Meeting Reports

Tuesday 19th February 2019
‘Severn and Wye Railway’
Ian Pope

The 19th February meeting with 32 people present was rewarded with a fascinating look at the Severn & Wye Railway. Ian Pope of the Lightmoor Press illustrated his talk with postcard and photographic views of what was once an industrial powerhouse in the Forest of Dean. His background knowledge about the vicissitudes of the coal and iron ore mining explained a great deal as to why so much happened in a century and a half starting off round about 1809 with The Seven & Wye Railway & Canal Company providing the route heading down towards Lydney docks but not for a while operating the goods traffic. Lines and rolling stock were converted to broad gauge and then back to standard gauge. Eventually in 1894 both the Midland and Great Western bought up the Severn & Wye Co and then jointly operated it. The system had been extended over the River Severn with its railway bridge that opened in 1879. Passenger services were eventually provided, but so haphazard were the train connections that it was of little surprise that apart from the Berkeley Road-Lydney Town service the rest were ended in 1929. Early locomotives were named after Robin Hood characters and with GWR class 2021 pannier tanks holding sway for many years until after the Second World War. The talk was enlivened with amusing anecdotes throughout the evening.

Tuesday 15th January 2019
‘Railed Transport in Germany’
Sholto Thomas

On an evening when the House of Commons was voting on a European matter, 24 members and friends turned out on 15th January to hear local member Sholto Thomas give an excellent presentation on Railed Transport in Germany. Sholto is a retired senior Stagecoach officer and his appreciation of the way transport is run, enabled us to hear an appreciative view on what he has seen. Making regular visits to Germany since 1988 meant we saw both the current scene as well as comparing it with the past. His visits to the seemingly most obscure suburban and rural outposts opened up parts of Germany undreamt of. In doing so he covered all aspects of railed transport from European high-speed trains, to regular passenger and freight operations, to tram trains, to trams and even to rail replacement buses. Steam was not forgotten either in the Harz region or on steam specials as well as with museum scenes. The Wuppertal suspension system was not forgotten either with one-member exclaiming that it was the Dangle Bahn. Railway infrastructure was not forgotten including the war damaged bridge at Remagen. The DB national system is now rivalled by other European companies and the many different liveries seen all added to the evening’s entertainment

Tuesday 18th December 2018
‘Swindon Works Volume 2’
Rev. Canon Brian Arman

Despite the inclement weather of 18th December, 24 members and friends heard Society President Revd Canon Brian Arman bring his lifelong fascination of anything Swindon to an enthralled audience. Covering the period 1880 to 1920 Brian dealt not only with the extension of the works buildings themselves but also of the enlightened GWR development of its new town with facilities that were ahead of its time for both its workers and townspeople. Brian’s close inspection of contemporary photographs has led him to identify the individual history of certain rolling stock parked in lengthy sidings in that period around 1892. He also highlighted two Star Class locomotives pictured next to each other with one superheated and the other not. GWR personalities of the time received due recognition not only with their successes but also as in the case of William Dean his sad decline in his health. Those who moved to other railway companies took good Swindon practice with them as exemplified by D. E. Marsh who moved to Doncaster in 1896 as assistant to H. A. Ivatt and also not forgetting W. A. Stanier. During the First World War the works constructed and repaired heavy armaments alongside locomotives under repair. We look forward to Brian’s next talk.

Tuesday 20th November 2018
‘The Advanced Passenger Train’
Kit Spackman

The 20 who attended the meeting of 20th November heard an excellent talk from Kit Spackman about the development of the Advanced Passenger Train in the 1970s. As a hydraulics engineer, he was heavily involved in the development of the then revolutionary tilt system that was a key factor in determining the success or otherwise of the whole project. Besides all of the technical details Kit gave a light-hearted account of how the experimental project developed. The tilt worked to a 9 degrees swing and how even on one run a screwdriver was needed to keep the mechanism working. We saw how the coaching stock and the gas turbine powered units were developed, but still with oil lamp brackets fitted. The APT-E test runs on the Old Dalby Test Track enlightened us as to how that track is used and we heard about its 150-mph high-speed test runs on the Western Region. With the 1975 fuel crisis cancelling the APT-E, he was able to switch to the APT-P project that included electric-traction. Having left that project before the APT-P entered public service he was able to give his thoughts on its eventual demise, but firmly discounted that ATP technology was sold to Fiat in Italy. He ended by highlighting the NRM preservation and volunteer restoration work on the APT-E.

Tuesday 16th October 2018
‘An Indian Summer of Steam’
David Maidment

David Maidment’s return visit on 16th October mustered only a 23 attendance for what was a highly nostalgic evening with his ‘An Indian Summer of Steam.’ Although he concentrated on his early days on the Western Region in the 1960’s he also enlightened us on the steam scene in both France and what was then still West Germany. He was enthralled by the many Pacific type locomotives still then at work. He also reviewed the last years of BR steam. David’s formal railway career started as management trainee and was assigned to Western Region’s London Division where he worked in all of the various departments including three months at Old Oak Common shed. His footplate experiences covered many workings out of Old Oak Common including getting very wet thanks to 4704’s sparse Churchward cab. Switching in turn to the Cardiff and Plymouth Divisions and at the latter in the 1963 severe winter he saw steam replacing the ailing diesels. No longer a trainee he was first appointed as Aberbeeg’s Station Manager and whilst there he helped clear a night time land slip to allow a train with steel ingots through. Moving onto Bridgend where he was Area Manager he encountered those unfortunate Cl.14 diesels. We look forward to David’s next visit.

Tuesday 18th September 2018
‘A Hard Time Chasing narrow Gauge Steam in China’
Alan Bielby

Alan Bielby opened the new season with a presentation about a very well hidden narrow gauge mineral railway in deepest south east China. The railway had been closed down without warning by the Regional Government 6 months before the visit but the local villagers welcomed the touring party. A driver, fireman, guard, signallers all appeared, along with a supply of coal, water and lubricants, and set about coaxing a steam locomotive, which hadn’t moved in the intervening period, into life to haul two ‘air conditioned’ passenger carriages. Some members of the party got stuck in with cleaning rags to give the locomotive a bit of a spruce up. Setting off from the mine end the train travelled over track which was in remarkably good condition to the transfer shed about 30 km distant where, in its working days, the minerals (unspecified yellow coloured material!) would be transferred to non-rail wagons for hauling across an aerial rope way to the ‘main line’ the other side of a river. The visit happened 25 years ago. An ‘enquiry’ of Google Earth some years later revealed no trace of the railway at all – nature had reclaimed it!

Tuesday 17th April 2018
'The Branch Annual Business meeting Visitors are welcome as usual. Your branch needs you, please attend if you can.'

The 54th Branch Annual Meeting took place on 17th April with 16 people present. Business was conducted within half an hour with the existing committee of Stephen Wilson, John Howland,Richard Morris and Richard Neale duly re-elected. There was pride that the commemorative plaque to our joint founders had been unveiled, but criticism was made that the Society Library Box had not had a change of books for some time. The members' entertainment was even better with Andrew Peckham showing old slides taken by his late father and his late godfather including European rail scenes, Sholto Thomas reflecting on his Japanese railway holiday complete with MAGLEV and monorail systems, Alan Drewitt giving an overview of the Gloucester Railway and Carriage Works history and it was not always railway carriages that they built, Stephen Wilson reviewing his recent UK railway outings and Richard Morris recounting his railway visits to Austria and to Switzerland ending with the plaque unveiling in the previous week.

Tuesday 20th March 2018
'South Wales and a Little Bit More'
Stuart Warr

A 30 attendance was present for Stuart Warr’s excellent presentation on 20th March. His first half highlighted the South Walian railway scene covering the past 40 years which not only highlighted the many changes to infrastructure and rolling stock but also as the dramatic changes from the industrial heartland to much greener valleys. The former dereliction of Cardiff Bute Dock station has been transformed into Cardiff Bay station. Stuart is a keen follower of rail tours and he included one view of a hillside covered with photographers. The many views of the Cl.52 diesel hydraulic locomotives were particularly appreciated. An October 1976 view of the prototype 252001 between Bridgend and Port Talbot along with diverted HSTs passing at Tondu in 1980 caught the eye. The second half not only covered South Wales but also the rest of mainland Britain as he explored the many aspects of railway infrastructure. The many shots included Cornish road signs to long forgotten stations, to the many signal boxes that have since disappeared, Bristol Temple Meads sign boards and distinctive tunnel entrances. Viaducts and bridges were highlighted with the Forth Bridge, the bridge over the canal at Worcester and by the rebuilt Loughor viaduct.

last updated: 22/02/19