Meeting Reports


Tuesday 19th January 2021

“The Honeybourne Line” with Bernie Holland

We welcomed Bernie Holland from Watford for our January meeting to present “The Honeybourne Line”. Using a collection of images from photographs, slides and digital photography, Bernie told the story of the line from Honeybourne Jct. on the Oxford to Worcester line to Cheltenham Lansdown Jct., where it met the Midland Railway. The story covered the early days from the Act of Parliament in 1899 right through to preservation days up to 2018. Almost every class of Great Western steam locomotive could be seen working freight and passenger services over the route. It was an important corridor for summer holiday services from the north east to the resorts in Devon and Cornwall. Bernie’s school, next door to St James Station in the centre of Cheltenham, provided him with a great education in railway studies (classroom overlooked the turntable!). Bringing the story up to date Bernie covered the days following closure in 1976, the formation of the preservation group in 1980 to restore the railway, to its position today as one of the premier heritage railways in the country. Interestingly the timeline shows that the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway have operated the Cheltenham Racecourse to Broadway section almost as long as it was in Great Western Railway hands.

Tuesday 24th November 2020

“Ends of the Lines – part 1” with John Cowlishaw

John zoomed in, from Wrexham, to our gathering on 24th November with his “Ends of the Lines” presentation. This is a developing work and, acknowledging many of the images from the camera of Merseyside Branch stalwart, Edgar Richards, John presents ’then’ (and ‘now’ in a lot of cases) images of stations which are or were termini for passenger services. Starting at Wrexham Central station we made our way to Liverpool Lime Street, the long way round via Holyhead, Amlwch, Blaenau Ffestiniog, Chester Northgate, West Kirby, New Brighton, Birkenhead Woodside (image taken over the station wall off the top deck of a double decker bus!), Seacombe and Egremont, St Helens Central, both stations at Buxton (identically designed for the LNWR and MR respectively and located next door to each other), Kirkby and Ormkirk (in both cases where Merseyrail electric services meet Northern Rail diesel services to other locations end on with buffers to separate them), Blackpool Central with the Tower towering over it, Windermere and Coniston. We saw plenty of steam hauled services – 6233 Duchess of Sutherland on the occasion of Her Majesty the Queen undertaking her own rail tour to North Wales, Stanier Cl.5s, Royal Scots, GWR Manors and Pannier Tank 4683, diesel locomotives, DMUs, EMUs both AC and DC (overhead and 3rd rail). John also considered some of the current termini which may not be for much longer with proposals to extend services beyond them.

Tuesday 27th October 2020

“Volunteering on the GWSR” with Richard Morris

The branch’s first on-line ‘Zoom’ meeting took place on 27th October with 25 members taking part with several being from other branches including our Canadian member. Society webmaster David Jackman thankfully kept the show moving because of internet overload problems.  Richard Morris gave a lively presentation on ‘Volunteering on the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway’ not only describing how he became first involved with a day’s footplate experience and then later as an enthusiastic Travelling Ticket Inspector.  TTI duties do not just involve the checking of tickets but also in ensuring that all is well with the carriage stock.  Richard explained various operational issues unique to the line. We saw the regular GWSR locomotives at work as well as the visiting locomotives such as 925 Cheltenham and 6023 King Edward II, which was known as ‘Elvison its visit in 2019.  Regulars 2807, 7903 Foremarke Hall and 35006 Peninsular & Oriental S.N. Co featured in many views not forgetting the diesels and the multiple unit.   As would be expected of Richard, we saw in the second half several preserved buses as well as those he used to drive for Stagecoach in Cheltenham. In addition he gave a roundup of what he had seen recently of UK and Swiss railway scenes.

Tuesday 18th February 2020

“Mind the Gap” with Jason Cross

Our February meeting saw Jason Cross of Leicester giving a splendid presentation on the London Underground. Using a mixture of video and still shots along with many amusing anecdotes, he gave a thumb nail history of every line complete with historic and modern architectural features of many stations. Using rail track diagrams he explained how routes duck and dive over each other also highlighting how different sized stock work alongside on adjacent tracks. Some lines have taken over former main line companies’ infrastructures so long redundant Great Northern signal boxes are still in place. Admitting that he visited the system at least 50 times a year, and at times through the nights, we saw the engineering train operations with the Ruislip based battery electric locomotives that work through the system and over link lines enabling them to move from one specific route to another. Improved signalling systems will enable more trains to work on some of the lines. Heritage workings also featured complete with Metropolitan No.1 in full voice. We even saw a Cl.55 locomotive working through North Weald station on the former Epping-Ongar line.

Tuesday 21st January 2020

“Swiss Travel Wonderland” with Sholto Thomas

What a magical mystery tour this was covering the 4
corners of that wonderful country. Sholto showed images of all forms of public
transport, trains, trams, buses, ships, chair lifts, cable cars. The Swiss
Travel Pass is valid on most of these, discounted supplements payable in some
circumstances, mostly involving mountains! From Bellinzona and Lugano in the
Italian quarter, up to Basel and Geneva in the French sector. Up, vertically,
to Kleine Scheidegg, around Bern, Chur, Interlaken and right across the country
we saw images of trains, heritage and modern, running along streets, arriving
‘on’ platforms, operated by SBB, BLS, Thurbo, WAB, AB and many other local
operators. Freight services were displayed, with a colourful mix of Siemens and
Bombardier traction operated by SBB, BLS, DB and others. Metre gauge (and
slightly less) trains were depicted across the country. Stadler are developing
a gauge changing passenger unit which will bring new travel opportunities. On
the roads, Postbus not only serve remote communities but now also run city services
in some locations. We saw heritage paddle steamers mixing it with newer diesel
ships on regular timetabled services on the lakes. The country is a superb
example of how a fully integrated public transport network should work.

Tuesday 17th December 2019

“Great Western in Dean” with Ian Pope

For our December meeting Ian Pope returned to present “Great Western in Dean”. Centring on Cinderford the Great Western was criss-crossed by many of the mineral tramways in the Forest and provided services to take such minerals as coal and iron ore out to customers. The staple power for these trains were cl.45 side tank and cl.16 pannier tank locomotives both of which were light enough yet powerful enough to cope with the Forest tracks. Just surviving into the diesel era, these popular steam locos were replaced by the equally popular cl.14 diesel hydraulic locomotives. Travelling around the system we visited Bilson, Mitcheldean, Drybrook, Ruspidge and Coleford, where the old steam shed survives to this day as a railway museum. With tank locos providing all the power for the Forest services, imagine the excitement generated when a Gloucester Horton Road based cl.73 Mogul appeared with the entire breakdown train to re-rail a wagon which was only one axle ‘off the road’! Soudley Halt was the place where trains were stopped to pin down the brakes (downhill) or to raise steam after the long climb (uphill). Coincidence, it must have been, that The White Lion was right next to the line here.

Tuesday 19th November 2019

“Sixties Steam Selection” with John Dagley-Morris

We were delighted to welcome local railway legend John Dagley-Morris on 19th November to present “Sixties Steam Selection”. Our treat was a wonderful show covering all regions of British Railways, including John’s beloved London Midland, but with a liberal sprinkling from Great Western, Southern, Great Eastern, North Eastern and Scottish locations. John’s studies for his professional qualifications required him to spend time reflecting on what he was learning – with camera in hand – so we saw images of many Bulleid, Maunsell and Urie classes around the Southern. A regular working for a GWR Manor class was a Reading to Redhill early morning commuter service hauling Southern coaches. A later view of a BR Standard Cl.9F, on a passenger working at Notgrove on the GW line from Kingham to Cheltenham, was considered to have been the largest locomotive ever to work the line. A tame contact at Cheltenham St. James would steer thinking on where to go to photograph trains, so we saw plenty of views from the local area – Ashchurch to Berkeley, Churchdown to Bishops Cleeve. Stanier and Fowler classes were well represented across London Midland locations. Perhaps the most favourites being the Princess Royal and Coronation classes which do look so good, and even now retain the mystery of just how powerful they were.

Tuesday 15th October 2019

“Final Journey – the Story of Funeral Trains” with Nicolas Wheatley

Nicolas has done some tremendous research, ahead of publishing a book, and provided us with a fascinating evening on the subject of funeral trains, on 15th October. Nicolas started with images of Beyer Peacock locomotives and their trains at Rookwood Cemetery Station in Australia. The station building from Rookwood now serves as a church in Canberra. Brookwood Cemetery near Woking is, perhaps, better known to us. Images demonstrated how LSWR operated trains, working on behalf of the London Necropolis Company, arrived at Brookwood serving two stations within, one for Anglicans, and the other for everyone else. Funeral trains for members of the Royal Family, and other notable members of the community were displayed. GWR Castle 4082 Windsor Castle was chosen to serve for King George V as His Majesty and Queen Mary had both driven the locomotive between Swindon Works and the main line railway station when it was new. For King George VI, it was 7013 Bristol Castle masquerading as 4082 owing to the latter being in works at the time. The identities of the two locomotives were never reversed! Sir Winston Churchill’s final journey was described, with Bulleid ‘Battle of Britain’ 34051 Winston Churchill in command. Is it still possible to make your final journey by train? Oh, yes!

Tuesday 17th September 2019

“From Railways to Royalty” with Jack Boskett

Local professional railway photographer Jack Boskett got our new season off to a wonderful start on 17th September with “From Railways to Royalty”. A chance to observe Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee tour in Hereford and Worcester opened doors Jack could not have imagined. A smartly dressed young Jack, in the press pen with more scruffily attired cameramen, saw him extricated by Royal media officials to serve as formal photographer for the occasion. He has since been commissioned to be official photographer for many other Royal events. Jack works with several Train Operating Companies and Network Rail, and he takes commissions from many railway media publications. Great Western requested an image of IET 800003 “Isambard Kingdom Brunel” – at speed – under the wires – in a specific location, for a publicity piece. One chance to get it. The image displayed had the cab and name razor sharp, the rest of the carriage showing that the train was not hanging about, the catenary framing the shot. Then there was the silhouette image of a steam train on a viaduct, with it Jack knocked the dreaded ‘B’ word off the front page of two national broadsheets. Jack doesn’t use image manipulating tools to modify his work. What you see is the image he took. What a talent!

Tuesday 16th April 2019

Branch Annual Business Meeting and Members Entertain

The Branch Annual Business Meeting was held on 16th April with an attendance of 14. The review of the past year’s activities was duly noted although questions were asked on society matters concerning its charity status, the new library and as to the size of the RO. With Richard Neale standing down from committee work only three committee members remain with Stephen Wilson, Richard Morris and John Howland dealing with everything – unless some volunteers come forward to assist. The entertainment that followed was varied in content with Sholto Thomas covering a visit he made to the Mid-West States of the USA covering freight workings with shale oil and coal workings. At Donkey Creek he pictured 50 locomotives lined up awaiting further duties. There was a picture of a cloud formation that resembled President Trump’s hair style.Stephen Wilson covered six months of recent preserved railway activity as well as with scenes at Dawlish, Abergavenney and north of Cheltenham with one-time local star 7029 Clun Castle working the recent Cotswold Explorer special. Richard Morris not only covered the local Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway scene and Stagecoach 94 bus workings but also a comprehensive view of Central Europe celebrated with close RCTS friends, starting out on the Venice Simplon Orient Express to Italy and then moving on through Austria and the Czech Republic.


Tuesday 19th March 2019
‘An 8th Colour-Rail Journey’
Paul Chancellor

Paul Chancellor gave one of his excellent selections from the Colour-Rail Portfolio, this one being the 8th such journey. The 20 attendance were involved in guessing some picture locations as well as finding out more about the Colour-Rail facility. This time around Paul largely concentrated on the year 1959 highlighting the many stock changes taking place, especially with steam and diesel motive power. Other rail facts from that year were also highlighted. Taking us around the then 5 BR regions, as well as with other systems, we covered the then BR system from Inverness down to Padstow and St Blazey the latter complete with its roundhouse shed and 16xx class locomotives. Steam was certainly still in its ascendency with some new diesels having real availability issues. Local scenes came into view as with a Class 4F on a Dursley branch working with one carriage and with the Severn Railway Bridge still in one piece. He rounded off the show with the changing scenes from pre-war years and into the 21st Century covering Gloucester, Euston, Reading, Doncaster, Waterloo and Haymarket including such as a former N.E.R Atlantic, the Chalford auto train, Euston’s Doric Arch, Bulleid Pacific rebuilds and even early liveried Pacer units. It was a superb nostalgic evening.

Last updated: 20th January