The Croydon & South London Branch held its first meeting on 2nd September 2002, the culmination of several months effort by a Steering Committee set up by Steve Hodge, then Secretary of Surrey Branch. He considered that that Branch, although very successful, was providing nothing for a quarter of members, on its list of about 200, who lived in the east of Surrey, probably because of the difficult journey to meetings on the other side of the county. The Management Committee agreed to his proposal that a new branch, centred on Croydon, be formed to cater for those members. Four members from the area – Peter Carress, Jack Fielder, Geoff Lipscombe and Jim Parker - were enlisted to join him on the Steering Committee. This first met on 28th January 2002, in the Porter and Sorter public house, adjacent to East Croydon station, when it was agreed that the branch should be named Croydon and North Downs. The demise, in March 2002, of the London Branch led to it being renamed Croydon and South London, and, as the Society's newest branch, it took a share of members from the London Branch list. Some initial funds were provided by a grant of £250 from the Society, while an evening meeting venue was soon found: the East Croydon United Reformed Church, although not cheap, could provide a suitable hall, with good public transport links nearby and ample parking spaces.
At the first meeting an audience of 24, including Alan Cooke (then as now Society Secretary), was treated to a slide show 20 Years Around the UK by John Day, then Society Branch Liaison Secretary. Attendances at the next few meetings were somewhat disappointing, but they have slowly increased, to average now in the mid twenties. Occasionally, however, we surprise ourselves: our November 2010 meeting, an illustrated talk on the Settle and Carlisle Line, attracted 31, our best so far for a presentation. Initially, meetings were held on the first Monday of the months from September to May, with variations for Bank Holidays: with the season 2009/10, however, we have changed to standardise on the second Monday. In 2004 the Branch led the revival of the annual inter-society Croydon Railbrains quiz, now hosting it alternately with the local branch of the Mid-Hants RPS. The RCTS team has always been a front runner in what has frequently been a closely run competition. A Photographic Competition was held for the first time in 2008, and has become an annual event, adding further spice to our Members' Evening, which already included the AGM and members' slides.
Afternoon meetings were introduced in the 2007/08 programme: in October in Wimbledon, SW London, and in April in Redhill, Surrey – these have become a regular feature of our annual programme. They have attracted somewhat different audiences from our evening meetings, although the average attendance has been similar.
The Porter and Sorter has continued to play a role in the life of the Branch, particularly as the venue for the annual Christmas Dinner, first held in 2005 and now a popular and well established part of the Branch Calendar. Since 2007 we have also enjoyed an annual Summer Dinner, held at a restaurant in Addington Village, a convenient tram journey from Croydon.
From the start the Branch has arranged outdoor activities. Observation sessions have combined with mini rail tours, covering the likes of the Docklands Light Railway and the East, North and West London Lines, to provide an excellent way of seeing what is happening on the local network, and attracting members from beyond the Branch. In July 2006 we had an enjoyable day on the Spa Valley Railway, and look forward to a return visit once their extension to Eridge is opened.
The Branch has always been involved in running a sales stand at exhibitions, initially jointly with Surrey Branch, but soon establishing our own stand. We currently attend five events a year, with a small band of regular helpers.
Inevitably, the Branch Committee has seen changes over the years. It currently consists of Geoff Lipscombe, Jeremy Harrison (our 4th Treasurer in eight years), Peter Wilson, Bob Prescott and Chris Meredith. For the future, more help is needed to run the Branch if it is to continue to prosper – a sixth committee member would be very welcome. Although our average meeting attendance is increasing but slowly, we have a fairly healthy bank balance (enabling us to consider acquiring a digital projector), but we depend on the sales stand to keep it that way. We produce a regular newsletter and have an e-mail group. We have an enticing programme of meetings for the current season with an equally exciting one in prospect for the next, while we are looking forward to celebrating our tenth anniversary in September of the Olympic year 2012.
last updated: 03/12/10