Meeting Reports

Meeting Reports

Newcastle Thursday 14th November 2019

A Record for Posterity: Underground Haulage at Thoresby Colliery, Nottinghamshire 2015

Colin Mountford

Colin Mountford presented “A Record for Posterity: Underground Haulage at Thoresby Colliery, Nottinghamshire, 2015” at November 14th’s meeting in Newcastle, having been privileged to make an underground tour during its closing months, when Thoresby, Kellingley and Hatfield Main were the country’s last three working deep shaft mines. Three types of battery loco were in operation, ranging from the appropriately named 4-wheeled Pony class to 150hp Co-Cos built by Clayton Equipment. The Ponies were used to move materials, or coal to the shaft bottom some 2,267 feet below ground, while although confined to lines with gradients no steeper than 1 in 15(!), the Bo-Bos and Co-Cos were also used to haul man-riding trains. Features typical of surface railways abounded, ballasted track, catch points and sidings, though rusty rail heads on operative lines were indicative of locos’ rubber or composite tyres. Maintenance garages and the separate charging stations were shown, batteries being exchanged with similar proficiency to a Deltic engine at Doncaster to maximise availability and the mine’s earnings. Direct and endless rope haulages also featured, the latter being used to exchange the mine cars loaded with scrap metal collected subsurface from newly hewn coal. An excellent talk that recorded the end of an era, highly recommended for its rare, now historic content.

Newcastle Thursday 10th October 2019

Rail Baltica – a Look at the Railways and Developments in Eastern Europe

Phil Kirkland

On Thursday 10th October, Phil Kirkland spent his final evening before retirement after 47 years’ continual railway service presenting “Rail Baltica - a look at the railways and developments in Eastern Europe” to 27 members and visitors at Newcastle. Far from reflecting the inertia surrounding HS2, the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have taken advantage of substantial EU funding to build a new north-south standard gauge route through their countries, creating a high speed link with the rest of Europe, specifically designed to stimulate and help sustain their economies independently of the adjacent, former communist states. Traffic began along the first stage linking Poland with the Lithuanian border in October 2015 and the construction of phase two began earlier this year, which, by 2030, will link Tallinn with Warsaw and beyond, a subsequent option being an undersea tunnel to integrate Helsinki into the scheme. Phil most ably described and explained the requirements of this phenomenal project and how Latvian railways have successfully improved their infrastructure construction and maintenance techniques to produce permanent way that is second to none. We wish Phil and long and happy retirement, though we suspect he will still play an active part in railways’ development for years to come!

Newcastle Thursday 3rd October 2019

Newcastle Branch AGM and Members' Night

Seventeen members attended the North East Branch (Newcastle) A.G.M. on Thursday 4th October, 30% more than last year. Newcastle’s and Darlington’s independent administrations have functioned successfully over the last twelve months, so it is expected the second half of the Branch A.G.M. in Darlington will also confirm this arrangement, retaining the shared accounting system and with the Sales Stand based in the Darlington area. The Secretary’s and Treasurer’s Reports reflected the strength of the branch, 2018-2019 attendances being 30% greater than the previous year, and with a further increase in reserves, due to the sustained, excellent work of the sales stand’s team led by Margaret Fraser. The current committee, Ms. Apperley and Messrs. Skinner, Snowball and Sweeting, was re-elected and joined by Keith Stewart, who has volunteered as Meetings Chairman. The members’ evening followed the refreshments, with thanks to Mrs Snowball for the ever-delicious, home-made cakes. Howard Forster reviewed the multiplicity of electric locos and EMUs seen in Newcastle, Keith Stewart took us from Totnes to Newcastle via Paddington, King’s Cross and Leeds using Hitachi’s Class 800s and new member, John Turnock, showed 21st century steam on Patagonia’s Esquel line. Thank you all for such an interesting and enjoyable evening, and to everybody who has contributed to our thriving year’s activity.

Newcastle Thursday 12th September 2019

An Introduction to the Maryport and Carlisle Railway

Mike Peascod

The Cumbrian Railways Association’s Mike Peascod began Newcastle’s indoor season on 12th September in fine style when he presented, “An Introduction to the Maryport and Carlisle Railway” to an audience of 27 members and visitors. Armed with one of the best PowerPoints your reviewer can remember, Mike explained the reasons for the line’s creation, being surveyed by George Stephenson in the 1830s and the first built fully in Cumberland, which capitalised on the burgeoning local coal industry’s need to export to Ireland. It also provided the final link for traffic to and from the coast of the Irish Sea for its neighbour, the Newcastle and Carlisle Railway, and enabled the movement of Cumbrian iron ore to Scottish furnaces. Fiercely independent, and able to return to profitability after a period of imprudent management, the M&CR remained independent even of its mighty neighbour, the LNWR, until 1923, with the founding Senhouse family retaining a place on the board throughout. Maryport’s docks had to be enlarged repeatedly in the 19th century to accommodate the ever growing traffic, which regularly generated double figure percentage dividends. With detailed coverage of each station along the line, its two private stations and both branches, locomotives, rolling stock and their CMEs, a great deal was covered in a most interesting and well-paced talk. Highly recommended.

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.

Last updated: 19th November 2019