Meeting Reports

Wednesday 27th February 2019
The Old Dalby Test Track
David Coxon

For our February meeting, Chichester Branch welcomed Dave Coxon, who gave an illustrated presentation on the Old Dalby Test Track.
The first part described the route from its opening by the Midland Railway in 1879 up to closure in 1966. As part of a secondary main line north from Kettering, it connected Melton Mowbray with Nottingham and some expresses from St Pancras were routed over it. Local passenger traffic was, however, sparse and by the time of closure, the only remaining intermediate station was Old Dalby.
The speaker illustrated stations, infrastructure and trains (both steam and diesel) through the years, including some Courtney Haydon views from the RCTS photographic archive.
Following closure, the line from Melton Mowbray as far as Edwalton was taken over as a test track by the RTC, and the second part of Dave’s talk showed the many and varied research and test activities which have taken place there up to the present. These included the APT-E, the nuclear flask test collision and high-speed pantographs.
Following several changes of ownership and re-equipment, the line is still well used for the testing of new rolling stock such as the Bombardier ‘Andventura’ EMUs and LT ‘S’ sub-surface stock and has a secure future.

We thank Dave for a most interesting and informative presentation.

Wednesday 23rd January 2019
South Western Railway
Phil Dominey

Phil, Senior Regional Development Manager at South Western Railway, entertained us with a detailed look at the current SWR franchise and potential future developments.
Much ground was covered, from the basics of understanding the extent of the SWR network, to the current and future rolling stock procurement and allocation
Phil confirmed the refurbished class 442s are still being prepared for re-entry in to service, principally for the Portsmouth line.
Investment opportunities were discussed, the long awaited grade separation at Woking still very much on the agenda. It was good to hear from a TOC actively looking at opportunities for increasing passenger volumes, and methods by which people can be tempted away from their cars on to rail.
The new timetable complexities were explained and the need to stagger introduction of revised services, following the chaotic introduction of new timetables elsewhere in the industry in May 2018.
The complexities of the current industrial problems were discussed, Phil himself acting as a contingency guard when the need arises.
Phil showed a delightful film commemorating the first direct train from Corfe Castle to London Waterloo for half a century, and finished the evening answering a substantial number of questions, from the audience, on a vast array of subjects.

It was a pleasure to be in the company of an enthusiastic professional railwayman, with a passion for the rail experience.

Wednesday 12th December 2018
'Short AGM followed by Heritage Railway Association'
Stephen Oates

The AGM of the Chichester Branch took place in December. The Branch has had another successful year with a varied programme, satisfactory finances, good attendances and new members, which lead to an award for the highest total recruited during 2018. The officers were all re-elected and were joined by two new committee members.

Following the AGM, Stephen Oates, Chief Executive of the Heritage Railway Association and its only paid employee, gave us an overview of the Association’s work. The heritage railway movement can be said to have begun 67 years ago with the first steps to ensure the future of the Talyllyn Railway. The Middleton Railway in Leeds was the first preserved standard gauge line, though the Bluebell was the first standard gauge steam railway. Now representing over 300 organisations, including 120 working railways, the Association works through a number of committees to oversee areas such as operations and safety, legal and parliamentary.
The movement is now huge, with 22,000 volunteers, 4,000 paid staff, 13million visitors and an economic value of £400 million per year. Parliamentary lobbying forms an important area of activity and the current effort is directed towards derogation from a government green paper with the threat of the closure of the coal distribution network and the final closure of mines.
All in all, a fascinating and thought-provoking meeting.

Thursday 29th November 2018
BT Museum and Underground Railway

Having had a fascinating talk about the developments at the Post Office Museum and of the Post Office Underground Railway, the Branch was eager to arrange a visit. So in November some 20 of us travelled to Mount Pleasant where we enjoyed lunch at the very pleasant café and then looked round the museum.
As the time approached for our ride, we made our way down the street to the entrance to Mail Rail, underneath the enormous central sorting office. From the new terminal, trains take visitors on a circular tour through the tunnel loops of this extraordinary railway and back to where it started. Formerly powered by an offset third rail the specially built narrow-gauge trains are now battery operated and very compact! At intervals the train stops and scenes from the railway’s operation are projected on adjacent walls. At one point the train passes over what was the main line where one of the original Mail Rail trains is parked, just as if work had stopped for the day.
On returning to the terminal we were able to walk through what had been the maintenance area where many artefacts from the railway are displayed and its history explained.

This is well recommended for groups looking for an outing to something a bit different.

Wednesday 28th November 2018
'Swiss Railways'
Paul Russenberger

The 43 attendees at the Chichester Branch meeting on 28th November were royally entertained with a masterful presentation by Paul Russenberger, entitled ‘An Introduction to Swiss Railways’. Paul is currently a Board Member of the Swiss Railway Society and it very soon became apparent that he possessed a really in-depth knowledge of the Swiss railway scene, both past and present.
He briefly explained that the size of Switzerland is 15,900 sq. miles (approximately twice the size of Wales) and has four official languages: French, Italian, German & Romansh. It has been a Confederation since 1848.
We were taken on a photographic tour from Zurich to Geneva, with several detours to visit scenic branch lines, many of which still operate steam specials. Shortages of coal from Germany during WW1 forced the country toward early electrification.
Of particular note were the Vitznau Rigi Bahn, the Mount Pilatus Railway (the world’s steepest rack railway with gradients as steep as 1:2.25) and the famous railways of the Jungfrau.
Paul also included photos of vintage vessels to be found on the lakes and the Swiss Transport Museum in Lucerne.

If ever a presentation could be regarded as a tour de force, this was certainly one fitting that description!

Wednesday 24th October 2018
'Woking's Railways'
Alan Norris

For our October meeting, Chichester branch were delighted to welcome back Alan Norris, who gave an illustrated talk entitled ‘Woking’s Railways and the Effects on the Town’s Development’ but in reality covering much more than this.
Our speaker firstly described the chronology, construction and early years of the London and Southampton Railway (later L.S.W.R), and how it missed the existing settlements of Kingston and Woking, but later attracted development around nearby stations. The heathland that the railway traversed was useless for agriculture and this had a significant effect on land usage of the area.
The Brookwood Cemetery and its railway was then covered, followed by the Bisley Tramway and its extensions to nearby military camps. We were shown many interesting views of what remains from both these defunct lines. The Bisley station building, for example, still exists as headquarters of the Lloyd’s Bank Rifle Association.
Woking’s famous Railway Orphanage was then covered, and the talk concluded with railway developments through the twentieth century, the most significant of which was possibly electrification through the town in 1936-37.
It is sobering to note that in 2017 more than ten million rail journeys were made from the borough’s stations at West Byfleet, Woking and Brookwood.

We thank our speaker for a fascinating and enlightening presentation.

In all 9 new members were recruited, though we were later advised that 2 of these would be assigned to neighbouring Branches. This was of no import, as of course all members, new and old, are free to attend any Branch meeting(s) of their choice. Overall, the day was considered a success and it is likely to be repeated.

Saturday 20th October 2018
Chichester Lions Model Railway Exhibition

   RCTS banner on loan to Chichester Branch   Geoff Adams
On 20/10/2018, Chichester Branch took its first foray into the world of Exhibitions by attending the annual Chichester Lions Model Railway Exhibition (MRE). The intention was to promote the RCTS and the latest free membership offer in particular.
Roger Sandford, the Branch (and National) Publicity Officer had done a lot work in arranging for the Branch’s attendance and a roster comprising of Richard Ashby (Branch Chair), Geoff May (Branch Treasurer), Geoff Adams (Branch Secretary) & Ian McKey (Committee Member) joined him in ensuring the stand was manned throughout the opening hours of the Exhibition.
The Branch does not stock any RCTS publications or other books, etc., so there was no intention to sell anything – for this reason we weren’t charged for the stand. A free to enter competition was run, with winners to receive examples of a local OO gauge wagon. This didn’t achieve the level of entry hoped for, so is unlikely to be repeated, though it was an innovation well worth trying.
We gathered from the MRE organisers that footfall had not been as high as in previous years, in part due to a clash with the annual Sloe Fair (which has been held in the City continuously since 1107) and a reunion event in the grounds of MRE area – car park attendants were turning away cars on arrival, stating that no parking spaces were available. Your reviewer didn’t accept this and found plenty of parking available beyond the main Exhibition Hall.
This MRE had an excellent mix of layouts and dealers as well as good refreshment facilities. Photographs of some of the layouts that particularly impressed, along with our stand, appear at the end of this layout.
Chichester Model Engineers also operated a ‘ride on’ steam railway in the area immediately in front of the main entrance. The weather stayed fine for the day, so no doubt they attracted patronage from a number of younger visitors. Auctioneers Tooveys were also present, promoting a forthcoming auction of Collectors’ Toys, Dolls & Games.
In all 9 new members were recruited, though we were later advised that 2 of these would be assigned to neighbouring Branches. This was of no import, as of course all members, new and old, are free to attend any Branch meeting(s) of their choice. Overall, the day was considered a success and it is likely to be repeated.
   Chris Bryan's Frattenbury & Redminster excellent Hornby Dublo 3-rail layout.   Geoff Adams
   0 Gauge Hornby by John Reeves   Geoff Adams
   Crosswater Village by West Sussex Narrow Gauge Society   Geoff Adams

Wednesday 26th September 2018
'HS1 Channel Tunnel Rail Link'
David Kelso

The Branch launched its 2018/9 season with a most interesting and informative presentation by David Kelso who made another welcome return visit to Chichester.
David’s return to the UK after a period working abroad coincided with the construction of Phase 1 of the CTRL from Cheriton to Fawkham Junction where it joined the existing ‘Classic’ third rail electrified network. The temporary neglect of his garden seemed a small price to pay for the remarkable series of photographs that David took during the construction of what was the first significant railway line to be built in the UK for almost a century. His pictures not only illustrated the vast scale of the civil engineering undertaken but also how the line has subsequently mellowed into the landscape. The ruling gradients, particularly where it needs to pass over or under existing railway lines, are severe by the standards of Victorian railway building. However with some 11,000 horsepower available to them, the Eurostar units seem well able to cope.
Whether the HS2 project will present a similar challenge any time soon to enterprising photographers like David is an interesting question!

Wednesday 23rd May 2018
The David Brown Collection

For the last meeting of the season David, a Chichester committee member, took us on a nostalgic trip through the 80s and 90s showing around 100 of his own photos, many never having been displayed before.
David began with a grand mix of Southern Region rail tours, where it quickly became apparent memories were being tested, and indeed, some amazement where once familiar sightings had been totally forgotten.
Next on the agenda, David took us over the Channel, where we visited France, Belgium, Holland and Switzerland. The welcoming of railway enthusiasts on the rail network was highlighted throughout. Third rail electrics in Paris, diesel shunters (class 08 style), MLVs, Driving Trailers, conversions from 1950s buffet cars, and ex electric locos used in the North of England, just some of the many splendid shots to view.
Back on home soil we were not to be disappointed to see many Southern Region images. Diesel shots, as well as electric, not surprising really, coming from a man who has published two books on Southern Electrics. Unusual and delightful views included MLVs in red, a 6 car Rep unit, whereas most people remember these as 4 car units, and IOW tube stock on the mainland at Petersfield on test.
Finally we were briefly brought right up to date with a few recent photos, including the blue class 313, where else but in the platform at Chichester.

This was a highly professional presentation, passing the test of an audience wanting to see more. David revealed he has only printed 5% of his negatives from this period, so there is plenty of scope for more of these nostalgic evenings in the future. Very many thanks to David for a highly entertaining and informative evening.

Wednesday 25th April 2018
The Old Dalby Test Track
Dave Coxon

Peter Middleton, the Managing Director of Video 125, very kindly stepped into the breech when the presenter of our originally scheduled talk was unable to attend.
Peter gave a most interesting talk which covered his career in television and film-making, together with the formation of Video 125, all ably illustrated with recordings from his own library. He also highlighted many of the difficulties he has encountered in making high quality recording of railway topics. The main difficulties include: -

• Getting permission for access to the railways often involving several separate entities.

• Continuity when shoots last several days, and the engines keep changing!

• The weather!

• The amount and weight of the equipment needed to make a film.

Early in his career, Peter realised that, although many feet of film were shot in the making of a film, after final production only that used in the broadcast product was ever archived, thus losing many historical recordings that would have been very useful. This is a trend he has tried to reverse as Video 125 now archive all the footage shot, whether it makes it to the intended production or not!
A valuable contact Peter made was with John Huntley, who had built up a large library of railway and other historical films. Peter worked with John to record many of these films with the commentary given by John. This became invaluable with the passing of John Huntley in 2003.
In addition to the talk, Peter brought along a large number of DVDs from his current catalogue for sale at the meeting, and online for two hours afterwards at an extremely competitive price.

Both for this gesture and the entertaining content of his presentation, Peter comes as a highly recommended speaker.

Wednesday 28th March 2018
Art in the Age of Steam
Andrew Foster

The coming of the railways in the early 19th Century resulted in profound economic and social change for the country and Andrew Foster’s absorbing presentation showed us how this was reflected in the world of art.
Some of these paintings have now achieved iconic status as for example Turner’s ‘Rain, Steam and Speed - the Great Western Railway’ exhibited in the National Gallery.
Andrew related the story of how a lady traveller had observed an elderly gentleman becoming strangely excited as their train passed through a violent storm and beckoned the lady to look through the open window and observe the curious light effects. The said lady got extremely wet for her troubles but it wasn’t until a visit she made the following year to the Royal Academy to see the famous painting that she realised the old man had been Turner himself!
Some of the lithographs that Andrew showed us were exquisite in their almost photographic detail and a reminder of the enormity of railway civil engineering in a largely pre-mechanical age. Notable amongst these, were those executed by John Cooke Bourne (1814-96) of the London & Birmingham Railway and the Great West-ern.
Railway paintings were not, of course, the sole preserve of British artists and Andrew showed us some delightful early sketches of the Gare du Nord along with works by French impressionists such as Monet and Pissaro.
Railway art was not confined to conventional paintings to be hung on walls and we were shown a range of well known railway posters that extolled the virtues of travelling by train and of the destinations at journey’s end.

The excellent presentation showed us once again that there are many facets to an interest in railways.

last updated: 05/03/19