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Croydon & South London

Meeting Reports

Monday 14th August 2017
Visit to the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway

Our final event of the Summer, on Monday 14th August, took place in pleasantly warm and sunny weather on the 15 inch gauge Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railway. We were five members in two small groups, each making their own travel arrangements and meeting up at New Romney station. There was some disappointment that the train which took one group out of Hythe was hauled by Bo-Bo diesel-mechanical JB Snell. Spirits rose at New Romney station, however, when the group's onward journey to Dungeness and return to Hythe was hauled by steam in the form of 4-6-2 Northern Chief in Brunswick Green, and with a Bulleid whistle, built by Davey Paxman & Co in 1925. Other locos seen in service conveying the other group were 4-6-2 Hurricane in Caledonian Railway blue and 4-8-2 Hercules in Midland Railway maroon, both Davey Paxman built. Further examples of these beautiful one-third full size engines could be spotted resting peacefully under blankets in the shed at New Romney

Saturday 29th July 2017
Visit to the Great Western Society’s Didcot Railway Centre

A small but select group met at the Great Western Society at Didcot Railway Centre for the first outdoor meeting of the summer on Saturday 29th July. Undoubtedly the outstanding “live” attraction was the GWR steam railcar and trailer operating on one demonstration line while large prairie No. 4144 was working a two-coach train on the other. Static exhibits in and around the depot ranged from Cardiff Railway 0-4-0ST No. 1338 to 2-8-0 No. 3822 and blue-liveried 6023 King Edward II.

Monday 8th May 2017
The John J Smith Photo Collection
Tony Hillman, Bluebell Railway Museum Archive

Our final indoor meeting of the 2016/17 season took place on Monday 8th May when Tony Hillman from the Bluebell Railway Museum Archive showed us a selection of photographs from the John J. Smith collection. John Smith was based in Eastbourne and took a large number of photographs on the Southern Region from the late 1940s into the 1960s. Tony opened his presentation with a “selfie” of John at Watchingwell Halt on the Isle of Wight on 10th September 1953 during the last weekend of operation on the line between Newport and Freshwater. John worked for British Railways in London and commuted daily from his home close to Eastbourne station. He made maximum use of his railway travel facilities and traveled all over the U.K., Ireland and parts of Europe taking photographs. John had no known relatives and died intestate some ten years ago. The Bluebell Railway Museum Archive became involved with the Treasury Solicitor in the disposal of his assets and eventually purchased his photographic collection of some 10,000 negatives. Cataloguing of this collection has continued since then and much has been made available for viewing on line, with the facility for purchasing prints. Tony produced a well chosen selection of images from the collection, mainly of early Southern Region subjects including some wonderful shots of very elderly locomotives on shed and works and working trains. However, a selection of pictures from one of John’s visits to Ireland included a very rare shot of O. V. S. Bulleid’s turf-burning locomotive. The active interest shown by members throughout the evening emphasised the popularity of this final session of the season.

Monday 10th April 2017
Elizabeth Line (Crossrail) Progress
Patrick Griffin

Our evening meeting at Croydon on Monday 10th April brought a complete change of style when Patrick Griffin, Insurance and Information Manager of the Elizabeth Line (formerly Crossrail), gave us a very full and detailed presentation on the up-to-date situation. He opened with a brief summary of the beginnings of London’s underground railway network from George Stephenson’s abortive scheme for a tunnel from the London and Birmingham Railway at Euston to the city centre. The eventual front-runner was the Metropolitan Railway from Paddington to Farringdon. He described the development of the present system to the planning of the East/West full-size railway which was at first entitled “Crossrail” and was eventually planned to run under central London from the East at Abbey Wood and Shenfield to the West at Reading and London Heathrow. Patrick was able to give an extremely detailed account of the progress on the route selected, the engineering challenges faced and especially the work carried out by the massive tunnel boring machines. He was also able to describe fully the characteristics of the rolling stock to be used. Despite the high profile of this scheme, members of the audience were surprised at how close to completion the project had reached with 80% of the physical infrastructure complete and the introduction into service of the first of the new 66 trains scheduled for May 2017. After the interval Patrick answered questions on various aspects of he scheme and well deserved the enthusiastic applause he received.

Tuesday 21st March 2017
The Great Way Round
Terry Nicholls

For our afternoon meeting in Redhill on Tuesday 21st March we were delighted to welcome Terry Nicholls, from Bristol Branch, who gave us a slide presentation entitled “The Great Way Round: From Paddington to Penzance via Bristol”. His delightful Bristolian accent brought a flavour of the Great Western to a gathering of (mostly) died-in-the-wool Southern enthusiasts. After outlining his railway background, Terry started with a modern shot of 47834 Firefly at Paddington, and then showed us images of locomotives and trains at well-known and less well-known locations along the line which was the subject of his presentation including calls at – of course – Old Oak Common, Maidenhead Bridge, Didcot, Swindon Works, Bristol, Newton Abbot, the South Devon banks and Plymouth/Saltash and the Royal Albert Bridge, proudly displaying the name of I.K. Brunel, its builder. While Terry’s presentation concentrated on motive power en route, with the occasional sighting of a Bulleid Pacific for the benefit of this audience, he was also able to include numerous pictures of memorable locations along the way.

Monday 13th March 2017
Branch AGM and Photo Competition, followed by The Sir Winston Churchill Funeral Train
Chris Meredith

Our fifteenth Branch Annual General Meeting took place on Monday evening 13th March. In his opening remarks Chairman Chris Meredith summarised the Branch’s activities during the past year, and each of the Branch Officers then reported on his own aspect. Chris Meredith, Peter Wilson, John Archer, Jeremy Harrison and Andrew Jones were all re-elected to their respective posts on the Committee. In view of the increasing age profile of the Branch this prompted an appeal from the chair for younger members to come forward for nomination to membership of the Committee.

This formal part of the evening was followed by the Branch Photographic Competition - this was managed by Andrew Jones, and won by Geoff Brockett, with his picture of 60163 Tornado and modern Class 377 Electrostar multiple units on the approaches to London Victoria station.

Chris then brought the evening to a close with a short talk about Sir Winston Churchill’s funeral train from London Waterloo to Handborough on 30th January 1965. Because of a family commitment (his own 21st birthday!) Chris had been unable to see the special train en route. However, based on the original BR file, he was able to give us an insight into the planning (under the name 'Operation Hope Not' - starting with a Christmas Eve 1959 summons to a meeting by the Duke of Norfolk) and operation of this train, including the use of Waterloo Station in London and the routing to Handborough in Oxfordshire, the chosen destination (Woodstock was also considered, but rapidly ruled out as the branch track had been lifted) for the movement of the coffin to St. Mark’ Church, Bladon. From an early stage in the planning process it was intended that the train would be worked by “Battle of Britain” class 4-6-2 No. 34051 Winston Churchill - unlike its namesake the locomotive was not knighted! He was also able to describe the processes which led to the provision of the van containing the catafalque and the Pullman cars for the mourners and pall bearers. Chris concluded with a comment on the account submitted for payment - this was based on fares for the funeral party, with special train charge (for the appropriate mileage): but nothing for all the planning and preparation work.

Monday 13th February 2017
Recent Travels in Five Continents
James Waite

Following the January meeting’s concentration on London and the South East the subject on 13th February ventured much farther afield when James Waite - described as a “Globe-Trotting Photographer” - gave a photographic presentation on Recent Travels in Five Continents. This was to feature narrow gauge – i.e. less than 4 feet 8 ½ inches – steam around the world in the 21st century. James started with the U.S.A. and Canada in North America and finished with Australia and New Zealand in Australasia. On the way he visited at least another 24 countries (by your reporter’s count!) in South America, Europe, Africa and Asia, and astounded his audience with the wealth of detail he had acquired and was able to disseminate about the railways and locomotives in each. Locomotives featured ranged in size from minute 0-4-0Ts to Beyer-Garratts. Other highlights included the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway and the Bridge on the River Kwai. All the images were full of interest and some were nothing less than superb, especially where spectacular scenery or (inevitably) snow were involved.

Monday 9th January 2017
Network South East
Chris Green

For our first meeting of 2017 a very good attendance braved the cold weather and industrial relations problems to welcome former senior B.R. manager Chris Green who gave a presentation on Network SouthEast.

Chris’s story began in January 1986 with his transfer from Scotrail to Sector Director, London and South East. His remit from the British Railways Board was to “do a Scotrail” in London and create a unified railway system in that area. He described the thinking and planning - including the almost overnight appearance of red lamp posts at all 940 stations of the newly created Network SouthEast - that led up to Launch Date on 10th June 1986. It was essential to demonstrate improvements in the quality of service for commuting passengers. Trains in the new livery were painted in secrecy so that each service had at least one newly liveried train in service on launch date to present the new image. Subsequent changes included the reprieve from threatened closure of London Marylebone station, re-introduction of train services on the West London line and the introduction of the Thameslink service in May 1988. Commercial changes were represented by the one-day Capital Card, which contributed to the increase in passenger revenue and reduction in government subsidy. Chris was appointed Managing Director, InterCity in 1992 and Network SouthEast was disbanded on 1st April 1994 prior to subsequent privatisation.

Monday 12th December 2016
Croydon Railbrains

The annual Croydon Railbrains’ Competition, between local railway societies, took place on 12th December, this year hosted by the RCTS CSL Branch. Not all of the four societies taking part could muster a full team of three on the night and all agreed to field teams of two. By half time the Norbury & South London Transport Club were well in the lead, but after the refreshment break the Mid Hants Railway Preservation Society stormed ahead and took the trophy with 23 points, with the Norbury Club and LCGB equal second with 12 points each followed very closely by the RCTS with 11. Mince pies provided a seasonal touch to the evening which was chaired by Chris Meredith who, with Alan Walters, formed the RCTS team. Jeremy Harrison and Peter Wilson were, respectively, question master and scorer.

Monday 14th November 2016
Southern Electric, Part 2
David Brown

Southern Electric enthusiast and author David Brown returned to us on Monday 14th November and attracted an above average attendance for his presentation entitled “Southern Electrics Part 2 – 1940s to 1990s”. David started by summarising briefly his previous visit when he outlined the early days of the overhead and third rail systems which became the Southern Railway third rail network in the 1920s. He then plunged into a black-and-white extravaganza of the rolling stock which developed from the immediate pre-WWII trains into those which became so familiar after the war. Using photographs from his own extensive collection he illustrated the Southern Railway’s practice of combining previously used bodies and/or underframes to produce a “refurbished” class of train. This was particularly evident in the development of what became the 4-SUB and 4-EPB suburban sets. David did not neglect the development of the main line sets for the Portsmouth and later Kent Coast and Bournemouth schemes. Particular highlights of his presentation were the inclusion of many of his own images of rarely seen (or photographed) examples of departmental conversions from passenger vehicles, together with illustrations of Bulleid’s experimental double-decker 4-DD sets in revenue earning service.

last updated: 20/09/17