Meeting Reports

Meeting Reports

Wednesday 25 September 2019

The Mid Hants Line, Then and Now

Keith Brown

An encouraging audience of fifty gathered for our first meeting of the new season to hear Keith Brown give an illustrated presentation entitled ‘The Mid Hants Railway Then and Now’. Keith is particularly qualified to give this talk as, apart from being a long-time volunteer on the line, is station master at Medstead & Four Marks station and has recently taken on the role of MHRPS Archivist. Keith started with a survey of the geographical setting, followed by early development of railways in the Guildford, Farnham and Alton areas before moving on to the Mid-Hants proper. As was often the case with secondary routes, The Alton – Winchester line itself was initially promoted by local worthies and businessmen, but the inevitable financial difficulties from its opening in 1865 soon drove it into the arms the LSWR who took it over entirely twenty years later. For many years through trains from Waterloo to Southampton Terminus worked this way, but from 1937 a push-pull service connected with electrics at Alton. Starting at the Alton end, Keith then treated us to a detailed survey of the stations and other significant points on the line, illustrating his comments with a superb selection of old photographs, maps and drawings. Sadly, by the time Alresford was reached, we ran out of time, and we sincerely hope that Keith will visit us again on a future occasion to complete his talk.

Sunday 09 June 2019

Branch visit to the Isle of Wight Steam Railway

A dozen or so Chichester members went abroad on Sunday 09 June. Well almost! We visited the Isle of Wight Steam Railway on a lovely warm sunny day.

Perfect weather to take up outside deck seats on the Wightlink ferry, for the short crossing to Ryde. Waiting for us on the Pier Head was one of the two car 1938 built London Underground trains for the short hop to Smallbrook Junction. Here we boarded an immaculately turned out rake hauled by one of the two Ivatt Class 2s on the Island. Destination Wootton, before returning to the railways headquarters at Havenstreet for lunch.

After lunch we were treated to a behind the scenes look at the engine shed area, our guide providing us with an array of anecdotes and historical detail. Fabulous to be up close, as the second Ivatt came off shed, to couple up and haul a special freight.

We had plenty of time to visit the other attractions, including the much admired ‘Railway Story’ building. Not to mention the well-stocked book and gift shop and adjacent museum. The latter includes the original loco Nameplate ‘Ryde’ loaned for display with acknowledgement to the RCTS.

Most of the group then moved on to the Brading Station Heritage Exhibition and Visitor Centre, before returning to the mainland having enjoyed a wonderful day out on the stunningly beautiful Isle of Wight.

Wednesday 22nd May 2019

The Railways of Paris

Michael Bunn

For our final indoor meeting of the season we crossed the English Channel, to explore the French capital. Michael put together a superb presentation, beginning by outlining the population and geography of the area, merged with a touch of historical relevance.

The Paris rail history began in 1837 with the building of Gare St Lazare to serve the line to Saint-Germain and, subsequently, the routes to the coastal ports. We enjoyed many magnificent views, past and present, of Paris stations and the lines they serve, remembering Gare St Lazare is still second only to Gare Du Norde as Paris busiest. Many notable events were well covered, including the orbital lines around Paris, the development through the 1960s/70s of the RER express routes from the City Centre to the suburbs, quickly followed by the development of the TGV network. Views of relevant rolling stock and locomotives were included in addition to the stations.

The Metro was fully covered, opened at the turn of the last century and electrically operated from its inception. Fascinating facts abounded, including the underground detours around The Arc de Triomphe and the first rubber tyre rolling stock trials in 1951.

In conclusion we were brought right up to date with a selection of modern images from around the capital.

Such a brief report falls short of bringing justice to what was a superbly constructed visual presentation, further enhanced by an immaculate accompanying commentary from Michael, full of wonderful facts and anecdotes. A presentation that comes highly recommended.

Wednesday 24th April 2019

London Underground, Then and Now

Brian Hardy

Over 40 members and supporters attended this excellent meeting in which Brian Hardy demonstrated the changes that have taken place within the London Underground (LU) throughout the last century and things continue to change to this day! The changes outlined by Brian were mainly to the track layout, the rolling stock and the architectural infrastructure. These changes were illustrated by numerous photographs, showing in detail what has changed.

Brian worked through the LU system on a line by line basis and covered many of the stations individually. In each case he explained the reasons for the modifications and the effect of them. The detail was fascinating and very informative. His talk covered mostly surface stations and layouts, but, of course, it's much easier to make changes to surface infrastructure than underground, and it's more visible! His photographs included such items as steam hauled trains, and the many and various electric sets remembered by many of the audience.

The talk concluded with a lively questions and answer session, which was testament to interest shown by the audience.

Saturday 06th April 2019

Branch visit to Arlington Fleet Eastleigh

14 Chichester members plus a guest from Surrey branch enjoyed an escorted tour of the Eastleigh works site. Our lead guide, Norman, was an expert on all things connected with the site and his entertaining commentary and banter a bonus.

We were able to walk through most of the site, only a couple of areas, including the paint shop, being restricted. Many unique photo shots were captured, for private use only. For those old enough to remember, memories returned of this vast complex full of steam locomotives under repair or overhaul.

For a site that at one time looked likely to close for ever a remarkable amount of work was being undertaken. Interestingly, we learned Arlington is very much a facilitator, hiring out sections of the site to others, performing work they may not necessarily do themselves.

Facilities are also provided to the Heritage Railway sector and we were able to explore, externally, the newly refurbished 'Bubble Cars' destined for the Swanage Railway. Steam was present, albeit solely by Merchant Navy Class 35005 Canadian Pacific.

South Western Railway class 442, 444 and 450 units were all present, undergoing refurbishment, and throughout the site there was a multitude of rolling stock and locomotives.

So interesting was the tour, we overran our allocated time. Many thanks to Arlington for allowing this visit. A highly recommended tour, by appointment only, booking direct with Arlington Fleet.

With Norman our guide centre front, RCTS members about to leave the Arlington Eastleigh Works site.

Wednesday 27th March

Strictly Freight Only Part 2
Brian Ringer

For our well attended March meeting, The Chichester Branch welcomed the return of Brian Ringer, with the second part of his 'Strictly Freight Only' presentations, the title being a nod to both his Railway Career (mid '70s- Mid 2000's) in the Freight sector, as well as to fellow Edmonton lad, Brucie. Naturally, from that locale, The Spurs got a mention too!

Given our local dearth pf freight workings (other than the Chichester Stone), Brian broke us in gently, on the Southern Region, with an image of a Sulzer Type 2 at St Mary Cray Junction, heading for the Train Ferry.

Starting then, on relatively familiar turf, Brian took us through much detail, sharing operational perspectives, starting with pre Channel Tunnel Freight working, and shunting on to moveable 1 in 30 Link spans.

We moved on to sectorisation, rotting coal wagons, and post- Speedlink Wagon Load Freight, up to the present day, as well as being given handy domestic tips regarding covert gricing (we all do it!), whilst on Holiday with 'Herself', in this instance at Cockwood (as you do)....

We learned that the CTRL has never realised its potential to carry freight, and nor has it ever exceeded the level of freight carried aboard the 'Nord Pas de Calais', (a French Vessel, which included a Chef on the staff!), and that bicycles were provided at Dollands Moor (reminds me of passing loops in Portugal)!

A fascinating evening, although, sadly, as with so many things 'Railway', also an opportunity to reflect on politics and multiple missed opportunities.

The forensic detail in Brian's analysis of his own images was fascinating: a very enthusiastic and informative presentation, we strongly recommend that other Branches consider making a booking!

Wednesday 27th February 2019
The Old Dalby Test Track
David Coxon

For our February meeting, Chichester Branch welcomed Dave Coxon, who gave an illustrated presentation on the Old Dalby Test Track.
The first part described the route from its opening by the Midland Railway in 1879 up to closure in 1966. As part of a secondary main line north from Kettering, it connected Melton Mowbray with Nottingham and some expresses from St Pancras were routed over it. Local passenger traffic was, however, sparse and by the time of closure, the only remaining intermediate station was Old Dalby.
The speaker illustrated stations, infrastructure and trains (both steam and diesel) through the years, including some Courtney Haydon views from the RCTS photographic archive.
Following closure, the line from Melton Mowbray as far as Edwalton was taken over as a test track by the RTC, and the second part of Dave’s talk showed the many and varied research and test activities which have taken place there up to the present. These included the APT-E, the nuclear flask test collision and high-speed pantographs.
Following several changes of ownership and re-equipment, the line is still well used for the testing of new rolling stock such as the Bombardier ‘Andventura’ EMUs and LT ‘S’ sub-surface stock and has a secure future.

We thank Dave for a most interesting and informative presentation.

Wednesday 23rd January 2019
South Western Railway
Phil Dominey

Phil, Senior Regional Development Manager at South Western Railway, entertained us with a detailed look at the current SWR franchise and potential future developments.
Much ground was covered, from the basics of understanding the extent of the SWR network, to the current and future rolling stock procurement and allocation
Phil confirmed the refurbished class 442s are still being prepared for re-entry in to service, principally for the Portsmouth line.
Investment opportunities were discussed, the long awaited grade separation at Woking still very much on the agenda. It was good to hear from a TOC actively looking at opportunities for increasing passenger volumes, and methods by which people can be tempted away from their cars on to rail.
The new timetable complexities were explained and the need to stagger introduction of revised services, following the chaotic introduction of new timetables elsewhere in the industry in May 2018.
The complexities of the current industrial problems were discussed, Phil himself acting as a contingency guard when the need arises.
Phil showed a delightful film commemorating the first direct train from Corfe Castle to London Waterloo for half a century, and finished the evening answering a substantial number of questions, from the audience, on a vast array of subjects.

It was a pleasure to be in the company of an enthusiastic professional railwayman, with a passion for the rail experience.

Wednesday 12th December 2018
'Short AGM followed by Heritage Railway Association'
Stephen Oates

The AGM of the Chichester Branch took place in December. The Branch has had another successful year with a varied programme, satisfactory finances, good attendances and new members, which lead to an award for the highest total recruited during 2018. The officers were all re-elected and were joined by two new committee members.

Following the AGM, Stephen Oates, Chief Executive of the Heritage Railway Association and its only paid employee, gave us an overview of the Association’s work. The heritage railway movement can be said to have begun 67 years ago with the first steps to ensure the future of the Talyllyn Railway. The Middleton Railway in Leeds was the first preserved standard gauge line, though the Bluebell was the first standard gauge steam railway. Now representing over 300 organisations, including 120 working railways, the Association works through a number of committees to oversee areas such as operations and safety, legal and parliamentary.
The movement is now huge, with 22,000 volunteers, 4,000 paid staff, 13million visitors and an economic value of £400 million per year. Parliamentary lobbying forms an important area of activity and the current effort is directed towards derogation from a government green paper with the threat of the closure of the coal distribution network and the final closure of mines.
All in all, a fascinating and thought-provoking meeting.

Thursday 29th November 2018
BT Museum and Underground Railway

Having had a fascinating talk about the developments at the Post Office Museum and of the Post Office Underground Railway, the Branch was eager to arrange a visit. So in November some 20 of us travelled to Mount Pleasant where we enjoyed lunch at the very pleasant café and then looked round the museum.
As the time approached for our ride, we made our way down the street to the entrance to Mail Rail, underneath the enormous central sorting office. From the new terminal, trains take visitors on a circular tour through the tunnel loops of this extraordinary railway and back to where it started. Formerly powered by an offset third rail the specially built narrow-gauge trains are now battery operated and very compact! At intervals the train stops and scenes from the railway’s operation are projected on adjacent walls. At one point the train passes over what was the main line where one of the original Mail Rail trains is parked, just as if work had stopped for the day.
On returning to the terminal we were able to walk through what had been the maintenance area where many artefacts from the railway are displayed and its history explained.

This is well recommended for groups looking for an outing to something a bit different.

Wednesday 28th November 2018
'Swiss Railways'
Paul Russenberger

The 43 attendees at the Chichester Branch meeting on 28th November were royally entertained with a masterful presentation by Paul Russenberger, entitled ‘An Introduction to Swiss Railways’. Paul is currently a Board Member of the Swiss Railway Society and it very soon became apparent that he possessed a really in-depth knowledge of the Swiss railway scene, both past and present.
He briefly explained that the size of Switzerland is 15,900 sq. miles (approximately twice the size of Wales) and has four official languages: French, Italian, German & Romansh. It has been a Confederation since 1848.
We were taken on a photographic tour from Zurich to Geneva, with several detours to visit scenic branch lines, many of which still operate steam specials. Shortages of coal from Germany during WW1 forced the country toward early electrification.
Of particular note were the Vitznau Rigi Bahn, the Mount Pilatus Railway (the world’s steepest rack railway with gradients as steep as 1:2.25) and the famous railways of the Jungfrau.
Paul also included photos of vintage vessels to be found on the lakes and the Swiss Transport Museum in Lucerne.

If ever a presentation could be regarded as a tour de force, this was certainly one fitting that description!

Wednesday 24th October 2018
'Woking's Railways'
Alan Norris

For our October meeting, Chichester branch were delighted to welcome back Alan Norris, who gave an illustrated talk entitled ‘Woking’s Railways and the Effects on the Town’s Development’ but in reality covering much more than this.
Our speaker firstly described the chronology, construction and early years of the London and Southampton Railway (later L.S.W.R), and how it missed the existing settlements of Kingston and Woking, but later attracted development around nearby stations. The heathland that the railway traversed was useless for agriculture and this had a significant effect on land usage of the area.
The Brookwood Cemetery and its railway was then covered, followed by the Bisley Tramway and its extensions to nearby military camps. We were shown many interesting views of what remains from both these defunct lines. The Bisley station building, for example, still exists as headquarters of the Lloyd’s Bank Rifle Association.
Woking’s famous Railway Orphanage was then covered, and the talk concluded with railway developments through the twentieth century, the most significant of which was possibly electrification through the town in 1936-37.
It is sobering to note that in 2017 more than ten million rail journeys were made from the borough’s stations at West Byfleet, Woking and Brookwood.

We thank our speaker for a fascinating and enlightening presentation.

In all 9 new members were recruited, though we were later advised that 2 of these would be assigned to neighbouring Branches. This was of no import, as of course all members, new and old, are free to attend any Branch meeting(s) of their choice. Overall, the day was considered a success and it is likely to be repeated.

Last updated: 10th October 2019