Meeting Reports

Monday 3rd April 2017
Members Evening

The Northampton meeting on Monday 3rd April consisted of four presentations by Branch members.
Leading the presenters was Colin Horne with a slide review entitled “Last Days of Steam in the North East” which consisted of mainly black and white pictures of ex-NE 0-6-0 locos hauling freight trains, mostly coal, over the moors of North Yorkshire, County Durham and Northumberland. The quality of the pictures was first class and showed both the trains and the scenery to perfection.

Colin was followed by Tommy Tomalin, the Branch Honorary President, with a colour slide presentation entitled “Great River, Great Railway” the river being the Severn and the railway between Gloucester and Cardiff along the South Wales coast most of the locations near Lydney. The majority of the shots were of DMUs in about 1990 but also included the occasional freight train. The track was quite close to the river edge but did not suffer from the water problem of the GWR section at Dawlish.

After the refreshment break we changed to computer based LCD presentations, the first being by Chris Clayson, Branch Treasurer, entitled “East German Steam” that was a review of the state of the railway on the East German side of the border shortly after German re-unification. The locos were both steam and diesel and appeared to be of pre-second world war vintage and not to have been updated. The track and the railway facilities appeared to be fairly rudimentary.

   The loco is Wabtec MP36 No.109 waiting at Sante Fe Station with a New Mexico Rail Runners Express Service to Albuqueque 24th October 2012   Keith Sykes
The final presentation was by Keith Sykes, Branch Chairman, entitled “Nine States and Three Provinces” and was a review of a number of USA railway companies and rolling stock. Nearly all the camera shots were of modern US diesel hauled trains although many US towns and cities have static examples of earlier steam locomotives. The trains themselves were mainly freight with multi-hauled coal trains, a mile or more long, being important to the survival of railways in the US. There is still a number of long distance passenger trains although these are sparsely used, as air travel is more convenient for the distances involved.

Monday 27th March 2017
Stuart Cheshire - Passenger Services Director, Govia Thames Railway

The first of the 2017 two regular joint meetings between Milton Keynes and Northampton Branches took place on 27th March when we welcomed Stuart Cheshire, Passenger Service Director, Thameslink/Great Northern to talk on Metroisation, the development of Thameslink around the introduction of the new Cl.700 class of units, and all the infrastructure changes taking place especially around London Bridge, and the introduction of ATO signalling through the Core in London to enable a service of 24 trains per hour to travel over the line at peak times.

   700101 The first of the new Siemens Class 700 to be delivered to GTR to provide the services from Bedford for Thameslink and Cambridge for Great Northern. They consist of fixed unit configuration, 55 being 12-car and 60 being 8-car  
Stuart then showed his audience through a series of digital images of how GTR were working towards this goal, not only with motive power but changes to the timetable, which eventually will lead to 4 trains per hour coming into the Core from Peterborough and Cambridge using the new link from the ECML at Belle Isle outside Kings Cross. It was very interesting to see that Thameslink in the future will also cover services as far out as places such as Littlehampton and East Grinstead, with some of their trains going into London Victoria, taking over from services currently run by sister company Southern.
The introduction of the new Cl.700 units has not been without its troubles, as this is the first class to adopt the fly by wire operation, which has encountered a few problems which had not been anticipated by the manufacturer Siemans, and has resulted in a casualty figure of currently only 4,100 miles per fault. Stuart is confident that when both drivers and maintenance staff get more used to using this new type of unit, things will improve.
With the infrastucture changes at London Bridge coming to a conclusion at the end of 2017, it is hoped then to work towards the target of getting 24 trains per hour in 2019.

Monday 20th March 2017
The Baie de Somme Railway
Mike Bunn

The afternoon meeting at Weston Favell on 20th March brought about the third visit to Northampton of Mike Bunn, an expert on delivering presentations on French railways to the uninitiated.

   The Diner a Bord train waits to depart from Noyelles Station on the Baie de Somme Railway on 29th September 2014. Locomotive No.15 'Noyon-Guiscard-Lassigny' built by Haine St Pierre in 1920, with kitchen car and 3 'Somme' coaches.   Michael Bunn
This time he went narrow gauge and preserved with the “Baie de Somme Railway” and what a revelation it turned out to be! Superb pictures, and a first- hand intimate knowledge of the railway, made for an captivating afternoon on a little known subject.
Part of a group of 5 lines which circumnavigated the Bay, the section Cayeux to Noyelles was brought back to life in 1971 and has since become one of the major tourist attractions in the Picardy area. There is a section of dual gauge track which forms part of the 5 lines, some of which have remained extant throughout the closure of others. The lines originally carried large tonnages of sugar beet from the surrounding farmland to a shredding factory at Lancheres and galets (flint pebbles) for the ceramics industry.
Mike’s superb presentation wetted the appetite of the audience for a visit to the railway, which is situated approximately 70 miles from Calais.

Monday 6th March 2017
The Cromford & High Peak Railway - Part 4
Brian Sullivan

Local member Brian Sullivan presented the final part of the subject, which had originated with an idea from the sorely missed Ian Lyman.
Over a number of years, with the able assistance of Messrs Tomalin and Sullivan, Ian had explored the route from High Peak junction for the whole 35 miles or thereabouts, northbound to Whaley Bridge.

   This is the northern end of Burbage Tunnel which pierced Burbage Edge to the west of Buxton. This was part of the C & HP line that opened in 1831, the tunnel, which was 580 This is the northern end of Burbage Tunnel which pierced Burbage Edge to the west of Buxton. This was part of the C & HP line that opened in 1831, the tunnel, which was 580 yards in length and cost 5200 to build, being on the section from Ladmanlow to Whaley Bridge that was closed and abandoned in 1892. Due to its early closure no known photographs exist although this wash drawing by Brian Fawcett is considered to be a very realistic representation of a locomotive that worked the line, an LNWR 1846 Crewe Goods 2-4-0, leaving the northern end of the tunnel and heading for Whaley Bridge.   Brian Fawcett
Over the years he had amassed a large number of transparencies and photographs, including many of his own, showing the line in use from its early days, through and beyond the lines closure.
By a careful comparison of OS maps and satellite images, it was possible to compare the deviations put in by the LNWR during its tenure. These enabled the line to run somewhat more directly, with gradients that would have made the motive power cough, perhaps more than it would have on the originally laid down canal route, which was the first plan.
Ian's trips with his co-partners amounted to at least 20 trips to the line. Allowing for the long journey to the line from Northamptonshire, the need for refreshment can be appreciated, and quite a few of the images bore testament to that important part of the task! Part 4 was the last part and was, as usual, expertly portrayed by Brian.
I am sure that Parts 1 - 3 are "still available", and if you haven't yet "got the set", don't miss out whenever they come round again.

Monday 27th February 2017
Railways Remembered - Cine
Rob Foxon

A bumper attendance for more of Rob Foxton's "old railway film show" was very contented with his latest offering.
It was narrow gauge railways doing, as he described, what they were designed and built for - the movement of goods and passengers. It also covered areas where the major standard gauge lines were possibly wary of involvement.
Rob's 8 reels comprised scenes on The Corris Railway in about 1920, before the GWR stepped in, abandoning the passenger side of the job.

   Double Fairlie 0-4-4-0 "Earl of Merioneth" on the Ffestiniog - Portmadoc 1'11" gauge 14th June 2009 after conversion from oil to coal burning.   Ffestiniog
The Talyllyn railway, The Southwold Railway, of happy memory long before most of us living today came along, and The Leek and Manifold Railway, which Rob said was an English line built to look like a colonial railway. It did, and it also reminded a few of us who "E.R.Calthrop" actually was. The Lynton & Barnstaple line then appeared, with a fascinating sequence showing a Southern Railway lifting of the last loco to leave the line after closure. Whilst it was not quite Laurel and Hardy, it was closer to these gentlemen than to a copybook example of best practice Health and Safety! The loco in question was "LEW", which has since disappeared!
The Jersey Light Railway followed, which was closed before the Germans arrived in WWII, reopened by them, but was later re-closed.
Slate quarrying at Dinorvic in north Wales, The Welsh Highland and The Ffestiniog followed, then came an element of early preservation in the shape of the first ever train operated by volunteers, by members of the Birmingham Locomotive Society, on 14th May 1951, in colour.
The Welshpool & Llanfair, and the local Kettering Furnaces line followed on, and the last scenes of a very crowded afternoon ended with a glance at the Groudle Glen line in the Isle of Man and a short film of the early days of the preserved Talyllyn line, from an American viewpoint, ended the show.
Not a Pacific to be seen, and a worthwhile presentation, very well received.

Monday 20th February 2017
A Time Machine Journey on the West Coast Main Line
Steve Armitage

Another large attendance gathered at Weston Favell to see Steve Armitage deliver his talk/show entitled "A time machine journey on the west coast mainline".
Steve’s preamble confirmed what we had hoped for - a multitude of pictures, mainly black and white, covering from very early days at Euston station through to the later days of steam, and to many points along the 400 miles to Glasgow Central station. It was not all locomotives and trains. The forever regretted loss of the Euston Doric Arch and The Great Hall was relived to many a silent sigh, before a mid-Edwardian shot of a Precursor pulled out of the station over a layout that appeared to be without sleepers in the early days.

   LMS (ex.LNWR) Claughton Class 5930 'G.R.Jess' near Stafford on 17th June 1925   Steve Armitage Collection
A following shot of an original Royal Scot together with a Precursor bridged the period between early LMS and pre-war LMS, with a colour shot of Coronation 6232 from 1938. There were so many interesting shots, but as the journey north progressed, the sight of rebuilt Scot 46127 running parallel with the newly opened and effectively deserted M1 motorway south of Watford Gap "filling station" was true nostalgia. A chance presence near Whitmore produced a train carrying Queen Victoria home from a visit to Ireland, on her last rail journey before her death. The view of a rather rurally situated Crewe station in 1881 was of particular interest.
   BR Riddles 'Standard 4' 4-6-0 75030 at Scout Green with a workman's service train on 30th December 1967   Steve Armitage Collection
The presentation was a true time machine, with pictures of trains, locomotives, stations and locations galore, which cannot all be listed here.
Steve mentioned that he had produced similar presentations of many other areas and lines, which if to the same standard, would be well worth seeing. He also spoke of the (worthwhile) efforts he had put in on resurrecting damaged old pictures. He was not alone in regretting the picture in the burnt out Preston shed showing 45543 and 45550 stored, awaiting scrapping.

A sorry story about to have a happy ending. If you get another chance to see this one, don't hesitate - pure nostalgia double-headed with brilliant photography.

Monday 6th February 2017
Engine Sheds - Part 9 - Peterborough to Rugby
Chris Banks

The jokers referred to the title "Engine sheds, Part 9 - Peterborough to Rugby" as not taking too long as trains would only pass by sheds at Market Harborough, Stamford and, or Leicester.

   45633 on Preston shed August 1958   Chris Banks Collection
In fact on the 6th February, Chris Banks showed us the wide variety of motive power as well as the diversity of shed styles and sizes to be found at 21 sheds. To paraphrase Chairman Keith Sykes' "trailer" two weeks earlier, we saw New England, Spital Bridge, Stamford, Plymouth Friary, where the "penny dropped", Laira, Polmont, Preston,
   6961 on Reading GWR shed July 63   Chris Banks Collection
Ramsgate, Reading GW, Reading SR, Redhill, Retford GC, Rhyl, Rose Grove, Ross on Wye, Rowsley, Cromford, Sheep Pasture, Middleton Top and Royston, before an on-time arrival at Rugby.
Highlights of the highlights were a surprisingly clean 60514 at its New England home, 69200 complete with the H&S nightmare shunters platform at Polmont, the mysterious 30950 at Redhill and 46604 hanging on at Rugby. 2A also provided 45500 bedecked with the traditional November 11th poppies, its 26A shed plate dating it as 1960 and 70043 with Westinghouse pumps, dated March 1954, possibly resting from attendance at the Testing Station.

Monday 23rd January 2017
Doncaster Station
Bryan Longbone

In the afternoon of Monday 23rd January, in excess of 30 members and visitors were at Weston Favell, where Bryan Longbone gave an enlightening talk, with mainly early black and white pictures, supplemented with later colour shots.
His subject was simply entitled "Doncaster station", and what a station it was! From the earliest dated picture from about 1897, the clutter that had developed from earlier days was very noticeable. Huge fingers pointed towards every conceivable activity organised for the benefit of the travelling public, as well as to put money into the coffers of the Great Northern Railway.

   DoncasterStation 'down' plaform photographedfrom the 'up' platform in March 1936 before modernisation. Photographer unknown   unknown
Over the years the station was extended, renewed and rebuilt, but even allowing for the intervention of the second world war, it appeared that the GNR and its later LNER successor might have been more concerned with cash income than outgoing.
However, it was clear that the station "worked", and the number of official photographs, dating from the mid to late 1930s, may have been part of a survey intended to improve matters. Refreshingly, only a few of the photographs shown in the "first half" involved locomotives and trains.
   DoncasterStation mdernised platform 4 with Thompson BR 4-6-0 B1 61026 "Ourebi" in April 1947   Bryan Longbone
The second part did include a number of shots of locomotives. We went on to see how the station became lighter, brighter and less cluttered as the 1960s progressed, followed by the inevitable retrenchment of recent years, made breathtakingly plain from a number of high level shots.
His last few pictures included an EMU in Post Office red livery on a nightly one-way run from Doncaster to Willesden,date unknown, the driver of which apparently returned home each night by taxi.

Altogether a very interesting history of a major GNR/LNER station!

Monday 9th January 2017
UK Railways in the 21st Century
David Smith

Thirty three hardy souls gathered on a dismal evening to see and hear David Smith’s first visit to Northampton. His subject was "UK Railways in the 21st Century", a title that might have produced a few sceptics. However, there was no need for any doubts, as David, who had brought along some friends, proceeded to show over 150 excellently crafted pictures of the modern scene, covering the period from the very last days of the 20th Century right through to 2nd January 2017.

   Dual voltage 12-car EMU 700107 Thameslink Bedford to Three Bridges 2W43 (13.54) at Bedford Station on 18th October 2016. These units are Desiro City built by Siemens, Krefeld and are designed for use on 25kV ac overhead and 750V dc third rail operating systems.   Dave Smith
His first picture was taken at the Stud Farm Quarry in Leicestershire, showing a Freightliner green Class 66 awaiting loading in bright sunshine, setting the standard for what followed. We then went on a tour of the UK, and it would be easier to list what we didn’t see, such was the comprehensive cover that David provided. A procession of all types of liveries, locomotives, DMUs, EMUs wagons and carriages, was accompanied by a cheerful commentary, with questions he posed to the audience producing responses which would have produced a good number of 'A’ level passes in different circumstances!
There were slides taken in all weathers, and included references to signal-boxes, stations, goods receiving sidings, semaphore signals, and, as we may have initially overlooked, plenty of steam, both on preserved lines and on the main system.
David, as might be expected from a main line driver and enthusiast, gave us an evening to remember. Any remaining sceptics were sceptics no longer. Comments aplenty re the vitality of the current scene were heard as we shuffled off home.
David's last few slides included 60001, "our" loco, and a slightly, but equally well received shot, of off-piste Class 87s exiled in Bulgaria, looking not that much different to we remembered them. A blue 87004 was still carrying its "BRITANNIA" nameplates!

This was a magical 5-star evening, and I hope we are to see David again in due course.

Monday 19th December 2016
The Stratford-upon-Avon & Midland Junction Railway
Martin Bloxsom

Rather reminiscent of 1950s soccer attendances peaking during the aftermath of Christmas Day proper, the car park at Northampton for the afternoon meeting on 19th December was obviously host to a very high attendance.

   The presentation of the Keith Locke Memorial Trophy by Northampton Branch Chairman, Keith Sykes, to Robin Cullop for the most appreciated 2016 presentation entitled The Railways of Northamptonshire Part 2 given on 19th September.   Jack Knights
The meeting opened with the presentation of the Keith Locke Memorial Trophy by Northampton Branch Chairman, Keith Sykes, to Robin Cullop for the most appreciated 2016 presentation entitled “The Railways of Northamptonshire – Part 2 given on 19th September.
The meeting continued with Martin Bloxsom giving a presentation on "The Stratford Upon Avon & Midland Junction Railway". This small and always hard up railway was originally proposed as "The Northampton and Banbury Junction Railway", and the local joke was that it never actually arrived in either town. To remember the last passenger services on the "SMJ", (or the irreverent early teenagers "Smudge"), in April 1952, one would need to now be aged in the region of 75 years of age. Even when the last passenger trains were operating, between Blisworth and Stratford, the line and its convoluted junction with ex LMS main line at Blisworth was tolerated even though the small fry on offer amounted to little other than Northampton allocated locomotives.
   43822 3F 0-6-0 ex. LMS at Stratford-on-Avon (21D) on 6th April 1952 the day after working the last train from Blisworth to Stratford. The loco is of Midland Railway vintage built at Derby in 1908.   Martin Bloxsom
More importantly, such (infrequent) comings and goings failed to interfere with the main menu provided on the main line proper. Despite its small size, the line did provide a straightforward cross country route between the GWR at the western end (Broom Junction) and the Midland Railway at Olney, on the Northampton-Bedford line.
As the talk progressed, Martin was able to resurrect many not yet forgotten memories, such as the "Roadrailer"; the old loco shed at Blisworth; the turntable, the pit of which was visible until about 30 years ago, and the 21D shedplate of Stratford-on-Avon on ex Midland 3F 3520 on a Passenger train at Byfield in 1951.
When Stratford shed lost its 21D code and its allocation in 1953, one of its locos, 43873 was shown on the SMJ line to Olney, crossing over the west coast main line at Roade with an eastbound banana train from Bristol to London Somerstown in its following incarnation as a Bedford engine. This particular location was known as the "tin bridge", and made many of us present bemoan that a few more years under our belt in the early 1950s would have enabled us to have a somewhat more appreciative view of the old Smudge than our youth allowed. Martin went some long way to put that right!

Monday 5th December 2016
Branch AGM and Christmas Evening

The evening meeting on 5th December heralded the AGM with Chairman Ron Hart standing down due to ill health. Ron had been a long standing Committee man at Northampton for many years with having the experience of having served in all the offices. The remaining Committee were re-elected en bloc, Keith Sykes was then further elected to their number, immediately being elected by the new Committee to take the role of Chairman.

A short break was then taken for festive fayre before business resumed as normal with members making their own contributions.

   Public House Sign "The Railway" at Kibworth Beauchamp, Leicestershire, depicting a Midland 4F 0-6-0 hauling a mixed goods train.   Lester Cooper
First up, was Lester Cooper with a cameo on railway orientated Public House signs for which he must have travelled the length and breadth of the Country to obtain. Obvious to us as enthusiasts, was the huge amount of licence given to the artists!
He was immediately followed by Roger Whitehead with a presentation of steam in South Africa in 1979 which pictured an absolutely immaculate Class 19D on shed, of which its only duties were to shunt the stock of the “Blue Train” three times a week!
John Parker made the final cameo presentation of the evening entitled “In search of Rabbits” which entailed a very early flight from Stansted to Lubeck, Germany in 2006 to photograph several DB Class 218s in action before the line was electrified. Why rabbits you may ask. They are nicknamed so, because when under power the exhaust ventilator covers stick up like ears!

The evening concluded in total confusion with Terry Pope carrying out one of Tommy Tomalin’s infamous conundrums!

Friday 2nd December 2016
Quiz versus Kettering & District Locomotive Society (away)

On a damp Friday evening a group of hardy souls from Northampton travelled to Kettering for the annual quiz against Kettering & District Locomotive Society.

   Graham Olney, Captain of RCTS Northampton quiz team is presented with the winner's trophy by Robin Cullup, Chairman of KDLS.   Keith Sykes
Kettering won the toss and decided to go first and the venerable Brian Benford 's questions were up to his usual high standard. We managed to identify the year ‘The Great Bear’ appeared (1908) and when the last Jubilee was completed (1936). We identified Stafford and Ardsley sheds but failed with Polmont and Greenock. The scores were very close with Kettering slightly in front at the half way stage. However they scored a couple of own goals by answering two Northampton questions! The tenacious RCTS saw their opportunity and stormed ahead to win with 90 points against Kettering's 80 points.
An enjoyable evening and well done to all concerned.

Monday 28th November 2016
Railways to the Seaside
Adrian Wright

Adrian Wright came from Chelmsford to provide the subject matter for our meeting held at Wellingborough Museum on 28th November, and had an enraptured audience under the spell of "Railways to the Seaside".
The first part of his talk covered how the railway and the seaside grew together. The subject naturally covers a very wide ranging area considering the number of seaside resorts in the British Isles. Consequently Adrian, a proud Norfolkman we discovered, chose to concentrate on the seaside between the Wash and the Thames estuary.
By the refreshment break, we had realised that seaside resorts predating railways were effectively Brighton, for the benefit of Londoners, and Weymouth, surprisingly benefitting Bath. There were many examples in East Anglia from 1860 onwards where small towns (Great Yarmouth) or small villages (the several miles inland Clacton) grew to relatively huge sizes, especially in summertime. Such towns owed much of their population growth to the railways, which initially attracted what we would today refer to as middle class, but which, with the "arrival", literally of excursion trains, attracted many of those somewhat lower down the order, who were able to leave their villages, towns, farms or industrial premises for the first time. The 1871 Bank Holiday Act further benefitted all and sundry.

   British Timken annual outing to the seaside at Margate from Platform 1, Northampton Station in August 1961. The train was chartered from BR and hauled by an unidentified 'Black 5' from Northampton depot.   P. Martin
Adrian then described how the railways encouraged modestly priced guesthouses, large, often railway owned hotels, holiday camps (Caister on Sea was the first), with camp sites and chalet areas finally following.
Timetabling the ever increasing number of weekly or weekend visitors and their luggage must have been an art as well as a science. This aspect and the fascinating reminders of how railway artists tempted our predecessors with not always scrupulously honest portrayals of local scenes were vividly shown.
The current scene, and events following the eventual decline in visitor volumes, were also covered, and it is clear that despite “Costa del Wherever” and easier overseas travel, not all UK seaside resorts are bystanders to their demise.
So much to learn from Adrian's masterly programme, but the idea that a Great Yarmouth resort manager might describe Skegness as "the last resort" provided light relief alongside a fascinating subject, masterfully delivered, and of which we may yet hear more.

Monday 21st November 2016
A Brief History of the London Underground
Brian Boddy

Brian Boddy travelled from Newhaven to present A Brief History of the London Underground at the afternoon meeting on 21st November.

   Metropolitan No.1 0-4-4T at Barbican Station on 13th January 2013 celebrating 150 years of the first underground line opening in the World. The train with heritage coaches ran from Edgware Road Station to Moorgate Station backed up by LT Bo-Bo electric loco No.12 "Sarah Siddons".   Haydn Davies
The Worlds first underground railway was opened by the Metropolitan Railway in 1863 and is now part of the Circle, Hammersmith & City and Metropolitan lines and was steam hauled. The 150th Anniversary of this was celebrated by the steam train trip from Edgware Road to Moorgate. It was not until 1890 that the first electric traction trains were operated by the City & South London Railway.
Tunnels were originally built by the cut and cover method. Later smaller circular tunnels were dug at a deeper level giving rise to the nickname of The Tube. Today the network has expanded to 11 lines covering over 250 miles and some 270 stations carrying almost 5 million passengers per day.
Early tube lines were owned several private companies which were brought together in the early part of the last century and eventually merged with the sub-surface lines and bus services to form London Transport in 1933 under the control of the London Passenger Transport Board (LPTB). Currently services are operated by London Underground Limited (LUL) as a wholly owned subsidiary of Transport for London (TfL).
Once the basics of the system were understood, Brian was able to expand the history of the early years, the infrastructure, how and when the various lines came into being, the rolling stock, ticketing changes, art and design including the maps, architecture and future expansion.
Unfortunately, due to time constraints, many of these very interesting subjects were only briefly touched upon, to such an extent that we are contemplating a summer visit with Brian to some of the locations discussed.

Monday 7th November 2016
Quiz versus LCGB Bedford for 'The Ashes' Trophy (Home Leg)

   Graham Onley captain RCTS Northampton receiving"The Ashes" trophy from the Chairman LCGB Bedford, Bill Davies, following the "home" leg of the 2016-17 quiz.   Keith Sykes
Northampton Branchs winning sequence continued in the home leg of the long running Quiz competition with LCGB Bedford, achieving a narrow victory on the evening of 7thNovember.
Once again Quizmaster Bryan Benford posed a series of extremely devious questions ably aided and abetted by scorer and projectionist Robin Reeves.
In most of the rounds (and there were 8) an image of a steam locomotive shed was shown. They ranged from the relatively easy to recognise of Basingstoke and Aberystwyth through Dalry Road, Dereham (sub), Sunderland, Three Bridges and the much more difficult one of St. Boswells (sub).
Another question to be savoured was what did the letters ID mean when painted on the frame (just behind the buffer beam) of several ex GWR locomotives? Improved Draught.

Monday 24th October 2016
The LNWR and GWR at Oxford
Laurence Waters

Originally, Laurence Waters visit to Roade for the joint meeting with Milton Keynes Branch was postponed due to hospitalisation, but now well on the road to recovery, he made his belated appearance on 24th October to present the GWR and LNWR at Oxford.

   Oxford GWR broad gauge station about1846 from an original print.  
The GWR broad gauge was the first to reach (East) Oxford in 1844 with a wooden built station structure at Grandpont at the end of a ten mile branch line from its London-Bristol mainline at Didcot. In 1850 the line was extended northwards towards the city itself, Banbury and eventually Birmingham (allowing the GWR foothold in the Midlands), which resulted in a new station being built at Botley Road and brought into use in 1852. The current station remains on this site today despite substantial rebuilding by BR in the early 1970s, and further development of this busy station (nearly 7 million passengers pa.) is scheduled to take place in the near future.

The GWR station of 1852 was adjacent to the LNWR (Rewley Road) terminus station, which had been built a year earlier in 1851.

   LNWR 4-4-0 1777 at Oxford depot in about1920  
The original idea of the Buckinghamshire Railway Company, which was worked and later absorbed by the LNWR, was to build a line from Bletchley to Oxford and access the GWR station, but this was rejected. This resulted in the LNWR station being limited in size by the Sheepwash Channel, a navigable link between the River Thames and the Oxford Canal, and an unique two track swing bridge being built to allow access to the station. Just making a century of operation, closure came to passengers in 1951, but remarkably the station building has survived and been relocated to the Buckinghamshire Railway Centre at Quainton Road.

Monday 17th October 2016
The Midland Railway
Bryan Benford

Our old friend Brian Benford entertained a goodly gathering of members and visitors on the evening of 17th October. On this occasion Brian was not looking to fiendishly provoke wrong answers to another of his long standing quizzes. This time he was looking to give us free information, and he succeeded brilliantly.
His subject was "The Midland Railway". He kept us on our toes as he rattled through an estimated 200 slides, covering footplate life on the Midland right through to the end of steam under the tenancy of the London Midland Region.

   Midland Railway 0-6-0 849 at Kettering Yard in 1905. It was a member of the MR 700 Class built by Kirtley in 1869 -74 at Derby.   John Adams Collection
The veritable who's who of Midland steam locos included many prints in slide form dating back to about 1905. Several shots taken in Kettering shed yard were only identifiable by the common thread of the central church in the distant background. The sartorial elegance of the staff was frequently matched by the pristine paintwork of the locomotives, and Brian was able to introduce many locos that we knew in the 1950s; such as 0-6-0 2630 which we knew in its "modern "incarnation as 58110.
The chronological order that Brian followed, led eventually to the last days of what the Northampton contingent really ventured to Wellingborough to see - Jubilees by the score!
The whole evening was further laced by footplate anecdotes that were related from Brians own firing days at 15B. One of the more hilarious was against the early 1960s background of a parsimonious lid on overtime availability. His aging driver, hankering for a spot of overtime as found in earlier, post war days, suggested to the signalman at a wayside shunt that it would be "nice" if the pick-up goods in question could be "put into the loop" at Wing, south of Oakham, on the return trip to Kettering. This was duly arranged, but when the road was set for the loop, exhilaration was to turn to anger, when it was seen that the road had been set for an overtime-free run through the loop and back onto the main line! Brian slipped many such anecdotes into his evening, and it is to be hoped that his voice has been, or will be, recorded.

A truly magical evening that this review can hardly do justice to!

Monday 3rd October 2016
The Streamliners
Chris Nettleton

Chris Nettleton made the long journey from Eaglescliffe to Weston Favell to entertain a large afternoon attendance on 3rd October with his presentation of "The Streamliners".

   LNER A4 2509 "Silver Link" with an up Silver Jublee train south of York in March 1937. The locomotive was built in September 1935. From a picture by Malcolm Root FGRA   Malcolm Root

Streamlined it was, and as polished as any of the then brand new "Streaks" we came to know in later years. He described how Nigel Gresley viewed the German "Flying Hamburger", but decided that a high speed train, that would commemorate the Silver Jubilee of King George V, was the better option for the LNER.
This was after a series of high speed runs, high speed stopping included, and the train of seven new Gresley articulated 2/3/2 coaches, hauled by the only A4 pacific then available, 2509 "Silver Link", made the Kings Cross - Newcastle and return press demonstration trip on Friday 27th September, going into full public service the following Monday. "Silver Link" was the only locomotive available to work the train, running up and down trips for the first week or so, until a second A4, "Quicksilver" became available.
The undoubted success of the "Silver Jubilee" prompted the introduction of the "Coronation" to commemorate the accession of King George VI, crowned in 1937. Connecting the capitals of London and Edinburgh, it first ran on 4th July 1937 and was another LNER success. A further innovation was, to avoid wastage of seating space, the serving of meals at passengers' seats.
Needless to say, even if W A Stanier was not too interested in upsetting line occupation of the busy LMS Euston main line, he had to join in, the "Coronation Scot" being his contribution.
Other efforts in streamlining by the GWR, somewhat muted, and the SR, pointless, were mentioned, but there can be no doubt that the LNER were the streamline boys!
Altogether a sparkling presentation, laced with a plentiful supply of still and movie pictures, highly recommended.

Monday 19th September 2016
The Railways of Northamptonshire Part 2 'Nibbling at the Edges'
Robin Cullup and Brian Sullivan

Our first meeting of the new term was an evening one on 19th September with Robin Cullup and Brian Sullivan presenting Part 2 of The Railways of Northamptonshire Nibbling at the Edges from a suggestion by the late Ian Lyman.
The Edges lines, were addressed in 8 individual parts as they came into being in date order, and included the original boundaries of the Shire set by the Rivers Welland (Stamford) and Cherwell (Banbury) together with the Soke of Peterborough.
Northamptonshire was, and still is, a rural county and at one time boasted some 90 stations, of which only six remain open today.

   Ex- LNER A4 60031 "Golden Plover" passing Essendine on the Down "Elizabethan" on 1st August 1955. The locomotive was disposed later that year.   Robin Cullup Collection
Remarkably, the evening incorporated 21 of those originals. Apart from the main-line arteries which were driven from north to south through the county, most of the branch lines were built to cater for goods traffic or gain access to ironstone deposits.

There were one or two surprises throughout evening, even to hardened locals, the fact that the LNWR reached Banbury before the GWR and the appearance of photographs of a second station at Stamford Water Street, still standing today and converted into a residential home!
Trespass into Rutland was used to show a superb picture of A4 60031 Golden Plover passing under the 3 arched bridge north of Essendine station with the northbound Elizabethan.

Sunday 11th September 2016
Barrow Hill Roundhouse and Midland Railway Museum, Butterley

Sunday, 11th September saw the Branch embark on its second outing within 5 days and the final outing of the Summer Programme. This time it was by mini-bus on a double header to Barrow Hill Roundhouse and the Midland Railway Centre at Butterley.

   A fine example of Great Central 4-4-0 D11 Class. Iimproved Director 506 "Butler-Henderson"was built 1919 by Robinson. It was later numbered LNER 5506 and finally BR 62660. It was rescued from demolition and refurbished for NRM from where ir was transfered to Barrow Hill roundhouse.   Jack Knights
Barrow Hill was first on our agenda and immediately on entering, one was besieged by the sounds and smells of a real working steam engine shed. Known to post war enthusiasts as 18D and then 41E from 1958 until its closure to steam in 1965. It carried on life as a diesel depot, hence survival more or less as remembered, for a further 26 years until final closure in 1991. Most of the usual recorded steam, diesel and electric locomotives were on display, pure and wonderful nostalgia for many of our group.
   The 16.00 service to Butterley arriving at Swanwick Jcn hauled by Ex GWR Class 4575 Small Prairie Tank No. 5521 masquerading as London Transport L150, having been repainted to celebrate the London Underground 150th anniversary in early 2015.   Keith Sykes

The second part of our day involved to visit to the MRC at Butterley where we were met and given a superb and splendidly informative guided tour by two very well informed young men who were a credit to the volunteers at MRC. Outside the West Shed Princess Coronation Class, 46233 Duchess of Sutherland hours of the morning from a very wet day out to Newcastle. Passenger trains on the day were being hauled by ex GWR 2-6-2 Class 4575 Small Prairie Tank 5521 which was masquerading as London Transport L150 and liveried accordingly.
MRC is a very large complex and there is much of interest to see, but because of time constraints we only briefly visited the Road Transport Museum, Fork Truck Heritage Centre and Stationary Power House Building.

After such a wonderful day a return visit is a must.

Monday 5th September 2016
Siemens South West Trains Traincare Depot at Northam

On Tuesday, 6th September 2016 a large contingent of members embarked on our penultimate meeting of the summer programme by train to the Siemens Traincare Facility at Northam, Southampton via Euston and Waterloo. Surprisingly, the cheapest fare on offer at the time! However, we were not disappointed by the journey in either direction as all the trains were on time or slightly ahead.

   Class 450 and 2 Class 444s undergoing maintenance inside Northam Depot.   Keith Sykes
The Facility was, as is usual of a modern train servicing depot, a model of cleanliness and efficiency, and far cry from the MPDs of yesteryear. They certainly needed to be, with Northam alone responsible for the maintenance of some 172 units (45 Class 444s and 127 Class 450s which cover some 21 million miles per annum between them) and a daily requirement to offer 160 units (an overall availability of 93%) comprised of 42 Class 444s and 118 Class 450s to South West Trains for operations, which carry in excess of 400,000 passengers daily.

Northam is the largest depot in the Siemens UK operation, opened in 2003, employs some 200 staff and operates on a 24 x 7 basis.

Saturday 6th August 2016
The Mid-Norfolk Railway

Saturday, 6th August saw the Branch on the move again by mini-bus to the Mid Norfolk Railway at Dereham.
Preservation began here over 40 years ago (as the Wymondham, Dereham and Fakenham Rail Action Committee) but did not become operational under the auspice of the NFR until 1997. Currently operated as a single line with passing loops, 11.5 miles in length, runs between the market towns of Dereham and Wymondham (Abbey) via stations at Yaxham, Thruxton, Hardingham (in private ownership) and Kimberley Park. Basically, the line is the southern section of the original Norfolk Railway, Wymondham Wells branch line built in 1847 and closed in stages under BR between 1964 and 1969.
However, this go ahead organisation has far reaching plans to extend the line in the first instance to County School and eventually Fakenham, together with the building of a new engine shed in the vicinity of the old goods shed at Dereham, the original (in the triangle) having long since been demolished.

   Ex Metropolitan Railway E class 0-4-4T No.1 built at the old Neasden Works in 1898 at Dereham Station on the mid Norfolk Railway on 5th August 2016   Jack Knights
   ex BR Western Region 0-6-0 Pannier Tank No. 9466 built by Robert Stephenson and Hawthorns in 1951 taking on water at Dereham Station on the mid Norfolk Railway on 5th August 2016   Jack Knights
Trains on the day were being worked by Metropolitan Railway E class 0-4-4T No.1, incidentally the last locomotive to be built at the old Neasden Works in 1898, and ex BR Western Region 0-6-0 Pannier Tank No. 9466 built by Robert Stephenson and Hawthorns in 1951.

Saturday 16th July 2016
The Middleton Railway

On Saturday, 16th July 2016 we travelled by mini-bus to Leeds to visit the oldest known railway in the country. Commencing life as a horse drawn waggonway (gauge 4' 1") in 1757 it was designed to convey coal, cheaply, from the Middleton pits, to the centre of industrial Leeds. It was the first commercial railway to introduce the use of steam locomotives in 1812, and because of constant track damage, lack of adhesion and the severe gradients, the rails were re-laid, with one-side as a "toothed" rail as to form a rack railway. A Leeds company then designed and built a rack and pinion locomotive for use on the line. This design was only relatively successful as the line reverted to being horse drawn in 1835.

   The three visiting locos at Moor Road Depot, Middleton Railway Victorian Gala 16 July 2016. They are (left to right) Bellerophon from Foxfield Railway, Lord Mayor from the Museum of Rail Travel at Ingrow Station on KWVR and Sir Berkeley of VCT located locally at Moor Road.   Jack Knights
In 1866 steam locomotives returned with conversion to the standard gauge coming in 1881. A wonderfully friendly and informative visit to a railway which was also one of the first to be taken over by a preservation society.

Locomotives in action on the day were Manning Wardle 0-6-0s Sir Berkeley and Matthew Murray together with NER Class H 0-4-0 no. 1310 and Foxfield Railway visitor "Bellerophon", a Haydock Foundry built 0-6-0, of 1874.

Saturday 2nd July 2016
The Vale of Rheidol Railway

A large contingent from the Branch embarked on the lengthy train journey (4 hours and 20 minutes) to Aberystwyth to travel on the Vale of Rheidol Railway on 2nd July. Built in 1902 as a light railway (597mm gauge) for industrial use, to convey timber (for pit props) and ore from the Valleys many lead mines, for shipment by sea or mainline rail at Aberystwyth. However, when the line was ready to open, lead mining in the area was in decline, and passengers and tourism became the principal traffic of the railway. The VOR was absorbed into the Cambrian Railway in 1912 and both companies into the GWR in 1923.

   Vale of Rheidol No.8 2-6-2T built in 1902 by Davis & Metcalfe, formerly named 'Llywelyn' by BR (Western Region) at Aberystwyth Station   Keith Sykes
The GWR immediately turned the VOR into a service, solely for tourists and built a new station next to its own at Aberystwyth, and added a third Swindon built locomotive (no. 9) to the fleet of two (nos. 7 & 8), 1902 built 2-6-2Ts by Davis and Metcalfe. The VOR became part of British Railways Western Region in 1948 and continued to operate as a tourist line.
The locomotives received names in 1956 as part of a publicity drive and were the last steam locomotives operated by British Railways.
In 1968 the line was rerouted to run into the, by now, disused Carmarthen line platforms in the main station.
Ownership by BR was transferred to the Brecon Mountain Railway in 1989 and subsequently the railway became a charitable trust which has since carried out a large number of improvements throughout the system, including a slight widening of the gauge to 603mm, in order to reduce track wear.
It looked a neat, tidy and well run railway with the operational locomotive (no. 8) and coaches in immaculate condition.

Saturday 18th June 2016
The Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railway

   The 0935 from New Romney arriving at Hythe hauled by 4-6-2 No.1 "Green Goddess".   Keith Sykes
On Saturday, 18th June a small party travelled to the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway by mini-bus in time to board the 10.30 service to Dungeness which was entrusted to "Green Goddess", the oldest engine on the line.
Alighting at New Romney to rendezvous with our extremely knowledgeable host for the visit, who gave us a detailed the history of the railway which will celebrate its 90th anniversary in 2018, by which date they hope to have all the locomotives in service. We were told of the war years when the military took over, and the financially difficult times of the 1960s and 1970s. But, thankfully, this splendid 14 mile long line is performing better, with passenger numbers increasing. Uniquely, all the locomotives built for the line are still in situ.
Moving on to Signal & Telegraph Department, we were shown the final cabinets for the automatic crossings which have been installed. Due to the local terrain these number 13, more than any other private railway. Sadly, it was pointed out there have been a number of serious accidents over the past 3 decades involving locomotives and motor vehicles, a situation which could not be allowed to continue and which has resulted in the decision to install half barriers at all the crossings.
Our next port of call was the Repair Shop where 4-8-2 "Samson" was noted stripped down to its frames. Finally, we toured "the shed" where "Black Prince" and "Southern Maid" were awaiting attention and "Northern Chief" was being prepared for service later in the day.
Our official tour over, we were now at liberty to travel the trains, the first being the 12.45 to Dungeness with "Hurricane" in charge, to sample the brand new dining facilities there, which can be highly recommended.
   Two trains at Dungeness, diesel No.14 "Captain Howey" heads the 1440 service to Hythe whilst 4-6-2 No.1 "Green Goddess" prepares to uncouple from the stock of a wedding charter and then pilot the diesel to New Romney.   Keith Sykes
Returning to New Romney on the diesel hauled 14.45 "Captain Howey" piloted by "Green Goddess" which gave us time at New Romney to observe operations before concluding our visit to this wonderful railway and returning to Hythe behind diesel "J.B. Snell".

Monday 2nd May 2016
The Pontypool & Blaenavon Railway

For our first outdoor meeting of the season on Bank Holiday Monday, 2nd May 2016 we travelled by mini-bus to the little known (to us anyway) Pontypool & Blaenavon Railway and what a revelation it turned out to be! Arriving at our destination in rain and a cold blustery wind the situation did not look good but things got better by the minute as the weather improved.

   Mech. Navvies Ltd. & Rosyth No. 1 on the Pontypool & Blaenavon Railway on 3rd May 2016   Lester Cooper
Originally the line (Brynmawr to Blaenavon built 1866) was leased to the LNWR to transport coal to the Midlands via the Heads of the Valleys line, but later extended to meet the GWR at Abersychan which then gave another exit route from the area to transport coal down the valley (via Pontypool Crane Street) to the coast at Newport.
Three locomotives were in operation at the time of our visit, two steam, Andrew Barclay 0-4-0ST "Rosyth No. 1" working the vintage train to Big Pit, and Robert Stephenson and Hawthorns, (built 1944) Hunslet Austerity 0-6-0ST WD71515 "Mech. Navvies Ltd." working the mainline in conjunction with diesel and former Class 31 (203) D 5627.
A very interesting and illuminating day for the travelling party.

Monday 25th April 2016
Loco Spotting Days in Cine
Rob Foxon

An "end of season treat" for the Branch members at the conclusion of the indoor meeting of the programme on 25th April, with an amazing selection of vintage archive cine films presented by Rob Foxon.

   Photograph from BTC/BBC recruiting film dated 1960 of ex-GWR 6400 Class, thought to be 6435 from the Plymouth-Tavistock Branch. The locomotive is preserved and operating on the Bodmin & Wenford Railway.   BTC films
Rob himself set the scene by describing the post war era of British Railways, when locomotive-spotters crowded the ends of station platforms taking engine numbers, and when every small boy at that time wanted to be an engine driver! And when once bitten by the "spotting bug" the intense desire was to travel further afield, and see more of the different locomotives types operated by the other regions. This wonderful interest hobby brought out in each of us, academic skills in numeracy and geography.
We were treated to the delights of film from the camera of Stretton-Ward, a former President of the Society, who covered much of our local area, and renowned Bill Camwell.
Other films included nostalgic scenes at Euston and King Cross by John Huntly, before we moved onto the more familiar British Transport Film Unit productions, and those of the popular, at that time, BBC TV "Railway Roundabout" series produced by Patrick Whitehouse.
A wonderful afternoon of railway nostalgia, from a time when you really could get close to the hardware!

last updated: 10/04/17