South Essex

Meeting Reports

Monday 19th February 2018
Geoff Brockett

A capacity audience at our February meeting enjoyed local member Geoff Brockett's presentation 'Roaming around London', the slides covering the period 2012 to 2017 and all taken within the Greater London area. Quickly apparent was the huge variety of trains and motive power to be seen in the area, with many changes to liveries and traffic flows, especially freight, occurring during this period.
Geoff has the happy knack of combining a 'nose' for good photographic vantage points with a natural eye for a good shot and seemingly having the ability to make the sun come out. The 240 slides ranged over the whole area and covered mostly loco hauled workings, unusual happenings and livery changes.
Starting with London Underground we saw engineering trains, Steam on the MET and the takeover of the Met and District lines by the S7 and S8 stock, followed by brief visits to the DLR and the Croydon trams.
Ranging then through various EMUs, HSTs, 180s, the Pretendolino set on both the West Coast and the GE, 67s on Chiltern, 91s on the East Coast and finally to the varied power used on the Caledonian and GW sleeper services.
There was an interesting section on movement of GAs Mk 3 vehicles from Norwich to Ilford, Bounds Green and Wolverton, whilst 3 Deltics en route to the Bluebell was a highlight. Numerous freight movements were captured as well as test trains and RHTTs.
The last Open Day at Old Oak Common was very well organised and this excellent show was concluded with a selection of Railtours and charters.

Monday 15th January 2018
David Brice

At our January meeting much travelled local member David Brice took us to far flung parts with 'A journey to Tibet', travelling by the rail route from Chengdu in China to Lhasa which had been opened in 2005. Europeans are not permitted to travel in this area so there were considerable difficulties in overcoming this problem, achieved with the help of a travel firm in Tibet, with David and his party setting out in September 2015 by flying to Chengdu.
The whole line posed considerable engineering difficulties as a large part of it is around 16,000 feet above sea level with Lhasa itself being at 12,000 feet. Despite Swiss advice not to proceed, Chinese engineering expertise knows no bounds and it was duly finished with trains now completing the journey in 41 hours through some very barren and impressive mountain scenery. Because of the altitude, locos and rolling stock have had to be specially designed, indeed, piped oxygen is available in the compartments at all points above 12,000 feet. Despite this, altitude sickness is common as most passengers are Chinese tourists who live in much lower climes.
Five very long trains run in each direction each day, but because of the lengthy single line sections, this takes up most of the available capacity, so further improvements are likely. The station in Lhasa is a very modern 7 platform affair, built as a through station with a view to the line being extended west and eventually into India. The line does in fact continue for 287 Km to Shigatse served by one train a day at present.
Local scenes in Tibet gave a fascinating insight into the Buddhist culture, surely a way of life now unique in the world. There was time to spare, so we were treated to scenes in Vietnam and Cambodia, including shots of the metre gauge railways in those countries.

Thanks are due to David once again for allowing us to hear of his very extensive travels.

Monday 18th December 2017

The formalities of the South Essex Branch AGM on December 18th were quickly dealt with, Jim Waite our long-standing Chairman was replaced by Vice-Chairman, Rodger Green and Secretary, Patrick Dewsnap by his Assistant, David Couzens-Howard.

The members presentations were the main attraction and once again our contributors did us proud.
David Johnson gave us a “1965 Miscellany” covering Scotland, the Isle of Man and ending with the last day on the Horsham-Guildford line.
Mike Hardy presented a collection of slides from his recently deceased friend Roy Brough. The M7s were an obvious favourite and we saw them in their twilight years on a variety of branch lines, many of which, like the engines, have long gone! To finish, Mike showed us a selection of his own steam shots on preserved lines in 2017.
Geoff Brockett provided his usual range of recent travels including Settle-Carlisle, Edale, WCML Ashford and HS1.

After an interval of festive food, we progressed to digital presentations from two old favourites Andy Grimmett and Iain Scotchman.
Andy celebrated 60 years of the Class 31s with a series of shots of the class through the years.
Iain covered 2017 with local events relating to Crossrail and delighted us with scenes from his participation on railtours to Jordan, Finland and Poland/Ukraine.

A most enjoyable evening highlighting the talent within the Branch.

Monday 20th November 2017
Ian Scotchman

For our November meeting we were transported to some lesser known parts of the world by local member Iain Scotchman with 'A South American interlude'.
Ecuador featured first where Iain had joined a 2016 PTG tour which covered most of the recently reopened lines. By the 1990s the railways had ceased to operate, but a few years ago the Government injected considerable sums and now the 447 km of 3ft 6 ins gauge track from Guayaquil to Quito, plus a section further north, have been refurbished and reopened. The 'Tren Crucero' is the tourist train on the main section, being part steam and part diesel hauled. Like many Andean lines it starts with a flat section followed by a very steep climb (maximum grade of 1 in 18) on to the plateau at around 3300 m asl. The amazing engineering allowing the line to climb round the famous Devil's Nose was explained and illustrated.
In March 2017 Peru was visited, travelling both ways on the 380 km of high Andean standard gauge track from Cuzco to Puno, reaching a maximum altitude of 14,173 ft asl., with large American built Co-Co diesels hauling the trains for the 10 hour journeys. He had also sampled the 3 ft gauge line which serves the tourist trap of Machu Picchu where literally everything has to be brought in by rail. At Puno the remains of the ferry terminal on Lake Titicaca were explored with two of the old British built ferries still extant.
A feature of both countries was the passage of the town centre streets by the trains, health and safety UK style definitely not on the agenda !

A highly entertaining and informative talk.

Monday 16th October 2017
Chris Green

InterCity has been one of the great success stories of Britain's railways and this was brought vividly to life by Chris Green at our October meeting.
InterCity has its roots in a WR named train, but Dr Beeching caused this name to be withdrawn as he wished to use it as a brand for future high speed services. Despite its disadvantages the Blue Pullman was the precursor of the very successful HST, but Government policies dictated varying solutions for the provision of high speed services around the country. The West Coast was electrified in stages with huge commercial benefits whilst the East Coast relied firstly on Deltics and then the HST for its fastest services, having to wait until 1990 for electrification.
The contrasting philosophies and engineering of the APT and the HST were explored, with the former being finally dropped in 1982, an action seen as delaying the use of tilting trains in the UK until the arrival of the Italian inspired Pendolinos. Sectorisation and the setting up of InterCity was very successful and indeed it received no subsidy from 1984 until its demise in 1994. Five individual 'companies' within the sector and powerful marketing worked wonders and provided a halcyon time for IC. Although BR would have liked IC to have remained as one company under privatisation government decreed otherwise and it was split into seven franchises. Chris ably describing the effects of this on former IC routes and the varying fortunes of the TOCs involved.
The disastrous Railtrack period, culminating in the Hatfield derailment with consequent loss of reliability and customer satisfaction, was a low point but the last 10 years had seen huge growth with an exceptional safety record.

A brief look at future developments was followed by a lively Q and A session to conclude this inspiring presentation by a very professional speaker.

Monday 18th September 2017
Adrian Wright

A presentation on “Railways to the Seaside” by Adrian Wright heralded the start of the winter programme for the South East Essex Branch on September 18th.
Adrian opened with an outline of how the development of the seaside resort blossomed on the arrival of the railways. He drew on a wide range of national examples, but the three originals Brighton, Scarborough and Weymouth predominated.
An in depth study of the arrival of the railway in Clacton followed. The origins came from the Colchester, Stour Valley, Sudbury and Halstead Railway built for the transportation of farm produce to the port of Hythe in 1847.The Tendring Hundred Railway extended this line to Walton(1867) and to Clacton(1882) with the GER operating the trains before taking over completely in 1883.
Adrian then took us on a journey along the line from Clacton to Colchester covering the motive power during the ages and items of interest en route. The original Tendring Hundred Railway station buildings still extant at Alresford, Weeley and Great Bentley plus the GER stables at Wivenhoe.
Slightly off course, but of great interest, were some shots of the short lived Jaywick Minature Railway, an 18 inch gauge opened in 1936, but closed on the outbreak of war in 1939. Motive power was .a beautiful model of a Stirling Single, built by students at Regent Street Polytechnic and happily still in existence at the Sandy Bay Museum in Exmouth.
A similar exhaustive coverage of the line from Norwich to Cromer brought a thoroughly enjoyable and informative evening to a close.

Monday 17th July 2017
Mangapps Farm Railway Museum

On 19th July 30 members and friends attended our annual evening visit to Mangapps Railway Museum near Burnham on Crouch.
June and John Jolly provided the usual warm welcome and we had trips behind 03081 on the main line while D2325 with the ex Canadian caboose performed on the branch.
With the vast collection of railway items to view it all made for a very pleasant Summer evening's outing.

Monday 19th June 2017
Scottish Steam
David Kelso

David Kelso entertained us at our June meeting with his presentation 'Scottish Steam 1948 to 1960'.
On this sweltering evening the attendance was slightly reduced but David did well to keep everyone's attention with a superb collection of very well captioned Scottish images. He had railway connections as his grandfather was a GSW/LMS driver at Ardrossan and very appropriately we started with a GSW 4-4-0.
Surprisingly, David is not a Scot but was evacuated to Edinburgh because of the blitz, hence there was extensive coverage of that area with the many branches around the City being well recorded, mostly with vintage NB power. The classic spotless Haymarket Pacifics were seen in all their glory on various East Coast duties, whilst the LMS in Edinburgh was not forgotten with many shots at Dalry Road and Princes Street.
Brief glimpses of the GNOS section, including a green B12 and a D40, were followed by the inevitable G5 at Kelso! There were some memorable shots in the Dalmeny area, and a rare image of a CR 0-4-4T at Ladybank on a train to Kinross.
The Glasgow area followed, a shot of the last CR 60 in use at Hamilton being noteworthy. Sequences north and south of Beattock Summit, the two routes to Stranraer and to conclude, steam shots on the Highland main line from Perth to Inverness.

All in all a wonderful show with the many humorous comments adding to the enjoyment.

Monday 15th May 2017
Strictly Freight Only Part 2
Brian Ringer

A large audience attended our May meeting to hear Brian Ringer give his presentation 'Strictly Freight Part II ', which with Part I reviews UK rail freight over the past 60 years. Brian's superbly detailed knowledge of the subject came to the fore as we were taken through the many changes which have taken place in the freight scene since the 70's.
A potted history of train ferries, their unusual operating features and their traffics interestingly revealed that the GER planned the first such service, from Harwich to Zeebrugge, although it was actually introduced by the LNER. The ultimate was reached in the 'Nord Pas de Calais' vessel which was capable of 4 round trips each day to Dunkerque. Sadly the early promise for freight traffic through the Channel Tunnel had failed to materialise.
Some surprising information came to light when reviewing the many BR freight sectors and, since privatisation, the freight companies, particularly regarding profitability, or not in some cases.
Ed Burkhardt's takeover (as EWS) of 90% of the freight operations was a major change but since then GBRF and Freightliner have emerged as the major players.
All this was illustrated by varied and imaginative views all over the UK and we were brought up to date with shots of a brand new Colas 70 and a DRS 68. A very interesting and wonderfully presented talk.

Monday 20th March 2017
Addlestone to Beijing
Irene Rabbits & Andy Davies

Our March presentation was unusual in that it recorded a very long rail journey of no less than 6744 miles from Addlestone to Beijing, which presenters Irene Rabbitts and Andy Davies had completed in 2010. Irene ably commented on the photos, mostly taken by Andy, and it was fascinating to hear a lot of facts and figures but also their impressions of the countries through which they travelled.
Starting with a SWT EMU, it was then on to St Pancras for the Eurostar to Brussels, where there was a break to view the local rail scene, before continuing by THALYS to Koln.
An overnight journey to Warsaw followed with some very colourful liveries being noted on the Polish stock. Continuing on another overnight and viewing the slick bogie changing operation at the Belarus border it was then eventually into Russia and the long haul to Moscow where they had a two night stay.
The main impression in Russia was that everything was big, from the railway loading gauge permitting very high and wide locos and stock, to massive stations and buildings. We saw a lot of the famous Metro stations, all without advertising of any kind and several other impressive sights including a preserved 32 wheel rail gun.
Then it was a lengthy 4 night trip to Irkutsh on Lake Baikal via Omsk and Novosibirsk. Station stops were often long, allowing limited exploration, whilst photography was not a problem. A hydrofoil trip on the lake emphasised just how vast it is, whilst the B & B type accommodation here was interesting.
Onwards via Ulan Ede to the capital of Mongolia, Ulan Bator, where surprisingly English was spoken. It was noticeable that the diesel locos here were not so well maintained with a lot of thick black exhausts. The Mongolian restaurant car from Ulan Bator was very ornate with lots of wood panelling this part of the journey being across the Gobi desert.
Paddy fields and new high speed line construction were seen in China before arrival in Beijing and the flight home.
An epic and inspiring journey.

last updated: 20/02/18