Milton Keynes

Meeting Reports

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.

   Class 345 units stabled at Old Oak Common which is the new depot for the Elizabeth Line intended to be opened later this year.   Ron Bailes

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

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'
Bob Ballard

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.

   Construction of the concrete viaduct to carry the line from Oxford and Bicester over the West Coast main line South of Bletchley Station   Bob Berry
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.

   GWR Railcars 35 and 36 at Weymouth in 1947. They were relegated to the Bristol - Wemouth service until the 1950s  
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

   BR Standard Class 4-6-0 on the Somerset and Dorset in mid 1960s   Ben Brooksbank
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.

Thursday 5th July 2018
'A Career With BR'
David Maidment former top Operating Officer

   David Maidment unveiling 'The Railway Children' charity nameplate attached to 43082 at Leeds on 5th August 2010   Network Rail
The 5th July was a very warm evening, but we were kept well entertained by David Maidment’s story of his three-decade career with BR from Aberbeeg in Wales to the Chief Operating Manager of the London Midland Region. David is of course now well known for his work with The Railway Children, the charity he founded having been touched by the desperate plight of street children in India.
David joined British Rail Western Region as a clerk in the Divisional Passenger Train Office at Paddington, before becoming a ‘Traffic Apprentice’ (Management Trainee) in 1961. This was the culmination of a childhood fascination with railways and what would become a fulfilling life-long hobby and career. His earliest railway experiences were as a 2-year old when his mother would be persuaded to take him in his pushchair from their home in East Molesey to Esher Common where trains on the South West Main Line could be observed. His first footplate experience was as an eight-year-old on the Guildford shed pilot. David’s early trainspotting days were spent at Surbiton and during the school holidays visiting each of the London termini. In later school years whilst at Charterhouse in Godalming, David was able to reinvigorate a moribund railway club, gaining 300 members in one year.
A period working at Old Oak Common as an Engine History Clerk, logging each locos daily mileage, afforded much opportunity for cab riding as David found that a day’s work could be done in two hours! His travels took him to far flung parts of the Western and sometimes entrusted with the shovel.
A toss of a coin would shape David’s future railway career. This came about when David along with a fellow trainee, Stan Judd, was interviewed for two stationmaster posts – one at Ebbw Vale and Aberbeeg. Judd called the toss correctly and chose Ebbw Vale, because he’d heard of it and such an inauspicious decision led to David taking up the operating job at Aberbeeg which led to other opportunities eventually culminating in becoming the Chief Operating Manager of the London Midland Region and later involvement towards the end of his career in rail safety. The role at Aberbeeg included responsibility for about 70 staff, mainly guards, shunters and signalmen and latterly drivers and fitters at the engine shed.
From the Welsh Valleys, David’s next step was as Area Manager at Bridgend before leading the train planning office at Cardiff. After serving in a management role to the British Railways Board, in autumn 1982 David started working in Crewe as the London Midland Region (LMR) Chief Operating Manager. This was a huge change with a budget of £35 million and a staff of 25,000. During his time on the LMR, he witnessed the testing and ill-fated introduction of the Advanced Passenger Train and despite its ultimate failure, David was proud to point out that it had achieved a record 3 hours 52 minutes run from London to Glasgow, which is yet to be bettered. In his role with the London Midland Region, David was the nominated Officer in charge of the Royal Train when it operated on the region.
The latter stages of David’s career saw him in the role of Head of Safety Policy for both British Rail and then Railtrack. This involved dealing the tragic accident at Clapham Junction in 1988 and preparing for the judicial inquiry that followed. The way that safety was managed within BR was transformed and David became a much in demand speaker internationally on safety management.

This was a fascinating evening reflecting on a wide-ranging and diverse career that had encompassed many various aspects of the operational railway. A highly recommended and engaging speaker.

Thursday 7th June 2018
'The Heritage of HS2'
Chris Jordan, Archaeology & Heritage Advisor to Technical Directorate, HS2 Ltd.

For our June meeting we were joined by Chris Jordan, Archaeology and Heritage Advisor for HS2 Ltd. When one thinks of HS2 the subjects of archaeology and heritage are not at the forefront but, as our speaker informed us, there has always been an intimate relationship between archaeology and the railway. The railway goes where nothing else does, cutting through inhospitable or otherwise undeveloped terrain and in the process unearthing, literally, many artefacts from the past. Chris divided his talk into three sections: Outline of HS2, Development of the railway and Route from South to North.

   Proposed HS2 station location, Curzon Street, Eastside, Birmingham   HS2 Ltd
HS2 Ltd, the company charged with building the high-speed line from London to Birmingham and beyond, was formed in 2009 as a wholly owned subsidiary of the Department for Transport (DfT). The first phase of the new line will run from London to the West Midlands, serving a terminus at Curzon Street in Birmingham and linking back to what is described as the ‘classic’ network near Lichfield. This represents Phase One of the project and is expected to be delivered by 2026. Phase 2A will link Birmingham to Crewe, with Phase 2B linking Manchester and to the East Midlands and Leeds. It is expected that Phase 2A will be complete in 2026/2027, whilst Phase 2B has just started the consultation phase. By 2033 there will be a standard service of 6 trains per hour linking eight of the ten major cities in the UK. It is Europe’s largest infrastructure project and surprisingly the largest archaeological project in British history.
Chris outlined some of the wider benefits that HS2 will deliver including economic benefits, an investment in apprenticeships and jobs, as well as a National College for High Speed Rail. The total budget for this mammoth project is £55.7bns.
Having introduced us to the ambitions of HS2, Chris then took us back to the early development of the Euston area of north London before there was a Euston as we know it today. The most recognisable feature of the pre-1960s Euston was the Doric Propylaeum (or Arch) which stood proudly facing the Euston Road. This was not well received at the time of its construction and its loss in the rebuild has been much regretted since. Sadly, there is no plans to restore this fine feature as part of the HS2 rebuild of Euston.
Chris showed us some striking images of a 1930s proposal to rebuild Euston, in an American inspired style, designed by the architect Percy Thomas. The plans, which were drawn up in 1938 sadly came to nothing as the proposals were abandoned due to World War II. HS2 will radically alter the current station with 6 new underground platforms provided initially on the west side with 5 further platforms for high speed services in use in 2023. Network Rail and the DfT will jointly be responsible for redeveloping the WCML-served part of the station.
The works at Euston also require a substantial parcel of land to be taken on the west side and this includes the former National Temperance Hospital. Remarkably during the demolition works, after the building had been extensively recorded, a time capsule from 1879 was recovered. Adjoining the hospital are St. James’ Gardens which is on the site of a burial ground for the St. Pancras parish. The site was closed to burials in 1862 although it is expected that many hundreds of remains will be found. Chris described in some detail the considerable care, respect and dignity that is afforded to the recovery of human remains and the plans currently being considered for reinternment at a different location. Amongst the notable burials here is that of Captain Matthew Flinders who led the first circumnavigation of Australia.
Heading out of London, Chris described some of the significant sites that HS2 will cross, including a Roman settlement at Fleet Marston near Akeman Street and the graveyard of St. Mary’s, Stoke Mandeville – one of several sites that will need special sensitivity. Not all the heritage is buried under ground or dates to Roman times. The works will also see the demolition of six Grade II listed buildings. Happily, the Grade II listed Curzon Street will be retained and incorporated into the new station in Birmingham. There is provision in the act of Parliament for construction work to be halted if finds of national significance are discovered. It was reassuring to hear that whilst building this state of the art, modern high-speed railway, so much care and concern is being shown to documenting and where possible preserving the past.
This was a fascinating evening with an engaging and enthusing speaker and remarkably for an RCTS meeting, not a single train featured!

We thank Chris for his talk and taking us on an enjoyable journey into the past and the future with HS2.

Thursday 3rd May 2018
Steam Sweat and Tears
Mike Corbett (former NRM Project Manager for the final restoration of Flying Scotsman)

On 3rd May Mike Corbett gave a presentation entitled "Flying Scotsman Steam Sweat & Tears". He was the NRM Project Manager for the restoration of 4472 between 2012 and 2016 when the loco was returned to main line running.
After Flying Scotsman had spent quite some time in bits at the NRM, the Science Museum Trustees took the decision to employ First Class Partnerships, a group of railway engineers with a wide range of locomotive experience, to project manage the complete restoration of this iconic loco which had several previous owners and as Mike stated had been "run into the ground".
We were then shown in great detail what it took to plan this difficult restoration which initially involved the loco`s frame being sent to Riley & Son E Ltd at Bury where the principal work was to fit a complete front end to the frame and renew the three cylinders. Eventually the boiler was brought over from York but there was still a lot of work to complete to put the loco into working order so it could be certified for main line running.

   Rebuilt 60103 Flying Scotsman at Goathland on The Yorkshire Moors Railway on 12th March 2016   Robin Patrick
The amount of detail of the work and certification involved for the myriad of parts being renewed, plus agreement with the NRM for the large amounts of money having to be spent, let alone the fitting of additional safety equipment such as TPWS meant that the loco was not released until 2016.
The detail of what was involved certainly was understood by Mike`s audience who showed their appreciation as he was a last minute booking as the original speaker was unable to be with us.

Thursday 5th April 2018
'The Great Railway Time Machine Visits the WCML'
Society member Steve Armitage

After the cancellation of our first meeting of the season in March due to snow, it was Steve Armitage who opened our 2018 season with a talk featuring scenes between Euston and Crewe from the early 1900s to the end of steam. This was largely a steam fuelled journey although there was pleasantly the occasional diesel to be seen on the way but sadly it didn’t bring the story into the modern era when arguably the variety and colour of the WCML was as interesting as the steam days.
Many of the photographs shown during the evening had either not been seen publicly before or not for many years. Most of the images are from the collection of the late Les Hanson.

   LMS Coronation Class 6226 'Duchess of Norfok' at Ashton, Northamptonshire on 2nd July 1938   Les Hanson

The opening was appropriately grand with the Euston Doric arch and Great Hall demonstrating what a fine station this terminus once was, if not perhaps suited to the needs of a modern, expanding railway. That none of it could be saved is a great shame. Having seen the frontage and grandness that welcomed intending passengers, there followed a series of images of the many grandly named locomotives and trains that once graced Euston’s platforms, albeit in steam days. An interesting and possibly unique view was seen of an LMS diesel railcar in the station in 1939. It was stored during the Second World War and subsequently scrapped, and this was possibly its only or certainly a very rare visit to London.
The journey north proceeded up Camden Bank with impressive views of steam working heavy trains on the steep incline out of Euston. Before long we were racing through the water troughs at Bushey and out beyond Watford Junction and into the Buckinghamshire countryside. There was of course, no town of Milton Keynes until the late 1960s; Bletchley being the mainline station that served the area which was well represented in a series of views.
A favourite location of Les Hanson, who was a lorry driver by profession, was in Northamptonshire and there followed a long sequence of images at the same location and at Northampton.
The second-half recommenced at the long-lost station of Northampton St. John’s which closed in 1939, before moving on to the still open but much changed Northampton Castle station. Further north at Gayton, one of the more interesting images of the evening with 6221 Queen Elizabeth hauling the inaugural Down Coronation Scot on 5th July 1937.
Rapidly heading north, we saw images of Weedon a few months before closure, racing on through Rugby and Stafford to our destination for the evening at Crewe. A brand new DP2 ‘Deltic Prototype’ was one of the highlights of the evening and a relief from the many views of steam locomotives.

An interesting evening for those who remember the years when steam ran on the West Coast Main Line but rather too much of the same to hold the attention of a younger viewer. Competently presented and of interest to those who want to relive the nostalgia of their youth 60 or more years ago.

Monday 26th March 2018
'Recent Photography In The Digital Age'
Robin Patrick from York

The first of the two Branches 2018 joint meetings was held on 26th March when former Northampton Society member Robin Patrick from York gave a presentation of his digital images taken in 2017 which ranged from his home area to activities on the NYMR where he is a P.Way volunteer, to overseas visits to South Africa and Sweden.

   Roade Signal Box photographed by Robin Patrick on 12th September 1964   Robin Patrick
Like a lot of enthusiasts Robin relies a lot on RTT to keep track of the subjects he wants to photograph ranging from freights to test trains, not forgetting all the steam hauled trains that head for York plus other destinations.
We were shown a wide range of freight services from remaining coal to biomass with steel, oil and modal examples, mostly hauled by Class 66s, but with odd appearances by 68s on diversion from the WCML. Other diesel classes appeared with RHTT still using Class 20s but with 37s and an occasional Class 68 being used.
Special trains also brought in surprises such as Class 33s along with the usual Class 47s, but steam specials showed up with a surprising variety of motive power from Tornado and Flying Scotsman to Duchesses and Jubilees, one of which looked very strange in black livery, to Black 5s and Southern being represented by a Merchant Navy and a King Arthur.
We were also reminded of changes with the last views of Grand Central HSTs, now a distant memory having since been replaced by Class 180s and sights VTEC Class 91 hauled trains, plus HSTs soon to be replaced by Class 800 sets.

All in all a very good comprehensive show of a year before a lot of changes occur.

last updated: 17/03/19