RCTS Logo

Branches

Cambridge

Meeting Reports

Tuesday 9th January 2018
'The Harwich Branch.'
Dave Goodyear

Our first meeting of the New Year was a most interesting presentation of the history of the Harwich branch by Dave Goodyear who originally lived near the line and contained many personal recollections of events along the line.
The show was in two parts, the first part covering the period up to electrification of the line. We learned that the 11 mile branch from Manningtree to Harwich Town was opened in 1854 and was operated by Eastern Counties Railways. Alongside the stations that exist today, there were two others at Bradfield (closed 1956) and Priory Halt (closed 1965), the latter of which served a War Department facility. The original route ran from Wrabness to Dovercourt & Harwich Town but in 1883 was re-aligned to serve the new Harwich Parkeston Quay station which was later to become Harwich International.
We were treated to numerous views of the stations along the line in both then and now condition. Signal boxes were also well represented but most were later to become redundant. Traffic along the line was featured showing early trains and in the 1950s & 60s, local trains with N7s in charge, along with Cravens and Derby lightweight dmus and boat trains hauled by B12s, B1s, Britannias and latterly, class 40s, 37s & 47s. Freight traffic was frequent and went on to the ferry terminal at Harwich Town although this traffic ceased in 1987 and the ferry loading ramp is now a listed structure. Other trains served the container terminal to the east of Parkeston but this closed as Felixstowe grew in importance. Numerous sidings were also built to the west of Parkeston and these survive today along with a rail-served refinery.
Since 1986, the route has been electrified with boat trains from London initially in the hands of class 86s, most of them being named trains. Boat trains from the north had class 47s, 45s, 37s and occasionally 31s hauling them. Today, class 321s and 360s are all that serve passenger services on the branch although special services including steam steam charters appear. The line has about 500,000 passengers a year although freight has nearly disappeared with North Walsham to Harwich refinery being the only regular working. The extensive sidings are often used for wagon storage and occasionally, freightliners for Felixstowe are stabled when there is lack of capacity there.

This was a very informative and well researched presentation and I recommend it to other branches.

Tuesday 14th November 2017
'Australia Part II & an European miscellany.'
Andy Grimmett

Our November meeting saw the return of Andy Grimmett who presented "Australia Pt. 2 & a European Miscellany". The first part of the evening was the conclusion of his Australian adventure followed by material from trips to Switzerland, Italy, Austria & Hungary since 1982.
The Australian visit took us behind a Vulcan Foundry 2-8 0 J515 on the Victorian Goldfields Railway. This line runs from Castlemaine to Maldon and is a branch line on the Melbourne to Bendigo line. Maldon is the main base for the railway and here we saw a wide array of motive power and rolling stock. There were steam and diesel locos on show including F212, an English Electric 0-6-0 better known to us as a Class 08. Rolling stock was interesting and in various states of repair. It varied from an explosives van to a double-decker sheep wagon. Andy informed us that a lot of effort was concentrated on the refurbishment of rolling stock and there were immaculate examples of wagons that had been worked on.
Closer to home, we saw scenes from centres in Switzerland which included some magnificent old electric locomotives and class 66 diesel. Crossing the border to Italy we were treated to steam in Pistoria including a class 741 Crosti along with numerous other classes of steam and diesel. Austria was next on the itinerary with a visit to the Zillertalbahn with several views of trains on the line before finally into Hungary with a look at the Children’s Railway of Budapest.

It was a fascinating evening with an enormous variety of railway locomotives and infrastructure on show, with Andy's knowledge and humour adding to the enjoyment.

Tuesday 10th October 2017
'The Last fifty years of Scottish railways.'
David McLean

We welcomed David MacLean to Cambridge on October 10th for a presentation which covered the last 50 years of Scottish Railways. The title was a bit of a misnomer as the show concentrated on the Kingdom of Fife as David insisted it was called.
As a retired signalling engineer, we were given a brief history of his career and that of his father, also a railwayman. We learned that his schooling suffered as trains ran close to the school he attended and he was frequently distracted.
David then treated us to many scenes of trains on colliery lines and at Methil docks where much coal was exported from. We learned that the Laird, Randolph Wemyss earned money at every stage of the coal production and transportation and that the collieries in the Fife coalfield were named after family members.
Visits to Thornton and Dunfermline sheds provided views of numerous steam and early diesel classes including the notorious Clayton class 17s. Scenes of passenger workings including specials over some of the soon to be closed lines also featured.
Moving south, views of the Forth Bridge from various points including the top of the bridge were shown. A4s on Aberdeen trains during their final working days provided some nostalgia along with pictures of the Grand Scottish Steam Farewell tour.
Finally, we ventured to Perth via Stirling where on Perth depot, many classes of LMS and LNER steam and variety of diesels were seen along with a GWR pannier tank.

Throughout the show, David had humorous stories to relate and this made for an extremely entertaining and informative presentation which I can thoroughly recommend.

Tuesday 12th September 2017
'And You Thought They Were Clean - Part VII'
Chris Youett

For our first meeting of the 2017/18 season, we welcomed back to Cambridge Chris Youett with a presentation that focused on the year 1955.
At this time, the Modernisation Plan was launched, although much of what Chris showed was of a much earlier time. Delightful views of rural branch lines featured with wonderful little trains with fantastic varieties of rolling stock. We were told that where the track and stations looked in wonderful condition, it was a sure sign that the line had been earmarked for closure.
Chris definitely had considerable knowledge of the relative comfort or otherwise of the different varieties of coaching stock with Maunsell, Bulleid and Hawksworth coaches all getting a mention. The differences between the so called "Blood and Custard" livery around the regions was brought to our attention.
Most of the locomotives shown were steam, ranging from Duchess pacifics down to tank engines on trains on the little photographed Princetown Branch.
We also saw GWR rail cars on what is now the Severn Valley Railway, along with early DMUs together with some of the few diesel locomotives that were being trialled on the SR.
Some of the early rail tours also featured run by our own RCTS as well as some rivals.

It was an altogether fascinating look at the railway scene when most of us were "young".

Tuesday 9th May 2017
The Impact of Railways on Cambridgeshire
Tony Kirby

We welcomed Tony Kirby for our last meeting of the 2016/17 season. Tony is a local man with an interest in local social history as well as a keen interest in railways. His digital presentation set out to show us the changes that have been brought about in Cambridge and surrounding towns since the coming of the railways.
We learned that two hundred years ago, Cambridge, like many other areas, relied heavily on rivers and waterways for the transport of goods and we saw pictures of horses towing barges on the River Cam along the backs of the colleges. The river here was quite shallow and the bridges too low for a conventional towpath so the horses walked along a path of stone on the bed of the river to pull the barges.
When the railways arrived, the water- borne trade rapidly diminished. Cambridge was linked to London, Norwich & Kings Lynn by the Great Eastern Rly. and to Doncaster and the North via the Joint line from March.
All this meant that coal could be brought in by rail and agricultural produce, the main product of the area, could be sent out. Cambridge itself became an important centre with four different railway company yards. The area known as Romsey became heavily developed with railway workers houses. Many of the villages had their own goods yards and cattle docks. We saw the yard and signal box at Fulbourn where my grandfather was once signalman.
Industry around Cambridge consisted mainly of cement works at Barrington, Shepreth and Meldreth along the line to Royston and near Cherryhinton on the Newmarket line. They were all rail served as they needed coal to fuel the process. At Histon, the Chivers jam factory used the railway for transporting its products.
Further afield, the Wisbech & Upwell tramway was built purely to transport agricultural produce. The Burwell Tramway which branched off the Ely to Newmarket line served a fertilizer factory. Newmarket station grew to serve race-goers and the yards handled the transport of racehorses.
Today, it is all so different, with no freight trains serving Cambridge as the factories have closed and most goods arrive by road.

This was a truly enjoyable and informative presentation given by a man who clearly loved the subject and had researched it so thoroughly. Everyone present really appreciated Tony's talk and we all learnt a lot more about our local railway scene.

Tuesday 11th April 2017
Doncaster Station past and present
Bryan Longbone

For our April meeting our guest was Bryan Longbone who gave us a presentation on Doncaster Station and how it has evolved over the past 150 years or so.
Early b/w slides showed the station develop into an important junction with trains from the east and west as well as the north-south route between London, York and Scotland.
We saw early slides showing the station with the various facilities on the platforms and numerous examples of advertising. The station master's house was seen although this has now gone.
Re-development in the late 1930s totally changed the look of the station, originally called Doncaster Central, into something more akin to what we see today. One prominent feature throughout was the footbridge to the works.
In the 1970s, more changes took place with re signalling, and track rationalization and sidings, and lines have disappeared to become areas of what Bryan described as nature reserve.
There were numerous slides throughout, showing many of the classes of loco that worked both freight and passenger trains through the station. Sadly, freight has declined somewhat today although there are still a number of different freight flows that pass through. Deltics and HSTs together with today's electric trains also featured. There is even a new platform zero that caters for terminating trains from the east.
This was a well researched and presented history of a very well known and important railway station.

Tuesday 14th March 2017
A 6th ColourRail Journey
Paul Chancellor

Our presenter for our March meeting was Paul Chancellor who treated us to the sixth version of " A Colour Rail journey ".
Paul began the evening by explaining the reasons for moving out of the slide market and into digital image sales. We were then shown what it was possible to do to enhance what initially looked like a badly deteriorated colour slide into a very acceptable image. Advice on how best to store any slides and negatives was given together with a discussion on the merits of the different brands of film. For the digitally minded among us, the importance of backing up our images to make sure they could still be accessed as technology moved on was stressed.
The show proper began with scenes from around Cardiff, before moving around the country to various locations such as Peterborough, Birmingham and Edinburgh. At these places we were treated to the sight of many different classes of steam and diesel locomotives through the years to almost the modern day. Some of the images featured locos rarely seen working whilst other images were not of the best quality but Paul included them for their rarity value. Among the selection were some truly beautiful shots captured by Trevor Owen.

It was a thoroughly enjoyable show which stirred the memories of several of those present and they were able to give Paul information about some of the trains featured. We went home happy having been treated to the sight of such a wide variety of motive power.

last updated: 07/02/18