkey and the USA all provided examples.

More eccentric or unusual  postcards included Invicta in a museum in Whitstable, flooding at Lewes and the Volks electric railway in Brighton and, towards the end, John showed us postcards connected with WW1 which included enlisting posters and the LBSCR 4-6-4T Remembrance.

This was a very entertaining evening made possible by John’s extensive postcard collection and his equally extensive knowledge of the subject

David Brace


26th July 2017

Headlamps and Headboards with Peter Simmonds

At the outset Peter outlined the nature of this evening's presentation. It was to be an informal exploration of the variety of ways in which railway companies used headcodes, headlamps and headboards to convey information at the head of a train to staff and passengers. Whilst scanning black and white images he had come to the conclusion that this was an area worthy of further investigation and consideration and something which groups with an interest in railways, such as the Society, might enjoy and be able to contribute towards. As his talk progressed it became apparent that there were plenty of situations that he had uncovered where he had yet to find an answer. As a result, therefore, I felt that this was more a work in progress but, equally, in terms of engagement, Peter gave the membership plenty of opportunities to chip in 

His methodology was thorough, taking us through all the various standard headcodes and headlamp positions and illustrating them with black and white images of trains carrying them. He drew attention to exceptions operated by the Midland Railway and the Somerset and Dorset and he explained the Southern's own arrangements. Headcodes by way of train numbering had, over the years, also operated different arrangements using one, two, three and four digit systems, early diesel locomotives having headcode boxes built-in. Again their use was demonstrated by showing examples of each. Peter spent little time on the use of headboards, however, and showed just five from across the regions. Unfortunately he had found very few examples in his collection of photographs. On that basis I felt that perhaps  he might have been better off concentrating on headlamps and headcodes where there seemed to be plenty of scope for further investigation and analysis. 

This was not a lively meeting and, for me had a 'monochrome' feel about it but it was one of interest just the same and many engaged in dialogue with Peter in 'question and answer' mode at the end. Am I alone in thinking that a little colour would have given it a bit of a lift?

David Hinxman


12th July 2017

Gripping Yarns: Life as a TTI on the Severn Valley Railway (SVR) with Jim Seaton

Jim began his presentation by explaining that the title of his programme had little to do with the antics of a particular media celebrity. For the past 10 years he has worked on the SVR as a Travelling Ticket Inspector, (TTI), during which time he reckons to have travelled some 96,000 miles. He is now the railway’s Department Training Officer. A Middlesex man, he explained that prior to his SVR service he had worked on both the Keighley & Worth Valley and Isle of Wight Steam Railways.

A typical day’s work for Jim begins with watering the coaching set he will be working on, (ie. loos), and generally ensuring it to be fit for use.  Labelling preparation for Groups must be done, as together with school and other parties, this is an essential source of revenue. Organising group seating to be in the right place on longer trains, for entrance/exit at shorter platformed stations, is essential. As a Heritage Railway, liaising visits with other local tourist attractions is also important. Special Weekends, such as Armed Forces Day, ‘Allo ‘Allo Days, etc., involve a great deal of work and additional staff. Most memorable recently was the visit of Flying Scotsman and the extra  policing required at the lineside. At the end of the day his group is again tasked with clearing and tidying everything on the set ready for the following day and, before they depart, making sure no members of the public get locked into the train. Jim explained that there are 1,500 volunteers on the Railway’s books, plus a small number of paid staff, involving all the trades necessary to keep the railway running.

As a TTI Jim explained that most tickets were sold at stations, but that he had the provision to sell tickets for cash on board for casual visitors. He also dealt with all Standard to First upgrades on board. Jim handed round his 8 page rules and regulations guide with its vast array of SVR ticketing possibilities. He brought some amusement with his tales of compartment coaches, or Harry Potter stock as they are called on the SVR. Most incidents related to compartments with all the blinds pulled down and we were left in no doubt as to what sort of things a hesitant entry might reveal! As Jim pointed out, a good sense of humour is a prerequisite in a job like this. 

Jim reminded us that it was just 10 years since catastrophic flooding occurred on the railway, at 40 separate sites, causing around £4m of damage. The railway recovered only to be hit again recently with a serious slippage at the County boundary. This is currently slowing all trains down to walking pace at this point. A new ‘Oil Burner’ Loco Depot at Kidderminster opened recently, which has the ability to lift out engines. The boiler shop at Bridgnorth is now currently handling 3rd party work for the Isle of Man Railways. Having suffered loco shortages in the past, a new managed restoration queue now operates to ensure there are always sufficient locos available to run timetabled services. Jim then outlined the current loco stock in some detail, together with news that the Belmond British Pullman coaching set is now based in the carriage sidings at Kidderminster, where it has a direct link to the main line network.

Future plans for the railway include, for the first time, an all night service at the upcoming Autumn Gala. The SVR have a large stock of freight vehicles and it hopes to include the regular running of a freight set within the next new timetable. A £2.5m share issue is currently underway to provide for significant enhancements and extensions to Bridgnorth station. It is hoped this will also include a turntable, a viewing gallery within the MPD and significantly improved staff accommodation. 

Peter Tran


21st June 2017

Further Ramblings of Railwaymen with Geoff Burch

Geoff returned to give us further anecdotes and pictures from the last days of steam on the      Southern. His first visit, back in 2013, covered the publication of his first book, featuring his own experiences as a Cleaner, Fireman, Driver and finally Instructor at Waterloo. This evening’s talk  covered his second book about the steam days’ reminiscences of 11 of his closer colleagues, mainly at Guildford. 

‘Acting the Goat’, and not getting caught out by the boss, was a major theme of Geoff’s talk about the years in the run up to the end of steam. A good sense of humour prevailed at ‘working’ levels and with some of the stories you wonder just how they managed to get away with it. A good example of this involved loco cleaning, whereby a mixture of steam and caustic soda was used. This was frequently sprayed around at anybody and everybody not quick enough to get out of the way. The steam spray, without caustic soda of course, was also a vital feature of footplate fry-ups. Geoff gave us a gourmet’s guide to success here. Most importantly, the loco must be stationary and then the shovel must be thoroughly cleaned with the steam spray. The fire must not be too hot either. With the bacon, etc. on the shovel, it is carefully balanced on the edge of the firebox. The trick is - the egg goes last. Delicious!! Geoff went on to relate how potentially difficult situations, having to subsequently be explained to management, could sometimes have an unpredictable outcome. Guildford driver Brian Davey relates the time he was working a freight train and had to stop for a brew-up on a steep gradient just short of a crossing. Brian and his fireman noticed the local hunt gathering at the crossing and gave them a wave to cross the line. Next day they had been called into the manager’s office and expected to be disciplined for having stopped for the brew-up. To their great surprise the smiling manager flourished a pound note and told them that this was a reward from the Master of the Hunt for  stopping to allow the Hunt to cross the line safely!!  

Geoff has managed to acquire a great number of photographs of the steam era from colleagues, some of whom have now sadly passed on. Many of those shown to us covered the Southern region, but there were also some others of interest, including period Kings Cross and modern day A4’s at York Museum. Several featured lines no longer operational, including those on Hayling Island and the Isle of Wight. A comment was made regarding the apparent age of many of the loco crews  pictured. Geoff pointed out that working conditions had improved vastly since steam days, health practices were better and people now lived considerably longer. In steam days many staff only survived for a relatively short period beyond retirement age. 

As an Epilogue to the programme, Geoff told us of his efforts to produce an illustrated information plaque to commemorate 50 years since the end of steam at Guildford Shed. He showed an image of the finished plaque and said it would be mounted as close to the site of the old shed as possible in the near future. 

This was a very enjoyable programme and we hope it will not be too long before Geoff returns again.

Peter Tran