South Essex

Monday 20th May 2019

‘An Evening with Father’s Slides’

David Cross

Many members will be familiar with the work of Derek Cross; his pictures in Trains Illustrated may be recalled in the good old black & white days. Getting half-decent images in the UK back in the 1950s and 60s was challenging – the combination of poor light and slow films taxed even the best photographers. Colour added to the possibilities but was even more demanding.

We were indeed fortunate to sample the work of Derek, presented by his son David. He showed us a collection of colour slides covering steam and the early diesel era mostly, in Scotland.

It’s not just the motive power and rolling stock that attracts ones attention, the sights of signal gantries – at Aberdeen for instance – and immaculate stretches of permanent way were evocative of this bygone era. There was much to delight us in the images of steam locos, such as industrial types, J36s, K2s, Black Fives, Clans, Jubilees and Duchess pacifics for example. Sadly there were images of these “monsters” awaiting scrapping in close juxtaposition to scenes of them in revenue-earning service, resplendent in red livery. Scottish preserved engines were also in evidence and much more.

Some smoke effects were photographically impressive and David let us into a secret in that his father used to “encourage” the footplate crews in their efforts in this regard.

Some of the Modernisation Plan diesels reared their ugly heads (“beauty is as beauty does”). We also saw Glasgow scheme Blue Electrics and other more modern examples completed the picture.

Monday 15th April 2019

‘Island Treasure’

Colin Brading

Colin Brading set the scene of his presentation “Island Treasure”with a brief general history and geography of our subject – The Isle of Wight.In its heyday the island had a dense coverage of railways of 55 ½ route miles and 35 stations, quite a lot for a rural area 23 x 13 miles (150 sq miles).There seems to have been something of a Railway Mania in the 19thcentury, but by the turn of the century the original plethora of companies had coalesced into two.

Evidently the railways operated in quite a disorganised way and they were the subject of some ribaldry in the press and among the denizens of the island for the slowness of the trains. Under the Southern Railway however, a great improvement in efficiency took place.

The system was never profitable however, because of the great discrepancy between the peak demand in high summer and that in the rest of the year.The trains were popular among the many pre-war and post-war holiday makers and a delight for the enthusiast until the unfortunate end of steam on 31st December 1966.The 23 48-ton O2 0-4-4 tanks (Adams) were the mainstay of the loco fleet in the mid-20th century and were to be found hauling superannuated rolling stock garnered from elsewhere on the Southern.

What’s left of the system is now in the hands of very old LT tube stock.

However, there is a thriving preserved line that runs 5 ½ miles from Smallbrook Jcn. – Wooten. Here are to be found modern, Ivatt steam locos and visitors from other preserved lines. Steam galas are held annually.

Monday 18th March 2019

‘Member’s slides and Quiz’

Our booked speaker for 18 March 2019 was unavailable, so,
at short notice, an improvised programme was implemented, in the form of a
Members’ Slide Evening and a Quiz.

Our treasurer, Chris Ignatowicz, had us all racking our
brains when he announced that the title for his short presentation was to be ‘From
Venice to Rome by Narrow Gauge’. He had
us all fooled. It turned out that
Wenecja and Rzymu are the Polish versions of the Italian cities in question
linked by narrow gauge, and we saw pictures of quaint locos, including a
Pacific and 600mm gauge oddities in a TPO and snowplough at the museum.

Another stalwart, Geoff Brockett, followed on with one of
his collections of high quality photographs covering special and unusual
workings. His in-depth and inside
knowledge enables him to capture many examples of locos and rolling stock
turning up in surprising places – fortunately not surprising to Geoff. Most of his pictures in this presentation
were taken around London, but Geoff roams far and wide and we were treated to
rail tours, infrastructure trains, ECS – new stock deliveries and positioning
workings. It is perhaps surprising how
much non-revenue working there is. Many
and varied were the combinations of locos and stock that were featured in all
manner of corporate colours.

The evening was completed by a quiz that enabled members
to display their encyclopaedic knowledge of trains and railways, which they did
with much good-natured rivalry among the teams.

Monday 18th February 2019

‘Chemin de Fer de la Baie Somme’

Michael Bunn

For our 18 February meeting we had a splendid presentation on the Chemin de Fer de la Baie Somme given by Michael Bunn.

We were taken on a virtual trip to Picardy and shown the result of some decades of dedicated work by volunteers to rescue a disused pair of branch lines.One of the many impressive features is the co-operative work carried out between the French and their English compatriots from the Kent & East Sussex Railway – a great example of entente cordiale.Michael is an active member of both organisations.He has been visiting since 1993 and the twinning occurred in 1996.

The two branch lines lead separately from a junction with the Calais – Paris mainline at Noyelles-Sur-Mer, to the coast; one to Le Crotoy, the other via Saint-Valery Sur Somme to Cayeux-Sur-Mer.As the Somme silted-up over the years much land around the estuary was reclaimed, and it is along this terrain that the lines traverse, so gradients are fairly gentle.

French rural lines suffered like many in the UK, as traffic declined, from ‘bustitution’; however, these lines around the Somme have been redeveloped to provide a wonderful playground for gricers and the general public in search of an interesting day out.

The system has many interesting and in some cases, unique features, such as the mixed gauge (metre and standard) resulting in four rails.Another is the provision of turntables at terminal points.

A great amount of rolling stock has been acquired and renovated.These locos and carriages, wagons, etc. are all to be seen working along the lines giving a wonderful variety.

Festivals are arranged every few years during which a very intensive service is run.

A very significant factor has been the benign attitude of the local authority, which puts to shame that of some equivalent bodies in the UK. It is well worth a visit!

Last updated: 21st December 2019