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LOCOMOTIVE CLUB of GREAT BRITAIN
BEDFORD BRANCH

Indoor Meetings

Our indoor meetings are enjoyed by both LCGB members and guests 13 times a year.
All railway enthusiasts are welcome. Only August is without a meeting.
Subjects vary enormously – with our guest speakers treating their subjects in a variety of styles varying from light-hearted to technical (but not too technical!)

Meetings (unless otherwise stated) are held at St Johns Church Hall, St John’s Street, Bedford MK42 0DL     19.30 - 22.00
  Click for Map and Rail Links
Admission £1.00 Members, £2 Non-members (includes free tea or coffee)Refreshments are served at half-time.


You can buy new and second-hand books and other items at all indoor meetings. We also visit exhibitions, open days etc.

Local Information

Bedford Tourist Information St Paul’s Square, MK40 1SJ
Click here for website

Meeting Progam

[Tuesdays unless otherwise stated]

2020

All meetings cancelled until further notice

Meeting Summaries





3 March 2020 – Hatfield to Dunstable – Btyan Cross

                                                                                         by Chris Foren

As the advertised speaker was unable to attend due to illness, his place was taken at short notice by Branch Fixtures Secretary Bryan Cross, who presented an illustrated journey from Hatfield to Dunstable with a diversion via the erstwhile Bedford Central box as an opportunity to include pictures of Garratts.

The majority of the images were by Harold Clements, supplemented by others from Bryan’s own collection. Given that the line was part of the Great Northern Railway it was inevitable that the representative selection of rail traffic illustrated was dominated by N7 tanks, though some tender engines appeared.


.This gave the speaker the unenviable task of differentiating between J3s and J4s, not easy when ones prime interests lie elsewhere.

As the journey reached Luton the motive power on view was leavened by ex-LNWR coal tanks. Although most of the photographs dated from early times, there were examples from closer to living memory and a couple of Cravens dmus appeared to mark the then imminent end of passenger services.

The smart industrial tanks working at Vauxhalls were not forgotten and neither were station buildings, goods sheds and signal boxes. A highlight for many present was the inclusion of aerial photographs from the Aerofilms collection and some maps and diagrams helped to clarify the complexities of track layouts.

The audience, seldom silent, made some useful contributions to the speaker’s knowledge. The journey was terminated at Chaul End due to late running but this reporter will not be surprised if it resumes at a later date.

 


4 February 2020 – Around the Regions in the 60s – Phil Wood

                                                                                         by Chris Foren

The Branch welcomed the return of Phil Wood after an absence of no fewer than 17 years!

Phil toured the country extensively in the 1960s with a succession of cameras, the first of which was a Brownie 127. By paying return visits to many places, far and wide, he was able to capture the rapidly changing scene on film, mostly in black and white.


The range of his subjects was truly vast, from the profusion of Gresley Pacifics at various locations on the East Coast main line to several oddities tucked away in sheds, many never to turn a wheel again.

One notable capture was that of the Departmental diesel ED3, at Bedford shed. Phil certainly made the most of his expeditions and the opportunities that they presented. Who would have turned down the chance of a footplate ride on 92203? Not he!

As the 1960s wore on the opportunities to ride behind unusual classes to unfamiliar places proliferated, thanks in part to the LCGB. Perhaps the most notable of these was the Wandering 1500. This was the era of major closures, some more controversial than others and including the Somerset and Dorset.

The transition from steam to diesel soon threw up some unexpected casualties, such as the D8400 series which looked most forlorn when photographed at Stratford. This was a fascinating evening which attracted many unfamiliar faces. The Branch is most grateful to Phil for a worthy entertainment.


7 January 2020 – Derbyshire’s Railways Revisited – Richard Crane

                                                                                         by Chris Foren

We welcomed once again our good friend Richard Crane, this time with his presentation “Derbyshire’s Railways Revisited”.

Thoughtfully, Richard had prepared maps to help put the various rail routes into context and supplemented them with photographs which covered a high proportion of the stations and other landmarks that he described.

In choosing the pictures he did his best to cover a broad a selection of motive power and traffic. Amid the late LMS designs and locos of Midland origin which predominated were also found the pioneer pair of diesels 10000 and 10001, the Fell with its flailing rods, the Woodhead electrics, the Peaks and whatever else could be found hauling coal, the raison d’etre of much of the rail network and its staple traffic for so long.

Some stations, such as Derby, were rebuilt more often than others. Others, including the once significant Trent, became but a memory and vanished almost without trace. Although the Midland Railway was the dominant player in Derbyshire, there was a significant presence of other companies such as the Great Northern and of course the Great Central. Many sheds have also been swept away, save for Toton and the old roundhouse at Derby which lives on as part of Derby College.

As is invariably the case with this presenter, the evening was entertaining and informative evening and the Branch looks forward to another visit from its former Secretary in due course.


17th December 2019 – Christmas Films & Dinner

                                                                                         by Chris Foren

The Christmas meeting once again welcomed Frank Banfield and his film projector. It is unwise to anticipate just what Frank will choose from his priceless collection.

This time he majored on the 1940s, eschewing the BTF collection in favour of much less familiar specimens such as “Scotch Express” narrated by John Snagge. Humour was injected by some W C Fields slapstick and a cartoon starring Tweety Pie and Sylvester. Neither of these had the remotest thing to do with railways but so what?

Dinner, supplied as usual by the local chippie, was served at tables in the main hall and projection continued as munching took place. All too soon 10 pm crept up on us. The Branch may well do something like this again.


3rd December 2019 -- Norfolk and Suffolk Joint Railway Pt 1 -- Brian Sullivan

                                                                                         by Chris Foren

Brian Sullivan, a regular visitor to the Branch, set about demystifying the complex story of the Norfolk and Suffolk Joint Railway, which consisted of two distinct sections. It was owned by the Great Eastern and the Midland and Great Northern. The northern section ran from a separate station in North Walsham to Mundesley, opening in 1898, with an extension to Cromer Beach completed in 1906.

The Great Eastern had reached Cromer High in 1877 but no connection was made between the two lines until 1888 when a spirit of co-operation between the companies emerged. Over the years there were closures. The first to go was the extension from Mundesley to Cromer in 1953, followed in 1964 by the section from North Walsham to Mundesley. All that remains is the connection to Cromer Beach. As is so often the case there has been building development since the closures.

Brian accompanied the lucid explanation with an impressive and selection of photographs which covered the stations and other infrastructure well. Those depicting trains gave a good impression of the successive generations of locomotives and trains, majoring on the commonplace while not overlooking the unusual: of particular note was a shot of a V3 tank on a portion of the Broadsman.

The presentation was appreciated warmly by those present, who will be pleased to know that Brian is due to return next year with the second part of the story


5th November 2019 -- The Last Years of Steam Around The East Midlands -- Michael Clemens

                                                                                         by Chris Foren

The Branch welcomed Michael Clemens for the first time:- he is the custodian, not only of his late father Jim Clemens’s photographic collection but also those of some of Jim’s friends.

lFrom a very young age Michael was taken by his father on many SLS, LCGB and RCTS enthusiasts’ specials, covering much of the country in the process. Fortunately for posterity, one of Jim’s friends kept a diary, which has proved invaluable in helping to identifying dates and locations up to half a century after the event.

The territory covered in Michael’s presentation was described loosely as the East Midlands. Starting at the natural boundary of Hatton Bank in 1962 the virtual tour moved swiftly on via Fenny Compton to Banbury and the uncommon sight of a West Country acting as station pilot.

As it progressed it embraced such half –forgotten locations as Buckingham, Blisworth, Daventry, Towcester, Olney and Dunstable North. At Irchester the ironstone railways were encountered and at Kettering Cohen’s scrapyard. Main lines were by no means overlooked, with action at Stoke Bank and on the Great Central.

Distinctive motive power shown included the two Buckingham single railcars, a Dukedog on part of a railtour and the diesel prototype 10800, captured at Brush in Loughborough. After tea there was a sequence of extracts from cine films, including footage of a Baby Deltic working! The fuller house than usual clearly enjoyed the presentation. The Branch has already invited Michael to visit again.


22 October 2019 – AGM followed by The Chairman Entertains

                                                                                         by Chris Foren

Attendance at the Branch AGM was predictably low at 23 people. Reviewing the past 12 months, Chairman Bill Davies paid tribute to founder and Club President Jack Turner, who passed away early in the year.

As usual, he thanked the Committee and other helpers for their contributions to the running of the Branch. Attendance at meetings had generally held up in the face of a downward trend.

The Committee was re-elected en bloc, leaving the post of sales officer still vacant and the appointment of a new President still to be considered. Including discussion of an updated constitution the formal business was completed in 40 minutes.

After tea Bill Davies donned his less serious hat and shared some wide ranging reflections on such topics as a holiday in India and unfortunately worded signboards mixed generously with anecdotes from his time as a driver.

The fact that many of the audience had seen and heard some of the material before in no way diminished the volume of laughter.

Bill has a truly enviable ability to amuse an audience merely by telling it like it is, homing in on the absurd and holding it up to ridicule. A little light relief never hurt anybody.


1 October 2019 – Railways of Northants II, The Edges -- Robin Cullup

                                                                                         by Chris Foren

The advertised speaker was unable to come due to illness. In his place the Branch welcomed Robin Cullup with the second part of his survey of the railways of Northamptonshire.

He called this instalment “Nibbling at the edges”, an allusion to those lines which crept gingerly across the county boundary. Such is the nature of the network that Robin was able to deal with nearly every line in chronological order of its opening, save for a couple where it was clearer for all to deal with them out of turn.

Robin had assembled a remarkable set of photographs which illustrated by far the majority of key locations on each line. Many of the photographers whose work was included were well known, that of Tommy Tomalin being particularly distinctive. The work of Mr C W Harris, a railway employee, featured prominently.

Whether by accident or design the portrayal of the motive power used on the lines examined was uncannily representative, with Garratts a particularly welcome sight and modern traction also included.

There is of course more to a railway than its locomotives and many of the distinctive buildings, signals and lineside features were included, as were the finer details of traffic working. Summer Saturdays always produced some oddities, with neither the locomotives nor some of the rolling stock being in the first flush of youth.

The Branch thanks Robin for another fascinating presentation and looks forward keenly to future instalments


3 September 2019 -- Reflections on the Changing Railway – Adrian Shooter

                                                                                         by Chris Foren

Adrian Shooter spoke informally without screen or projector about his long and varied career. He began in 1970 as an apprentice at Bamford of Uttoxeter, moving swiftly on to Derby works and the RTC before a spell of activity sampling at Crewe which gave him plenty of time to learn from the staff.

By 1974 he had become Area Maintenance Engineer at Bletchley before moving to Heaton to play a key part in introducing the HST fleet and changing outdated working methods. Every upward move was illustrated by a series of anecdotes which showed how out of date working methods were on parts of the railway.

He really came into his own when appointed Area Manager at St Pancras. Here he oversaw the introduction of driver only operation on the new electric railway and demonstrated the importance of everyone – customers and staff like - knowing who was in charge.

At the end of 1987 he was charged with making Red Star Parcels work. Thanks to the recession of 1990 and the innovative approach of Fedex the business ceased to be viable. Then came the Royal Mail contract. Despite more efficient station working much of the business ended up on road.

There is so much more of Adrian’s career that time did not permit him to describe. In thanking the speaker for a fascinating evening of the type that only a career railwayman can give, Branch Chairman Bill Davies expressed the hope of hearing the rest of the story before long.


2 July 2019 -- My Early Days at Top Shed -- John Morgan

                                                                                         by Chris Foren

The branch welcomed John with his presentation “Early Days at Top Shed”. John’s lengthy railway career began as a 15 year old cleaner after he had answered a newspaper advertisement for firemen, only to find that he was too young. With his 16th birthday came a two week induction course.

As far as formal instruction went that was it. The rest of his learning was on the job, much of it being achieved the hard way. Inevitably some mistakes were made but fortunately many of them led to humorous anecdotes for succeeding generations to enjoy. There was the time that the front vacuum pipe of an N2 came adrift on a 1 in 32 gradient, calling for John to inch his way precariously along the narrow running board and re-attach it while the train was still moving.

Another day the coal merchant at Totteridge did not receive the wagon of coal that he was expecting and persuaded John and his driver to empty the bunker of their loco as a stop-gap. Having to stop for a blow-up was always a cause for derision in the messroom.

After the break John took questions from the audience. Not for him were the complexities of PowerPoint: he spoke with minimal reference to notes.

In thanking John for an excellent evening, Branch Chairman Bill Davies dropped a none too subtle hint that more of the same would be most welcome.rtaining and the Branch looks forward to inviting him back – not, please note, because it is desperate for speakers!


4 June 2019 – Crossing the Border – Denis Lovett

                                                                                         by Chris Foren

Dennis returned to the Branch, this time with his latest presentation only completed earlier that day!

Dennis has made the Borders pretty much his own in terms of railway history and has now tackled the North British line from Edinburgh to Berwick.

As has become the custom the presentation opened with a sequence of pictures of towns served by the line and its branches, accompanied by the almost hypnotic pipe tune “Highland Cathedral”.

With his usual methodical approach Dennis described the route, beginning at Edinburgh and taking in the branches on the way. His concise histories of the stations and depots were illustrated by many of the photographs unearthed for the latest Middleton Press book and some from his own collection.

Apart from passengers, two commodities dominated the traffic, coal and grain, but it was notable how short-lived were some of the branches and wayside stations as a result. More recently commuter traffic into and out of Edinburgh has grown and there are plans to revive some stations and reintroduce local services.

The chequered history of Penmanshiel Tunnel was not overlooked and it was noted how much more quickly rail development projects can be completed in Scotland than south of the border.

As with previous presentations by this speaker the evening was informative and entertaining and the Branch looks forward to inviting him back – not, please note, because it is desperate for speakers!


7th May 2019 -- The Ecclesbourne Valley Railway John Hastings-Thomsonton

                                                                                         by Chris Foren

John Hastings-Thomson visited the Branch on 7/5 to introduce the Ecclesbourne Valley Railway. As the branch from Duffield to Wirksworth, it opened in 1867 and might have become an alternative route to Manchester but for history.

After the passenger service was suspended in 1947 the line relied on Middle Peak Quarry and a few specials for traffic until stone traffic ceased in 1989.

The preservation process began in 1994 with the formation of WyvernRail, followed in 1997 by the Ecclesbourne Valley Railway Association.

From 2000 the track was cleared and made fit for use, entailing the replacement of 7,000 sleepers. The first passengers were carried in 2004 in a bubble car.

Since then other dmu cars have been acquired, three industrial tanks have been restored to steam and five Mk 1 coaches sourced and largely rebuilt.

John emphasised the role and importance of volunteers in carrying out the many tasks required to create an operational preserved railway, though professionals are brought in where certain tasks are beyond the volunteers. The help of the Army Logistics Corps in laying a new turnout was particularly welcome. From the first share issue of £750,000 in 2002, when the minimum requirement was raised in 48 hours, fundraising has been a constant activity and an equally constant necessity: the new station building at Wirksworth will account for £500,000.

The Branch thanks John for a fascinating presentation.


CLUB ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING – BEDFORD – 27 April 2019

The main Club’s AGM was held in St John’s Church Hall, Bedford on Saturday 27 April.

Before the AGM the Club Management Committee met with Branch Officials.
The AGM was naturally attended by many members of LCGB.


A most useful day during which ideas and information on a wide range of subjects were exchanged
and two appointments of Officials occurred:-

Charles Firminger was appointed President.
A vacancy occurred due to the death of Jack Turner four months ago.
Charles was previously one of three Vice-Presidents.

Bill Davies was appointed Branch Liaison Officer.

This follows the continued concerns over previous incumbent Robin Patrick’s health.

Club and Branch Officials (Photo Brian Cross)


16 April 2019 – Quiz versus LCGB St. Albans and RCTS Northampton

                                                                                         by Chris Foren

The Branch welcomed contestants from RCTS Northampton and LCGB St Albans on for what may well be the final encounter in the long-running Ashes quiz.

In recent years it has suffered from declining attendances and diminished enthusiasm, both for taking part and setting questions.

Presenters Bill Davies and Bryan Cross had assembled a wide ranging set of questions and accompanying graphics.

Questions were put to each team in turn and passed on to the next team in the absence of a correct answer. Though necessary, this format was a hostage to fortune given the poor acoustics of the venue.

It was to the credit of the compilers that few arguments were generated by the questions themselves. The final scores were Northampton 78
Bedford 45
St Albans 14

The Ashes and other trophies were presented and that was it. No doubt they will be kept in a safe place just in case.



2nd April 2019 -- The Romney Hythe & Dymchurch Railway - Peter Groom

Peter Groom returned to the Branch on 2 April 2019, this time with one of his lesser-known presentations:- “The Romney Hythe and Dymchurch Railway”.

This is one of Peter’s favourite lines and he made a masterful job of explaining the twists and complexities of its history.

Captain Jack Howey, a wealthy racing driver and landowner, coveted his own 15 inch gauge railway and, after a brief dalliance with the Ravenglass and Eskdale, chose the territory between New Romney and Hythe on the advice of Henry Greenly. The first section opened in 1927 with an extension the following year. Greenly served as chief engineer until his abrupt and unexplained departure in 1929.

As Romney Marsh was perceived as a prime target for invasion the railway was requisitioned during World War 2 and an armoured train deployed regularly. On cessation of hostilities the railway reopened but patronage peaked around 1960.

After Howey’s death in 1963 ownership of the railway changed several times without noticeable benefit to its finances. Before the break Peter showed some rare contemporary photographs of the railway featuring such notables as Nigel Gresley and HRH the Duke of York.

After tea he showed colour slides - a rarity for this presenter - of the locomotives, stations and the far from camera-shy bar car. As is his wont Peter was pleased to explain the detail differences in the motive power fleet. Once again the Branch was educated and entertained. It thanks Peter for another worthwhile evening.


5 March 2019 -- From Railways to Royalty -- Jack Boskett

On 5 March Jack Boskett visited the Branch for the first time.

It was clear from the opening salvo of a corporate style video that Jack’s photographic interests range far and wide with railways forming but a part.

Jack, from Tewkesbury, took up photography at the age of five. Although largely self-taught, he benefited from the stern mentoring of his father and set up in business as a photographer at 19, applying innovative techniques to such areas as weddings, fashion and architecture and making the most of every opportunity laid before him.

Soon he was offered commissions and retainers from businesses and magazines, some quite challenging, and made the most of the favourable impression that a smart suit often conveys.

This led to privileged access to formal occasions, in many cases involving the Royal Family and senior political figures. In turn this led to further opportunities for his work to be seen.

On one notable occasion the same image appeared on the front page of the Daily Telegraph and page 12 of the Times, which perhaps goes to show that if you do not ask you do not get!

The quality and scope of the images laid before us by Jack can only be described as remarkable and it is salutary to note that he was the youngest person present by a significant margin. This is something on which the Club would do well to reflect.


5 February 2019 -- Strictly Freight Only (Part 2) -- Brian Ringer

                                                                                         by Chris Foren

Brian returned to the Branch with the second part of his presentation “Strictly Freight Only” on Tuesday 5 February 2019.

He began with a brief look at train ferries, their traffic and their origins as part of the supply chain to the Western Front. This was followed by a review of the structure of ra il freight at the time of sectorisation in 1984, by which time wagonload traffic was all but gone.

Privatisation reared its head in 1993, when train load freight was divided into three geographically based companies with the intention of fostering competition.

This went out of the window when all three were acquired by Ed Burkhardt’s Wisconsin Central under the EWS banner, followed soon afterwards by Railfreight Distribution and the short-lived rail operation of National Power.

Thanks to a competitive management buyout Freightliner remained independent and prospered by embracing international container traffic. Railtrack and its successor Network Rail fostered the growth of other operators, such as GB Railfreight and Colas, by offering regional contracts for civil engineering traffic and encouraging investment in new motive power.

Brian leavened his lucid explanation of the complex structure of the industry by well-chosen references to the roles that he played and illustrated key points with a fine selection of his own photographs, which had the undoubted merit of featuring viewpoints other than the all too common front three-quarter. The Branch thanks him for an instructive evening.


8th January 2019 -- Curtain Call - Richard Crane

                                                                                         by Chris Foren

This meeting began with a tribute to Club founder Jack Turner, who had died in December after a long period of ill-health. In his own tribute the speaker for the evening, Richard Crane, explained how Jack had expanded his own interest in railways.

Richard described his presentation, “Curtain Call”, as a manic run around the country to record the decline of steam. By way of disclaimer he explained that although closure dates were accurately recorded it was often difficult to pin down the dates of the last steam workings and many have only come to light subsequently.

Most of his trips were accomplished with weekly Rover tickets, often relying on waiting rooms for overnight accommodation. He would also sneak away from family holidays, leading on one occasion to a police search for him!

Richard examined the decline of steam methodically, with a well researched commentary complemented by a diverse selection of illustrations garnered from books, Colour-Rail and his own collection.

In turn he covered Kent, East Anglia, the North of Scotland, the West of England, Kings Cross, Bedford, Manchester, the Great Central and the Isle of Wight before taking in the final activity on the Cambrian, in the North-East, on the Southern and ultimately in the North-West in August 1968. Wherever possible Richard included a sunset slot.

This was an entertaining and informative evening and the Branch looks forward to another visit from its former Secretary in due course.