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South Wales / De Cymru

Meeting Reports

Wednesday 8th March 2017
South Wales Branch's 10th Anniversary Celebration including 'Early Days (1949 - 1961) Part 2'
David Maidment

The occasion of the branch’s 10th anniversary was celebrated in style during March; a meal was taken in an excellent pub/restaurant on the outskirts of Cardiff. Those present included our guest speaker for the evening, David Maidment, OBE, Brian Arman, the President of the RCTS and several members from both Bristol and Cardiff branches. RCTS Chairman, Gordon Davies was invited, but unfortunately he was unwell and unable to join us.
Following the meal at our branch meeting, Brian Arman said a few words of welcome to an audience, comprising of 16-visitors and 37-members.
During the interval he ceremonially cut the anniversary cake, one of several baked expertly by Del Bryant, all being sliced and distributed with a hot drink to the large audience.
Before the resumption of the second half of the show, branch Chairman, Peter Fortune, read a very complimentary speech written by Gordon Davies. We now look forward to the next 10-years!

David Maidment’s illustrated talk was spell-binding, as he recounted in great detail his early BR career in South Wales that was both funny and sad. He clearly enjoyed his work and much of it reminded the reviewer of Gerry Fiennes’ memoirs of his railway career. We saw some wonderfully nostalgic images around Aberbeeg (where he spent some time as Station Master) and Bridgend (as Assistant Area Manager), all during the 1960s.
We were regaled with countless anecdotes, too many to recall, but one in particular suited the mood. At Aberbeeg he was always on call. One day he was playing cricket at a ground close to the railway and whilst batting he ‘snicked a ball past the slips’ to score 4-runs when there was a shout from the nearby signal-box about a derailment. The scorebook read ‘Maidment – derailed – 4.’
Later in his career he rose through the ranks, with his final position being Head of Safety Policy on BR in the early 1990s.

After leaving the service he founded ‘The Railway Children’ charity to help street children throughout the world, his work there gaining him the honour of being awarded the Order of the British Empire, well deserved in our opinion.

Wednesday 8th February 2017
Remembering the Withered Arm
Nigel Wassell

An excellent attendance of 48 (including 23 visitors) thoroughly enjoyed Nigel Wassell’s illustrated presentation entitled ‘Remembering The Withered Arm.’
It was illustrated with a mix of personal images showing some modern views, combined with commercially produced pictures going back as far as 1949. Nigel has demonstrated in all presentations to this Branch the level of detail and research he does, to put together something that will remain in our memories for a long time. Added to this, he brings some humour and many interesting anecdotes.
Our journey started with a shot of the Atlantic Coast Express departing from Waterloo, hauled by a Merchant Navy and terminated in Padstow, the farthest west the ACE train worked. By far the majority of images seen, were devoted to Devon and Cornwall and it was of interest to all to see the ‘then and now’ pictures, proving how much has changed, particularly at locations such Barnstaple Junction.
I counted locomotives (etc) totalling 31 different classes (both steam and diesel) from SR, WR, LMR and BR plus some industrials. Nigel read from a couple of books about the area as he showed images to match.
To summarise, I would say that this was a very well researched and detailed presentation, given by someone who certainly knows his subject.

Wednesday 11th January 2017
AGM followed by 'From the Top of Mount Washington to the Bottom of Death Valley - The Highs and Lows of US Railroads'
Jeff Morgan

On 11 January 2017 the branch’s AGM was held. In summary - meeting attendances are increasing, income & profit are also rising and the committee re-elected, although Noel Thompson retired (again) not to be replaced.

Our usual branch meeting followed, with an illustrated talk from regular contributor Jeff Morgan, entitled ‘From The Top Of Mount Washington To The Bottom Of Death Valley’ that was thoroughly enjoyed by 31-members and 14 visitors, a branch record for an AGM/non-British show.
Jeff and his wife have holidayed in the USA on many occasions since the early 1980s, combining tourist destinations with railway visits. They have visited 29 States and this show was a great overview.
We started in New Hampshire, travelled down the East coast, saw some of the central States and ended on the west coast on the California/Nevada border. A well-balanced mix of standard and narrow gauge railways were seen. Also well-balanced were the visits to heritage and current railways.
There were too many highlights to mention, but Jeff spoke with a deep knowledge and love of American history and railways in particular.

If any Branch wants a great introduction to railways across the ‘Pond’ they should book Jeff; he is very good!

Wednesday 14th December 2016
The Port Talbot Railway: A History
David Lewis

Our December meeting was a show of two halves, all much enjoyed by an audience of 57.
The first half was presented by historian David Lewis who gave a very detailed review of The Port Talbot Railway, 1897 – 1964. We learned that there were two main protagonists, Miss Emily Talbot (daughter of the founder of the docks and town of Port Talbot) and John North (the so called Nitrate King). John North was a man with a Midas touch, he made much money in South America before coming back to Britain; he was the owner of a couple of collieries and the railway’s raison d’etre was to bring coal to the docks for export with passenger services ceasing long before the Beeching cuts.
The line was independent until 1908 when the GWR commenced working and was absorbed fully in 1922. A thoroughly interesting presentation.

Two members presented a selection of images during the second half. Firstly, Chris Yewlett showed us images from his visit earlier this year to the Chemin de Fer de la Baie de Somme, a largely metre gauge, steam operated French line.
Finally, we saw Nigel Wassell’s collection of images featuring the final day of the Central Wales Line between Pontardulais and Swansea Victoria.
Two excellent shows to conclude our pre-Christmas meeting.

Wednesday 9th November 2016
The Robert Whitfield Collection: UK Steam 1948 - 1958
Pete Berry

Pete Berry and his wife presented a show with the enticing title ‘The Robert Whitfield Collection; Steam 1948 to 1958’ and the branch hosted 25 members and 17 visitors, the show was well received.
Pete gave some background detail before the show got underway; Robert Whitfield lived in south Manchester during this period, had no car, but cycled to many of the locations we saw, occasionally with his wife, but often with his son Colin; other locations were reached by rail. The link between Pete Berry and Robert Whitfield is that Pete and Colin, Robert’s son were friends in adult life and photographed railways together.
The show was amazing, all monochrome with digital images scanned from 5” x 3” prints and repaired where necessary and now looking superb. Robert had a good eye for composition and location with quite a few of the images including the young Colin in shorts and sandals looking at the majesty of a passing steam train.
We were treated to a show of predominantly express trains, with a high proportion being ‘Princess Coronations’. Other interesting sights included two views of locomotives during the 1948 exchanges with an A4 and a Merchant Navy hauling heavy trains. Another rarity shown was that of a working Crosti-boilered 9F.
If you like to see steam from the immediate post-Nationalisation period this is without doubt a show to see.

Wednesday 12th October 2016
An Evening with my Father's slides:
David Cross

Few readers of this report will not have heard of the brilliant railway photographer, the late Derek Cross. At our October meeting we were honoured to be entertained by his son, David who presented about 150 colour images of his fathers slides in a show with a sub-title A 1960s Journey Around The M25.
Some artistic licence was used, as the show included locations well away from that notorious road such as Westbury, Northampton and Folkestone, but an appreciative audience of 41 (including 17 members) forgave him the indiscretion.
We saw mainly steam subjects (as would be expected) totalling 47 different classes working a great variety of trains. Seen also were about 15 early diesel classes and 3 electric classes.
David reminded us that in the days when these photographs were taken, colour film speed was slow, typically 8 ASA and later 25 ASA was introduced. To photograph a moving train using these types of film the weather had to be sunny!
Some very rare shots were shown, including a D61XX diesel working a couple of Quad Art sets and an E50XX electro-diesel shunting in a yard and drawing power through its pantograph.
One point that David emphasised was how well manicured and cared-for the railway lines were with no weeds, no graffiti and no rubbish.
A brilliant show, we look forward to a further visit in due course.

Wednesday 14th September 2016
The End of the Line, June 1965 to March 1966 and the Aftermath
Mike Beale of the Somerset & Dorset Railway Trust

Our first meeting of the new season saw 25 members and 24 visitors gather to listen and watch a very professional presentation by Mike Beale whose talk was entitled The End of the Line, June 1965 to March 1966 and the line to which the title referred was the much loved Somerset & Dorset line between Bath/Burnham to Bournemouth.
Mike represents the Somerset & Dorset Railway Trust and his talk has been put together to commemorate the 50th anniversary since its closure.
Firstly we were given a short, but very detailed history of the line featuring its rise from nothing to a peak during the 2nd World War and then the decline that eventually led to closure. We were reminded that the most famous service, The Pines Express started running in 1927 until 1962 when it was diverted away from the S & D in favour of travelling via Basingstoke and Oxford.
The line should have closed in September 1965, but the number of objections caused this date to be deferred until January 1966 and then this date was also deferred until 7 March 1966 owing to lack of alternative public transport.
Many images of both service trains and excursions were seen, featuring a wide range of motive power, most shots being in colour.

The emergence of the S &D R T in 1966, and the marvellous work it has done since then, was shown to good effect. Long may it continue!

Wednesday 13th July 2016
Branch Summer Social

On 13 July 2016, the branch held its first Summer Social event in the Ty Nant public house, Radyr, Cardiff, the evening event being attended by about 25 members and visitors.
A quiz was set by Branch treasurer, Steve Rickett and attendees were challenged with four general knowledge and two railway-based rounds. This was supplemented by some questions from Roger Wright who challenged those present to identify locomotive names, numbers and some shed codes. The quiz was purely for fun and no prizes were awarded, but nonetheless produced some lively whispered debate and appropriate groans when answers were revealed!
In between the rounds Jeff Morgan presented slides on the railways of Toronto and Nigel Wassell showed some archive images of Wales for the enjoyment of attendees, both of which were well received.

Albeit something of an experiment, the evening was deemed successful and enjoyed by all. A date has been set for the next Summer Social in July 2017.

Wednesday 8th June 2016
"A Broad Gauge Journey from Paddington to Bristol via the South Wales Railway"
Brian Arman

The Societys new President, Brian Arman, made his first visit to our branch on 8 June, with his thoroughly well researched illustrated talk entitled A Broad Gauge Journey From Paddington To Bristol Via The South Wales Railway and what a show it was.
Brian told us that he was born in Swindon and was from a railway family and can trace this connection back to 1849, his first audible word as a child was train so the die of his lifelong hobby was cast.
We were treated to many images to support his talk, all from the Victorian era, including (as far as he knows) the two oldest photographs of British trains, both taken no later than 1849. Broad gauge ceased to exist after 20 May 1892, but it took from 1869 to convert to standard gauge, not an overnight job!
Appropriately our refreshment break was taken when his talk reached Swindon, though we over-ran the 10-minutes that the GWR allowed!
Brian gave us many interesting facts, some of which were previously unknown by many of our attendees. One was that the GWR terminated/started some services at Londons Victoria station until The Great War.
Brians tenure as President will, hopefully, last for many years, so that we may see his shows about west of Bristol, and four regarding Swindon Works!

This was a magnificent show, enjoyed by all 44 attendees (including 19 visitors). A very good audience for June.

Wednesday 11th May 2016
"Strictly Freight Only"
Brian Ringer

Milton Keynes based RCTS member, Brian Ringer, visited Cardiff in May and gave us the first part of his review of rail-borne freight in Britain since the 1960s. What a marvellous show it was from the former BR employee. There was humour, great anecdotes, many detailed facts and a great reminder of how the movement of freight has changed during the past 50-years.
Supported by only 40 transparencies, Brian talked for about two hours and most attendees would have happily sat for another two hours, the quality of the presentation was so good.
We started at a time when most traffic was by the wagon load, took several days to reach its destination and was very labour intensive. During the talk, Brian described the process of change to the current situation, primarily one of bulk train-load services.
The work of Dr Beeching was praised. Remember, he did not just shut down unprofitable lines and stations, but helped implement MGR and Freightliner traffic.
From the images seen, we saw a whole gamut of motive power from the humble shunting engine through to the powerful mainline locomotives. Also seen were examples of the less than successful first generation diesels, such as Claytons and the Class 14 Teddy Bears.

South Wales eagerly awaits Brians next visit to hear the second part of this talk.

Torrential rain and some flash flooding in Cardiff reduced the number of attendees to this show to 22 members and 10 visitors.

Wednesday 13th April 2016
"Loco Hauled Passenger Trains in the Privatisation Era"
Geoff Brockett

RCTS South Essex Branch member, Geoff Brockett visited Cardiff in April with an extensive collection of his images shown under the title Loco-hauled Trains in the Privatisation Era.
Geoff explained that the period covered was 1997 to 2015, and that we would see 18 different classes of locomotive at 150 locations with extremities at Inverness, Great Yarmouth, Folkestone, Penzance, Fishguard Harbour and many points between.
For the local audience, Geoff started in the Rhymney Valley where for a number of years we had Class 37s (and others) working the services to and from Cardiff.
He then dealt with individual routes around the whole of Britain. For many of the routes we saw not only the transition from older locomotives through to more modern ones, but also the livery changes of the TOCs as the franchises changed. Much changed during this period and as far as the reviewer is concerned, so much has been forgotten.
There was some time to spare at the end of his show, so we were treated to a few steam on the main-line pictures, much welcomed by those less appreciative of the so called modern image.
Geoff is a much travelled and prolific photographer and I would recommend this show to any branches who want to be reminded of the changes during the recent past.

Thursday 7th April 2016
Visit to Freightliner Terminal Birmingham

Our sixth outdoor fixture of the year saw 13 members leave South Wales to travel to the Birmingham Freightliner depot.
Using a West Midlands Day Ranger, we went via Hereford and Stourbridge, enabling us to view the splendid semaphores at Shrub Hill and travel on the Parry People Mover.
We met up with our 14th member from London at Moor Street in time to see the spectacle of 68013 with the early 1159 arrival from Marylebone. We then spent an enjoyable 45 minutes at Bescot, the highlight being DRS 68004 arriving from the north.
Alighting at Duddeston a short walk got us to Landor Street for an informative 90 minute tour, where we witnessed 66416, 66539 and 66597. The depot despatches an average of 650 containers a day in a very efficient operation.
Thanks to Michael OHagan for a splendid visit.

last updated: 10/03/17