Meeting Reports

Meeting Reports

Monday 16th September 2019

'The BR Blue Era'

Robert Warburton

We welcomed Robert Warburton from Peterborough presenting The BR Blue Era. He reminded us that blue was in use before, with the prototype Deltic for instance.A little further back, just after nationalisation, experiments were conducted with the frontline 8P locomotives of the former Big Four treated in this way – in some cases two different hues and linings.Who can forget the Kings so adorned!Colour is a matter of taste and the LNE A4s in garter blue with red wheels, perhaps demonstrated a happier combination.

At an exhibition at the London Design Centre in 1963 British Railways became British Rail and a new era of design was born.Blue was chosen as a modern looking colour for locos and rolling stock.In some case passenger stock was resplendent in two tones – blue and a sort of pale grey.Many found the new liveries agreeable with modern stock, but the sight of the blue Brighton Belle is surely best forgotten.The changeover took some time and there were trains with unfortunate combinations of old and new livery for a number of years.

Robert is widely travelled and treated us to slides from around the UK.It was interesting to observe the number of loco classes that made it into the blue era, including some of the Modernisation Plan diesels, although many were scrapped in their original green.We saw blue examples of Baby Deltics, Class 28s, Western NB hydraulics, as well as class 76 electrics.

In the current privatised Technicolor era we are unlikely to witness another standardised nationwide colour transformation..

Monday 15th July 2019

Visit to Mangapps Railway and Museum

A brand new three road building welcomed the South Essex Branch on their annual visit to Mangapps Railway and Museum on Monday 15th July.

This new structure provides a new entrance to the site and is covered accommodation for the shop/buffet coaches and for the newly acquired 1912 Gresley brake composite, which was a major star in the Jon Snow TV series on Restoration!.

Also now under cover is the rare elderly Great Eastern coach of 1863, which is resting on 4-wheel trucks of similar vintage, originally from the Shoeburyness Military Railway.

Latest of the recent arrivals are the yellow liveried Class 31s, 31105 and 31233. The former hauled the visitors in the CPR caboose along the “Branch” and on to the terminus at Old Heath.

To round off a most enjoyable evening, 03089 with modified 1910 GN carriage E43178E took the party on a “normal” run up the main line.

Another pleasant visit, favoured by beautiful sunny weather and we thank June and John Jolly for their hospitality.

Monday 17th June 2019

'Airport Railways - A Global Survey'

Andrew Sharp

Our events-organiser Steve Hewitt likes to provide a varied programme; accordingly we had Andrew Sharp, International Air Rail Organisation policy advisor to present an overview of these links.

This is a big topic, so it was good that the presentation was well-structured, under the following headings: -Introduction, Six types of links, Case studies.

The introduction covered the benefits and problems of intermodality, planning issues and the work of his organisation IARO.This organisation aims to: - spread world class best practice; disseminate good practice ideas; provide information; research solutions in common problem areas.An “airport railway paradox” has been identified whereby there are ‘locals’ who live in the catchment area and tend to know the transport system, whereas ‘visitors’ don’t know the system and have a city centre destination.This is seen to be a ‘challenge for the marketing team’ and can lead to conflicts between the needs of commuters and air travellers.

Andrew gave many examples of best and sub-optimal practice within the six types of provision: -1) High speed dedicated links (airport expresses); 2) High speed networks; 3) Regional links; 4) Suburban, metro and light rapid transit; 5) People movers and shuttle buses; (6) Cargo.

One of the most interesting developments in intermodality has been ‘Mode sharing’, in which apassenger may fly from the USA to Paris say and then continue by rail to e.g. Brussels by train on the same ticket in a fairly seamless way.Long haul by plane, short haul by train. Some airport expresses offer an in-town check-in.

An interesting question is who should plan and pay for provision – the public or private sector, or some species of combined effort? Evidently, 42% of European airports make a loss or are subsidised in some way.

A most interesting topic all round, go to www.iaro for more information.

Monday 18th March 2019
Member Presentations and Quiz

Our booked speaker for 18 March 2019 was unavailable, so, at short notice, an improvised programme was implemented, in the form of a Members’ Slide Evening and a Quiz.
Our treasurer, Chris Ignatowicz, had us all racking our brains when he announced that the title for his short presentation was to be ‘From Venice to Rome by Narrow Gauge’. He had us all fooled. It turned out that Wenecja and Rzymu are the Polish versions of the Italian cities in question linked by narrow gauge, and we saw pictures of quaint locos, including a Pacific and 600mm gauge oddities in a TPO and snowplough at the museum.
Another stalwart, Geoff Brockett, followed on with one of his collections of high quality photographs covering special and unusual workings. His in-depth and inside knowledge enables him to capture many examples of locos and rolling stock turning up in surprising places – fortunately not surprising to Geoff. Most of his pictures in this presentation were taken around London, but Geoff roams far and wide and we were treated to rail tours, infrastructure trains, ECS – new stock deliveries and positioning workings. It is perhaps surprising how much non-revenue working there is. Many and varied were the combinations of locos and stock that were featured in all manner of corporate colours.
The evening was completed by a quiz that enabled members to display their encyclopaedic knowledge of trains and railways, which they did with much good-natured rivalry among the teams.

Monday 18th February 2019
Michael Bunn

For our 18 February meeting we had a splendid presentation on the Chemin de Fer de la Baie Somme given by Michael Bunn.
We were taken on a virtual trip to Picardy and shown the result of some decades of dedicated work by volunteers to rescue a disused pair of branch lines. One of the many impressive features is the co-operative work carried out between the French and their English compatriots from the Kent & East Sussex Railway – a great example of entente cordiale. Michael is an active member of both organisations. He has been visiting since 1993 and the twinningoccurred in 1996.
The two branch lines lead separately from a junction with the Calais – Paris mainline at Noyelles-Sur-Mer, to the coast; one to Le Crotoy, the other via Saint-Valery Sur Somme to Cayeux-Sur-Mer. As the Somme silted-up over the years much land around the estuary was reclaimed, and it is along this terrain that the lines traverse, so gradients are fairly gentle.
French rural lines suffered like many in the UK, as traffic declined, from ‘bustitution’; however, these lines around the Somme have been redeveloped to provide a wonderful playground for gricers and the general public in search of an interesting day out.
The system has many interesting and in some cases, unique features, such as the mixed gauge (metre and standard) resulting in four rails. Another is the provision of turntables at terminal points.
A great amount of rolling stock has been acquired and renovated. These locos and carriages, wagons, etc. are all to be seen working along the lines giving a wonderful variety.
Festivals are arranged every few years during which a very intensive service is run.

A very significant factor has been the benign attitude of the local authority, which puts to shame that of some equivalent bodies in the UK. It is well worth a visit!

Monday 21st January 2019
Christian Wolmar relates the story behind one of his most popular books

We got off to a grand start to 2019. Our first meeting of the year consisted of a presentation by Christian Wolmar based on one of his many books, Engines Of War: How Wars Were Won & Lost On The Railways (2010), ISBN 978-1-84887-172-4.
The author covered most of the main conflagrations that have affected Europe and some other theatres of war since Waterloo. His thesis is that the development of railways enabled a prolongation of warfare, citing the Battle of Waterloo which only lasted about 8-hours and comparing it with other later battles that went on for months or even years. The Battle of the Somme for example lasted 10-months. So it can be said that railways enabled trench warfare. They also enable massive levels of casualties.
At the time of Waterloo the main limitation was the length of time that horses and men could go on for before they needed to be fed and watered. With the advent of railways, and their development into national and international systems, armies could be supplied almost indefinitely, depending ultimately on the resources that could be made available at great distances from the scene of the battle. In WWII the USSR waged war 5 000 miles away by means of the Trans-Siberian Railway.
The vulnerability for any army fighting away from home lies in their lines of communication. Armies can live off the land for a limited period and secure some of their needs locally. If forces venture a long way from base the lines of communication get stretched and supplies are at risk from many factors such as the weather. Russian winters are a case in point.
The main theme therefore was about logistics. Christian did however give many illustrations of weaponry that used railways for movement – armoured trains and very large guns, right up to the Soviet missile trains.
Our speaker took us through a number of the more significant wars and battles to demonstrate the role of railways in them and show their contribution to the enormous casualties that modern warfare can wreak. One of the many enlightening insights was the way, in the American Civil War, that the “permanent way” was built and then torn-up very rapidly to suit military objectives. The industrialized destruction of the Jews (and others) relied heavily on railway transport. Many died building railways, especially in wartime, as on the Burma railway for example.

This is a very big subject and members are recommended to read his book to gain a more complete picture.

Monday 17th December 2018

A large audience attended the AGM at our December meeting where the business was efficiently conducted and the Committee re-elected en- bloc.
Two members then presented a selection of slides ; Geoff Brockett was first with various 'bits and pieces' from his 2017 travels, demonstrating his usual mastery in selecting photographic locations and David Thompson took us back to 1965/66 with some interesting shots in Scotland.
Seasonal refreshments provided by members' wives were very welcome during the break and then MC member David Jackman made a surprise presentation of life membership to our former Chairman Jim Waite in recognition of his part in setting up the branch and his 24 years (and counting) service to it. Ironically he also won the raffle prize which was a year's subscription to the Society!

Digital images followed with Rodger Green presenting recent high quality shots from calendars, mostly on heritage lines.
Bob Reeves entertained with views triggering memories of his driving days and of the results of a freight train derailment at Grays. The aftermath of a derailment of a B12 at Mountnessing during single line working and its recovery was of great local interest. He also showed a couple of recent videos on the Mid Norfolk Railway.
Iain Scotchman presented a review of his extensive 2018 travels, both in the UK and in France, Germany, Sri Lanka, Poland, Hungary and Sweden. A highlight was a 56/50 combination on the Barrington waste train seen at Foxton whilst 70013 with support coach at Shenfield, just 400 yards from our meeting place, was of local interest.

Monday 19th November 2018
Mike Robinson describes his work for BR, and a consultancy, around the world

A large audience greeted RO Editor Mike Robinson at our November meeting with his presentation 'On Companies' Service Overseas'. He had started as a junior clerk at Darlington Works in 1960, gradually working his way up and becoming involved in IT systems. This led to him leaving BR in the 80s and working for various consultancies advising railway administrations worldwide, principally on train planning issues.
On his travels a camera was always to hand and we saw shots of the then current scene in various countries as well as a run down on his work there. TGVs and gas turbines in France in 1983 were followed by a lengthy session in West Germany in 1986, Mike being based in Mainz for his work. All the classic DB power of the time was seen, often in very scenic locations, including the famous EC03 (103) electric locos and a few steam shots on heritage railways and railtours. This was the period of the remarkable interval IC timetable in Germany with its many cross platform interchanges at key points, a masterpiece of train planning.
He did a lot of work in the USA in 1996, where train planning techniques were not as efficient as in the UK. Involvement in a franchise bid in Boston was followed by long periods in New York where the numerous rail companies worked largely in isolation with sometimes poor economics. The area has a vast rail network constrained to some extent by the watery geography, whilst the Subway is also a very large undertaking, too. At that time there were lots of commuter type workings and we saw most of the power and rolling stock in use, some being old and badly maintained. Jamaica station was a very complex junction with some amazing and expensive to maintain trackwork. Great contrasts were evident in some very elegant station buildings versus some very ugly lifting bridges. Some of the giant legendary US steam power was seen in museums, including the impressive 540 tons of a Big Boy.
A brief look at Montreal and Toronto preceded shots in Denmark and Sweden in 1996 - 1999 when Mike had worked for the Copenhagen metro.
He was in Australia in 2008 in Melbourne where there is a large and busy local network plus the world's largest tram system. The very complicated history of rail gauges in Australia was explained but recent developments now mean that all state capitals are connected by standard gauge tracks.

All in all this was a fascinating show, Mike's pithy commentary adding to the enjoyment.

Last updated: 19th September 2019