Meeting Reports

Meeting Reports

Tuesday 30th April 2019

'Double Vision'

Robert Warburton

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'

Bill Davies

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'
Colin Boocock

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 26th February 2019
'Steamy Stories from the Footplate'
Stephen Jupp

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.

Tuesday 12th February 2019
'That Was The Year That Was - 1963'
Geoff Plumb

Our speaker today was the ever popular Geoff Plumb with his presentation, “That was the Year That Was 1963”, we started with a few pictures of Geoff’s childhood to set the scene to show how his passion for railways and photography began, before moving on to 1963.
During the presentation we visited some iconic railway locations of the era, such as Eastleigh with rows of scrap steam locos, Old Oak Common, Severn Tunnel Junction, Bristol, Sheffield and many more.
Because of our location Geoff included many shots in the Watford and Hadley Wood locations, showing the majority of the powerful and popular classes of the time, including those with limited time left to run ie; Kings, Manors, Castles, Coronations, Scots, Patriots and Black 5s, not forgetting some new stock also, Warships, Blue Pullmans etc.
During the evening Geoff also covered the first outing (in preservation) of the “Flying Scotsman” locomotive on the Llangollen Railway.
With Geoff’s family having such a powerful RCTS background it was no wonder we visited some of the famous Society railtours of the period, including 34006 Bude struggling on a St. Pancras to Buxton joint line tour run by East Midlands Branch, then the 1963 RCTS tour of Swindon Works, this being followed by the RCTS Gloucestershire Tour before finishing with the RCTS East Midlander to Crewe Works and Horwich.

A great evening with superb photographs and a very knowledgeable presenter.

Tuesday 29th January 2019
'Modern Traction in the 1960s'
David Percival

Local photographer and historian David Percival got our Welwyn Garden City meetings for 2019 off to a flying start by attracting our largest audience for a very long time, his subject being “Modern Traction In the 1960s”.
With a 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 between Stevenage and Welwyn GC, some of which were included for our local members. We got the impression David favoured the Deltics and Class 40s here.
David’s pictures were always interesting and 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, one of which was train spotters of the day, both on stations and lineside armed with note-books and pens. There were very few restrictions then, no yellow lines or fences to be seen and station barrows to sit on. What a good life we used to have!

A superb afternoon’s entertainment when it was so cold outside.

Tuesday 8th January 2019
'Thrills and Spills - My life in railway operations'
Chris Blackman

We started the New Year as we hope to continue with a great evening of amusing & entertaining stories with some pictures to match, with local ex-railwayman Chris Blackman, with his talk entitled “Thrills & Spills, My life in railway operations”.
After a few gremlins with our equipment, we got underway starting at Cambridge, Chris’s family home city. His father and grandfather were also railwaymen so it was no surprise that the railways were to be his chosen career.
One of his early training experiences was at the booking office in Glasgow Central station, where he was to learn the fundamentals of a booking clerk and all it entailed.
He then moved to Whitchurch where he gained valuable experience as a signalman along with more booking office experience and that of a wages clerk.
Following this was a move to Crewe Diesel depot where he was involved with crash team and gaining experience in many other aspects of railway procedures. All this knowledge with its ups and downs resulted in us being able hear some wonderful stories about the railways.
As time passed Chris eventually became Chief Operating Officer for the huge and complex Birmingham area. This area extended from Stafford to Aynhoe Junction working north to south, and from Shrewsbury in the west to almost Peterborough in the east.
We also heard about operating difficulties when diverse things stopped trains running, such as a garage door on the mainline blown there in a storm, to various animals causing obstructions, such examples being a goat, a llama and a emu, all expertly dealt with except the emu with just took off of its own accord.

A fabulous evening much with many stories attached all of which was expertly told with minimal notes.

Tuesday 18th December 2018
'Something Continental – The Paris RER'
Michael Bunn

“The Paris RER Network” with Michael Bunn was the subject of our last meeting in 2018.
Michael started proceedings with a little history of Paris and its enormous suburban area compared to London. In the first half of the programme we looked at the routes and the stock running on lines A, B and D. The majority of the new build stations on the RER system have a very wide platform area to allow easy access onto and off the trains at the stations compared to the older original stations.
The majority of the existing single deck stock will, within the next five years, be replaced by some 600 new double deck trains, which the network is easily capable of taking with very little upgrading of the infrastructure.
On the central section in the heart of Paris, the trains on each line are capable of moving over a million passengers per day. Finally, before the break and our seasonal refreshments, Michael took us to the huge Chatelet-les-Halles station which is vast inter-line interchange station where lines A, B and D all converge. New towns have been built along each of the lines all within 1km of stations.
Full of Christmas cheer we now looked at lines C and E much of which runs underground below the centre of the city, where much of the infrastructure is now unrecognisable compared to earlier years, with again many station conversions. Some of the station buildings were outstanding and very elaborate and these features have been retained, but as the trains are underground many of the buildings have been put to use for other purposes, with just an escalator and lifts taking you to the trains.

Michael certainly has a good eye for the architecture and the unusual, all of which made a great afternoon’s entertainment.

Tuesday 11th December 2018
Geoff Brockett

Freight was the order of the day at this meeting or to be precise “ Freight Traffic in the 21st Century”.
During the evening Geoff Brockett delivered what I believe was just about every class of diesel and electric motive power that there currently is on the network hauling freight, in form or another.
Besides that, we certainly visited all corners of the British Isles from Loswithial to Kyle of Lochalsh and from Felixstowe to Anglesey, along with every form of loading imaginable, including cars & vans, household rubbish to nuclear waste, stone, ballast and Biomass.
Amongst Geoff’s repertoire we also saw locomotives from every company including a Virgin class 57, many of whom have changed livery more than once or even disappeared altogether.

A fascinating evening showing just how much things have changed so rapidly in less than twenty years.

Tuesday 27th November 2018
My Life on SR/GWR/WR 1947 - 1975
Adrian Vaughan

We were treated today to a brilliant talk and presentation by our Chairman Steve Lacey, who never fails to come up trumps in the face of adversity, such as today when our speaker failed to show up.
Firstly, we spent forty minutes updating members with the aid of photographs of the opening of the new RCTS Library and Archive centre at Leatherhead station.
An early tea break was then taken to give Steve an opportunity to search his laptop or further suitable material.

   Battle of Britain locomotive 34081 '92 Squadron' heading the Remembrance Day train on the heritage Nene Valley Railway on 11th November 2018   Stephen Lacey
In luck Steve filled the rest of the afternoon with a fascinating account of the history of 34081, 92 Squadron, one of his pet subjects, as he spends many hours with the locomotive on the Nene Valley. A superb collection of photographs followed showing the exploits of the engine throughout its working life on the Southern Region right through to the final years in Barry scrapyard, prior to its rescue and restoration.

Our sincere thanks to Steve for really saving the day in front of one of our biggest attendances at Welwyn Garden City for some time.

Tuesday 13th November 2018
L &SWR in 1914
Alan Norris

Alan Norris gave a well-informed talk based on the London & South Western Railway’s 1914 timetable. It included scenes of lady passengers in crinoline dresses, and lines of horse-drawn cabs at Waterloo, being an insight into the social order of the time, as well as the railway.
Most London and Outer Suburban services had fewer than hourly services. Sole connections at Waterloo were onto the Waterloo and City Line (opened in 1897) and Bakerloo and Waterloo Railway (1906). Daily mainline services numbered six to Exeter and beyond, ten to Bournemouth and Weymouth, and fifteen to Portsmouth. Express corridor trains offered breakfast and lunch for 2/6d (12.5p) and a five-course dinner for 3/6d (17.5p). All up trains stopped at Vauxhall for ticket collections.
The timetable included elaborate advertisements for holidays on the south and south-west coasts, and on American railroads using Fast Mail Steamship services from Southampton. Motive power illustrated included a variety of Drummond 4-4-0s, and Rail Motors mostly used on local lines in Devon and Cornwall.
The LSWRs rich legacy included the first suburban electric trains introduced in 1915, and automatic signalling.

My thanks to Tom Gladwin for this report in my absence

Tuesday 30th October 2018
Railways in a Yorkshire Landscape
Stephen Gay

As expected, today’s speaker Stephen Gay drew one of our best attendances this year. Stephen’s talk on “Railways in a Yorkshire Landscape” held the members spell bound all afternoon, it was much to my surprise & delight that it mainly centred around the Settle to Carlisle line between Leeds and Arten Gill. Although this last stretch of the line is in Cumbria, it is within the North Yorkshire National Park therefore qualifying for today’s talk.
What a superb speaker Stephen is. He has a story to tell about every location where a picture has been taken and is also so very knowledgeable about the places he has visited.
We started by looking at the old round-house still standing near Leeds City centre, then briefly travelled along the line to Harrogate via the Bramwall Tunnel and over the Crimple Viaduct, before crossing the River Nidd and the classic viaduct at Knaresborough, followed by Poppleton, a station with a picturesque garden and adjacent to the nursery that grew plants for many station gardens around the country.
Then back to the S & C through Shipley, Bingley to Keighley where again we left the main line to follow the Keighley & Worth Valley line as far as Oakworth (famous for its connection with the Railway Children film). So, on to Hellifield, Settle and Ribblehead with some stunning shots of the viaduct and its surrounding scenery, before going on to Blea Moor and Arten Gill, one of Stephen’s favourite locations despite the difficulties he had in getting the pictures he most wanted.
We finished the afternoon, as we had a few minutes to spare, following the route of the Woodhead Line and some of the problems it had during its relatively short existence. The afternoon terminated at Deepcar signal box and station.

A brilliant afternoon from one of the best speakers in the programme.

Tuesday 9th October 2018
The Peter Bland Collection Part 1
Bryan Cross

Bryan Cross, our speaker for today, presented a programme of photographs by local photographer, the late Peter Bland. Bryan had painstakingly restored many of the very early pictures that he was about to show us.
The programme was all black & white, from such diverse places as Stewart & Lloyds Steel works in Corby & its extensive railway network, to Ireland where we saw some very early diesel railcars. Bryan had kept the show in date order rather collating into groups of pictures.
During the programme we joined RCTS members on a visit to Swindon Works in June 1950 and on a RCTS weekend tour of the Isle of Wight in 1951, when the railway on the island was at its most extensive.
The huge Becton Gas Works in East London produced shots of many various industrial locomotives. This gas works handled 10,000 tons of product a day and had three individual railways within the site. The works were still operating into the 1960s.
After such a heavy industrial scene we went off to Scotland where we followed Peter’s route around the country on his two-week tour. We also followed his route around Ireland later in the same year, where he again covered majority of the tracks in the country.
It is thought Peter visited many of the sites he photographed in London during his lunch hour, as many of the timings noted on the photos were between 12 noon & 2 pm., particularly those taken at the London termini.
During the time remaining we looked at briefly such places as Corby Steel Works, Millwall Docks, finishing with shots of the horrific Harrow & Wealdstone crash site, some of these shots being actually taken from one of the platforms only a couple of days after the event.

A fascinating evening full of questions and very well presented.

Tuesday 25th September 2018
Station to Station, Cambridge to London
Terry Ward

Our speaker this afternoon was writer and photographer Terry Ward, his subject was all connected to his favourite railway line, The West Anglian line from Cambridge to London Liverpool Street, the talk entitled “Station to Station from Cambridge to London” took us on a journey exactly as the title suggests.
Terry was an architecture fanatic and historian, so we only stopped a few stations along the route, primarily to see the different styles of the buildings, but did also see many of the old signal boxes that were along the route, another of Terry’s passions.
Along the route we looked at many interesting features, starting with Cambridge station and Coldham’s Lane yard and depot, Roydon Meads wetlands and nature reserve, the area between Cheshunt and Waltham Cross once the greenhouse for the London markets, with very many acres of glass growing the capitals salads. Waltham Cross was also the centre of Ordnance, with huge factories producing all sorts of weapons for very many years. Also, along this stretch of line was the New River, which was built in 1633 to supply London’s water. Then into the outskirts of London, where many architectural Victorian gems lined the railway, including Liverpool Street station itself.

A great afternoon by a good very clear speaker that knew his subject well.

Tuesday 11th September 2018
7th Colour Rail Journey
Paul Chancellor

“A Seventh Colourail Journey” was the title of Paul Chancellor’s presentation to us this evening and very fascinating it was.
Paul had sorted his subject matter into alphabetical sequence, covering a vast array of associated subjects, some followed locomotive designations, places, the rare and unusual. A thoroughly enjoyable evening with member participation included.
The show included some pictures from much earlier times and some very early colour images. Having viewed these you realised just how far an improved modern colour photography has progressed, again something these days we simply take for granted.

A recommended evening’s entertainment.

Tuesday 31st July 2018
Swiss Railways and other Transport in Switzerland
George Howe

On a very hot and humid sunny afternoon we had an excellent turnout for our speaker, Hitchin member George Howe, with his dvd presentation on Swiss railways and other transport in Switzerland.
We started with a look at all the various ways you could get there, eg. Eurostar & train, Le Shuttle & road, and of course by flying.
Our first stop, following shots at Waterloo and Folkestone, was at Basle station showing some of the many movements, including shunting, within the station confines going on Saturday.
As George travelled around the country he took in many other railway movements and trains, with some wonderful scenic views. During the time there, the films also included many other forms of transport, including hang gliders, cable-cars, buses, trams, skiing and sledging including the action on a scenic corner on the Cresta run. Other unusual scenes included horse racing on a proper track, pony & trap racing all on snow.
George also explained the operation of the various types of rack & pinion railways he came across. In Berne, for instance, we saw how they run trams and trolley buses along the same streets with both sets of wires on the catenary systems.
It was so good & unusual to have an hour & a half’s action with sound instead of still pictures, plus the humour and fun along the way.

Our grateful thanks to George who stepped in at the very last moment when our booked speakers train failed.

Tuesday 10th July 2018
The Blue Diesel Era
Robert Warburton

This evening we welcomed the Robert Warburton, Chairman from our nearest neighbouring Branch, Peterborough.
Robert’s presentation on “The Blue Diesel Era” was all his own work, with photographs from all over the country from Thirsk to Barry and Newton Abbot to Norwich. During a fascinating evening, we saw all classes of diesel and electric locomotives in the popular blue livery along with its many variants eg. Large logos, Scottie dogs, all of which were well known and recognised by the members present of a certain age.
One popular features of the presentation, was the number of photographs taken in our local area along the ECML between Peterborough and Kings Cross. One of Robert’s own favourites seemed to be class 45s on the Midland mainline, but having said that, we saw many locos out their known areas along with visiting places like Crewe, Newcastle, Manchester, Clapham Junction, Eastleigh and Reading to name just a few.

A thoroughly enjoyable evening with a good attendance considering we were competing with a World Cup quarter final match on another of July 2018s very warm evenings.

Tuesday 26th June 2018
The Peter Bland Collection Part 2
Bryan Cross

Bryan Cross, our speaker for today, presented a programme of photographs by local photographer, the late Peter Bland. Bryan had painstakingly restored many of the very early pictures he was about to show us.
The first half of today’s programme was all black & white, from such diverse places as Stewart & Lloyds Steel works in Corby and its extensive railway network, to Ireland where we saw some very early diesel railcars, and the Isle of Wight during 1952 when its railway system was probably at its peak.
Bryan had kept the show in date order rather collating into groups of pictures, and hence our next visit was the Harrow & Wealdstone crash site, some of these shots being actually taken from one of the platforms.
It is thought that Peter visited many of these sites in London during his lunch hour, as many of the timings noted on the photos were between 12 noon & 2 pm., particularly those taken at the London termini.
The second half of the programme progressed to colour photographs again from many diverse places such as Millwall Docks, Cadbury’s Works, and a couple of RCTS railtours to Belgium and France. Fortunately, from a local perspective, several shots of the railways were in adjacent local areas, eg. the St. Albans Abbey Branches to Watford & Hatfield, the Nickey line from Welwyn GC to Luton via Wheathamstead to Luton. Also, old pictures at St.Albans City including shots of the engine shed and the scrap line of locos there as Dmus were introduced.

A totally enthralling programme on a sweltering June afternoon to a much larger audience than expected considering the outside temperature.

Tuesday 12th June 2018
The GN & LNW Joint Line
Robin Cullup

A large group of members and visitors turned out to see Robin Cullup give his presentation on the “GN and LNW Joint Line”. The style of the presentation we thought was excellent, starting with all the history of the line from its suggestion in the mid 1850, then onto its building in 1872.
The bill was for the line to run from Leicester to Newark, later to be truncated at Melton Mowbray. Various sections of the line were allocated to one or both companies, similarly freight and passenger traffic was also divided between both companies, making the running of the line very complex.
As the evening developed, Robin introduced photographs from historic archives to demonstrate the difficulties presented to the two companies. We latterly moved on to see all the various traffic using the line and the unusual signals and elaborate architecture along the route.
Robin also explained about all the various routes emanating from Leicester, and the huge mileage covered by the LNW freight movements.
As the time progressed we were shown the various locos on the line Including a picture of a rare class 02 number 63980. From a couple of signal registers it was noted just how many special workings also used the line. For instance on August Bank holiday Saturday in 1929 there were 11 additional trains between 0430 hr. and 1130 hr. working to Skegness, Yarmouth and Mablethorpe above the normal scheduled trains to these destinations.

A superb evening presented by a real enthusiast for his local area.

Tuesday 29th May 2018
Southern Electric
David Brown

Our speaker this afternoon David Brown (Chichester) had to contend with many difficulties to give this presentation. Firstly, there were the problems of getting to us with the railway disruption caused by the new timetable and the GTR operating fiasco, then just prior to the start of the meeting a terrific storm overhead with thunder and lightning.
However, David’s presentation on “Classic Southern Electrics” was well worth waiting for. Starting with the iconic Brighton Belle Pullman, we then travelled right back to the beginning, looking at the oldest electric railways, The City & South London Rly (1890) and The Waterloo & City Line (1895).
We followed on with a glimpse at the Lancaster-Morecombe-Heysham Rly. (1908) as this was the first OHL railway. Most of all the early units followed the American style in looks and with inward opening doors. David had some superb copies of very old photographs pre-1920, many reproduced from glass plate images.
Continuing on, we saw the various stages of progress of the electrification systems and sub-stations providing the power, along with the huge variety of different architecture used across the region for stations etc. along with the very many variations of stock. In many cases in the later years new bodies fitted on existing under frames sometimes more than once.
As we progressed David worked his way through nearly all of various vehicle styles used on the SR up to the late1960’s. The afternoon was rounded off with a showing of some of the specifically designed freight locomotives for use on the third rail system.

A fascinating historical presentation extremely well put together by an extremely passionate and knowledgeable speaker.

Last updated: 2nd May 2019