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Meeting Reports

Tuesday 23rd October 2018
'Strictly Freight Only Part 2'
Brian Ringer

Brian Ringer returned to the branch on 23rd October to present “Strictly Freight Only – Part 2”. Starting with a history of the train ferry services which commenced in WW1 to supply British Forces and then peace time versions provide by the GER and SR. British Rail concentrated on the service on the Dover to Dunkirk route but were hampered by the need to use locked docks at both ports to cope with the rising and falling tides. With an eye to the future opening of the Channel Tunnel BR/SNCF introduced a modernised service to promote the cross channel transport of freight by rail. A purpose built faster ship and the use of flexible links at the docks meant that up to four return trips could be made each day.
The promise of intensive use through the tunnel did not materialise due to the early fire, delays and damage to container contents caused by illegal immigrants, French railway strikes and the unwise decision by the operator to jack up charges to an uneconomic level.
Brian explained the development of container traffic from pure import/export to internal traffic, particularly for long distance supplies for the large supermarket chains.
Under BR we heard how sectorisation in various forms helped to modernise the business, but wagon load traffic proved to be loss making and Speedlink and Enterprise services closed. Railway privatisation soon brought the near monopoly for EWS, but other companies were encouraged to enter the market which is now lead by GBRf. New loco classes have been introduced but a number from six earlier classes continue, notably the 50+ years old 20s and 86s.

A fascinating insight into why and how the modern freight service has evolved.

Tuesday 9th October 2018
Branch AGM followed by at 2000 Video/Film presentation by Brian Beer

The Branch AGM was held on 9th October when members heard updates from the committee on the reports issued with the annual mailshot. 59 members have joined under the 90th anniversary “free scheme” increasing the total to 163. Book sales at exhibitions and meetings were strong and bolstered by the acquisition of substantial additional stock of second hand books again this year including a collection of 165 Bradford Barton titles.A branch version of the Society folded leaflet was printed and distributed for members to arrange display at libraries and similar venues to publicise branch meetings and membership. The committee welcomed the addition of two members to their ranks, although there was still no volunteer to take over responsibility for web reports. The enhanced committee was elected en bloc and then it was agreed that John Hitchens should become Honorary Branch President in recognition of his many years on the branch committee.

After the break, Brian Beer showed digitised versions of old railway films starting with the opening clip of “Oh Mr. Porter” then publicity clips of Silver Jubilee, Coronation Scot, Devon Belle, Golden Arrow, Elizabethan Express and “How to Run a Railway”.
The second film was a compilation of scenes shot by the SR, the only active railway film unit in WW2, covering various locations including some on the LMSR. Later scenes in the 1950s included R1s on the Folkestone Harbour branch and Adams tanks on the Lyme Regis branch.

No surprise that Brian has been booked for the 2019 AGM.

Tuesday 25th September 2018
Building Britian's most Powerful Steam Locomotive - 2007 Prince of Wales
John Rawlinson, A1/P2 Presentation Team

John Rawlinson’s third visit to the branch on 25th September provided details of “Building Britain’s Most Powerful Steam Locomotive – 2007 Prince of Wales”. He described the original six P2 2-8-2 locomotives built in 1934 and 1936 all of which had variants to valve gear and 2003-6 were built streamlined, like A4s, and 2001-2 were then similarly modified. However when Thompson took over from Gresley all six were rebuilt to A2 un-streamlined Pacifics.
The current project is to fill a gap in the succession of LNER design with a widely available 75 mph locomotive capable of running 110+ miles between water stops. The project team have collated over 400 photographs and rare cine films of the original six plus drawings and similar information.
The new locomotive will be based on the original un-streamlined 2001 with improvements necessitated to eradicate known weaknesses of the original design, modern construction techniques and the need to comply with current and future industry standards of loading gauge and signalling technology. The cylinders will be slightly smaller but increased boiler pressure will provide a higher nominal tractive effort.
John described in great detail the construction so far, including that the boiler will be identical to “Tornado” which although shorter the full length will be maintained with a longer smoke box.
He explained the various methods of funding this £5 million project to enable the completed locomotive to begin trials and main line testing in 2021.

After the A1 and a P2, the proposal is to build V4, V3 and K3 locomotives all sadly missed from preservation.

Tuesday 11th September 2018
Ecclesbourne Valley Railway Anniversaries and projects
John Hastings-Thompson

John Hastings-Thomson opened the new season with a double bill on 11th September. He started with “Ecclesbourne Valley Railway anniversaries and projects” outlining the history of the Wirksworth branch with paintings of scenes on the line and period photos. Originally conceived as a double track line to Manchester for the Midland Railway as they were concerned with the LNWR having access rights to the then Ambergate to Rowsley branch. However the LNWR lost interest and the line was completed as a single track branch but track bed and bridges built for double track proved to be of benefit in the preservation era providing space for passing loops and other facilities without major reconstruction.
The local quarries provided traffic for the line until it was ‘mothballed’ in November 1989. Although the regular passenger service ceased in 1947 trains for ‘Well Dressing Days’ and other specials continued until the 1980s. John outlined the progress in the preservation era until the opening through to Duffield with passenger interchange with East Midlands Trains services in 2011. Since then the temporary facilities at Duffield have been replaced by suitable permanent buildings and the railway is currently carrying out similar improvements at Wirksworth. Other projects include the erection of a steam shed, improved signalling and to have a resident BR steam loco.
John’s second instalment was an update on the project to build Patriot 45551 “The Unknown Warrior”. He explained the background of the delay in completion following the decision in Crewe to cease contract work and the subsequent move of the boiler to new contractors and their recent move to larger premises near Liverpool. It is anticipated that the locomotive will be completed in 2019 and available for a re-enactment of the transport of the body of the Unknown Soldier in the Cavell van in November 2020.

Tuesday 24th April 2018
'Early 16mm Cine Films'
Chris Pratt

Chris Pratt entertained the branch on 24th April with a selection of old and more recent 16mm cine films.
Opening with Glasgow St. Enoch station in 1931 we saw a Stretton-Ward film covering a cavalcade of GSWR classes from Smellie, Manson and Whitelegg interspersed with some Caledonian and LMS locos. This sequence closed with a view of the GSWR signal box and fine gantries about to be replaced by a LMS version.
A study of the Great Central at locations from Rugby to Nottingham Victoria covered locals, semi-fast, freight and specials in varying weather conditions up to the last day in September 1966.
Moving south to the Folkestone area for film taken from 1938 to 1956 before Euston and the Doric Arch in 1956 followed by streamlined Pacifics in 1938.
The first part closed with full sound from main line specials and preserved GCR in 2002/3.
Part 2 like the first, opened spectacularly with another Stretton-Ward film. This time it was Newcastle in 1929 with numerous NER classes and a Clayton steam railcar then on to York with old and newer classes and a Raven 6 wheel petrol railcar. Then the same locations in the 1960s with various Pacifics including a number filmed from the top of the nearby castle keep.
A brief trip to Scotland including the last Clan Goods at Kyle of Lochalsh in 1949 and finally more steam specials with sound from 1998/9.

All agreed that Chris should return with more of the same.

Tuesday 10th April 2018
'Swindon Works, the Golden Years'
Rev. Canon Brian Arman, RCTS President

Society President Brian Arman made his first visit to the branch on 10th April to present “Swindon Works- the Golden Years”. Although the presentation represented the second part of his four part story he started with a description of the original buildings erected on the previously green field site at the junction of the Gloucester and Bristol lines under the direction of Daniel Gooch. He described the gradual development of the site building by building to the large estate known by many members present. The building of the nearby carriage works, wagon works and locomotive sheds were also covered. The various slides showing early external and internal views.
Away from the works he described the development of the railway village which had to be built to house the growing staff required by the continuing expansion. A group of workers formed their own medical aid society employing the services of two local doctors. The scheme was taken over by the GWR and expanded to include their own fully staffed and equipped hospital. Education, religious observance and recreation were not overlooked with the building of a school, Mechanics Institute, Chapel and large park.
He covered locomotive development through the latter half of the 19th century, the end of the broad gauge and the introduction of larger and more modern classes under Dean and then Churchward.

However time did not permit reaching the objective of the beginning of WW1 but all present agreed that Brian should return for a further instalment.

Tuesday 27th March 2018
'Recent Near Misses'
Chris Darrall, former Quality Control & Resources Engineer, Old Oak Common

“Recent Near Misses” Chris Darrall’s was talk on 27th March. Using the published reports of the Rail Accident Investigation Branch he described in great detail the circumstances which led to a safety incident. It became clear that in each case there was no one cause but various errors or omissions by contractors, supervisors or drivers and in some cases inadequate training, planning or supervision by their employing companies. Each small factor contributing to the end result.
The cases considered were –
Greenhill Upper Junction 27.03.2009 – points incorrectly set following work carried out on point motors – no derailment.
Llabadarn Barrier Crossing 21.10.2011 – train crossed whilst open to road traffic just avoiding a collision. A further incident at this crossing on 19.06.2011 by a train in the opposite direction.
Safety Incident near Kentish Town 26.05.2011 – a failed train being towed with passengers aboard and sets of doors open.
Runaway engineering train Highgate LUL 13.08.2010 – broken coupling on failed rail grinding machine whilst being towed on a rising gradient.
Mercifully there were no injuries or serious injuries caused and in the last case the actions of the route controller avoided potential collisions.

Thanks to Chris for the explanation of each incident which helped with understanding the chain of events involved.

Tuesday 13th March 2018
'Through Kirton Tunnel - Sheffield to Cleethorpes - Part2'
Stephen Gay

On 13th March Stephen Gay presented “Through Kirton Tunnel – Sheffield to Cleethorpes –part 2”. On his 13th visit to the branch Stephen explained that this was a revised talk given some years earlier and that he would only take us as far as Kirton Lindsey.
In his usual style he showed railway views from a different position or angle. Starting from Sheffield Victoria and through the suburbs we saw pictures taken in the 80s and 90s including the former LNWR goods office and the early days of the Sheffield Supertram. At this point he read the first of two poems, “The Silent Silvery Ghost”, about the new form of local transport. Through Darnall, now reduced to two tracks and bus shelters, Rotherwood Yard to the restored station at Woodhouse, the only complete MSLR building in South Yorkshire.
A slight diversion to Beighton Yard, his first place of employment, then back to the former GCR main line through Waleswood (a second poem), Kiveton Bridge (opened 1929), Kiveton Park and Shireoaks to Worksop, then the site of Chequer House. Pausing at Whisker Hill Junction where he provided a description of the original route crossing the East Coast main line on the level and the 1965 dive under and new low level platforms.
The original Retford station at Thrumpton, opened only in1849-1859, still exists and used as a B & B before Clarborough Tunnel, and on to Gainsborough Central now reduced to a minimum station with a Saturdays only service to Cleethorpes since 1993.
The final stretch to Kirton Lindsey, now mainly reduced to single track, where this part terminated, with the line onwards to be completed in March 2019.

Yet again the description and attention to detail was appreciated by the audience.

Tuesday 27th February 2018
'Trains in the Snow'
Dr. Les Nixon

On 27th February 43 members and visitors braved the elements at our second afternoon meeting this season to hear Les Nixon present “Trains in the Snow” whilst the white stuff from the ‘Beast from the East’ was falling outside. Throughout he provided tips on how to make the most of the location and weather which often does not do the photographer any favours.
He started in his home territory of the Hope Valley with a mixture of steam and later diesel images before moving to the Stalybridge to Huddersfield and further afield in the UK. The type of location was varied with positions close to or a fair distance from the track with the train more in the background.
Overseas locations included the Tennessee Pass, Argentina, Peru with trains at the breathless 15,000 feet above sea level, South Africa and then China where 37 pictures of two QJs were taken in half an hour whilst pounding around spirals and passing the photographer a number of times.
The preservation scene was not overlooked with main line and heritage railway images and then Les returned to the UK with a further visit to the Hope Valley and Buxton ending up with the final steam workings over Shap.
All present showed their appreciation of the quality of the images and the commentary from Les.

Tuesday 13th February 2018
'Manual Signal Boxes around Leicester 1972 to 1986'
Ted Cook

Ted Cook returned to the branch for his third visit on 13th February and this time covered the middle years of his career as a relief signalman in the Leicester area from 1972-1986 after which the various boxes were replaced by the comparatively short lived Leicester Power Box.
He showed examples of the various rule books during his career and explained that details in a driver’s rule book sometimes lead to conflict.
Ted reprised his early career which started at Haywards Heath before moving on to Amberley and Goring-by-Sea and then from Sussex to Leicester when he married. The change highlighted not only the difference in accent and local vernacular but equipment and bell codes plus that unknown to the Southern permissive block working.
He then described his time at the various boxes with description of things which went wrong including SPADs, suicides and kids messing about, often with a humorous style and also the way that railway staff, Ted included, who played pranks on each other.
The boxes covered were Thurmaston, Humberstone Road Junction, Kilby Bridge, Wigston South Junction, Wigston North Junction, Bell Lane, Narborough, Knighton South Junction, London Road Junction, Leicester North Junction, and finally Syston South Junction.
Whilst showing views adjacent to the diesel depot he also showed examples of driver’s reports of alleged cab faults and the funny responses from the fitters.
Yet again Ted kept the audience laughing at his various anecdotes and as many present did not hear his first talk there was a request for that to be repeated in the future.

Tuesday 23rd January 2018
'Railways & Roses - How Lancashire and Yorkshire came together'
Dave Carter, Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway Society

The first of our two afternoon meetings on 23rd January was presented by Dave Carter of the Lancashire & round Railway Society with “Railways and Roses – How Lancashire and Yorkshire came together”.
He explained the historical background to the formation of the L&YR which started with the Manchester & Leeds Railway which ran from Manchester (Oldham Road) to Goose Hill Junction where access to Leeds was gained by running powers over the North Midland Railway. The M&LR merged with other locally promoted companies in 1846 before changing its name to the L&YR in 1847. Over the next 50 years it absorbed a dozen other companies including the Wakefield, Pontefract & Goole Railway in 1847 and the competing East Lancashire Railway in 1859. Joint railways were formed with the GNR, LNWR and NER which coupled with running powers and joint services including the GCR led to LYR trains having access to four London terminals.
By 1921, when it merged with the LNWR, it had become the fifth largest pre-grouping company with 601 route miles.
Substantial improvements in the running of the company followed the appointment of Sir George Armstrong in 1887 with Barton Wright and John Aspinall in charge of locomotive construction.
The opening of the purpose built works at Horwich replacing the cramped arrangements at Miles Platting enabled the company to pursue a policy of larger standard classes with standard parts between classes.
Innovation included the first use of Edmondson card tickets, early electrification with Liverpool to Southport in 1904, the experimental overhead DC Bury to Holcombe Brook in 1913 and Manchester to Bury in 1916.
The company was also a large user of lorries for the collection and delivery of customer’s goods.
Dave provided a detailed insight into the company which was two thirds in Lancashire and one third in Yorkshire with only one line connecting the two counties.

Tuesday 9th January 2018
'The Locomotives of China Series - a venture into self publishing'
Robin Gibbons

The speaker for the first meeting of the New Year on 9th January was Branch member Robin Gibbons who had recently written and published books on Chinese steam locomotives.
Robin’s talk was in two parts, the first dealing with self-publishing. Whilst working in Hong Kong he found that there was a lack of books on the subject and set about rectifying this. He drew attention to the need to source information, the problems with copyright, and preparing for printing, with particular emphasis on the reproduction of photographs to a high standard. Selling the book was not of interest to mainstream publishers was out of the question for a niche market, and would rest on good reviews and recommendations.
The second part of the talk dealt with the locomotives themselves. One had to appreciate the vast size of China. There were no commuter services but an infrequent service of long heavy trains including sleeping cars which would be used during the long journeys. Each locomotive class was described, and illustrated together with the many variations to the standard. Basically the locomotives followed North American practice with Bar Frames and two large outside cylinders. Large tenders were needed, because there were no water troughs. Although the track gauge was standard the loading gauge was very generous by our standards. Attention was paid to the detail design of the trailing wheel bogies. Crews of three, driver and two firemen were allocated to a particular locomotive as in some top links of B.R. depots. The talk ended with a series of classic shots of locomotives at work in very low temperatures.

Tuesday 19th December 2017
Members evening with coffee and mince pies

Members attending the annual Christmas coffee and mince pies meeting on 19th December were entertained by short slide presentations covering various steam and diesel sheds, the Isle of Man prior to closure of the Peel and Ramsey lines, Severn Valley Railway and Germany, Cambrian Coast and Llangollen, East Germany and Littleton Colliery, Finally sites of the Mansfield and Pinxton Railway which is nearing 200 years since opening.

Tuesday 12th December 2017
'Manchester to Liverpool by CLC'
Ken Grainger

On 12th December Ken Grainger reprised “Manchester to Liverpool by CLC.
Ken gave a brief description of the CLC lines and associated branches then starting at Manchester Central station in Victorian times progressed along the chosen route. Images of early well maintained MSLR classes were noted before reverting to London Road station which was the starting point for the service before Central station opened. Taking the MSJAR our route west continued via Oxford Road and Deansgate (originally Knott Mill) before joining the CLC proper before Trafford Park.
Along the way we saw Sacre, Pollitt and Robinson designs together with later steam classes and current DMUs, whilst stopping off at stations of interest where buildings have been restored to varying degrees of acceptable style. At Glazebrook East Junction we diverted to Skelton Junction before returning to Glazebrook where we diverted again at the West Junction to the GCR line to St Helens Central and Wigan Central. At Warrington we saw the magnificent CLC goods depot and views of the now closed avoiding line. Widnes also had an avoiding line which is the current route with Farnworth station renamed to Widnes. The loop through Widnes was built for the GCR/MR only with the GNR having no interest.
Continuing west, a further diversion was made at Halewood towards Walton on the hill and Huskisson goods then Aintree Central and the long lost extension to Southport Lord Street. The final stretch from Hunts Cross took us to our destination at Liverpool Central along the reopened third rail electric Merseyrail although the current station is below ground and all that is left of the original terminus is the former Parcels office in use as a café.
Locomotives on shed were not overlooked, with views at Trafford Park, Walton and Brunswick, and who could forget that view of the latter when you opened the door from the adjacent road.

Yet again an excellent presentation from Ken.

Tuesday 28th November 2017
'The Regioal Railways Story'
Alex Green

Alex Green was our speaker on 28th November with “The Regional Railways Story”. By 1982 the BR market share had fallen and a decision was made to do something different with station closures down to virtually none following the Beeching and later cuts and over subsequent years some 250 have been opened/reopened. There was a search for a profitable railway, and financial analysis showed the areas that were profitable and those losing money. The business was divided into 5 sectors including Regional Railways which incurred 70% of total costs and 60% of the total subsidy.
Chris Green creates Scotrail, and with innovation on finance, purchasing and promotion, a 25% growth in rail travel is recorded. In addition cost savings were made on rural lines with the introduction of RETB.
The Provincial Sector obtained its first new trains in many years with the introduction of class 150 dmus to be followed by other classes 141-144, 155, 156 and 158.
The reopening of lines, the opening of new lines and the extension of service on some routes, led to substantial improvements in finances – income + 43%, train miles + 15%, costs - 25%, subsidy -13% and 88% of trains less than 8 years old.
The Provincial brand was replaced with Regional Railways, and the best organisation that BR had was replaced, as the government wanted a different model with privatisation. The last part to be privatised was RRNW in 1997.
A fascinating insight on the turn round in BR fortunes was thoroughly enjoyed by our largest audience of the season so far.

last updated: 29/10/18