Meeting Reports

Wednesday 22nd March 2017
40 Years of Service
Terence Jenner

Terence Jenner began his working life in the railway industry as an articled clerk, or more precisely an ‘officer cadet’, a job title which reflected the military ethos that prevailed in the railway industry well into the nationalised era. He retired 40 years later as Chairman of BRB (Residuary) Limited which was the successor to the British Railways Board after the latter was formally wound up in 2001. Such a length and breadth of service was well reflected in Terence’s fascinating insight into the profound changes that have taken place on our railways since 1948.
Terence recalled how powerful the individual Regions were in the early British Railways era where one General Manager justified having eight chauffeur-driven cars at his disposal! He went on to describe his central involvement in rail privatisation and said he was often asked whether the renaissance of the industry and its privatisation were coincidental. Terence said that factors such as a significant rise in numbers attending tertiary education, prohibitive insurance costs for young drivers and increasing road congestion would on their own have led to a growth in passenger traffic. He added that Government money now flowing into the privatised industry at record levels coupled with a longer planning horizon has undoubtedly helped the revival in the industry’s fortunes.
We thanked Terence for an insightful analysis arising from his long years of distinguished service on the ‘inside’.

Wednesday 22nd February 2017
Strictly Freight Only - Part 1
Brian Ringer

A capacity audience at Chichester Branch were delighted to welcome Brian Ringer to give a presentation entitled ‘Strictly Freight Only Part 1’ at our February meeting.
The speaker is a retired railway manager who spent his entire career on the freight side, and was therefore uniquely qualified to explain the enormous changes which took place from the late 1950s, when virtually all goods traffic was wagon-load, until the ‘80s when block trains had become the norm. He started with an entertaining description of the bureaucracy and operations involved in moving a load of guano from Cornwall to East Anglia.
The introduction of the first block trains was then covered, including the famous Tyne Dock – Consett iron ore, Annesley – Woodford Halse ‘windcutter’, and ‘Condor’ express freight services. Why those dreadful Metrovick Co-Bos were chosen to haul the latter remains an unanswered question to this day!
Later developments described included freightliners, ‘merry-go-round’ coal operations, iron-ore trains in South Wales using (filthy) triple-headed class 37s, and the rise and fall of the ‘Speedlink’ network. The talk was well illustrated with real slides (a rarity these days) including some of the less successful or downright money-wasting diesel types introduced such as the Clayton type 1s and the ‘Teddy Bear’ class 14s.

We look forward enthusiastically to the second part of Brian’s talk.

Wednesday 25th January 2017
Mail Rail
Chris Taft

“Mail Rail: A History through the Archive” was the subject of our 25 January speaker Chris Taft, Head of Collections at the Postal Museum, which is due to open to the public in mid-2017 and include a small part of the Post Office’s own underground railway.
Chris recounted the history of this unique railway, the world’s first driverless electric underground system, from early schemes until actual opening in 1927 then mothballing in 2003. It was 6½ miles in length, running from Paddington Station in the west to the Eastern District Office (at Whitechapel) in the east.
Three types of stock were utilised on this 3rd-rail powered 2’ gauge system, and examples of each will be on static display, including the only surviving 1927 car plus a 1926 battery locomotive. All these have been conserved (not restored) but visitors will travel around a loop under Mount Pleasant Sorting Office on two specially built new sets, one painted green, the original PO colour, and the other red – the colour applied with the 1987 Mail Rail rebranding.
When operational, 440 volts powered the trains, reducing to a safer 150 in the stations, but visitor’s trains will be battery powered and have a driver.

In conclusion, Chris provided us with a thoroughly entertaining and informative evening!

Wednesday 14th December 2016
Vic Mitchell

The Annual General meeting of the Chichester Branch took place a week earlier than usual because of the approaching Christmas season, but the presence of very important people at a reception prior to the Fire and Rescue service Carol Service in the adjacent cathedral, meant a hasty relocation and parking difficulties for our members and guests. Nevertheless, the business part of the meeting took place smoothly, the existing committee were re-elected, reports accepted and finances explained. The chair paid tribute to the excellent work and commitment by his committee colleagues and all agreed that the Branch is now again on a sound footing after the difficulties of the past two years.

Following the business meeting and refreshments, Vic Mitchel, founder publisher of Middleton Press gave us a fascinating account of his developing interest in railways, his early Trix Twin train set, demanding to be taken by his nurse to see the locomotives of the Metropolitan Water Board at their nearby works and then his involvement in the very early days of both the Talyllyn and the Ffestiniog restoration movements. In those more relaxed days around the end of World War 2 at the age of ten, Vic had learned his railway craft at his local station by trying out all the many railway tasks.
In 1951, with a friend, he had used a summer holiday after the end of his school years to travel to North Wales with a view to looking at both railways. Having seen the active upper reaches of the Ffestiniog and the derelict state of its main line, on arrival at Towyn they had been quickly recruited by Tom Rolt to join a gang replacing wooden keys in the track. They were told quite firmly that there was only enough room for one preserved railway in the UK and that would be the Talyllyn.
Living in Midhurst, Vic was aware of the presence and history of its local railways, and 25 years after their closure he mounted an exhibition in the local Church Hall which stimulated a lot of interest. After meeting Keith Smith and finding that between them they had something like 1000 photographs, and that another friend, Norman Langridge, had a comprehensive collection of Southern tickets, they compiled a pictorial history. The main railway publishers weren’t interested so, finding a helpful printer, the decision was taken to publish it themselves. And from that, Middleton Press has now grown to a list of some 600 titles and more are produced each year. To celebrate, the first volume, Branch Lines to Midhurst, has just been reprinted in a special edition.

This was a very special evening and the large audience clearly were fascinated to meet a remarkable man, whose links with railway preservation go back to the very early days, and who has made such an important contribution to the recording of the nation’s railways.

Wednesday 23rd November 2016
Regional Railways
Alex Green

Alex Green provided Chichester members with a fascinating account of the Regional Railways story, based on the book by Gordon Pettitt and Nicholas Comfort.
Ideally qualified to speak on this topic, (at the time of his retirement Alex was Director of Operations RRNW) he spoke of the provincial sector (1982-90), and Regional Railways (1990-94) and then looked briefly at the post privatisation period.
His talk ranged from the minimal railway with its declining freight services and decaying stations, to the start of expansion, with new stations and trains. He outlined the creation of an inter-urban network, (e.g. Cardiff - Portsmouth) and spoke of the leadership of Sir Robert Reid and then Sir Bob Reid, finally mentioning the identification of unresolved problems.
The entire presentation was backed up by hard facts and statistics.
Brilliant! Thanks Alex

Wednesday 26th October 2016
The End of the Line
Mike Beale

Mike attracted the largest attendance seen at Chichester for some time, accompanied by his wife who graced us with her presence in the audience.
Initially we were given a fascinating insight into Mikes family connections with the railway and history of the line. The projection of many historic maps, newspaper items and timetables, together with an array of images of the trains themselves set the scene perfectly.
The diversion of main line trains from the Midlands and North to the Bournemouth area, including the famous Pines Express, away from the line in 1962, signalled the beginning of the end, as local traffic was insufficient to support a viable operation. Images of deserted stations, few, if any, passengers boarding or alighting from the sparse service, were a sad but realistic image of the lines latter years.
We were treated to an in depth look at many of lines final workings, including a number of enthusiasts specials. Mike provided amazing factual detail of loco movements and loco allocations in the final months of operations, together with superb images, including the bizarre storage and movement of two withdrawn BR Standard Class 4s.
Despite a short reprieve, due to issues with the replacement bus service, the line finally closed to passengers in March 1966. However, the story did not end there. We were shown some of the interesting features of the line still existing today, providing the incentive for a good days exploration.
Finally Mike proudly highlighted the work of the Somerset and Dorset trust, based at Washford on the West Somerset Railway. At these extensive, accessible facilities, artefacts, archives, locomotives, rolling stock and much more, keep alive the spirit of the Somerset and Dorset Railway. Well worth a visit!

We thank Mike very much indeed for a thoroughly enjoyable, interesting and informative evening.

Wednesday 28th September 2016
Railway Environment
Steve Bigley

For our first meeting of the 2016-17 season in September, Chichester Branch were pleased to welcome Stephen Bigley, who gave an excellent and thought-provoking presentation on The Railway Environment.
We were told at the start that this included everything but trains, although just a few did inevitably sneak into Stephens wide-ranging and comprehensive selection of images, virtually all of which had been taken in the past few years.
Covering the whole network from Cornwall to Scotland, his talk included all the more obvious parts of railway infrastructure such as track, mile and gradient posts, embankments and cuttings, bridges and tunnels, stations and station fittings, goods facilities and signalling.
He also covered subjects connected only indirectly, such as the use of sections of former G.W.R. broad-gauge bridge rail (redundant in 1892) still buttressing a bank of the Kennet and Avon canal at Newbury, and current road signs still directing intending travellers to stations which closed eighty years ago!
Many highly unusual artefacts, both on the present system and on lines long since closed, were also shown. Being a former Redhill resident, the writer was diverted by survival in the borough of two of only three remaining sighting towers, used for surveying tunnel construction; one was above the original London and Brighton Railway tunnel at Merstham and the other, only a short distance away, was for the L.B.S.C.R. Quarry tunnel built sixty years later.
Among other observations of the peculiar and obtuse were the chapel built as a separate building under an arch carrying the main line at Runcorn, and a standard N.E.R. cast iron station footbridge at Filey, which was too long for its location so that one end had to pass through the wall behind the platform.

Altogether, Stephens entertaining and well-researched talk was much enjoyed by all present.

Wednesday 25th May 2016
'Comparisons amongst foreign railway operations - Part 2'
Stuart Baker

For the last talk in the current season the Branch welcomed back an old friend in Stuart Baker, who delivered Part 2 of a talk he started last April. He took us on a worldwide tour that included both North and South America, China and the most and least prosperous parts of the European Continent. His talk was all the more fascinating and enjoyable by being peppered with amusing anecdotes and a perceptive commentary on the social and historical background of many of the countries he visited.
The low value put on human life in the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea was all too evident, where the main concern of the authorities to people using the railway as a footpath and being fatally injured by (much quieter) high speed trains was the disruption caused to the testing schedules!
Although Argentina was one of the first countries in the world to privatise its railways, they have since descended into near collapse because of inadequate investment. Longer distance passenger services in the country, usually carried an inventory of spare parts on the train, and Stuarts picture of passengers calmly watching a broken spring being repaired in situ, was clearly an alien experience for British eyes.
Stuart went on to draw a stark comparison between the often shambolic nature of state owned passenger services in the USA and the highly efficient and privatised freight operations.
China was fully covered, and Stuart emphasised the truly transformational modernisation that has taken place in the country where the route mileage of high speed lines now exceeds that in the whole of Europe.
As a finale, we were treated to some bang up-to-date pictures of the new Hitachi Class 800 Azuma trains in the UK, including one of the Virgin East Coast branded unit with a group of VIPs standing in front including the rather discomfited MD of Great Western, Mark Hopwood!

Wednesday 27th April 2016
'Chiltern Railways'
Andrew Munden

If sheer enthusiasm was the sole job requirement then Andrew Munden would be admirably qualified for the post of Operations and Safety Director of Chiltern Railways. Add to that a thorough background in both the infrastructure and operating side of the business and it soon became clear we were listening to a man who is a key part of a real success story.
Andrew outlined the complex history of todays route based on the former Met & GC Joint and GW & GC Joint lines. The rationalisation and decline in the 1960s following the closure of the Great Central, north of Aylesbury, and the downgrading of the Paddington-Birmingham route and the subsequent emergence of Chiltern Railways, must count as one of the outstanding railway renaissance stories of modern times. Andrew described the various phases of the Evergreen Project up to the recent introduction of the Oxford Parkway to Marylebone service via the new Bicester chord.
Being customer focused is a well-used phrase, but for Chiltern Railways it is crucial, as it bears the complete revenue risk as part of its franchise contract. It was clear also that the travelling public had a choice viz. using Virgin West Coast, London Midland, or the M40, as well as Chiltern and this served to concentrate managements mind. Andrew said it was no accident that the holding company was called M40 Trains Limited!
Preserving the best of the past was not forgotten and Andrew showed us some fine examples at both Marylebone and Birmingham Moor Street.
Many in the audience had had a poor experience recently of travelling by Southern Railway in the Sussex area, and the well deserved appreciation for Andrews excellent presentation was understandably tinged with more than a little envy for Chiltern Railways performance!

last updated: 27/03/17