West of England

Meeting Reports

Saturday 9th September 2017
Members Slides and Digital Pictures

At the first meeting of the new West of England Branch programme on 9 September six members contributed to the proceedings with digital presentations.
John Beaumont started matters with a selection of video sequences showing GBRf trains around the country including coal trains in Yorkshire, gypsum trains on the Settle & Carlisle and ballast workings at Westbury. We then saw a short selection of vintage clips which included the last days of SR steam, and early WR diesel scenes.
Robert Hawken and David Hunt each gave short presentations showing recent views of (mainly) preservation activity in Devon including the South Devon and Dartmoor Railways.
Phil Wright showed photos that he has taken in the last twelve months. These included local images but also there was a good number from a holiday spent on the Settle & Carlisle.
Last up was David Mitchell who showed some recently scanned 1960s transparencies that included early views of the Dart Valley Railway, and ended with images of freight activity in Devon & Cornwall that had been omitted from his presentation at our May meeting due to a lack of time.

Thanks go to all the contributors for providing such a varied and entertaining evening but it was a great pity that their efforts were rewarded by a particularly poor attendance of just nine members.

Saturday 8th April 2017
1950s/1960s Railway Photography
Colin Boocock

We welcomed another visit from author and photographer Colin Boocock on 8th April when he presented digitised photographs from the first half of his life as a railway photographer, the period ranging from 1947 to 1979.
The pictures are to be featured in a forthcoming book. His first photos as a nine-year-old were taken with his father’s camera, but he soon had his own ‘Box Brownie’ which produced some surprisingly good results. Improvements in both cameras and technique were soon apparent as we saw images from his native Hampshire and also ones taken further afield. Although steam power dominated at first, Colin was not prejudiced against more modern traction; nor was he limited to Britain with visits to Ireland and France in 1956 acting as a prelude to further trips to the continent. He initially experimented with colour during a 1958 trip to the Isle of Man, and soon obtained a second camera specifically for colour work.
His career on BR led to a move to South Wales where he was able to record the last years of steam in the coalfield. Subsequent moves to Doncaster, Glasgow and Derby also provided further photographic opportunities and helped to provide much variety in this well-received show.

Colin and his wife have long supported the Railway Children charity and he does not seek expenses for giving his shows, instead requesting that a donation be made to the charity.

Saturday 11th March 2017
Regional Railways
Alex Green

On 11 March the West of England branch welcomed Alex Green who gave us a presentation entitled ‘Regional Railways’. As a retired manager who spent part of his career working in the sector, he is well qualified to tell the story of this part of Britain’s railway network.
The title of his talk was something of a misnomer, as he also took us back to earlier times, both Provincial Railways days, and even the pre-sectorisation period with references even going back as far as the ‘Reshaping’ report. He also examined what has happened to this part of the business since privatisation.
The concept of the ‘Social Railway’ was explained and diagrams and graphs aided our understanding of such matters as the sector’s financial performance. He also commented on the different trains used in the business, showing photos of both these and various stations.
Alex covered the relationships between BR and different governments and, of particular interest, were his views on various personalities involved in the business, with praise given to the two Bob Reids (particularly the first one) and Regional Railways general manager Gordon Pettitt.

All in all , this was a fascinating insight into what is perhaps a neglected part of the railway, and one that was warmly received by the audience.

Saturday 11th February 2017
The Western Region Hydraulics - a Valedictory Tribute
Bernard Mills

At the West of England branch meeting on 11th February we welcomed our member Bernard Mills who presented “The Western Region hydraulics – a valedictory tribute”, a show which marked the impending 40th anniversary of the types’ final withdrawal from BR service.
After some early views which showed the diesels working alongside steam locos, the show comprised three main sections. In the first of these Bernard presented an image of each of the 74 ‘Western’ Class locos in numerical order, the photos showing the various liveries carried and different duties undertaken by this class whilst in service.
The second part of the show took us on a journey from Swindon to Penzance, with detours over various branch lines. In addition to more ‘Western’ photos, there were also plenty of images of ‘Warships’, ‘Hymeks’ and Class 22s shown.
The final section depicted more ‘Westerns’ taken in the last five months of service, both on rail-tours and in regular service, the latter featuring a number of ‘final’ duties. The countdown ended with the final tour on 26th February 1977.

Twenty seven members and guests were present, and several were surprised to see 40-plus year’s younger versions of themselves on screen! Our grateful thanks go to Bernard for a most entertaining evening.

Saturday 14th January 2017
Branch AGM followed by 'From Doveholes to Dawlish'
John Beaumont

Fourteen members attended the West of England Branch AGM, which was held on 14 January.
With a rapidly ageing branch membership, concern was expressed at the decline in numbers at our meetings and those present were urged to encourage others to attend in future. Appreciation was expressed for the indoor fixture programme; next year’s fixtures have already been agreed and were presented.
A particularly successful sales stand at the last Exeter Model Railway Exhibition means that the branch continues to be financially self-sufficient. It came as little surprise that the existing committee was re-elected en bloc!

Afterwards John Beaumont presented a video show entitled “From Doveholes to Dawlish” which included sequences filmed in the last ten years. Most were of freight trains, starting with Classes 37 and 60 in the Peak District before we were shown a number of views of coal trains serving Drax power station.
Continuing southwards, locations included Nuneaton and South Wales before eventually returning to Devon, where we saw nuclear, timber and test trains in action.
Railtours both steam and diesel-powered and other loco-hauled passenger workings were interspersed throughout, all contributing to a thoroughly enjoyable programme.

Saturday 10th December 2016
An Evening of Entertainment from one of the Branch's Founders
Terry Nicholls

At the West of England branch’s December meeting, Terry Nicholls treated us to a sound-cine programme entitled ‘British steam at home and abroad’.
This commenced with footage from a 1967 trip to Zimbabwe, which mainly featured Garratt locomotives hauling freights on the main line. Terry was lucky when the only passenger train (which should have run overnight), was six hours late and could be recorded in daylight.
Moving on a decade or so, the second film featured visits to the Settle & Carlisle line, during a period when many railtours operated. In addition to sequences featuring ex-LMS locos, we also saw ‘visitors’ such as Green Arrow and City of Wells amid the splendid scenery.
After a break we saw film from a 1988 tour to north-west Pakistan that showed vintage British-built 4-4-0s in action, both in regular service and also hauling a nine-day charter that Terry travelled (and lived!) on. There were some particularly impressive scenes of this charter taken in the rugged landscape.
Returning closer to home, the final films featured the 1985 ‘GW150’ celebrations; firstly showing tours in the Bristol area, Devon and Cornwall and then sequences from South Wales and the North & West route.
Our grateful thanks go to Terry for a most varied and entertaining evening.

last updated: 29/09/17