Thames Valley

Meeting Reports

Wednesday 12th April 2017
Reading Driver Training Simulator

Visit to GWR – Operations Training and Development Centre Wednesday 12th April 2017

On the afternoon of Wednesday 12th April 2017 a party of 10 members assembled on Reading West station where we were met by John Beeney, GWR Simulator Manager, who escorted the party to the Centre. The route that took us under the recently reconstructed Cow Lane Bridge, so often a location mentioned on local radio travel news (the single lane, but two directional traffic light controlled road under the main line still awaits rebuilding).

The actual building is within the Reading Triangle and is one of a few buildings left on the site after the building of the Reading fly over and the new train maintenance depot. The GWR Operations Training and Development Centre contains three types of simulators: for Thames Turbo units, IEPs and for class 387 emus. Most of our visit was spent on the Thames Turbo simulator, driving over a fictious route so that any driver coming in for re-assessment would not be familiar with it. The driver sits in front of a screen with all the controls in front of him which includes door opening/closing, horn, communications, and of course engine ignition, power controller and brake. Various scenarios can be played out by the trainer who sits in a separate room adjacent to the simulator. These could include anything from fog, rain, snow, day or night time, inclines (both up and down), low adhesion and other incidents like fires on adjacent trains.

For the final 30 minutes John showed us the recently installed IEP simulator and the class 387 simulator in its new building which were both full mock ups of the actual cabs. The former replaced an HST simulator which we used on our last visit. The difference being you actually went in a door and felt enclosed in whereas in the Thames Turbo you could have people standing behind you, although the controls were real. One of the party mentioned that the IEP cab looked more like a spaceship. Unfortunately we were only allowed to look and not use. Perhaps it was just as well given the competency shown by the party in driving the Thames Turbo.

Reading is one of three similar GWR centres the other two being at Bristol and Plymouth. Bristol currently has class 150 and HST class 43 simulators and Plymouth class 150 and IEP simulators.

It takes a driver over 200 hours of assessments which includes work on the simulators and actual live working with an instructor before being a fully-fledged driver on GWR.

Our thanks to John Beeney and GWR for a very informative afternoon which has increased our understanding of what training (and regular refreshers) our train drivers must go through to make our railway travel so safe.

A collection of £45 was made and has been handed over to Prostate Cancer UK, the current GWR charity.

Monday 10th April 2017
Ramblings of a Railwayman
Geoff Burch

The April meeting was held a week earlier than usual, because the regular day clashed with the Easter weekend. The speaker was Geoff Burge, who entertained the meeting with his "Ramblings of a Railwayman". Geoff became a cleaner at Guildford shed on leaving school in 1962, becoming a fireman a year later after a short period of training. He remained a fireman at Guildford until the shed closed in 1867 with the demise of steam in the area. His talk was a description of his doings in this period, well illustrated by photographs and peppered with anecdotes of incidents that happened to him in that time. Many thanks are due to Geoff for an entertaining and informative evening of "Behind the scenes" events at a steam shed ain the last few years of the decline of steam traction.

Saturday 4th March 2017
Visit to Eastleight Works
Denis Horsman

RCTS Thames Valley Branch visit to Arlington Fleet Services Works at Eastleigh

4th March 2017

A party of 20, including a small number from the Southern Electric Group, were welcomed to Eastleigh by our guide Norman Smith.

All parts of the works were visited where safe to do so. Activities observed in the various workshops included:

overhaul of diesel locomotives, followed by repainting and rebranding as required overhaul of complete sets of electric multiple units overhaul and repainting of Mk 1 passenger vehicles for charter use conversion, overhaul and repainting of luxury vehicles for charter use (Mk 1 Pullmans and Mk 3 Sleepers) restoration and overhaul of historic vehicles, including first generation diesel units and railcars, locomotives and rolling stock overhaul of freight vehicles, predominately freightliner flats

The site is also used for the storage of complete charter train sets.

The works employs 82 full-time staff, several of whom were present during our visit.

There were many items of historical interest to be seen, commencing with one of the two works shunters, Class 07 07007 (D2991). Steam traction was represented by the refurbished and repainted driving wheels of Bullied Pacific No 35005. Class 50 50023 “Indomitable”, newly repainted in NSE livery, stood next to classmate 50021 “Rodney” which was undergoing body restoration.

A number of first generation dmu vehicles, in various liveries and conditions, were awaiting restoration; among these were a Class 117 3-car set for the Swanage Railway.

Last, but certainly not least, ex-LMS inspection Saloon DM 45029 was undergoing internal restoration; a glimpse of the high standard of the work being undertaken was obtained through an open carriage door.

At the end of the visit, a vote of thanks was given to our guide and to Pete Gray, who kept the party together as they wandered about the workshops and the site. Norman was presented with a donation of £200, representing £10 for each member of the group. Arlington’s chosen charities are The Cancer Trust and Macmillan Cancer Support.

Peter Simmonds

Monday 20th February 2017
Railway Quiz - RCTS (TV Branch) v RTG
Gordon Adams

Here is the February report for Thames Valley. An apology needs to be made to Colin Brading for an omission un the January report. The report did not state that, at Colin's request, a donation was made to thw Railway Children charity. The February meeting was the annual quiz against the branch's friends from the Reading Transport Group. This year, the branch was at home and so the team of Andy Vernon, John Hubbard, John Temple, Nigel Farebrother and Phil Darlaston girded their loins for what the question setters af Andrew Jenkins and Peter Simmons had in store for them. The first round of 20 "Where is it?" questions from Andrew saw the branch pull out a small lead. The second round was in two parts. The first half was "Identify the GWR Castle" from pictures of the actual buildings concerned. The second half was a gift to the visitors in that it was a selection of questions about Reading. Not surprisingly, this round gave the visitors a substantial lead which despite the branch's fightback in the last round of more "Where is it?"'s from Andrew. the Reading Transport Group won the competition by 74-66 and so retain the trophy and bragging rights for a further year. However, the branch can take solace in the fact that it still holds a lead of 18-14 in the overall series. The second half of the evening had Gordon Adams showing a presentation of "Lost Views from the Lineside". Concentrating on changes brought about by the Great Western electrification and related other infrastructure changes, he showed photographs of scenes from the Thames Valley area now disappeared, either because of bridge works of the installation of catenary masts. Despite being of recent date, the photographs produced an air of instant nostalgia. Thanks are due to Andrew and Peter for their quizzing efforts and to Gordon for his presentation.

Thursday 26th January 2017
Westbury PSB
Stuart Higgs

WESTBURY PANEL SIGNAL BOX VISIT Thursday 26th January 2017

On the afternoon of Thursday 26th January a party of 9 members assembled on one of the coldest days of the year to date on platform 1 on Westbury Station for a planned visit to Westbury Panel Signal Box. The plan was to have two visits of approximately one hour each starting at 13.45hrs, but, as with all well intentioned plans the Local Operations Manager was called away to a staffing issue elsewhere on his patch.

The outcome of this delay was that all nine members went in as one group and was hosted by the two duty signallers Iain and Ian, both of whom made us very welcome. They then spent the next ninety minutes or so either explaining what worked where and how or fielding a barrage of questions from the members on the visit

Westbury PSB covers the busy routes centred on Westbury Station. The following gives an indication of the area covered:- From the south west, approximately 20 miles from Westbury, Somerton tunnel (8 miles south of Castle Cary). The lines that go to and from both Merehead Quarry and Whatley Quarry via Frome. Most of the train crews on the stone trains change at Westbury. From the south east they are responsible from Beechgrove ground frame on the route from Salisbury. From the east on the line from Newbury, the limit of responsibility is Heywood Road Junction which is approximately 1 mile from Westbury. The interface here is with the TVSC. Northwards, the box has responsibility to Avoncliffe from Westbury some 2 miles beyond Bradford on Avon on the line to Bath Spa. There is only one automated half barrier level crossing which is at Greenland Mill, east of Bradford on Avon. In theory it is automatic, but the signaller has to control the strike time depending on whether the train is stopping at Bradford on Avon or not. On the other route north of Westbury from Bradford Junction on the line to Chippenham as far as Melksham. Westbury PSB is also advised when a train has left Maiden Newton for Yeovil Pen Mill.

As well as the AHB crossing there are also several farm crossings in the Bradford upon Avon area.

The signallers work a 12 hour shift 06.00 to 18.00 and 18.00 to 00.00 in pairs; the 00.00 to 06.00 is single manned. All of the signallers are grade 6 and there are 10 signallers assigned to Westbury PSB.

The Westbury PSB was opened in June 1984 and is scheduled to be transferred to the TVSC in 2026, but it is rumoured to be delayed beyond that date.

It was noted that InterCity trains calling at/terminating at Frome have a distinctive code 1Jxx to remind the signallers to turn them off the main line.

A charity collection of £45 was made and has bene paid to Wiltshire Air Ambulance, the charity nominated by the signallers.

Our thanks go to Iain and Ian for a very enjoyable and informative afternoon and to their manager Geoff Haines-Jones for facilitating it.

Monday 16th January 2017
Island Treasure - Railways of the Isle of Wight
Colin Brading

The new chairman, Peter Simmonds made his bow by introducing the talk for the January meeting ; "Island Treasures - the Railways of the Isle of Wight"  The presenter, Colin Brading, not only was appropriately named for the subject, but he also has family links to the subject of his talk.  From 1864, when the first railway was opened from Cowes to Newport, Colin traced the history of the system up to its peak with 55 miles of route and 9 different railway companies (including the LSWR and LBSCR who jointly owned the track from Ryde Pier Head to Ryde St. John's).  Apart from the railway system, he also included the Ryde Pier tram, which ran from the Pier Head ti St. John's including section where the tramway ran through a large house(!)  At  the Grouping, this was all merged to become a minor part of the Southern Railway.  A cull of the lines on the western side of the island brought the system down to the lines from Ryde to Ventnor and Cowes.  This was further truncated in the 1960's to the present Island Line.  With the aid of archive photographs, Colin showed this history.  He finished by concentrating on the Isle of Wight Steam Railway.  Colim is to be congratulated for his excellent presentation an a charming railway system on an equally charming island.  The talk made for a very interesting evening 's entertainment informing the audience about an island noted not only for holidays, but also garlic!  (The island is the biggest producer of garlic in Britain, as shown by its annual garlic festival.)

Monday 19th December 2016
Members' Digital Images

The December meeting was the traditional members' digital presentations and Christmas fare evening. The first person to show was Richard Atluiff with a quirky look behind the scenes of Didcot Railway Centre/ He was followed by Stuart Hicks, who showed views from a recent visit to various countries in Western Europe. Gordon Adams was next, with a presentation of views from 1966 of Southern steam from his home ground of Southampton. Andy Vernon was next, with a series of photos of electric locomotives, not just in Britain but also in Germany and Italy, again taken this year. He was followed by Phil Darlaston who continued the theme if this year's photos with what he called a mixed bag. The last person to show was Peter Simmons who, like Gordon earlier on, had digitally stored his earlier photos. In this case the pictures were of early 1960's steam on the London Midland Region. Thanks are given to all those showing, contributing to a programme of wide variety and entertainment. In addition, special thanks are due to the branch Treasurer's daughter Nicki for her work in providing the food and also to David Birkett, who arranged for liquid refreshments to be made available from the bar.

The meeting was David Birkertt;s swansong as chairman, fulfilling a long-held promise to stand down ,formally handing over to Peter Simmons during the evening.

Monday 21st November 2016
Pure Genius - Irish Railways - Part 2
Chris Youett

The November meeting welcomed back Chris Youett for another night of pure genius. In this, the second part of his trilogy on the railways of Ireland, Chris continued his grand tour of the island. The area covered by him covered from Dublin, heading south and west to Cork and up the west coast to Ennis. This comprehensive look took in most , if not all, lines including the one to Valentia Harbour (the most westerly point in Europe accessible by rail). The talk was a very interesting look at the lines of Ireland and augured well for a further return visit to finish his excellent review of the Irish railway scene past and present. Chris deserves great thanks for the entertaining evening, the only downside being the lack of the well known product of Dublin which inspired the title of his talk!

Monday 17th October 2016
Steam in India - Narrow gauge memories
Geoff Warren

The speaker for the October meeting was Geoff Warren who presented "Steam in India - narrow gauge memories". .His memories covered a ten year period from the late 1970,s to the late 1980,s. As India is such a large country with narrow gauge spread all over it, he covered only a small area covering approximately the band from Mumbai to Kolkata. This meant that those who were looking forward to the iconic hill railways would have been disappointed. However, they would have been more than pleased with what was shown. Your correspondent has visited some of India's narrow gauge systems, but most of the ones shown, including two sugar factory systems, were completely new to him. Geoff's photos led to a fascinating insight into what is a fascinating country. He is to be congratulated for producing such an interesting evening's meeting.

Monday 19th September 2016
Modern Era Miscellany
Phil Darlaston

The initial meeting of the season was subject to a change. Because the original speaker had to postpone his visit, local member Phil Darlaston stepped in with his Modern Era Miscellany, In his talk, Phil showed the many changed that have occurred over the period from the 1980's to the 2000's. He was able to demonstrate howt the changes from Nationalisation through Sectorisation to the current franchise system caused a great impact to many aspects, not just colour schemes but also widespread changes in motive power from loco-hauled passenger trains to multiple-unit type trains and also the ever-changing freight scene. As a result of Phil's job, he was able to get photographs of freight trains in locations off-limits to the general enthusiast. This made for an entertaining and interesting evening. Many thanks are due to Phil for a worthy start to the season

Tuesday 16th August 2016
Observation at Didcot Parkway Station

The August observation evening at Didcot was not plagued with problems, unlike the other observation evening; the only thing was that, compared to previous years, there was a shortage of freights seen during the evening. The regular car trains were seen (Dagenham-Didcot and Morris Cowley-Purfleet) and an engineers' train from Scunthorpe-Eastleigh, but only threecontainer trainswere seen. Whether the shortage of container traffic was because of low demand or a hangover from the previous two weeks' shutdown of the Didcot-Oxford line could not be told.

Thursday 16th June 2016
Observation at Reading Station

The June meeting was the annual Ascot specials evening at Reading. As in the previous few years, there was only one this year, consisting of the Northern Belle returning to Manchester. The evening was thrown into confusion by the well-reported derailment at Paddington when an empty Thames Turbo set came off the line and struck the OLE, causing a virtual closedown of Paddington. This caused problems back as far as Reading, where three HST.s were stuck at various platforms waiting to continue.

last updated: 26/04/17