Meeting Reports

Wednesday 26th February 2020

Island Treasures – Railways of the Isle of Wight

Colin Brading

The lure of the Isle of Wight attracted a bumper audience to County Hall. Colin began by explaining the unique geography of the area and how the Island railways developed as part of the trade routes from the mainland, to the ports of Cowes, Ryde,and Yarmouth. Images of the ferries crossing the Solent brought back memories of childhood holidays.

Colin guided us around the Island line by line, the first opening to passengers from Cowes to Newport in 1862. The scene set with maps and an array of images, not only of the locomotives and rolling stock, but also the stations and  frastructure. Many images of the fondly remembered class O2 locomotives were included.

55 miles of railway began to decline when the first line was closed in 1952, difficult to believe the only remaining line between Ryde Pier and Shanklin has been served by ex London Underground tube stock for over half a century.  Many images from this latter period, followed by an extensive tour around the Isle of Wight Steam Railway and their headquarters at Havenstreet, concluded an extensive view of the Island railways.

A superb presentation, including around 300 images, and a continuous detailed commentary of accompanying facts and anecdotes, for which we thank Colin very much indeed.

Wednesday 22nd January 2020
The ‘Modern Scene’ Today
Julian Clark

The Chichester Branch is fortunate in having Julian as a member whose photographic talents have been recognised in both the RO and RCTS publicity material.

His wide ranging presentation revealed the sheer diversity of railway subjects that are encompassed by the title of the talk. We started off in the charming surroundings of the Littlehampton Miniature Railway and then set off on a tour of Network Rail lines in Southern England.Julian not only diligently researches out the timings of the many loco-hauled trains that are slotted in to a network dominated by EMU’s, but also carefully selects his locations whilst taking full advantage of his telephoto lens to add pictorial ‘punch’ to the end result.

The audience was treated to a delightful photographic interlude in Poland where a more relaxed attitude to ‘elf and safety’ still prevails.Of?cialdom allowed a train to venture up a little used branch on condition that Julian assisted in the re-railing of the train if necessary! The whole talk was peppered with informative background detail and some amusing anecdotes including one which revealed that ‘twitching’ and ‘gricing’ have a degree of overlap

11th December 2019

Industrial Museum Railway


Our December meeting was held two weeks earlier than our normal monthly meetings to avoid the Christmas period. The Branch AGM comprised the first part of the evening.

Following the AGM and a short break, the audience was entertained by member Geoff Boote who showed a series of short films (from 8 to 32 minutes) that he has made/edited covering aspects of the Industrial type line that is incorporated with the Amberley Museum. Each film had its own commentary voiced by Geoff.

The films were titled :-

  • Introduction
  • Preparation
  • Industrial Day
  • In the Beginning
  • Gala 1992
  • Footplate Course

The films provided the audience with plenty of information about the task of running a railway, including preparing engines for work and checking the operation of safety equipment to working out timetables and marshalling stock to meet the traffic requirements.

The Museum holds a large collection of industrial engines including steam, internal combustions and battery electrics; images of each type were seen working the lines. Starring roles were performed by two steam Bagnalls, Peter and Polar Bear!

The films were of excellent quality and the audience very much appreciated the work done by Geoff in creating these films.

Wednesday 27th November 2019
Women on the Railway
Liam Kenchenken


In 2015 the Mid Hants
Railway was awarded almost £900,000 towards the £1.5 million cost of the
restoration of Merchant Navy Class 53005 Canadian Pacific, built at Eastleigh
in 1941. Part of the award included outreach and interpretation projects and in
particular research into the role of women on the railway and their largely
unsung efforts in the heavy construction and maintenance of locomotives,
particularly at Eastleigh. Although the researcher, Dr Becky Peacock, had
already left the project, we were fortunate that Liam Kenchenken, Interim General
Manager, was able to bring the fruits of her research to our November meeting. Liam
took us through the history of women’s ever-expanding roles, though always paid
less than men for doing the same job, to their vital contribution to the
railway during World War 2. Doing the same heavy jobs as men, women were found
not only to be equally capable but also quicker on the up-take and needing less
time to train in the particular skills necessary. His presentation included a
very rare Imperial War Museum film, made by the Southern Railway during World
War 2 for the USA, complete with American accented commentator, showing the
range of heavy work that women were doing. Liam brought us up to date with the
restoration of Canadian Pacific herself and two Bullied coaches and gave us the
good news that the complete route of the Watercress Line will be re-opening in
February 2020.

Wednesday 23rd October 2019

Classic Southern Electric in Colour

David Brown

The October meeting of Chichester Branch was entitled Classic Southern
Electric in Colour, presented by David Brown, one of our own members, who also
sits on the Branch Committee. From his
opening shot of the Brighton Belle (designation 5 BEL) hurrying through
Hassocks, we were treated to an array of wonderful shots of numerous Southern
Railway electric units and locomotives in full colour, with many of the photographs
displayed being very rare ones. The ‘Classic’ title David applied to those
Southern EMUs introduced in the 1930s. He had gathered these from various sources but
still managed to give authoritative and in-depth details of where taken, etc. Some of these lasted long enough to receive
small, and a few, large yellow warning panels and some even an overall blue
livery, which did not suit any of the units as well as SR green. Such was the SR’s obsession with toilets,
that many of the class designations were derived from just how many toilets
were available within a unit, not that you could be guaranteed access if sat in
the wrong part. Yes, the subject was as
stated but the meeting notes should really have included the phrase “another
Classic David Brown presentation” which indeed this was.


Wednesday 25 September 2019

The Mid Hants Line, Then and Now

Keith Brown

An encouraging audience of fifty gathered for our first meeting of the new season to hear Keith Brown give an illustrated presentation entitled ‘The Mid Hants Railway Then and Now’. Keith is particularly qualified to give this talk as, apart from being a long-time volunteer on the line, is station master at Medstead & Four Marks station and has recently taken on the role of MHRPS Archivist. Keith started with a survey of the geographical setting, followed by early development of railways in the Guildford, Farnham and Alton areas before moving on to the Mid-Hants proper. As was often the case with secondary routes, The Alton – Winchester line itself was initially promoted by local worthies and businessmen, but the inevitable financial difficulties from its opening in 1865 soon drove it into the arms the LSWR who took it over entirely twenty years later. For many years through trains from Waterloo to Southampton Terminus worked this way, but from 1937 a push-pull service connected with electrics at Alton. Starting at the Alton end, Keith then treated us to a detailed survey of the stations and other significant points on the line, illustrating his comments with a superb selection of old photographs, maps and drawings. Sadly, by the time Alresford was reached, we ran out of time, and we sincerely hope that Keith will visit us again on a future occasion to complete his talk.

Sunday 09 June 2019

Branch visit to the Isle of Wight Steam Railway



A dozen or so Chichester members went abroad on Sunday 09
June. Well almost! We visited the Isle of Wight Steam Railway on a lovely warm
sunny day.

Perfect weather to take up outside deck seats on the
Wightlink ferry, for the short crossing
to Ryde. Waiting for us on the Pier Head was one of the two car 1938 built
London Underground trains for the short hop to Smallbrook Junction. Here we
boarded an immaculately turned out rake hauled by one of the two Ivatt Class 2s
on the Island. Destination Wootton, before returning to the railways headquarters
at Havenstreet for lunch.

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After lunch we were treated to a behind the scenes look at
the engine shed area, our guide providing us with an array of anecdotes and
historical detail. Fabulous to be up close, as the second Ivatt came off shed,
to couple up and haul a special freight.

We had plenty of time to visit the other attractions,
including the much admired ‘Railway Story’ building. Not to mention the well-stocked
book and gift shop and adjacent museum. The latter includes the original loco Nameplate
‘Ryde’ loaned for display with acknowledgement to the RCTS.

Most of the group then moved on to the Brading Station Heritage
Exhibition and Visitor Centre, before returning to the mainland having enjoyed
a wonderful day out on the stunningly beautiful Isle of Wight.

Wednesday 22nd May 2019

The Railways of Paris

Michael Bunn

For our final indoor meeting of the season we crossed the English Channel, to explore the French capital. Michael put together a superb presentation, beginning by outlining the population and geography of the area, merged with a touch of historical relevance.The Paris rail history began in 1837 with the building of Gare St Lazare to serve the line to Saint-Germain and, subsequently, the routes to the coastal ports. We enjoyed many magnificent views, past and present, of Paris stations and the lines they serve, remembering Gare St Lazare is still second only to Gare Du Norde as Paris busiest. Many notable events were well covered, including the orbital lines around Paris, the development through the 1960s/70s of the RER express routes from the City Centre to the suburbs, quickly followed by the development of the TGV network. Views of relevant rolling stock and locomotives were included in addition to the stations.The Metro was fully covered, opened at the turn of the last century and electrically operated from its inception. Fascinating facts abounded, including the underground detours around The Arc de Triomphe and the first rubber tyre rolling stock trials in 1951.In conclusion we were brought right up to date with a selection of modern images from around the capital.Such a brief report falls short of bringing justice to what was a superbly constructed visual presentation, further enhanced by an immaculate accompanying commentary from Michael, full of wonderful facts and anecdotes. A presentation that comes highly recommended.

Wednesday 24th April 2019

London Underground, Then and Now

Brian Hardy

Over 40 members and supporters attended this excellent meeting in which Brian Hardy demonstrated the changes that have taken place within the London Underground (LU) throughout the last century and things continue to change to this day! The changes outlined by Brian were mainly to the track layout, the rolling stock and the architectural infrastructure. These changes were illustrated by numerous photographs, showing in detail what has changed.Brian worked through the LU system on a line by line basis and covered many of the stations individually. In each case he explained the reasons for the modifications and the effect of them. The detail was fascinating and very informative. His talk covered mostly surface stations and layouts, but, of course, it’s much easier to make changes to surface infrastructure than underground, and it’s more visible! His photographs included such items as steam hauled trains, and the many and various electric sets remembered by many of the audience.The talk concluded with a lively questions and answer session, which was testament to interest shown by the audience.

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Saturday 06th April 2019

Branch visit to Arlington Fleet Eastleigh

14 Chichester members plus a guest from Surrey branch enjoyed an escorted tour of the Eastleigh works site. Our lead guide, Norman, was an expert on all things connected with the site and his entertaining commentary and banter a bonus.

We were able to walk through most of the site, only a couple of areas, including the paint shop, being restricted. Many unique photo shots were captured, for private use only. For those old enough to remember, memories returned of this vast complex full of steam locomotives under repair or overhaul.

For a site that at one time looked likely to close for ever a remarkable amount of work was being undertaken. Interestingly, we learned Arlington is very much a facilitator, hiring out sections of the site to others, performing work they may not necessarily do themselves.Facilities are also provided to the Heritage Railway sector and we were able to explore, externally, the newly refurbished ‘Bubble Cars’ destined for the Swanage Railway. Steam was present, albeit solely by Merchant Navy Class 35005 Canadian Pacific.South Western Railway class 442, 444 and 450 units were all present, undergoing refurbishment, and throughout the site there was a multitude of rolling stock and locomotives.So interesting was the tour, we overran our allocated time. Many thanks to Arlington for allowing this visit. A highly recommended tour, by appointment only, booking direct with Arlington Fleet.

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With Norman our guide centre front, RCTS members about to leave the Arlington Eastleigh Works site.

Wednesday 27th March

Strictly Freight Only Part 2
Brian Ringer

For our well attended March meeting, The Chichester Branch welcomed the return of Brian Ringer, with the second part of his ‘Strictly Freight Only’ presentations, the title being a nod to both his Railway Career (mid ’70s- Mid 2000’s) in the Freight sector, as well as to fellow Edmonton lad, Brucie. Naturally, from that locale, The Spurs got a mention too!

Given our local dearth pf freight workings (other than the Chichester Stone), Brian broke us in gently, on the Southern Region, with an image of a Sulzer Type 2 at St Mary Cray Junction, heading for the Train Ferry.

Starting then, on relatively familiar turf, Brian took us through much detail, sharing operational perspectives, starting with pre Channel Tunnel Freight working, and shunting on to moveable 1 in 30 Link spans.

We moved on to sectorisation, rotting coal wagons, and post- Speedlink Wagon Load Freight, up to the present day, as well as being given handy domestic tips regarding covert gricing (we all do it!), whilst on Holiday with ‘Herself’, in this instance at Cockwood (as you do)….

We learned that the CTRL has never realised its potential to carry freight, and nor has it ever exceeded the level of freight carried aboard the ‘Nord Pas de Calais’, (a French Vessel, which included a Chef on the staff!), and that bicycles were provided at Dollands Moor (reminds me of passing loops in Portugal)!

A fascinating evening, although, sadly, as with so many things ‘Railway’, also an opportunity to reflect on politics and multiple missed opportunities.

The forensic detail in Brian’s analysis of his own images was fascinating: a very enthusiastic and informative presentation, we strongly recommend that other Branches consider making a booking!


Last updated: 24th January