Tuesday 12th November 2019
'From Rookie Journalist to Grumpy Old Man'
For our November meeting we welcomed back David Percival with another presentation in which he outlined his career in railway journalism starting with Ian Allan.
He described his commute from Knebworth to Hampton Court where the journey home involved a brisk underground journey from Waterloo to Kings Cross and
he sometimes missed his preferred train home but took the opportunity to take photographs whilst waiting for a later train. When told he could subsidise his income
with getting pictures published at 10/- a time, he invested over a week's salary on a new camera. This had the desired result and many of his pictures were published
in Railway World and the Loco spotters handbooks.
The job gave him the chance to attend various railway events and he always jumped at the opportunity. The launch of the Class 309 Clacton units was one such event.
The units were superb but the coffee in the waxed paper cups was too hot to drink and melted the wax. He later joined W H Smiths where he became responsible for producing the
staff magazine but still got to travel around never missing photographic opportunities.
After a final change of career, retirement gave him the chance to publish some of his work in several books which really highlighted the range and quality of his photography.
The "grumpy" part of David's talk focused on page layouts in various railway books where pictures did not align and captions were sometimes factually incorrect and not
adjacent to the pictures they referred to.
It was a thoroughly entertaining and informative talk with some really evocative pictures from all around the country enjoyed by a larger than normal attendance.
Tuesday 8th. October 2019
'A DMU Miscellany'
Our October presentation by Robert Warburton gave us at Cambridge an insight into the variety of DMUs that served so many of the country's lines over the past 50 to 60 years. Robert began by showing us
early examples such as GWR rail cars and an LM unit that operated between Cambridge and Bletchley. The early examples continued to evolve and serve many rural branches until the 1955 Modernisation
Plan when the designs for the so-called First Generation units were drawn up. We were shown examples of the early rail buses and examples of nearly every manufacturers' products ranging from single unit
rail cars up to the six-car cross-country units. Southern Region units featured regularly but the Metro Cammell Pullman units in their blue livery with the Pullman crest were the most striking in appearance.
Robert had extensive knowledge of detail differences between outwardly similar units which could vary in length or have different engines. Liveries were almost as numerous as the unit types having started
their lives in BR green and appeared in corporate blue, NSE, Regional Railways and many other versions.We did see pictures of three and four car units with every vehicle in a different livery.The 'new' units
such as Pacers, Sprinters and Networkers were also very well represented. Throughout the show we were able to see DMUs working in every variety of location carrying out duties ranging from suburban
shuttles to inter-city services. Robert's research and photographs showed what an important difference the sometimes unloved DMU has made to services in every corner of the country and I recommend
this show to other Branches.
Tuesday 10th September 2019
"Noth American Wanderings"
For our first meeting of the new season, we welcomed back John Day from Ipswich with a selection of images from his more recent visits to the United States. John has family in La
Grange in Kentucky and that was the starting point.
Most of the images were of freight trains, often over a mile in length with sometimes as many
as ten locomotives working it although only the leading loco would have a driver with those within the train and at the rear being radio controlled. Numerous different liveried locomotives
featured, BNSF, CSX, Union Pacific & Norfolk Southern to name just four. Often we saw different company's locomotives working together on the same train.
The scenery was as equally spectacular with trains seen in the Mojave Desert, along the Colorado River and Marias Pass in Montana and the variety of freight ranged from double stacked inter modal trains, coal trains, grain and even aircraft fuselages.Some Amtrak
services featured which we learnt were nearly always running hours late.
We saw views of the enormous BNSF Barstow yard and freight trains stacked up around Chicago. One train crew even ordered a pizza while John was photographing as they had a long wait.
Back at La Grange, trains run along the street and it was quite something to see enormous freight trains running alongside the stalls of a carnival that was in progress. John finished with
images of a privately owned QJ which he had previously photographed in China and an oil-fired 4-8-4 working and making plenty of smoke.
This was a wonderful show made even more enjoyable by John's humorous facts and knowledge of the American railway scene.
Tuesday 14th May
'Station to Station, Cambridge to London'
For our final meeting of the season we welcomed Terry Ward, a photographer with a passion for architecture and history. He took us on a journey along his favourite line, the West Anglian Line from Cambridge to London Liverpool Street. Not only did we see the main route but Terry also gave us a look at some of the remaining architecture and infrastructure on closed lines along the way such as the Haverhill line, Saffron Walden line and the Bishops Stortford to Braintree line.
Starting at a much changed Cambridge station, we learnt of its origins and how it could have been much closer to the city centre but for the all powerful university. There was also a look at Coldhams Lane depot with a class 317 unit propelled inside by an 08 shunter.
Heading south, we saw views of all the stations to Bishops Stortford along with signal boxes, another of Terry's interests. Beyond here, the station styles changed from Victorian Gothic and Edwardian to 1960s concrete at Harlow. Several of the stations were very neglected and Terry deemed them too uninteresting to show.
We saw the wetland nature reserve at Roydon and Rye House power station. Passing through the suburbs, !950s developments of flats were much in evidence along with more recent warehousing. At Tottenham Hale, the two platforms had been renumbered in somewhat hopeful anticipation of Crossrail 2. Liverpool Street was still basically the Victorian gem we remembered although outside, Crossrail development was still much in evidence.
For many of us, this was a nostalgic journey where we learnt more about some of the sights along the route thanks to Terry's research and interests in all things architectural and historical.
Tuesday 16th April 2019
'GWR to the end of Steam'
Brian Benford made a welcome return to our Branch for our April meeting, this time with a very comprehensive selection of slides of GWR locomotives from the various pre-grouping companies, the GWR of 1923 and the Western region of BR after 1948.We saw just about everything from a broad gauge working in the 19th century to Kings and Castles in the early 1960's.
Tank engines of the Taff Vale Railway and Cardiff Railway featured and we also saw a locomotive with M&GN branding which we learned formerly belonged to a GWR constituent company before being sold. Many of the slides we saw were taken in the 1930's and were black and white but the images were superb and some of the trains consisted of an eclectic mix of coaches.What was equally enjoyable was that Brian was able to give us snippets of information about the subject locos such as the reasons for detail differences and whether they made any difference to the engines performance.
We learned that the GW was the first company to experiment with streamlining and we saw a few shots of streamlined Kings and Castles. The colour slides that were featured were also of great interest as they showed the livery details to very good effect some of ex-works pictures were really pleasing. To finish with, Brian showed a picture of the last locomotive ordered by the GWR, gas turbine 18000 which was not delivered until after nationalisation and the cost would have paid for several Castles.
This was a lovely show and was enhanced by Brian's research on the subject and humorous comments on some of the images.
Tuesday 12th March 2019
Railways of the Isle of Man
For our March meeting, our speaker took us "overseas" to the Isle of Man. Geoff Brockett of the South Essex branch has enjoyed visiting the island since the 1970's right up to the present day and during that time has seen many changes to the island's railway system. The only thing that has remained a constant is the unpredictable nature of the weather.
Geoff began by giving us a history of the different systems on the island and how over the years, declining trade had caused the railway network to shrink and had it not been for the Manx government stepping in the whole system could well have closed.
The first line we saw was the Isle of Man Railway which is steam worked on 3ft gauge from Douglas to Port Erin. The slides we saw showed the engines in various liveries over the years together with a large variety of rolling stock which over the course of time appeared in liveries that at one time were carried. Geoff showed how the infrastructure had also changed with stations losing canopies and sheds being demolished.
We then saw a few slides of the horse tramway which is also 3ft gauge and runs from Douglas pier to Derby Castle.
From Derby Castle we were treated to a journey along the Manx Electric Railway which opened in 1893. The line runs to Ramsey with numerous delightful stations along the route. We must have seen all the power cars and trailers in operation including the unique freight loco No.23. The original 1893 motor cars and trailers were still in operation and beautifully restored.
At Laxey, the Snaefell Mountain Railway runs to the highest point on the island on 3ft 6in. gauge to accommodate a centre braking rail. Some of the views from the line were outstanding although Geoff said that mist can often obscure almost everything. The passenger stock dates from 1895 although some rebuilding has occurred.
Other railways Geoff had visited were the charming little 2ft. gauge Groudle Glen Railway with steam engines named Polar Bear, Sea lion and a new build called Brown Bear. The line closed in 1962 but has been reinstated since 1982 by volunteers.
The 19in. Laxey Mines railway with two little steam engines named Ant and Bee also featured.
Geoff's presentation which covered over 40 years and showed us just about every type of engine, carriage and wagon working on the Isle of Man was not only thorough and informative but some of the pictures gave those who had not been there the incentive to visit some time.
Tuesday 12th February 2019
Preserved railways past, present and future?
Our February meeting was a presentation by one of our Branch members, Michael Smyth, who gave us a very interesting and thought provoking presentation entitled "Preserved railways past, present and future?" Michael began by saying how the UK has probably the best railway preservation movement in the world thanks in no small measure to Dai Woodham at Barry and the large numbers of enthusiasts who sought to save lines closed after the Beeching report. Luckily, at that time there were many career railwaymen who enjoyed steam engines and had a wide knowledge of railway operations and were more than happy to assist the embryonic preservation groups.
Today after fifty years or so, the different railways have evolved into what we have today with beautifully restored engines, rolling stock and buildings that take us back to a bygone era.
In Michael's view, the larger preserved lines such as the North York Moors & Severn Valley, which have developed engineering facilities and carriage restoration sheds are well placed, as they have become tourist attractions in their own right.
Other lines, which are not in traditional tourist areas, have developed income streams such as hire to television & film companies and dining trains. All have themed events and Santa specials which are vital to get the interest of the very young. The pictures we saw showed many of the different lines Michael had visited and some pictures in black & white really captured the atmosphere of the lines.
The future, although unknown, was his main fear. Most of the railways depend heavily on volunteers, most of whom are elderly, and the younger generation are not coming along in sufficient numbers to replace them. Some of the lines are very much enthusiast only lines and depend very much on an ageing core of supporters. Legislation changes add to running costs and on some lines, major infrastructure work is needed if the lines are to remain in their current state.
Michael's show drew many questions and comments from the audience and gave us a good insight into the railway preservation world that holds a place in our hearts. It was a well researched and presented show that was enjoyed by all.
Tuesday 8th January 2019
(To) Tebay on EBay
For the first meeting of 2019, we welcomed Dave Pearce to Cambridge with a presentation intriguingly titled "Tebay on Ebay".
This was a collection of images that Dave had managed to purchase on Ebay but sometimes he had missed out on slides that had exceeded his budget, often by over a hundred pounds. Most of the slides were B&W featuring scenes of the 50s and 60s although there were a few colour images. Dave usually purchased images because of the photographer although some were bought because of childhood memories.
Fittingly, we started in the Tebay area steam working freight and passenger trains over Shap with banking locos. Many other areas featured including the GC route and the ECML.
There were scenes on the Alnwick branch and various steam workings in Lancashire & Yorkshire. There were shots of an RCTS rail tour in Scotland along with scenes on various sheds.
The number of locations was too numerous to mention here and the image quality was excellent although some of the negatives needed processing after scanning to obtain an acceptable image.
This was an enjoyable presentation which raised a few talking points amongst the audience and Dave gained a few snippets of information on some of the images.
Last updated: 18th November 2019