Meeting Reports


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: 19th December 2019