Thursday 4th July 2019
Clapham Junction Outdoor Meeting
Thursday 4th July saw five members from Thames Valley branch enjoying a sunny warm afternoon observing plenty of trains at Clapham Junction station. This was a new venue for the branch. Initially the group congregated on the London end of platform 11 but after a short while moved to platform 10 as it provided both shade and seating. During the afternoon various classes were observed from four train operating companies. Southern class 377 units, Southwest Railway classes 444 (express units), 450 and 458 (outer suburban) and 707 (suburban units) were in abundance, along with occasional class 158/8 and 159 sets. Two class 442 units were also seen (working a service to Poole later in the day). In addition, there were many rakes of Class 455 and 456 units. Gatwick Express class 387s were also seen including the white liveried set. London Overground’s class 378 sets slipped into and out of platforms 1 and 2. Also seen were some class 66s on freight duties, including a triple header of light engines from different companies. Clapham Junction certainly lived up to its reputation as a major railway hub.
Thursday 20th June 2019
Reading Station Outdoor Meeting
On a cloudy, dull evening a group of six branch members met at the London end of platform 8 on Reading station for the traditional June outdoor meet to coincide with Ladies Day at Royal Ascot.
This was the first year that that seemingly eternal staple of Great Western main line the HST did not appear and so the evening was spent largely observing the relatively quiet GWR fleet of electric trains i.e. Classes 387, 800 and, 802s. During the evening the Northern Belle appeared on a returning Ascot to Manchester race day special topped and tailed by a pair of West Coast Railway Cl 57’s (57314 and 57316). Only two freights were seen, an Eastbound Freightliner and a Car export Train both hauled by Class 66s. Also operating out of platforms 4-6 were South West Railway trains with an enhanced quarter- hourly service to serve Ascot races, despite being in the middle of a five day strike. Later on, the sleeper empties were seen heading towards Paddington.
Thursday 6th June 2019
Westbury Station Outdoor Meeting
A new venue and time for the Thames Valley branch observation of the year. The location was Westbury station commencing in the afternoon, a first for many years, if not indeed the first ever.
Some freight was seen, mostly Class 59s on stone trains; also noted was a Class. 60 and a few Class 66s and Class 70s. Passenger traffic included Class 158’s, 159’s, 165’s, 166s and IEP Classes 800s and 802 were in evidence following the recent withdrawal of the HSTs. A bonus for the members during the afternoon was the appearance of the “Flying Banana”, the National Measurement Train, the power cars being 43014 “The Railway Observer” and 43062 “John Armitt”.
Monday 20th May 2019
''Southampton Railways Part 2'
For the last indoor meeting of the season, Gordon Adams took us on a trip to the coast for Part 2 of his talk on the railways of Southampton. Southampton is, of course, famous for its docks and shipping; so that is where we went.
The first railway to Southampton was built by the London and Southampton Railway company. Soon after, the company was investigating a second line to Portsmouth. Given the rivalry between the two towns, it was decided to be tactful and change the company to the London and South Western Railway.
A local company was set up to develop the docks, but a shortage of money, and a large loan from the LSWR, eventually resulted in the latter taking over the docks. Over many years of development the docks evolved into what we know today, much of it during the period of railway ownership.
Gordon with his wide collection of archive photographs, took us through this evolution, concentrating on the railway aspects. One little factor in this development was a short-lived train ferry which ran during WW1. Few images exist of this ferry, so further information will be gratefully received by Gordon. The railway content finished with a look at the bombing of the then new Southampton Central Station and the subsequent rebuilding in post war period.
Thanks are due to Gordon for his entertaining evening by the South Coast, giving the audience thoughts of the approaching summer.
Monday 15th April 2019
Industrial Railways - Summer 1969
Due to the unavailability of the booked speaker, John Hubbard, (the joint branch president) stepped in with a talk on Industrial Steam in 1969.
In 1969 the opportunities for steam photography in Britain were limited to a nascent heritage sector or industrial steam, which was still reasonably plentiful. John talked about the trips he made in the summer of this year to sites from Fife to West Glamorgan.
He explained that access to the various sites was simple, with a simple request to the chief engineer. This permission was given in over 90% of cases, with visitors receiving a Health & Safety briefing, consisting of the phrase "Watch how you go". Industrial steam was on the decline, caused by the closure of sites and dieselisation.
Gaining overnight accommodation was easy too, with a multitude of cheap boarding houses available. The accommodation was more basic than one would expect nowadays, with en-suite meaning a chamber pot under the bed. In one place, the pot turned out to be a bucket, so its use at night would create a noise that woke up other sleepers in earshot.
Many thanks are due to John for stepping in and creating an evening of nostalgia for those of a certain age and also showing younger enthusiasts the industrial heritage of steam engines on preserved railways now
Monday 18th March
'Heritage Railway Infrastructure - Part 2'
John Sreeves from Halcrow presented the second part of his "Railway Heritage Infrastructure" talk.
John's area of expertise is bridges, so these were what he concentrated on. The first half of the evening concentrated on the bridge works required for last year's Broadway extension to the Gloucester Warwickshire Steam Railway, explaining all the problems and cures required, right the way up to almost a full rebuild in some cases. No wonder the extension took 6 years and over half a million pounds to complete!
After the break, he talked about other heritage railways he was involved with, including the Swindon and Cricklade and the Somerset and Dorset at Midsomer Norton.
He finished his talk with the Rother Valley Railway and its ambition of linking the main line from Robertsbridge to the Kent & East Sussex Railway at Bodiam. He described the work done to restore the bridges on the extension to Robertsbridge. The railway's ambitions have come to a standstill at the moment, because of the problem of crossing the A21. The preferred option of a level crossing has been ruled out by the Highways Agency, who prefer a bridge of some sort. This option is not feasible because of the gradients required, so the negotiation is ongoing.
After John's talk, there followed a question-and-answer session.
John is to be thanked for his insight into the hard and expensive work required to produce the railway press headline "XXXX Railway announces an extension to their line".
Monday 18th February 2019
Railway Quiz - RCTS v Reading Transport Group
The February meeting was the annual quiz against our old friends of the Reading Transport Group. Unlike last year, when the "Beast from the East" caused the postponement of the match at Reading, the only beastliness was to be found in some of the questions set by joint inquisitors Phil Darlaston and Andrew Jenkins.
The format was three rounds of 20 questions,, two general sets compiled by Phil, sandwiching a "Where is it?" round of 20 pictures from Andrew.
The branch team of Andy Vernon, Stuart Hicks, Richard Antliff and Nigel Farebrother duly girded their loins and at the end of Round 1, were leading by 35 points to 31. The branch drew further away over the other two rounds, eventually winning by 96 points to 78. This victory means that the branch retains bragging rights and the trophy for a further year.
For the second half of the evening, Gordon Adams (wearing an RTG hat rather than an RCTS one) gave his personal review of the Thames Valley in 2018.
The electrification infrastructure can cause problems to photographers, but Gordon managed to deal with them successfully, creating an interesting look back at the area's recent past.
Many thanks to Andrew and Phil for the questions, and to Gordon for his presentation and, as for the RTG, well played and better luck next year when we come to visit.
Monday 21st January 2019
A Plug for Brunel
With his reputation of being arguably Britain's finest engineer, Brunel possibly needs nobody to speak up for him.
However, in his talk Colin was referring to plugs of the electric variety. In his career as an engineer, Colin worked for the Great Western Electrification project on bridge modifications to allow the overhead lines to be erected. It seems an easy job to provide the necessary clearance by lowering the track, but this was impossible in many cases because of ground problems and problems in providing the necessary track gradients to effect the change. This meant that bridges needed to be modified in situ or replaced. Modifying masonry arches proved the hardest problem, since the forces held in equilibrium by the previous arch could go out of balance and severely damage, or in the worst scenario, cause the bridge to collapse. A way of dealing with the problems was found by using tons of concrete, which had the effect of spoiling the aesthetics of the bridge.
In the case of metal bridges, a method was found by using large vehicle-mounted hydraulic jacks to raise the deck to allow the extra abutments to be added. With reference to the jacking vehicles, if anybody thought that a JCB was a real "boy's toy" they're nothing in comparison!
However, sometimes there was no option but to replace the bridge. This was no easy matter, as local authorities, from parish to county councils, and also the local residents, all had to be consulted to find a solution that was acceptable to everybody.
All this extra work, some foreseen and some unforeseen, has resulted in years of delay and significant additional costs to the whole project.
Colin is to be thanked his talk which gave a comprehensive and fascinating behind-the-scenes look at this major engineering project
Monday 17th December 2018
'Thames Valley Branch AGM followed by Members slides and digital images'
The December meeting consisted of the branch AGM followed by members short presentations, offerings with Christmas fare being available at half-time. The AGM was a report of a year of reasonable success, with the members showing their confidence in the committee by voting them all back for 2019. There is a small cloud on the branch's horizon in that there is no person to arrange for the branch's sales and publicity stall to appear at exhibitions. If any member wishes to volunteer to do this job, please contact the branch at firstname.lastname@example.org and help the branch prosper in the future.
The members' presentations were many and various, taking the audience half way round the world and back in time to the 1960s.
The first to show was Murray Lewis, who took the audience to Western Canada, with big trains in the big country of the Rockies.
He was followed by Andy Vernon, who provided a sequel to his earlier talk on high speed trains by showing slow speed trains. His definition of slow speed trains was shunting engines, so the audience was treated to a range of shunters, both in the UK and Europe.
Stuart Hicks then took the audience on their travels again, this time to Myanmar (Burma).
Richard Antliff gave one of his characteristic humorous looks behind the scenes, this time looking at a Permanent Way Institution training in tracklaying held on the Great Central Railway.
The audience were then taken on their travels again, but this time in a Tardis to the end of BR steam. The guides for this time travel were David Evans-Roberts, who went to Scotland and North-East England in 1967, and Gordon Adams, who chronicled a day in Lancashire in 1968.
The evening finished with a quick tour of 2018 in digital images from Phil Darlaston.
Monday 19th November 2018
'Mardling along the Tilbury & Sweedy'
Mardling is apparently a Norfolk dialect word meaning "leisurely gossip and chat" and we certainly did mardle. In fact, we mardled and meandered over much of East Anglia.
Starting off in Southend, we followed the LT&S into London, then headed out around Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk before eventually reaching Kings Lynn and Hunstanton.
We then returned south through Cambridgeshire to our final destination of Liverpool Street, time travelling by way of much glorious colour photography from the 1950s & 1960s (plus a few later "Ones"- forgive the pun) into all sorts of railway nooks and crannies, beating Dr Beeching to many of them. The GER was known as the “Sweedy” in connection with the major traffic in the area which was agriculture and he population being quite sparse.
We thank Chris for a most entertaining and informative evening, which gave an opportunity to explore an area of England normally off the beaten track to many of our audience.
Saturday 20th October 2018
'Eastleigh Works visit'
On the morning of Saturday, 20th October, a party of Thames Valley members met outside Eastleigh station for the short walk down to the erstwhile Eastleigh works which is operated by Arlington Fleet Services. After a safety briefing given by our host Norman Smith the tour commenced.
All of the works were accessible to the party apart from three areas that were rented out to contractors, although units inside these areas were visible.
Locomotives types noted on site included examples of classes 47, 50, 57 and 73 along with a varied assortment of DMU’s, EMU’s and Departmental vehicles. In addition, London Transport Locomotive “Sarah Siddons” was present together with the LT 4TC set.
Monday 15th October 2018
K1 62005 and the Jacobite
Paul Hutchinson (NELPG)
Paul is NELPG's "caretaker" for the locomotive and so was the ideal person to talk on this subject.
He started with a thumbnail history of the 2-6-0 wheel arrangement in Britain, concentrating particularly on the LNER K class constituents that ultimately led to the K1 and then reviewed the history of 62005 from its NBLC Queens Park Glasgow birthplace in 1949 up to the end of its BR service at North Blyth.
Following use for a time as a stationary boiler at ICI North Tees it was acquired by the owning consortium of K4 61994 (LNER 3442) for use as a spare boiler which in the event was not needed and it was donated by them to NELPG in 1972.
Paul detailed 62005's association with Thornaby depot, its restoration, its move to the North York Moors Railway in 1974, an appearance at the Stockton & Darlington 150 celebrations in 1975 and subsequently a long and distinguished career on the Main Line and in particular its association with "The Jacobite" steam service from Fort William to Mallaig which was covered in detail and supported by a host of excellent photographs and supporting detail.
At the time of writing this report, 62005 should be at Carnforth for winter maintenance.
Many thanks to Paul for his excellent and very entertaining talk and for giving our audience an insight into the successful maintenance and (daily!) operation of a steam engine on today’s main line.
Monday 17th September 2018
High Speed Trains
Andy Vernon and Richard Antliff
Double-headers are a fairly common sight on our railways but not for our Branch which had its first double header for the September meeting with two speakers talking on two different subjects.
The first was local member Andy Vernon, who took High Speed Trains as his subject. As could be expected, Andy featured HSTs in various guises throughout their long and distinguished career and despite not being exhaustive there was a sufficiency of livery varieties to keep everybody fascinated. European High Speed was also included with examples being shown from various countries around the continent.
He was followed by Richard Antliff, another local member who took as his subject recent developments at the Didcot Railway Centre; Richard is an appropriate person to do this being DRC's Civil Engineering Manager. His entertaining, and at times highly amusing talk incorporated the new signalling centre and the various displays of signalling throughout the ages, right up to the recently installed Swindon Panel which was only relatively recently replaced on the "big railway" by a new digital system. Richard also covered both the Carriage and Wagon workshops and Locomotives with particular reference to their oldest and newest locomotives, Shannon and Lady of Legend, the new Saint conversion which is now in its last phases of (re?) construction.
Andy and Richard are both to be thanked for their talks on two widely differing topics which made for a highly informative and entertaining evening.
Tuesday 21st August 2018
Observation at Didcot Parkway Station
Our meeting on August 21st was the annual outdoor observation evening at Didcot. One major change to previous years evenings was the appearance of electric passenger trains with Class 800 variants on the main line trains and Class 387s on the local trains to Reading and London. However, the Class 800s were not all operating in electric mode when observed passing through the station. A signalling fault meant that the up relief line was out of commission for some time which resulted in local trains having to use the Up Main running non-stop to Reading. This caused inconvenience to passengers for the stations between Cholsey and Tilehurst who were forced to travel to Reading and double back. In practice, the closure seemed not to delay passenger trains unduly but it did cause some up freights to be held pending a gap between the passenger trains. The closure also had a knock-on effect on Cross Country trains as at least one had to run through the station rather than use the avoiding curve. The fault was eventually fixed and normal working resumed during the evening.
In addition to the regular freight and container trains seen every year there was a mystery additional car freight (which was later identified to be an as required train from Castle Bromwich to Southampton) hauled by 66150 which was the longest freight train seen all evening with over 40 car transporter wagons of various types all filled with Range Rover cars bound for export.
Last updated: 15th July 2019