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Cheltenham

Meeting Reports

Tuesday 20th February 2018
'The Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway and the Broadway Extension'
Alan Bielby

Alan Bielby, until recently Chairman of GWSR, attracted an attendance of 31 on 20th February. He spoke about the progress being made on the rebuilding of Broadway station which will open in March 2018. He reminded us of what had happened since the line was lifted in 1979. Cheltenham Borough Council purchased the track bed from just south of Hunting Butts tunnel through to Lansdown Jct. thus cutting off any prospect of main line access to the railway. The Light Railway Order was signed in 1983 and 15 miles of the route was purchased the following year. The order gives the railway statutory powers which over rides many local planning issues and individuals’ complaints. The detail that Alan gave about the final extension through to Broadway was the real highlight of the evening. The station has been built to cater for eight coach trains with the main buildings on platform 1 resembling good Great Western practice. A signal box is on the platform but engine running round movements will, for the time being, be controlled from ground frames. Question and answer sessions produced fascinating discussions including about the length of time it takes to train prospective signalmen and as to no intended progress north to Honeybourne.

Tuesday 16th January 2018
'Eastleigh to Romsey and Salisbury'
Nigel Bray

24 members attended the meeting of 16th January when branch member Nigel Bray gave another of his fascinating presentations on a rail route this time from Eastleigh to Romsey and Salisbury. The line between Eastleigh and Romsey was part of Salisbury’s first rail link with Southampton, and became intertwined with the Andover to Redbridge line when it arrived nearly 20 years later. Salisbury’s first station was the terminus of this line that later became its Milford Goods Yard. The talk covered almost every piece of its significant infrastructure from as it was right up to the present day. Passenger services were dieselised in 1957, but a shortage of DEMUs led to a partial reversion to steam working through Romsey, which saw M7s work push-pull trains between Eastleigh and Andover Junction. The development of key regional services between Cardiff, Bristol and Southampton was a feature of the talk especially when British Rail reduced these services in the late 1960’s, because of its then need to concentrate its trains elsewhere. Those services have revived although most of the line is now singled. The reopening of the single platformed Chandlers Ford station in 2003 highlighted how railway services can be successfully improved.

Tuesday 19th December 2017
'The History of Swindon Works Volume 1 1843-1880'
Revd Canon Brian Arman The Society’s President

As a pre-Christmas treat on 19th December with 23 members and visitors present, our Society’s President Brian Arman gave the first of his presentations on Swindon Works. Covering the period from 1843 to 1880 he reminded us of what the small township of Swindon was like before the coming of the Great Western Railway. The impact of the railway and of the works saw its population rise from about 250 to 40,000 in 60 years by the turn of that century. Many skilled workers and their families came to the town from the industrial Midlands and the North especially during the 1870’s trade depression. The social aspect of life in the new town along with the development of the Mechanics’ Institute was a fascinating aspect of the evening. The continuing enlargement of the works site meant that many workshops were either extended or rebuilt - with many original features being retained for most of the works existence. The GWR invested in heavy works machinery which usually lasted for well over 70 years. Brian dealt with GWR locomotive development during the period, but there were those boiler explosions or serious railway accidents all of which highlighted his expertise with the topic. A return visit cannot come too soon.

Tuesday 21st November 2017
'My Early Days'
David Maidment OBE

An enthusiastic attendance of 28 on 21st November were enthralled by David Maidment’s reminiscences of his early days with railways mainly as an observer of trains passing through Surbiton from the early 1950s. Added to that were his family holidays to the West Country and of his forays up to the main London termini. At Charterhouse School the organised railway visits to the likes of Rugby further widened his railway interest. What stood out was his great appreciation of the ‘King Arthur’ class for in his student days he experienced some startling performances from them on his journeys back home from Waterloo. Great Western practice was recounted in some detail especially when he was involved with Old Oak Common based locomotives both there and on their workings. The sad demise of the ‘Saint’ and ‘Star’ classes was a downside for any follower of steam. He did allude to some aspects of his later railway career both at Aberbeeg, and when he was closely involved with implementing good Health & Safety practice. As was to be expected David recounted the start of the Railway Children Charity, and as to its now key social role making life prospects better for run away children in this country - even in the likes of Cheltenham and Bath.

Tuesday 17th October 2017
'The Life of 7903 Foremark Hall'
John Cruxon

We had an eventful meeting on 17th October as our speaker, John Cruxon, was delayed because of emergency repairs to the A419. However, his presentation on the life of 7903 Foremark Hall was inspirational not only as to how the locomotive was restored to life following its sojourn at Woodham’s but also as to the Great Western’s standards set at Swindon Works. From 1949 she was shedded at Old Oak Common. John collects as many pictures as possible of the locomotive at work. From Barry the story moved to the Swindon & Cricklade Railway where in open air conditions the restoration took place at a cost of £157,000 with her first runs over that line in 2003. The move to the Gloucestershire & Warwickshire Railway enabled her to show her paces before her 10 years required overhaul at both Toddington and at Tyseley. Here again we saw a locomotive being stripped right down before its full refurbishment took place. It was with some pride that the locomotive returned to Old Oak Common this September, in addition to her fine return to service on our local G&WR. Only 18 were present and they were earlier rewarded until John’s arrival with Chairman Steve Wilson showing his transport related pictures from earlier years.

Tuesday 19th September 2017
'Remembering the Withered Arm'
Nigel Wassell

The opening meeting of the season on 19th September attracted 25 members and visitors to a nostalgic treat presented by Nigel Wassell. Remembering the Withered Arm gave us a then and now view of former Southern Railway lines in both Devon and Cornwall. Many of the slides shown were from other well-known photographers but these enabled to see rail scenes from 1949 onwards added to with Nigel’s own pictures of latter day workings on the lines as well as what can be seen today. The range of railway stock seen highlighted the longevity of favourite LSWR locomotives and even of its gated rolling stock, along with those Exeter banking locomotives, with of course the ubiquitous Bulleid Pacifics, right down to the present-day Pacers on the Barnstaple branch. Nigel revealed the influence of Col. Holman Stevens in the construction of both the Callington Branch and of the North Devon & Cornwall Jct. Light Railway, the latter mainly for ball clay traffic. Halwill Jct. had its moments of intense activity with its single carriage services. Nigel read accounts of ‘hair raising’ rides down the steep bank into Ilfracombe station and concluded with John Betjeman’s words about Wadebridge station and the breath of Cornish air.

Tuesday 18th April 2017
The Branch AGM followed by Members' entertainment

The Branch Annual Business Meeting took place on 18th April with 14 members present. The committee was re-elected namely with Steve Wilson, John Howland, Richard Morris and Richard Neale. Branch activities were increasing and a plea was made from the membership that the Library Box facility must be maintained. Discussion as to how society membership could be increased resulted in RCTS leaflets being given out to those members with links to local model railway groups. The feasibility of occasional afternoon meetings is to be explored although there would be a need to find a different venue. By way of entertainment afterwards three committee members gave digital presentations using Richard Morris’s laptop. Steve Wilson looked back at railway scenes 30 years ago highlighted by the GWR 150 specials at Gloucester and of past scenes at Bridgnorth as well as some more recent views. Richard Neale (thanks to his wife Alison) gave his first Power Point show covering views around Gloucester, the London area and of Merseyside. Richard Morris concluded the evening with a look at Berlin including its suburban rail scene and of notable tourist attractions including Checkpoint Charlie and of the remaining portion of the Berlin Wall.

Tuesday 21st March 2017
'Building a Brand New LNER Sandringham'
Brian Hall (B17 Steam Locomotive Trust)

23 members and visitors met on 21st March to hear a presentation on ‘Building a Brand New LNER Sandringham’ from Brian Hall of the B17 Steam Locomotive Trust. The new locomotive will be 61673 Spirit of Sandringham. The evening had two definitive parts with the first being about the origins and development from 1928 of Gresley’s only 4-6-0 type based on the needs of increasingly heavy trains on the former G.E.R. system, but also to cope with the more restrictive civil engineering aspects there. Shorter turntables necessitated shorter G.E.R. tenders to go with the larger locomotives. The intentions of the trust include capturing a previous era of world class engineering and in also creating an icon from our past using innovative techniques and modern technology. As with any type of locomotive there were initial teething problems with both Gresley and later Thompson making improvements. The second part was a fascinating video as to how the new frames and buffer beams were being manufactured at two specialist Black Country works in the West Midlands. Much has been learnt and shared from the construction processes of A1 class Tornado and of the P2 to benefit the new B17. For steam devotees, this was the perfect evening.

last updated: 22/02/18