Meeting Reports

Tuesday 9th May 2017
The Impact of Railways on Cambridgeshire
Tony Kirby

We welcomed Tony Kirby for our last meeting of the 2016/17 season. Tony is a local man with an interest in local social history as well as a keen interest in railways. His digital presentation set out to show us the changes that have been brought about in Cambridge and surrounding towns since the coming of the railways.
We learned that two hundred years ago, Cambridge, like many other areas, relied heavily on rivers and waterways for the transport of goods and we saw pictures of horses towing barges on the River Cam along the backs of the colleges. The river here was quite shallow and the bridges too low for a conventional towpath so the horses walked along a path of stone on the bed of the river to pull the barges.
When the railways arrived, the water- borne trade rapidly diminished. Cambridge was linked to London, Norwich & Kings Lynn by the Great Eastern Rly. and to Doncaster and the North via the Joint line from March.
All this meant that coal could be brought in by rail and agricultural produce, the main product of the area, could be sent out. Cambridge itself became an important centre with four different railway company yards. The area known as Romsey became heavily developed with railway workers houses. Many of the villages had their own goods yards and cattle docks. We saw the yard and signal box at Fulbourn where my grandfather was once signalman.
Industry around Cambridge consisted mainly of cement works at Barrington, Shepreth and Meldreth along the line to Royston and near Cherryhinton on the Newmarket line. They were all rail served as they needed coal to fuel the process. At Histon, the Chivers jam factory used the railway for transporting its products.
Further afield, the Wisbech & Upwell tramway was built purely to transport agricultural produce. The Burwell Tramway which branched off the Ely to Newmarket line served a fertilizer factory. Newmarket station grew to serve race-goers and the yards handled the transport of racehorses.
Today, it is all so different, with no freight trains serving Cambridge as the factories have closed and most goods arrive by road.

This was a truly enjoyable and informative presentation given by a man who clearly loved the subject and had researched it so thoroughly. Everyone present really appreciated Tony's talk and we all learnt a lot more about our local railway scene.

Tuesday 11th April 2017
Doncaster Station past and present
Bryan Longbone

For our April meeting our guest was Bryan Longbone who gave us a presentation on Doncaster Station and how it has evolved over the past 150 years or so.
Early b/w slides showed the station develop into an important junction with trains from the east and west as well as the north-south route between London, York and Scotland.
We saw early slides showing the station with the various facilities on the platforms and numerous examples of advertising. The station master's house was seen although this has now gone.
Re-development in the late 1930s totally changed the look of the station, originally called Doncaster Central, into something more akin to what we see today. One prominent feature throughout was the footbridge to the works.
In the 1970s, more changes took place with re signalling, and track rationalization and sidings, and lines have disappeared to become areas of what Bryan described as nature reserve.
There were numerous slides throughout, showing many of the classes of loco that worked both freight and passenger trains through the station. Sadly, freight has declined somewhat today although there are still a number of different freight flows that pass through. Deltics and HSTs together with today's electric trains also featured. There is even a new platform zero that caters for terminating trains from the east.
This was a well researched and presented history of a very well known and important railway station.

Tuesday 14th March 2017
A 6th ColourRail Journey
Paul Chancellor

Our presenter for our March meeting was Paul Chancellor who treated us to the sixth version of " A Colour Rail journey ".
Paul began the evening by explaining the reasons for moving out of the slide market and into digital image sales. We were then shown what it was possible to do to enhance what initially looked like a badly deteriorated colour slide into a very acceptable image. Advice on how best to store any slides and negatives was given together with a discussion on the merits of the different brands of film. For the digitally minded among us, the importance of backing up our images to make sure they could still be accessed as technology moved on was stressed.
The show proper began with scenes from around Cardiff, before moving around the country to various locations such as Peterborough, Birmingham and Edinburgh. At these places we were treated to the sight of many different classes of steam and diesel locomotives through the years to almost the modern day. Some of the images featured locos rarely seen working whilst other images were not of the best quality but Paul included them for their rarity value. Among the selection were some truly beautiful shots captured by Trevor Owen.

It was a thoroughly enjoyable show which stirred the memories of several of those present and they were able to give Paul information about some of the trains featured. We went home happy having been treated to the sight of such a wide variety of motive power.

Tuesday 14th February 2017
Diary of a Trainspotter (Part 1)
Bryan Cross

Our speaker for February was Bryan Cross who gave us a digital presentation of black and white photographs scanned from the collection of the late Peter Bland.
Bryan began by telling us about Peter and his love of railways, particularly industrial railways and how he acquired a Kerr Stuart 0-4-0 ST which can now be seen on the Leighton Buzzard Railway. Peter was very much involved at the start of the railway in the late 1960s.
Following the introduction, we saw many different scenes of Swindon works in the late 1940s which showed numerous classes of steam locomotives, some in pre-nationalisation guise and some newer locomotives. It was a vastly different scene to what exists on the site today.
A visit to the Isle of Wight took us to some of the now closed railway outposts such as Ventnor.
Around London, we saw locomotives at Stratford and a classic scene at St. Pancras with a double-headed express awaiting departure.
In July 1950, Peter undertook a week-long tour of Scotland where he visited most parts including Wick & Thurso, Fort William, Kyle & Oban and we were treated to views of many Scottish steam classes in some wonderful locations and heard the story of the theft of chocolate bars at Ardrossan Town station.
A trip to Ireland in 1951 took us around several closed routes on a rail tour and we saw two vintage rail buses.
Industrial sites featured with scenes around the Port of London Authority lines and the 60+ miles of lines within Beckton Gas Works. Many classes of small industrial locomotives were seen. At Corby, the internal railway of Stewart and Lloyd's iron works was home to many locos and a number were seen working as well as a line up of scrap locos which were probably cut up and recycled on site.
It was an altogether fascinating look at the railways in the British Isles 60 to 70 years ago and our thanks must go to Bryan for his work in preparing the presentation.

Tuesday 10th January 2017
"Bringing Back the Brighton Belle"
Neil Marshall

Our first meeting of the year was the fascinating story of returning the Brighton Belle to the mainline. An excellent PowerPoint presentation was delivered by Nell Marshall, a Trustee of the 5BEL Trust in a most informative and enjoyable manner.
The start of the presentation gave us the history of the route and views of the stations and structures along the route, together with pictures and video clips of the Brighton Belle in service. We learnt of its occasional role as a Royal Train and saw numerous press cuttings showing some of the famous clientele such as Lord Olivier and Jimmy Edwards. The story of the uproar that occurred when BR withdrew kippers from the breakfast menu caused much amusement among the guests.
The Brighton Belle was built in 1932 as the only all-Pullman electric train and there were three five car sets of which any two of the sets were used daily. The Belle continued in service until 1972 and the individual cars were sold off and several were at pubs around the country in use as dining rooms.
In June 2009, the restoration project was launched at the NRM. It was six years before the Trust had acquired enough cars for a complete set, but extracting them from their locations presented unique problems as Neil's pictures showed. Some of the cars were so dilapidated that they have needed almost totally rebuilding by professional railway engineers and many innovative solutions have been devised to make the train fit for a 21st century railway.
The interiors have been lovingly restored to their Art Deco glory with new matching veneers and seat fabric woven by the original supplier. Neil showed us many pictures of the work that has been done and told us what an expensive labour of love it has been to bring such an iconic train back to life. He hoped that it would be back on the mainline early next year.

This was a wonderful presentation professionally delivered and a lovely start to 2017.

Tuesday 13th December 2016
Annual General Meeting

Our evening began with our AGM. This took the usual form with reports from the chairman, secretary, treasurer and sales officer. We heard the reasons for our venue change and an update on the meetings programme. The existing committee were re-elected en-bloc. There being no issues raised, the chairman closed the meeting and we proceeded with the evening’s entertainment.

Once again, Trevor Davis provided us with a slideshow, this time from the collection of the late John Toulson. The slides from around the UK in the 1960s showed railtours run by various societies at many obscure locations, usually with steam motive power and sometimes only a train of brake-vans. At that time, John seemed to have been gone on a trip every week with some really good views of all the different steam classes that were running.
After a break for festive fare of mince pies and sausage rolls, our secretary showed a selection of digital pictures of steam and modern day traction taken since 2006 in England, Scotland & Wales.
The evening was rounded off by Keith Crossley who showed a selection of digital images of industrial locomotives and some nice scenes from Quainton Road.
It was a nice way to round off the year.

Tuesday 11th October 2016
On the route of the Midland Pullman
Richard Crane

For our October meeting we welcomed back to Cambridge Richard Crane for his presentation entitled "On the route of the Midland Pullman".
Richard recalled seeing the magnificent blue six car set speeding through Bedford in the early 1960s before being withdrawn in 1966 after only six years service. The train's formation, of a power car at each end, was however destined to live on with the introduction of the HST.
Starting at St.Pancras, where we saw a fantastic array of signals, the journey took us north past steam sheds at KentishTown and Cricklewood. Passing through various stations, some long closed, we saw a variety of different locos on various workings, some double headed steam working in true Midland style, as well as Peaks, Class 27s, suburban DMUs and of course the Midland Pullman itself.
The journey north took us through Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire with views of many of the stations and various trains working, before passing Leicester, Loughborough and the Derby avoiding line. From here the route became far more picturesque with the line climbing into the Peak District. Once past Matlock we followed the closed line, part of which is Peak Rail to Rowsley where we were treated to numerous "then and now" scenes before joining the line into Manchester at Chinley.
Passing Hazel Grove, the next station was Cheadle Heath which was the only stop on the three and a quarter hour journey between London and Manchester. Cheadle Heath is now a supermarket, although there are pictures of the station with steam workings, inside the shop.
Beyond here, part of the line is now used by the Metrolink, before arriving at Manchester Central with its lovely arched roof that now is known as the G-Mex conference centre.

This was a lovely journey over an iconic route whose closure through the Peaks deprived the rail traveller of scenic views.

last updated: 07/07/17