Meeting Reports

Meeting Reports


Thursday 14th March 2019
The Peter Bland Collection, Part One

Newcastle’s season continued on 14th March when Bryan Cross gave a most enjoyable talk, “The Peter Bland Collection, Part One,” to an audience of 28. A civil engineer by profession, Peter also loved mechanical engineering and frequently used his work and considerable enthusiasm to gain access to many locations now long gone. We started in 1950 by looking at the varied industrial locos operated by the Port of London Authority, a particular gem being a Robert Stephenson 0-6-0 ST of 1902. The Gas Light and Coke Company’s enormous Beckton Gas Works system followed, featuring an even more eclectic range of 19th and 20th century steam on the lower and high level lines, even working in the benzole plant. No worries about health and safety in those days! The evening concluded with the first part of a detailed look at the Midland main line mainly in the latter days of steam, heading south from Bedford towards the capital. Although Peter preferred to record passenger trains, which provided an interesting array of motive power, some freight workings were shown bringing the sight of a Wellingborough Crosti 9F and the first Garratt to reach Bedford. A great evening; we look forward to Bryan’s return to continue the saga

Thursday 14th February 2019
India, 2017

Tony Skinner gave a first class evening’s entertainment to yet another large audience when he spoke about “India 2017” at Newcastle’s meeting on Thursday 14th February. Armed with a rucksack, camera, all-India rail pass and a plan of the routes he wanted to cover, Tony travelled no less than 6000 miles in a period of 30 days, though only at a maximum average speed of 59 mph! Starting in Delhi, he visited Gwalior, Mumbai, Bangalore, Mysore, Chennai and Calcutta, returning to Delhi to finish in Amritsar, so we saw a wide range of electric traction (AC and DC), and standard (5’6”) and narrow gauge diesels at rest, in action and at a variety of depots. Rolling stock was not neglected, and your reviewer now has his best ever understanding of the numbering system of Indian Railways’ passenger coaches. Lengthy passenger and freight trains were shown in diverse rural and urban settings, some reflecting the squalor in which many have to live. A great deal of colonial architecture remains in use, the Indian Gothic style of Bombay Victoria station being most impressive. Human activity abounded, including the supervision of a herd of cows feeding on discarded banana skins alongside a main line station platform! Part Two is eagerly anticipated.

Thursday 10th January 2019
The Photography of Ian S. Carr

Another bumper audience enjoyed David Dunn’s presentation of “The Photography of Ian S. Carr” at Newcastle’s meeting on 10th January. Ian’s railway photography spanned the years 1956-2006, this talk leaning towards the steam-centered railway of the early years and the introduction of the early main line diesels. Never a car owner, Ian took his camera with him on an almost daily basis, and when combined with information from B.R. staff and the willingness of friends to give him lifts, your reviewer included on one occasion, his collection of photographs became a detailed record of everyday and unusual main line and industrial railway activity across north-east England and, at times, beyond. The evening’s pictures showed the wonderful variety of locomotives and their work that Ian most ably recorded on his travels, reviving happy memories for us oldies in the audience and providing an insight into the country’s engineering, industrial and social history for those too young to remember the era. Favourites, if possible among such a cornucopia of delight, included A8s and G5s working pre-DMU local passenger services, Gresley V tanks banking steam-hauled trains out of Durham and their diesel successors heading ECML expresses and the north-east to south-west England services.

Thursday 20th December 2018
Images of the Restoration of the Welsh Highland Railway
Frank Tweddle

Local member Frank Tweddle filled the Darlington Christmas spot on 20th December with a very well presented show of images of the restoration of the Welsh Highland Railway. This was a 'past and present' show in reverse order, showing first a field with a few sheep and then a proud Garratt passing the same location with a heavy and smartly turned out train. One was left to wonder just how this restoration came to be and how unlikely it seemed in the not too distant past. Trains were seen crossing a road at Porthmadog, another unlikely project which duly came to pass against all the odds. This well recommended show was presented with great skill and Frank must be congratulated for his superb preparation work.

Thursday 13th December 2018
1960s and 1970s Railway Nostalgia

Newcastle’s meeting on 13th December produced the season’s largest audience of 35 who were treated to an evening of photographic excellence by Trevor Ermel in “1960s and 1970s Railway Nostalgia”. The first half comprised monochrome images of the steam-diesel transition era, initially on Tyneside, soon reaching Darlington Works and that stronghold of steam, North West England, with forays to the Isle of Wight and Central Scotland. Trevor’s superlative compositional skills were apparent from the outset, whether recording a J27 + brake van, a Clayton towing a Tyneside electric parcels van, or a Class 24 propelling a diesel brake tender displaying a class 1 headcode while rescuing a failed Brush 4 at the head of the Anglo-Scottish Car Carrier. 1970s colour images then took us from Thurso to Cornwall, featuring main line and preserved traction, Deltics and Westerns being well represented. Visits to Germany (1974) and South Africa (1976) followed, with O1 pacifics, 2-10-0s and 2-8-2s on passenger and freight, and Beyer-Garratts and Class 25 4-8-4s shown in glorious surroundings and on shed, giving truly remarkable coverage to the era. Thank you very much to Trevor, to everybody who contributed to the Christmas refreshments, and to all who have helped to make 2018 a very successful year for the branch.

Thursday 15th November 2018
Retford, through the lens of Keith Pirt
Bob Gellatly

On 15th November at Darlington Bob Gellatly gave a slide show of the late Keith Pirt's images taken in the Retford area. These slides, some in very early colour, were a delight to view and many well loved locomotives and much railway infrastructure passed across the screen to the delight of all present. Thanks to Bob for putting together such an enjoyable and high quality show. Due to Bob being slightly late due to unforeseen circumstances, Dave Allison entertained us until his arrival with shots from his extensive collection of tramways.

Saturday 10th November 2018-Sunday 11th November 2018
Branch Stand at Tyneside MRX

Thursday 8th November 2018
The National Railway Museum at Work

On Thursday 8th November, an audience of 26 was treated to another top class talk by Senior Curator, Anthony Coulls, when he spoke about the work of the National Railway Museum, in which he explained how the staff go about conserving and displaying the c.270 items of rolling stock in the National Collection. Decision-making processes regarding the icons of the collection were well explained, the performance of the replica Rocket being transformed after reference to John Rastrick’s 19th century notebooks. However much was learned about less well known items and how the museum trains apprentices in traditional skills, providing opportunities for a steady stream of newly qualified engineers to continue into employment in modern industries. Insights were given into the functions of the NRM, one of the more unusual opportunities to support main line companies being the provision of lamp irons from withdrawn Class 08 shunters to furnish their Class 70 fleet that was delivered without them. The museum’s overriding ethos is to provide as much pleasure as possible for the thousands who visit every year, of whom 95% are not railway enthusiasts. Anthony, however, brought a great deal of satisfaction and enjoyment to the delighted band of enthusiasts who had the opportunity to listen to his presentation.

Thursday 18th October 2018
Railways of the Isle of Man (Preceded by AGM at 18.00)
Geoff Brockett

The Isle of Man featured at Darlington on 18th October with a visit by Geoff Brockett, who took us all over the Island with a series of first class slides. As a regular visitor he was able to show us the progress (or lack of it) on all lines including the horse trams. A particularly interesting slide showed a vertical boiler locomotive on the Groudle Glen Railway. Surely, after seeing this presentation some who have not visited the island lately must be tempted to make a trip there and help to boost the finances! Many thanks Geoff for an enjoyable evening.

Thursday 11th October 2018
Railways Around Blyth, Part Two

Ed Orwin provided an excellent evening’s entertainment to an audience of 20 at Newcastle on Thursday 11th October when he spoke about, “The Blyth and Tyne Railway, Part Two”. We were treated to an in-depth study of a major part of SE Northumberland’s railways, covering the lines built in the mid-19th century by the B&T and the Bedlington and Cowpen Coal Companies between Newsham and Morpeth, and the Cambois and Newbiggin branches. J27s handled the never-ending stream of loose coupled coal trains between the collieries and the staiths at Blyth, while G5s largely reigned supreme on the local passenger services, though DMUs ultimately prevailed before passenger services ended in 1964. The routes and their history were described in detail, the effects of mining subsidence often being apparent; the LNER filled in the viaduct at Bomarsund to stabilise the trackbed, but nothing could be done to prevent the subsidence-related crash at West Sleekburn Junction that claimed the lives of two footplate men. At Morpeth, we saw the remains of the NBR’s attempts to create their circuitous, through route from Edinburgh to Newcastle via the B&T to avoid the metals of their fierce competitors, the NER. Architecture, social and economic history all featured in a talk that is very highly recommended.

Thursday 4th October 2018
Newcastle Branch A.G.M. and Members’ Night

The North East (Newcastle) Branch AGM was held on Thursday 4th October, with 13 members present, the best recent attendance largely due to the locally-based agenda and subsequent members’ evening. The Secretary’s and Treasurer’s Reports showed the branch is currently in sound health with increased attendances and door donations at meetings compared to last year, though dependant on the income generated by the excellent work of the North East Branch sales stand’s team. The existing committee was re-elected and joined by Gareth Wilkins. The members’ evening followed the refreshment break, with thanks to Mrs Snowball for the ever-delicious, home-made cakes. Howard Forster presented an LNER Alphabet, challenging members to identify an A-Z of locations, Winlaton Mill probably causing the most head scratching. David Little followed with An April 1st Wedding, guests travelling to and from the GCR at Loughborough via vintage buses that complemented the main line traction. Bob Payne reflected on his home town’s railways in steam’s final years with a trip to West Hartlepool. Graham Jellett brought an international flavour with a look at the three surviving French tramways from the 19th century and Keith Stewart concluded proceedings by looking at Preservation in Middle England. Thank you all for such an interesting and enjoyable evening.

Thursday 20th September 2018
Gloucester to Gloucester via Bristol and the S&D
Canon Brian Arman (RCTS President)

The Branch was very privileged to welcome Society President the Reverend Canon Brian Armand to Newcastle on 13th September to present “The History of Swindon Works, Part One 1841-1880”. With the aid of some very early photography which had been transferred onto 35mm slides and associated drawings, he described in fine detail the images on the screen and which parts of the complex can still be seen today. Of special interest were the broad gauge locomotives, coaches and wagons of the period and the village, complete with church etc., built for the large workforce. An excellent presentation delivered without notes (in the late Dick Hardy style!) much appreciated by those attending, and we look forward to part two. A very good start to the new season.

Last updated: 28th April 2019