Meeting Reports

Guide to traffic in branch area

Meeting Reports

Thursday 4th April 2019

East West Rail Update

Stephen Barker

We were pleased to welcome Stephen Barker from East West Rail to our April meeting, after the difficulties he had in getting to us in March. This was Stephen’s third presentation to the branch and as were the previous occasions, an excellent evening. His current role is Engineering Director for East West Rail, which is the company leading the construction and reinstatement of the railway line between Bicester and Bletchley, which will link to the existing Bletchley to Bedford line, with a proposed extension eastwards to Cambridge.

Stephen started the evening by explaining who the key players are in the East West rail project. The East West Rail Company whom he works for, based in London, is a non-departmental public arm’s length body that reports to the Department for Transport. The East West Rail Consortium is an association of local authorities on the proposed route or directly affected by it, that are working together with the Department for Transport and Network Rail, in developing the railway. The final major party in the project is the East West Rail Alliance, comprised of Network Rail, Laing O’Rourke and VolkerRail, which are charged with delivering the Western Section of East West Rail, from development to construction.

Next, Stephen outlined the reasons for building East West Rail. It will deliver enhanced transport communications across a part of England that is poorly served by east to west connectivity. It will bring economic prosperity to the Oxford, Milton Keynes, Cambridge arc and will contribute to solving the problem of housing affordability by allowing potential employees to travel into the main employment centres from areas with cheaper housing. The project is innovative in the way it is being delivered with the focus firmly on what passengers want and how those needs can be best delivered. The project will also be separate from Network Rail which will allow bench-marking of costs and delivery to be made.

The original East West railway linking Oxford to Cambridge was opened in full in 1862 and survived the Beeching cuts of 1963 only be authorised for closure by Barbara Castle in 1967, ironically the same year Milton Keynes was designated a new city for north Buckinghamshire. The section east of Bedford and west of Bletchley closed to passengers although freight continued on the Western section until the early 1990s. The East West rail project envisages reinstatement of the route in three stages. The Western Section comprises Oxford – Bicester – Marylebone, Bicester – Bedford, Milton Keynes and Aylesbury. The Central Section will link Bedford with Cambridge whilst the Eastern Section comprises connectivity from Cambridge to Norwich and other East Anglia destinations.

The current focus of works is on the Western Section and reinstatement between Bicester Gavray Junction and Bletchley. An application for a Transport Works Act Order (TWAO) was made in July 2018. The public inquiry into the TWAO is nearly completed and it is hoped that the inquiry inspector will recommend granting the powers needed to begin construction. Stephen explained that the current Secretary of State, is enthusiastic about East West Rail and the funding is in place, so there is a high level of confidence of delivery of the project.

Stephen outlined some of the engineering challenges of the construction phase of the project. Not least is the need to rebuild the cutting at Winslow and reinstating the failed drainage. The Bletchley flyover also requires attention and will need to be lifted up from its current supports for a full inspection. It has already been discovered that each span of the flyover was completed in differing styles and forms of construction so it is unclear what might be found from closer inspection. Eventually the two platforms for Bletchley High Level will be cantilevered out from this structure. All being well the main construction phase should start by the end of 2019 with an envisaged opening to passengers in late 2023.

Finally, Stephen outlined some of the challenges of reinstating the railway east of Bedford towards Cambridge, as much of the original railway formation has been lost. There are currently five alternative routes being considered. It is intended that a single preferred route will be adopted by the end of 2019 with construction starting after 2023 and the line open in 2027.

The second half of the meeting was a lively question and answer session which covered the rolling stock to be operated – likely to be 3-car trains initially – to the signalling and possibly future discontinuous electrification.

This was a fascinating evening and it was pleasing to hear that good progress is being made with this important project. We thank Stephen Barker for his excellent talk and for taking so ably all the many questions that were asked.

Monday 18th March 2019
'1960’s Steam in the East Midlands Area'
Michael Clemens

A joint afternoon Meeting with the Northampton branch was held at Roade on 18th March 2019. Over 50 Members and friends attended to see a selection of photographs and cine films, most of which were the work of the father of Michael Clemens, who presented the show under the title “1960s steam in the Midlands area”.
Michael explained that his father enjoyed forays far and wide with his circle of like-minded friends, and, in the fullness of time the youthful Michael was able to join them, eventually leading to a substantial number of his own pictures. Most enthusiasts of the period tended to spread ripple-like from their home town, their horizons steadily widening.

   Ex GWR 4-6-0 7022 "Hereford Castle" outside Worcester MPD (85A) in August 1964 where it was retained as a stnby for the newly installed diesels on the Worcester to Paddington route.   Alan Maund
The “Midlands” referred to in the title did not necessarily match what we would later come to understand from the local TV companies, so shots at Swindon, Verney Junction, Crewe, Sheffield and the Woodhead route could be described under “penetrating lines”, to use an early BR term. In between, Worcester (local 7022 nearing its’ end in immaculate condition), Oxford (Winston Churchill’s funeral train), Crewe (45552 showing how good was the Brunswick green livery, and how we now view the original “electric blue with white roof on E3005 nostalgically).

Cine films included on board runs out of Marylebone station behind various Class 5s. Also a lengthy film of a northbound Great Central line train heading north from Lutterworth, parallel with the newly opened M1 motorway, including a station stop at Ashby Magna, where the car driver had to invent a hard shoulder emergency in order the include the stop. He would probably be surrounded by “authority” within seconds had it been 2019 rather than the late 1960s.
Local in the audience would have been grateful for the views of the industrial ironstone workings around north Northamptonshire at Brixworth, Hanging Houghton, Scaldwell and Lamport in mid 1963. Even in 1963, these locations were somewhere in another world for many a Duston West based enthusiast, so everyone present would have been grateful for the efforts of Michael, his father and his friends in those far off days. The first class programme was presented without a hitch.

As an aside, Michael showed us how he managed to digitally identify a Western Region “County” 4-6-0 as “County of Pembroke”, the photograph of which was seemingly taken in conditions suitable for a dark, wet night such as we all remember. His efforts time-wise would not have been for the faint-hearted!

Thursday 7th March 2019
'The Southern Region between 1991 and 1993'
Ron Bailes, Area Traction Inspector Victoria

Our opening talk of the season was to be East West Rail and a healthy number of people were in attendance to hear our speaker. Sadly, due to a trespass incident at Euston which brought all trains to a stand, our speaker was severely delayed getting from London to our meeting and only managed to join us near the end of the evening. Fortunately, Ron Bailes, who was due to speak to us in April was able to step in at very short notice and provide an entertaining evening looking back on his railway career. The principle focus was his time as Area Traction Inspector Victoria on the Southern Region between 1991 and 1993 involving all kinds of incidents and mishaps.
Ron was born and bred in Swindon, in the heart of GWR territory, but initial ambitions were to work for the BBC as a cameraman. Careers advice led him instead to apply to be a BR apprentice joiner, where he started his railway career in 1974. Progression saw Ron move on to the machine shop at Swindon where the boost in earnings from overtime was a happy incentive as well as the work being more interesting.
A change of career saw Ron leave the railway for 5 months from February 1980, a decision which he freely admitted now he had regretted. A chance conversation in the pub encouraged Ron to think about applying to be a second man on the footplate. Applying through a BR recruitment campaign, Ron was to re-join the railway on 14th July 1980 at King’s Cross. This was, of course, the time that the reign of the Deltics was coming to an end and so was a fortuitous time to be working on the footplate.
A move to Milton Keynes saw Ron apply for a job based at Euston where he became a qualified train driver in May 1986 with traction knowledge of AC Electrics Class 81/82/83/86/87. He later did a conversion course for Class 08, which at this time would have been in use as station pilots.
Looking for a new opportunity, Ron moved to Victoria in October 1987, returning from a holiday in Germany to the aftermath of the Great Storm! He well remembered a route learning trip to Hastings with his instructor commenting that the beach huts were on the ‘wrong’ side of the line having been upended in the ferocious winds. Ron undertook his traction training at Waterloo and learned the different EMUs and routes covering the South West, South Central and Eastern sections of the Southern taking him from Weymouth to Hastings and many places in between.
Ron spoke soberly about the Clapham Junction disaster of December 1988 and how he had been fortunate in being off work sick, otherwise he would have been driving a train that witnessed the disaster. Not many months later, he had only just returned home from duty, when he heard of the rail crash at Purley, having driven over the route only hours earlier.
These serious incidents and the recommendations of the Hidden Report, prompted an overhaul of safety culture and management within BR. The Southern Region had 55 vacancies for traction inspectors and Ron was to take on one of these roles in February 1991, spending two weeks at Brighton learning the requirements of the new role. Ron’s last day driving came in April 1991.
The role as traction inspector was varied and interesting taking Ron all over the region, checking driver competencies, speed checks (including clocking a tamper speeding at Clapham Junction!) and involvement in test trains and specials run over night. One of the more unusual events he was involved in was filming for an episode of the long running television series The Bill which occurred over 4 weekends on the Wimbledon Loop. Part of the role involved investigating incidents and one was at Epsom, where a driver had reported being unable to get power from the unit berthed in the siding. On arrival, Ron was quickly able to diagnose the problem – the unit was derailed on all bogies and the rear coach was detached!
Ron’s career took him at privatisation to work for Gatwick Express, where he oversaw the introduction of the Class 460 EMUs. He later worked for Virgin West Coast and CrossCountry, a second period with Gatwick Express and more recently involvement with the ERTMS project on the Cambrian Coast.branches/milton_keynesClass 345 Old Oak Common 20Feb19 not found

The past 18 months Ron has been working with Crossrail and the commissioning of the new Class 345 units.This was a lively and interesting evening albeit an unexpected departure from the planned programme. We hope that Ron will be able to join us again to give his planned talk about the Crossrail Class 345s.

Monday 3rd December 2018
'Funeral Trains - the Untold Story'
Nicholas Wheatley

Nicholas Wheatley came to our joint Meeting with RCTS Northampton branch, held at Roade village hall on 3rd December. His subject was “Funeral Trains – the untold story”. This could be seen as a rather ghoulish subject, but it soon became evident that our Speaker had tasked himself, as a self-described non railway enthusiast in the accepted sense, with a subject having a wide open field for both himself and his audience.
He told us how it was the arrival of the railways that facilitated people to be interred further away from their birthplace than had previously been the case. This situation eventually led to inner-city expansion and required the use of the railway for the removal of persons long passed on to be transported elsewhere, and at the same time, required larger burial sites to be provided, outside of London in particular. This led to the creation of the Necropolis Railway, which had its own direct line in from the LSWR main line, serving the new Brookwood Cemetery. There was also a similar new Cemetery in North London, but this one was served by sidings only, unlike the Necropolis. The funerals of various public figures were also described in railway operating terms.
His research is in support of a book which he is writing for future publication, which we await with interest.
As a venerable Member said afterwards, it was a “dead interesting” meeting”, and so it was. This was an out of the ordinary subject, and although Nicholas was impressed with the attendance, it truly deserved better, as do many Meetings.

Thursday 1st November 2018
'Bletchley and About'
Bob Ballard

Unfortunately, our planned speaker for November, John Cashen, was unable to join us due to illness. At short notice, Bob Ballard stepped in with an evening of slides from the collection of the late Bob Berry, a former Milton Keynes RCTS branch member. Bob was a driver at Bletchley from steam days right up into the modern era with EMUs. His extensive collection of slides come from many sources and feature scenes along the West Coast Main Line, from around the 1920s to the 1990s. Predominantly these are steam scenes but those from the 1960s capture a railway in transition.

The 1960s was for many, a decade of upheaval and change and the railways were similarly going through the convulsions of modernisation. Steam would be eradicated by the end of the decade as the introduction of diesel trains and the expansion of electrification, heralded the start of a brave new modern railway that was free of the constraints and nostalgia of the steam age. Bob Berry’s slides capture this moment very well, particularly in the scenes of Euston that was utterly transformed from a sprawling, if grandiose affair, into a sleek, modern terminal of the future. The station was clearly inadequate to cope with the growing passenger numbers and the layout of platforms and the station approaches were not suited to modern rail traffic. The station would again be extensively remodelled in the 2000-2001 period and will soon be going through another radical rebuild, this time to accommodate the High Speed 2 services.
The transformation of Euston was replicated, although to a lesser extent, along the WCML as the electrification masts arrived and successive stations were rebuilt or remodelled to meet the needs of a modern railway. The contrast between the old industrialised, rather bleak lineside of the 1940s and 1950s and the blander but cleaner railway that emerged in the 1960s onwards is marked. Gone are the steam sheds of Camden and Bletchley that we saw in their heyday and latter years, replaced by cleaner, smarter sheds for electrics such as Willesden and the new TMD at Bletchley.
branches/milton_keynesConcrete Viaduct Bletchley 04Mch62 not found Bob Berry’s slides of Bletchley and Milton Keynes are particularly interesting. They depict the alterations at Bletchley both for electrification and before that the construction of the concrete viaduct that still stands, carrying the Oxford to Bedford line across the West Coast Main Line. This will hopefully once again see regular trains in a few years when East West Rail opens and through services to Oxford commence. There were also fascinating views of Milton Keynes Central during its construction in the early 1980s.
The evening finished at Wolverton, with a brief look at the branch to Newport Pagnell, the Works and the steam hauled tramway that ran to Stony Stratford.

There is much in terms of the railway that has changed in the intervening years and it is interesting to see how the reconfiguration of Euston, the reopening of part of the Oxford to Cambridge line and other developments show that rather than being nostalgic for the past, we should be hopeful for the future. Our railways have always adapted and changed to demands of traffic and they will continue to do so. Bob Berry’s slides were an apt reminder of what has gone before and made for an interesting and enjoyable evening’s viewing.

Thursday 4th October 2018
'A History of DMUs'
Colin Boocock, former BR Mechanical Engineer

We welcomed back Colin Boocock on 4th October to give his presentation on “A History of DMUs”, which for many of his audience went back further in time than most would appreciate with in 1926, the LMS fitting a 4-car Bury Line EMU with a Beardmore engine at Horwich Works and trialling it on the Holcombe Branch. But further developments occurred in Ireland where the firm of Gardner Walker of Wigan developed a number of designs of DMUs which were principally operated on the many narrow gauge lines that existed at the time.branches/milton_keynesGWR Railcars 35 and 36 Weymouth 22Sep47 not found This continued into the 1930s when the GWR developed their first single railcar No1 fitted with an AEC engine and built at their Park Royal Works. Swindon then followed by building their own versions some of which were parcels units. The LMS in the late 1930s then produced a 3-car set which had engines under each coach and was trialled on the Cambridge-Oxford line.
The Second World War then prevented any further developments until the early 1950s when early prototypes by Paxman and Bedford which were used experimentally on branches north of London, but it took the building of the lightweight units at Derby in the mid 50s to start the DMU revolution to really take hold.
We were then taken through all the various classes that were built, some of which only lasted a few years, whilst others are still around in preservation today.
Whilst all this was happening with BR, we were reminded how the Irish railways also quickly developed their units, so that today a fleet of modern units now finds use both sides of the Border.
The meeting concluded with a review of the second generation of BR DMUs starting with rail buses through to Voyagers and more recently the Class 230s the first of which has arrived locally.

The amount of detail shared by Colin is unfortunately too great to be shared here but anyone interested in this subject should invite him to speak to your local Branch

Thursday 6th September 2018
'Railway Roundabout Gloucester-Gloucester'
Brian Arman, Society President

On 6th September we welcomed for the first time the Society President Brian Arman who gave a presentation entitled “Railway Roundabout Gloucester – Gloucester”
After reviewing what had been the previous railway layout here which included the MR Eastgate Station, we went via that route to Bristol Temple Meads and were reminded of the original GW part of the Station which was abandoned when the PSB was built over the track bed of the approach lines. Ironically with the forthcoming closure of said PSB this part of Temple Meads is to be reopened to help cater for all the now extra services serving the Station.
After looking round Bristol our tour took us via Bath Green Spa and along the S&D branches/milton_keynes75071 S and D 10Aug65 not found route to Bournemouth West with reminders of both motive power and its attractive locations. Next it was along to Waterloo with some pre-war Duplex colour slides showing some of the various liveries of the time applied to all sorts of motive power.
After arriving in the Capital it was a tour round the many terminal stations together with some shed visits before going north on the WCML with reminders of the Ramsbottom locos previously used to shunt Wolverton Works, before turning off at Rugby to proceed to Birmingham New St. which was shown before the 60s rebuild and would appear to have been as dingy as its so called modernised platforms!
Turning south west we headed back to Gloucester down the Lickey bank where Big Bertha 58100 used to assist north bound trains, stopping at some of the intermediate stations that used to exist together with their branch lines.

A very interesting tour which Brian wished he could have experienced as many of the lines disappeared in the Beeching era.

Thursday 5th July 2018
'A Career With BR'
David Maidment former top Operating Officer

branches/milton_keynes43082 Leeds 05Aug10 not found The 5th July was a very warm evening, but we were kept well entertained by David Maidment’s story of his three-decade career with BR from Aberbeeg in Wales to the Chief Operating Manager of the London Midland Region. David is of course now well known for his work with The Railway Children, the charity he founded having been touched by the desperate plight of street children in India.
David joined British Rail Western Region as a clerk in the Divisional Passenger Train Office at Paddington, before becoming a ‘Traffic Apprentice’ (Management Trainee) in 1961. This was the culmination of a childhood fascination with railways and what would become a fulfilling life-long hobby and career. His earliest railway experiences were as a 2-year old when his mother would be persuaded to take him in his pushchair from their home in East Molesey to Esher Common where trains on the South West Main Line could be observed. His first footplate experience was as an eight-year-old on the Guildford shed pilot. David’s early trainspotting days were spent at Surbiton and during the school holidays visiting each of the London termini. In later school years whilst at Charterhouse in Godalming, David was able to reinvigorate a moribund railway club, gaining 300 members in one year.
A period working at Old Oak Common as an Engine History Clerk, logging each locos daily mileage, afforded much opportunity for cab riding as David found that a day’s work could be done in two hours! His travels took him to far flung parts of the Western and sometimes entrusted with the shovel.
A toss of a coin would shape David’s future railway career. This came about when David along with a fellow trainee, Stan Judd, was interviewed for two stationmaster posts – one at Ebbw Vale and Aberbeeg. Judd called the toss correctly and chose Ebbw Vale, because he’d heard of it and such an inauspicious decision led to David taking up the operating job at Aberbeeg which led to other opportunities eventually culminating in becoming the Chief Operating Manager of the London Midland Region and later involvement towards the end of his career in rail safety. The role at Aberbeeg included responsibility for about 70 staff, mainly guards, shunters and signalmen and latterly drivers and fitters at the engine shed.
From the Welsh Valleys, David’s next step was as Area Manager at Bridgend before leading the train planning office at Cardiff. After serving in a management role to the British Railways Board, in autumn 1982 David started working in Crewe as the London Midland Region (LMR) Chief Operating Manager. This was a huge change with a budget of £35 million and a staff of 25,000. During his time on the LMR, he witnessed the testing and ill-fated introduction of the Advanced Passenger Train and despite its ultimate failure, David was proud to point out that it had achieved a record 3 hours 52 minutes run from London to Glasgow, which is yet to be bettered. In his role with the London Midland Region, David was the nominated Officer in charge of the Royal Train when it operated on the region.
The latter stages of David’s career saw him in the role of Head of Safety Policy for both British Rail and then Railtrack. This involved dealing the tragic accident at Clapham Junction in 1988 and preparing for the judicial inquiry that followed. The way that safety was managed within BR was transformed and David became a much in demand speaker internationally on safety management.

This was a fascinating evening reflecting on a wide-ranging and diverse career that had encompassed many various aspects of the operational railway. A highly recommended and engaging speaker.

Last updated: 28th April 2019