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East Midlands

Meeting Reports

Tuesday 18th December 2018
Members evening with coffee and mince pies

On 18th December the branch held its annual members evening with mince pies and coffee/tea.
We were entertained by slides covering:- Welsh narrow gauge and the Isle of Man railways; GNR lines in the Kimberley area including demolition of the large brick built viaduct on the Pinxton branch; Nottinghamshire collieries and Spain in 1988; the Manx Electric Railway in 1968 and finally early slides from 1961-4 including a double headed football special near Ravenstone Wood Junction, the RCTS Border and East Midlander 5 & 7 railtours.
Our thanks to the five members presenting the slides.
The seasonal flavour included a raffle of items left over from the Nottingham Mechanics Christmas Fayre the previous week.

Tuesday 11th December 2018
'Two Hundred Years of the railway line from Mansfield to Pinxton 1819-2019'
Dr. David Amos

Our largest audience of the season so far welcomed Dr. David Amos on 11th December for “Two hundred years of the railway from Mansfield to Pinxton 1819-2019”.
David described the original tramway in detail, rising uphill from Pinxton Wharf, adjacent to the arm of the Cromford Canal, to Kirkby, then downhill to Portland Wharf, Mansfield. The tramway opened in April 1819 to serve local collieries and transport the coal for onward shipment by canal. A number of the collieries had their own feeder waggonways to the M. & P.
Acquired by the MR it was rebuilt partly on a new alignment and connected to the line from Nottingham at Kirkby and the Erewash Valley line by a branch from Pye Bridge Junction. The actual connection at Kirkby was to the north of the station, necessitating at change at Sutton (Junction from 1892/3) if travelling from Pinxton to Kirkby. This was resolved by a deviation in 1892 leaving a stub siding at the north end.
In Mansfield a through route to the north opened in 1875. The Pinxton line closed to passengers in 1947 and the Nottingham to Worksop line in 1964. The level crossing was replaced by a new alignment linking the Pinxton line to the GNR route and through the site of Summit Colliery to the MR to the north of Kirkby station in 1972. When the line from Nottingham reopened a new connection was made using the former GCR and GNR routes but at a different level.
David described the run-down of the coal mines in the area and the rationalisation of sidings following the introduction of merry-go-round trains. The Pinxton line is currently only used as a diversionary route, one regular stone train, and trains to and from the High Marnham test track.
The main structure remaining from the original route is the stone Portland viaduct which will no doubt feature in the anniversary celebrations in April 2019.

Our thanks to David for another informative talk using his wide local knowledge.

Tuesday 27th November 2018
'Bennerley Viaduct – history, construction and future preservation'
Kieran Lee, Sustrans

“BennerleyViaduct, history, construction and future preservation” was Kieran Lee’s subject on 27th November.
He explained the development of transport in the Erewash valley with the opening of the Erewash Canal in 1779 on the west side and the Nottingham Canal in 1796 on the east side to transport coal from the expanding Nottingham and Derbyshire coalfield. The canals were gradually reduced in importance with the arrival of the MR Erewash Valley line but the resultant monopoly lead to discontent by coal mine owners. Competition came with the GNR opening the “Friargate” line but unlike the MR this had to cross the valley requiring a 1452 foot long viaduct built with wrought iron and closed for passengers in 1964, freight in 1968 and the track lifted in 1970. There were moves to demolish the viaduct, often lead by hostile local councils and press. Other similar viaducts in Britain were demolished leaving only Bennerley and Meldon surviving today.
An opencast coal mine was developed to the north of the viaduct and an application to the south was opposed by local groups and refused at an enquiry. The viaduct was granted Grade 2* listed status.
In 1998 Sustrans proposed a plan to develop the viaduct and area, but it took until 2014 for the project to be prepared and funding sought. Kieran joined Sustrans and promoted the project for the viaduct as a cycle/walk way as part of plans for the Friargate route at exhibitions. The land surrounding the viaduct was to be converted into wildlife and wetland areas with connecting access between the canals and the viaduct.
Sustrans withdrew in early 2018 and Kieran now works with a local project group to progress development starting with a smaller budget for remedial works in 2019.

Members look forward to progress with this worthwhile local project.

Tuesday 13th November 2018
'High Speed Testing in the UK since 1970'
Dave Coxon

On 13th November Dave Coxon described “High Speed Testing in the UK since 1970” with high speed defined as 125 mph and above. High speed could have adverse effects on the track, particularly dipped and worn joints, existing signalling, trains passing and pressure waves, especially in tunnels and the comfort of passengers with emphasis on those standing.
Locomotives were modified to improve performance and reduce adverse effects as the tests progressed. He covered the use of flexi coil springs on the class 86 used in the first tests which improved riding, and rubber cushioned SAB resilient wheels which also made significant improvements and lead to all of class 86/2 being similarly fitted. Various improvements to the pantographs were tested and B4 bogies fitted to coaches and test vehicles.
The West Coast main line was used for the tests at Cheddington, Watford (for the tunnel) and Lockerbie and speeds of 110 then 125 were achieved.
Tests were carried out with the prototype HST breaking the world speed record for a diesel train at 143.2 mph on 12th June 1973. This was followed by gas turbine APT-E reaching 146, APT-P 164, HST power cars 148.5, 91010 161.7, Eurostar 208, Pendolino and Javelin class 395 154. Current tests on class 800 IET have reached 140 mph.

Dave’s explanations of the modifications to the equipment of locomotives, coaches and test vehicles was appreciated by those present.

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.

last updated: 09/01/19