Meeting Reports

Tuesday 12th March 2019
Railways of the Isle of Man
Geoff Brockett

For our March meeting, our speaker took us "overseas" to the Isle of Man. Geoff Brockett of the South Essex branch has enjoyed visiting the island since the 1970's right up to the present day and during that time has seen many changes to the island's railway system. The only thing that has remained a constant is the unpredictable nature of the weather.
Geoff began by giving us a history of the different systems on the island and how over the years, declining trade had caused the railway network to shrink and had it not been for the Manx government stepping in the whole system could well have closed.
The first line we saw was the Isle of Man Railway which is steam worked on 3ft gauge from Douglas to Port Erin. The slides we saw showed the engines in various liveries over the years together with a large variety of rolling stock which over the course of time appeared in liveries that at one time were carried. Geoff showed how the infrastructure had also changed with stations losing canopies and sheds being demolished.
We then saw a few slides of the horse tramway which is also 3ft gauge and runs from Douglas pier to Derby Castle.
From Derby Castle we were treated to a journey along the Manx Electric Railway which opened in 1893. The line runs to Ramsey with numerous delightful stations along the route. We must have seen all the power cars and trailers in operation including the unique freight loco No.23. The original 1893 motor cars and trailers were still in operation and beautifully restored.
At Laxey, the Snaefell Mountain Railway runs to the highest point on the island on 3ft 6in. gauge to accommodate a centre braking rail. Some of the views from the line were outstanding although Geoff said that mist can often obscure almost everything. The passenger stock dates from 1895 although some rebuilding has occurred.
Other railways Geoff had visited were the charming little 2ft. gauge Groudle Glen Railway with steam engines named Polar Bear, Sea lion and a new build called Brown Bear. The line closed in 1962 but has been reinstated since 1982 by volunteers.
The 19in. Laxey Mines railway with two little steam engines named Ant and Bee also featured.

Geoff's presentation which covered over 40 years and showed us just about every type of engine, carriage and wagon working on the Isle of Man was not only thorough and informative but some of the pictures gave those who had not been there the incentive to visit some time.

Tuesday 12th February 2019
Preserved railways past, present and future?
Michael Smyth

Our February meeting was a presentation by one of our Branch members, Michael Smyth, who gave us a very interesting and thought provoking presentation entitled "Preserved railways past, present and future?" Michael began by saying how the UK has probably the best railway preservation movement in the world thanks in no small measure to Dai Woodham at Barry and the large numbers of enthusiasts who sought to save lines closed after the Beeching report. Luckily, at that time there were many career railwaymen who enjoyed steam engines and had a wide knowledge of railway operations and were more than happy to assist the embryonic preservation groups. Today after fifty years or so, the different railways have evolved into what we have today with beautifully restored engines, rolling stock and buildings that take us back to a bygone era.
In Michael's view, the larger preserved lines such as the North York Moors & Severn Valley, which have developed engineering facilities and carriage restoration sheds are well placed, as they have become tourist attractions in their own right.
Other lines, which are not in traditional tourist areas, have developed income streams such as hire to television & film companies and dining trains. All have themed events and Santa specials which are vital to get the interest of the very young. The pictures we saw showed many of the different lines Michael had visited and some pictures in black & white really captured the atmosphere of the lines.
The future, although unknown, was his main fear. Most of the railways depend heavily on volunteers, most of whom are elderly, and the younger generation are not coming along in sufficient numbers to replace them. Some of the lines are very much enthusiast only lines and depend very much on an ageing core of supporters. Legislation changes add to running costs and on some lines, major infrastructure work is needed if the lines are to remain in their current state.

Michael's show drew many questions and comments from the audience and gave us a good insight into the railway preservation world that holds a place in our hearts. It was a well researched and presented show that was enjoyed by all.

Tuesday 8th January 2019
(To) Tebay on EBay
Dave Pearce

For the first meeting of 2019, we welcomed Dave Pearce to Cambridge with a presentation intriguingly titled "Tebay on Ebay".
This was a collection of images that Dave had managed to purchase on Ebay but sometimes he had missed out on slides that had exceeded his budget, often by over a hundred pounds. Most of the slides were B&W featuring scenes of the 50s and 60s although there were a few colour images. Dave usually purchased images because of the photographer although some were bought because of childhood memories.
Fittingly, we started in the Tebay area steam working freight and passenger trains over Shap with banking locos. Many other areas featured including the GC route and the ECML.
There were scenes on the Alnwick branch and various steam workings in Lancashire & Yorkshire. There were shots of an RCTS rail tour in Scotland along with scenes on various sheds.
The number of locations was too numerous to mention here and the image quality was excellent although some of the negatives needed processing after scanning to obtain an acceptable image.

This was an enjoyable presentation which raised a few talking points amongst the audience and Dave gained a few snippets of information on some of the images.

Tuesday 11th December 2018
A.G.M. followed by Members' contributions

Our last meeting of 2018 followed the format of previous years. The Chairman opened the AGM and business was dealt with swiftly. Thanks to the sterling efforts of our sales officer, Keith Crossley over the past year, the branch has invested in more new equipment to improve the quality of any presentations.
Following the meeting we had seasonal refreshments before seeing our members' contributions.
The chairman, Robert Bartlett, provided some slides of the Ravenglass & Eskdale with shots of River Mite, River Irt & Northern Rock at Dalegarth in 1983, 8F 48431 on the K&WV in 1984 and steam in Germany in 1985.
Michael Smyth then showed some fabulous scenes of QJs in China working in -25C with glorious smoke followed by shots from a trip to Pakistan and a journey up the Khyber pass.
Next, Dave Goodyear showed a digital selection of his early B&W photos which covered many types of engines from various places and included a King, a County and a Coronation (City of Coventry). He also included his first ever photo, a Britannia on the Harwich Branch.
The secretary showed a variety of shots all taken this year. They included a 56, a 60 and 66s on freight, numerous electric units and scenes on the Isle of Wight and the Welsh Highland Railway.
To finish with, Keith Crossley gave us a very varied selection of Italian locomotives and other types of rolling stock taken on his trip to Venice this year. Of particular note was the amount of graffiti which adorned Italian trains.

This concluded a very enjoyable evening's entertainment and we now look forward to 2019.

Tuesday 13th November 2018
60's Steam on shed
David Percival

Our speaker for November was David Percival with his very nostalgic presentation entitled " 60's Steam on shed ". This was an almost entirely black and white slide presentation although the last few were colour.

David has always lived in the vicinity of the East Coast mainline so unsurprisingly, scenes of Kings Cross top shed featured with Gresley & Peppercorn pacifics.
However, with rover tickets and organised trips, David was able to visit sheds all over the country bringing the opportunity to photograph numerous classes of steam engines that were still in service at the time. Not content to take an ordinary picture, David would capture the overall scene with the loco reflecting in a puddle, piles of ash and wheelbarrows and shovels. People were important to the overall scene and often we saw a driver and fireman by their engine.
Shed scenes at places such as Woodford Halse and Bolton showed the sun struggling to shine through clouds of smoke from numerous locos which produced a really evocative picture. Scenes inside sheds showed engines lit by shafts of sunlight.

The whole show was able to portray a very honest view of the period from 1960 to the end the steam era on the various regions and was thoroughly enjoyed by all present.

Tuesday 9th October 2018
Glasgow and South-Western route
David McLean.

For our second meeting of the season, David MacClean made a return visit to our branch with another Scottish themed presentation which this time focused on The Glasgow & South Western railway.
Like so many lines, it was originally conceived to carry coal. The earliest part of the system was the Kilmarnock and Troon Railway built by The Marquess of Titchfield to carry coal from his workings at Kilmarnock to the port of Troon in the early 1800s. We learnt that the G&SW itself was formed in 1850 with the merger of several smaller and struggling lines. David showed pictures of several of the very elegant classes of engines, mostly built at the company works at Kilmarnock.

   Glasgow & South Western Railway 15405 4-6-4T at Kilmarnock. Built in Kilmarnock in 1922 and originally numbered 545. Acquired by LMS and scrapped in 1936  
There were numerous classes of locos operating over the system including the powerful 4-6-4 Baltic tanks.
In its heyday, there were over 1100 route miles, but David showed several pictures of the jewel in the company's crown, Glasgow St Enoch station and hotel. Here we were to see views of the Thames-Clyde express in steam and diesel days - sadly no more. Stranraer was also important for ferry traffic to Ireland.
Today, much has changed with vast closures with the demise of coal fired power stations and ferry traffic much reduced. No longer can we travel from Dumfries to Stranraer through beautiful scenery and delightful stations as David's pictures showed us but there are still many places, particularly on the Ayrshire coast that are still worth a visit.

Again, a well researched show.

Tuesday 11th September 2018
Next train gone
Adrian White

For our first meeting of the new season, we welcomed Adrian White from the Stevenage Locomotive Society with his presentation entitled "Next train gone". The title gave no clue as to what was to follow.
Adrian gave us a wide selection of images which he told us were inspired by Colin Gifford's photography. What we saw were images from the UK, Europe and the USA, not always taken from conventional angles or in the best of light and weather conditions. He said he had been told that there is no such thing as good or bad weather, only weather, so make the most of it, be patient and the results may well pay off.
In the UK we toured both the mainlines and preserved railways. The S.V.R. featured prominently and Adrian showed us what could be achieved from one location along the line in different weather and light conditions - the results were worth it.
Some of his images were in black and white and industrial scenes, in particular, were very nostalgic. We saw night scenes and silhouettes and one silhouette of 60009 crossing Digswell viaduct on the GN was worthy of note.
Stations too were seen with particular praise given to the redevelopment of both Kings Cross and St. Pancras stations.
Overseas, Germany provided some spectacular scenes of class 01 Pacifics and class 44s working freight and passenger services during a Plandampf celebration.
Switzerland did not disappoint with some amazing snow scenes.
If vivid colour was needed, an autumn visit to the Durango and Silverton and other lines in the USA provided just that. It was amazing to hear that the images had not been altered in any way.

This was an extremely well presented show and other branches would do well to invite Adrian along for an evening.

Tuesday 8th May 2018
'Diary of a Train Spotter - Part 2'
Bryan Cross

For our final meeting of the current season, Bryan Cross made a welcome return with a further selection of black and white slides from the collection of the late Peter Bland. Bryan had scanned the images to produce a power point presentation. The first part of the show concentrated on Peter's trips around the U.K. and the second part covered a trip to Ireland (North & South) which took in a large number of lines of 5'3" gauge and 3' gauge. Bryan had researched some of the photographic subjects to give us a more complete picture of what he was showing. As many of the photos were taken around the time of nationalisation, some of the locos we saw never gained BR numbers. One shot was of a shunting locomotive at Ware shed which never seemed to move whilst a later photo showed it repainted but still in the same position.
There was a picture of a Duchess pacific just out shopped at Crewe in lined black, a livery it retained for a matter of weeks before re-appearing in BR blue.
Peter's Irish trip produced some real delights. The Guinness brewery had an extensive 1'10" gauge system with 0-4-0 locos that could be mounted on haulage trucks to work on the 5'3" gauge lines within the brewery.
The number of steam classes were far too numerous to mention as we ventured around Ireland, although we did see one picture of a 3' gauge engine too heavy to work on anything but straight track for fear of spreading the track.
Another oddity we saw was the Fintona tramway, a short line from Fintona Jct. which had steam hauled goods but horse drawn passenger trams. The horse was always called "Dick" whether a mare or stallion.

A marvellous presentation which a wealth of unusual pictures and was really entertaining.

Tuesday 10th April 2018
'Decades - my years of watching trains'
Philip Wood

Philip Wood was once again our guest speaker when he presented a programme entitled "Decades". It was a photographic journey charting Phil's early journeys around the country in pursuit of steam in the early 1960s up to 1968.
Starting at Kings X, we saw A4s, A1s and A3s and a classic view of pacifics stabled on top shed. Other sheds and stations around London also featured including Camden, Cricklewood and Stratford. At Stratford, we saw the line of North British type 1 D84xx class which I recall being ever-present. Camden had Duchess pacifics and a Britannia on show.
Travelling north along the ECML we arrived at York with Mallard in the station about to work a special. On shed were pacifics and V2s, well over 50 locos in all.
It was in April 1968 that Phil and friends noticed the biggest changes when on trips around Yorkshire, the North East and the North West. At Royston (55D) were 13 8Fs stored with 13 working diesels. At Wakefield which had closed, the contrast to an earlier visit was staggering with only eight steam awaiting their fate. At Normanton 10 steam remained of which 3 are now preserved - 42073/85 and 61306. The North East was largely the home of diesels although a few steam were to be seen including 60019 Bittern at York.
Across the Pennines, we saw photos of several steam at the last strongholds of Heaton Mersey, Patricroft, Newton Heath and Stockport.
It was a very nostalgic trip down memory lane and Phil was able to bring us more up date with shots of some of the preserved locos working at Beamish, K&WV Rly. and the North Norfolk Rly.

A lovely evening’s entertainment from a man who loves the railways.

last updated: 15/03/19