Windsor and Maidenhead

Meeting Reports

Monday 25th September 2017
Crossrail Progress - The Elizabeth Line
Patrick Griffin

The first meeting of our 2017-18 indoor programme drew a large attendance for the visit of Patrick Griffin, Insurance and Information Manager of Crossrail, to update us on the Elizabeth Line, as the route is to be known. A civil engineer by profession, Patrick’s job will come to an end in 2018, when Crossrail’s task, completion of the route, has finished, with operations being taken over by Transport for London.

Crossrail is not a high speed line, of course, but an urban metro, one which will see a 10% increase in passenger capacity in central London. The company was founded in 1989, but early attempts to get things moving failed for lack of financing. The East-West study of 1997 foresaw the scheme we see today, and led to construction beginning in earnest.

There are three distinct sections; existing surface rail east and west of the capital, and the underground section linking the two. It is passengers travelling to Tottenham Court Road or Liverpool Street from, for example, Maidenhead, who will benefit from the biggest reduction in journey time.

The tunnelling is now complete, incorporating the pre-existing Connaught Tunnel in Docklands, and what remains is a plethora of relatively minor contracts; fitting out of stations and signalling, for example. The first of the Bombardier “Aventra” class 345 units have entered service into Liverpool Street, and will be seen east of Paddington in 2018. This informative and well-illustrated talk left members looking forward to the day when they can ride right through to deepest Essex without a change of train.

Thursday 15th June 2017
55 Years of Railway Photography - Part 1
Dr. Les Nixon

Our June joint meeting at Bourne End with the Marlow and District Railway Society gave us the opportunity a true legend of railway photography, and secretary of the Society’s photographic portfolios, Les Nixon. The subject, “50 Years of Railway Photography”. It is hard to think what else we might have needed for a brilliant evening.

The superb quality of Les’s pictures is timeless, and will need no introduction for most readers. What is remarkable, at the tender age of 81, is his continuing enthusiasm for the subject, matched only by his hugely entertaining and amusing commentary. One cannot fail to be impressed, additionally, by his modesty, scarcely touching on the enormous efforts to which he has obviously gone in getting his shot just right.

During the evening Les showed us, in a delightfully random order, trains all around the world; in the Lebanon, for example – how many enthusiasts can claim to have been round Beirut shed? – and in Pakistan, with amazing 2-10-2Ts, just two of the 55 countries whose railways have come under his expert eye.

But we always came back to the UK, and in particular Les’s native and beloved West Yorkshire. Unforgettable images of steam railways in and around long-lost coalfields never fail to conjur up memories of a way of life that has gone for ever. This was a wonderful evening, and one which set us all thinking. To quote Les, “What you take today is tomorrow’s history.”

Monday 22nd May 2017
Windsor & Maidenhead on Tour - The First 10 Years

Our meeting in May marked the tenth anniversary of our branch, an achievement we marked with a cake, and a presentation which was a bit different. Over those 10 years we have made no fewer than 20 outside visits, and committee members took it in turn to speak about them. Needless to say, this gave us the opportunity to look at a great many illustrations of our journeys together.

David Goddard kicked us off with some early outings, and came back later to talk about memorable visits to the new Reading depot, and Slough Panel Box just before its closure. Steve Ollive was up next, covering our first lengthy journey, down to the splendid Isle of Wight Steam Railway, then his now legendary organisation of three “sightseeing tours” of London.

Alan Cooke’s was an eclectic mix, including the Jubilee Line Extension before the Olympics, and the Gloucester/Warwickshire for their diesel gala. Sally Goddard, with baby Beatrice attending her first meeting, told us, among other things, about SWT’s Desiro simulator at Basingstoke, and the wonderful 7 ¼” steam locos of the Great Cockcrow Railway in Surrey.

Finally, Jim Tucker’s group included visits starting from Windsor & Eton Riverside via Clapham Junction, to the Bluebell Railway and Amberley Museum. This unusual meeting seemed to be well received, and the common feature of all the external visits was how much members had enjoyed them, and how welcome the branch had been made. Here’s to the next 10 years!

Monday 24th April 2017
Railways to Airports - A Worldwide Overview
Andrew Sharp

Most of us are familiar with the likes of the Heathrow Express, Gatwick Express and so on. It might come as a surprise, however, to hear that, worldwide, there are more than 200 airports with rail connections, with almost as many again being considered. Who better to tell us about this intriguing aspect of intermodal cooperation than Andrew Sharp, founder of the International Air Rail Organisation (IARO).

Rail connections to airports take a number of different forms. Express routes take the passenger direct to the city centre, with Oslo for example having check-in there. In some cases the airport features on a High Speed network, as with Paris Charles de Gaulle, where precious aircraft slots can be saved by bringing people from Brussels.

There are instances aplenty of regional and suburban lines serving airports, Chicago, Milwaukee and Southampton to name but three. These days light rail and metro systems are used as well. This group has the potential for service conflict with commuter trains, and all the different sorts raise the interesting question of who stands to gain the most from these links – passengers, airports, airlines, or local residents.

The sector is very much a dynamic one, and IARO is being consulted over a number of developments, with Montreal a case in point. Andrew’s excellent presentation ended with an extensive Q and A session.

Monday 27th March 2017
American Wanderings - Heading East
Steve Ollive, Branch Chairman

We were all sorry that ill health prevented Society chairman Gordon Davies from speaking at our March meeting, and sent him best wishes for a speedy recovery. Readers will, perhaps, not be surprised to hear that our own branch chairman, Steve Ollive, once again stepped into the breach.

“American Wanderings Heading East” had been the intended topic, and so it remained. Steve’s plentiful illustrations, dating from the late 1990s onwards, started in Canada, with views of trains around Winnipeg, Montreal and Ottawa, taking in a trip on the “Canadian” and several heritage lines. We also visited the tram museum in Toronto.

Over the border into the USA, we entered Pennsylvania and the splendid Strasburg Railroad Museum, with its wide variety of exhibits. On the day of Steve was there, the running lines were packed with sideshows and visitors, thanks to the presence of who else but Thomas the Tank Engine. Next it was on to Philadelphia, with more trams, and then the single-car emu known on the “Princeton Jet”. The short line to Princeton Junction is one of the few genuine branch lines left in the States.

We finished by moving up the Jersey Shore, through Hoboken to New York City. There was the subway to see, of course, and the magnificent Grand Central and Pennsylvania stations. A most enjoyable evening, with some great pictures.

Monday 27th February 2017
The Chinnor and Princes Risborough Railway
Roger Fagg

At our February meeting we welcomed Roger Fagg, to speak to us about the Chinnor and Princes Risborough Railway. No-one could be better qualified than Roger to talk on this subject, having worked on the line for a long time, and served as its Chairman for 10 years. In that time, Roger was heavily involved with negotiations for access to Princes Risborough station.

The branch to Watlington was independently sponsored by local businessmen, obtained parliamentary approval in 1867, and opened in 1872. As was often the case, the line lost money from the start; the GWR was initially resistant, but eventually took the company over in 1883. For the entire rolling stock – locos, coaches, wagons – the valuation was £1,714!

Passenger numbers were always low, the provision of halts, some in bizarre locations, with low-level platforms for rail-motors, made no difference, and closure to passengers came in 1957. From 1961 only coal traffic to the cement works at Chinnor remained. The Society was formed in 1989, and the first train ran five years later.

The cement works has gone, with housing springing up around the rebuilt station at Chinnor. Roger illustrated the high standard of the Society’s restoration of buildings and coaches, and explained that steam engines have to be hired in, due to the lack of servicing facilities. This enterprising and attractive railway deserves the success it has achieved, and we all hope trains will soon run into Princes Risborough.

Monday 23rd January 2017
Loco Hauled Passenger Trains in the Privatisation Era
Geoff Brockett

Geoff Brockett made a welcome return visit from South Essex branch to talk to our first meeting of 2017, taking as his subject loco-hauled passenger trains in the privatisation era. He didn’t claim to cover every one, but few in the audience could have compiled a list as comprehensive as Geoff’s, all brilliantly illustrated by his considerable photographic skills.

The first franchise we looked at was our local one, the Great Western lines in all their various guises. Class 47s were to be found on services to the West Country when HSTs were in short supply, and of course Penzance sleepers are hauled by class 57s to this day. Scotland also saw some 47s in action, while the North Berwick line was for a while operated by class 90 electrics, and classes 67 and 68 have been used on the Fife Circle. The Scotrail, now Caledonian guises sleeper trains to Scotland have enjoyed electric haulage at the Southern end – 90s and 92s – and diesels to the far North, including 37s, 47s, 67s, and now 73/9s.

Virgin Cross Country, Grand Central, Hull Trains, Wessex Trains, Arriva Trains Wales, Chiltern Railways and the successive franchisees in East Anglia all featured, with diesel and electric power. Such a long list, and all on regular service trains; specials and charters would require another evening! Thanks Geoff, and congratulations on a great evening.

Monday 19th December 2016
Branch AGM followed by Member's Presentations

Following the decision to change our branch’s year-end to coincide with the Society, our December gathering at Cox Green was the first re-timed AGM, this time covering little more than six months. Under the continued leadership of chairman Steve Ollive, things had continued in the same successful vein as before, with enjoyable and well-attended meetings, and a successful visit to Amberley Museum in West Sussex.

The committee were thanked for their efforts, and were re-elected unopposed. The good wishes of all were expressed to David and Sally Goddard for the continued progress of baby Beatrice.

The formal proceedings were followed by coffee, mince pies, and members’ presentations, starting with Mike Walker, who told in pictures the story of Western Region diesel-hydraulics. Mike Gamble’s annual quiz covered a range of topics, and was as difficult as ever, then Peter Meyer showed some very interesting images of motive power across Britain and Europe; being our branch’s oldest attender does not appear to restrict his travelling with a camera!

We closed with Steve Ollive’s presentation of one afternoon at Hamburg Harberg station, with a seemingly unending steam of freight trains, hauled by a truly international collection of motive power. A most enjoyable evening, leaving everyone looking forward to another good year in 2017.

Monday 28th November 2016
Signals, Stations and Structures
Robert Warburton, Peterborough Branch

Our November meeting brought Robert Warburton of Peterborough branch to Cox Green, where the room was well filled for his talk on “Stations, Signals and Structures”. Robert’s visit had been eagerly anticipated, and we were certainly not disappointed!

We looked at signals first, starting with some wooden post, lower quadrant survivors which lasted well into BR days. Then it was gantries, at locations such as Barnetby, Barrow and Scarborough, followed by signal boxes and level crossings, taking in Clapham Junction, Chathill and Chester among many others. The range of stations Robert showed us and talked about was exhaustive, taking in places which different audience members knew and loved; from Bristol Temple Meads to Cleobury Mortimer, from Exeter St David’s to Thurso, and from Market Rasen to Llanfair PG, they were all there, concluding with York, arguably the most elegant of all.

The structures element encompassed viaducts, bridges, signs, cuttings, water troughs, the lot. Many iconic locations were covered, including Ribblehead viaduct, the Forth bridge, and a superb view of the Britannia bridge over the Menai straits from the top of the Marquis of Anglesey’s column.

Robert’s commentary was informative, entertaining and brilliantly illustrated. Although trains were not the focus of his talk, they featured in the vast majority of the images, with plenty of unusual workings and favourite motive power. All in all this was a memorable evening, with something for everyone, which was appreciated by all.

Monday 31st October 2016
The GWS Steam Railmotor, Its Restoration and Operation
Peter Jennings

For our October meeting, we welcomed Peter Jennings from Didcot Railway Centre to talk about the Great Western Societys unique Steam Rail Motor. Peter, who by coincidence was born in Maidenhead, has been a member of the GWS since 1979, and began his presentation with one or two projects from his early days, such as the re-tubing of Evening Star, and taking Earl Bathurst/ Drysllwyn Castle to Bold Colliery, for the Rainhill Rocket 150 celebrations.

But no. 93, the GWR steam rail motor, was the main topic of the evening. One of the first considerations when the restoration project started was that there were no other vertical-boilered examples extant in the UK, so Peter was part of the team that went to Switzerland, where they received excellent training in the finer points. Such units differ from the conventional in many ways. For example, the safety valve is in the cab, contributing to a very noisy environment, and the absence of a brick arch and deflector plate renders firing the loco while on the move under its own steam impossible.

Once the problem of leaking tubes had been resolved, and the intricacies of Deans pivotless bogie clarified, no. 93 was ready for the road, and the final part of Peters presentation was his tales of main line trips on the Liskeard to Looe branch in 2012, and Southall to Brentford in 2014. These were both excellently illustrated, especially an unforgettable video from the cab on the climb up to Liskeard from Coombe Junction. A great evening enjoyed by another full house.

last updated: 28/09/17