RCTS Logo

Branches

Hitchin

Meeting Reports

Tuesday 31st October 2017
American Wanderings, Heading East
Gordon Davies

Today’s speaker was Society Chairman Gordon Davies, taking us further into the USA with some more of this “American Wanderings – Heading East” this time on journey from Atlanta through to Boston.
Stopping anywhere and everywhere there was something of interest, for instance in Atlanta we visited the Atlanta Railroad Museum, home to the locomotive named “The General”, and famed for its part in transporting Unionist soldiers the famous Andrews Raid in 1862.
branches/hitchin/Three-Truck Shay-1 Snoqualmie 10Oct12 not found Another famed locomotive seen was the geared steam loco called the Shay, the particular loco Gordon had photographed was not only geared but also had side cylinders fitted against the boiler in front of the cab.
Gordon did not concentrate only on locos and museums. We saw some spectacular countryside, fantastically kept station buildings, plus a story about his run in with the law. I’ll not say any more but just wait until Gordon visits your Branch.
Arriving eventually in Boston we were taken on a brief tour of the four local ‘colour coded’ suburban lines plus several of the newer high-speed units, not too dissimilar to our own Pendalinos.
The photograph of the talk must have been of twenty-one of the huge diesel locos around the turntable. We followed and tracked some of their workings & history.

A great meeting where time past so quickly.

Tuesday 10th October 2017
The Isle of Man Railway
Geoff Brockett

Today’s speaker was Society Chairman Gordon Davies, taking us further into the USA with some more of this “American Wanderings – Heading East” this time on journey from Atlanta through to Boston.
Stopping anywhere and everywhere there was something of interest, for instance in Atlanta we visited the Atlanta Railroad Museum, home to the locomotive named “The General”, and famed for its part in transporting Unionist soldiers the famous Andrews Raid in 1862.

  
   Eastern Railway & Lumber Company Three-Truck Shay-1 locomotive at Snoqualmie Depot on 10 October 2012. This is a US heritage lumber railway in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains about 15 miles East of Seattle.   Jack Knights
Another famed locomotive seen was the geared steam loco called the Shay, the particular loco Gordon had photographed was not only geared but also had side cylinders fitted against the boiler in front of the cab.
Gordon did not concentrate only on locos and museums. We saw some spectacular countryside, fantastically kept station buildings, plus a story about his run in with the law. I’ll not say any more but just wait until Gordon visits your Branch.
Arriving eventually in Boston we were taken on a brief tour of the four local ‘colour coded’ suburban lines plus several of the newer high-speed units, not too dissimilar to our own Pendalinos.
The photograph of the talk must have been of twenty-one of the huge diesel locos around the turntable. We followed and tracked some of their workings & history.

A great meeting where time past so quickly.

Tuesday 26th September 2017
Railways in a Cornish Landscape - Part 3
Stephen Gay

At our last Welwyn Garden City meeting in September, paying his ninth visit here, Stephen Gay thoroughly entertained a larger than usual audience, such is his reputation and spell binding dialogue. Presenting his programme “Railways in a Cornish Landscape part 3” Stephen completed this series of talks on Cornwall, with some spectacular photography and tales to match, everyone enjoyed an enthralling afternoon.

Tuesday 25th July 2017
New England's Railroads - Massachusetts to Maine
Reg Harman

We welcomed Reg Harman this afternoon with his detailed talk about the “New England Railroad” between Massachusetts and Maine.
Initially the history of the railroad in this area was explained, with the first steam train running in 1830 in Charleston. By 1835 the network had increased to around 1000 miles, 27% of the whole American network. As there was a sharp rise increase in railroads at this time this was inevitable to change, so much so that by 1890 there were 6800 miles of railway and New England’s proportion had fallen to just 5% of the whole. There was a complex mix of ownerships and running rights, which were primarily for freight, so that by 1965 the Boston and Maine Railroad Co. had ceased all passenger traffic.
The heritage lines in the area mainly operate stock from the mid 20th century, and there are very few narrow-gauge railways.
Following on, we took a closer look the Boston transit network and the extensive commuter lines feeding into Boston. The commuter stock was much more up to date than that on the transit network.
Also it is interesting that many places in the area have English place names such as, Portsmouth, Durham and Woburn to name a few.

We finished a fascinating afternoon with a very active questions and answer session

Tuesday 11th July 2017
The West Coast Mainline
Bernie Holland

A good friend of the Branch and Watford member Bernie Holland was our guest speaker this evening, with his collection of slides on “The West Coast Main Line”.
We travelled, during the course of the evening, from Euston to Glasgow along the main line via a few diversions, for example via Northampton, Birmingham or Manchester. We looked in detail at the section of line from London to Watford, as this area is Bernie’s home patch as he borders the line near Harrow & Wealdstone.
The era of the presentation was huge, varying from about 1908 through to the present day, some of the slides being from renowned Society members, Terry Silcock, Peter Proud, Mike Burnett, Geoff Plumb to name but a few. Also this is the first time I can recall anyone admitting to using slides made from photographs downloaded from the internet. We all know there are some great pictures on there and these blended in well with all the other slides.
Having sped through many slides of this southern section by the time for tea, it meant the rest of journey was also going to be very fast, but all credit to Bernie we saw some wonderful photography and great pictures and still arrived at Glasgow Central bang on time to close the meeting at 2200.
I get the feeling that the streamlined Coronation class locos were his particular favourite.

Our thanks to Bernie for a really enjoyable evening enabling us to forget the torrential downpour happening outside, with driving conditions making it difficult to get home.

Tuesday 27th June 2017
The History of Doncaster Station
Bryan Longbone

Today’s speaker, Bryan Longbone, travelled from Scunthorpe to talk to us this afternoon about “The History of Doncaster Station”.
Bryan a former Social history lecturer added much more than just a look at the station and its railways. There was much added detail brought to life from the slides, such as other aspects of transport, what the adverting hoardings were promoting and the way people went about their daily tasks.
The first slide depicted the scene outside Doncaster station in 1898 with the forecourt full of visitors going to the Doncaster races and with horse-drawn carriages waiting for passengers.
As the presentation progressed we saw the huge varied array of semaphore signals around the area.
Also highlighted was huge numbers of spotters on the station in days gone by, when you could watch trains with the encouragement of the staff, unlike some places today, and without the help of RTT letting you know what and where trains are, you had to wait and see.
Another thing that was clear was the lack of so called, Health and Safety. There used to be so much clutter on the platforms, bill boards, milk churns, porters barrows and trolleys, so different from today’s boring clinical platform areas.
We also saw many of the classes of loco that visited Doncaster through the 1900s up to the Deltics and HSTs.

A fascinating afternoon.

Tuesday 13th June 2017
Steam on Shed
David Percival

“1960’s Steam on Shed” provided a fascinating evening’s entertainment for the Branch, provided by local renown photographer and historian David Percival.
The programme covered locomotives of very many classes from all regions of BR on shed across the country, from Haymarket, Dumfries and Kingmoor in the north to Plymouth, Swansea, Three Bridges and Eastleigh further south.
David’s photographs were obviously taken, on most occasions, with a lot of thought to their composition and lighting, as the vast majority were black & white.
David started photography at a young age with a small Brownie Camera. After starting work with Ian Allan he progressed to a Kodak Sterling which he still has today.
It was apparent that, whenever possible, features such as water cranes, ladders, lighting towers or shovels were often included in the pictures for interest. He also used the sunlight coming through roofs and windows to great effect in many of the photographs.

A fascinating evening full of reminiscence’s for most of us. Attendance 27

Tuesday 30th May 2017
Enfield's Railway History Part 3, Trams & the Picadilly Line
Dave Cockle

This afternoon we were treated to Dave Cockle’s final part (No. 3) of “Enfield’s Railways” with a look at the local trams, trolley buses and the Piccadilly Line section of the London Underground system.

  
   London Transport standard tramcar in central Enfield in the mid 1930's before being replaced by route 629 trolleybuses   Dave Cockle
Following a look at the trams, which only lasted around 30 years in borough before being replaced by trolley buses, we moved on to a detailed look at the local underground system, namely the Piccadilly Line running from Cockfosters to Uxbridge or Heathrow. We specifically focused on the four stations in the local area and their construction, which are Cockfosters, Arnos Grove, Southgate and Oakwood. Dave gave a good detailed explanation on the building of the Arnos Grove viaduct over Pymmes Brook. We next visited Chase Side, now named Southgate, that is on this section and is believed to be the only tunnel on the underground that daylight can be seen through the roof. Much development followed in the area once Southgate station opened, Oakwood was our next stop. This station is claimed to be the highest point directly West of the Ural mountains at 275 ft. Our final calling point was Cockfosters station, depot & cleaning shed opened in 1933, which was the cause of major objections to its location by Sir Philip Sassoon the owner of the adjacent Trent Park estate.
A great afternoon presented by a very knowledgeable Enfield resident and signalman kept us enthralled all afternoon.

Tuesday 9th May 2017
Picture Postcard Rambles, The Hope Valley Line
Stephen Gay

This month’s speaker Stephen Gay took us on a photographic journey along the “The Hope Valley Line”.
We started with the local railway scene in Sheffield as viewed from the top of the of the multi-storey car park adjacent to the station and as we progressed along the route Stephen explained a few of the difficulties he encountered in getting some of the desired photographs. A couple of the examples were, actually standing in a river, and on a very cold looking winter’s day, building a snow mound to get high enough to be able to get a view over the wall of a bridge. Real dedication this!
As Stephen often does, some pictures contained images of his beloved Wroby, his faithful German Shepherd companion. Wroby is also used to give us an impression of the size of structures etc.
A tale about Grindleford station, suitably set in beautiful English woodland and countryside, which lost its staff to pay trains in 1970, an ex-signalman & his family took the building on, turned it into a café and even today this café is still popular with walkers, cyclists and tourists.
The stone for the station took us nicely on to The Bamforth & Howden Railway, which was used to transport the stone for the station buildings, but also for the dams on the Derwent & Howden reservoirs.
I know Stephen has visited us and many other Branches before, but I’m amazed how he manages to keep his audiences so enthralled time and time again. It must have something to do with his endless patience getting those special photographs.
Present 25 members & visitors

Tuesday 25th April 2017
Branch AGM followed by Members' Own Slides

Today’s meeting started with our Branch AGM which all went very well, two motions were put to the membership & duly agreed. They were that the Branch should purchase a lap-top for use of the Branch Treasurer & that certain funds should be passed to the Society, ring-fenced for possible future Branch use. It was also suggested that the committee look into purchasing a sound system as some hearing difficulties occur at our Hitchin venue.

The meeting was followed by four short presentations from our own members.
These were, firstly, a selection of the varied traction in the Royston area by Mark Chaplin; a surprising variety actually, but we have to bear in mind this route via Cambridge / Peterborough is often used for ECML diversions.
Rev. Tom Gladwin followed this with “All change in our Local Area”, namely Welwyn North & its surrounds; this presentation included shots of 60103, 60163, 46100, plus a variety of the more regular traffic again on the ECML.
We then went all B & W with photographs from the Ken Nunn collection dated around the early 1900s presented by Tony Stratford.
Our final showing was of a couple of old videos with George Howe.

Over the past two weekends in April the Branch has attended two exhibitions, one in Welwyn Garden City (The DeHavilland MRC) & one in Hitchin (The Luton “0” Gauge Society).

Tuesday 11th April 2017
The Thameslink Programme - London Bridge Redevelopment
James Elford

Thank you James Elford from Costain Plc. for a brilliant, inspiring talk to us about “The Re-building of London Bridge Station” as part of the Thameslink Programme. This programme overall, costing about £45bn, covers 140 miles of track & 50 stations between Bedford & Brighton.
The total spend on the London Bridge upgrade alone is £26bn and by the end of 2018 Thameslink will also be running between Peterborough & Ashford.
Other major works in London are Farringdon, which will ensure easing the access to London Underground and at Blackfriars Station where the platforms now span the River Thames north to south.
A great deal of track re-modelling, mainly south of the Thames, will allow much more free running of services through London Bridge, which when completed will have nine through lines instead of the six previously.
The project started in earnest in 2008, with organisational processes, systems & procurement. James also explained about the uncertainty of estimating for such work, leading to the final costs possibly being different. We were shown how the commercial & business details were progressing and how the work so far is currently on time.
After the break we went on to see how the London Bridge construction process worked, from removal of the original roof spans, remodelling & construction of the new platforms and the rebuilding of the concourse. This was followed by another video, this time using time lapse photography on the progression of work since 2013. This proved that on some occasions there were almost 1000 workers on site at any one time, to enable all the prefabricated components to craned into place with pinpoint precision. Of interest, the platform canopies were completely prefabricated and came with cctv. lighting, and information equipment already to be installed, just waiting to be coupled up.
The completion is expected to be in May 2018. The new control room has been operational since May 2016.

An absolutely spell-binding evening, thoroughly enjoyed by a large audience of 36 members & visitors

Tuesday 28th March 2017
The Diary of a Train Spotter (Part 1)
Bryan Cross

We were privileged to see some of the Peter Bland collection of photographs courtesy of Bryan Cross.
This afternoon Bryan concentrated on Peter’s month-long tour of Scotland during the late 1950s, all the photographs being black & white with some superb views included, as you would expect.
We followed Peter’s journey as if from his diary, day by day, from the beginning. The shots included trains in superb scenery, locos on just about every shed there must have been in Scotland. The collection also included station scenes, signal boxes, signals etc.
It never ceases to amaze me just how much knowledge RCTS members carry in the head and, as these photographs were fairly new to Bryan, he welcomed any assistance with location and class identity. One thing that was amazing was that one particular engine, built in 1860s modified in the 1890s, was still around in the 1950s.
We finished the afternoon nearer to home with the latter being an enormous site with railways on three different levels. Today this is the site of the Canary Wharf development.

What an historical afternoon, recommended.

Members & visitors 28

Tuesday 14th March 2017
Moving London Forward
Patrick Griffen

We were treated to an excellent up-to-date presentation this evening with a talk by Patrick Griffin on the Crossrail Project.
We learnt that is was to be a high frequency, high capacity, urban Metro style service through the centre of London stopping at all stations. Running from Maidenhead in the west to Shenfield & Abbey Wood in the east, with a branch to Heathrow airport, this will replace the current Heathrow Express service.
Each of the 66, 9-car trains will be 200m long, capable of carrying 1500 passengers per train. Through central London there will be 24 trains/hr.
It will be running through 43 km of new tunnels, which created 6m tonnes of excavated spoil, which was taken out to the Essex Marshes to create one of Europe’s largest nature reserves.
During construction 4000 sensors were placed on buildings above ground as a precaution to monitor any structural movement.
Dynamic testing will start in 8 month’s time, when a train will be running to check all systems. As of today the programme is 80% complete and on time.
The main depot will be Old Oak Common where a new facility has been built, a 9 road depot and 33 sidings.
To complete the project there still has to be 500km of cable laid, 4000 lamps to be fitted and 45000 holes to be drilled.

An evening full of facts and figures supported by interesting and superbly taken photographs. All this attracted our best evening attendance for quite some time.

(Attendance tonight 37}

Tuesday 28th February 2017
That Was The Year That Was - 1967
Geoff Plumb

We were treated to a photographic spectacle from this afternoon’s speaker Geoff Plumb.
Firstly, how the complete composition of the photograph makes it special. Geoff’s pictures rarely just showed the locomotive in close up. Secondly be patient and persistent. Several of sequences shown were of the same subject, when Geoff was chasing the train, either by motorbike or car, obviously showing the subject in various locations and with different light conditions and different angles, making the subject more interesting.
We travelled around the UK, but Yorkshire was the firm favourite both for the industrial scene and the landscape, showing some fantastic views of both. During the meeting, we saw the railways in and around Leeds, and London, particularly around Waterloo.
We also visited the S & C, the Dart Valley, Carnforth and the Manchester area.
There were also great shots of the Ffestiniog and Snowdon Mountain Railway and many other places around country.
Just for good measure a few trams & trolley buses were included.

A superb afternoon’s entertainment for our largest attendance for some time and a real memory jogger for most of us, as “This was the Year that was 1967”

Attendance 35

Tuesday 14th February 2017
French Tramways, A 21st Century Phenomenon
Reg Harman

“French Tramways, a 21st century phenomenon” this was the title of tonight’s presentation by ex-Transport Consultant to Herts,CC. Reg Harman.
The evening was full of facts and detail, which highlighted the differences our two countries have when it comes to the actual planning process for new infrastructure. Where in France all the separate departments get on with their own priorities and come together to make the project happen, unlike here in the UK.
One of the really interesting facts that emerged was that in the last 35 years the French have moved from 3 tramways in the 1980s to 25 today, all seemingly using very modern rolling stock, any old/heritage stock being kept for special running days.
Reg’s pictures highlighted the huge effect that trams have on city centre traffic, by using the mass transit system from outlying districts running right into the heart of the cities.
The complete presentation was about ninety minutes but Reg had far more questions to answer from members than we would normally see.

A fascinating evening and something quite different.
Members present 25

Tuesday 31st January 2017
The Isle of Man Railway
Geoff Brockett

Geoff Brockett visited us today with his presentation on “The Railways of the Isle of Man”.
The subject brought in three specific guests because of their interest in the I.o.M, plus two visitors seeing what we were about, having picked our meeting details at the recent CMRA exhibition.
The presentation covered all five of the railways and tramways on the island and Geoff’s enthusiasm for the places and subject was astonishing and backed up with some superb photographs, giving the impression of a stunning sun drenched island. During the afternoon, we witnessed many of the steam and diesel locos, a huge variety of tramcars from the horse drawn ones through to the latest electric powered ones. There were also the special trams and special trains that are turned out on those very auspicious occasions and heritage running days.
Mentioned as we progressed were many historical facts about the railways and the island, such is Geoff’s interest there. Also photographed in some detail were the Groudle Glen Railway (2ft gauge) and the Scarfell Mountain Railway with its somewhat circuitous route to the peak.

A thoroughly enjoyable informative afternoon, so it was such a pity we had to finish and venture back into the cold and grey outdoors again.

Members present 34

Tuesday 10th January 2017
A Railwayman Remembers
Dave Cockle

Dave Cockle with his talk “A Railwayman Remembers” set our 2017 programme underway with a lively talk about some of his experiences after thirty-eight years on the railway.
Born and bred in Enfield, close to the station, Dave’s career was on track at the age of fourteen after being asked by station staff to run an errand to the signal box. Whilst there he was shown around and a very serious interest in the railways was underway.
We followed in detail one of our local routes, from Finsbury Park to Stevenage via Hertford North, with explanations on most of the signal boxes and junctions along the route, with many interesting stories, amusing anecdotes and some of the disasters along the way.
After a promotion made his work office based, Dave was pleased to accept a role back on the front line at Bounds Green depot. He later moved positions again, to become an inspector of sub-contractors who were requiring track access, ensuring all safety aspects and regulations were in order. As you can imagine some amazing tales were told about things happening in this role.
In his later years on the railway, Dave became an Operations Manager controlling 100 staff before becoming Operations Inspector at Kings Cross.
A fascinating and amusing evening from a gentleman with a wealth of railway knowledge and a passion for what and how this was carried out.

Tuesday 20th December 2016
Wisconsin Central
John Day

Ipswich Branch member John Day visited us this afternoon to give us his presentation on the Wisconsin Central Railroad, “The Birth and Death of a Railroad”. The company had entirely a diesel fleet of locomotives, none of which had ever been purchased from new, they always purchased redundant or second hand locomotives, these were typical American style locos with a single cab at one end. Locos were nearly always worked in multiple to cope with the large loadings and because they often were required to cope with Bryan Hill when leaving Chicago, which was a major problem and a real challenge for locomotives and crew, as it was a four mile fairly steep climb.
Most of WCR loads were containers, but they also carried minerals, grain, cement and pellets used for the manufacture of paper. John was fortunate that when visiting the area he stayed with family, which aided him in being able to get about on various modes of transport at all times of day, particularly when there were steam specials about.
A member questioned why were there so few trees lineside, which make photography difficult here. John explained that much of the land was managed parkland. Also much of the railway had gas and oil pipelines running alongside.
We finished the afternoon looking at the running into and out of Chicago and its vast freight yards.

A great afternoon, superb photography, supplemented by seasonal mince pies and sausage rolls. Recommended.
Members present 25

Tuesday 13th December 2016
From Rookie Journalist to Grumpy Old Man
David Percival

We started tonight at no better place than our local station, Hitchin, with a picture of a brand new Class 37 in the early 60s, certainly one of our local celebrities, David Percival, knew exactly how to grab our attention.
From this point on, throughout the evening, we travelled the country looking at both steam and diesel traction and some fantastic photography and stories about the locations and how David had come to be there.
David’s first published pictures were in the 1962 Ian Allen Combined Volume and from this point onwards David has had pictures and articles in all of the leading railway magazines, plus his pictures have also appeared on their front covers.
He felt it very important to have a day off work to photograph 60103 Flying Scotsman on the final BR steam run on 14th January 1963.
David is a prolific author of articles and books. Currently he writes video scripts and reviews, as well as advising on railway subjects. It was from this point we saw “The Grumpy Old Man” side of him kick in, with his criticism of books and magazines for producing the wrong captions or dates on their pictures and even to the way the photographs and captions are displayed on the page.
A superbly entertaining evening and some fantastic pictorial memories.

Tuesday 29th November 2016
Blue Diesel Days
Mike Robinson

‘Blue Diesel Days’ was the title of Mike Robinson’s presentation today at Welwyn Garden City. It was a fascinating look back at relatively modern history and what a superb insight into the recent past it was.
The tour started at Derby, the base from where Mike worked for some time after transferring there from places further north. There were a few exceptions to blue traction during the afternoon, such as a look at the APT both in and out of works, then there was the return of 4472 from the USA in 1973. Amongst these short excursions, we looked at least eighteen different classes of diesel and electric locomotives, following on from the demise of the steam era, through to the late 1980s and some of those locomotives that survive from then, that are still being used on charter trains today.
Continuing on from our start at Derby and the Midlands we toured almost all the areas of the country, also finding some of the traction that was sometimes isolated to a particular region or location.
All of the members present could readily identify with the period and traction covered today, so it was a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon and much appreciated.

last updated: 09/11/17