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Tuesday 8th January 2019
'Thrills and Spills - My life in railway operations'
Chris Blackman

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'
Michael Bunn

“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'
Geoff Brockett

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
Adrian Vaughan

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
In luck Steve filled the rest of the afternoon with a fascinating account of the history of 34081, 92 Squadron, one of his pet subjects, as he spends many hours with the locomotive on the Nene Valley. A superb collection of photographs followed showing the exploits of the engine throughout its working life on the Southern Region right through to the final years in Barry scrapyard, prior to its rescue and restoration.

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

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
Stephen Gay

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

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
Terry Ward

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
Paul Chancellor

“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.

Tuesday 31st July 2018
Swiss Railways and other Transport in Switzerland
George Howe

On a very hot and humid sunny afternoon we had an excellent turnout for our speaker, Hitchin member George Howe, with his dvd presentation on Swiss railways and other transport in Switzerland.
We started with a look at all the various ways you could get there, eg. Eurostar & train, Le Shuttle & road, and of course by flying.
Our first stop, following shots at Waterloo and Folkestone, was at Basle station showing some of the many movements, including shunting, within the station confines going on Saturday.
As George travelled around the country he took in many other railway movements and trains, with some wonderful scenic views. During the time there, the films also included many other forms of transport, including hang gliders, cable-cars, buses, trams, skiing and sledging including the action on a scenic corner on the Cresta run. Other unusual scenes included horse racing on a proper track, pony & trap racing all on snow.
George also explained the operation of the various types of rack & pinion railways he came across. In Berne, for instance, we saw how they run trams and trolley buses along the same streets with both sets of wires on the catenary systems.
It was so good & unusual to have an hour & a half’s action with sound instead of still pictures, plus the humour and fun along the way.

Our grateful thanks to George who stepped in at the very last moment when our booked speakers train failed.

Tuesday 10th July 2018
The Blue Diesel Era
Robert Warburton

This evening we welcomed the Robert Warburton, Chairman from our nearest neighbouring Branch, Peterborough.
Robert’s presentation on “The Blue Diesel Era” was all his own work, with photographs from all over the country from Thirsk to Barry and Newton Abbot to Norwich. During a fascinating evening, we saw all classes of diesel and electric locomotives in the popular blue livery along with its many variants eg. Large logos, Scottie dogs, all of which were well known and recognised by the members present of a certain age.
One popular features of the presentation, was the number of photographs taken in our local area along the ECML between Peterborough and Kings Cross. One of Robert’s own favourites seemed to be class 45s on the Midland mainline, but having said that, we saw many locos out their known areas along with visiting places like Crewe, Newcastle, Manchester, Clapham Junction, Eastleigh and Reading to name just a few.

A thoroughly enjoyable evening with a good attendance considering we were competing with a World Cup quarter final match on another of July 2018s very warm evenings.

Tuesday 26th June 2018
The Peter Bland Collection Part 2
Bryan Cross

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 he was about to show us.
The first half of today’s programme was all black & white, from such diverse places as Stewart & Lloyds Steel works in Corby and its extensive railway network, to Ireland where we saw some very early diesel railcars, and the Isle of Wight during 1952 when its railway system was probably at its peak.
Bryan had kept the show in date order rather collating into groups of pictures, and hence our next visit was the Harrow & Wealdstone crash site, some of these shots being actually taken from one of the platforms.
It is thought that Peter visited many of these sites 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.
The second half of the programme progressed to colour photographs again from many diverse places such as Millwall Docks, Cadbury’s Works, and a couple of RCTS railtours to Belgium and France. Fortunately, from a local perspective, several shots of the railways were in adjacent local areas, eg. the St. Albans Abbey Branches to Watford & Hatfield, the Nickey line from Welwyn GC to Luton via Wheathamstead to Luton. Also, old pictures at St.Albans City including shots of the engine shed and the scrap line of locos there as Dmus were introduced.

A totally enthralling programme on a sweltering June afternoon to a much larger audience than expected considering the outside temperature.

Tuesday 12th June 2018
The GN & LNW Joint Line
Robin Cullup

A large group of members and visitors turned out to see Robin Cullup give his presentation on the “GN and LNW Joint Line”. The style of the presentation we thought was excellent, starting with all the history of the line from its suggestion in the mid 1850, then onto its building in 1872.
The bill was for the line to run from Leicester to Newark, later to be truncated at Melton Mowbray. Various sections of the line were allocated to one or both companies, similarly freight and passenger traffic was also divided between both companies, making the running of the line very complex.
As the evening developed, Robin introduced photographs from historic archives to demonstrate the difficulties presented to the two companies. We latterly moved on to see all the various traffic using the line and the unusual signals and elaborate architecture along the route.
Robin also explained about all the various routes emanating from Leicester, and the huge mileage covered by the LNW freight movements.
As the time progressed we were shown the various locos on the line Including a picture of a rare class 02 number 63980. From a couple of signal registers it was noted just how many special workings also used the line. For instance on August Bank holiday Saturday in 1929 there were 11 additional trains between 0430 hr. and 1130 hr. working to Skegness, Yarmouth and Mablethorpe above the normal scheduled trains to these destinations.

A superb evening presented by a real enthusiast for his local area.

Tuesday 29th May 2018
Southern Electric
David Brown

Our speaker this afternoon David Brown (Chichester) had to contend with many difficulties to give this presentation. Firstly, there were the problems of getting to us with the railway disruption caused by the new timetable and the GTR operating fiasco, then just prior to the start of the meeting a terrific storm overhead with thunder and lightning.
However, David’s presentation on “Classic Southern Electrics” was well worth waiting for. Starting with the iconic Brighton Belle Pullman, we then travelled right back to the beginning, looking at the oldest electric railways, The City & South London Rly (1890) and The Waterloo & City Line (1895).
We followed on with a glimpse at the Lancaster-Morecombe-Heysham Rly. (1908) as this was the first OHL railway. Most of all the early units followed the American style in looks and with inward opening doors. David had some superb copies of very old photographs pre-1920, many reproduced from glass plate images.
Continuing on, we saw the various stages of progress of the electrification systems and sub-stations providing the power, along with the huge variety of different architecture used across the region for stations etc. along with the very many variations of stock. In many cases in the later years new bodies fitted on existing under frames sometimes more than once.
As we progressed David worked his way through nearly all of various vehicle styles used on the SR up to the late1960’s. The afternoon was rounded off with a showing of some of the specifically designed freight locomotives for use on the third rail system.

A fascinating historical presentation extremely well put together by an extremely passionate and knowledgeable speaker.

Tuesday 8th May 2018
Settle & Carlisle Line in the 1980's & 1990's
Richard Allen

Local Branch member Richard Allen gave us a superb evenings entertainment with his presentation, ”The Settle & Carlisle Line in the 1980s & 90s.”
Throughout the evening we saw just about all the classes of our favourite diesels, either working on the line or hauling specials over it. Richard also had a large number of freight workings included in his programme, plus some of the steam charters of the period.
Obviously, a great lover of the area. Within the superbly composed pictures we were treated to a scenic spectacular, featuring all the seasons of the year, most of the viaducts, tunnel portals and always a train somewhere.

With his area knowledge and the great pictures, we were treated to a wonderful evening.

Tuesday 24th April 2018
Swindon Works, Part 1 1843-1880
Brian Arman

We were treated to a fascinating afternoon’s entertainment, by our Society President Brian Arman, giving us the first part of the series of illustrated talks on the “History of Swindon Works.”
Not only did we have an explanation of why Swindon was chosen as a location for the works but Brian also described the social history that evolved with the town coping with the green field site development, also the population increase from 1400 people to a town of many thousands in size over a forty year period. Swindon was chosen as the route from London to Swindon was predominately level ground, whereas the route west of the town became very undulating. Thus Swindon became the obvious choice for changing locos, to more powerful ones to cope with the increased westerly gradients.
Due the huge size of the operation and the vast influx of people to the area, a village of 310 homes was built on the southern side of the line opposite the works. This eventually developed by 1880 into a much larger residential site corresponding with increased expansion of the works.

We are very much looking forward to part two next time.

Tuesday 10th April 2018
Woto & BICC history
Patrick Keef

Our members this evening, were treated to a first-class presentation by Patrick Keef of Alan Keef Ltd, Locomotive, Rolling stock builders and restorers of 10 inch to 3ft 6 inch gauge Steam, Diesel, Electric and Battery engines plus all associated equipment needed for a successful railway operation. The company employs 20 staff, primarily skilled craftsman in metal work and carpentry, plus a team of six that carries out track laying and associated installation work all over the world.
Patrick’s talk encompassed all the work the company carries out, which today includes many locomotives and rolling stock for country parks, too many to name, (but one recommended one is The Ruislip Lido Railway) and narrow gauge industrial work, such as mining.
One of the more unusual precise and exacting aspects of work was for the RNLI, refurbishing lifeboat tracks from the lifeboat house into the sea and the launching trolleys.
Patrick also was very proud of two locos built from scratch and from limited information for Beamish Museum, these being “Puffing Billy” and “The Steam Elephant”.
Surprisingly one of the world’s largest narrow gauge systems is in Australia for transporting sugar cane and also, more recently, gold ore.

A superb evening full of fascinating facts, detail and laughs, thoroughly enjoyed by everyone.

Tuesday 27th March 2018
40 years of Service
Terence Jenner

This afternoon we welcomed Northampton Branch member Terence Jenner, speaking to us about his “40 Years of Service”. Terence started work in Melbury House, Marylebone as an Articled Clerk and working his way up the ladder to become Chairman of the British Railways Board before retiring in 2013.
After spending his early years watching trains at Norwood Junction, Terence proceeded with a few pictures to show us how little the station has actually changed between those early years and today.
He then moved to Bishops Stortford and was a regular commuter on the Class 37s operating between Cambridge and Liverpool Street. The office and library in Melbury House held every Law book and railway document ever produced. There was an Annual BR Bill that was a unique document, as every detail had to be passed by Parliament before being implemented.
BR was also very involved in “Competitive Procurement”, that affected industry and suppliers throughout the country.
Eventually he was involved in the sell-off of all railway sectors, before finishing of talking about just how good the railways are today.
We got the impression, throughout the talk, that the whole system with the Government Ministers and Civil Service involvement, was just like a real life version of the TV series “Yes Minister”.

An afternoon meeting enlightening all of us about a very different side our railways.

Tuesday 27th February 2018
Lion City Railways & On Track Plant
Dave Carson

Following some frantic phone calls to our speaker earlier today, due to the extremely cold weather and snow in parts of the country, Dave Carson from Suffolk decided he would be able to get to us to present his talk on “The Lion City Railways”. Twenty of us managed to get to the meeting on this freezing afternoon.
Singapore’s railway system is a combination of underground railways and rapid transit systems, all of which looked clinically clean from every aspect, even inside depots were spotless with very little equipment or tools left around.
The underground trains were over 300cm wide compared to our Circle & Metropolitan stock which are 250cm wide. The stock consists primarily of vehicles built by Siemans, Alsthom & Kawasaki, whist Mitsubishi built the majority of the rapid transit vehicles. Due to its perilous geographic position and its proneness to flooding, most underground station entrances are 1 metre above street level before descending down to the trains.

Our thanks to everyone for braving the elements to make this meeting very worthwhile.

Tuesday 13th February 2018
Station to Station, Cambridge to London
Terry Ward

Our speaker this evening 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 at 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 way 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.
Also at Waltham Abbey we saw the gunpowder mill where Guy Fawkes obtained his supply to attempt to blow up parliament. Our next stop was Enfield Lock, the centre of Ordnance, with huge factories producing all sorts of weapons.
Also, along this stretch of line was the New River, which was built in 1633 to supply London’s water, just as it is still doing today. We are now into the outskirts of London, where many architectural Victorian gems lined the railway, including Liverpool Street station itself.

A fascinating evening about the railway, with hardly a mention the trains. A good very clear speaker that knew his subject well.

Tuesday 30th January 2018
The LMS Patriot Project, a New National Memorial
John Hastings-Thomson

This was a well-attended afternoon meeting to start our new year’s programme in Welwyn Garden City, where we were treated to a great presentation by John Hastings-Thomson from “The Patriot Project – A New National Memorial”, with all the latest developments on this fascinating project, plus a few tales of problems encountered along the way.
John’s immaculate delivery, supported by his digital presentation was very much appreciated by everyone, it was clear, precise and packed with detail and information. The build of the new 5551 locomotive is taking place primarily at the Llangollen, although it has been to various sites to have particular specialist work carried out, also for fundraising and public awareness visits. The majority of the components and work has been carried out within the UK, the locomotive is almost complete currently, with the exception of the boiler, which is the final piece of the jigsaw. Not bad when you’re having to work from the old original drawings, (with many missing), although many of the materials and practices used have been greatly advanced with today’s improvements and engineering techniques. The project has been greatly assisted by the fact that many components were common to both the Jubilees and Royal Scots.
The longest delay in the build timescale came in May 2017 when LNWR Crewe stopped all outside contract work including work on the loco’s boiler. Fortunately, a new company has been founded and agreed to take on the build of the boiler. Completion of the loco is now hoped be sometime in early 2019.
The loco will be named “The Unknown Warrior” in recognition of those men who lost their lives in the Great War.

last updated: 20/01/19