Croydon & South London

Meeting Reports

Monday 23rd October 2017
British Steam in the 21st Century
Jeremy Harrison

On Monday 23rd October Branch Committee member Jeremy Harrison presented a random selection of his own photographs under the title 'British Steam in the 21st Century'. The locations ranged from Cornwall to North Wales and Scotland with both familiar and less familiar scenes. A plentiful variety of preserved locomotives were to be seen, while 60163 Tornado appeared in all sorts of places! Members who were present at September’s presentation by Gordon Rushton on the Welsh Highland Railway were delighted to see plenty of material from that location. A particular delight was that many of Jeremy’s photographs showed trains “in context”.

Tuesday 26th September 2017
Welsh Highland Revival
Gordon Rushton

Our autumn afternoon meeting in Redhill took place on Tuesday 26th September, when we were delighted to welcome Gordon Rushton, former General Manager of the Festiniog Railway Company, to give his digital presentation Welsh Highland Revival. In this he described the revival of the line from Caernarfon to Porthmadog to create this most impressive narrow gauge preservation project, which now provides through access between Caernarfon and Blaenau Ffestiniog via Porthmadog - albeit with a change of train at the latter point. His first-hand knowledge enabled him to describe the political and financial problems experienced along the way! For many members the highlight was his description of the acquisition and introduction of the Garratt locomotives that are now such a feature of the reopened line.

Monday 11th September 2017
'Britain on Film: Railways'

Our 2017/18 season began on Monday 11th September with a video show, of “Britain on Film: Railways”, organised by Jeremy Harrison. This is a collection of several short (and now rarely seen) films made between 1898 and 1970 and compiled by the Independent Cinema Office in association with the BFI National Film and Television Archive. Titles shown included Conway Castle from 1898, Kiss in the Tunnel (1899) and Pathways of Perfection (1937). Despite the title, the showing included Railways Today (1947) – a cinemagazine from the USA illustrating the transformation from steam to diesel traction in that country during the 1930s and 1940s. Classics from British Transport Films included Elizabethan Express from 1954, Let’s Go to Birmingham (1962), the award-winning Snow (1963) and Railways for Ever (1970). It was evident at the end of the evening that the 34 members and guests present thoroughly enjoyed the show!

Monday 14th August 2017
Visit to the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway

Our final event of the Summer, on Monday 14th August, took place in pleasantly warm and sunny weather on the 15 inch gauge Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railway. We were five members in two small groups, each making their own travel arrangements and meeting up at New Romney station. There was some disappointment that the train which took one group out of Hythe was hauled by Bo-Bo diesel-mechanical JB Snell. Spirits rose at New Romney station, however, when the group's onward journey to Dungeness and return to Hythe was hauled by steam in the form of 4-6-2 Northern Chief in Brunswick Green, and with a Bulleid whistle, built by Davey Paxman & Co in 1925. Other locos seen in service conveying the other group were 4-6-2 Hurricane in Caledonian Railway blue and 4-8-2 Hercules in Midland Railway maroon, both Davey Paxman built. Further examples of these beautiful one-third full size engines could be spotted resting peacefully under blankets in the shed at New Romney

Saturday 29th July 2017
Visit to the Great Western Society’s Didcot Railway Centre

A small but select group met at the Great Western Society at Didcot Railway Centre for the first outdoor meeting of the summer on Saturday 29th July. Undoubtedly the outstanding “live” attraction was the GWR steam railcar and trailer operating on one demonstration line while large prairie No. 4144 was working a two-coach train on the other. Static exhibits in and around the depot ranged from Cardiff Railway 0-4-0ST No. 1338 to 2-8-0 No. 3822 and blue-liveried 6023 King Edward II.

Monday 8th May 2017
The John J Smith Photo Collection
Tony Hillman, Bluebell Railway Museum Archive

Our final indoor meeting of the 2016/17 season took place on Monday 8th May when Tony Hillman from the Bluebell Railway Museum Archive showed us a selection of photographs from the John J. Smith collection. John Smith was based in Eastbourne and took a large number of photographs on the Southern Region from the late 1940s into the 1960s. Tony opened his presentation with a “selfie” of John at Watchingwell Halt on the Isle of Wight on 10th September 1953 during the last weekend of operation on the line between Newport and Freshwater. John worked for British Railways in London and commuted daily from his home close to Eastbourne station. He made maximum use of his railway travel facilities and traveled all over the U.K., Ireland and parts of Europe taking photographs. John had no known relatives and died intestate some ten years ago. The Bluebell Railway Museum Archive became involved with the Treasury Solicitor in the disposal of his assets and eventually purchased his photographic collection of some 10,000 negatives. Cataloguing of this collection has continued since then and much has been made available for viewing on line, with the facility for purchasing prints. Tony produced a well chosen selection of images from the collection, mainly of early Southern Region subjects including some wonderful shots of very elderly locomotives on shed and works and working trains. However, a selection of pictures from one of John’s visits to Ireland included a very rare shot of O. V. S. Bulleid’s turf-burning locomotive. The active interest shown by members throughout the evening emphasised the popularity of this final session of the season.

Monday 10th April 2017
Elizabeth Line (Crossrail) Progress
Patrick Griffin

Our evening meeting at Croydon on Monday 10th April brought a complete change of style when Patrick Griffin, Insurance and Information Manager of the Elizabeth Line (formerly Crossrail), gave us a very full and detailed presentation on the up-to-date situation. He opened with a brief summary of the beginnings of London’s underground railway network from George Stephenson’s abortive scheme for a tunnel from the London and Birmingham Railway at Euston to the city centre. The eventual front-runner was the Metropolitan Railway from Paddington to Farringdon. He described the development of the present system to the planning of the East/West full-size railway which was at first entitled “Crossrail” and was eventually planned to run under central London from the East at Abbey Wood and Shenfield to the West at Reading and London Heathrow. Patrick was able to give an extremely detailed account of the progress on the route selected, the engineering challenges faced and especially the work carried out by the massive tunnel boring machines. He was also able to describe fully the characteristics of the rolling stock to be used. Despite the high profile of this scheme, members of the audience were surprised at how close to completion the project had reached with 80% of the physical infrastructure complete and the introduction into service of the first of the new 66 trains scheduled for May 2017. After the interval Patrick answered questions on various aspects of he scheme and well deserved the enthusiastic applause he received.

Tuesday 21st March 2017
The Great Way Round
Terry Nicholls

For our afternoon meeting in Redhill on Tuesday 21st March we were delighted to welcome Terry Nicholls, from Bristol Branch, who gave us a slide presentation entitled “The Great Way Round: From Paddington to Penzance via Bristol”. His delightful Bristolian accent brought a flavour of the Great Western to a gathering of (mostly) died-in-the-wool Southern enthusiasts. After outlining his railway background, Terry started with a modern shot of 47834 Firefly at Paddington, and then showed us images of locomotives and trains at well-known and less well-known locations along the line which was the subject of his presentation including calls at – of course – Old Oak Common, Maidenhead Bridge, Didcot, Swindon Works, Bristol, Newton Abbot, the South Devon banks and Plymouth/Saltash and the Royal Albert Bridge, proudly displaying the name of I.K. Brunel, its builder. While Terry’s presentation concentrated on motive power en route, with the occasional sighting of a Bulleid Pacific for the benefit of this audience, he was also able to include numerous pictures of memorable locations along the way.

Monday 13th March 2017
Branch AGM and Photo Competition, followed by The Sir Winston Churchill Funeral Train
Chris Meredith

Our fifteenth Branch Annual General Meeting took place on Monday evening 13th March. In his opening remarks Chairman Chris Meredith summarised the Branch’s activities during the past year, and each of the Branch Officers then reported on his own aspect. Chris Meredith, Peter Wilson, John Archer, Jeremy Harrison and Andrew Jones were all re-elected to their respective posts on the Committee. In view of the increasing age profile of the Branch this prompted an appeal from the chair for younger members to come forward for nomination to membership of the Committee.

This formal part of the evening was followed by the Branch Photographic Competition - this was managed by Andrew Jones, and won by Geoff Brockett, with his picture of 60163 Tornado and modern Class 377 Electrostar multiple units on the approaches to London Victoria station.

Chris then brought the evening to a close with a short talk about Sir Winston Churchill’s funeral train from London Waterloo to Handborough on 30th January 1965. Because of a family commitment (his own 21st birthday!) Chris had been unable to see the special train en route. However, based on the original BR file, he was able to give us an insight into the planning (under the name 'Operation Hope Not' - starting with a Christmas Eve 1959 summons to a meeting by the Duke of Norfolk) and operation of this train, including the use of Waterloo Station in London and the routing to Handborough in Oxfordshire, the chosen destination (Woodstock was also considered, but rapidly ruled out as the branch track had been lifted) for the movement of the coffin to St. Mark’ Church, Bladon. From an early stage in the planning process it was intended that the train would be worked by “Battle of Britain” class 4-6-2 No. 34051 Winston Churchill - unlike its namesake the locomotive was not knighted! He was also able to describe the processes which led to the provision of the van containing the catafalque and the Pullman cars for the mourners and pall bearers. Chris concluded with a comment on the account submitted for payment - this was based on fares for the funeral party, with special train charge (for the appropriate mileage): but nothing for all the planning and preparation work.

Monday 13th February 2017
Recent Travels in Five Continents
James Waite

Following the January meeting’s concentration on London and the South East the subject on 13th February ventured much farther afield when James Waite - described as a “Globe-Trotting Photographer” - gave a photographic presentation on Recent Travels in Five Continents. This was to feature narrow gauge – i.e. less than 4 feet 8 ½ inches – steam around the world in the 21st century. James started with the U.S.A. and Canada in North America and finished with Australia and New Zealand in Australasia. On the way he visited at least another 24 countries (by your reporter’s count!) in South America, Europe, Africa and Asia, and astounded his audience with the wealth of detail he had acquired and was able to disseminate about the railways and locomotives in each. Locomotives featured ranged in size from minute 0-4-0Ts to Beyer-Garratts. Other highlights included the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway and the Bridge on the River Kwai. All the images were full of interest and some were nothing less than superb, especially where spectacular scenery or (inevitably) snow were involved.

Monday 9th January 2017
Network South East
Chris Green

For our first meeting of 2017 a very good attendance braved the cold weather and industrial relations problems to welcome former senior B.R. manager Chris Green who gave a presentation on Network SouthEast.

Chris’s story began in January 1986 with his transfer from Scotrail to Sector Director, London and South East. His remit from the British Railways Board was to “do a Scotrail” in London and create a unified railway system in that area. He described the thinking and planning - including the almost overnight appearance of red lamp posts at all 940 stations of the newly created Network SouthEast - that led up to Launch Date on 10th June 1986. It was essential to demonstrate improvements in the quality of service for commuting passengers. Trains in the new livery were painted in secrecy so that each service had at least one newly liveried train in service on launch date to present the new image. Subsequent changes included the reprieve from threatened closure of London Marylebone station, re-introduction of train services on the West London line and the introduction of the Thameslink service in May 1988. Commercial changes were represented by the one-day Capital Card, which contributed to the increase in passenger revenue and reduction in government subsidy. Chris was appointed Managing Director, InterCity in 1992 and Network SouthEast was disbanded on 1st April 1994 prior to subsequent privatisation.

last updated: 15/11/17