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]


19th November (MONDAY!) - Away leg of the Ashes Quiz, at Northampton. 2.00 – 4.30pm so we all get an early night.
(Venue: Weston Favell Parish Hall, Booth Lane South, Weston Favell, Northampton. NN3 3EP)

4th December - 60s Steam on Shed
Instead of the advertised speaker, David Percival will visit with a selection of his slides.

18th December - Christmas Special
The lunatics take over the asylum with a seasonal mixture of food, films and photos.


8th January -- Curtain Call
Richard Crane follows the demise of steam from 1962 to 1968 in East Anglia, the South West, the Southern, the Western, the Midlands, Scotland and finally the North West.

5th February -- Strictly Freight Only (Part 2)
Brian Ringer continues the story of developments and change in the British railfreight scene over the last sixty years. He looks at the changes wrought to the industry by the run up to privatisation, the privatisation process itself and the changing patterns of traffic. Particularly notable is the change in the energy market and its significant impact on rail carryings.

5th March -- From Railways to Royalty
Jack Boskett describes and illustrates his interesting career as a professional photographer.

2nd April -- The Romney Hythe & Dymchurch Railway
Peter Groom presents an outline history of the RHDR, complemented by colour slides of more recent times

16th April -- Quiz (Home leg)
LCGB Bedford and RCTS Northampton compete yet again for a small casket of ashes from Ravenstone Wood Junction signal box. Plus a visiting team from LCGB St Albans.

27th April (Sat) LCGB Club AGM. (at St John’s Church Hall Bedford. Details will be notified in the Bulletin in 2019)

7th May -- The Ecclesbourne Valley Railway
John Hastings-Thomson is both a director and trustee of the Ecclesbourne Valley Railway Association and as such is well placed to give a volunteer’s view of transforming the Wirksworth branch into a preserved railway.

4th June -- Crossing the Border
Dennis Lovett explores the Berwick to Drem and Drem to Edinburgh lines. You’ve heard the talk, now buy the books, if they are ready

2nd July -- My Early Days at Top Shed
John Morgan reflects on the early days of his railway career as a cleaner and young hand fireman at Kings Cross Top Shed

13th August Annual summer trip to Bletchley

3rd September -- Reflections on the changing railway over the last 50 years
Adrian Shooter is chief executive of Vivarail. Tonight he looks back on his roles as Area Maintenance Engineer at Bletchley, Area Manager at St Pancras and much, much more!

1st October -- Engine sheds Part 8
Chris Banks returns with the next leg of his grand tour. With the aid of his prodigious slide collection he takes us from Manchester to Perth. As usual, the route will depend on which sheds can be illustrated and how well Chris knows his alphabet!

22nd October -- AGM and Off the Footplate.
Our annual outbreak of democracy is followed this year by 'Off the Footplate' in which Chairman Bill Davies visits many railway places of interest on his days off. Lookout, Rickshawrail and Phantasy Rail will feature.

5th November -- The Last Years of Steam Around The East Midlands
Michael Clemens presents films and slides by his late father Jim Clemens, including shots of bygone branches, the Midland, Stoke Bank, the Great Central, ironstone railways and much more

3rd December -- The Norfolk and Suffolk Joint Part 1
Brian Sullivan explores this joint venture by the M & G N and the GER and examines how much survives.

17th December -- Christmas Meeting
The customary home-grown entertainment with culinary accompaniment by the local chippy

Meeting Summaries

6 November 2018 – The Railways of Northamptonshire Part 1 – Robin Cullup

                                                                                         by Chris Foren

The Branch played host once more to Robin Cullup, this time presenting the first part of his look at the railways of Northamptonshire, based on an idea by the late Ian Lyman.

To bring some order to what could easily have become a complicated subject, Robin decided to examine each line in chronological order of opening, starting with the London and Birmingham and continuing with the Blisworth and Peterborough, opened in 1838 and 1845 resp ectively.

With the aid of an impressive collection of photographs contributed by an equally impressive roster of photographers, Robin gave a comprehensive overview of every station and all major engineering features.

Many of the photographs included trains, evoking memories of the lengthy formations, often double-headed, then considered necessary to handle the traffic on the West Coast main line and not a few adverse comments about the present day railway.

A notable variety of motive power was illustrated, particularly on the Blisworth – Peterborough section where a couple of LNER D16s rubbed shoulders with the almost ubiquitous Black Five and, in wartime, a borrowed Southern F1 4-4-0. Here and there was a glimpse of the unusual – a derailed 46207 with rather more onlookers at the recovery operation than would be tolerated now, a high capacity coal hopper red-carded with a hot box and evidence that milk was carried on the West Coast main line, barely recalled now.

The Branch thanks Robin for his hard work in assembling such an interesting and comprehensive presentation and looks forward to seeing future instalments in due course.

DINNER for BEDFORD BRANCH’S 60th ANNIVERSARY – 24 September 2018. 

                                                                                         by  Geoff Biggs

Organised to mark 60 years of the Bedford Branch, this was held at the Park Hotel in Bedford. Attending were representatives of our parent organisation LCGB, and members and guests of the Bedford Branch. We were especially pleased to welcome past officials and members.

After the meal Club Chairman Bob Breakwell spoke.

Then current Chairman Bill Davies replied for the Branch.

Several present gathered in an attempt to re-create a scene captured 35 years ago.

Charles Firminger LCGB vice - president. Was a speaker at the Bedford Branch’s inaugural meeting in 1958 & present at many of the Branches indoor & committee meetings in 1958/59.
Paul Watson Outside Fixtures Officer 1976-1979; Treasurer 1981-1986.
Peter Butler Bedford Branch chairman 1975- 1979.
Chris Fox Committee member 1980-1984
Chris Jones Chairman 1983 – 1989 and just rejoined the Committee!
Bryan Cross (seated) Bedford Branch Indoor Fixtures officer. 38years on Branch committee.

and here is that picture:-

25th Anniversary photo 11th July 1983. At NVR by David Eatwell

Left to right Standing back row
Jack Turner Founder of the Bedford branch & LCGB Club President
Charles Firminger LCGB vic- president. Was a speaker at the Bedford Branch’s inaugural meeting in 1958 & present at many of the Branches indoor & committee meetings in 1958/59.
The late Dennis Cadman Committee member 1982/83
Chris Fox Committee member 1980-1984
Front row
Peter Butler Bedford Branch chairman 1975- 1979.
Bryan Cross. Still on Committee after 38 years.
Paul Watson Outside Fixtures Officer 1976-1979; Treasurer 1981-1986.
Chris Jones (standing) Chairman 1983 – 1989 and just rejoined the Committee!

25th Anniversary photo 11th July 1983. Photo at Wansford, NVR by David Eatwell
Left to right Standing back row
Jack Turner Founder of the Bedford branch & LCGB Club President
Charles Firminger LCGB vic- president. Was a speaker at the Bedford Branch’s inaugural meeting in 1958 & present at many of the Branches indoor & committee meetings in 1958/59.
The late Dennis Cadman Committee member 1982/83
Chris Fox Committee member 1980-1984
Front row
Peter Butler Bedford Branch chairman 1975- 1979.
Bryan Cross. Still on Committee after 38 years.
Paul Watson Outside Fixtures Officer 1976-1979; Treasurer 1981-1986.
Chris Jones (standing) Chairman 1983 – 1989 and just rejoined the Committee!

16 October 2018 – Branch AGM followed by Bryan Cross

                                                                                         by Chris Foren

Once again attendance at the Branch AGM was sparse. Chairman Bill Davies thanked the Committee and those who help the Branch in other ways for their contributions. He looked forward to the Branch’s 60th anniversary.

The Committee was re-elected en bloc but for once there was a volunteer to join the merry band and former Chairman Chris Jones was duly elected. From the floor was raised the question of what would happen if the Branch were to fold. The Committee would consider the question and put a resolution to a future AGM. The question of holding meetings at an earlier hour in the winter was also raised but no firm conclusion was reached.

After tea Bryan Cross took to the projector with a selection of images from the Peter Bland collection of which he is custodian.

The selection neatly followed on from the recent presentation by John Downing and comprised pictures taken by Peter in 1959-60, starting at Cricklewood and proceeding via the Widened Lines to culminate in a fine and evocative set taken at St Pancras.

Bryan is also custodian of the Harrold Clements collection and rounded off the evening by showing pictures of Luton at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries taken by Harold’s grandfather. The quality of the images was truly remarkable for their time. Also seen were Luton buses, London trams, a WW1 tank and much more. The Branch thanks Bryan for sharing with those present his hard work in conserving the precious images.

4 October 2018 – – 150 years of the Midland Railway’s Bedford to London Extension – John Downing

                                                                                by Chris Foren

It is always a pleasure to welcome John Downing to the Branch. On 2/10 he regaled a very well attended gathering with his look at 150 years of the Midland Railway’s London Extension.

After a brief glimpse of London street life in the 1860s, John explained how the Midland eventually achieved an independent route into London after years of dependence on the LNWR and Great Northern.

When it opened in 1868 provision was made for expansion. From the beginning there were four tracks from St Pancras to Brent North Junction and two from there to Bedford but eventually quadrupling extended to Glendon Junction. With the aid of a remarkable selection of photographs, but a fraction of his collection, John traced the route southwards from Bedford, explaining the differences between “first class” and “wayside” stations and the different patterns of ironwork found in station canopies. At the southern end it was notable how many stations such as Welsh Harp and Haverstock Hill had had short lives and how rural was the terrain through which the line was built 150 years ago.

Traffic and motive power were covered comprehensively, with glimpses of staple power through the ages from the short lived American 2-6-0s to the even shorter lived 9Fs. Perhaps the most notable difference was the complete reversal of emphasis between the freight for which the line was built and the passenger traffic which dominates it now. Time did not allow John to reach St Pancras as he had intended but nonetheless his presentation was warmly received and enthusiastically applauded. Any guesses of what his next subject might be?

4 September 2018 – Border Raiders – Dennis Lovett  by Chris Foren

We welcomed Dennis Lovett again with a new presentation. “Border Raiders”. This examined two incursions of the North British Railway into England, reflecting that company’s thwarted ambition to serve Newcastle.

The presentation began with a sequence of pictures illustrating the territory served by the lines, accompanied by a recording of the stirring pipe band tune “Highland Cathedral”.

Dennis then gave a thorough survey of the routes of the lines from Hexham to Hawick and from Morpeth to Bellingham, including the branch to Rothbury. The two routes met at Redesmouth.

Although both routes were long gone it was noteworthy just how many former station buildings were still in residential use, how many sources of industrial and agricultural traffic there had been and how many wooden engine sheds had been consumed by fire.

The majority of the photographs shown had been taken by Dennis in more recent times but he had managed to unearth several of great historical interest. A significant number showed passenger and freight traffic on the 1950s, even including a couple of diesel specials.

Also of interest was the short biography of Sir William Armstrong, the Armstrong of Armstrong Whitworth, Vickers Armstrong and Armstrong Siddeley fame, who lived at Cragside, notable for being the first house to be powered by hydro-electricity.

Few are better qualified to describe the bygone railways of the Borders than Dennis and the Branch is grateful to him for another interesting and thorough insight into two routes which few present would have experienced.

3 July 2018 – 34081 “92 Squadron” – Steve Lacey  by Chris Foren

The congregation was depleted by televised football and tennis when Branch stalwart Steve Lacey presented his account of the restoration of 34081 “92 Squadron” at the Nene Valley Railway.

He began with a brief overview of the life and work of O V S Bulleid before turning to the locomotive. 34081 had been built at Brighton in 1948, working over much of the Southern Region until withdrawal in November 1964 and subsequent disposal to Woodhams, whence she was purchased by the Battle of Britain Locomotive Society in 1973.

Her first restoration took 25 years and after her boiler certificate expired in 2008 it was time to start again. With the aid of photographs taken by BBLS members, Steve described the work involved in dismantling, overhauling and reassembling the loco and the particular tasks in which he became involved, most of which entailed learning many new skills and getting very dirty! The oil bath became his pet project and his description of removing stubborn paint with a needle gun was entertaining.

The stages of reassembly were well illustrated by a series of videos made by BBLS members. The original nameplates and badges had been given to the Squadron by BR when the loco was withdrawn.

Because they are now so valuable the loco runs with replicas but one set of originals is on permanent loan to and displayed at the Battle of Britain Museum at Capel Le Ferne near Folkestone.

After showing pictures of the rededication ceremony Steve ended by playing a video of 34081 in action on the Severn Valley Railway. The Branch thanks Steve warmly for an entertaining and informative presentation.

5 June 2018 – The Wymington Deviation – Peter Butler  by Chris Foren

The Branch extended a warm welcome to former Chairman and long standing friend Peter Butler, who gave a presentation on the Wymington Deviation.

Between 1881 and 1884 the section of the Midland Main Line between Irchester and Sharnbrook was quadrupled on a different alignment to offer the growing number of southbound loaded coal trains a lesser gradient than that over Sharnbrook summit.

Peter described the alignment from north to south, illustrating the signal boxes, bridges and both portals of Sharnbrook Tunnel. He had interesting tales to tell of the railway cottages alongside the route, one of which had been his home as a boy, and explained the significance of Colworth House where he worked for many years.

Some pictures of trains in the steam and diesel eras with typical power crept in among the infrastructure. Changes are afoot as many of the overbridges will need reconstruction to accommodate overhead wires. The presentation represented but a fraction of the diligent research that Peter had undertaken on Midland Railway matters and suitably graced the sixtieth year of the Branch.

The evening concluded with a showing of Railway Roundabout films from 1958 which to judge by the murmuring from the audience were well received.

1 May 2018 – The Railways of Scotland – Les Nixon   by Chris Foren

The noted photographer Dr Les Nixon entertained the Branch again, this time with an anti-clockwise tour of Scotland, beginning at the Royal Border Bridge and taking in the East Coast and Far North before heading down the western side of the country towards Stranraer and Carlisle

The spread of time over which the images were captured enabled a wide variety of subjects and settings to be shown. The iconic Deltics were seen mostly towards the end of their heyday and the A4s in their Indian summer on the Glasgow – Aberdeen run, with a fine selection of preserved steam for good measure.

This being Scotland, it was only right that the Class 26 and 37 diesels also received much exposure. As the presentation progressed, it became clear that Les had chosen his vantage points with great care. He stressed the importance of placing the subject in a representative setting and pointed out that many of the locations he had chosen were no longer as he had recorded them.

To make the best of subjects which did not appeal to him, such as tender first steam locomotives and modern diesel units, he showed his approach to making full use of the landscape and silhouettes to achieve a pleasing image.

Perhaps the finest images shown during the evening were those captured on the West Highland and West Highland Extension lines, where a train amid the remoteness of mountains and moors made for a most attractive picture.
A late finish was inevitable and welcomed by all present. The Branch hopes to welcome Dr Nixon again ere long.

3 April 2018 – North-East and South-West – Peter Groom   by Chris Foren

After far too long an absence, the Branch welcomed Peter Groom, photographer and rivet counter, with his latest presentation. The territory covered began in the North-East of England in the late 1950s and early 1960s, featuring most of the principal sheds on the eastern side of the country as far south as Retford.

At South Gosforth Peter had found both NER electrics built for the Quayside branch but he was clearly much happier explaining the origins and purposes of the area’s steam power and the detail differences between examples of the same class, a case in point being differences in the coal rails on the tenders fitted to Q6 0-8-0s.

Thornaby shed, Peter observed, was built with a high roof to accommodate electric traction which after 60 years has come no closer to the depot than 10 miles.

At Goole the Lancashire and Yorkshire was represented by a dumb-buffered Pug and the tale of a Midland half-cab which left the back of its cab behind when sent to shops amused more than a little.

After tea the scene shifted abruptly to Llanelly and the motive power illustrated to the Western’s heavy tanks, which in terms of their work of hauling coal had much in common with their North Eastern counterparts. The journey continued via Radyr and a GWR diesel shunter which once had a brass numberplate, taking in among other sights Z class 0-8-0Ts banking and Exeter and WR hydraulics at Laira before ending at Wadebridge with the Beattie well tanks in their final days. Hardly a photograph went by without an aspect of detail being identified and explained. The vote of thanks given by Chairman Bill Davies was more than matched by the enthusiastic applause from the audience.

6 March 2018 – Strictly Freight only – Brian Ringer  by Chris Foren

This was Brians first visit to the Branch, with the first part of “Strictly Freight Only”, the title being a tribute to Sir Bruce Forsyth, who like Brian was an alumnus of the Latymer School, Edmonton. He joined the railway in 1975 at Acton Yard and apart from a very short spell in the EWS charter unit had no involvement with passenger trains.

Brian examined and illustrated the changes in rail freight, which at one time earned twice as much as passenger traffic. Road competition was already eroding traffic when the 1955 Modernisation Plan was published. Brian regarded it as a missed opportunity.

In his view, investment in huge marshalling yards such as Tinsley would have been better directed towards improved wagons, all with continuous brakes – air, not vacuum. An amusing case study showed how the cumbersome handling methods of the day impaired efficiency.

Beeching’s view was that the future lay not in wagonload traffic but block trains such as the Tyne Dock to Consett operation leading to the development of the merry-go-round coal train and increased carriage of iron ore and finished steel in bulk. He also set out the liner train concept which is still with us albeit in not quite the form originally proposed.

Brian was scathing about some of the less efficient diesel classes and the profusion of small shunters which he blamed on too much regional autonomy. The electrified West Coast Main Line provided much extra capacity, sufficient to accommodate what was left of the Great Central’s traffic. Time ran out all too soon.

The Branch thanks Brian for a very interesting and informative evening and looks forward to more.

6 February 2018 – Cromford & High Peak 4 – George Sullivan  by Chris Foren

This was the fourth and final instalment of the presentation on the Cromford and High Peak Railway created by the late Ian Lyman. Tommy Tomalin, who had played a key part in the fieldwork, was also present. An unfortunate technical hitch delayed the start of the meeting.

This instalment covered the section from Hindlow to Whaley Bridge. The complexities of the changes made to the railway after it had come within the purview of the London and North Western in 1862 stemmed from its original conception as a canal which had led directly to the alignment chosen. Much of the original alignment was replaced by deviations in 1876 and 1892 and then closed, only for partial re-opening to take place later as traffic developed.

These complexities were described with remarkable lucidity but the value of explanatory maps has seldom been greater. Photographs illustrated how visible many of the abandoned sections were after over a century of disuse - here a dry stone wall, there a sharp curve in the grass.
Such fixtures and fittings as had existed were faithfully and comprehensively recorded, though not always without difficulty.

In thanking the speaker Branch Chairman Bill Davies paid tribute not only to Ian Lyman and his cohorts but to those whose vision created the railway and those who had the foresight to photograph the line in its heyday. Without them there would have been no presentation for those present to applaud warmly.

2 January 2018 – Welsh Railways – Chris Jones  by Chris Foren

The Branch was pleased to welcome former Branch Chairman Chris Jones with his illustrated presentation on the railways of Wales. Chris spent his formative years in Swansea and had an uncle, Mark Smith, who rose to become Chief Civil Engineer of the Western Region. Armed with these credentials he set out to explore the Principality and its railways.
Contrary to some beliefs, Wales was not the exclusive preserve of the GWR, for both the Midland and London and North Western had significant presences. Chris made good use of maps to explain this and many of the other complexities of what was probably the densest railway network in the world. The eclectic selection of photographs portrayed much that is bygone and not just the coal traffic for which South Wales was renowned.

Among the aspects covered briefly was the special train on the Neath and Brecon for the 19th century opera star Dame Adelina Patti, a selection of railtours covering such locations as Barry Pier, Walnut Tree Viaduct and the Merthyr to Abergavenny line and the replacement of Brunel’s Wye Bridge at Chepstow, doubtless courtesy of Uncle Mark!
The slides were supplemented by sound recordings from Peter Handford and some black and white film of the Brecon and Merthyr in in its last months.

Slightly on the edge of strict relevance, but interesting nonetheless, were two shots of the Newport Transporter Bridge. Time ran out before the show could be completed and the Branch is left wondering what other tales could have been told

19 December 2017 – Christmas Special  by Chris Foren

The tradition of the Branch Christmas meeting was maintained for 2017.. In the absence of Alan Ledwick and his Stinker Quiz, Chairman Bill Davies offered what he chose to call a “simple”quiz, won by Richard Crane.

Those who answered the call to bring and project 10 slides included Geoff Kingham with pictures from Germany in 1971 and San Francisco in 1969, Steve Nakoneczny with some preserved industrial steam.

Then Geoff Biggs with Spanish steam, Ted Burley with silhouettes and glint, Bryan Cross with some early colour views of local scenes and Roger Whitehead with 1997 steam in Colorado.

At half time dinner arrived from the local chippie. Those who decided not to eat had a Railway Roundabout DVD to watch.

After dinner Peter Crossman showed some evocative1960s cine film converted to DVD.

After last year’s disappointment the evening concluded with two Tom and Jerry cartoons, sending the small but appreciative audience on its way rejoicing.

5th December 2017 – OVS Bulleid’s Locomotives – Colin Boocock  by Chris Foren

The advertised speaker for this evening was unfortunately indisposed. He was replaced at short notice by Colin Boocock who presented an illuminating study of Bulleid’s locomotives. Oliver Bulleid became Chief Mechanical Engineer of the Southern Railway in 1937 after serving as assistant to both Ivatt and Gresley on the LNER.

In his new role he first tinkered with some of Maunsell’s products before revealing his capacity for radical innovation.

After three diesel shunters came the Merchant Navy class, officially mixed traffic locos to permit their construction in wartime but clearly intended for prime passenger work. In common with his other designs they saved weight but other features gave trouble that only rebuilding in the 1950s would resolve.

His Q1 was the most powerful 0-6-0 ever to run in Britain whatever might be said of its appearance. The need for bigger engines west of Exeter was met by the West Country and Battle of Britain classes.

Maybe his ground-breaking Leader, conceived as a replacement for the M7, was a step too far for the ever-imaginative Bulleid for the only example steamed did not long survive his departure for CIE in 1949.

There he oversaw dieselisation, successful with the railcars but with such catastrophic results as regards locomotives that CIE was driven to persuade General Motors to re-engine its fleet. Bulleid then concentrated on turf burning engines which required complex technology to cope with the vicissitudes of the fuel. Although the prototype was deemed a success, CIE decided to stick with diesels after Bulleid finally retired. The Branch thanks Colin warmly for a fascinating presentation.

17 November 2017 – AGM then My Travels with David Eatwell -- Ray Schofield   by Chris Foren

As usual, attendance at the Branch AGM on 17/10 was poor. Chairman Bill Davies thanked the Committee and those who help the Branch in other ways for their contributions. Peter Crossman stood down as Sales Officer but agreed to remain as Treasurer. As usual, the Committee was re-elected en bloc and hints that it would welcome new blood fell on deaf ears. With no hint of rushing the formal business was completed in 35 minutes.

Ray Schofield then took the floor to present an affectionate tribute to David Eatwell (1931 – 2015), recalling their many overseas photographic trips undertaken plus or minus wives. To describe David as a character is barely adequate: he was an eccentric with trenchant views often vehemently expressed and backed by an almost missionary zeal to get The Shot at all costs and to the highest possible standard.

The components of his expeditions included extreme driving, damage to cars and limbs, speeding fines, arrests and unbelievable powers of persuasion which enabled him to talk his way into the best viewpoints and out of so much trouble. Wherever there was steam, David would go for it. When he happened upon it on the way to somewhere else, his wife seldom believed him. A selection of Ray’s own photographs was a fitting complement to the torrent of anecdotes about his travels with David which, unsurprisingly, prompted reminiscences from many of those present and, of course, enthusiastic applause.

Ray deserves warm thanks for sharing with the Branch a tribute which was clearly a labour of love.

7th November 2017 -- The Hitchin South Diaries 1906-1968 – George Howe  by Chris Foren

George, a retired signalman from Potton, is no stranger having ably deputised in the past for other speakers at short notice. His acclaimed presentation on the Hitchin South Diaries is a fascinating set of observations on life on and off the railway between 1906 and 1968 compiled by those who manned the box, though not by former telegraph lad George Howe!

The three battered notebooks – occurrence books - were rescued by one of the last to work the box and were passed to George many years later. His presentation was a pot-pourri of snippets from the diaries illustrated with a selection of photographs from a multiplicity of sources.

Even without the illustrations the snippets were fascinating and shed light on so many issues – rates of pay, the new fireplace in the box, tribulations of a steam railcar, the rigmarole of obtaining a replacement coal scuttle and a new tin of polish, new staff ‘taking on’ and a series of serious accidents, one of which took place close to the box on George’s third night there as a new telegraph lad and took out a bracket signal in the process.

Events as significant as the creation of the ‘Late and Never Early’ and, 25 years later, British Railways, were duly recorded alongside deaths of Kings and, in one case, a respected superintendent. Here and there the banter and workplace humour so typical of real life shone through. Branch Chairman Bill Davies paid tribute to George’s remarkable piece of research, a sentiment warmly endorsed by those present

3rd October 2017 -- The East Lincolnshire Railway – Mike Fowler  by Chris Foren

Mike Fowler returned to the Branch with the latest version of his presentation on the East Lincolnshire Railway, nominally independent but worked by the Great Northern.

After outlining its origins with the aid of excellent graphics, Mike described the route from Grimsby in the north to Boston in the south.

Its initial purpose was to convey produce. Although passengers came later, there was never significant commuter traffic, though it offered better journey times to and from London than today’s railway can deliver.

This and the profusion of level crossings made closure inevitable in the climate of the 1960s. The line was only really busy on summer Saturdays when it dealt with holiday traffic to and from Skegness and other resorts.

Most of the wayside stations went in 1961 but Mike’s comprehensive collection of photographs was put to good use illustrating those which remained, many with their distinctive colonnades.

The effective hub of the line, Firsby, was particularly well covered and Mike recalled spending much of his youth there. By then most local passenger trains were worked by dmus with Britannias replacing B1s on the expresses. After showing a DVD which he had compiled from several sources,

Mike described the decline of the line, the clear determination of BR that it would be closed and his own modest part in the opposition to closure. Those present, for once attentive, thanked Mike enthusiastically for a top quality presentation and took note that he has prepared another. In 2019, perhaps?

5 September 2017 – On the Route Of The Master Cutler – Richard Crane
   by Chris Foren

Former Branch secretary Richard Crane, lately chief Bedford – Bletchley Rail User, presented his exploration of the route of the Master Cutler. This quickly turned out to be a user-friendly overview of the Great Central route from Sheffield to London, first shared with Richard’s evening class in Surbiton.

Richard began by explaining the various incarnations of the Master Cutler, from prestige business train on the GC, through Pullman on the GN and finally to its several guises on the Midland. He went on to present an illustrated guide to the route, its traffic and motive power starting at Sheffield Victoria and moving steadily south to Marylebone.

Some of the photographs were taken by the speaker, the rest coming from a multiplicity of sources. Repeated copying and reformatting had done some of them no favours but they were more than sufficient to convey a clear impression of the 19th century’s final main line and the traffic which flowed over it.

The 1960s saw determined efforts with questionable justification to exterminate the line. Nonetheless, much remains visible with significant parts still in some sort of use. Marylebone station, once threatened with closure, is now thriving thanks to the enlightened management of Network SouthEast and Chiltern Railways.

An attentive audience showed its warm appreciation, confirming the view of the Branch that it can always rely on this speaker for a good evening’s entertainment.

4 July 2017 – Much Mardling around on the M&GN – Chris Youett
   by Chris Foren

Chris Youett, slide collector extraordinaire from Coventry, returned to the Branch after a lengthy absence. He showed a remarkable selection of images majoring on the Midland and Great Northern and garnered from sources both familiar and unfamiliar, giving a typically pungent commentary despite suffering from a frog in the throat.

Although some of the slides were not of top quality they more than made up for this in rarity value, evoking the long-gone summers of the 1950s when seemingly everyone went to holiday camp by train. Only during a short and concentrated peak was the M&GN busy, being distinctly under-patronised for the rest of the year and rendering almost total closure inevitable. This was emphasised by the use of the expression “middle of nowhere” to describe several locations.

Refreshingly different was Chris’s informative observations on some of the coaching stock featured, though the wide range of motive power employed on the M&GN was by no means neglected. A recurrent theme was the use of ex-LNER locomotives on trains of ex-LMS coaches and vice versa.

The Branch thanks Chris for his presentation and nostalgic memories of the M&GN.

6th June -- South of the Border: Black and White Steam in the 50s and 60s – David Kelso
  by Chris Foren

On his third Visit to the Bedford Branch, David gave a PowerPoint presentation of a selection of scanned black and white pictures called “Steam and Other Things south of the Border 1948 to 1960”, a self-explanatory if not altogether snappy title.

It was divided into eight main segments, each containing pictures taken mostly in July and August between 1952 and 1958. A visit to Derby in 1952 yielded shots of 8Fs repatriated from Palestine and the ill-fated Fell diesel amid preserved Midland locos. He captured several Garratts near their end, none on the coal trains for which they had been designed, and had a clear fondness for Patriots.

A trip to the Lickey incline in 1954 found “Big Bertha” in action and two years earlier at Crewe he photographed Princess Anne just weeks before the Harrow crash.

Trips to Lancashire yielded images of the first Bury electrics and their Mersey Railway counterparts and, most prized, Liverpool Overhead stock on Grand National day. There was fine coverage of the trans-Pennine routes at Standedge and Penistone, the latter with very new Woodhead electrics, and on excursions much further south David captured the Southern’s classic 2-BIL and 4-COR units and a Q1 on passenger work.

His eye for rarities included a pair of Sentinels at Gateshead and a North London crane tank at Derby. Most of the pictures had been taken on a basic camera which had coped admirably with the extremes of light to which it had been subjected.

The Branch enjoyed the evening very much and in thanking David for his presentation the heavy hint was dropped that he would be very welcome to return.

2 May 2017 – All Change at Cricklewood – John Downing
   by Chris Foren

Once again John Downing entertained the Branch, this time with his presentation “All change at Cricklewood”. John grew up overlooking the Midland main line at West End sidings and although he did not take to spotting he soon developed an enduring interest in the railway and joined it as a cleaner after National Service.

To set this in context he explained how loco depots at the London end of the Midland extension evolved between 1868 and the opening of Child’s Hill shed, later Cricklewood, in 1903. Drawing on his extensive collection of black and white images, John explained the extensive freight workings resourced from Cricklewood over the years. Much of the Midland’s motive power was remarkably long-lived, some remaining in service for 80 years.

With recruitment a problem for the railways in the 1950s, promotion could be rapid and so it was for John. He became a passed fireman within weeks and a registered fireman in four months. Later he became a clerk but after marriage he returned to the footplate. Cricklewood was clearly a place that attracted characters and with nearly every photograph including workmates came a humorous anecdote.

John’s time on the railway was one of great change but his camera missed very little, even capturing a fleeting glimpse of a pair of Co-Bos at St Pancras.

All too soon the evening ended. John’s presentation clearly evoked many memories among those present. In thanking him Branch Chairman Bill Davies spoke for all when he expressed the hope that John would return to the Branch soon. .

18 April 2017 – Inter Club Quiz   by Chris Foren

The inter-club quiz was this year held at Bedford.. Neither visiting team was at full strength. The contingent from LCGB St Albans comprised one member, augmented by two from the home fleet, and RCTS Northampton competed a man short. Once again Bill Davies presented the quiz which was compiled jointly by him and Bryan Cross. wo fringe teams also took part. The questions were compiled with some care, embracing a remarkably wide range of subjects, some more fiendish than others and testing severely the knowledge and guessing power of those taking part.

Northampton A took an early lead and despite a final spurt Bedford A were unable to overtake.

The final scores were: Bedford A 107, Bedford B 88, Northampton A 111, Northampton B 55, St Albans 93. Northampton retained the Ashes and were awarded the Fred Cockman Trophy which had been feared lost.

The two fringe teams clocked up 60 (Tea Urns) and 93 (Easter Bunnies) and it can be only a matter of time before their members are dragooned into the official teams. In future the contest will be held only once a year. It is hoped that this decision will keep it alive a little longer

The photo shows Northampton “A” Captain Keith Sykes (left) receiving the Fred Cockman Trophy from Bill Davies.


4 April 2017 – The GNR/LNWR Joint Line – Robin Cullup   by Chris Foren

Robin Cullup made a swift return to the Branch and this time his topic was an updated survey of the GNR/LNWR Joint line between Market Harborough, Newark and Nottingham, amounting to some 70 miles in all.

The line was promoted to carry iron and coal amid opposition from other railways and influential landowners, the latter being placated by substantial royalties. It was authorised by Parliament at the second attempt in 1873 and run by a joint committee whose Minute Books have proved to be a goldmine of information for all matters from the wages of staff to the apportionment of running costs and revenue.

It was clear from Robin’s remarkable analysis that the LNWR had very much the upper hand. The line had its fair share of stations in the middle of nowhere. Unsurprisingly, passenger traffic was always light and had all but ceased by 1953. Freight peaked around 1916 and went into a slow and steady decline thereafter. From his comprehensive collection of photographs, garnered from an incredibly wide range of sources, Robin showed the route, its structures and its traffic from south to north.

Amid the flow of minerals came the passenger traffic to and from Leicester Belgrave Road, heavy at holiday time when Leicester decamped en masse to Skegness and Mablethorpe but feather-light for the rest of the year. Other oddities included the way of taking milk from John O’Gaunt and the use of Super Ds to haul workmen. This was a presentation as comprehensive as it was fascinating and the Branch thanks Robin for another first-class evening.

7 March 2017 – An Evening of Railway Films – Frank Banfield– David Cross   by Chris Foren

Frank Banfield returned to the Branch with two projectors and a large bag of films. It is fitting that the collection of 8mm cine shot by the late Brian Lockey should have been entrusted to Frank’s care and Frank regaled a populous audience with a selection fairly representing the work of its creator.

The first reel visited Ampthill at the time of closure in 1959, moving swifttly on to Napsbury, St Albans, Luton, Dunstable, Tebay, Blackburn and Sharnbrook. Before tea time there were visits to places including Wallingford, Shanklin, Bletchley flyover, Oxford, the Talyllyn and the lines to Brecon on the snowy day that they closed. For light relief there was even a shot of a car transporter wedged under a bridge. The audience applauded after each film and offered loud advice as to locations, most of it to each other.

Sadly the 8mm projector failed to replay most of the soundtracks but the voice of Mr Lockey and the guitars of The Shadows made sporadic appearances. After tea came an interesting BBC film on the life of Brunel narrated by Sir John Betjerman in his archetypal rhyming-couplet style, a 1940 LMS film on building an 8F and a 1947 film about the driver of a Jubilee from St Pancras to Manchester, oddly preceded by Fyfe Robertson advertising an airline.

Finally came some trailers and other snippets. The Branch thanks Frank for another fine evening’s entertainment and looks forward to welcoming him again.

7 February 2017 – An Evening with my Father’s Slides – David Cross   by Chris Foren

On his first visit to the Branch David brought a selection of slides taken by his late father Derek. The very loose theme of the evening was a journey round the M25. Every theme has its variations and the journey began at Paddington.

It soon reached Iver and the spot where the M25 now crosses the railway, continuing via Sonning Cutting to Westbury and Merehead. Most of the shots had been taken in 1959 or 1960 and it was clear at once how manicured and accessible the railway was in those happy days.

The trip continued via the Southern at Brookwood and Battledown, moving via Croydon into Kent, across the river to the Great Northern main line near Potters Bar and ending on the West Coast line in north-west London after a visit to Watford Gap and a very new and empty M1.

Although Derek clearly preferred steam, with creditable foresight he was not afraid to capture some early diesels – here a Baby Deltic, there a Warship and even one of Bulleid’s efforts hauling commuters into Euston. It was not only those machines which have long been consigned to memory but such sights as hop-pickers’ specials, quad-arts, a bulled-up Schools taking Pullmans and the Queen to the Derby and long freight trains.

Such nostalgia and sheer quality often prompts a murmuration among the audience and this evening was no exception. In his thanks to the speaker Chairman Bill Davies paid tribute to the foresight of David’s father in gathering a fine collection of images and felt sure that David would be visiting the Branch again.

3 January 2017 – Cromford & High Peak Part 3 – George Sullivan & Tommy Tomalin.
  by Chris Foren & Brian Cross

The Branch welcomed George Sullivan once again with the third instalment of the entertaining presentation on the Cromford and High Peak Railway created by the late Ian Lyman.

Unfortunately co-presenter Tommy Tomalin was unable to be present. After a brief resume of the previous instalments the journey restarted at Middleton Top shed.

From there the route up the incline to Hopton and along the level to Parsley Hay Junction was followed, illustrated at almost every step of the way with well-selected maps and a remarkable collection of photographs, many taken by Tommy who had walked nearly all the line with Ian save for a couple of places where incursions had prevented access.

Given the topography it was difficult to appreciate fully that the line had been originally envisaged as a canal.

The presenters paid tribute to the many other photographers who had had the foresight to record the railway in its halcyon days and to the late Dr Jack Hollick who was generally regarded as THE authority on this unique line.

The narrative was peppered with humorous anecdotes and a photo of the absent Tommy looking at a herd of cows with a mischievous caption was particularly well received.

Once again time ran out before the territory could be fully explored. The Branch looks forward to the return of George, and Tommy, for Part 4.