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Cheltenham

Meeting Reports

Tuesday 21st November 2017
'My Early Days'
David Maidment OBE

An enthusiastic attendance of 28 on 21st November were enthralled by David Maidment’s reminiscences of his early days with railways mainly as an observer of trains passing through Surbiton from the early 1950s. Added to that were his family holidays to the West Country and of his forays up to the main London termini. At Charterhouse School the organised railway visits to the likes of Rugby further widened his railway interest. What stood out was his great appreciation of the ‘King Arthur’ class for in his student days he experienced some startling performances from them on his journeys back home from Waterloo. Great Western practice was recounted in some detail especially when he was involved with Old Oak Common based locomotives both there and on their workings. The sad demise of the ‘Saint’ and ‘Star’ classes was a downside for any follower of steam. He did allude to some aspects of his later railway career both at Aberbeeg, and when he was closely involved with implementing good Health & Safety practice. As was to be expected David recounted the start of the Railway Children Charity, and as to its now key social role making life prospects better for run away children in this country - even in the likes of Cheltenham and Bath.

Tuesday 17th October 2017
'The Life of 7903 Foremark Hall'
John Cruxon

We had an eventful meeting on 17th October as our speaker, John Cruxon, was delayed because of emergency repairs to the A419. However, his presentation on the life of 7903 Foremark Hall was inspirational not only as to how the locomotive was restored to life following its sojourn at Woodham’s but also as to the Great Western’s standards set at Swindon Works. From 1949 she was shedded at Old Oak Common. John collects as many pictures as possible of the locomotive at work. From Barry the story moved to the Swindon & Cricklade Railway where in open air conditions the restoration took place at a cost of £157,000 with her first runs over that line in 2003. The move to the Gloucestershire & Warwickshire Railway enabled her to show her paces before her 10 years required overhaul at both Toddington and at Tyseley. Here again we saw a locomotive being stripped right down before its full refurbishment took place. It was with some pride that the locomotive returned to Old Oak Common this September, in addition to her fine return to service on our local G&WR. Only 18 were present and they were earlier rewarded until John’s arrival with Chairman Steve Wilson showing his transport related pictures from earlier years.

Tuesday 19th September 2017
'Remembering the Withered Arm'
Nigel Wassell

The opening meeting of the season on 19th September attracted 25 members and visitors to a nostalgic treat presented by Nigel Wassell. Remembering the Withered Arm gave us a then and now view of former Southern Railway lines in both Devon and Cornwall. Many of the slides shown were from other well-known photographers but these enabled to see rail scenes from 1949 onwards added to with Nigel’s own pictures of latter day workings on the lines as well as what can be seen today. The range of railway stock seen highlighted the longevity of favourite LSWR locomotives and even of its gated rolling stock, along with those Exeter banking locomotives, with of course the ubiquitous Bulleid Pacifics, right down to the present-day Pacers on the Barnstaple branch. Nigel revealed the influence of Col. Holman Stevens in the construction of both the Callington Branch and of the North Devon & Cornwall Jct. Light Railway, the latter mainly for ball clay traffic. Halwill Jct. had its moments of intense activity with its single carriage services. Nigel read accounts of ‘hair raising’ rides down the steep bank into Ilfracombe station and concluded with John Betjeman’s words about Wadebridge station and the breath of Cornish air.

Tuesday 18th April 2017
The Branch AGM followed by Members' entertainment

The Branch Annual Business Meeting took place on 18th April with 14 members present. The committee was re-elected namely with Steve Wilson, John Howland, Richard Morris and Richard Neale. Branch activities were increasing and a plea was made from the membership that the Library Box facility must be maintained. Discussion as to how society membership could be increased resulted in RCTS leaflets being given out to those members with links to local model railway groups. The feasibility of occasional afternoon meetings is to be explored although there would be a need to find a different venue. By way of entertainment afterwards three committee members gave digital presentations using Richard Morris’s laptop. Steve Wilson looked back at railway scenes 30 years ago highlighted by the GWR 150 specials at Gloucester and of past scenes at Bridgnorth as well as some more recent views. Richard Neale (thanks to his wife Alison) gave his first Power Point show covering views around Gloucester, the London area and of Merseyside. Richard Morris concluded the evening with a look at Berlin including its suburban rail scene and of notable tourist attractions including Checkpoint Charlie and of the remaining portion of the Berlin Wall.

Tuesday 21st March 2017
'Building a Brand New LNER Sandringham'
Brian Hall (B17 Steam Locomotive Trust)

23 members and visitors met on 21st March to hear a presentation on ‘Building a Brand New LNER Sandringham’ from Brian Hall of the B17 Steam Locomotive Trust. The new locomotive will be 61673 Spirit of Sandringham. The evening had two definitive parts with the first being about the origins and development from 1928 of Gresley’s only 4-6-0 type based on the needs of increasingly heavy trains on the former G.E.R. system, but also to cope with the more restrictive civil engineering aspects there. Shorter turntables necessitated shorter G.E.R. tenders to go with the larger locomotives. The intentions of the trust include capturing a previous era of world class engineering and in also creating an icon from our past using innovative techniques and modern technology. As with any type of locomotive there were initial teething problems with both Gresley and later Thompson making improvements. The second part was a fascinating video as to how the new frames and buffer beams were being manufactured at two specialist Black Country works in the West Midlands. Much has been learnt and shared from the construction processes of A1 class Tornado and of the P2 to benefit the new B17. For steam devotees, this was the perfect evening.

Tuesday 21st February 2017
An History of the GWS and DRC
Frank Cooper from Great Western Society at Didcot

Frank Cooper of the Great Western Society and of the Didcot Railway Centre stood in for the advertised speaker on 21st February with a 23 attendance. Railway steam cranes did however feature during the evening. Having been born in St Austell he highlighted his GWR interests and for today he highlighted the bi lingual sign (English & Japanese) at Moreton-in-Marsh station. The start of the GWS came because of the RO’s 1961 listing of proposed locomotives for preservation when four Southall enthusiasts started things moving by preserving 0-4-2T 1466 and auto-trailer W231W. From that beginning Frank outlined the development of the society and especially of the Didcot Centre. The complete fleet of locomotives were portrayed and the continuing infrastructure development with extensions to the running lines involving the cranes clearing out large birch trees. Preservation is a costly business and Frank emphasised the benefits gained from Thomas the Tank Engine week ends. The transit shed (broad and standard gauge) enables the Centre to highlight GWR broad gauge practice. He covered the activities being made with the building of replica locomotives Lady of Legend and of County of Glamorgan complete with a Cl. 8F boiler. Similarly, the work on Pendennis Castle was highlighted.

Tuesday 17th January 2017
'Electrification of the Great Western Mainline'
Jill Poyton - Network Rail

We were delighted to welcome Jill Poyton (Network Rail Sponsor, Great Western Electrification Programme) as our guest speaker. Jill explained that as sponsor, she acts as the principal contact between NR and the Department for Transport, the role involving her understanding the requirements of the project, governing the purse strings, and appointing Project Managers to take the project forward. Her geographical area of responsibility extends from Maidenhead (where the GW project takes over from Crossrail) to Bristol and Cardiff. We looked at various challenges, what work the NR project teams are doing, and how they are going about their work. It is clear that the GW scheme is being driven with a great sense of care for environmental concerns and architectural heritage, which is why it is taking longer to get the right result. Jill stressed that the deferment decision relating to both routes to Bristol Temple Meads (Parkway is not affected) was hers to allow other pressing NR projects in the Bristol area to go first. These will, in turn, make providing the OLE in Bristol a whole lot easier when it does happen, probably sometime after 2022.

Tuesday 20th December 2016
'The Robert Whitfield Collection UK Steam 1948-1958'
Pete Berry

The meeting of 20th December was well attended with 27 members and visitors present. They were treated to an evening of superb and brilliant nostalgia when Peter Berry presented 'The Robert Whitfield Collection of UK Steam 1948-1958.' Basically, the evening covered the steam scene across the pre-1974 Lancashire and Cheshire counties centred around Warrington and Chester in the years immediately after the rail nationalisation of 1948. Views of the ‘Turbomotive’ before and immediately after its rebuild along with the transition of the ‘Royal Scots’ into their rebuilt form. Many shots in the Runcorn area were taken of those superb LMS 4-6-2 locomotives hauling those then very long trains. Chester strongly featured especially with a shot of Titley Court and Viscount Horne leaving with a Paddington train. The last surviving ‘Claughton’ still as LMS 6004 was seen in its final days. CLC workings in the Delamere Forest also featured with their mixture of vintage GCR and then new LMS designs. Visits to London also featured including 60122 Curlew with the LNER design Flying Scotsman headboard. Everything was taken using a Kodak bellows type camera and somehow the photographer managed to catch the locomotives with the rods in their down position.

last updated: 23/11/17