Thursday 6th June 2019
East Anglia Transitions
John Day from Ipswich was our guest speaker for the June meeting. John is a very long standing and well known Society member and leading light in the Ipswich branch. His talk for the evening, which concentrated mainly on the decades from the 1980s onwards, revealed an ever changing railway scene in the eastern counties and one which is about to see a revolution in terms of rolling stock provision.
John revealed that he had worked for the railways briefly for a six year period in the 1960s before a long term career working with British Gas, from where he retired in 1996. Throughout his working life he had many opportunities to travel around East Anglia, always with a camera near at hand and as a result he had many fine views to show us, reflecting just how much railways in this part of the country have evolved.
The evening started on the Harwich branch before moving to Frinton-on-Sea with a Class 309 EMU framed by the long since gone semaphore signal. The pace and diversity of views for the evening was thus set, criss-crossing Suffolk, Norfolk, Essex and Cambridgeshire and a few other places between. There were many fine views of not only the everyday scene that has long since changed but also of special workings and last ever events including the last Class 37 on the Liverpool Street to King’s Lynn service.
Naturally, a good part of the evening was spent in and around Ipswich with the various docks branches well documented. Only Griffin Wharf of this extensive system remains in operation. Just to the north of Ipswich the new freight only chord, otherwise known as the Bacon Factory Curve, has provided new photographic opportunities.
A good number of steam specials had been documented over the years with Britannia, Flying Scotsman, Tornado and Bulleid’s Taw Valley and Tangmere all featured. Most dramatic of all though for your reviewer was 4464 Bittern working a Cathedral’s Express to Norwich, passing Brandon, through recent heavy snowfall with the sun beautifully illuminating a timeless scene.
All the principle class of diesel locomotive were seen throughout the evening. The Class 37s are of course well associated with these parts, as were in their day Class 31s on CrossCountry workings and Class 33s working Snailwell to Sheerness steel trains.
Some of the remarkable liveries to be seen were remembered from the bright exciting colours of NSE to the entirely risible ‘one’ interlude, a period best forgotten!
Finally, not to be forgotten, are the electric workhorses of the mainline intercity services formed of Class 90 and previously Class 86 locomotives. They too are now entering the twilight of their careers in Anglia as the new order of Stadler and Bombardier units wait to enter service and take over from the current fleets.
The evening certainly proved that the railways of Anglia are in a state of flux and John did an able job expanding on the many changes over the last 30 years. This was a fine record of the railway in a sometimes overlooked region and underlined how much there is still to appreciate and enjoy. The coming decades are likely to be just as interesting.
Thursday 2nd May 2019
Railways in a Cornish Landscape Part 2
It was a welcome return for Stephen Gay, RCTS Sheffield branch member, with the second and concluding part of his illustrated journey along the railways of Cornwall. Stephen had last been with us in September 2017 when our journey had paused at Truro. We were soon on our way again in Stephen’s affable company with some stunning views of the railway and the landscapes and coastline of Cornwall, taking us to the end of the line at Penzance.
Our first diversion was down the Falmouth branch, to its terminus at Falmouth Docks, much diminished from its heyday. As with Stephen’s earlier talk there were some accomplished compositions, making even a humble Class 150 an interesting subject in the bucolic setting of Cornish countryside. The audience was surely impressed by Stephen’s patience – waiting three hours to get one shot – and his tenacity in others, disturbing a wasps nest and having to climb onto a rather perilous looking parapet to achieve a photo he wanted of a disused viaduct. One that is very much still in use is the Carnon Viaduct, that carries the Falmouth branch over the valley floor. The masonry piers of the original Brunel viaduct make a striking juxtaposition to the 1930s built structure that replaced it.
A diversion to the long abandoned Redruth & Chacewater Railway unearthed quite a surprise for our speaker, who researching a fatal accident on the line, discovered the grave of the deceased in the church yard at St Keyne. To his surprise the name of the unfortunate railway worker was Stephen Gay! Returning to the railways, Stephen took us to the former port of Devoranand then onto the ferry that links Truro with Falmouth.
Rejoining the branch we were taken back to the main line at Scorrier to see a Class 66 with fuel tanks for Long Rock depot. This traffic, it was noted has since disappeared to road, that apparently being a more efficient means of getting fuel to the depot than by rail. We next briefly stopped at Redruth, where apparently Jenny Agutter once stopped for refreshment, before onwards to Cambourne and its statue to Richard Trevithick, the father of the railways.
The St. Ives branch, the last to be built in Cornwall, was depicted in its spectacular glory with views of the town and the sweeping Carbis Bay before we rejoined the mainline at St. Erth for the final part of the journey to Penzance. Here, Stephen had noted milepost 326½, the highest railway mileage post anywhere in the UK. After a brief look at the Scillonian 3 – the ferry that links the British mainland with the Scilly Isles, a visit to Penlee lifeboat station and the Cornish village of Sheffield, Stephen concluded the evening with a sunset over the South Crofty tin mine. A perfect summation of an enchanting journey along the railways, coastline and countryside of Cornwall.
Thursday 4th April 2019
East West Rail Update
We were pleased to welcome Stephen Barker from East West Rail to our April meeting, after the difficulties he had in getting to us in March. This was Stephen’s third presentation to the branch and as were the previous occasions, an excellent evening. His current role is Engineering Director for East West Rail, which is the company leading the construction and reinstatement of the railway line between Bicester and Bletchley, which will link to the existing Bletchley to Bedford line, with a proposed extension eastwards to Cambridge.
Stephen started the evening by explaining who the key players are in the East West rail project. The East West Rail Company whom he works for, based in London, is a non-departmental public arm’s length body that reports to the Department for Transport. The East West Rail Consortium is an association of local authorities on the proposed route or directly affected by it, that are working together with the Department for Transport and Network Rail, in developing the railway. The final major party in the project is the East West Rail Alliance, comprised of Network Rail, Laing O’Rourke and VolkerRail, which are charged with delivering the Western Section of East West Rail, from development to construction.
Next, Stephen outlined the reasons for building East West Rail. It will deliver enhanced transport communications across a part of England that is poorly served by east to west connectivity. It will bring economic prosperity to the Oxford, Milton Keynes, Cambridge arc and will contribute to solving the problem of housing affordability by allowing potential employees to travel into the main employment centres from areas with cheaper housing. The project is innovative in the way it is being delivered with the focus firmly on what passengers want and how those needs can be best delivered. The project will also be separate from Network Rail which will allow bench-marking of costs and delivery to be made.
The original East West railway linking Oxford to Cambridge was opened in full in 1862 and survived the Beeching cuts of 1963 only be authorised for closure by Barbara Castle in 1967, ironically the same year Milton Keynes was designated a new city for north Buckinghamshire. The section east of Bedford and west of Bletchley closed to passengers although freight continued on the Western section until the early 1990s. The East West rail project envisages reinstatement of the route in three stages. The Western Section comprises Oxford – Bicester – Marylebone, Bicester – Bedford, Milton Keynes and Aylesbury. The Central Section will link Bedford with Cambridge whilst the Eastern Section comprises connectivity from Cambridge to Norwich and other East Anglia destinations.
The current focus of works is on the Western Section and reinstatement between Bicester Gavray Junction and Bletchley. An application for a Transport Works Act Order (TWAO) was made in July 2018. The public inquiry into the TWAO is nearly completed and it is hoped that the inquiry inspector will recommend granting the powers needed to begin construction. Stephen explained that the current Secretary of State, is enthusiastic about East West Rail and the funding is in place, so there is a high level of confidence of delivery of the project.
Stephen outlined some of the engineering challenges of the construction phase of the project. Not least is the need to rebuild the cutting at Winslow and reinstating the failed drainage. The Bletchley flyover also requires attention and will need to be lifted up from its current supports for a full inspection. It has already been discovered that each span of the flyover was completed in differing styles and forms of construction so it is unclear what might be found from closer inspection. Eventually the two platforms for Bletchley High Level will be cantilevered out from this structure. All being well the main construction phase should start by the end of 2019 with an envisaged opening to passengers in late 2023.
Finally, Stephen outlined some of the challenges of reinstating the railway east of Bedford towards Cambridge, as much of the original railway formation has been lost. There are currently five alternative routes being considered. It is intended that a single preferred route will be adopted by the end of 2019 with construction starting after 2023 and the line open in 2027.
The second half of the meeting was a lively question and answer session which covered the rolling stock to be operated – likely to be 3-car trains initially – to the signalling and possibly future discontinuous electrification.
This was a fascinating evening and it was pleasing to hear that good progress is being made with this important project. We thank Stephen Barker for his excellent talk and for taking so ably all the many questions that were asked.
Monday 18th March 2019
'1960’s Steam in the East Midlands Area'
A joint afternoon Meeting with the Northampton branch was held at Roade on 18th March 2019. Over 50 Members and friends attended to see a selection of photographs and cine films, most of which were the work of the father of Michael Clemens, who presented the show under the title “1960s steam in the Midlands area”.
Michael explained that his father enjoyed forays far and wide with his circle of like-minded friends, and, in the fullness of time the youthful Michael was able to join them, eventually leading to a substantial number of his own pictures. Most enthusiasts of the period tended to spread ripple-like from their home town, their horizons steadily widening.
Ex GWR 4-6-0 7022 "Hereford Castle" outside Worcester MPD (85A) in August 1964 where it was retained as a stnby for the newly installed diesels on the Worcester to Paddington route. Alan Maund
Cine films included on board runs out of Marylebone station behind various Class 5s. Also a lengthy film of a northbound Great Central line train heading north from Lutterworth, parallel with the newly opened M1 motorway, including a station stop at Ashby Magna, where the car driver had to invent a hard shoulder emergency in order the include the stop. He would probably be surrounded by “authority” within seconds had it been 2019 rather than the late 1960s.
Local in the audience would have been grateful for the views of the industrial ironstone workings around north Northamptonshire at Brixworth, Hanging Houghton, Scaldwell and Lamport in mid 1963. Even in 1963, these locations were somewhere in another world for many a Duston West based enthusiast, so everyone present would have been grateful for the efforts of Michael, his father and his friends in those far off days. The first class programme was presented without a hitch.
As an aside, Michael showed us how he managed to digitally identify a Western Region “County” 4-6-0 as “County of Pembroke”, the photograph of which was seemingly taken in conditions suitable for a dark, wet night such as we all remember. His efforts time-wise would not have been for the faint-hearted!
Thursday 7th March 2019
'The Southern Region between 1991 and 1993'
Ron Bailes, Area Traction Inspector Victoria
Our opening talk of the season was to be East West Rail and a healthy number of people were in attendance to hear our speaker. Sadly, due to a trespass incident at Euston which brought all trains to a stand, our speaker was severely delayed getting from London to our meeting and only managed to join us near the end of the evening. Fortunately, Ron Bailes, who was due to speak to us in April was able to step in at very short notice and provide an entertaining evening looking back on his railway career. The principle focus was his time as Area Traction Inspector Victoria on the Southern Region between 1991 and 1993 involving all kinds of incidents and mishaps.
Ron was born and bred in Swindon, in the heart of GWR territory, but initial ambitions were to work for the BBC as a cameraman. Careers advice led him instead to apply to be a BR apprentice joiner, where he started his railway career in 1974. Progression saw Ron move on to the machine shop at Swindon where the boost in earnings from overtime was a happy incentive as well as the work being more interesting.
A change of career saw Ron leave the railway for 5 months from February 1980, a decision which he freely admitted now he had regretted. A chance conversation in the pub encouraged Ron to think about applying to be a second man on the footplate. Applying through a BR recruitment campaign, Ron was to re-join the railway on 14th July 1980 at King’s Cross. This was, of course, the time that the reign of the Deltics was coming to an end and so was a fortuitous time to be working on the footplate.
A move to Milton Keynes saw Ron apply for a job based at Euston where he became a qualified train driver in May 1986 with traction knowledge of AC Electrics Class 81/82/83/86/87. He later did a conversion course for Class 08, which at this time would have been in use as station pilots.
Looking for a new opportunity, Ron moved to Victoria in October 1987, returning from a holiday in Germany to the aftermath of the Great Storm! He well remembered a route learning trip to Hastings with his instructor commenting that the beach huts were on the ‘wrong’ side of the line having been upended in the ferocious winds. Ron undertook his traction training at Waterloo and learned the different EMUs and routes covering the South West, South Central and Eastern sections of the Southern taking him from Weymouth to Hastings and many places in between.
Ron spoke soberly about the Clapham Junction disaster of December 1988 and how he had been fortunate in being off work sick, otherwise he would have been driving a train that witnessed the disaster. Not many months later, he had only just returned home from duty, when he heard of the rail crash at Purley, having driven over the route only hours earlier.
These serious incidents and the recommendations of the Hidden Report, prompted an overhaul of safety culture and management within BR. The Southern Region had 55 vacancies for traction inspectors and Ron was to take on one of these roles in February 1991, spending two weeks at Brighton learning the requirements of the new role. Ron’s last day driving came in April 1991.
The role as traction inspector was varied and interesting taking Ron all over the region, checking driver competencies, speed checks (including clocking a tamper speeding at Clapham Junction!) and involvement in test trains and specials run over night. One of the more unusual events he was involved in was filming for an episode of the long running television series The Bill which occurred over 4 weekends on the Wimbledon Loop. Part of the role involved investigating incidents and one was at Epsom, where a driver had reported being unable to get power from the unit berthed in the siding. On arrival, Ron was quickly able to diagnose the problem – the unit was derailed on all bogies and the rear coach was detached!
Ron’s career took him at privatisation to work for Gatwick Express, where he oversaw the introduction of the Class 460 EMUs. He later worked for Virgin West Coast and CrossCountry, a second period with Gatwick Express and more recently involvement with the ERTMS project on the Cambrian Coast.branches/milton_keynesClass 345 Old Oak Common 20Feb19 not found
The past 18 months Ron has been working with Crossrail and the commissioning of the new Class 345 units.This was a lively and interesting evening albeit an unexpected departure from the planned programme. We hope that Ron will be able to join us again to give his planned talk about the Crossrail Class 345s.
Monday 3rd December 2018
'Funeral Trains - the Untold Story'
Nicholas Wheatley came to our joint Meeting with RCTS Northampton branch, held at Roade village hall on 3rd December. His subject was “Funeral Trains – the untold story”. This could be seen as a rather ghoulish subject, but it soon became evident that our Speaker had tasked himself, as a self-described non railway enthusiast in the accepted sense, with a subject having a wide open field for both himself and his audience.
He told us how it was the arrival of the railways that facilitated people to be interred further away from their birthplace than had previously been the case. This situation eventually led to inner-city expansion and required the use of the railway for the removal of persons long passed on to be transported elsewhere, and at the same time, required larger burial sites to be provided, outside of London in particular. This led to the creation of the Necropolis Railway, which had its own direct line in from the LSWR main line, serving the new Brookwood Cemetery. There was also a similar new Cemetery in North London, but this one was served by sidings only, unlike the Necropolis. The funerals of various public figures were also described in railway operating terms.
His research is in support of a book which he is writing for future publication, which we await with interest.
As a venerable Member said afterwards, it was a “dead interesting” meeting”, and so it was. This was an out of the ordinary subject, and although Nicholas was impressed with the attendance, it truly deserved better, as do many Meetings.
Thursday 1st November 2018
'Bletchley and About'
Unfortunately, our planned speaker for November, John Cashen, was unable to join us due to illness. At short notice, Bob Ballard stepped in with an evening of slides from the collection of the late Bob Berry, a former Milton Keynes RCTS branch member. Bob was a driver at Bletchley from steam days right up into the modern era with EMUs. His extensive collection of slides come from many sources and feature scenes along the West Coast Main Line, from around the 1920s to the 1990s. Predominantly these are steam scenes but those from the 1960s capture a railway in transition.
The 1960s was for many, a decade of upheaval and change and the railways were similarly going through the convulsions of modernisation. Steam would be eradicated by the end of the decade as the introduction of diesel trains and the expansion of electrification, heralded the start of a brave new modern railway that was free of the constraints and nostalgia of the steam age. Bob Berry’s slides capture this moment very well, particularly in the scenes of Euston that was utterly transformed from a sprawling, if grandiose affair, into a sleek, modern terminal of the future. The station was clearly inadequate to cope with the growing passenger numbers and the layout of platforms and the station approaches were not suited to modern rail traffic. The station would again be extensively remodelled in the 2000-2001 period and will soon be going through another radical rebuild, this time to accommodate the High Speed 2 services.
The transformation of Euston was replicated, although to a lesser extent, along the WCML as the electrification masts arrived and successive stations were rebuilt or remodelled to meet the needs of a modern railway. The contrast between the old industrialised, rather bleak lineside of the 1940s and 1950s and the blander but cleaner railway that emerged in the 1960s onwards is marked. Gone are the steam sheds of Camden and Bletchley that we saw in their heyday and latter years, replaced by cleaner, smarter sheds for electrics such as Willesden and the new TMD at Bletchley.
branches/milton_keynesConcrete Viaduct Bletchley 04Mch62 not found Bob Berry’s slides of Bletchley and Milton Keynes are particularly interesting. They depict the alterations at Bletchley both for electrification and before that the construction of the concrete viaduct that still stands, carrying the Oxford to Bedford line across the West Coast Main Line. This will hopefully once again see regular trains in a few years when East West Rail opens and through services to Oxford commence. There were also fascinating views of Milton Keynes Central during its construction in the early 1980s.
The evening finished at Wolverton, with a brief look at the branch to Newport Pagnell, the Works and the steam hauled tramway that ran to Stony Stratford.
There is much in terms of the railway that has changed in the intervening years and it is interesting to see how the reconfiguration of Euston, the reopening of part of the Oxford to Cambridge line and other developments show that rather than being nostalgic for the past, we should be hopeful for the future. Our railways have always adapted and changed to demands of traffic and they will continue to do so. Bob Berry’s slides were an apt reminder of what has gone before and made for an interesting and enjoyable evening’s viewing.
Thursday 4th October 2018
'A History of DMUs'
Colin Boocock, former BR Mechanical Engineer
We welcomed back Colin Boocock on 4th October to give his presentation on “A History of DMUs”, which for many of his audience went back further in time than most would appreciate with in 1926, the LMS fitting a 4-car Bury Line EMU with a Beardmore engine at Horwich Works and trialling it on the Holcombe Branch. But further developments occurred in Ireland where the firm of Gardner Walker of Wigan developed a number of designs of DMUs which were principally operated on the many narrow gauge lines that existed at the time.branches/milton_keynesGWR Railcars 35 and 36 Weymouth 22Sep47 not found
This continued into the 1930s when the GWR developed their first single railcar No1 fitted with an AEC engine and built at their Park Royal Works. Swindon then followed by building their own versions some of which were parcels units. The LMS in the late 1930s then produced a 3-car set which had engines under each coach and was trialled on the Cambridge-Oxford line.
The Second World War then prevented any further developments until the early 1950s when early prototypes by Paxman and Bedford which were used experimentally on branches north of London, but it took the building of the lightweight units at Derby in the mid 50s to start the DMU revolution to really take hold.
We were then taken through all the various classes that were built, some of which only lasted a few years, whilst others are still around in preservation today.
Whilst all this was happening with BR, we were reminded how the Irish railways also quickly developed their units, so that today a fleet of modern units now finds use both sides of the Border.
The meeting concluded with a review of the second generation of BR DMUs starting with rail buses through to Voyagers and more recently the Class 230s the first of which has arrived locally.
The amount of detail shared by Colin is unfortunately too great to be shared here but anyone interested in this subject should invite him to speak to your local Branch
Thursday 6th September 2018
'Railway Roundabout Gloucester-Gloucester'
Brian Arman, Society President
On 6th September we welcomed for the first time the Society President Brian Arman who gave a presentation entitled “Railway Roundabout Gloucester – Gloucester”
After reviewing what had been the previous railway layout here which included the MR Eastgate Station, we went via that route to Bristol Temple Meads and were reminded of the original GW part of the Station which was abandoned when the PSB was built over the track bed of the approach lines. Ironically with the forthcoming closure of said PSB this part of Temple Meads is to be reopened to help cater for all the now extra services serving the Station.
After looking round Bristol our tour took us via Bath Green Spa and along the S&D branches/milton_keynes75071 S and D 10Aug65 not found route to Bournemouth West with reminders of both motive power and its attractive locations. Next it was along to Waterloo with some pre-war Duplex colour slides showing some of the various liveries of the time applied to all sorts of motive power.
After arriving in the Capital it was a tour round the many terminal stations together with some shed visits before going north on the WCML with reminders of the Ramsbottom locos previously used to shunt Wolverton Works, before turning off at Rugby to proceed to Birmingham New St. which was shown before the 60s rebuild and would appear to have been as dingy as its so called modernised platforms!
Turning south west we headed back to Gloucester down the Lickey bank where Big Bertha 58100 used to assist north bound trains, stopping at some of the intermediate stations that used to exist together with their branch lines.
A very interesting tour which Brian wished he could have experienced as many of the lines disappeared in the Beeching era.
Last updated: 25th June 2019