Meeting Reports


Monday 13th January 2020

‘The Harwich Branch’

Dave Goodyear

On January 13th our guest was Dave Goodyear to present The Harwich Branch. The eleven mile route from Manningtree to Harwich, now promoted as ‘The Mayflower Line’ was opened by the Eastern Counties Railway in 1854 and was doubled throughout by 1886,connected to the GE main line by a triangular junction. Stations were at Mistley, Bradfield and Priory Halt both now closed,Wrabness, Harwich Port, Dovercourt and Harwich Town and Continental Pier. A deviation from the original route was opened in 1883 to serve the new port at Parkston Quay with extensive sidings and motive power depot opening adjacent to the station. A wide variety of traffic was seen including many named Boat Trains from London and cross country to the new terminal, including ‘The Hook Continental and Scandinavian’ forever associated with the route. Steam and diesel hauled freight services included many continental ferry vans having been unloaded from the train ferry at Harwich. At Mistley the grain terminal was featured. and withdrawn Brighton Belle Pullman stock was stored awaiting restoration. Parkeston Quay closed to steam in 1962 and a new Freightliner Terminal was constructed on the site with the station being extensively redeveloped in the late sixties giving updated passenger facilities and capacity. The route was electrified in 1986 and all remaining signal boxes closed and replaced by a new control centre at Parkeston Quay.

In later years the number and quality of the Boat Train services declined with the cross country connections now a local DMU terminating at Cambridge. On the freight side the number of services declined over many years and even privatisation was unable to turn this around. The train ferry closed in 1987 and the Freightliner Terminal was closed by 2012. The only scheduled branch freight is the condensate tanks from North Walsham to Harwich although Parkston sidings are still used for stabling purposes.

Monday 9th December 2019

‘Branch AGM & Members’ Presentations’

On 9 December the branch held its AGM and the treasurer reported a healthy set of accounts and recommended that membership donations at meetings be reduced. This was accepted and the existing committee were re elected en bloc for another year.

Our members presentations commenced with John Smock describing the background design features of the new Stadler Flirt and Aventra units soon to enter service with Greater Anglia. He also described a little know heritage railway on Alderney in the Channel Islands and also the Southend Pier Railway.

After a break for seasonal refreshments, Dave Chappel showed some black and white images of Great Eastern steam classes ranging from the Class J70 trams used around the dock complex at Ipswich to the B12 4-6-0s which worked many of the mainline express services in the area. Many of the images were taken locally and around the Stratford depot area in London and included ex works and locomotives awaiting disposal.

Then Bev Steele presented 50 years ago this year which was a series of colour slide scans taken at Hitchin, March ,Peterborough, Thetford and Kings Cross with some comparisons of the same view today. Highlights included Class 25s on the holiday extras to Great Yarmouth and also the complex trackwork at Whitemoor Junction. Many of the locomotives were still in the attractive two tone green livery as BR corporate blue was not very widespread then.

Finally John Day presented a history of railtours in East Anglia from the mid eighties. We saw the first commercial electric service at Ipswich in 1985, a farewell tour of East Anglia featuring D200 in 1987, and a tour around Ipswich docks by heritage DMUs. Also the visit of Tornado to Great Yarmouth in 2017 was covered together with a Class 37 tour to Stansted Airport prior to its opening.

Wednesday 4th December 2019

‘East Midlands Memories Collection’

Geoff King

Our speaker on 4 December was Geoff King to present East Midlands Memories Collection.

The history and development of the routes in the Leicester Area was described including those towards Peterborough via Market Harborough and Melton Mowbray culminating in the opening of the Great Central route in 1899.

The area around Wigston and Knighton junction featured a wide variety of traffic, some double headed by ex LMS,LNER and BR Standard classes including the Blue Pullman on test together with the ex LMS diesels 10000 and 10001.

The signalling arrangements and track layouts were described,with some pre- grouping signals still in use, together with some of the complex locomotive diagrams then operating.

At Leicester Belgrave Road the surviving traffic, summer only excursions to the East Lincolnshire coastal resorts featured Colwick based B1 locomotives. Moving north we saw a B17 Sandringham and other ex LNER classes working rerouted cross country services from East Anglia to the Midlands following closure of the M and GN.

The ex GC route south of Leicester was a favourite location showing many ex-LNER classes working both local and through passenger services and also the fish trains from Hull and Grimsby.

The now closed Swannington branch and the route towards Coalville featured showing pre grouping classes still in service because of restricted clearances on the former.

The area around Seaton Junction showed the complex track layout with the Uppingham and Stamford routes parallel with each other, the former featuring an ex LT and S tank engine on the one coach service and also services on the nearby Harringworth Viaduct.

At Market Harborough the interchange between the ex LMS and LNWR routes was seen and also featured some rail tours in the area including an RCTS tour starting from Leicester with haulage including a Black 5 and Fowler 2-6-4 tank engine. .

Monday 11th November 2019

’50 Years of Scottish Railways – Part 3′

David MacLean

Our guest on November 11th David MacLean, a retired senior signalling engineer, presented 50 years of Scottish Railways Part 3.

The History of the Highland main line from Perth to Inverness was described together with the line via Forfar to Montrose.

Scenes at Perth and its approaches included Class 26 Locomotives on snow plough duty, a Scotrail HST passing the now derelict marshalling yard south of the station and Pacific steam hauled services on the three hour expresses from Aberdeen to Glasgow.

The Forfar route featured a Class 40 farewell special and a Class 50 hauled pick up freight on the penultimate day of operations.

The signalling infrastructure on the Highland line north of Stanley Junction was shown, ranging from traditional block to the latest in cab digital, together with signalling operating centres. The route is a mix of single and double track and has recently been upgraded to eliminate many of the old boxes, some of which are listed structures.

A variety of trains featured in the picturesque landscape and stations in all weathers including the Tesco train to Inverness, the overnight sleeper service hauled by a pair of Class 73s and also passenger and engineering trains at Drumochter and Slochd summits. The line from Dingwall to Kyle of Localsh was featured with many views in the picturesque surroundings.

Both pre and post privatisation services featuring Class 26 and 37 locomotives with the occasional charter and enthusiast specials were seen. The signalling was described with the perhaps unique arrangement at Achnasheen where one person operated both boxes on the same shift. Also mailbags left at the station were collected by the rural bus and conveyed to many remote locations.

The terminus at Kyle showed changes to the harbour infrastructure over the years.

Another excellent presentation.

Wednesday 6th November 2019

‘Lt. Col. Holman F. Stevens – The Man and His Empire’

Hugh Smith

On 6th November our guest was Hugh Smith to present Lt. Col Holman F. Stephens-The Man and his Empire.

He was born in 1868 and trained as a civil engineering assistant with The Metropolitan Railway and with the passing of the Light Railways Act of 1896 proceeded to build, manage and operate small networks scattered throughout England and Wales which he controlled from his office in Tonbridge.

The act included a maximum speed of 25mph,.axle loading not to exceed 12 tons and level crossings protected by cattle grids and not gates. Motive power and rolling stock were all second hand and signalling infrastructure the bare minimum with some narrow and standard gauge routes built.

The Rother Valley route, which is now the preserved Kent and East Sussex line, together with the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railway were two of his many achievements.

Lines such as the Burry Port and Gwendreath Valley and East Kent (closed in 1985) were constructed to exploit the local coalfield traffic.

Other routes including The Ashover Light Railway and North Devon and Cornwall were converted from narrow to standard gauge to carry the local mineral traffic.

His Army commission was in the reserve and although called up in 1914 he returned to running his rail network two years later. In 1923 he became manager of the Ffestiniog and the Welsh Highland but most of his lines gradually closed over the coming years. However some still survive to the present day including parts of the Gunnislake branch in Cornwall and The Western Point route in Cheshire where a Class 66 was seen unloading its train at the waste terminal.

He never married and died in 1931 but a mock of his office can be seen on the Kent and East Sussex Railway at Tenterden.

Monday 14th October 2019

‘T’ebay – Part 2’

Dave Pearce

On 14th October we welcome back Dave Pearce from Norwich for the second instalment of his T’eBay presentations. All the images were sourced from the web-based eBay sales platform. A mix of colour and black and white images were interspersed with some musical and poetic anecdotes. Scenes covered a Duchess at Marylebone on a diverted LMS train whilst Euston was being rebuilt, 70014 ‘Iron Duke’on the Wembley Stadium loop. LNER, LMS and GWR motive power were abundant as we travelled the Great Central north from Woodford Halse to Nottingham and Sheffield. We were then entertained with a series of shed shots, many from the camera of Jim Carter, affectionately known as ‘The Footplate Cameraman’. These includes images taken from high vantage point such as light towers, signals and even coaling plants.

Opening the second half of the evening close calls for a soaking showed classic shots of trains picking up water on troughs on the main line. Moving west, the Cambrian was not forgotten and featured sea defence work where the wagons were lifted off the track by crane and their rock contents tipped sea-side. The rocks being too heavy to man handle into place. To emphasise that not all images can be purchased for a song an image of the Cambrian Coast Express sold for a mouth watering £135.00 in August 1918. Not purchased we add by our presenter!

Moving on, to keep within the scope of the title, Shap, Tebay and the west coast line to Carlisle were not forgotten with dramatic scenes of bankers assisting heavy northbound passenger and freight trains. We then headed south towards Crewe for some fascinating images through the industrial north-west. At Crewe a 1960s image showed the Duke (71000) and Duchess of Gloucester (46225) standing side by side. Who could have foreseen that all those years ago? Some RCTS Railtours featured, as did the 1938 ‘Dunlop Jubilee’ works outing. The finishing cameo’s covered shots in roundhouses, Britannia Pacific’s, Franco Crosti 9Fs at work and in store and a series of consecutively numbered locos alongside each other along with several images from the Eric Bentley collection.

If you thought that paying £135 for an image was excessive then spare a thought for the buyer of a superb colour slide of Class 21s on Eastfield shed that went under the hammer at a staggering (few pennies) over £500.00. Such is the interest in our hobby!

The appreciative audience thanked Dave, also commenting on his eloquent, enthusiastic and often humorous commentary. We look forward to Episode 3. Thanks are also expressed to Rob Wood for his assistance in compiling these notes.

Monday 9th September 2019

‘That Was the Week, That Was – 1963’

Geoff Plumb

On 9 September our guest was Geoff Plumb to present ‘That Was the Year That Was-1963′.

After seeing childhood family images, it was clear how his enthusiasm for railways and photography developed.1963 started with scenes at Princes Risborough in the snow and we moved to many familiar railway locations including the Bristol and Severn Tunnel Junction areas and also Eastleigh Works where the scrap line was seen.

The now preserved 4472 Flying Scotsman on its debut railtour from Paddington to the Cambrian Lines was shown and this area together with the extensive Welsh Narrow Gauge network featured prominently during the evening.

Many of the iconic steam classes seen included Kings, Halls, Manors, Coronations, Scots, Stanier and BR Standard classes together with East Coast Pacifics and Warships, Deltics and the Blue Pullman.

The last weeks of steam at the southern end of the ECML at Hadley Wood was shown and also the electrification work on the WCML in the Hatch End area.

The Midland Railway route through the scenic Millers Dale area featured a variety of both steam and diesel hauled workings.

Geoff had an RCTS family background and participated in many of the society railtours of that period, including a poorly steaming West Country from St Pancras to Derbyshire, a tour of the Bristol Docks and the ex-LMS routes in the area, excursions to the works at Derby, Crewe, Horwich and Swindon recording the sad sight of locomotives being scrapped although King 6000 was at Swindon for preservation, and also a brake van tour from Goole to the Isle of Axholme railway, with some of the images on these tours taken from the footplate. The industrial steam and diesel workings featuring many fireless locomotives were also shown.

An excellent presentation which is highly recommended to other branches.

Monday 8th April 2019

‘West Country in 1960s and1970s’

John Cashen

On April 8th , John Cashen presented his talk “West Country in 1960s and 1970s” comprising steam and diesel in black and white and colour.

His talk was divided into three sections:-

(a) Bristol – Templecombe, Dorset and East Devon

(b) Exeter – Penzance

(c) The Withered Arm, and Exeter – Bristol

He commenced with steam locomotives at the Bristol M.P.Ds followed by the Somerset and Dorset featuring 58086, 53800 and 53809 on Bath Green Park M.P.D. GWR locos 2219 and 3216 on Highbridge to Evercreech Junction trains. The RCTS and SLS Farewell Tours of S and D in 1966 with 34013 and 48706 respectively at Shepton Mallet were seen.

With the aid of a map, John explained that S and D trains had to be banked into and out of the main station at Templecombe.

This was followed by S.R.steam hauled trains between Poole and Weymouth. The unusual practice of reversing up trains into the platform at Dorchester South prior to 1970 was highlighted.

Many S.R. Pacifics on passenger trains and S15s on freights featured on the main line from Templecombe to Exeter with 30583 on Lyme Regis branch, 41292 and 80067 on Sidmouth Junction to Sidmouth/Exmouth. Departmental DS 219 at Broad Clyst and Z class 30951 on Exmouth Junction shed.

Many diesel hauled trains with Class 47,50,52 and “Peaks”were seen at Exeter St Davids including a pair of Hastings units Nos 1033 and 1031 on a train to Brighton. He highlighted the different track layout from that of today. Some very pleasant views of trains passing Dawlish and Newton Abbot with excellent views of stations, M.P.D. and Works were shown. Thereon appeared diesel hauled trains on the South Devon banks in pleasant settings before reaching Plymouth and on to Penzance with DMUs on the various Cornish branches.

Predominately S.R. Pacifics and Moguls featured on the “Withered Arm” at Wadebridge, Padstow, Halwill Junction, llfracombe, Barnstaple Junction (interesting view of station and layout from the west), and Okehampton.

Finally visits made to Tiverton Junction showing Hall class No 4902, 1442 on plinth in Tiverton Town Centre and passenger train at Hemyock with one LNER coach. He finished by showing Bristol Bath Road shed with diesel Bristol Pullman and a similar shot at night followed by views of the scrap yard.

A most enjoyable evening with each photo well documented with location and the loco numbers specified.

Thursday 4th April 2019

‘A Tribute to the Late Hugh Ballentyne’

John Chalcraft

On 4 April John Chalcraft presented ‘A tribute to the late Hugh Ballantyne’.

The images were mainly black and white from 1952 to the mid-sixties and showed the rail network countrywide, including some of the secondary and rural routes such as the Mildenhall Branch, many of which are now just a memory.

From the West Country to East Anglia and then to Scotland via the West Coast we saw a selection of high quality images taken from 1952 onwards with steam traction dominating the scene. Hugh had favourite locations and workings including Dainton Bank, Twerton Tunnel and Swindon Works running in turns, and many of the locomotive depots open during the period, both large and small, including the one road sheds at Tewkesbury and Brimscombe.

On the Great Western the last King, 6018, was seen together with withdrawn V2 locomotives awaiting scrapping at Swindon Works, new diesels at Radyr and also SR traction at Goring troughs.

On the ECML a new Deltic was seen on Holloway Bank together with Pacific and freight traction at Grantham including a visit to the loco depot and the last day on the Immingham trams was also shown.

We ventured north to Scotland with familiar scenes at Shap and Beattock with banking engines working hard on their customary duties and the little known Killin Branch in the Highlands also featured.

The final sequence was The Somerset and Dorset route with many well known landmarks shown including the station and loco depot at Bath Green Park, the viaduct at Midford and the pre-closure special workings. All images were well documented and also showed the surrounding railway infrastructure as far as possible.

This was an excellent presentation and is highly recommended to other branches.


Monday 11th March 2019
Swindon Works -The Golden Years- Plus [From 1914]
Rev Canon Brian Arman (Bristol)

On March 11th Society President Brian Arman paid a return visit to present Swindon Works-The Golden Years plus(1914 onwards) .
We started with The Trip, a series of special trains run for employees during the works closure in the first week of July. The varied destinations included St Ives, Falmouth,Tenby and Birkenhead with others opting for day trips to places like Weston-Super-Mare.
During the Great War the works was heavily involved in the manufacture of Field Guns, munitions and also the conversion of coaching stock as ambulance trains for the transportation of casualties. Also some employees made the ultimate sacrifice on the battlefield especially in the 1916 Battle of The Somme.
Post war much of the GWR rolling stock fleet was in a run down state and with the grouping, more run down stock was inherited from the smaller companies, some of it out of use for many years. Charles Collett replaced George Churchward as CME in 1922 and endeavoured to reorganise the way overhauls were undertaken in order to minimise the period in works, sometimes having to repair stock before it was replaced. A royal visit in 1924 by the King and Queen was featured with the King being permitted to drive Castle Class Loco 4082 Windsor Castle from the works to the station. Collett was responsible for much updating of the GWR Locomotive fleet and introduced the Castles, Kings and Halls to replace earlier designs, as well as tank engines for South Wales rural and urban services in the region.
The locomotive exchange trials of 1925 and 1948 were shown including a Class A1 at Newton Abbot in 1925 and a King at Wakefield Westgate in 1948.

Unfortunately we ran out of time to complete the presentation so Brian will return next year.

Last updated: 16th January 2020