Tuesday 30th July 2019
'Swindon Works 1880-1922, The Golden Years'
Brian Arman, RCTS President
To complete our summer programme of meetings we welcomed Society President Brian Arman who gave us the second part of his presentation on “Swindon Works 1880-1922, The Golden Years”.
We started today when Swindon was chosen as the site for the GWR carriage works, after it was deemed that the original chosen site in Oxford was too small, this was to be on the opposite side of the main line to the existing loco works. The first coaches produced there were in 1868.,We also heard a little about the life of Chief Engineer William Dean, a sad story as both his wife and son predeceased him.
We proceeded onto to the Armstrong erecting shop with possibly 12 broad gauge locos under construction at the same time in 1873, these new erecting shops at Swindon were very tall, light and airy, Swindon was also one of few works that had its own brass foundry and finishing shops.
Brian also spoke about the responsibility the GWR showed for its workers, having a hospital and doctors’ surgery on site, possibly becoming a model for the origins of the NHS.
At the end of Broad Gauge in 1892. many coaches and locos were converted to standard gauge (240 approx) only 70 engines were scrapped.
Some fascinating stories and facts emerged. It was amazing just how much information, dates etc. that Brian has and the detail he is able to impart to us without any notes using just the slides as prompts. All of Brian’s slides were historic and conveyed a very real insight into the works and its facilities at that time. At this point we had also a small look at Swindon town centre and the surrounding countryside.
A superb history lesson for everyone.
Tuesday 9th July 2019
'By the Midland to Cambridge'
This evening’s presentation in Hitchin turned out to be surprising in several ways. Firstly it attracted one of the largest audiences we have had for an evening meeting for quite some-time, totalling 40 members and guests, Many admitted the subject matter really interested them. This was “By the Midland to Cambridge” with speaker Robin Cullup from Kettering.
The line opened in several sections between 1847 and 1866, with the line from Kettering to Huntingdon via Kimbolton opening and finally completed in 1866. The original Huntingdon terminus at Godmanchester, was moved into Huntingdon also in 1866, hence completing the route through to Cambridge.
Robin had many photographs on a whole variety of locomotives and stock, dating back into the mid 1800s through to the end of the steam era. One train that seemed to appear on several occasions was the Saturdays only Leicester to Clacton seaside special. This ran through over the whole line often behind loco’s 76028 & 76029, or similar. A couple of rarities that also arrived at Kettering were GW Castle 5018 on a move to nearby Cohen’s scrap yard and also Jubilee 45660 Rooke which worked a few ironstone trains along the route briefly prior to suffering the same fate as 5018. Ironstone movements were the main freight workings over the route with the product going to Stewart & Lloyds at nearby Corby.
Other features highlighted in the pictures were all those, now missing, lineside structures, water cranes and towers, telegraph poles, a variety of semaphore signals, gas lights, loading gauges etc. etc.
Much of this now lost route follows closely the line of the very busy new A14 trunk road.
The entire programme was really well delivered, clearly audible mixed with a huge amount of detail and humour.
Tuesday 11th June 2019
'Next Train Gone'
Our speaker this evening was local photographer & enthusiast Adrian White, with his presentation “Next Train Gone.”
Following an amusing introduction about himself, ourselves and the programme for evening, consisting of a varied selection of photographs from here, there & everywhere, how true that turned out to be. We visited most of the preserved railways in the UK and all the main lines. The first part of the programme concentrated on steam traction, later to be followed by a mix of diesel and electric traction.
After an explanation from Adrian as to how he started photographing trains and how he eventually moved into the scenic railway style for most of his pictures,following the style of some best railway photographers in the country. I believe one of Adrian’s favourite railways is the Severn Valley closely followed by the Bluebell and the Llangollen.
During the evening we also visited Germany, Switzerland and the USA, primarily featuring some superb snowy scenes, and the huge American coal and oil fired locomotives.
After the break the presentation concentrated more on stations, signals, signs etc. Again, showing Adrian’s fantastic eye for detail, beauty and the unusual, one of which was some pictures of trains on the triple gauge track at Bade-le-Somme in France.
Every photograph had a story, atmosphere and superb locations, along with traction from the very old at Beamish to the very latest Class 800s on the Paddington mainline and the new LNER stock at Hitchin, Stevenage.
A brilliant, greatly appreciated amusing evening, enjoyed by everyone.
Tuesday 28th May 2019
'The Somerset & Dorset Line'
On a slightly chilly afternoon at Welwyn Garden City, who better to entertain a full house than John Day with what turned out to be a fabulous collection of pictures from “The Somerset & Dorset Line”. All the pictures were courtesy of John Chalcraft and the Rail Photoprint Collection but what a selection John had chosen to show us. Majority were taken in the final years of the line between 1958 & 1966. The line actually closed on 7th March 1966.
A couple of the pictures showed the staff rosters for drivers & fireman and one showing station staff along the route. It was amazing just how many people it took to operate this line.
Starting at Bath Green Park, the main depot for the line, and one of the major loco change points for engines travelling from many parts of the country, as far away as Manchester, York, Cleethorpes and heading for Bournemouth and further into the west country.
A selection of the locos we saw were Battle of Britain & West country classes, and a rare visitor to the in the form of Britannia 70034 Thomas Hardy. Many of the other trains shown were double-headed to cope with the gradients along the line.
Views of the rural stations and signal boxes featured along, of course, with several pictures at the important water stop, Evercreech Junction.
During the afternoon, Ivatt tank engines and Midland compounds were amongst the engines featured, supporting the famous series of 9F S&D stalwarts. In one shot a signalman in wellies on a sunny day doing a tablet exchange was the cause for much humour and speculation, resulting in discussion as whether this operation should be done on the move or gently with the train at a standstill.
Simply a superb afternoon thoroughly enjoyed by everyone.
Tuesday 14th May 2019
Chris Taft (Head of Collections) from the London Post Office Museum gave us a very well-structured and clear presentation on “Mail Rail”, The History of the Post Office Railway. Opened fairly recently following a move to its present site in Phoenix Place during 2017, the entrance to the railway is directly opposite the museum.
An experimental pneumatic system was originally proposed and partly sold to the Post Office, but they lost interest in 1874. Work on testing a driverless electric railway to transport mail started following an Act of Parliament in 1913.This was 6.5 miles long and to run from Whitechapel to Paddington, via Liverpool Street, Kings Cross and major post office distribution points including Mount Pleasant.
The tunnel was dug by hand, from the surface but work stopped in 1917 and did not restart until 1924. During this period the completed tunnel was used to store works of art from galleries and museums during the war.
The railway was completed in 1928, and comprised of 90 purpose built vehicles with two axles and coupled in threes. These were quickly superseded by longer bogied vehicles to prevent the excessive wear being found on the wheels and the track, caused by the inflexible two axles.
The depot and workshop were based at Mount Pleasant and the railway operated 22 hours a day until its closure in 2003, when the whole mail system became very automated, with many sorting offices becoming redundant, along with the rail companies not wishing to operate the trains from the connected stations.
A fascinating evening and a real insight into this unique railway.
Tuesday 30th April 2019
The Branch is extremely grateful to Robert Warburton (P’boro) for giving us such a superb afternoon’s presentation at such short notice, as our booked speakers were unable to attend. Robert’s “Double Vision” slide show was fantastic and enthralled all members present.
As the title suggests this was primarily a view of double headed trains, mainly modern traction with a little steam thrown in for good measure. There was hardly a class of diesel and electric traction not covered. It had taken many years of dedication to capture so many trains being worked by multiple engines, as in some cases for example, six Kings Cross platforms all with Class 91s on them, or eight Deltics awaiting their fate in the scrap yard at Doncaster. The majority of the photographs were from the 1970s and 80s, some were slightly older and a few were right up to date.
We were also taken around the British Isles from Fort William in the north to Exeter and Plymouth in the south, from Cardiff and Bristol in the west to Ipswich in East Anglia.
Robert’s programme also brought back many memories of classes of locos that had now disappeared, other than those few now in preservation. I think he had quite some feeling for classes 20, 25 and 56 as these turned up with regularity, as did class 86 and 87. Dmus and Emu‘s were not forgotten as we saw several line ups in stations or yards awaiting their turn of duty.
A presentation well put together and varied, thoroughly enjoyed by all of us.
Tuesday 9th April 2019
'On and Off the Footplate; Aspects of a 42 years career'
On his return visit on 9th April, Bill Davies provided yet another well illustrated and entertaining evening. His subject, On and Off the Footplate; Aspects of a 42 years career” , was well chosen.
In the first half he provided humorous accounts of encounters with station staff, showed slides of the liberal use by the public of Indian railroads, and of ambiguous signage, all of which caused great amusement.
The second part started with slides of Nottingham, where he started his railway career, including nostalgic pictures of his favourite locomotive, the rebuilt patriot 45532 “Illustrious”..
Then followed illustrations, mainly of infrastructure, at the southern end of the Midland mainline. Scenes from the roof of St. Pancras showing the modernisation of the station and Kings Cross complex were especially interesting.
A splendid and unique evening, being both informative and lightly entertaining.
Tuesday 26th March 2019
'1000 Eggs on a Bicycle'
A full house at our meeting this afternoon to enjoy today’s speaker the renowned photographer and author Colin Boocock.
The presentation followed a logical order from 1943 through to the present day. So up to date was the last picture that it was at Welwyn Garden City station half an hour before the meeting, showing the Class 700 Colin had travelled on, with a new, second day in service Class 717 in the adjacent platform.
We saw many stunning beautifully composed photographs from around the world, the foreign ones mostly taken since Colin’s retirement. The many British locos and trains varied from the black and white photographic era, showing the many facets of steam on both passenger and freight from around the country, moving into the diesel and electric era from the beginning of what we call the modern era with colour photography taking over.
Along with his knowledge of railways, Colin was able to give us many details of the train in the picture and the location and on some occasions the difficulties in getting to the right spot to capture the picture.
There was also plenty of opportunity for members participation which was eagerly taken up.
Altogether a superb thoroughly enjoyable afternoon’s entertainment
Tuesday 12th March 2019
'Branch Annual General Meeting and Members' Presentation Evening'
This month we held our AGM, following the co-option to the committee of one member. the committee were re-elected for another year.
The remainder of the meeting was taken up with a presentation by Norman Hill, a Hitchin member who was promoting his new book that had just been published, "Kings Cross, Second man".
Many of Norman's photographs from the book were shown, obviously this was of great interest to the members as they were all within our area, including many shots of Kings Cross and "Top Shed" plus those sheds at Finsbury Park, Hornsey, Hatfield and Hitchin.
Norman had also recorded the upgrading of the track on the approach to Kings Cross in 1977.
Also, we saw many views taken from the cabs of whichever loco Norman was in; these days it is called "Drivers Eye".
This was followed by George Howe, who posed the question "Mystery Junction". George was given a photograph of a railway junction some time ago with the words Woolmer Green on the reverse, which obviously was not. We went on to hear how George carried out hours of research with the aid of a friends in the right places, and he finished up with a whole series of pictures showing the complete junction before, all through the relaying and repositioning of all lines, and after, when the running speed across the junction was lifted from 15 mph. to 55 mph, A fascinating insight to how the work and design was carried out some 50 years ago.
I am not mentioning which junction George was referring to as he talks to many groups in the area and I don't want to spoil the surprise for anyone else to whom he might pose the question.
Tuesday 26th February 2019
'Steamy Stories from the Footplate'
Our speaker this afternoon really lived up to his job, dressed in his full fireman’s outfit and complete with shovel, Stephen Jupp proceeded to tell us about his many experiences on the Welsh Highland Railway.
Stephen has fired on the WHR for many years and knew all the locomotives as if they were his best friends. Starting with the ten items a fireman must check at the start of each day, including clearing the grate of the previous day’s ash, checking the water level in the boiler and so on, until it came to lighting the fire. Following this, the loco needed to get up to working temperature with ample steam before you start the day’s running. All of this work took about three & a half hours.
Stephen took us through the working day, before giving a detailed explanation of the track layouts and problem points along the line between Porthmadog and Caernarfon.
After tea, Stephen went on to explain about all the recent work that had been carried out along the line and the new track alignments and building works that were currently in progress.
These prompted several questions including the inevitable one, about preparing the crew’s breakfast on the shovel.
This was a very informative and entertaining afternoon.
Tuesday 12th February 2019
'That Was The Year That Was - 1963'
Our speaker today was the ever popular Geoff Plumb with his presentation, “That was the Year That Was 1963”, we started with a few pictures of Geoff’s childhood to set the scene to show how his passion for railways and photography began, before moving on to 1963.
During the presentation we visited some iconic railway locations of the era, such as Eastleigh with rows of scrap steam locos, Old Oak Common, Severn Tunnel Junction, Bristol, Sheffield and many more.
Because of our location Geoff included many shots in the Watford and Hadley Wood locations, showing the majority of the powerful and popular classes of the time, including those with limited time left to run ie; Kings, Manors, Castles, Coronations, Scots, Patriots and Black 5s, not forgetting some new stock also, Warships, Blue Pullmans etc.
During the evening Geoff also covered the first outing (in preservation) of the “Flying Scotsman” locomotive on the Llangollen Railway.
With Geoff’s family having such a powerful RCTS background it was no wonder we visited some of the famous Society railtours of the period, including 34006 Bude struggling on a St. Pancras to Buxton joint line tour run by East Midlands Branch, then the 1963 RCTS tour of Swindon Works, this being followed by the RCTS Gloucestershire Tour before finishing with the RCTS East Midlander to Crewe Works and Horwich.
A great evening with superb photographs and a very knowledgeable presenter.
Tuesday 29th January 2019
'Modern Traction in the 1960s'
Local photographer and historian David Percival got our Welwyn Garden City meetings for 2019 off to a flying start by attracting our largest audience for a very long time, his subject being “Modern Traction In the 1960s”.
With a mixture of colour and black and white photographs, we saw the majority of the early, almost new then, classes of diesel traction from around the country, covering all regions of the then BR. The presentation also included some dmu, emu classes and the remnants of steam.
There was also a good selection of photographs from our local area particularly on the ECML between Stevenage and Welwyn GC, some of which were included for our local members. We got the impression David favoured the Deltics and Class 40s here.
David’s pictures were always interesting and well composed to make them really stand out, many of which have been published over the years in magazines and books. I particularly liked those in which the semaphore signals featured.
Some photographs also had a particular theme to them, one of which was train spotters of the day, both on stations and lineside armed with note-books and pens. There were very few restrictions then, no yellow lines or fences to be seen and station barrows to sit on. What a good life we used to have!
A superb afternoon’s entertainment when it was so cold outside.
Tuesday 8th January 2019
'Thrills and Spills - My life in railway operations'
We started the New Year as we hope to continue with a great evening of amusing & entertaining stories with some pictures to match, with local ex-railwayman Chris Blackman, with his talk entitled “Thrills & Spills, My life in railway operations”.
After a few gremlins with our equipment, we got underway starting at Cambridge, Chris’s family home city. His father and grandfather were also railwaymen so it was no surprise that the railways were to be his chosen career.
One of his early training experiences was at the booking office in Glasgow Central station, where he was to learn the fundamentals of a booking clerk and all it entailed.
He then moved to Whitchurch where he gained valuable experience as a signalman along with more booking office experience and that of a wages clerk.
Following this was a move to Crewe Diesel depot where he was involved with crash team and gaining experience in many other aspects of railway procedures. All this knowledge with its ups and downs resulted in us being able hear some wonderful stories about the railways.
As time passed Chris eventually became Chief Operating Officer for the huge and complex Birmingham area. This area extended from Stafford to Aynhoe Junction working north to south, and from Shrewsbury in the west to almost Peterborough in the east.
We also heard about operating difficulties when diverse things stopped trains running, such as a garage door on the mainline blown there in a storm, to various animals causing obstructions, such examples being a goat, a llama and a emu, all expertly dealt with except the emu with just took off of its own accord.
A fabulous evening much with many stories attached all of which was expertly told with minimal notes.
Tuesday 18th December 2018
'Something Continental – The Paris RER'
“The Paris RER Network” with Michael Bunn was the subject of our last meeting in 2018.
Michael started proceedings with a little history of Paris and its enormous suburban area compared to London. In the first half of the programme we looked at the routes and the stock running on lines A, B and D. The majority of the new build stations on the RER system have a very wide platform area to allow easy access onto and off the trains at the stations compared to the older original stations.
The majority of the existing single deck stock will, within the next five years, be replaced by some 600 new double deck trains, which the network is easily capable of taking with very little upgrading of the infrastructure.
On the central section in the heart of Paris, the trains on each line are capable of moving over a million passengers per day. Finally, before the break and our seasonal refreshments, Michael took us to the huge Chatelet-les-Halles station which is vast inter-line interchange station where lines A, B and D all converge. New towns have been built along each of the lines all within 1km of stations.
Full of Christmas cheer we now looked at lines C and E much of which runs underground below the centre of the city, where much of the infrastructure is now unrecognisable compared to earlier years, with again many station conversions. Some of the station buildings were outstanding and very elaborate and these features have been retained, but as the trains are underground many of the buildings have been put to use for other purposes, with just an escalator and lifts taking you to the trains.
Michael certainly has a good eye for the architecture and the unusual, all of which made a great afternoon’s entertainment.
Tuesday 11th December 2018
'FREIGHT TRAINS AROUND BRITAIN IN THE 21ST CENTURY'
Freight was the order of the day at this meeting or to be precise “ Freight Traffic in the 21st Century”.
During the evening Geoff Brockett delivered what I believe was just about every class of diesel and electric motive power that there currently is on the network hauling freight, in form or another.
Besides that, we certainly visited all corners of the British Isles from Loswithial to Kyle of Lochalsh and from Felixstowe to Anglesey, along with every form of loading imaginable, including cars & vans, household rubbish to nuclear waste, stone, ballast and Biomass.
Amongst Geoff’s repertoire we also saw locomotives from every company including a Virgin class 57, many of whom have changed livery more than once or even disappeared altogether.
A fascinating evening showing just how much things have changed so rapidly in less than twenty years.
Tuesday 27th November 2018
My Life on SR/GWR/WR 1947 - 1975
We were treated today to a brilliant talk and presentation by our Chairman Steve Lacey, who never fails to come up trumps in the face of adversity, such as today when our speaker failed to show up.
Firstly, we spent forty minutes updating members with the aid of photographs of the opening of the new RCTS Library and Archive centre at Leatherhead station.
An early tea break was then taken to give Steve an opportunity to search his laptop or further suitable material.
Battle of Britain locomotive 34081 '92 Squadron' heading the Remembrance Day train on the heritage Nene Valley Railway on 11th November 2018 Stephen Lacey
Our sincere thanks to Steve for really saving the day in front of one of our biggest attendances at Welwyn Garden City for some time.
Tuesday 13th November 2018
L &SWR in 1914
Alan Norris gave a well-informed talk based on the London & South Western Railway’s 1914 timetable. It included scenes of lady passengers in crinoline dresses, and lines of horse-drawn cabs at Waterloo, being an insight into the social order of the time, as well as the railway.
Most London and Outer Suburban services had fewer than hourly services. Sole connections at Waterloo were onto the Waterloo and City Line (opened in 1897) and Bakerloo and Waterloo Railway (1906). Daily mainline services numbered six to Exeter and beyond, ten to Bournemouth and Weymouth, and fifteen to Portsmouth. Express corridor trains offered breakfast and lunch for 2/6d (12.5p) and a five-course dinner for 3/6d (17.5p). All up trains stopped at Vauxhall for ticket collections.
The timetable included elaborate advertisements for holidays on the south and south-west coasts, and on American railroads using Fast Mail Steamship services from Southampton. Motive power illustrated included a variety of Drummond 4-4-0s, and Rail Motors mostly used on local lines in Devon and Cornwall.
The LSWRs rich legacy included the first suburban electric trains introduced in 1915, and automatic signalling.
My thanks to Tom Gladwin for this report in my absence
Tuesday 30th October 2018
Railways in a Yorkshire Landscape
As expected, today’s speaker Stephen Gay drew one of our best attendances this year. Stephen’s talk on “Railways in a Yorkshire Landscape” held the members spell bound all afternoon, it was much to my surprise & delight that it mainly centred around the Settle to Carlisle line between Leeds and Arten Gill. Although this last stretch of the line is in Cumbria, it is within the North Yorkshire National Park therefore qualifying for today’s talk.
What a superb speaker Stephen is. He has a story to tell about every location where a picture has been taken and is also so very knowledgeable about the places he has visited.
We started by looking at the old round-house still standing near Leeds City centre, then briefly travelled along the line to Harrogate via the Bramwall Tunnel and over the Crimple Viaduct, before crossing the River Nidd and the classic viaduct at Knaresborough, followed by Poppleton, a station with a picturesque garden and adjacent to the nursery that grew plants for many station gardens around the country.
Then back to the S & C through Shipley, Bingley to Keighley where again we left the main line to follow the Keighley & Worth Valley line as far as Oakworth (famous for its connection with the Railway Children film). So, on to Hellifield, Settle and Ribblehead with some stunning shots of the viaduct and its surrounding scenery, before going on to Blea Moor and Arten Gill, one of Stephen’s favourite locations despite the difficulties he had in getting the pictures he most wanted.
We finished the afternoon, as we had a few minutes to spare, following the route of the Woodhead Line and some of the problems it had during its relatively short existence. The afternoon terminated at Deepcar signal box and station.
A brilliant afternoon from one of the best speakers in the programme.
Tuesday 9th October 2018
The Peter Bland Collection Part 1
Bryan Cross, our speaker for today, presented a programme of photographs by local photographer, the late Peter Bland. Bryan had painstakingly restored many of the very early pictures that he was about to show us.
The programme was all black & white, from such diverse places as Stewart & Lloyds Steel works in Corby & its extensive railway network, to Ireland where we saw some very early diesel railcars. Bryan had kept the show in date order rather collating into groups of pictures.
During the programme we joined RCTS members on a visit to Swindon Works in June 1950 and on a RCTS weekend tour of the Isle of Wight in 1951, when the railway on the island was at its most extensive.
The huge Becton Gas Works in East London produced shots of many various industrial locomotives. This gas works handled 10,000 tons of product a day and had three individual railways within the site. The works were still operating into the 1960s.
After such a heavy industrial scene we went off to Scotland where we followed Peter’s route around the country on his two-week tour. We also followed his route around Ireland later in the same year, where he again covered majority of the tracks in the country.
It is thought Peter visited many of the sites he photographed in London during his lunch hour, as many of the timings noted on the photos were between 12 noon & 2 pm., particularly those taken at the London termini.
During the time remaining we looked at briefly such places as Corby Steel Works, Millwall Docks, finishing with shots of the horrific Harrow & Wealdstone crash site, some of these shots being actually taken from one of the platforms only a couple of days after the event.
A fascinating evening full of questions and very well presented.
Tuesday 25th September 2018
Station to Station, Cambridge to London
Our speaker this afternoon was writer and photographer Terry Ward, his subject was all connected to his favourite railway line, The West Anglian line from Cambridge to London Liverpool Street, the talk entitled “Station to Station from Cambridge to London” took us on a journey exactly as the title suggests.
Terry was an architecture fanatic and historian, so we only stopped a few stations along the route, primarily to see the different styles of the buildings, but did also see many of the old signal boxes that were along the route, another of Terry’s passions.
Along the route we looked at many interesting features, starting with Cambridge station and Coldham’s Lane yard and depot, Roydon Meads wetlands and nature reserve, the area between Cheshunt and Waltham Cross once the greenhouse for the London markets, with very many acres of glass growing the capitals salads. Waltham Cross was also the centre of Ordnance, with huge factories producing all sorts of weapons for very many years. Also, along this stretch of line was the New River, which was built in 1633 to supply London’s water. Then into the outskirts of London, where many architectural Victorian gems lined the railway, including Liverpool Street station itself.
A great afternoon by a good very clear speaker that knew his subject well.
Tuesday 11th September 2018
7th Colour Rail Journey
“A Seventh Colourail Journey” was the title of Paul Chancellor’s presentation to us this evening and very fascinating it was.
Paul had sorted his subject matter into alphabetical sequence, covering a vast array of associated subjects, some followed locomotive designations, places, the rare and unusual. A thoroughly enjoyable evening with member participation included.
The show included some pictures from much earlier times and some very early colour images. Having viewed these you realised just how far an improved modern colour photography has progressed, again something these days we simply take for granted.
A recommended evening’s entertainment.
Last updated: 5th August 2019