Meeting Reports

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Tuesday 28th January

Stratford on Avon & Midland Junction

Barry Taylor

On 28th January Barry Taylor presented “The Stratford-upon-Avon and Midland Junction Railway (SMJ)”. The idea of a railway across rural Northamptonshire and Warwickshire was conceived to carry Northamptonshire iron ore to the steel works of South Wales. Barry explained the route of the constituent parts which went ‘from nowhere to nowhere through nowhere’. The four constituent companies opened their network of lines between 1871 and 1891 but spent time either closed temporary or in administration hovering on bankruptcy. Only the East and West owned its own locos and financial certainty was only achieved by the mergers of 1909 and 1910 becoming the SMJ in the process but the intervention of the First World War and grouping into the LMS cut short its independence.

It had connections with the MR, LNWR, GCR and GWR but for most of its life it was the MR connections at the extremities that brought the much needed through traffic and following improved connections in 1942 and 1960 brought additional through traffic particularly from the GCR at Woodford Halse. Various sidings were created along the route to tap iron ore from local quarries.

Passenger services ceased between 1947 and 1952 and all lines closed by 1965 except from Fenny Compton to MOD Kineton which remains in use today.

Barry took us step by step with photos of all routes whilst open then closed with photos of what is still visible today including a couple of restored stations.


Tuesday 14th January

Oxford to Paddington

Richard Binding

Richard Binding was our first speaker of 2020 on 14th January to continue his journey along the Great Western mainline towards London. He started at Oxford with a short journey to Didcot to pick up where he left off last time. On the main line it was a location by location approach to Paddington including the Wallingford, Henley and Marlow branches and special spots of Goring water troughs, the inside of Reading Signal Works, Sonning Cutting and Maidenhead bridge plus the engine sheds at Didcot, Reading, Slough, Southall and Old Oak Common.

The images were predominantly of many GWR steam classes taken in the 1950s and 1960s but there were earlier photos including a Bulldog and a stunning one of The Great Bear inside Old Oak Common. Visiting LMR and SR types were also seen as well as the BR diesel classes seen on the Western Region. Richard has accumulated a rich collection taken at sites not available for many many years.

The limiting of photos between Didcot and Oxford leaves scope for a possible future presentation to either Worcester or Birmingham, possibly both or westwards from Exeter our starting point in his first one

Tuesday 17th December

Annual members Christmas evening

On 17th December the branch held its annual members Christmas evening with coffee and mince pies. A number of members showed short series of slides covering preserved steam at the SVR and NYMR, 1989 views in Germany and then English and Welsh Collieries, German Steam, A Steam Charter at Llangollen, A 1968 Northampton Branch visit to Bowaters in Sittingbourne, early preservation scenes in Kent and Sussex and Irish diesels.


Tuesday 10th December

125 Group – Preserving an HST

John Zabernik of the 125 Group

Recent events brought a significance to the topic on 10th December when John Zabernik of the 125 Group presented “Preserving a HST”. He described the background to the development of the prototype HST and the detail of the layout of the power car which allowed removal of individual large components for repair or replacement. The braking system was designed to stop from 125 mph in the distance that 100mph locomotive hauled trains stopped to avoid replacement to the spacing of existing signals. During testing the prototype achieved a new world record for diesel trains.

New Mark 3 coaches were developed taking the best features from the earlier Marks 1 and 2 plus many improvements including being 3 metres longer.

A redesigned cab and nose shape were required for the production version which took up main line duties from 1976 significantly reducing journey times. The world speed record was broken again and during over 40 years front line service the Valenta engines were replaced by more efficient units. By the end of 2019 they will be withdrawn from GWR and LNER main line service with EMR and Cross Country continuing until new replacements arrive. Modified shorter sets are now in use in Scotland and the West.

The prototype was stood down from service in 1976 but retained for departmental use then one power car displayed at the NRM.

The 125 Group was formed in 1994 with the aim of preserving a HST set. A number of Mark 3 coaches have been obtained and restored. They arranged an agreement with the NRM to restore the power car to working order with a Valenta engine to run with their restored coaches. The work was carried out at Neville Hill depot with significant help and parts donations and then transferred to the GCR (Nottingham) where work continued and line trials undertaken before public service commenced in 2015. The set was taken to a number of heritage railways but then after engine problems the power car was recalled by the NRM in 2019 and is now at Locomotion Shildon. The Group have been promised production units 43048 and 43089 when their use by EMR has ended to complete their aim of a preserved working set.

Tuesday November

Restoration of a GNR station building

Brian Howes of the Friends of Gedling Station

On 26 November Brian Howes of the Friends of Gedling Station informed us of the plans for restoration of the GNR station building. He explained the history of the GNR in the area which started as the independent Ambergate, Nottingham, Boston & Eastern Junction Railway and its tussle with the MR over access to Nottingham. This was resolved by the opening of a separate line to their own terminus at London Road (later Low Level). In 1875/6 the line from Netherfield through Gedling was opened as part of the Derbyshire Extension. In April 1960 all traffic north of Gedling Colliery ceased due to the “condition of Mapperley tunnel”. Coal trains from Gedling Colliery ceased in the 1990s.

The station building became a youth club and community centre after closure for passengers and then that use ceased in 2012. The restoration project for the station building would provide future use as a heritage centre, café and other community use. It is proposed that the adjacent track bed is to become a heritage way as part of developments of the historical Gedling Village. There has also been a proposal for an extension of the tram system to Gedling station area. Progress with the restoration is dependent upon funding particularly with an application to the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Brain closed with questions from those present.


Tuesday 12th November

B17 Spirit of Sandringham – the continuing story of achievement

Brian Hall

Brian Hall returned to the branch on 12 November to present “B17 Spirit of Sandringham – the continuing story of achievement”. Starting with a description of the rationale behind the design of the class by Nigel Gresley to cope with weight limitations in East Anglia he described the history of the class until withdrawal. There were early problems with rough riding, poor steaming and cracked frames.

The new construction design will include improvements to remove the early problems and also comply with current requirements of insurance and main line running. The Society has obtained suitable GER and LNER tenders which will require full restoration.

He explained details of the frames and parts manufactured to date by various suppliers around the country to create a static frame at Llangollen works. The next step to complete a rolling chassis involving 18-24 month’s work to be followed by the boiler and firebox. It is anticipated that the new loco will be completed by 2029 at a total cost of £3,000,000.

After the break Brian showed film of the fabrication of the drag box and steel castings followed by a Q & A session from those present.

Tuesday 22nd October

Leicester & Swannington Railway

Bill Pemberton of the Leicestershire Industrial History Society


On 22 October Bill Pemberton of the Leicestershire Industrial History Society presented the “Leicester & Swannington Railway” tracing the history of the L&SR. The line was built to connect the Leicestershire coalfield with the City and replace the Charnwood Canal which had been closed following flood damage. Although built primarily for coal passengers were carried from the opening from Leicester West Bridge to Bagworth in July 1832 and from Bagworth to Long Lane (later Coalville) and on to Swannington in November 1833 becoming the fifth passenger line in the country. There were rope worked inclines at Bagworth and Swannington and a mile long tunnel at Glenfield. The L&SR did not build passenger stations but rented rooms in pubs near the railway where passengers could book tickets in advance to give us “booking offices”.

The L&SR was acquired by the MR in August 1848 and by the following year it was connected to their Leicester-Burton line at Desford Junction and Coalville. The line was doubled between these points and the Bagworth incline replaced by a deviation. Station buildings were also provided. Collieries at Swannington were closed by 1881 and the incline closed although reopened in 1892 for coal to be transported to Swannington to work pumps to prevent flooding from the old workings. The pumps were replaced by electric ones in 1948 and the incline finally closed. Passenger services to West Bridge closed in 1928 and the line from there to Desford gradually closed 1966-67. The Leicester-Burton passenger service ceased in 1964 and following colliery closures is only used for stone traffic from Bardon Hill.

Bill then took us along the route with images of what remains and is accessible including the west end of Glenfield Tunnel. Visits can be arranged to part of the tunnel from June to September and a show of hands indicated that there was interest for summer 2020.

Tuesday 8th October

Branch AGM

The branch held its AGM on 8 October with a total of 22 members present, a slight increase on recent years. The Secretary announced updates to the annual report including a further increase to the membership to 134 and conclusion to the arrangement of the display of the branch D10 nameplate at Quainton Road and MR 2P number plate plus East Midlander headboard at Wirksworth.

Members enquired as to the possibility of summer outdoor visits in addition to the informal line side programme at major stations. It was agreed in principle subject to volunteers making the arrangements. A request to increase the number of afternoon meetings from 2 to 3 was agreed for the first meeting in December subject to the availability of our meeting venue.

The existing committee were again elected en-bloc.

After a short break Brian Beer showed a compilation of more than 20 old film clips on DVD starting with coal sorting at Shipley Colliery and hump shunting in Toton yard. Other clips included the opening of the new Calverton Colliery, Rugby Testing Station, Kings Cross and the 1925 S & D celebrations. Rare locomotives included LNER W1 before it was rebuilt, 6399 Fury, LNER P2, LMS 6202 Turbomotive and gas turbine 18100. Brian agreed to find some more clips for the AGM next year.

Tuesday 10th September

An Eighth Colour Rail Journey

Paul Chancellor, Colour Rail

Paul Chancellor opened the new meeting season on 10 September with “An Eighth Colour Rail Journey”. The theme for the evening was based on the year 1959 starting with locomotives built in that year. An image of one of the last BR 9F’s built for the Western Region was followed by various early diesel and electric classes from 01 to 81.

At the opposite end we saw examples of classes which became extinct in 1959 across all regions including SHT 1142, LSWR 0395, L&Y 52044, LNER B2, Service locos LSWR C14 and LNWR CD3 plus early diesels 10800 and 11001.

The first of class to be withdrawn included members of A2/3, A3, Hall, Castle and 1500. The last of the Merchant Navy class to be rebuilt was followed by the first West Country to be similarly treated.

Preserved CR 123, GNSR 49, HR 103 and MR 1000 were reinstated to operate railtours and similar duties.

Line closures during that year included most of the M&GNR, the Higham Ferrers, Moretonhampstead and Southwell branches.

The evening concluded with a selection of what Paul described as “odd bods” then a tour of some principal stations with then and now images.

Tuesday 23rd April

‘O.Winston Link and the North & Western Railway’

Bob Gellatly

Our speaker for last meeting of the season on 23rd April was Bob Gellatly with “O. Winston Link and the Norfolk and Western Railway”. Starting with the history of the N&WR Bob explained how it was the result of a number of mergers of small companies to become a large company covering most of the Virginia coalfield. Although part of one line was electrified in 1915 it returned to steam by 1950. The N&WR continued to use steam locos after the rest of the lines in USA had moved to diesel traction as it had a modern fleet comprising of 5 classes which were designed for particular types of traffic and continued in use until 1959. Each type ranging from 4-6-2 to 2-8-8-2 were described in detail.

In part 2 Bob covered the work of photographer O Winston Link who wished to record the steam scene on the N&WR before it disappeared. He decided that the only perfect light for his photos could be achieved at night with elaborate use of lighting equipment. In partnership with the railway, who used the arrangement for publicity purposes, he created a wonderful collection of scenes including many stage managed poses of rail staff or members of the public.

The images and short film sequences were an excellent conclusion to the 2018-9 season.


Tuesday 9th April

‘Diverted – Wakefield – Leeds via Huddersfield, Barnsley & Castleford’

Phil Lockwood & Enid Vincent

On 9th April Phil Lockwood and Enid Vincent presented a further instalment in their “Diverted” series. This time travelling from Wakefield to Leeds via Huddersfield, Barnsley and Castleford with photos taken from 1975 to 2019 showing the changing scene of locomotives, traffic and surrounding infrastructure.

We were taken inside Procor Wagon Works, reducing use of Healey Mills yard and down the remains of the LYR Dewsbury branch to the cement depot. Pausing at Mirfield with the changing layout and additional platform before an explanation of the changed junction at Heaton Lodge, then on to Huddersfield and west as far as Standedge tunnels.

After returning to Huddersfield our tour took the line to Penistone with the tall viaducts then down to Barnsley calling at the former Court House station now a pub. A further reversal up to Crigglestone for a visit to the Bombardier (Charles Roe then Procor) works showing refurbishment of tube stock and 220/221 Voyagers. A second visit to Wakefield Kirkgate then as far as Burton Salmon before returning to Castleford for the last lap to Leeds but only after a diversion to Pontefract. In Leeds visits were made to Freightliner Midland Road (ex Barms Road Goods) depot and Holbeck shed.

Another fascinating rail tour highlighting what has disappeared. Phil and Enid advised those present that they have one more “Diverted” to entertain us in the future.

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Last updated: 2nd February