Windsor and Maidenhead

Meeting Reports

Monday 22nd October 2018
The Anniversary tour
Steve Ollive

At our September meeting, our branch chairman, Steve Ollive, gave a talk accompanied by slides entitled"The Anniversary Tour". This was a railway trip for six people all celebrating various anniversaries and birthdays occuring at that time. The trip was from London to Venice on the Simplon Orient Express and from there to Prague via Vienna. The journey on the Simplon Orient Express transported them back in time to an age of luxury, with its polished wood, sumptuous upholstery and antique features, albeit the washing facilities were somewhat cramped. However, the staff were very attentive and the food and drink both excellent. They spent three days in Venice exploring all the main tourist sites aswell as the waterbuses and the whole of the tramway system. Then it was onwards to Vienna via Verona and Innsbruck, where they stayed for a further three days visiting the Tram Museum, the Vienna Technical Museum and hitched a ride on the ferris wheel made famous by Harry Lime. There were a number of trips out on the Austrian southern railway. Finally, they travelled by Regio Jet to Prague via Graz. There they visited the Transport Museum, with its famous Spitfire, explored the extensive tram and train systems, seeing many Skoda and Tatra vehicals and visited many wonderful buildings. They travelled back to London by rail via Dresden, Frankfurt and Brussels.

Thursday 21st June 2018
'The Golden Age of Swindon Works - part 3'
The Revd Canon Brian Arman, Society President

At our joint meeting with the Marlow and District Railway Society in June, Brian Arman, President of RCTS, gave a wonderful presentation to a packed audience entitled "The Golden Age of Swindon Works - Part 3" or as Brian preferred "From Hawksworth to Hellfire". Frederick William Hawksworth was born in Swindon, joining the GWR as an apprentice in 1898, finally becoming CME in 1941. Frustrated by war he inherited a mess of pottage, with the railways neglected in favour of war, including the manufacture of Pom Poms, midget submarines, bombs, landing craft and electronics for tanks. When Filton aircraft factory was bombed with great loss of life, a large number of engineers from Swindon works were sent as replacements. However, under his regime many important improvements were made, in particular superheat for the larger classes and the use of welded construction. In 1944 his first design to be built was the modified Hall Class followed by four other designs including the County Class. He was also involved in the ordering of GWR diesel shunters and two experimental gas turbine electric locomotives, as well as developments in testing. He retired in 1949. The years after nationalisation saw a gradual then rapid decline but Swindon was still important not only for repairs but also for rebuilds, and for the development of Mark 2 coaches, for B4, B5 and B10 bogies and for the diesel hydraulic Warship and Western Class locomotives. The last steam locomotive built for British Railways, " The Evening Star" was produced at Swindon in 1960. The works still carried on with some improvement in the 1970s but the writing was on the wall and it finally closed in 1986. A splendid evening enjoyed by all.

Monday 21st May 2018
The Docklands Light Railway
Mark Davis

At our May meeting Mark Davis gave a highly entertaining and informative talk on the Docklands Light Railway, charting its development from modest beginnings in the 1980s to the major transport network its has become today, with further developed planned for the future. This fully automated light metro system opened in 1987 to serve the redeveloped Docklands area of East London but now reaches north to Stratford, south to Lewisham across the River Thames, west to Tower Gateway and the Bank in the City, east to Beckton and London City Airport and to Woolwich Arsenal south of the river. It carried 6 million passengers in its first year and in 2016/17 carried 122 million. It has become essential in enabling economic growth, both commercial and private and in getting people off the roads and onto public transport and its development has involved massive investment, with expansion dictating the need to change stations, track layout and increase the number of trains. It now has 45 stations and 149 trains and plans are in hand for further expansion with new trains due in 2022 set to increase capacity by 30%. The Railways greatest triumph to date was the 2012 Olympics, when so many were predicting travel chaos, it proved its worth, carrying 500,000 passengers on one day alone.

Monday 23rd April 2018
The Patriot Project
John Hastings Thomson

At our well attended April meeting, John Hastings-Thomson, a director and trustee, gave a talk on the LMS Patriot Project to create the New National Memorial Engine, "the Unknown Warrior", dedicated to all those who fought and died in the Great War. The project was launched at Llangollen in April 2008 and hopefully the engine will be in steam in late 2019 with mainline running in 2020, the deadline of the centenary of the Armistice, November 2018, having been missed. The project has been a struggle as nearly everything had to be started afresh, all the Patriots having been scrapped after withdrawal from service in the early 1960s. So it was back to the drawing board with a search for expertise in engineering, as well as finance, sales and marketing and all that makes up a modern commercial enterprise. The Llangollen Railways Works has taken the lead in the assembly of "the Unknown Warrior" but other workshops around the UK have been involved in the manufacturing and supply of new parts including The Boro Foundry, The South Devon Railway, LNWR Heritage and Tyseley Locomotive Works among others, with some parts being sourced as far away as Turkey and South Africa. This has proved to be a complex project requiring firm control and management. Hopefully all that has been learned and the expertise acquired can be used on further projects.

Monday 26th March 2018
London to Velké Kapušany
David Jackman

At our March meeting, which was well attended, David Jackman, who is a regular railway traveller, gave a talk entitled " London to Velke Kapusany", which illustrated all the variety there is to be seen when travelling the railways of Europe. Velke Kapusany is in Slovakia close to the border with the Ukraine. He described railways in Belgium, Holland, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Italy, Germany, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, dealing with the architecture of stations, engineering, with lots of different voltages, gauges and rolling stock dating from 1920s up to the present date. One of the highlights were the railways of Switzerland, with double decker trains, locomotives, some twice as powerful as our own and amazing feats of engineering producing extraordinary mountain views, whilst in Germany we saw locomotives known as "Rabbits" because the appear to have ears and double decker trains and carriages designed specifically for cyclists. Finally, the Czech Republic and Slovakia never experienced Beeching type cuts, so still have a rich network of branch lines, many single track with passing loops and very little traffic. They have no fast trains and some of the rolling stock has seen better days. However they have a lot more freight than we have but most unnerving is the way passengers wander all over the track without any supervision.

Monday 26th February 2018
Railways of Northern Ireland
Tim Morton

For the February meeting of the Windsor & Maidenhead Branch 34 members and guests braved the very cold weather to hear Tim Morton of the Irish Railway Record Society describe the history and current operations of Northern Ireland Railways. When talking about railway nationalisation, the national press seems to be unaware that we already have a nationalized system in the UK but across the Irish Sea.
He described the years of decline, following those of prosperity of about 100 years ago. Partition, wars, government policy and ‘the troubles’ all played their part to ensure that the system ended up at a pretty low ebb.
As a result, the majority of Northern Ireland is without a train service and only a handful of lines are left, all radiating from Belfast. But, on the back of the Good Friday Agreement that has brought peace and prosperity, matters have improved greatly with continued investment in infrastructure and new trains. Consequently, ridership has grown from four to 15 million since 2001.
Tim’s presentation covered all aspects of the day to day operation of NIR and covered all the improvements made and planned to ensure that the railways of Northern Ireland have an assured future.

last updated: 30/10/18