Sheffield Branch AGM + Robert Pritchard “Behind the Scenes”


Our February meeting commenced with the Branch AGM and a review of the past year.  Activities had followed the usual pattern with the successful addition of a summer observation day, the latter an exercise worth repeating in the year ahead.  A principal concern was the dwindling attendance at meetings (despite the branch numbers 'on the books' remaining steady) which in time would have a negative impact on finances: a possible adjustment of meeting times was suggested as a partial remedy.  There being no other nominations the members of the existing committee were re-elected to serve for another year.  Finally we paid tribute to Howard Turner, a founding member and stalwart of the Branch who had passed away in December and who will be sorely missed by all.


As the booked speaker for February was unfortunately not available, our branch fixtures secretary – Robert Pritchard gamely stepped in to cover.  We were treated to a breathtaking, nay whistle-stop (alas no whistle) tour of his extensive photographic records.  Robert is also the editor of ‘Today’s Railways’ (Platform 5) and is in the very enviable position of being able to visit the extensive railway scene, both in the UK and Europe.


The presentation was very much ‘behind the scenes’ during the last 15 years or so.  ‘Traincare’ and manufacturing sites featured heavily.  We saw Leeds Neville Hill depot open day in 2009, with HST’s, cl. 08 shunters and a nice shot of the naming ceremony of ‘The Railway Children’.  A view of Newport docks (Wales) saw the first cl. 70’s arriving in the country.  We then switched to the Siemens plant in Germany with new build cl. 380 destined for ScotRail.  A total contrast was then the scene at London New Cross depot with London Overground stock and a later view of their control centre.  A trip to Derby Works followed featuring cl. 379, ‘Electrostars’ and depot pilot cl. 08.  A particularly poignant shot for Sheffield members was the naming ceremony of an HST ‘’Peter Fox’’ by his widow Doreen.  Variety was certainly to the fore with a nice photo of ‘River Mite’ on the Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway.  A visit to the Trafford depot of Manchester’s Metrolink tram facility.  That doyen of the railway scene – Michael Portillo was seen at the location naming of 66742 ‘Port of Immingham’ in 2012.  Visits continued unabashed with the Siemens facility in Vienna, showing new sleeper stock destined for Russia.  Back to Derby we saw a host of classes 153, 156, 158 & 222.  Two favourite locations for Robert are Slovakia and the Czech Republic, as seen in his excellent photos.  At a pace we continued with shots of Plymouth (Laira), a Slovakian coal mine, Old Oak Common (the launch of Hitachi IET’s), Newport Docks (again) with the arrival of the last batch of cl.66’s.  Continuing, we saw the Ordsall chord in Manchester, Docklands Light Railway depot at London Becton, Siemens Northampton (cl. 350’s), Hitachi Italy (cl. 802 under construction for the GWR), Hope Valley cement works, Doncaster Carr Loco depot, DRS (Carlisle Kingmoor) , NET trams (Nottingham), the East Lancs Railway at Bury (classes 28 & 33), Mersey Rail and ‘Tramtown’ in Blackpool.  There was also a sprinkling of various cab rides being taken.


A nice final touch was to see the progress being made in the Sheffield area with the new build Standard class 6MT Clan 4-6-2 pacific ‘Hengist’ and LNER class B17 4-6-0 ‘Spirit of Sandringham’. A virtual treasure chest of photos of the highest quality with a commentary to complement it.