Reviews Of Recent Meetings
Virtual On-Line Meeting 25th August 2021
Southern Locomotives Ltd., Past, Present and Future with Nick Thompson
Nick is both a volunteer and Board member of Southern Locomotives Ltd. (SLL) with particular responsibility for the company’s website. SLL are dedicated to restoring, operating and maintaining Southern’s steam heritage.
The Group was founded in 1982 with the purchase of Bulleid Pacific 35027, Port Line, from the infamous Barry scrapyard. The locomotive was moved to Blunsden near Swindon where most of the restoration work was done at an outdoor site. By a stroke of good fortune they were offered covered accommodation in the old BR Swindon Works by Tarmac Ltd., the new owners of the site. Before restoration of Port Line had finished the group had purchased another loco, Light Pacific 34072, 257 Squadron. By a further lucky coincidence they were offered an interest free loan by Tarmac to complete the second restoration in order for it to take part in the 50th anniversary Battle of Britain celebrations in September 1990.
Since then a number of other locomotive restoration organisations (Southern Pacific Rescue Group, and Southern Steam Trust being two examples) have joined SLL and in the last few years, to ease the administrative burden, they have formed the one company, Southern Locomotives Ltd. This has resulted in the group now having eight locomotives, six of which have been restored. Controversially they sold the original restoration project (35027 Port Line) along with sister locomotive 35022 Holland America Line to Jeremy Hosking, but this has enabled them to complete other projects which otherwise would not have been financially possible.
SLL are based at two locations, Sellindge in Kent, and Herston Works on the Swanage Railway. Restoration and maintenance is done by four full time staff and volunteers. The group do not hire their locomotives for main line running, preferring to offer their steeds to preservation lines such as the Swanage Railway, Severn Valley Railway and North Yorkshire Moors Railway. In non-Covid times, this provides sufficient income for the group to exist and, with the help of donations, continue with their engineering work. They have 34010 Sidmouth in line to be their 5th Bulleid Pacific restoration and sometime in the future hope to restore 35025 Brocklebank Line. There is also the continuing overhaul of their other locomotives as their operational tickets expire.
Nick gave a most professional presentation, and as the webmaster of the group, had access to showcase some wonderful illustrations of their locomotives in BR operation, during restoration, and in preserved mode. Of particular interest to BDRS members were a number of shots taken locally including the only photo SLL have of two of their locomotives alongside each other in BR days, coincidentally in Basingstoke station at the head of London bound trains.
It goes without saying that like many preservation groups, SLL rely on donations and shareholder monies to survive and Mr. Thompson offered the possibility of purchasing shares for £250 each, with the enticement of shareholders enjoying driver and firing opportunities on the AGM days. Your reviewer and his wife, both shareholders, have had the pleasure of such an experience between Swanage and Corfe.
Nick Thompson has given his lecture online to a total of 9 railway societies across England during the Covid lockdowns and has another 2 booked for the autumn. The fees he has received for the presentations has helped the finances of the Society and has encouraged a number of people to become SLL shareholders. Obviously a positive side of online meeting presentations which would probably not have happened if meetings had actually taken place.
Virtual On-Line Meeting 28th July 2021
A Journey on LMS lines from Wick to Shoeburyness with Jim Dunning, Wokingham Methodist Railway and Transport Club
This evening we welcomed Jim Dunning to illustrate the size and scope of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS) before nationalisation of Britain’s railways in 1948.
The LMS was formed on 1 January 1923 under the Railways Act of 1921, which required the grouping of over 120 separate railway operations into the Big Four. The companies merged into the LMS included the London and North Western Railway, the Midland Railway, the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway (which had previously merged with the London and North Western Railway on 1 January 1922), the Furness Railway, several Scottish railway companies including the Caledonian Railway, the Glasgow and South Western Railway and the Highland Railway, and numerous other smaller ventures. Many considered the LMS to be an unwieldy concern. It operated services in and around London, the Midlands, the North West of England, Mid/North Wales and Scotland. Together with the London and North Eastern Railway, the LMS ran the former Midland and Great Northern Joint Railway network. The LMS also operated a significant joint network with the Southern Railway, in the shape of the former Somerset and Dorset Joint Railway. This connected Bath and Bournemouth, and wound its way through territory nominally allocated to a third railway company, the Great Western.
The expansionist policies of many of the constituent companies which formed the LMS, particularly the Midland Railway and the London and North Western Railway, resulted in the LMS owning or operating a number of lines outside its core geographical area. For instance, in 1912, the Midland Railway had purchased the London, Tilbury and Southend Railway which operated between London Fenchurch Street and Shoeburyness where Jim would end his talk. Starting at Wick in the far north of Scotland, his talk followed the order of locations in the national rail timetable but in reverse, hence the Scottish, Southern, Western, London Midland and finally the Eastern. Jim inserted closed lines where he guessed they might be, e.g. Bath Green Park as a branch off Bristol to Birmingham.
Having set the scene, Jim went on to illustrate many of the LMS’ trains and destinations starting in the far north at Wick then down to Edinburgh Princes Street, Glasgow Central and Wemyss Bay. Next up was Liverpool Lime Street and 9Fs at Birkenhead shed. We saw a new Class 769 at Southport and Class 507s and 508s on the Merseyrail system, all formerly part of the LMS’ empire. We went down the north west coast to Morecombe before turning inland for Bolton Trinity Street, Horwich and Bury Bolton Street, now home to the East Lancashire Railway. After Stockport we were at Buxton with its former LNWR station building before nipping over to nearby Middleton Top on the Cromford and High Peak Railway and then the Hope Valley line between Sheffield and Manchester. Other locations included Crewe, Birmingham and Euston before heading back to Derby and the former Midland main line at Monsal Head viaduct and Peak Rail at Matlock.At this point I briefly lost my network connection and on rejoining found myself at at Skipton, Halifax and Huddersfield in Yorkshire followed by an arrival at Upton Park in London and lastly Shoeburyness on the Essex coast.
It was clear that Jim knew his stuff and must have put in many hours of study and research of the LMS and its predecessors of which there were plenty. His illustrated talk was well received by members and those with a particularly soft spot for all things crimson lake will have had a field day.
Virtual On-Line Meeting; 23rd June 2021
That was the Year that was: 1965 Part 2 with Geoff Plumb
We last heard from Geoff in February when he presented Part 1 of his travels in 1965 ending with 02s on the Isle of Wight system in July. On the way home he called in at Eastleigh and that is where he started today with images of 31811, 33018 and more. Two weeks later he headed for the industrial railways of the North East via the emerging Keighley and Worth Valley Railway with GNR 1247, diminutive BR Pug 51218 and LNER 4744 to be seen. At West Hartlepool we saw a fairly clean WD no. 90588 with Q6 no. 63440 being coaled. There were plenty of locos the same day at Darlington sheds but the next day, at Seaham Harbour and at a variety of different venues we saw industrial locos of a very different vintage. Among the staithes and system inclines was an 1863 loco now at Beamish; we also saw crane tanks Millfield and Roger of 1940 and a 1948 saddle tank of 1948. We also visited Wearmouth Colliery with an NCB 0-6-0 in evidence at rest on what is now a dual carriageway! Back on the mainline we called in at Sunderland sheds and also saw 9Fs heading for Consett with tracks everywhere. Now it is a simple single track with new housing all around. At Eccles Colliery we saw saddle tank no. 49 which is now at the Tanfield Railway.
The family always had a holiday near the Ffestiniog, the Vale of Rheidol and the Welshpool and Llanfair and, at the latter, it appeared that their tent was located uncomfortably close to the running line. It was also an opportunity to take in the Aberystwyth Cliff Railway. Next up was Crewe where Geoff’s father had contract work whilst Geoff simply took the opportunity to make a photographic record of what was on shed including 47532, 44405, 71000, 45206 and 70016. Geoff also visited Etruria, Stoke on Trent and Kidsgrove.
It was now November 1965 and we saw 34064 Fighter Command in Winchfield cutting and then 45596 Bahamas in December on an RCTS railtour to the old National Railway Museum. On 23 December, with his father working in Bath, Geoff spent much of the day on the S and D down to Templcombe behind 73001 with 76006 seen at Evercreech Junction. He even squeezed in a trip to Crewe on 29 December where, to close the show, we saw 47568 among the boilers being used for heating, 44962 repainted but with no tender and 46235, xxx, in lined green in the paint shop before movement to the Birmingham.
Geoff may have run over time with the first half of this show back in February but this time his timekeeping was pretty good. Geoff is an exceptionally talented railway photographer and we were treated to some beauties today during a show with tremendous variety and full of colour ranging from the heavy industry of the North East to the family tent on the W and L complete with hi-viz orange canvas door. Another captivating and compelling session.
Virtual On-Line Meeting; 26th May 2021
The Decarbonisation of the UK's Railway System with David Brace
An excellent turnout tonight including several guests from other local societies and even one tuning in from Berlin! David began his presentation by taking us back to the Industrial Revolution and the birth of steam locomotion burning coke. It was not long before coal became the fuel of choice as locomotives were developed with more steam tubes. In many respects coal drove the Industrial Revolution but things have now almost turned full circle such that, because of its known harmful effects, coal has become persona non grata. But where would we have been without it?
By World War I there was a need for stronger and larger locomotives with a huge appetite for coal. By the 1920s and 1930s the General Strike saw a reduction in demand but the demand for electricity was increasing, for example as the London Underground developed, each company having its own power station, coal fired of course, to generate the electricity required. When World War II came along Britain could not meet demand alone and its supplies were augmented by US supplies along with new US steam locos to support the War effort both here andd in Europe. by the nationalisation of our railways in 1948 dieselisation and electrification had begun with the construction of diesel locos 10000 and 10001 as well as diesel. locos 10201 - 03 and then followed the Modernisation Plan in 1956 but the UK continued building new steam locos right up to 1960 withdrawing the last standard gauge example from service in 1968 by which time a raft of replacement diesel locos had been built. Some overhead and third rail electrification had begun in the early 1960s and 1970s, however, with more in the 1980s and, only recently of course, electrification of a large part of the Great Western main line has been completed.
Governments have not been sitting on their hands, therefore, but progress is arguably very slow and more often than not the problem is the cost. Decarbonisation, however, is now firmly on the agenda and, whilst the death knell for coal has tolled, there are a number of initiatives underway to promote non-fossil fuels by way of further electrification, the growth of battery power and the use of hydrogen power although this has drawbacks. There examples of hydrogen powered units in Germany, however. UK examples include the Class 319 to 769 hydrogen power conversion programme, the Class 321 hydrogen power experiment, 'last mile' diesel power incorporated in the Class 88 electric locos, the tri-mode Class 802s and Vivarail's rebuilt and repowered ex-London Underground stock on the Isle of Wight and at Marston Vale. A lot is going on. Locally we could benefit too: 25kv from Basingstoke to Reading would give a full electric service to London Paddington and there would be opportunities through electrification of Basingstoke to Salisbury and Eastleigh/Southampton to Salisbury but let's not get carried away.
National Rail's strategy is a rolling programme of electrification but past performance suggests that caution is called for in that respect given the government is requiring a diesel service on the new East/West line. there will be plenty of demand for new solutions in due course, however, in those areas where electrification is not an economic proposition.
This was a comprehensive and thoughtful review by David of the issues around de-carbonisation which prompted a raft of questions and comments from the floor. It is almost the story of the goose that laid the golden egg. 200 years ago coal helped to kick off the Industrial Revolution and all the benefits that came with it but here we are 200 years later, having learnt from life living with coal, that we should now do everything in our power not to use it.
Virtual On-Line Meeting; 24th March 2021
Railways of the Isle of Man with Barry Edwards
Barry Edwards is well placed to give a presentation on the railways of the Isle of Man (IOM) as he is both a resident and a director of the Manx Transport Trust. He is also an author of several books on the island’s railways.
As an introduction, Barry explained that the IOM lies midway in the Irish Sea between the Cumbrian Coast in England, and the Down coastline of Northern Ireland. It has a coastline of approximately 100 miles and covers 227 square miles. For those having an inclination for such facts, the town of Jurby in the north west part of the island is exactly half-way in a straight line between Land’s End and John O’Groats.
From a railway viewpoint, for such a small island, it has a fascinating number of narrow-gauge railways, and Barry proceeded to illustrate all of them. His photos were excellent, all taken in glorious sunny weather in recent years
He started in Port Erin with the Isle of Man Railway, a 3ft. gauge line that now runs for 15.3miles from Port Erin north through Castletown and Ballasalla to the capital, Douglas. Photos from a whole variety of locations were shown with the operational locomotives and rolling stock currently in service. Most notable was the Foxdale carriage which was originally built in 1886 for the small branch from St. John’s to Foxdale on the now closed line to Peel. Another oddity of the IOM line is the station at Ronaldsway Halt, which is the only airport station in the world served by narrow-gauge steam trains.
Moving further northward, Barry showed us the Manx Electric Railway (MER) which runs from Douglas to Ramsey, another 3ft. gauge line of 17¾miles, electrified at 550 volts DC. The line rises to 582ft. above sea level (asl) with incredible views of the coastline from the trains. Specific interest here was the 1898 built No. 16 “toastrack” car which still operates with only ratchet hand brakes. It was interesting to learn that the road traffic light crossings on the line are operated by the train drivers.
These are the two main railway lines on the island and Barry’s presentation then featured the other shorter ones.
Having arrived at Ramsey, Barry’s next couple of photos were of the Ramsey Pier Tramway which is currently being refurbished. The tramway was originally built in 1882 to aid the construction of Ramsey Pier and was then planned to be removed, but the designer built some passing loops and the line continued to carry passenger’s baggage without them being inconvenienced. Passenger vehicles were only introduced later. The pier is over 2,200ft in length so having transport on the pier was considered essential.
We then moved on to the Orchid Line, which runs in the Curraghs wildlife park and has two different gauge layouts, one of 7¼inches and the other 5½inches. Steam and diesel traction of both were pictured.
The next railway was the well-known Snaefell Mountain Railway which rises from a connection with the MER at Laxey for 5 miles to a height of 2,020ft asl. It leaves the traveller the last 16ft. to walk to the summit. It was opened in 1895 with a track gauge of 3ft.6inches, celebrating its 125th anniversary last year. The line uses a Fell Incline braking system and originally had rheostatic brakes, but the cars now have magnetic brakes following a runaway incident in 2017. Another fact of interest is that the Civil Aviation Authority maintain navigation beacons on Snaefell for planes approaching Heathrow from across the North Atlantic, which require their own rail vehicles.
Moving on to one of the more unusual tramway systems, Mr. Edwards now showed us the Douglas Bay Horse Tramway, a 3ft., 1.6mile system which runs along the Douglas Promenade. The Bay refers to the breed of horse, not the location in Douglas. It is the world’s last 19th century horse drawn passenger tramway and was recently threatened with closure. However, local pressure resulted in an about turn and the whole of the promenade has undergone a complete colourful resurfacing. We were reassured that the 25 or so horses are well cared for and make regular appearances at shows and carnivals in retirement.
Our next stop was the small privately owned 7¼inch Crogga Valley Railway which features American style miniature locomotives running in a private garden. Access is by invitation only on the few open days, but Barry was able to show us some of the operation.
Another railway of a different gauge was the 2ft. Groudle Glen Railway, built in the late Victorian era to connect the MER with a zoo at Sea Lion Rocks. The original 1896 steam locomotive “Sea Lion”, two replica steam locos., three diesels and a replica battery locomotive were depicted, along with several visiting steam locos that included the originally IOM based “Polar Bear”.
The final railway illustrated was the Great Laxey Mines Railway, which originally served a lead mine. The remaining 2004-restored 19inch gauge line is just ¼mile in length but incorporates the island’s only tunnel. This structure necessitated the locomotives, of which there are 5, being only 4ft 9inches high and 3ft wide. A trip along the line is not one recommended for anyone suffering from claustrophobia!
In 2016 Christopher Vine, the author of children’s railway related books travelled to the IOM to explain to school children how a steam locomotive works, and Barry also included photographs of the occasion.
If any member needed an introduction to the railways of the Isle of Man, or an incentive to take a railway-based holiday there, with its variety of transport, lovely scenery and apparently permanently blue skies, this presentation would surely persuade you to visit.
VIRTUAL On-Line MEETING; 24 February 2021
That was the Year that was Part 1 with Geoff Plumb
It was a pleasure to welcome Geoff to the Society again, this time to show us his images from the first half of 1965. After a brief introduction reminding us how his lifelong interest came about, he began with a shot taken by his enthusiastic father at Wirksworth when Geoff was just four years old and stood on the footplate of 58077. All the images Geoff showed had been scanned from original transparencies in his collection. It is difficult to write a review for a session such as this without making it feel like a simple catalogue of what was seen where and when so I am going to home in on just a handful of the many trips Geoff made.
Being January 1965 it seemed wholly appropriate that he should start with a couple of shots of Churchill's funeral train passing Feltham but next we were at Crewe with 46115 and a journey north to Carlisle stopping at Hellifield where, although the shed was now closed, the area around the station was busy and, inside the shed, there were several locomotives, steam and electric, stored for possible preservation. This was the first time that I had seen Hellifield and its environs in that light and now, of course, very hard to imagine. The journey back from Carlisle was via Shap. Back down South it was good to see a proliferation of Bulleids on the Waterloo to Bournemouth line with examples seen near Hook,on the approaches to Micheldever from each direction and at Bournemouth Central. Back at Waterloo we saw empty stock being moved and Standard tank 80154 bringing in the Bournemouth Belle's Pullman coaches from Clapham Junction. Geoff himself went down to Fleet that day and photgraphed more Bulleids including unrebuilt 34006 on stone wagons possibly bound for Meldon Quarry. 34082 took him back to Waterloo.
Next up was a shot of his sister's Honda 50 which during 1965 he began to use for trips out. A motor cycle proper would follow later in the year. In June 1965 Geoff was at Reading South photographing 31842 and whilst at Reading could not resist some shots of trolley buses. Afficionados were only treated to the one shot on this occasion though, a very smart example in Reading Corporation's smart red livery. Back at Basingstoke, 34051 had come down from Nine Elms for a special to Birmingham the following day, 35029 was on the northbound Pines Express whilst 34087 came off Basingstoke shed. Being June, Geoff had not expected to see a snow plough on the move but later in the day a Standard was in charge of one as it passed the station.
With the first half of 1965 nearly over we still had time for a trip down the Maidenhead branch to see a number of GWR 61xx tanks at work on short pick up freights, sometimes only a brake van.we then saw 7029 on the last steam hauled service from Paddington followed by somewhat downbeat visits to Southall and Bletchley sheds and to witness 75003 on a demolition train at what had been the attracive station at Aschurch.
Geoff's final selection was pleasingly close to home - what remained of the Isle of Wight system in the summer of 1965. it was interesting to see shots from around the Island - Ryde Pierhead, Ryde St. John's, Brading, Sandown, Wroxall, Cowes and Newport. This had been the last occasion on which Geoff had visited the Island to photograph the contemporary railway scene brimming with Class 02s although a handful had already succumbed to withdrawal.
With the end of steam not far away on the Isle of Wight this seemed a fitting way to bring another excellent show by Geoff to a close albeit that he ran over time. Perhaps the Isle of Wight section at the end could have been shorter. Plenty of colour, plenty of action and a wide range of locations each with a story to tell. I hope that it won't be too long before we can see the second part of the show. I also hope that his timekeeping will improve but that may be just the way he is. I remember when he visited the society with his previous talk I missed my train home! What do you do though when the pictures are so good?
VIRTUAL On-Line MEETING; 27 January 2021
Annual General Meeting
The Society's online AGM was held on 27th January and was attended by 33 members. Please see the February 2021 newsletter for a report of the proceedings.
VIRTUAL On-Line MEETING; 16 DECEMBER 2020
Rails in the Fells with John Clark
Back in August 2018 John took the opportunity to stay in Sedbergh for a long weekend when four steam specials were running to commemorate the end of steam in 1968. He first went to Low Gill to photograph A4 60009 Union of South Africa at the head of the Golden Express over Shap. We first saw Pendolino 390042, a TransPennine Class 350 and DRS (former Fastline) Class 66s nos. 66305 and 66432 on a freight. 60009 followed working hard as it steamed up the bank towards Tebay, a spectacle also recorded on video by John as it passed. Next was Jubilee 45699 Galatea, with 47746 inside before John set off for Kirkby Stephen where he captured 45690 Leander (somewhat drab in black livery) with 47237 inside for posterity on 'The Waverley', Leander opening up just as it passed under the station's footbridge, John's photographic viewpoint!
With some time on his hands now, John drove to the small but very smart railway heritage site at Kirkby Stephen East on the former Stainmore route. Here we saw one former North Eastern Railway loco no. 910 of 1875 (which had featured in the Shildon cavalcade) and several industrial steam locos and a diesel shunter. Its buildings were in good order and there were plenty of railway artefacts to enjoy. For the returning steam specials John had headed for Mallerstang on the approach to the Ais Gill summit. Galatea was the first to pass by working hard, again photographed by John as was 60009 with its chime whistle blowing all the way. Then it was off to Lunds Viaduct for Galatea again returning to York.
The following day John took time away from the specials for a while to visit Ingleton and White Scar Caves and its highly unusual rock formations with stalactites and stalagmites abounding and the experience enhanced by imaginative lighting. He returned to his hotel via Dent and, in the churchyard there saw the sombre sight of navvies' graves. They had lost their lives building the Settle and Carlisle line.
On Monday 13th John returned to Low Gill for the Class 88 (88009) on the Tesco Express among the Pendolinos, Virgin Voyagers and TransPennine emus and dmus. He then headed northwards to Foxfield, Eskmeals Viaduct and Silecroft for further photography, particularly the top and tailed Class 68s and 156420 in its special RAF livery. He also recorded 37401 leaving Foxfield on film and on video and a Class 325 Post Office unit at Docker on his return journey to his hotel.
The next day he headed for Ribblehead via Dent and encountered typical murky and misty weather whereby the steam special with 48151 in charge was shrouded in low cloud. Later, it was back to Lunds Viaduct for 48151's return in similar conditions for photography. The same could not be said about John's return to Foxfield where a visit to the signal box and a chat with the friendly signalman confirmed what was running. It was nearly time to head home but John could not resist calling in at Silecroft and Lady Hall Viaduct to get a few more pictures. Sadly, however, Lady Luck was not on his side as the weather deteriorated as we saw with John's final shot, a Class 156 disappearing in the distance in the rain.
So well done John for putting on the show and thanks too to Iain Henshaw for managing the images. John had been keen to make his presentation but technical glitches at home had raised a few issues which, despite doing the talk through his mobile phone, were never apparent. As usual John's photographs were top notch and the videoclips, albeit not 100% successful for technical reasons, produced a number of strirring sound effects, particularly No. 9's lengthy chime whistle across the Fells.
VIRTUAL On-Line MEETING; 25 NOVEMBER 2020
Local Rail Solutions with Alice Gillman from Vivarail
Alice explained the work being done by Vivarail to develop and introduce trains that were cost effective and supported decarbonisation. Whilst on major rail routes electrification was the answer, there were many secondary and branch lines where electrification would not be practicable and the continued use of diesel traction was losing favour given its less than green credentials. Emission free and independently powered trains were Vivarail's solution and development work was progressing well.
She described how Vivarail had already developed battery power technology and had progressed from 40 miles to 100 miles on a single charge. The company had patented their Fast Charge system so that a local train could recharge using track and train based equipment whilst in service. She highlighted the very recent delivery of their first Class 420 train to South Western Railway for use on the Island Line. Delivered by ferry and taken by lorry to Sandown, it had run under battery power to the SWT depot at Ryde. The company had also sold trains using first generation battery technology for use on the Bedford to Bletchley line and had sold hybrid battery powered trains to Transport for Wales. The former. like the Isle of Wight trains had been developed from redundant London Underground stock of which largely only the body shell had been kept.
A major benefit of Vivarail's approach was that existing trains, such as Class 156 dmus and Class 166 dmus could be retractioned so as to meet the growing 'green' agenda without the expense of buying new trains thereby making economic and environmental sense. Vivarail's technology would supplement hydrogen and electric power. Currently Vivarail, with Network Rail and Great Western Railway were pr4paring to run demonstration services using the new technology on the Henley branch which leaves the Great Western main line at Twyford east of Reading. The plan remained to be signed off but Alice was very enthusiastic about it so let's waits and see. Vivarail were clearly very serious with their intentions. You would have to be having bought 228 former London Underground vehicles for conversion wouldn't you? Sales so far demonstrated the progress the company was making. They are not alone, however. Electricity companies are beginning to sit up and take notice. Who knows what tomorrow may bring?
Alice's presentation was engaging, interesting and informative and prompted a number of questions/comments from Society members at the ned of her talk. I got the impression that she was enjoying herself very much talking to us and I, for one, certainly enjoyed her enthusiastic delivery and her personable manner.
VIRTUAL On-Line MEETING; 28 OCTOBER 2020
The Tramways of North West Lancashire with Paul Kirkup
It will have been a long time since we had had an evening devoted to trams. Tonight Paul Kirkup was on line to tell us about the tramways of North West Lancashire, a subject close to the hearts of those of our members who are tram aficionados. We visited the tramways that existed between Bolton and Liverpool, all now long since gone of course although individual trams from a number of the systems have been preserved. Operational examples can be found at The Wirral Tramway and Transport Museum at Birkenhead and the National Tram Museum at Crich in Derbyshire.
Paul began his presentation with the Bolton Corporation Tramway which operated from 1899 to 1947. It had just three single deck cars but 162 double deckers of which no. 66 is preserved and has been so for longer than its original working life. The nearby Warrington Corporation tramway system had five routes from the town centre but existed only for a relatively short time: from 1902 until 1935. Here we enjoyed views from the town centre illustrating not only just how basic passenger provision was but also how popular trams were in terms of mass local transit. At least there were no horses to clear up after!
Wigan Corporation’s tram system was in operation for even less time - from 1901 to 1931but it was different in that it operated two different gauges: 3’6’ and standard gauge. Paul particularly highlighted a heavily decora ted tram believed to commemorate a visit by King George V and Queen Mary. The tramway operates by St. Helen’s Corporation ran from 1897 till 1936 and, at this point, Paul illustrated how trams had become mobile advertising hoardings promoting all sorts of goods and services. Birkenhead Corporation tramways lasted just a little less time than the St. Helen’s system: from 1902 until 1933. Finally we visited Liverpool Corporation’s tramways. This was the largest system. It covered 90 route miles and operated for 60 years, from 1897 until 1957. Two of its trams can be found at the Wirral Tramway Museum and there is also one at Crich. It operated 1,260 trams and had links to the wider South Lancashire system.
Whilst the cessation of these tram systems was spread over 20 years or so there were several aspects that were common to all. By and large, serving such populous areas they were, as Paul’s photographs demonstrated, all busy. In places track layouts were complex. In the Everton district of Liverpool some roads were so narrow that inward and outward trams had their own separate routes along different streets. Elsewhere there were experimental cars to facilitate quicker boarding and dispersal and there were first class cars painted white and charging a premium fare so that they were not attractive to the masses! By the 1950s when tram systems were coming to an end the designs of cars bore no resemblance to those seen in the first decade of the 20th Century.
What a lesson tonight’s session was in terms of social history. Nothing could prevent the rise the private motor car and public bus services as modern technology evolved. It spelt the end for electric trams in the 1950s but who knew then that 50 years later several of those same areas would see a resurgence of tram travel and rails being laid in roads once more. Paul has more up his sleeve I understand and I am sure that we will be hearing from him again soon.
VIRTUAL On-Line MEETING; 23 SEPTEMBER 2020
A FIRST TIME FOR EVERYTHING with DAVID HINXMAN
A good many BDRS members took the opportunity to join with David Hinxman on 23 September for his Google Meet presentation. This was entertaining for all, I am sure, but particularly so for those members who had the good fortune to be on the trip to Göttingen in 1993, which was the subject of the meeting. This was David's first experience of BDRS European travel. He took to it without hesitation and quickly became a fully qualified addict.
Let's get the domestic arrangements clear straight away. David and I did not share a double bed. We just had two very adjacent singles. I learned later that he had spent the first night in close proximity to Howard, so he is clearly a man of discernment.
As was often the case in the early days, I had to do a day's work before flying out to join the main group in the evening. It was therefore good to see images of what the others endured and enjoyed before I joined them There were the delights of the overnight ferry from Harwich to Hoek van Holland, followed by onward rail travel via Rotterdam, Utrecht, Dusseldorf and the Wuppertal Schwebebahn to our base at Göttingen. Very unusually, the entire group forsook the attractions of the Bierkeller to be back on the station for my 22:59 arrival from Hannover. On other similar occasions I was routinely left to my own devices.
And so to Saturday. After a more than respectable breakfast we were at the station in good time for the 07:46 IC service to Magdeburg. There was a change of traction at Braunschweig, from the familiar DB Class 120 electric to an impressive ex-DR Class 234 Co‑Co diesel-electric. The unhurried operation was well illustrated by David. The route onwards through the former GDR had recently been wired but was yet to be energised.
Magdeburg, a generally rather drab city, had a large and busy Hauptbahnhof, with the added attraction of trams just outside. After an hour or so with the cameras we decided to take an S-Bahn of decidedly scruffy double-deck stock a short distance out to Eichenweiler. This proved to be a fortuitous move, as just beyond our randomly chosen destination was a depot. After a certain amount of sign language from party leader and son, we were given permission to enter. It was a traditional half-roundhouse, full of DR locos stabled for the weekend. Quite something. If David thought that this visit was the result of careful planning by the organisers, I would not wish to disillusion him. We left the Society’s visiting card with our thanks but, as was often to be the case, a financial donation was declined.
Then it was back to the Hbf for half an hour before a comfortable and fairly swift journey via Oebisfelde to Hannover with Class 232 ex-DR haulage and a train of IR stock from DB. From Hannover, with our DEM 11 supplement tickets firmly in hand, we travelled by Class 401 ICE to Hamburg. The train wasn't crowded and the ride provided a far more favourable impression than our first ICE experience a year earlier. The 178 km took 74 min, an average of 144 km/hr. Not exceptional, perhaps, and certainly no match for the TGV, but this was on conventional track and included the lengthy sinuous approach to Hamburg. After a brief photo-stop we commenced our return This was on a route via Bremen, where the impressive overall-roofed station was bedecked with semaphore signals. It was here that we encountered our only timetable snag, kindly overlooked by David. Our intended departure for Hannover proved to be Täglich auâer Samstag - daily except Saturdays. Thomas Cook had not made this clear. No wonder they ran into difficulties. As a consequence of having to use a later train, we resorted to a greasy stand‑up supper on Hannover Hbf. This was also kindly ignored by David, although it must surely rank as our most memorable evening meal, even if for all the wrong reasons. We made it back at our hotel just before lockout time.
Sunday. The day was set aside for what the locals call Dampf. An 07:11 departure necessitated an ad hoc breakfast. A Class 634 dmu took us to Bad Harzburg, with its signals and stained glass, for a bus connection, destination Wernigerode. We had an hour here, allowing us to watch the first departure of the day on the recently privatised metre gauge Harzer Schmalspurbahnen, and to observe the preparation of the line's giant 2-10-2T steam locomotives. We then made our way, hauled by one such loco, to Drei Annen Hohne, where there was a welcome photo-stop, before continuing up the recently reopened, steeply graded line to the Brocken, altitude 1,142 m. There was time at the top for refreshment and photographs before the descent under the control of a rather ungainly re-bogied Class 201 C-C diesel - hydraulic. With a change to steam at Drei Annen Hohne, it was then southwards towards Nordhausen, a 42 km trip through the well wooded foothills of the Harz mountains. Some late running of an oncoming train gave us an extended stop at the junction station of Eisfelder Talmühle. A loco failure meant that the final 6 km had to be by bus, which was well organised. David's show included some stirring images of many of these movements. Then it was back to the standard gauge, with two local trains to Göttingen via Northeim, and a splendid meal in the Ratshauskeller. Quite a contrast to the previous evening.
Monday. An even earlier start had been planned for today, our first train at 07:02 being a very crowded ICE to Kassel, where we had time for breakfast. Then it was all aboard the IR to Aachen, a journey of nearly 4 hours, to be followed by the now familiar route across Belgium to Oostende, the joys of the Jetfoil and the adventure of BR. I left the party at Hamm for a visit to Wuppertal and its unique suspension railway, experienced by the others on the Friday, before returning to Hannover for my return flight home.
As I was freelancing at the beginning and end of the trip, I am qualified to comment only on the middle part. David illustrated most items of motive power used on the trip, both locos and units, with additional images of infrastructure, other rolling stock, out of the window scenes and a few updates. When I learned that he would be using scans of colour negatives I feared the worst. I need not have worried, though, as the end result owed nothing to the standard achieved with slide film or memory card. Verbal information was given clearly at a speed that was easy to digest. There was no hint of the sound problem that beset some of us in the previous Meet. All in all then, a thoroughly enjoyable session. This was David's first BDRS presentation, virtual or conventional. How did he avoid it for so long? He must have a photographic record of many other European visits up his metaphorical sleeve. We now know where to look for an entertaining speaker if ever normality returns, or a second time Meet presenter if we can't wait that long.
One final thought. A typical 45 minute television programme is put together by 20, 30 or more people in various specialist roles. Just count the names as the credits roll. A railway club presentation - around two hours long when normality prevails - is usually the work of one multitasking individual. An interesting comparison.
VIRTUAL Online MEETING: 26 SEPTEMBER 2020
Over and Under Railway Bridges and Tunnels on Picture Postcards with John Hollands
It was fitting that John's first picture postcard this evening – it dated from the 1950s - illustrated a since demolished bridge on the Canterbury and Whitstable Railway that was claimed to be the oldest railway bridge in the world. The next postcards showed that this was not the case and that the surviving Tanfield or Causey Arch wagon way bridge in Northumberland was over a century older. Staying in North East England we saw Robert Stephenson's magnificent high-level bridge over the River Tyne and then, further north, images of steam passing over the Royal Border bridge at Berwick upon Tweed.
Crossing the Forth Bridge we saw Hush Hush locomotive no 10000 and, in LNER blue, A1 60120 Kittiwake. We couldn't leave Scotland without referencing the second Tay Bridge of 1887, then the longest bridge in the world. Of the first Tay Bridge and the historic accident in 1879 John read a poem by William McGonnagall evidencing that he probably was, as alleged, the worst poet in the world! Returning south we saw Knaresborough viaduct and then the Woodhead tunnel in steam days and, from 1953, with electric traction in the form of 27006.
The Great Eastern was represented by Trowse swing bridge and the narrow-gauge Southwold Railway by Blyth swing bridge.
The LNWR reproduced early prints on their postcards thereby giving them the opportunity to showcase many of the impressive structures north of London such as Primrose Hill tunnel, and also those further north, such as the Runcorn Bridge over the River Mersey. In North Wales we saw the impressive Britannia Bridge over the Menai Strait, a test train on the Snowden Mountain Railway and then returned to Liverpool for its overhead railway. A last LNWR postcard showed a convoy of six tank engines lined up on an unidentified bridge to test its strength.
Moving to the Midland Main Line, the very popular Monsal Trail now occupies the former trackbed across Headstone Viaduct at Monsal Head rather than Patriots and Peaks. All the Settle and Carlisle's viaducts are listed structures.
On the Great Western perhaps Box tunnel, opened in 1841, is the best-known structure but it has strong competition from the Dawlish sea wall, Ivybridge Viaduct, Brunel's Saltash Bridge, Barmouth Viaduct and the Severn tunnel all of which John featured. Further south we saw our very own Battledown flyover, the tunnel under Southampton on the former LSWR main line and the original elevated railway into Portsmouth Harbour. Further south west Calstock Viaduct had been the last viaduct to be brick built in 1908 and Chelfham Viaduct on the Lynton and Barnstaple showed what we might expect to see as that operation develops.
Closer to home was the swing bridge at Langstone Harbour and, elsewhere on the LB&SCR, were the traverser bridge at Ford, Southerham bascule bridge near Lewes and the swing bridge at Newhaven Harbour. On the former South Eastern Railway’s territory the bridge over the River Thames for Cannon Street featured along with Sevenoaks tunnel, Shakespeare Cliff tunnel, the tunnels at Tunbridge Wells and the Duke of York's Bridge on the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway. There were also postcards featuring the Twopenny Tube at Shepherd's Bush including cards by Frederick Hartmann who introduced the writing of the message alongside the addressee’s name and address on the back of the picture.
Nearing his conclusion, John whisked us off to the metro at Brooklyn in New York and also to see the multi-tiered Bay Bridge there before stopping at Kicking Horse Pass in Canada and the intriguing sight of a long freight train emerging from one of the spiral tunnels whilst the end of the train passed over it. With a light touch John brought his engaging and entertaining presentation to a close with tales of a moose that obliged a freight train to follow it through the lower spiral tunnel after the train crew had rescued it from getting stuck on a trestle bridge, and another about a dog that used to accompany its master on an inspection trolley up and down this “Big Hill” but didn’t like the tunnels, so would hop off at each tunnel entrance and scamper up or down the mountainside to meet the trolley when it emerged from the other portal!
22nd July 2020 Virtual Online Meeting
An Introduction to the Railways of Ireland with Wally Stamper
Rail transport in Ireland is provided by Iarnród Éireann (CIÉ) in the Republic of Ireland and by Northern Ireland Railways (NIR) in Northern Ireland. Diesel traction is the sole form of locomotive power in both the IÉ and NIR networks, apart from the electrified Dublin Area Rapid Transit system (DART) suburban route in Dublin. There are a handful of different loco classes. Classes 141 and 181 are Bo-Bos and Classes 071 and 201 are Co-Cos and are also operated by IR especially on cross border services. Wally also outlined ticketing arrangements and touched on the preservation scene both north and south of the border.it had been as a result of a steam railtour in 2004 that his interest in Irish railways had been ignited with haulage from Dublin to Whitehead behind number 85 and return behind Derby built LMS 2-6-2 lookalike number 5.
Wally had returned at least a dozen times since and was now very familiar with routes, locations and the changing scene as rationalisation and modernisation continued to make an impact. He looked at the remaining routes still remaining.
In the North:
· Dundalk in the South to Belfast and beyond in the North
· Dublin to Rosslare Harbour
· The Sligo line from Dublin
· Dublin to Cork and Caebh including Inchinore works
· Kilkenny to Waterford
· Dublin, Westport, Balling and Galway
· The Limerick, Ennis and Nenagh branch which has been rationalised since Wally was there
· Rosslare cross country to Limerick
In the South:
· Belfast to Lisburn and Portrush
· Londonderry to Larne Harbour
Modernisation was particularly apparent when viewing the design and style of DMUs in the early 2000s with Wally's images of those recently introduced, the former looking much like Class 156s in the UK and the latter showing off more futuristic streamlined, sloping fronts.
This was an excellent introduction to the railways of Ireland albeit that the size of the network both sides of the border had shrunk, both before Wally's adventures and since. Wally's images covered all aspects of the systems - stations, yards, rationalised and revised layouts, freight flows, suburban and urban networks, expresses and stoppers, signalling and signal boxes - and illustrated the operations of CIÉ and NIR very well.
24th June 2020 Virtual On-Line Meeting
The Settle and Carlisle with David Brace
David has a large number of transparencies and has been scanning them over a period into digital format including during the coronavirus lockdown. Among these and from more recent photographs he compiled a digital presentation over Google Meet for members with Internet access which he made on 24 June. I and twenty eight other members accessed the session with Iain Henshaw acting as host and giving an introduction and explanation of how this first session should proceed. All went well and the Committee has subsequently decided to run another session on 22 July, the second Wednesday in July and what would have been a regular Society meeting. Anyway, enough of the technicalities.
David and family had holidayed at Horton in Ribblesdale in 1981 and had made several other visits to the S and C over the years. His presentation started with images of that first holiday. With two young sons and a third child expected, at times it was quite a challenge making sure the young boys stayed close by and activities weren’t too strenuous for Sandra.
David took us down the line at a time, of course, when the S and C was under threat of closure. Stations were closed and Ribblehead viaduct needed repair, the cost of which BR was overestimating in support of it’s arguments. Along the line we saw the layout and signal box at Blea Moor, Dent Head viaduct and Dent Station (the highest in England) before stopping at Garsdale, formerly Hawes Junction, for a chat with the signalman in his signal box. At Hawes Junction (the original name of Garsdale) you would, before the line's closure in 1959, have taken the line to Northallerton and the ECML. Hawes station was readily accessible at the time of David’s visit as we saw. The line between Northallerton West and Redmire is now restored and operated by the Wensleydale Railway. In 1984 at Ais Gill summit and Ribblehead we saw 46229 Duchess of Hamilton passing by.
On July 29th 1981, the family also took a trip from Lancaster, with 850 Lord Nelson taking over at Carlisle, for steam over the S and C on the Wedding Belle (Charles and Diana being married that day) with a stop at Appleby for half an hour giving time to photograph a Class 47 passing through, probably bound for Leeds from Glasgow. Next up was the Cumbrian Mountain Express from Skipton to Carnforth behind Black 5 no. 5407. We saw how, at the time, Carnforth was more a locomotive preservation centre than the Railtour HQ that it has become.
The Cumbrian Coast Express, also behind Lord Nelson, was the reason for another visit up to Seascale, dropping off passengers for the Ravenglass and Eskdale. David then showed us some of the geological wonders of the area - the limestone pavements at Malham Cove and Swaledale Buttertubs - and also visiting the memorial at Chapel le Dale to those who lost their lives building the S and C.
David brought his session to a close with shots of his 2006 cab ride courtesy of EWS from Gascoigne Wood to Carlisle giving a different perspective to the journey passing through the 1981 locations and seeing them in a different light, thriving and, at times, too busy.
The session brought a favourable reaction from those engaged with it and everyone appreciated David's and Iain's efforts in bringing the talk together and making it happen. Well done all round.
11 March 2020
The Sittingbourne and Kemsley Light Railway presented by Paul Best
The SKLR is a preserved narrow gauge line in north Kent on part of a once extensive system serving Bowater's paper mills. I was keen to find out more about the railway as I and, it seemed, many of those present at our meeting, had never visited. Paul Best, a resident of Fleet, has been a volunteer at the line for many years and is the Vice-Chairman of the preservation group.
There is a 300-year history of paper-making in Sittingbourne and some evidence of an early railway system but the story of what is now the preserved line really began with the purchase of three steam locomotives in 1905. They were used to move imported raw materials from a wharf at Sittingbourne to the mill. The creek on which this wharf was situated soon silted up and a new wharf at Ridham Dock was opened in 1913 and the rail system was extended to serve it.
More locomotives were purchased during the 1920s and 1930s, mainly from Kerr Stuart and Bagnall, ranging from 0-4-2 saddletanks to a large articulated 0-4-4-0T, all fitted with distinctive 'balloon' chimneys containing spark arresters. A passenger service for workers operated 24 hours a day and Bowater's also operated standard gauge locomotives on a connection to the Sheerness branch. The use of the railway ceased in 1969 but at the initiative of Bowater's, part was preserved and opened to the public in 1970.
Paul's knowledge of the railway is extensive and his presentation was packed with facts – rather too many, in some ways, and I found it a little confusing. It was only half way through that he mentioned the gauge of the railway (an unusual 2 foot 6 inches) and I never did find out how long the railway was or what length is preserved. Unfortunately the digital programme that he used was set to move the pictures on every few seconds and he frequently had to return to a previous picture while he spoke.
Much of the area of the mills has now been redeveloped for housing and retail developments and over the years the railway has been beset by a closure threat by the new owners of the remaining mill and by recurring vandalism. This year, however, with three steam locomotives in operation across its unique 118-span concrete viaduct it celebrates 50 years of public trains and seems to have a new found vigour. Paul's talk whetted my appetite to know more about the railway and to take a visit as soon as I can.
26 February 2020
An Evening of Commercial cine films with Ian Clare.
An evening of nostalgia in more ways than one tonight with Society member Ian Clare - six old black and white railway cine films from the 1950s and earlier, shown by way of Ian’s traditional reel to reel projector whirring away contentedly as we sat and enjoyed the spectacle.
Fast Fitted Freight showed how the railways moved freight of all kinds from Bristol Temple Meads to the North following Black 5 no. 45238 on its journey through the day and night. The film very clearly demonstrated how labour intensive the loading process was in the 1950s. The Thunder of Steam was from the late Fifties on the Norfolk and Western in America with plenty of 4-8-4s on passenger trains and A Class 2-6-6-4s and Y6 2-8-8-2s on heavy freight, the latter very often on banking duties. Stirring and spectacular stuff. The third film was Power to Order homing in on the design and manufacturing processes and the heavy engineering involved in building steam locomotives for the home and foreign markets. Then came Hof Pacifics showing the final runs in the 1970s of Class 50 and 01 Pacifics in Germany. Watching the locos attacking inclines reminded me very much of the Society’s trip to Dresden in 2018 and the steam hauled parallel running up the Tharandter Rampe.
Ian’s last two films were silent, the first harking back to the Railway Centenary celebrations of 1925 attended by the then Duke and Duchess of York, later to become King George VI and Elizabeth, our Queen’s mother. We saw a stately procession of locomotives from the 19th and early 20th Centuries which demonstrated just how much their size and power had increased since steam locomotion had turned its first wheels.
Ian’s final film of the evening was a masterpiece of slapstick humour: Keystone Railroad starring Mack Sennett with a series of near misses, chaotic chases and special effects all choreographed perfectly. Very clever stuff of its time and a perfect end to the evening which, it was very clear from the appreciation shown, everyone had very much enjoyed. Well done Ian and I personally hope that it will not be so long a wait before he can be persuaded to show us some more.
12 February 2020
The Future of Rail Freight with Maggie Simpson, Director General of the Rail Freight Group.
Not since the days of David Shepherd’s railway lectures and John Huntley’s film shows had there been such numbers at a Society meeting. A record 59 people attended this evening and were rewarded with an authoritative expose of the rail freight business, past, present and future by Maggie Simpson, the Director General of the Rail Freight Group. A true professional with a light touch and a sense of humour, Maggie effortlessly kept everyone’s attention with her fluent and straightforward delivery.
The Rail Freight Group is essentially a pressure group made up of some 120 businesses which fund it including rail freight operators, logistics companies, ports, equipment suppliers, property developers and support services, as well as retailers, construction companies and more. It seeks to increase the amount of freight carried by rail and to influence Government policy accordingly. After a brief history since privatisation, from sectorisation through EWS and Freightliner to the six main operators today and the impact of the demise of coal traffic, Maggie described where rail freight was today with intermodal traffic and the construction industry sustaining growth. She outlined the increasingly important role of new hubs like Daventry and Castle Donnington and the connection of quarries along the Settle and Carlisle to he main line and explained new opportunities that she foresaw in the future: increasing demand from ports, HS2 spoil, concrete, new wagons and so on.
There would be challenges along the way, however. The future structure of the railways remains unclear; Brexit is now a reality; the capacity of the network is not unlimited and stricter emission controls and climate change cannot be overlooked. Zero emissions is the target for 2050 and there is increasing activity on that score using hydrogen and/or battery power but there is no evidence of adequate pulling power . Work needs doing to improve air quality such as by minimising idling and modern technology is bringing change such as autonomous vehicles; wagon tagging is growing to improve the efficiency of stock utilisation.
After the break plenty of members engaged in a question and answer session and, whatever the issue, Maggie responded thoughtfully and with alacrity until time was up and she had to leave to catch her train. This was a top class evening enjoyed by all present and reflected as such by a sustained round of applause in appreciation.
22 January 2020
The Society's Annual General Meeting occupied the first part of the evening. John Clark was re - elected Chairman with yours truly continuing as Vice - Chairman and Newsletter Editor. Tony Wright was re-elected as Secretary and Wally Stamper as Treasurer. Below is the Committee for 2020, but if you would like to contribute to the running of the Society by joining the Committee then please do not hesitate to contact any of us:
Membership Secretary - Graham Lambert
Programme Organiser - Roger Smith
Programme Support - Jeff Proudley
Publicity - George Porter
Overseas Trip Organiser - David Brace
Raffle - Richard Stumpf
Information Technology - Iain Henshaw
Web Co-Ordinator - Andy Fewster
22 January 2020
A Train of Thought - A Further Selection of Railway Postcards with John Hollands
For tonight’s post-AGM talk Society Member John Hollands brought us an interesting and entertaining talk using railway postcards old and not so old covering a wide range of topics within a series of themes. His six themes were journeys from Basingstoke, getting about in London, London to Brighton, tank engines of the Brighton line, London to Basingstoke via Reading and finally a poem ‘A Local Train of Thought’. John illustrated each theme with a carefully selected group of postcards in both black and white and colour.
His journeys from Basingstoke covered lines emanating from the station: up to Surbiton, Nine Elms and Waterloo, down to Eastleigh and its engine sheds and westwards to Andover but perhaps of more significant interest were postcards showing the line to Park Prewett Hospital around the First World War, the Thornycroft factory that continued to be served by a remnant of the Basingstoke to Alton Light Railway long after the main part of the line had closed, and likewise Treloars Hospital served until the 1960s by a remnant at the Alton end, all within the town’s limits. John’s selection illustrating how people got around in London was equally captivating with horse drawn carriages leading to omnibuses, trams, trolley buses and six wheeled double-deckers in addition to the early days of the London Underground and references to its stylised signage. We had a quick run down from London to Brighton by postcard stopping at a number of stations en route before easing into the terminus followed by some very early images of the Volks Electric Tramway on the seafront which I suspect none of us had seen before.
Referencing tank engines around Basingstoke, Stroudley’s Terriers were to the fore in their many colourful guises, Class I3s also featured together with Billington examples and Baltics. Next, we were setting off from London Paddington to Basingstoke via Reading. Some arrivals and departures at Paddington were shown including “Great Bear” leaving on a Bristol express, and along the route an interior of Old Oak Common Shed, King Edward VII’s funeral train passing through Ealing, two views of Reading station, one from the 1860s and the other from the 1950s, and an image of Mortimer Station with its listed Brunel buildings taken by Basingstoke photographer, Terry Hunt. Two views of Basingstoke’s Great Western station were shown, one dating from 1965, long after it had closed to passenger trains, and the other, an image from the Willis Museum not actually on a postcard, showed the two stations side by side in about 1850 including an early GW disc and bar signal.
The concluding poem which had been matched to an appropriate painting was “A local train of thought” by Siegfried Sassoon, written in 1939. It described a feeling of re-assurance that the poet derived from hearing a regular late-night train pass near his home, a feeling heightened by fears of the approaching war.
John’s presentation felt very much alive even though, by it's very nature, it tended to lean towards the past. Most if not all of us knew the locations he reported on and how we remember them and the locomotives and rolling stock he showed and so were, like me I hope, drawn into anticipating what would come next.
8 January 2020
Secret Siberia, Japan and the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway with Paul Whittle
Paul had last visited the Society with a talk on the River Kwai Railway. Tonight he presented three different topics: Secret Siberia, a trip to Japan and an update on the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway Society of which he is the vice chairman.
When we talk of Russia it is easy to overlook the fact that Siberia comprises over half of it. Paul began at Vladivostok, an important naval base in the Cold War, on the eastern Siberian coast and just a stone’s throw from Japan. After a little history about the Trans-Siberian Railway Paul presented more of a travelogue about the sights to be seen with a railway flavour in this the remotest of locations enduring temperatures as low as -20 centigrade rather than the other way round. But then, how many of us knew about the huge Lake Baikal which is the oldest and deepest in the world, freezes over in the winter and is a World Heritage site and who knew about the realignment at Irkutsk which opened in 1949 creating a long siding to Port Backai from the main line which, nowadays, seeing luxury trains on special services.
In October 2019 Paul had visited Tokyo, Kyoto and Hiroshima and straightaway homed in on a visit to the impressive railway museum at Kyoto showing examples from the wide range of locomotives there. The first railway in Japan from Tokyo to Yokohama had opened in 1872 with a 3’6’’ gauge. Japan’s famous ‘Bullet’ trains are standard gauge and, without fail, Japanese precision allows just two minutes for everyone to embark and disembark. I am not sure that such an approach would catch on here!
To conclude, Paul brought us up to date with goings on at the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, another World Heritage Site, where it appears there may be trouble ahead. despite a ridership of some 300,000 passengers a year. Steam haulage is not a ‘given’ nowadays; there are skills shortages among the workforce and a number of the 14 steam locos now are not in the best of health. Adding to the problems faced, conditions imposed to protect the railway are being observed in the breach. Paul believed that the line’s protected status was at risk. Indian Railways appear to show little interest. Back home, Adrian Shooter’s no.19 had been one tour visiting the Welsh Highland Railway and the Launceston Railway before his ‘train set’ relocates to a new site.
Paul’s talks aim to raise money for charities in the countries that he visits hence their more general than railway specific interest. Tonight, for me, his talk struck a reasonable balance: a bit of railway history, the different rail travel experiences, images of locos and landscapes, anecdotes a-plenty and a feel for life in these far off places. Paul has more up his sleeve apparently.
18 December 2019
Train of Events starring Jack Warner
Train of Events is a black and white1949 British film made by Ealing Studios and starring Jack Warner. John Gregson, Michael Hordern and Peter Finch were other names of note. It began with a train that crashes into a stalled petrol tanker at a level crossing, and then flashes back and tells four different stories about some of the passengers before the crash. There were plenty of railway scenes, Jack Warner being a train driver hoping to get promotion. There was also plenty of railway atmosphere around the engine shed and scenes showing largely locos in LMS, and British Railways black liveries accurately reflecting the date of the film. However I am sure that I was not alone in spotting a Bulleid fly through somewhere in the Southern's early malachite green and yellow livery. Some things never change.
The opening scenes showed Jack Warner's train crash into a petrol tanker at a level crossing so you thought he might not see the film through but, miraculously, he survived and, despite bending the rules at one point so as to make you fear for his promotion prospects, he ended up in a bowler hat having been duly promoted. As the film ends the murderer gets crushed by a derailed carriage, the German's girlfriend dies and he walks away into the darkness whilst the music conductor carries on his philandering with his arm in a bandage and his girlfriend with a black eye. Did the conductor's wife give it to her or was it a result of the train crash?
The film was typical of its time and, on several occasions, I found it hard to keep a straight face. I came away feeling that everyone had enjoyed the evening, however. Janet and I certainly did. The film was not 'top drawer' nor was it Christmassy but there were railways and steam a-plenty, several little storylines to hold attention and an enjoyable cold buffet put on by the Wote Street Club. A very enjoyable and sociable evening.
4 December 2019
The Old Dalby Test Track with Dave Coxon
Now retired, Dave had for many years of his working life been involved with testing and commissioning trains and, given the fluency of his presentation, his love of things technical quickly became apparent. His descriptions of the many usues to which the Old Dalby test track has been put flowed effortlessly.
To set the scene he explained the history of the line from opening by the Midland Railway in 1879 through LMS days and closure in 1966 under British Railways. In BR days what is now the test track had formed part of the Midland Main Line from St. Pancras, London to Manchester. It linked Nottingham with Melton Mowbury. We visited each of the stations along the line - Grimston, Old Dalby, Upper Broughton, Widmerpool, Plumtree and Edwalton - all of which (save Old Dalby) had closed long before the line itself, and looked at the style of the station buildings and what had been regular traffic over the years. The test track is 133/4 miles long from Melton Junction northwards to Edwalton.
After closure the line was singled and from 1971 to 2001 the track was used by the Research Department for a wide range of activities including testing the tilt on the APT-E (which reached 145mph on one occasion), the well remembered pre-planned Class 46 crash to test the integrity of nuclear flask wagons, track buckling. Stoneblower development, the LEV 1 railcar, the development and testing of high speed pantographs and plenty more. During the early summer of 1988 BR was asked to participate in the International Traffic and Transport Exhibition in Hamburg, Germany and sent a representative train of vehicles to the exhibition. The train comprised the sole Class 89 co-co AC electric locomotive, a Class 90 bo-bo AC electric locomotive, a Class 91 bo-bo AC electric and a Class 150/2 2-car Sprinter DMU, a couple of BREL coaches and a couple of 4 wheel ex-SR vans. As part of the initial trials, the train was brought to Old Dalby for braking tests to be conducted. In 1997 SERCO took over and electrified the test track as well as redoubling part of it for Pendolino testing. Alstom took it over in 2005 and the Metronet in 2007 for testing new underground trains. SERCO managed the track for Metronet and took the opportunity to attract other users such as the IEPs for Great Western to test passing line speeds. Classes 345, 710 and 720 have also been recent visitors.
The generalist in me quite enjoyed Dave’s presentation but those expecting a more technical talk may have been disappointed.
20th November 2019
Fifty Years of Continental Steam with Ian Foot
I don’t intend to record every country that Ian visited, suffice it to say that it was a considerable number. Nor will I say much about where the photographs were taken as I didn’t know where the majority were, other than somewhere in the country that he was highlighting at the time and, even if I did know, it is highly likely that I couldn’t spell them. So this is very much a ‘broad brush’ review of a fascinating and entertaining session which homed in on where to find steam, large and small on wide, standard and various narrow gauges, often but not always in Europe, after British steam came to an end in 1968.
Ian started in Austria and, as predicted by Tony Wright with his October newsletter cover shot, among the images we saw was the same iron ore line with top and tail steam. In several of the countries visited we saw examples of Kriegsloks and, in Turkey, a Stanier loco of which one or two in recent years have been repatriated to the UK. WD Austerities were also in evidence and S160s from the U.S.A. Greece operated three gauges in the early 60s and it was interesting to see the Harz Mountains system with 100 per cent steam operation. It was -18C during Ian’s visit to Finland which included a trip close to the western Russian border. It had been difficult at the time getting photographs in Hungary but in Jordan and Syria the powers that be gladly put on run-pasts. In Italy the Crosti boilered singles made for an odd sight whilst, in Portugal, all locos were oil fired. There was plenty of narrow gauge steam around Porto and more narrow gauge in Poland and Romania. Romania also boasted their own versions of some Prussian and German locos. There were plenty of Garratts in South Africa and 5’6’’ gauge monsters on RENFE tracks in Spain. What a super collection of colourful and historic images.
Running over time (to the dismay of several including myself who had to catch a train home), not everyone could stay until the end of Ian’s presentation. The break halfway through was too long which was a shame as, up until the point that I had to leave, it had been a real treat to go back in time and enjoy the steam still available after its demise in the UK and not too far away in some cases.
6th November 2019
A bumper number of entries this year, 171 in all - 51 steam, 46 non-steam, 39 metros and light rail and 35 miscellaneous and infrastructure entries. As usual, the pictures in each category were shown twice and voting slips completed at the end of each section. Sandra Brace and I did the scoring whilst those present were treated to a selection of humorous submissions by Master of Ceremonies David Brace.. Despite the record number of entries for this year’s competition attendance was on the low side, unfortunately. There was plenty of colour and variety and even a technical hitch to add to the tension of the announcement of the winners. An enjoyable and entertaining evening all the same. Here are the results:
1st = Andy Fewster and Tony Wright
2nd David Hinxman
3rd = Alistair Swann and Richard Stumpf
1st Howard Ray
2nd Tony Wright
3rd David Hinxman
Metros and Light Rail
1st Andy Fewster
2nd = David Brace and David Hinxman
3rd Jeff Proudley
Miscellaneous and Infrastructure
1st Howard Ray
2nd= David and Sandra Brace
3rd= Alistair Swann and Wally Stamper
Overall Winner - Howard Ray with his winning photograph in the Miscellaneous and Infrastructure Category of the Border Bridge at Berwick-upon-Tweed, the cover photograph on this newsletter. Well done Howard and congratulations on taking the trophy for the first time.
23 October 2019
Tracks in the Mist with Colin Brading.
Colin discussed three rather eccentric tramways all of which have disappeared with little trace remaining of them although they all found their ways into the hearts of the communities they served. The tramways comprised the Swansea Mumbles Railway (SMR), the Wantage Tramway and the Weston Clevedon and Portishead Railway (WCPR).
The SMR was built to convey coal, iron ore and limestone from mines and quarries in the Mumbles area near Swansea. It was opened in 1806 and carried passengers from 1807. It is thus regarded as the first passenger carrying railway in the world. Steam replaced horses in 1877 when trials were undertaken with one of Henry Hughes patent tramway locomotives. An extension to Mumbles Head was completed in 1898 and the line was electrified to 650 volts DC in 1928. At that time a fleet of 11 double-decked cars was purchased for use on the line. Closure came in two stages with the final service operating in January 1960. One car (No2) was saved for preservation by Leeds University Railway Club and stored at the Middleton Railway. Sadly this car was subsequently destroyed by fire.
The Wantage Tramway lasted from 1875 to 1945. It was part urban tramway and part branch line. The railway linked Wantage with the GWR station at Wantage Road, a distance of 2 ½ miles. The residents of Wantage had resented the fact that Brunel had avoided their town when he had built his main line to Bristol and, under the leadership of Lord Wantage, it decided to build its own connection to the main network. Services started in 1875 with horse-drawn carriages and with a double-decked steam tramcar. This was regarded as the first ever use of steam traction on a passenger tramway. In 1880 a Menarski compressed-air locomotive was introduced. This was followed by the purchase of two steam locomotives. In the early 20th century the line prospered taking much of the freight-carrying from the Wilts & Berks Canal which also served Wantage. By the 1920s the GWR was running a competitive bus service and passenger carrying on the line was abandoned in favour of freight traffic. The line was badly damaged during WW2 by American Army vehicles which were based in the area prior to D-Day. Closure followed in 1945 but one of the Wantage locomotives (Jane) is preserved at the Didcot Railway Centre.
The WCPR was originally conceived to connect 3 Somerset coastal towns which had been by-passed by the GWR main line to the south west. The line extended for 14 miles with the first section from Weston to Cliveden opening in 1897. The extension to Portishead followed in 1907. Two ex-Furness locomotives (named Weston and Clevedon) were initially purchased for the line and these were followed by two LSWR Terriers. The line served Clevedon gas works. Col. Stevens, the well-known railway entrepreneur, later became involved with the line and introduced petrol driven rail cars but these were not able to reverse the fortunes of the line and it closed in 1940. Thereafter the GWR used the line for the storage of stock. Colin gave us a fascinating insight into three lines which all of us may have heard of but few of us knew much about their somewhat troubled existences.
9 October 2019
The Kent and East Sussex Railway with Doug Lindsay
Doug explained very fully the history of the Kent & East Sussex Railway. It operates along a significant remnant of the Rother Valley Railway which had been built in the early 20th Century and closed in 1961. It was reborn as the embryonic Kent & East Sussex Railway we know today in 1972 with rebuilding over the years since. Such has been their success that only a farmer opposed to the railway running across his land stands in the way of reconnecting tracks so as to return to Robertsbridge and the main line.
The railway first came to Robertsbridge in 1851 and, over the years, several unsuccessful attempts were made to bring the railway to Tenterden. With the passing of the Light Railways Act 1896 a railway from Robertsbridge to Headcorn - the Rother Valley Railway - was secured. The work was overseen by Holman F Stephens, who was appointed managing director in 1900. Stephens attained the rank of lieutenant colonel in the Territorial Army (TA) in 1916 and was subsequently known as Colonel Stephens. The Act allowed for cheaper construction methods in return for a speed restriction. It was up and running in 1900 unlike a number of other railway schemes in the area which foundered. The extension to Tenterden Town opened on 15 April 1903 and in 1904, the Rother Valley Railway changed its name to the Kent & East Sussex Light Railway. The original Tenterden station was renamed Rolvenden at around this time. Tenterden to Headcorn opened on 15 May 1905. On the outbreak of war in 1914, the K&ESR came under government control, being released from the same in 1921. The K&ESR was not included in the grouping of the railways into the Big Four in 1923 but continued its independent existence. Very soon the section from Tenterden to Headcorn was operating at a loss. In 1932, following the passing of Col. Stephens, W.H. Austen, his long term deputy, was appointed Official Receiver for the line but the Second World War saw a renaissance, the line becoming an important alternative supply route to the south coast. On 1 January 1948, it became part of British Railways, Southern Region but the line's fortunes never recovered. Regular passenger services ceased in 1954 with hop-pickers' specials running until 1958. Closure came in June 1961.
Preservation activities began immediately but, due to difficulties in obtaining the necessary Light Railway (Transfer) Order, it was 1974 before the line partially reopened as a heritage steam railway between Tenterden and Rolvenden. Extensions followed to Wittersham Road in 1977, Northiam in 1990 and Bodiam in 2000. An extra one mile extension to the site of Junction Road halt towards Robertsbridge was completed in 2011.
Being a light railway, locomotives and rolling stock used on the line had always been small. Replacing older stock, a Class P 0-6-0 arrived in the mid-1930s whilst A1/X Terriers have a long association with the line both before closure and since. The Kent & East Sussex operation these days is an impressive affair largely due to the commitment and enthusiasm of its volunteer force but it has had many significant obstacles to overcome along the way needing outside contractors' assistance at times. Quite an achievement. Doug brought his talk to a conclusion by showing 'then and now' images of Bodiam Station comparing it in 1900 with today. In line with the Railway's aims, little appeared to have changed which spoke volumes. We wish them well in their ongoing efforts to bridge the gap back to Robertsbridge and congratulate them on their success so far.
25 September 2019
The Ivatt Diesel Re-creation Society with Tony Ullershaw
Tony had come down from the Midlands to talk to us about the work going on to recreate Ivatt’s LMS diesel locomotive no.10000, the original of which had entered service shortly before nationalisation in 1948. Sister locomotive no. 10001 followed shortly after nationalisation.
Starting with a brief history of Rudolf Diesel’s invention in the 1890s as it pertained to railways, Tony took us through the LMS’ development of 350 horsepower diesel shunters and their pre-war introduction before the arrival of the twins. Meanwhile on the Southern Region Oliver Bulleid was working on three prototype shunters, no’s. 6201 - 03, followed, after nationalisation, by the introduction of diesel locos 10201 - 03. Ivatt’s work developing 10000 and 10001 was much in evidence as BR’s Modernisation Plan evolved and diesel traction developed. There was a connection from the twins to the engine powering the Class 40 of the late 1950s through the DP2 prototype for the Class 50 and later the Class 58.
10000 and 10001 were both built with LMS and English Electric cooperation at Derby weighing in at 125 tons and generating 1600 horsepower. In the early days Derby to St. Pancras and return was a regular turn then in 1953 both locos were used on Waterloo to Weymouth turns and occasionally runs to Exeter. Come 1960, however, Classes 40 and 45 were regularly available for flagship services and in 1963 10000 was withdrawn and scrapped 5 years later whilst 10001 lasted until 1966.
The 10000 Re-creation Society was formed in 2011 with the aim of building a replica 10000 keeping as close to the design of the original as possible. As always, raising funds has been and remains the biggest hurdle for the Society to overcome. Work is progressing, however. An original axle and LMS letters from the bodyside are in the Society’s possession and a withdrawn Class 58 has been acquired. The Society owns a V16 engine, has sourced another and has obtained a bogie from an EM2 electric loco. It now has charitable status too which will benefit fundraising and a building at Wirksworth, without a rail connection, is to be the Society’s workshop and storage facility for the parts being collected.
Spreading the word will be important for this relatively new group and Tony did that well this evening, daunting though it might sound. This has to be a long term project unless a generous benefactor is waiting in the wings somewhere but Tony’s society are clearly committed to their task and we all wished him well in bringing the re-creation of Ivatt’s pioneer diesel loco no.10000 to fruition.
11 September 2019
Something Old, New, Borrowed and Blue with the Rev'd Alastair Wood
In the absence of our scheduled speaker it was a quick and very welcome return to the Society for the Rev’d Alastair Wood. At short notice he had kindly agreed to show us more examples from his extensive range of railway images from the 1960s to the present day. Whilst much of what he showed us was his own work, also among his collection were photographs taken by his father, also a keen railway enthusiast, photographs bought on e-bay and photographs from collections which he had purchased or which the collections’ owners had given him permission to use.
The ‘old’ and ‘borrowed’ in the title of his presentation spoke for itself: 8Fs, 9Fs, Black Five’s and Crabs toiling through the Hope Valley and around New Mills, Marple, Peak Forest and Gowhole Sidings where, now, there is no evidence that such an extensive railway presence ever existed. Many holidays had been spent in North Wales allowing visits to Shrewsbury and photography at nearby Upton Magna whilst other locations included Euston, Willesden and Wolverton Works and it’s vintage departmental loco. Alastair’s ‘blue’ theme was still a work in progress in preparation for a stand alone session but here we had a taster: Class 31s, 33s, Peaks, Deltics, 47s and first generation dmus. ‘New’ included the first Class 60 at Buildwas Junction soon after delivery whilst, in a different sense of the word, he showed images only recently entrusted to him of HSTs, Deltics and Class 20s. Also ‘new’ were his very recent shots of the last HSTs out of Paddington, Duchess 6233 on the Belmond Pullman, rebuilt WC Braunton at Westbury, Class 59s whose days may be numbered, Clan Line and, passing his home town of Trowbridge, Flying Scotsman. So, again, a very enjoyable picture show from Alastair truly reflecting the title he had given it and full of banter, anecdotes and with a lightheartedness that encouraged participation from the audience. We may have been spoilt with two visits from Alastair so close together but what a pleasure it was to see such a wonderful range of railway images which, whilst nostalgic in some selections, were bang up to date in others. We must now wait patiently until 27 May 2020 when Alastair is scheduled to visit us again.
28 August 2019
South African Narrow Gauge with Norman Hogg
This evening we welcomed Society member Norman Hogg to tell us more about South African Railways and narrow gauge in particular. The first railways in Durban and Capetown had been built in 1860 to UK standard gauge and had extended locally but the discovery of gold and diamonds in the Johannesburg and Kimberley areas, the Cape government soon realised that extending the existing railways would be too expensive. The gauge was, therefore, set at 3ft 6in, known as Cape gauge, which was subsequently adopted throughout South Africa. To cope with the terrain 2ft gauge was also common in some areas in the Cape, the Hope line for example, and a line from Port Elizabeth to Aventuur. There had been 27 of these lines many of which are now a distant memory. Norman showed comprehensive footage of those still operating.
Firstly in Natal we saw loading and unloading sugar cane on the Alfred County Railway which this year was expected to move 19 million tonnes and we followed heavily loaded trains across the countryside. Also in Natal was the Port Shepstone to Harding line built between 1911 and 1917. the 76 mile line had been closed by South African Railways in 1956, reopening as the Alfred County Railway in 1987 only to close again in 2004. A tourist operation ran in 2005 but flood damage in 2008 made the line uneconomical to repair. A short section reopened in 2015 but that was suspended the following year! The third line that we saw was the Paton County line built originally from Ixopo to Madfonela in 1914. It closed in 1985 but, to boost tourism, reopened in 2000. Still operating, it has narrow gauge Class 91 diesels and NGG 11 no. 55, the oldest steam loco in South Africa.
For the second part of Norman's presentation, we visited Sandstone Estates, a private concern with a lengthy track layout and an interesting collection of locomotives and rolling stock and old motorised vehicles. Imagine the UK's Mangapps Farm in Essex but on a much larger scale. Our last stop was at the Aventuur Railway, completed in 1907 and the longest 2ft. gauge railway in the world at 177 miles. Passenger services finished in 1940 but some freight continued until 2005. In 2005 Norman had joined a 4 day tour of this railway from Port Elizabeth to Aventuur. Being the first steam on the line since about 1973 there was a fanfare and civic celebrations all recorded for posterity by Norman. as well as a similar steam railway based event in 2010 at Humansdorp for the opening of a new cultural centre.
The tours which Norman had joined to record South African narrow gauge had clearly been very popular with evidence of participants jostling for the best photo spot and long may they continue. There is still a market for them as we have seen previously when Jeff of Jeff's Trains came and spoke to us a a few years ago and some of our members have taken part. Norman brought South African narrow gauge steam to life tonight with his enjoyable and colourful films and we look forward to his next instalment in due course.
14 August 2019
The Canadian Pacific Project with Dr. Becky Peacock
Many of us, I am sure, were broadly aware of the successful Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) bid for funds to support the restoration of the Mid Hants Railway’s flagship locomotive, rebuilt Merchant Navy Class no. 35005, Canadian Pacific. Tonight we had the opportunity to learn about the project in more detail as we welcomed Dr. Becky Peacock who was leading the project for the Railway. She held a Doctorate in Industrial Archaeology and had been working on the project now for four years.
The project revolves around the three year restoration of 35005. In 2015 the Mid Hants Railway was awarded £895,000 by the Heritage Lottery Fund towards the total project cost of £1.5m. The balance of the project's costs will be met through volunteering, fundraising and donations to the Mid Hants Railway Preservation Society.
The Project has two key strands. The first is the restoration of the locomotive along with two 1940s wooden framed carriages also designed by Bulleid, open third 1456 and semi-open brake third 4367. The restoration of 35005 has, unfortunately, proved to be more extensive than had first been envisaged and Becky explained the issues to be overcome showing several videoclips by way of illustration. The second strand comprises a number of outreach and interpretation projects involving the local community, job centres, schools and higher education institutions. The Railway are also running a number of tours (at Ropley and Eastleigh), events and talks to increase people's knowledge of the locomotive and the Mid Hants Railway and the social history of steam and railways between 1940 and 1960. This includes creating links with communities and schools in the London area where Canadian Pacific 35005 roamed regularly during its service for Southern and British Railways.
There are also a series of sub-projects including the creation of an oral history collection. The Railway is looking to collect memories from those who worked on and used the railway during WWII and the 1940's –1960's, covering immigration, women's roles on the railway, Eastleigh Works and the locomotive itself. 'A Different Eye' is another sub-project comprising a film documentary on the restoration process and events surrounding the Canadian Pacific Project. This is to be undertaken by volunteers, local schools and higher education institutions.
It was clear from Becky’s presentation that the MHR has made a significant commitment through the HLF in which she and her dedicated team are fully engaged. Her enthusiasm shone through and her sense of humour brought levity despite the seriousness of the job in hand. This is a major project and remarkable progress has been made in all quarters. As Becky said, there is still so much more to be done, financing and installing 2,200 boiler stays for example, and we wish her and the MHR every success in bringing the Canadian Pacific project to a satisfactory conclusion.
24 July 2019
A Life on Rails with Howard Nichols
A regular speaker on cruise ships giving lectures about the ports to be visited, Howard had also given talks to the U3A, The National Trust and many other organisations. This, however, was the first time that he had spoken at a Railway Society. Undaunted he started with some information about himself before taking us on a tour to almost every corner of the world facilitated by his work on cruise ships, coach tours his love of speedway and the enjoyment that both he and his wife got from travel both home and abroad.
Born in West Moors with the station on his doorstep he got to know the signal man and porters very well as a boy. He was given a Box Brownie camera for passing his 11 plus exam and was soon taking photographs of The Slug (as the M7 from Brockenhurst to Bournemouth West was known) and other trains and processing them at home before selling them at 4d each at school and elsewhere. He also made deliveries on his bicycle from and to the station for local people and businesses. Quite an entrepreneur. Armed with his camera and the company of like minded friends he began chasing steam until its end including shots at Barry Scrapyard before moving on to steam at Welsh collieries where we saw, at Grovesend, the last working steam loco in South Wales at the time. With a brother-in-law in Spain, European travel soon followed with first attempts at colour photograph processing.
Madrid then led to Casablanca and the Marrakesh Express, Norway in the early 1970s and Ireland and the USA: Mount Washington and Boston before Skagway and Anchorage in Alaska, a ‘Big Boy’ at St. Louis, along Route 66 to the Durango and Silverton, the Cumbres and Toltec and the Grand Canyon Railways. I was not clear as to where the cruise ship work started but the next stops were Mexico, Peru, Costa Rica, the Panama Canal, Uruguay, Argentina and Brazil before the railway at the End of the World and a cliff railway at Cape Horn. The African continent was next and then India with narrow gauge steam running at Nagar Pradesh a year after steam in India had officially ceased! Then further east to Bangkok, the River Kwai, Myanmar, South Korea, Mongolia, Shanghai for the 267mph Maglev, Vietnam, Taiwan and Japan. Not finished, Howard moved on to Australia and New Zealand and the Hawaii.
Back in Europe and the UK, Howard had visited the Harz Mountains steam operations and the Mollibahn in Germany and also Poznan for the steam there when visiting for speedway. At home Howard had visited special events at many heritage railways courtesy of coach trips with which he was involved and had a particular soft spot for Bulleid 34067 Tangmere which he had photographed steaming through Hinton Admiral. Still not finished (where else was there to go I thought), we visited Corsica, Iceland where two small steam locos had once worked at Reykjavik harbour, the West Indies and, to close, the Russian State Railway Museum at St. Petersburg which had opened in 2018. Very impressive it looked too.
Our colourful trip around the world was at an end. Not an evening for railway technocrats but an enjoyable railway romp and plenty of pictures old and new for our enjoyment, presented in a relaxed, homely way. Sometimes travelogues such as this can fail to hold one’s attention I find but tonight was very much an exception and Howard’s talk received warm applause before he had to dash to catch the 10.10. home.
10 July 2019
The Exeter-Barnstaple Line Past, Present and Future with John Gulliver
Your reviewer was particularly interested in this presentation as he had elderly friends living in Bideford who had to travel regularly to Exeter for hospital treatment . The first part of their journey was bus to Barnstaple and then by train to Exeter. They described the journey as “a nightmare, sometimes having to stand on trains and having to arrive in Exeter in time for hospital appointments.” I was keen to see what our speaker had to say about this line and what hope there was for improvements. The Beeching era axe reduced this once double track line to a 40 mile single track branch line with occasional passing loops and no less than 11 halts in a thinly populated area of Mid-Devon. Barnstaple, population 24,033 and sixth-most-populous town in Devon, and Exeter, city and county town, population 129,800, are by far the largest conurbations in that part of Devon with virtually no centres of population in between except Crediton (7,835 at 2011 census, quite a small town really.
This has proved to be a very difficult line on which to provide a service satisfactory for all the many categories of would-be travellers and many detailed analyses have been carried out to try to optimise the timetable with little success. The majority of revenue (78%) comes from passengers travelling between Barnstaple and Exeter who want a faster service with more and better rolling stock and fewer stops. Travellers from the more remote areas want a more frequent stopping service to encourage them to use the railway but at the moment they contribute almost nothing to the total revenue on this line. The problems do not end there. For over 20 miles the railway and the adjacent A377 road run side by side with the River Taw. The railway crosses and recrosses the river umpteen times and our increasingly unpredictable and heavy rainfalls have led to serious flooding of the line with washouts to the track, scouring and under mining of bridge piers and blockage of bridges by farm debris swept down the swollen river.
The situation regarding public transport in the area is far from satisfactory and efforts are being made to plan an integrated system with co-ordinated bus and train times, an objective previously pursued here without much success but has been introduced successfully in Switzerland. It is becoming increasingly clear that a co-ordinated bus service would serve the outlying villages better leaving the railway to carry the majority of passengers between fewer stops giving a faster service where possible on the single line. A surprising statistic that our speaker gave us was that 1 in 4 people living in this area do not have access to a car and for whom an effective public transport system is, in their view, an absolute necessity. There is a need for a better public transport system but improvements to railway infrastructure are expensive. Increases of 10 to 14% in passenger returns was recorded in the early years of infrastructure improvements but this trend has not been maintained and the danger for the future is that it might be decided that the railway service is unsustainable.Our speaker reminded us that changes in circumstance are often outside the control of the railway. For example, the building of a new hospital in the Barnstaple area would be welcomed by the many people who now have to travel to Exeter but would significantly reduce usage of the railway. Changes too, in employment opportunities in the Barnstaple area could also have a significant influence on railway usage. It was clear that the future of the Exeter to Barnstaple railway was very uncertain.
26 June 2019
From Railways to Royalty with Jack Boskett
This was the title given for tonight's presentation but when it came to it and we were introduced to Jack he had no specific title or theme, just a short video encompassing the many elements of what his company, JD Media Ltd. based in Tewksbury, does: commercial photography and the Press, weddings, portraits, royalty and celebrity, model portfolios, landscapes, motion pictures, printing and lastly, but by no means least, railway photography, his enduring passion. Jack was given his first camera at the age of 5 by his father, another well known railway photographer, and he soon was following in his father's footsteps. He is completely self taught and started his now successful business aged just 19.
As this evening moved along with plenty of puns (to which those in attendance made their own contribution) and amusing stories arising from situations in which he had found himself Jack showed us a range of impressive photographs, sometimes in colour and sometimes in monochrome, illustrating the breadth of his photographic commissions. For example there were a number of striking black and white portraits of famous people including Dame Kelly Holmes, Mary Berry, the late Sir Roger Moore and Des O'Connor. There marvellous scenes of Tewksbury in flood and in the snow. He often set scenes up such as an RT bus and a Routemaster at dead of night in London on Westminster Bridge, on Tower Bridge and by St.Paul's aided and abetted by clever lighting effects. H.M. The Queen featured during her Jubilee tour. It seemed that there was nothing that he wouldn't try so as to get that perfect picture for his customers.
His first love, however, was railway photography and, in particular, attempting to recreate scenes from the 1950s and 1960s. This included organising photo-charters for clients with run-pasts to get the right effect and creating static scenes on shed, particularly at Didcot where the originality of the steam-era engine shed lent itself very well to the creation of atmospheric images some of which Jack and members of his family had appeared in suitably attired in outfits from that time. Some modelling photography had also been done on railway stations and, in a quite different sense of the word, his own model railway also featured. Despite being 00 gauge, the close up imagery, lighting effects and smoke blown from a candle led one to believe otherwise.
This summary perhaps does not do justice to the energy exuded by Jack in making his very well received presentation tonight. There is much that I have passed over as he flitted from location to location and special effect to special effect. Through all his his love for black and white photography stood out and, interestingly, was achieved by a simple keystroke to remove the colour from his initial image. I found it very difficult to pick out photographs which I found particularly striking - there were so many that were just so good. He very quickly developed a rapport with his audience this evening and his warmth and cheekiness laid the foundations for an excellent session. It is no surprise that his company is doing well.