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Meeting Reports

Monday 20th November 2017
Pure Genius - Irish railways (Part 3)
Chris Youett

At our November meeting our speaker Chris Youett presented the third part of his trilogy on Irish railways entitled Pure Genius.  (Obviously named in homage to a well-known product of the Emerald Isle!) In this final part of his presentation, Chris dealt with the Irish Midlands and the North West before ending up in the city of Derry/Londonderry.  With his mainly steam photographs, taken mainly in the 1950's and 1960's, he evoked a rich view of a long-forgotten era. This area included the long-gone iconic narrow gauge systems and Chris gave them the honour and coverage thy richly deserved.  These systems were notoriously short of cash, and Chris showed the genius in the title of his talk that the systems employed in adapting other vehicles to rail use; including converting a bus to rail use by deflating the road tyres, fitting new rail tyres and re-inflating the original tyres to fit,  Chris was thanked for this final part of his trilogy which  was up to the excellent standard set by his other two parts,

Monday 18th September 2017
TheRailways of Western Canada
Neil Kearns

The first meeting of the indoor season had as its speaker Neil Kearns, who took as his subject Western Canada.  Starting in Calgary, Neil went from there to Vancouver.  The first part of his talk covered a trip he made between these two points on 1981.  The audience were treated to the classic sight,, familiar to travellers further South, of big multi-haulaged freight through the big country and scenery of the Rocky Mountains to Vancouver.  He then showed us a view of the railway scene in Vancouver at that time.  In the second half of his talk, he concentrated on Vancouver as he saw it in 2016, showing the many changes that have occurred in the interim period.  Of course, with its proximity to the border with the USA, trains from there made regular appearances in the shape of freights coming in on the BNSF network and Amtrak trains on the Vancouver-Portland corridor.  The interesting thing about these Amtrak trains is that they are subsidised by the states of Washington and Oregon, resulting in the trains that are not in the standard Amtrak red, white. blue and silver livery.  Ono useful tip learned is that. when linesiding freight trains, a marine band radio scanner is as vital a bit of equipment as a camera.  He also explained the reason for the locomotives cut into the middle of the freight trains.  This is because , when using air brakes, there is an appreciable delay in the braking reaching the back of the train.  With a locomotive in the middle and one or more at the back, all radio-controlled from the front cab, the brakes can be applied more efficiently.  This is because, with the exception of passenger trains and a few freights, all trains are run on a"As Requires" basis, with all trains being radio controlled by despatchers.  Neil is to be thanked for his insight into a country whose railways seem to be ignored compared to its Southern neighbour.

Tuesday 15th August 2017
Observation at Didcot Parkway

The August observation evening was the traditional one at Didcot station predominantly for the freight activity. This year, the freight traffic seemed less than usual, with some if the regular workings not appearing. However, there were some new workings seen in the shape of two Freightliners. one from Bristol and one from Wentloog, and a stone traim from Acton to Westbury. The HST scene was itself of interest with 6 special livery power cars seen in addition to the two Standard Great Western ones.

Tuesday 18th July 2017
Observation at Banbury

The branch wishes to apologise to Phil Deaves for not mentioning the cash donation the branch made to the Swindon Food Bank.  The branch apologises to Phil for this oversight. The July visit was the traditional visit to Banbury Station to observe, among other things, the Chiltern Train Class 68-hauled commuter trains.  Only three were actually seen in traffic, a fourth being stabled in the sidings south of the station.  (Obviously, not all of these trains can be seen, as one set goes via the new Gavrais Junction at Bicester to Oxford/).  As always, a fair selection of freights were seen of various sorts, including a Colas Rail Class 70-hauled engineers' train heading north and a train of vans heading south hauled by a pair of EWS Class 66's.  The outstanding observation was a pair of Direct Rail Class 67's top-and-tailing the Belmond British Pullman set having come empty from Stewarts Lane ready to work the train back to London;s Victoria Station later in the evening, this time containing its full complement of passengers.  As part of the evening's meeting, a visit was made, thanks to the kind permission of the branch's friends at Chiltern Rail, to that company's train control office at Banbury.  A fuller report of that visit will be given in a later report. A group of six branch members met on the footbridge at Banbury station and were met by Guy Horstmann, Manager of the Chiltern Control centre, located in an unassuming building near the railway in Banbury.   The building also contains Chiltern’s customer service team and their timetable planners, both long term (at this time typically working on finalising the December timetable) and short term, i.e. for engineering works affecting Chiltern routes and other known changes such as sporting fixtures at Wembley and alterations caused by engineering work elsewhere.  Examples of the latter include the forthcoming Banbury to Didcot closure later this month and the Euston closure in late August.  Both these closures require changes to at least train formations on the Oxford and Birmingham routes with posters already up at Moor Street advising that some Birmingham trains will be slightly short formed that week.  Also in that part of the building are four of the five members of the performance team (the other works in London) who analyse performance issues after the event (from day two onwards) with a view to avoiding repeats and otherwise helping to improve future performance. The Control room is manned by three people around the clock and by several staff during the day.  Staff typically work 10 hours overnight, six on the evening shift and eight on the late turn, so that those commuting by train can always do so.    We were introduced to Dion, the Duty Control manager that afternoon and evening (although he later left to be replaced by his father - Chiltern has five duty controllers altogether).  There are several other roles in the team, some of which are covered by others overnight: the unit controller, who ensues that units are where they are needed (e.g. for out of course repairs or maintenance) and arranges set swaps and alters workings if necessary, the train crew desk (part time) – these positions are partly supported by train crew staff at Marylebone and Aylesbury, two information desks, providing information to both staff and customers, via the Chiltern website, messages on other websites, and messages on Customer Information systems.  There is also a desk where long line announcements be made directly to stations.  Chiltern use the standard Tyrell system, with standard templates that forward items to multiple other systems. The duty fleet manager (who reports to the engineering team, not within the Control structure) deals with planned maintenance and also helps drivers with fault finding if they come to an unexpected stop en route, and. A trust delay analyst, who analyses where possible delays caused to Chiltern trains, in conjunction with similar analysts at other TOCs, FOCs and Network Rail. All our hosts were happy to answer our questions and at the end we expressed our thanks to Guy and his team. A charity collection raised £30 and this has been donated to the Chiltern Railways sponsored charity Bowl Cancer UK.….

The branch wishes to apologise to Phil Deaves for not mentioning the cash donation the branch made to the Swindon Food Bank.  The branch apologises to Phil for this oversight. The July visit was the traditional visit to Banbury Station to observe, among other things, the Chiltern Train Class 68-hauled commuter trains.  Only three were actually seen in traffic, a fourth being stabled in the sidings south of the station.  (Obviously, not all of these trains can be seen, as one set goes via the new Gavrais Junction at Bicester to Oxford/).  As always, a fair selection of freights were seen of various sorts, including a Colas Rail Class 70-hauled engineers' train heading north and a train of vans heading south hauled by a pair of EWS Class 66's.  The outstanding observation was a pair of Direct Rail Class 67's top-and-tailing the Belmond British Pullman set having come empty from Stewarts Lane ready to work the train back to London;s Victoria Station later in the evening, this time containing its full complement of passengers.  As part of the evening's meeting, a visit was made, thanks to the kind permission of the branch's friends at Chiltern Rail, to that company's train control office at Banbury.  A fuller report of that visit will be given in a later report.

A group of six branch members met on the footbridge at Banbury station and were met by Guy Horstmann, Manager of the Chiltern Control centre, located in an unassuming building near the railway in Banbury.   The building also contains Chiltern’s customer service team and their timetable planners, both long term (at this time typically working on finalising the December timetable) and short term, i.e. for engineering works affecting Chiltern routes and other known changes such as sporting fixtures at Wembley and alterations caused by engineering work elsewhere.  Examples of the latter include the forthcoming Banbury to Didcot closure later this month and the Euston closure in late August.  Both these closures require changes to at least train formations on the Oxford and Birmingham routes with posters already up at Moor Street advising that some Birmingham trains will be slightly short formed that week.  Also in that part of the building are four of the five members of the performance team (the other works in London) who analyse performance issues after the event (from day two onwards) with a view to avoiding repeats and otherwise helping to improve future performance. The Control room is manned by three people around the clock and by several staff during the day.  Staff typically work 10 hours overnight, six on the evening shift and eight on the late turn, so that those commuting by train can always do so.    We were introduced to Dion, the Duty Control manager that afternoon and evening (although he later left to be replaced by his father - Chiltern has five duty controllers altogether).  There are several other roles in the team, some of which are covered by others overnight: the unit controller, who ensues that units are where they are needed (e.g. for out of course repairs or maintenance) and arranges set swaps and alters workings if necessary, the train crew desk (part time) – these positions are partly supported by train crew staff at Marylebone and Aylesbury, two information desks, providing information to both staff and customers, via the Chiltern website, messages on other websites, and messages on Customer Information systems.  There is also a desk where long line announcements be made directly to stations.  Chiltern use the standard Tyrell system, with standard templates that forward items to multiple other systems. The duty fleet manager (who reports to the engineering team, not within the Control structure) deals with planned maintenance and also helps drivers with fault finding if they come to an unexpected stop en route, and. A trust delay analyst, who analyses where possible delays caused to Chiltern trains, in conjunction with similar analysts at other TOCs, FOCs and Network Rail.

All our hosts were happy to answer our questions and at the end we expressed our thanks to Guy and his team. A charity collection raised £30 and this has been donated to the Chiltern Railways sponsored charity Bowl Cancer UK.….

Saturday 3rd June 2017
A Day with the Great Western Society

The branch held its traditional visit to Reading Station to observe the Royal Ascot Ladies' Day special train. It was interesting to see the racegoers leaving the Ascot trains in their posh frocks and hats, and that was only the men! There was an enhanced service to and from Ascot for the racing , The Ascot special produced top and tailed Class57's on the Northern Belle set on its return trip to Manchester. In addition, in a first for the observation evening a pair of 5-car Class 800 sets were seen, having arrived on a run from Penzance to Paddington. As usual, the freight scene was small, with only three seen.

Wednesday 12th April 2017
Reading Driver Training Simulator

Visit to GWR – Operations Training and Development Centre Wednesday 12th April 2017

On the afternoon of Wednesday 12th April 2017 a party of 10 members assembled on Reading West station where we were met by John Beeney, GWR Simulator Manager, who escorted the party to the Centre. The route that took us under the recently reconstructed Cow Lane Bridge, so often a location mentioned on local radio travel news (the single lane, but two directional traffic light controlled road under the main line still awaits rebuilding).

The actual building is within the Reading Triangle and is one of a few buildings left on the site after the building of the Reading fly over and the new train maintenance depot. The GWR Operations Training and Development Centre contains three types of simulators: for Thames Turbo units, IEPs and for class 387 emus. Most of our visit was spent on the Thames Turbo simulator, driving over a fictious route so that any driver coming in for re-assessment would not be familiar with it. The driver sits in front of a screen with all the controls in front of him which includes door opening/closing, horn, communications, and of course engine ignition, power controller and brake. Various scenarios can be played out by the trainer who sits in a separate room adjacent to the simulator. These could include anything from fog, rain, snow, day or night time, inclines (both up and down), low adhesion and other incidents like fires on adjacent trains.

For the final 30 minutes John showed us the recently installed IEP simulator and the class 387 simulator in its new building which were both full mock ups of the actual cabs. The former replaced an HST simulator which we used on our last visit. The difference being you actually went in a door and felt enclosed in whereas in the Thames Turbo you could have people standing behind you, although the controls were real. One of the party mentioned that the IEP cab looked more like a spaceship. Unfortunately we were only allowed to look and not use. Perhaps it was just as well given the competency shown by the party in driving the Thames Turbo.

Reading is one of three similar GWR centres the other two being at Bristol and Plymouth. Bristol currently has class 150 and HST class 43 simulators and Plymouth class 150 and IEP simulators.

It takes a driver over 200 hours of assessments which includes work on the simulators and actual live working with an instructor before being a fully-fledged driver on GWR.

Our thanks to John Beeney and GWR for a very informative afternoon which has increased our understanding of what training (and regular refreshers) our train drivers must go through to make our railway travel so safe.

A collection of £45 was made and has been handed over to Prostate Cancer UK, the current GWR charity.

Monday 10th April 2017
Ramblings of a Railwayman
Geoff Burch

The April meeting was held a week earlier than usual, because the regular day clashed with the Easter weekend. The speaker was Geoff Burge, who entertained the meeting with his "Ramblings of a Railwayman". Geoff became a cleaner at Guildford shed on leaving school in 1962, becoming a fireman a year later after a short period of training. He remained a fireman at Guildford until the shed closed in 1867 with the demise of steam in the area. His talk was a description of his doings in this period, well illustrated by photographs and peppered with anecdotes of incidents that happened to him in that time. Many thanks are due to Geoff for an entertaining and informative evening of "Behind the scenes" events at a steam shed ain the last few years of the decline of steam traction.

Saturday 4th March 2017
Visit to Eastleight Works
Denis Horsman

RCTS Thames Valley Branch visit to Arlington Fleet Services Works at Eastleigh

4th March 2017

A party of 20, including a small number from the Southern Electric Group, were welcomed to Eastleigh by our guide Norman Smith.

All parts of the works were visited where safe to do so. Activities observed in the various workshops included:

overhaul of diesel locomotives, followed by repainting and rebranding as required overhaul of complete sets of electric multiple units overhaul and repainting of Mk 1 passenger vehicles for charter use conversion, overhaul and repainting of luxury vehicles for charter use (Mk 1 Pullmans and Mk 3 Sleepers) restoration and overhaul of historic vehicles, including first generation diesel units and railcars, locomotives and rolling stock overhaul of freight vehicles, predominately freightliner flats

The site is also used for the storage of complete charter train sets.

The works employs 82 full-time staff, several of whom were present during our visit.

There were many items of historical interest to be seen, commencing with one of the two works shunters, Class 07 07007 (D2991). Steam traction was represented by the refurbished and repainted driving wheels of Bullied Pacific No 35005. Class 50 50023 “Indomitable”, newly repainted in NSE livery, stood next to classmate 50021 “Rodney” which was undergoing body restoration.

A number of first generation dmu vehicles, in various liveries and conditions, were awaiting restoration; among these were a Class 117 3-car set for the Swanage Railway.

Last, but certainly not least, ex-LMS inspection Saloon DM 45029 was undergoing internal restoration; a glimpse of the high standard of the work being undertaken was obtained through an open carriage door.

At the end of the visit, a vote of thanks was given to our guide and to Pete Gray, who kept the party together as they wandered about the workshops and the site. Norman was presented with a donation of £200, representing £10 for each member of the group. Arlington’s chosen charities are The Cancer Trust and Macmillan Cancer Support.

Peter Simmonds

last updated: 20/12/17