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South Wales / De Cymru

Meeting Reports

Wednesday 13th September 2017
‘The Best Way To See Snowdonia’
Tim Maynard, The Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways

25 members and 19 visitors attended the opening meeting of the new season in September; we were enthralled by the informative and captivating presentation given by Tim Maynard, a member of the Bristol branch of the Ffestiniog Railway Society. The first half of the show was a resume of the history of the railway with a review of the current situation in the second half.
The FR was created as a result of an Act of Parliament dated 23/05/1832 making it the oldest independent railway in the world, its objective being to transport slate from the quarries around Blaenau Ffestiniog to the coast for distribution around the globe. Motive power was initially horses, but by 1863 four steam locomotives were bought and in 1865 passengers were first carried. 1871 saw the first bogie carriages in the world used on the FR. This and other innovations proved the principles of narrow gauge railways.
We later learned of the formation of the railway that was to become the Welsh Highland Railway (WHR), its trials, tribulations and severe financial pressures that brought about its early demise (twice) and phoenix-like rise.
The combined FR and WHR are now thriving and continue to move forward to provide superb tourist experiences through Snowdonia.
We wish them well.

Wednesday 14th June 2017
'Another SLS/Alan Jarvis Evening of Photographs'
Gerry Nichols

Prior to his death, Alan Jarvis donated his extensive photographic collection into the care of the SLS.
Gerry Nicholls has been scanning and captioning the collection and came to Cardiff to show (basically) two lines with some tangential deviations.
The show was entitled ‘South Wales Steam in the 1960s’ and it acted like a honeypot for bees attracting 31 members and 26 visitors, and what a show it was! The first ‘line’ viewed was known as the ‘JB Auto’ referring to the Penarth to Pontypridd service and the second being Newport to Brecon. All images were taken during the final couple of years of existence of these lines in their entirety as some sections still exist; Alan had used 25ASA colour film, so required good light to crisply capture images. Your reviewer was amazed at views of stations some 55-years ago, how big they were, how much track work abounded and sadly, how few passengers travelled. Some very interesting sights included first generation DMUs with the yellow ‘whiskers’ on the front, the number of wooden bodied freight wagons and one working in particular grabbed the attention, a Barry Island Banana train.
An image of a failed ‘Hymek’ on an express passenger working being hauled by a couple of Severn Tunnel Junction’s tank engines raised a bit of a cheer from the audience.
Local knowledge from within the audience added to Gerry’s records, one such example being local passenger service with a stores van as the leading vehicle, an attendee advising that such things happened only on (every) Thursday.

This was a fine show, a truly excellent way in which to conclude the 2016/2017 indoor fixtures season.

Wednesday 10th May 2017
'50 Years Behind the Lens'
Stuart Warr

Such is the quality of Stuart Warr's photography, that examples of his work appear regularly in the Railway Observer and other publications.
A notable anniversary was marked on May 10th when he presented "50 years behind the lens, Part 1 - the Welsh Connection" to 22 members and 18 visitors.
We started in Chepstow and ended our hypothetical journey in Fishguard Harbour, but turned aside at each junction along the way. It was a potpourri of just about every class of locomotive and unit that turned a wheel in South Wales between the early 1970s and 2017, ranging from Class 03 shunters to Class 800 IEPs. Railtours and everyday traffic were photographed in a wide variety of locations, some less familiar than others. A quality they all shared was that the images were carefully composed, rather than the camera simply being pointed at the train, and this, together with Stuart's informed and humorous commentary made it an excellent evening. It also provided a salutary reminder of how quickly the railway network and its operations change, not always for the better.
Stuart obviously took great care in deciding what to show us and he may be assured it was well worth the effort.

Wednesday 12th April 2017
'An Evening on the Welsh Narrow Gauge in the 1980s'
Berwyn Prys-Jones

The April meeting was a first for our Branch, and probably for the RCTS historically, as the majority of the spoken word was in Welsh, with the important facts being translated into English for the benefit of many of the 21 members and 15 visitors present. S4C is the Welsh Channel 4 television station with the brief to transmit the majority of programmes in Welsh. In the mid-1980s it commissioned a series of short programmes with the subject being the narrow-gauge railways in Wales, and we were fortunate to view six programmes. Our guest speaker, Berwin Prys-Jones, presented the programmes when broadcast. During his presentation he told anecdotes about the production of the programmes as well as updating us on many aspects. .
The six we saw covered the Snowdon Mountain Railway, Welsh Highland Heritage Railway, Vale of Rheidol Railway and the Ffestiniog Railway, each in their own programme with the final two including the Great Orme Tramway, Brecon Mountain Railway, Fairbourne Railway, Derwen Fawr Miniature Railway and Bettws-y-Coed Miniature Railway. .
The filming quality was absolutely superb as would be expected from a professional organisation, showing off the beautiful Welsh scenery. One point the reviewer found to be fascinating, was how much change there has been on these railways during the intervening three decades.

In summary, this was an excellent showcase and review of how the narrow-gauge railways of Wales were in the mid-1980s.

Thursday 30th March 2017
'Outing to Nuneaton'

Seven members made the trek to Warwickshire, leaving Cardiff on 170521 at 08:45. With only five locomotives spotted on the outward journey, we hoped for busier and better things from Nuneaton and were not disappointed by 32 freights, two mail trains and three light locomotives, giving a total of 40 locomotives between 11:22 and 19:14. As a bonus, the weather was warm and dry.
Unsurprisingly, container trains made up 66% of the freight movements but we had variety in the form of five infrastructure trains; two aggregates trains, each sporting a smart rake of shiny red DB and grey Tarmac box wagons respectively; two car trains and a cement train.
The various companies were well represented; Freightliner dominating with eleven Class 66s, three 70s, two 86s and three 90s, DBC with six Class 66s and three 90s, GBRf with seven Class 66s and two 92s, DRS with only a light engine 37/68 combination from Norwich to Crewe and Colas producing the welcome sight of 70812 on 6M50 Westbury to Bescot. Another highlight was a ten minute visit to Platform 5 by 92023, which was working 0Z92 Preston to Crewe via Nuneaton, seemingly being tested to destruction after a works visit!

A list of the movements recorded is as follows
Nuneaton 30th March 2017 11:20 – 19:15

11:50 66194 4O21 Trafford Park Euro Terminal – Southampton Western Docks Berth 109
12:21 90044+90048 4M44 Coatbridge FLT - Daventry IRFT
12:39 70005 4S44 Daventry IRFT – Coatbridge FLT
12:52 66753 6G16 Cliffe Hill Stud Farm – Bescot Up Engineers Sidings (autoballlasters)
13:05 66776 6M26 Eastleigh East Yard – Mountsorrel GBRf (Big yellow boxes)
13:27 66531 4M81 Felixstowe North FLT – Crewe Basford Hall
13:39 90046 4L90 Crewe Basford Hall – Felixstowe South FLT
13:42 90034+90037 4M25 Mossend Euroterminal – Daventry IRFT
13:46 66560 4M20 Felixstowe South FLT – Lawley Street FLT
14:27 66177 6O42 Halewood Jaguar – Southampton Eastern Docks
14:31 70812 6M50 Westbury Down T.C. – Bescot Up Engineers Sidings
14:40 66501 4M63 Felixstowe North FLT – Ditton O’Connor
14:50 90020 0A06 Crewe TMD (E) – Wembley EOFC
15:05 37405+68016 0Z59 Norwich Crown Point TRSMD – Crewe Gresty Bridge DRS
15:08 66762 4L22 Hams Hall – Felixstowe South
15:26 66616 6H50 Willesden Euroterminal – Tunstead Sidings (Cement Empties)
15:32 66105 4L07 Burton-On-Trent West Yard – Felixstowe South
15:39 66176 6V11 Dowlow Briggs Sidings – Theale Hope Cement (New red DB boxes)
15:50 66746 4M23 Felixstowe North – Hams Hall
16:01 66102 4L56 Trafford Park Euroterminal – London Gateway DB Cargo
16:05 92023 0Z92 Preston – Crewe via Nuneaton
16:25 66534 4M61 Southampton MCT – Trafford Park FLT
16:31 66768 4M29 Felixstowe North – Hams Hall
16:39 66541 4M88 Felixstowe North FLT – Crewe Basford Hall
16:39 70003 4L92 Ditton O’Connor – Felixstowe North FLT
16:40 66542 4O17 Lawley Street FLT – Southampton MCT
16:45 66716 4L18 Trafford Park Euroterminal – Felixstowe North
16:46 66775 6M40 Westbury Up T.C. – Cliffe Hill Stud Farm
17:11 86610+86638 4M87 Felixstowe North FLT – Trafford Park FLT
18:02 325005/008/015 1S96 Willesden PRDC – Shieldmuir Mail Terminal
18:21 66572 4O29 Trafford Park FLT – Southampton MCT
18:28 325011/014/016 1A91 Warrington Royal Mail – Willesden PRDC
18:30 66199 6M31 Banbury Reservoir Sidings – Mountsorrel (New grey Tarmac boxes)
18:32 66593 4M68 Southampton MCT – Garston FLT
18:49 70015 4M93 Felixstowe North FLT – Lawley Street FLT
18:50 92038 6L48 Garston Car Terminal – Dagenham Dock Reception
19:04 66520 t/t 66551 Crewe Basford Hall – Bourne End Junction (Departmental)

List
37405
66102/105/176/177/194/199
66501/520/531/534/541/542/551/560/572/593 66616
66716/746/753/762/768/775/776
68016
70003/005/015 70812
86610/638
90020/034/037/044/046/048
92023/038

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.

Thursday 26th January 2017
'The Heart of Wales' circular tour

The 26 January 2017 dawned as an overcast and bitterly cold morning, thirteen Branch regulars met for a day out on the scenic Central Wales Line, now known as the Heart of Wales line.
The journey was taken in a clockwise direction starting in Newport and travelling on 175104, picking up more of our group all the way to Swansea. Sightings on this part of the journey included two Colas Class 70s and 37057 (with a test train) at Cardiff Canton, a Class 60 with the daily oil train to Westerleigh and 6 DBC Class 66s at various locations.
From Swansea we had 153327 for the 4-hour journey to Shrewsbury, but the advertised catering trolley unfortunately failed to materialise.
About 90 minutes observation and photography was taken at Shrewsbury before catching a mid-afternoon working, to return us to South Wales, this being worked by 175116. We saw a Freightliner Class 66 (at Craven Arms) on a loaded coal train working north, probably destined for Fiddlers Ferry, and a DBC Class 66 (at Leominster) with steel from Llanwern to Dee Marsh. Stabled at Alexandra Dock Junction were two DBC Class 66s with our last sighting being 67015 at Cardiff Canton with the stock for the 17.15 WAG Express to Holyhead.

Throughout the day we may have been cold, but our spirits remained high proving what good friendships have grown during the Branch’s first 10-years.

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.

last updated: 14/09/17