Meeting Reports

North East (Newcastle) Zoom Thursday 14th March 2021

From Stone Blocks to Apps – The Tyne Valley Community Rail Partnership

Fiona Forsythe (TVCRP)

TVCRP’s Fiona Forsythe resumed Newcastle’s talks on Thursday 14th January presenting, “From Stone Blocks to Apps – The Tyne Valley Community Rail Partnership,” to a 40+ countrywide audience via Zoom. Working with statutory bodies, regional businesses of all scales, rail stakeholders, tourism industries and the public, the TVCRP aims to promote, strengthen and protect the role of the Tyne Valley railway between Newcastle, Hexham and Carlisle for residents, tourists, employees and service providers. Their successes to date are numerous and include the preservation of  the 1855-built booking hall at Haltwhistle, now used as a hub for regional educational and recreational activities for all ages, as well providing a showcase for the work of Thomas Edmondson of railway ticket fame, while the group’s Station Adopters at Blaydon recently won their MP’s Angel Award for an outstanding contribution to the local community during the pandemic. TVCRP is currently collecting memories and photographs about the wartime evacuation from Wallsend to the Haltwhistle area and welcomes contact from those involved so their experiences may be preserved for posterity. With outstanding links to the national network and the world’s first cross country railway as their focus, TVCRP looks forward to welcoming you to the area’s stunning scenery and 2000 years of history – the line parallels Hadrian’s Wall for most of its route –  which, like Thursday’s talk, is something not to miss once circumstances allow!

North East (Newcastle)  Thursday 13th March 2020

The Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway

Noel Coates

Noel Coates presented “The Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway” to a Newcastle audience of 22 on Thursday 12th March. Starting with the large, tiled map of the system that adorned Liverpool Exchange, and covering the period 1910-1925 when the company was at its zenith, we were taken on a splendid tour of all things L&Y from Freshfield to Goole and Liverpool to Hellifield. Only 24 of its 601 route miles were on level track with 134 miles steeper than the Midland’s 1 in 100 ruling gradient on the S&CR, requiring powerful locomotives to handle the coal traffic along with the freight generated by the cotton and woollen industries. Powerful 0-8-2T bankers were shown, as were Aspinall’s rugged 5’1” A Class 0-6-0s, though four other classes accounted for 85% of the 1650 strong fleet. Just 60 were pure express passenger locos, the Highflyer atlantics taking pride of place on the Blackpool to Manchester club trains for the captains of industry. Electrification was pioneered on the Liverpool-Southport line, while 1200v DC EMUs operated from Bury to Holcombe Brook during the Great War. Rolling stock, stations, goods depots, engine sheds, publicity and the company’s sea-going fleet all featured in an extremely enjoyable, diverse and interesting evening. We look forward to Noel’s return!


North East (Newcastle)  Thursday 13th February 2020

Prince of Wales – Brand New Steam for the 21st Century

David Elliott

David Elliott, the A1SLT’s Director of Engineering, presented “Prince of Wales – Brand New Steam for the 21st Century” at Newcastle on 13th February to the season’s largest audience, some of whom had travelled up to 120 miles to attend. David initially explained the rationale for the construction of an updated and improved version of the country’s most powerful steam passenger design and how it will be better suited commercially to operation on the main line than its stablemate, Tornado, despite having a lower maximum speed. Marketing of the new “product” will emphasise the loco’s design as experience has shown that members of the non-enthusiast public cannot always differentiate between Flying Scotsman and Tornado. PowerPoint was used to great effect to describe and explain CAD component design, as well the operation of 2007’s rotary cam valve gear, and how other design features have been updated to eliminate weaknesses found in the original six members of the class. Numerous, successful features will be shared with Tornado including ERTMS and the electrical circuits, which are expected to exceed the 2.5 miles of wire found in the A1. A truly outstanding evening, which concluded with a hint of things to come; what indeed will be the name of the successor to Bantam Cock and “Bantam Hen?”


North East (Newcastle)  Thursday 9th January 2020

North East Photographers Visit Scotland, Part One, Newcastle to Aberdeen

Richard Barber

Richard Barber presented North East Photographers Visit Scotland, Part One, Newcastle to Aberdeen, to a Newcastle audience of 28 on Thursday 9th January. Using images mainly from the Armstrong Railway Photographic Trust, superbly scanned by David Dunn, and supported by the collection housed in the Ken Hoole Study Centre at the Head of Steam, Darlington, we were treated to a journey of photographic excellence from Tyneside to the Granite City featuring the work of famous and not so well known 20th century cameramen. Diverting from the ECML near the Scottish border, we journeyed along rural byways via the Border Counties and reached Auld Reekie along the reopened Borders Railway. Shed visits to 64A, 64B and 65A followed, with sight of a Glasgow Blue Train in original livery as we continued north via Fort William, Mallaig, Crianlarich, Killin, Crieff, Stirling and Dundee to name but a few locations. Locos varied from an N.B. Atlantic at speed near Edinburgh to Pinza leaving Riccarton Junction, with as diverse a range of LNER and LMS motive power, large, medium and small as one could wish to see. Landscapes, details of the infrastructure and the associated industries were all seen in a talk that will be remembered for a very long time.


Newcastle Thursday 12th December 2019

Stately Trains and the Autocar

Stephen Middleton

Stephen Middleton, Chairman of the NER 1903 Electric Autocar Trust, presented “Stately Trains and the Autocar” to 24 members and visitors at Newcastle on 12th December. Starting in 1992 with ex GER no.8, the former saloon of Edward, Prince of Wales, Stephen reviewed the restoration of the coaches in the Stately Trains collection based at Embsay. We learned the reasons for the carriages’ acquisition and the stories, rich with anecdotes, of their restoration as they were added to the fleet, and how they are used today to generate income to sustain their continued preservation. The eight-year saga of the NER electric autocar followed, from rescue from a Yorkshire field to its return to service and subsequent receipt of the H.R.A.’s prestigious Manisty Award for its outstanding contribution to railway heritage. The break for seasonal refreshments – many thanks to all who contributed – was followed by the restoration of LSWR No. 17, Queen Victoria’s personal saloon used in 1887, her Golden Jubilee year. Now returned to its magnificent splendour, this and other Stately Trains carriages now routinely carry passengers on our preserved railways letting thousands of people enjoy the experience, as we did when learning about the work of Stephen and his colleagues.


Newcastle Thursday 14th November 2019

A Record for Posterity: Underground Haulage at Thoresby Colliery, Nottinghamshire 2015

Colin Mountford

Colin Mountford presented “A Record for Posterity: Underground Haulage at Thoresby Colliery, Nottinghamshire, 2015” at November 14th’s meeting in Newcastle, having been privileged to make an underground tour during its closing months, when Thoresby, Kellingley and Hatfield Main were the country’s last three working deep shaft mines. Three types of battery loco were in operation, ranging from the appropriately named 4-wheeled Pony class to 150hp Co-Cos built by Clayton Equipment. The Ponies were used to move materials, or coal to the shaft bottom some 2,267 feet below ground, while although confined to lines with gradients no steeper than 1 in 15(!), the Bo-Bos and Co-Cos were also used to haul man-riding trains. Features typical of surface railways abounded, ballasted track, catch points and sidings, though rusty rail heads on operative lines were indicative of locos’ rubber or composite tyres. Maintenance garages and the separate charging stations were shown, batteries being exchanged with similar proficiency to a Deltic engine at Doncaster to maximise availability and the mine’s earnings. Direct and endless rope haulages also featured, the latter being used to exchange the mine cars loaded with scrap metal collected subsurface from newly hewn coal. An excellent talk that recorded the end of an era, highly recommended for its rare, now historic content.


Newcastle Thursday 10th October 2019

Rail Baltica – a Look at the Railways and Developments in Eastern Europe

Phil Kirkland

On Thursday 10th October, Phil Kirkland spent his final evening before retirement after 47 years’ continual railway service presenting “Rail Baltica – a look at the railways and developments in Eastern Europe” to 27 members and visitors at Newcastle. Far from reflecting the inertia surrounding HS2, the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have taken advantage of substantial EU funding to build a new north-south standard gauge route through their countries, creating a high speed link with the rest of Europe, specifically designed to stimulate and help sustain their economies independently of the adjacent, former communist states. Traffic began along the first stage linking Poland with the Lithuanian border in October 2015 and the construction of phase two began earlier this year, which, by 2030, will link Tallinn with Warsaw and beyond, a subsequent option being an undersea tunnel to integrate Helsinki into the scheme. Phil most ably described and explained the requirements of this phenomenal project and how Latvian railways have successfully improved their infrastructure construction and maintenance techniques to produce permanent way that is second to none. We wish Phil and long and happy retirement, though we suspect he will still play an active part in railways’ development for years to come!


Newcastle Thursday 3rd October 2019

Newcastle Branch AGM and Members’ Night

Seventeen members attended the North East Branch (Newcastle) A.G.M. on Thursday 4th October, 30% more than last year. Newcastle’s and Darlington’s independent administrations have functioned successfully over the last twelve months, so it is expected the second half of the Branch A.G.M. in Darlington will also confirm this arrangement, retaining the shared accounting system and with the Sales Stand based in the Darlington area. The Secretary’s and Treasurer’s Reports reflected the strength of the branch, 2018-2019 attendances being 30% greater than the previous year, and with a further increase in reserves, due to the sustained, excellent work of the sales stand’s team led by Margaret Fraser. The current committee, Ms. Apperley and Messrs. Skinner, Snowball and Sweeting, was re-elected and joined by Keith Stewart, who has volunteered as Meetings Chairman. The members’ evening followed the refreshments, with thanks to Mrs Snowball for the ever-delicious, home-made cakes. Howard Forster reviewed the multiplicity of electric locos and EMUs seen in Newcastle, Keith Stewart took us from Totnes to Newcastle via Paddington, King’s Cross and Leeds using Hitachi’s Class 800s and new member, John Turnock, showed 21st century steam on Patagonia’s Esquel line. Thank you all for such an interesting and enjoyable evening, and to everybody who has contributed to our thriving year’s activity.


Newcastle Thursday 12th September 2019

An Introduction to the Maryport and Carlisle Railway

Mike Peascod

The Cumbrian Railways Association’s Mike Peascod began Newcastle’s indoor season on 12th September in fine style when he presented, “An Introduction to the Maryport and Carlisle Railway” to an audience of 27 members and visitors. Armed with one of the best PowerPoints your reviewer can remember, Mike explained the reasons for the line’s creation, being surveyed by George Stephenson in the 1830s and the first built fully in Cumberland, which capitalised on the burgeoning local coal industry’s need to export to Ireland. It also provided the final link for traffic to and from the coast of the Irish Sea for its neighbour, the Newcastle and Carlisle Railway, and enabled the movement of Cumbrian iron ore to Scottish furnaces. Fiercely independent, and able to return to profitability after a period of imprudent management, the M&CR remained independent even of its mighty neighbour, the LNWR, until 1923, with the founding Senhouse family retaining a place on the board throughout. Maryport’s docks had to be enlarged repeatedly in the 19th century to accommodate the ever growing traffic, which regularly generated double figure percentage dividends. With detailed coverage of each station along the line, its two private stations and both branches, locomotives, rolling stock and their CMEs, a great deal was covered in a most interesting and well-paced talk. Highly recommended.


Newcastle 9th May 2019

A D.M.U. Miscellany


Robert Warburton’s talk, “A D.M.U. Miscellany”, most ably concluded the Newcastle Branch indoor meeting programme on Thursday 9th May. As the prime movers for the country’s secondary services for over 50 years, D.M.U.s have seldom caught the limelight when compared to express passenger trains, and were unloved by many when they replaced steam at a time when branch line and secondary services still ran aplenty. Nevertheless, David’s talk abounded with character and nostalgia – whether in rural charm, suburbia or urban grime – as we were taken through their history and development from the GWR’s 1930s railcars onwards. Designs that ran on the Big Four’s lines showed the gradual evolution of their aesthetics and reliability, culminating in mass introduction via the 1955 Modernisation Plan. Nearly every B.R. class that operated or runs today was covered looking at variations in design, compatibility and liveries to reveal the enormous scale of their diversity. While some early 4-wheel designs could not haul a trailing load or cope with the vagaries of the British climate, others like the Metro-Cammell Class 101s were sufficiently widespread to become a national institution. A great evening, especially due to the breadth and depth of Robert’s memory of all things D.M.U.


Newcastle 11th April 2019

An Eighth Colour-Rail Journey


Although covering just a tiny sample of the 100,000 plus images from the company’s collection, Paul Chancellor’s presentation of “An Eighth Colour-Rail Journey” at Newcastle on 11th April most ably displayed the wealth of photographic talent to be found in this ever-growing collection.Using the year 1959 as a theme, locomotives bearing that number introduced the happenings on Britain’s railways in that year.Withdrawals of steam locomotives were gathering pace so we saw last members of numerous classes to remain in service, as well as the first withdrawals of others from all points of the compass, from humble 4-wheeled dock tanks, through GWR Halls and LNER A3s, to Gresley’s rebuilt 4-6-4, 10000.Conversely, steam locomotives were still being built and put into service, while the electric locomotive and DMU construction programmes gained even more momentum, introducing new examples of Stephenson inspired locomotives alongside what was then the latest technology, all to be seen at work and undergoing maintenance in often less than ideal conditions.The evening concluded by focussing on the traffic at a major location from each region, namely Euston, Reading, Doncaster, Waterloo and Haymarket, each showing their diverse types of traction in a series of excellent views.A most enjoyable evening!


Thursday 14th March 2019
The Peter Bland Collection, Part One

Newcastle’s season continued on 14th March when Bryan Cross gave a most enjoyable talk, “The Peter Bland Collection, Part One,” to an audience of 28. A civil engineer by profession, Peter also loved mechanical engineering and frequently used his work and considerable enthusiasm to gain access to many locations now long gone. We started in 1950 by looking at the varied industrial locos operated by the Port of London Authority, a particular gem being a Robert Stephenson 0-6-0 ST of 1902. The Gas Light and Coke Company’s enormous Beckton Gas Works system followed, featuring an even more eclectic range of 19th and 20th century steam on the lower and high level lines, even working in the benzole plant. No worries about health and safety in those days! The evening concluded with the first part of a detailed look at the Midland main line mainly in the latter days of steam, heading south from Bedford towards the capital. Although Peter preferred to record passenger trains, which provided an interesting array of motive power, some freight workings were shown bringing the sight of a Wellingborough Crosti 9F and the first Garratt to reach Bedford. A great evening; we look forward to Bryan’s return to continue the saga

Last updated: 11th January