Tuesday 11th February 2020
'More Thrills and Spills'
I believe we all learnt a great deal about railway operations when Chris Blackman paid us a return visit with his talk “More Thrills & Spills.”
Chris worked on the railway for his entire career starting in the Area Inspectors office at Willesden. He then transferred to Northwich Area Inspectors office where he regularly saw seven limestone trains of 18 wagons per day, plus other regular loads such as caustic soda all for the ICI plant.
Other positions Chris held were Deputy Area Manager at Leicester which included overseeing signal boxes, booking offices, marshalling yards etc.
Then moving on to Nottingham as Planning Officer before moving again this time to Birmingham as their main Operating Officer, he likened this to controlling an enormous model railway.
Before finishing his career with some time in BR headquarters in London and finally at Liverpool Street with control for East Anglia services.
There were so many stories associated with each area and position it would be difficult to relay any one them in this report.
Tuesday 28th January 2020
'Next Train Gone'
Adrian White, our speaker this afternoon, started his photographic tour with pictures taken at our several of local locations on the ECML, including the building of the new platform 5 at Stevenage. This was followed again on the ECML with some shots of our fast disappearing Class 91s.
We then went onto comparing photographs from around the country before Network Rail and Health & Safety ruled, and afterwards to show how difficult high metal fences, boarding on stations and catenary systems have changed or ruined beautiful locations.
Adrian’s presentation was primarily steam orientated, covering preserved lines and steam charters throughout the UK, whether it be a humble tank engine or a Pacific loco nothing seemed to escape his eagle eye.
A few photographs covered all eras showing a very modern street scene with modern vehicles and wheely bins on the roadside with a steam loco passing over road.
We spent some time on the Welsh Highland Rly., Severn Valley Rly., NYMR and at Beamish in all sort of light conditions, to show what could be achieved.
Moving on briefly, we went to the USA with their huge locomotives and vast countryside to Santa Specials in Italy and the Glazier Express and the very snowy conditions in Switzerland.
In the main Adrian preferred the distant shots using natural features to lead you into the picture.
We finished the afternoon by looking at what could be achieved by moving about around the same location, this being emphasised with a dozen or so pictures of Digswell Viaduct taken from both sides, towards one end or the other, from far away or close to.
We finished the presentation with shots from the footplate on the preserved lines.
An absolutely superb afternoon’s entertainment with, what must be, one of the best railway photographers of the present day.
Tuesday 14th January 2020
'A Potpourri of European Railways'
To start our new year off we welcomed Rob Freeman (Watford) with his presentation “A Potpourri of European Railways”.
We started with looking at some of the historic traction going back to the early 1960s, with a real variety from across Europe during the time, like Britain, the transition away from steam. This was a more impromptu start to the evening as our members were asked to select a numbered file from those shown on the screen, which then took us to a series of pictures from a certain country. We started in Holland at Tilberg & Rotterdam where Rob also saw some ex-Woodhead line Class 27s still in use. From there we went to Germunden in Germany, a major freight point on the German network. We then moved onto narrow gauge and the Glockenspiel railway, where we travelled up and back via photographs and video clips. Video clips were something rare for the Branch as few speakers take advantage of them.
After the break we visited Austria, Belgium, Luxemburg & Greece, where they seemed to have all other countries ‘cast off’ old locomotives including some ex SR USA tank engines one of which was still operational as a stationary steam boiler. Most of the modern stock is able to adapt to any of the four voltages used across Europe which eliminates much loco changing at the various borders. Also, surprisingly in Austria we saw a plinthed loco, as it was out of gauge, of ex BR 18000.
Rob rounded of the evening with photographs of a cab ride he took on a ballast train from Hanover to Hamburg.
A great varied evening & something for everyone.
Tuesday 17th December 2019
'A 92 Squadron and Nene Valley Update'
Our speaker today was someone well known to most railway enthusiasts within our area, he is also our Branch Chairman and one of the most enthusiastic people you could meet, Steve Lacey, telling us all about the progress of what he refers to as his locomotive, 34081, 92 Squadron and her various recent travels away from the Nene Valley.
We started with some history about O.V. Bullied himself, then rather unusually, making comparisons of some his ideas, designs and innovations against some of today’s rolling stock, some remarkable close comparisons appeared.
Moving directly on now to when 34081 was new standing outside Brighton Works, and following her progression through some of her working life to the point where she was being rescued from Woodham’s scrap yard in Barry.
We then started going through her restoration process’s over many years up to her first steaming just a few years ago. As a couple of pictures showed a certain gentleman is never happier than getting himself absolutely filthy, far away from the environment of his doctor’s surgery a few years ago.
After our festive break, Steve moved on to update us to the latest repairs and work progressing at present on the Nene Valley, including in some detail the in progress rebuilding on “F Class” tank engine “Tinkerbell”.
Finally finishing the afternoon with all the preparation that is required for the Santa Specials currently in operation, which, of course Steve is one of the Santa’s.
A great afternoon with detail, humour & fun throughout.
Tuesday 26th November 2019
'The Railways of Western France'
We were delighted to welcome back to Mike Bunn with his annual French railway’s presentation to us, this time talking about “The Railways of Western France”.
Mike started by explaining the history of the railways we were about to see, and how they spread into the region from Paris. These railways were some of the first to be electrified using commuter style trains. Initially they were third rail but soon became an overhead catenary system.
This region also took a severe battering during the second world war, which enabled the railways to develop and modernise. Several routes nearer Paris are now tram lines often running parallel to the main line railway before diverting off into the suburbs. Many of the longer distance trains are loco hauled using push pull double deck sets, which are now gradually being replaced and upgraded by double deck multiple units, just as here everything is looking the same wherever you go. Steam finished completely in France in 1975 but several of the large 4-8-2, 241P locos are preserved and used on main line steam specials.
Throughout the afternoon Mike cleverly showed the transformation from the old to the new, which highlighted the transformation that had taken place with the massive changes involved.
In 1989 the TGVs were introduced which again brought more electrification into the region. TGVs also ran to Brest, the most westerly (and wettest) point in in France.
After looking at some of the preserved railways in western France, Mike finished the afternoon showing us some pictures of the RCTS rail tour in August 1965 to the region and the recently featured RCTS “Cunard Rail tour”.
A thoroughly enjoyable afternoon.
Tuesday 29th October 2019
'Along the Tracks from Home and Away'
Today we welcomed from Selby, Steve Batty, a well-known Society member and photographer, Steve started our meeting today most topically with a pair of Colas Class 60’s working an RHTT train, very appropriate for the amount of leaf fall recently. Many of Steve’s pictures were in the area around south Yorkshire, majority were taken in recent years, therefore in the modern liveries which worked well in the scenic locations permitting the stand train to stand out amongst the trees and grassland. Ferrybridge Power Station in all its glory featured in several scenes. (Over this last weekend a further four of its cooling towers have been demolished leaving just three). The presentation also included some steam on the main line such as Flying Scotsman, Duchess of Hamilton, Galatea and several others including, much to our Chairman’s delight, his particular baby 34081, 92 Squadron. During the afternoon, much to the amusement of members, was the occurrence of the odd Pacer unit. We also visited Scunthorpe steel works, Hitachi (Newton Aycliffe), North Yorkshire Moors Rly. The Middleton Rly. The Swanage Rly. The Wensleydale Rly. & the Foxfield Rly. Finishing up with a brief visit to Dresden and Leipzig. A really great and enjoyable afternoon for everyone with some spectacular photography.
Tuesday 8th October 2019
'London to Velke Kapusany, a 21st. Century Odyssey'
A much travelled David Jackman was our speaker with his presentation.“London to Velke Kapusany, a 21st Century Odyssey”. A fascinating journey through Europe all the way to the Slovakia / Ukraine border.
With some superbly sharp, clear, interesting photographs we travelled the whole journey by train encountering most weathers along the route.
David, a real enthusiast for continental rolling stock, gave full details of the locos and units we came across in each country and of how they interacted with each other across the borders.
During the evening David also displayed some of the tickets he had bought from local stations for a day or weekend travel using local services only. Some of the railways, particularly in Switzerland and the Czech Republic adapted certain services to the needs of passengers. Dependant on demand, trains were lengthened or services increased on busy days, or as in the case of rural Czech Republic they have reopened some branch lines at weekends for walkers, hikers etc.
A thoroughly interesting evening.
Tuesday 24th September 2019
'Through Kirton Tunnel - Part 1'
This afternoon we welcomed back Stephen Gay, with his upgraded presentation “Through Kirton Tunnel” (Part 1). Kirton Tunnel is approximately the half way point on the line running between Sheffield and Cleethorpes. Stephen’s knowledge & photographic skills are second to none with photographs where possible showing a train, whether it is a dmu or a locomotive, but, as we know Stephen paints a complete picture in his presentations, so we also saw signal boxes, stations, railway architecture and other significant artefacts associated with the journey. One of the most unusual features was the unearthing of Waleswood Tunnel buried for many years beneath coal tips and land fill, this was revealed when a new landscaping project was underway for a country park. Visible for just a few weeks before demolition and covering again, this was long enough for Stephen to hear about it, get there, take his pictures so we could see this on the screen today. A wonderful afternoons entertainment full of nostalgia, humour and great detail. Well worth the many members turning out on an terrible very wet day.
Tuesday 10th September 2019
"Modern Transport in the 1960's"
Local photographer and historian David Percival got our Autumn meetings for 2019 off to a great start by attracting our good audience, his subject being “Modern Traction In the 1960’s”.
With mixture of colour and black and white photographs, we saw the majority of the early, almost new then, classes of diesel traction from around the country covering all regions of the then BR. The presentation also included some dmu, emu, classes and the remnants of steam.
There was also a good selection of photographs from our local area particularly on the ECML in the Knebworth area, some of which were included especially for our local members. We got the impression that David favoured the Deltics and Class 40s here. David’s pictures were always interesting and very well composed to make them really stand out, many of which have been published over the years in magazines and books. I particularly liked those in which the semaphore signals featured.
Some photographs also had a particular theme to them. David, particularly in the early 1960s, liked to take photographs with new diesels adjacent to the old soon to be retired steam locos.
Many of the pictures would not be possible today due to the now imposed health & safety restrictions. There were very few restrictions then, no yellow lines or steel fences to be seen. Similarly now, many of the panoramic shots would now be covered with trees or buildings making it almost impossible to see the railway. With station barrows to sit on, embankments to clamber on what a good life we used to have.
A thoroughly good evening’s entertainment.
Tuesday 30th July 2019
'Swindon Works 1880-1922, The Golden Years'
Brian Arman, RCTS President
To complete our summer programme of meetings we welcomed Society President Brian Arman who gave us the second part of his presentation on “Swindon Works 1880-1922, The Golden Years”.
We started today when Swindon was chosen as the site for the GWR carriage works, after it was deemed that the original chosen site in Oxford was too small, this was to be on the opposite side of the main line to the existing loco works. The first coaches produced there were in 1868.,We also heard a little about the life of Chief Engineer William Dean, a sad story as both his wife and son predeceased him.
We proceeded onto to the Armstrong erecting shop with possibly 12 broad gauge locos under construction at the same time in 1873, these new erecting shops at Swindon were very tall, light and airy, Swindon was also one of few works that had its own brass foundry and finishing shops.
Brian also spoke about the responsibility the GWR showed for its workers, having a hospital and doctors’ surgery on site, possibly becoming a model for the origins of the NHS.
At the end of Broad Gauge in 1892. many coaches and locos were converted to standard gauge (240 approx) only 70 engines were scrapped.
Some fascinating stories and facts emerged. It was amazing just how much information, dates etc. that Brian has and the detail he is able to impart to us without any notes using just the slides as prompts. All of Brian’s slides were historic and conveyed a very real insight into the works and its facilities at that time. At this point we had also a small look at Swindon town centre and the surrounding countryside.
A superb history lesson for everyone.
Tuesday 9th July 2019
'By the Midland to Cambridge'
This evening’s presentation in Hitchin turned out to be surprising in several ways. Firstly it attracted one of the largest audiences we have had for an evening meeting for quite some-time, totalling 40 members and guests, Many admitted the subject matter really interested them. This was “By the Midland to Cambridge” with speaker Robin Cullup from Kettering.
The line opened in several sections between 1847 and 1866, with the line from Kettering to Huntingdon via Kimbolton opening and finally completed in 1866. The original Huntingdon terminus at Godmanchester, was moved into Huntingdon also in 1866, hence completing the route through to Cambridge.
Robin had many photographs on a whole variety of locomotives and stock, dating back into the mid 1800s through to the end of the steam era. One train that seemed to appear on several occasions was the Saturdays only Leicester to Clacton seaside special. This ran through over the whole line often behind loco’s 76028 & 76029, or similar. A couple of rarities that also arrived at Kettering were GW Castle 5018 on a move to nearby Cohen’s scrap yard and also Jubilee 45660 Rooke which worked a few ironstone trains along the route briefly prior to suffering the same fate as 5018. Ironstone movements were the main freight workings over the route with the product going to Stewart & Lloyds at nearby Corby.
Other features highlighted in the pictures were all those, now missing, lineside structures, water cranes and towers, telegraph poles, a variety of semaphore signals, gas lights, loading gauges etc. etc.
Much of this now lost route follows closely the line of the very busy new A14 trunk road.
The entire programme was really well delivered, clearly audible mixed with a huge amount of detail and humour.
Tuesday 11th June 2019
'Next Train Gone'
Our speaker this evening was local photographer & enthusiast Adrian White, with his presentation “Next Train Gone.”
Following an amusing introduction about himself, ourselves and the programme for evening, consisting of a varied selection of photographs from here, there & everywhere, how true that turned out to be. We visited most of the preserved railways in the UK and all the main lines. The first part of the programme concentrated on steam traction, later to be followed by a mix of diesel and electric traction.
After an explanation from Adrian as to how he started photographing trains and how he eventually moved into the scenic railway style for most of his pictures,following the style of some best railway photographers in the country. I believe one of Adrian’s favourite railways is the Severn Valley closely followed by the Bluebell and the Llangollen.
During the evening we also visited Germany, Switzerland and the USA, primarily featuring some superb snowy scenes, and the huge American coal and oil fired locomotives.
After the break the presentation concentrated more on stations, signals, signs etc. Again, showing Adrian’s fantastic eye for detail, beauty and the unusual, one of which was some pictures of trains on the triple gauge track at Bade-le-Somme in France.
Every photograph had a story, atmosphere and superb locations, along with traction from the very old at Beamish to the very latest Class 800s on the Paddington mainline and the new LNER stock at Hitchin, Stevenage.
A brilliant, greatly appreciated amusing evening, enjoyed by everyone.
Tuesday 28th May 2019
'The Somerset & Dorset Line'
On a slightly chilly afternoon at Welwyn Garden City, who better to entertain a full house than John Day with what turned out to be a fabulous collection of pictures from “The Somerset & Dorset Line”. All the pictures were courtesy of John Chalcraft and the Rail Photoprint Collection but what a selection John had chosen to show us. Majority were taken in the final years of the line between 1958 & 1966. The line actually closed on 7th March 1966.
A couple of the pictures showed the staff rosters for drivers & fireman and one showing station staff along the route. It was amazing just how many people it took to operate this line.
Starting at Bath Green Park, the main depot for the line, and one of the major loco change points for engines travelling from many parts of the country, as far away as Manchester, York, Cleethorpes and heading for Bournemouth and further into the west country.
A selection of the locos we saw were Battle of Britain & West country classes, and a rare visitor to the in the form of Britannia 70034 Thomas Hardy. Many of the other trains shown were double-headed to cope with the gradients along the line.
Views of the rural stations and signal boxes featured along, of course, with several pictures at the important water stop, Evercreech Junction.
During the afternoon, Ivatt tank engines and Midland compounds were amongst the engines featured, supporting the famous series of 9F S&D stalwarts. In one shot a signalman in wellies on a sunny day doing a tablet exchange was the cause for much humour and speculation, resulting in discussion as whether this operation should be done on the move or gently with the train at a standstill.
Simply a superb afternoon thoroughly enjoyed by everyone.
Tuesday 14th May 2019
Chris Taft (Head of Collections) from the London Post Office Museum gave us a very well-structured and clear presentation on “Mail Rail”, The History of the Post Office Railway. Opened fairly recently following a move to its present site in Phoenix Place during 2017, the entrance to the railway is directly opposite the museum.
An experimental pneumatic system was originally proposed and partly sold to the Post Office, but they lost interest in 1874. Work on testing a driverless electric railway to transport mail started following an Act of Parliament in 1913.This was 6.5 miles long and to run from Whitechapel to Paddington, via Liverpool Street, Kings Cross and major post office distribution points including Mount Pleasant.
The tunnel was dug by hand, from the surface but work stopped in 1917 and did not restart until 1924. During this period the completed tunnel was used to store works of art from galleries and museums during the war.
The railway was completed in 1928, and comprised of 90 purpose built vehicles with two axles and coupled in threes. These were quickly superseded by longer bogied vehicles to prevent the excessive wear being found on the wheels and the track, caused by the inflexible two axles.
The depot and workshop were based at Mount Pleasant and the railway operated 22 hours a day until its closure in 2003, when the whole mail system became very automated, with many sorting offices becoming redundant, along with the rail companies not wishing to operate the trains from the connected stations.
A fascinating evening and a real insight into this unique railway.
Tuesday 30th April 2019
The Branch is extremely grateful to Robert Warburton (P’boro) for giving us such a superb afternoon’s presentation at such short notice, as our booked speakers were unable to attend. Robert’s “Double Vision” slide show was fantastic and enthralled all members present.
As the title suggests this was primarily a view of double headed trains, mainly modern traction with a little steam thrown in for good measure. There was hardly a class of diesel and electric traction not covered. It had taken many years of dedication to capture so many trains being worked by multiple engines, as in some cases for example, six Kings Cross platforms all with Class 91s on them, or eight Deltics awaiting their fate in the scrap yard at Doncaster. The majority of the photographs were from the 1970s and 80s, some were slightly older and a few were right up to date.
We were also taken around the British Isles from Fort William in the north to Exeter and Plymouth in the south, from Cardiff and Bristol in the west to Ipswich in East Anglia.
Robert’s programme also brought back many memories of classes of locos that had now disappeared, other than those few now in preservation. I think he had quite some feeling for classes 20, 25 and 56 as these turned up with regularity, as did class 86 and 87. Dmus and Emu‘s were not forgotten as we saw several line ups in stations or yards awaiting their turn of duty.
A presentation well put together and varied, thoroughly enjoyed by all of us.
Tuesday 9th April 2019
'On and Off the Footplate; Aspects of a 42 years career'
On his return visit on 9th April, Bill Davies provided yet another well illustrated and entertaining evening. His subject, On and Off the Footplate; Aspects of a 42 years career” , was well chosen.
In the first half he provided humorous accounts of encounters with station staff, showed slides of the liberal use by the public of Indian railroads, and of ambiguous signage, all of which caused great amusement.
The second part started with slides of Nottingham, where he started his railway career, including nostalgic pictures of his favourite locomotive, the rebuilt patriot 45532 “Illustrious”..
Then followed illustrations, mainly of infrastructure, at the southern end of the Midland mainline. Scenes from the roof of St. Pancras showing the modernisation of the station and Kings Cross complex were especially interesting.
A splendid and unique evening, being both informative and lightly entertaining.
Tuesday 26th March 2019
'1000 Eggs on a Bicycle'
A full house at our meeting this afternoon to enjoy today’s speaker the renowned photographer and author Colin Boocock.
The presentation followed a logical order from 1943 through to the present day. So up to date was the last picture that it was at Welwyn Garden City station half an hour before the meeting, showing the Class 700 Colin had travelled on, with a new, second day in service Class 717 in the adjacent platform.
We saw many stunning beautifully composed photographs from around the world, the foreign ones mostly taken since Colin’s retirement. The many British locos and trains varied from the black and white photographic era, showing the many facets of steam on both passenger and freight from around the country, moving into the diesel and electric era from the beginning of what we call the modern era with colour photography taking over.
Along with his knowledge of railways, Colin was able to give us many details of the train in the picture and the location and on some occasions the difficulties in getting to the right spot to capture the picture.
There was also plenty of opportunity for members participation which was eagerly taken up.
Altogether a superb thoroughly enjoyable afternoon’s entertainment
Tuesday 12th March 2019
'Branch Annual General Meeting and Members' Presentation Evening'
This month we held our AGM, following the co-option to the committee of one member. the committee were re-elected for another year.
The remainder of the meeting was taken up with a presentation by Norman Hill, a Hitchin member who was promoting his new book that had just been published, "Kings Cross, Second man".
Many of Norman's photographs from the book were shown, obviously this was of great interest to the members as they were all within our area, including many shots of Kings Cross and "Top Shed" plus those sheds at Finsbury Park, Hornsey, Hatfield and Hitchin.
Norman had also recorded the upgrading of the track on the approach to Kings Cross in 1977.
Also, we saw many views taken from the cabs of whichever loco Norman was in; these days it is called "Drivers Eye".
This was followed by George Howe, who posed the question "Mystery Junction". George was given a photograph of a railway junction some time ago with the words Woolmer Green on the reverse, which obviously was not. We went on to hear how George carried out hours of research with the aid of a friends in the right places, and he finished up with a whole series of pictures showing the complete junction before, all through the relaying and repositioning of all lines, and after, when the running speed across the junction was lifted from 15 mph. to 55 mph, A fascinating insight to how the work and design was carried out some 50 years ago.
I am not mentioning which junction George was referring to as he talks to many groups in the area and I don't want to spoil the surprise for anyone else to whom he might pose the question.
Tuesday 26th February 2019
'Steamy Stories from the Footplate'
Our speaker this afternoon really lived up to his job, dressed in his full fireman’s outfit and complete with shovel, Stephen Jupp proceeded to tell us about his many experiences on the Welsh Highland Railway.
Stephen has fired on the WHR for many years and knew all the locomotives as if they were his best friends. Starting with the ten items a fireman must check at the start of each day, including clearing the grate of the previous day’s ash, checking the water level in the boiler and so on, until it came to lighting the fire. Following this, the loco needed to get up to working temperature with ample steam before you start the day’s running. All of this work took about three & a half hours.
Stephen took us through the working day, before giving a detailed explanation of the track layouts and problem points along the line between Porthmadog and Caernarfon.
After tea, Stephen went on to explain about all the recent work that had been carried out along the line and the new track alignments and building works that were currently in progress.
These prompted several questions including the inevitable one, about preparing the crew’s breakfast on the shovel.
This was a very informative and entertaining afternoon.
Last updated: 13th February 2020