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]


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


7th January -- Derbyshire’s Railways Revisited
Richard Crane looks at railways past and present within Derbyshire, dominated by the Midland but not forgetting the important roles played by the Great Northern and Great Central. As well as a mixture of railway lines there is also a real mixture of trains from the 1900s through to 2019.

4th February -- Around the regions in the 1960’s (with a bit from the 70’s & 80’s)
Surprisingly, Phil Wood has not been with us since February 2003. He will show us a pot-pourri of late steam and early diesel shots taken before mass depot closures.

3rd March -- North Woolwich to Palace Gates
Jim Connor takes a look at the chequered history of this former outpost of the Great Eastern which once linked Docklands with the inner suburbs around Tottenham and Wood Green. His focus will be on the various passenger stations along the route.

7th April -- Modern Traction in the 1960s
David Percival shares a selection of his interesting, varied and well composed photographs on a variety of themes with one common factor – quality.

20th April (Monday) -- Quiz v RCTS Northampton, away leg, Weston Favell. We thought it was all over but it isn’t!

5th May -- The Last Years of Steam: Somerset and Dorset in the 1960s
Michael Clemens presents a selection of photographs from his private collection and digitised cine film taken by his late father.

2nd June -- Royal Scots
David Hunt describes the history of a famous class of locomotives whilst trying to dispel some long-standing myths and unravelling a complex story.

7th July -- Crossrail and HS2
Christian Wolmar has taken a close interest in these high profile construction projects which have hit the headlines for the wrong reasons. He shares his distinctly personal views with us.

13th August -- Day out at Bletchley with Bill Davies (Outdoor actually)

1st September -- My Early Days at Top Shed part 2
John Morgan continues the fascinating tale of his early career. This time he ventures out on the main line.

6th October -- The Railways of Northamptonshire part 3
Robin Cullup examines the Midland main line from Market Harborough to Sharnbrook Summit with a (very) brief look at the various branch lines.

20th October -- AGM plus Named Trains of the Midland Main Line
Our annual outbreak of democracy is followed this year by Ray Schofield, who looks at a typical early morning at St Pancras at the end of the 1950s and follows the progress of the Palatine to Manchester Central.

3rd November -- The Norfolk and Suffolk Joint Part 2
Brian Sullivan continues his exploration of this joint venture by the M&GN and GER.

1st December -- From the Tyne to the Tweed

Dennis Lovett travels from Newcastle-upon-Tyne to the border town of Berwick-upon-Tweed. On the way he visits each of the stations as well as the branches to Amble, Seahouses and Tweed Dock.

15th December -- Christmas Meeting.
Frank Banfield shows more films from his extensive collection. Catering by the local chippy.

Meeting Summaries

5th November -- 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.


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 -- 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.

18 December 2018 – Christmas Special

                                                                                         by Chris Foren

In the light of declining support for the Branch Christmas meeting, changes were made this year.

Out went the Stinker Quiz, members’ slides and the Tom and Jerry cartoons.

Instead, Frank Banfield brought his venerable projector and a selection of movie gems from his priceless collection.

Dinner, supplied as usual by the local chippie, was served at tables in the main hall and projection continued as munching took place.

Such ageless BTF classics as “Snowdrift at Bleath Gill”, “Link Span” and “Farmer Moving South” evoked much nostalgia among those present, who were more numerous than in recent years.

4 December 2018 – 60s Steam on Shed – David Percival

                                                                                         by Chris Foren

Our advertised speaker being unfortunately indisposed, he was replaced at short notice by David Percival and his show “60s steam on shed”, last given to the Branch in 2001! The carousels loaded with slides made from black and white prints evoked nostalgia from those now conditioned to the niceties of PowerPoint, if such they be.

After his first shed visit, a school trip to Stratford in 1958, David travelled widely and photographed extensively, soon graduating from a box Brownie to a Kodak Sterling II.

Travelling was aided and abetted, first by membership of the Stevenage Locomotive Society and then employment with Ian Allan and W H Smith. In the latter case, David found that arriving at a shed with a suit and briefcase but no permit eliminated the risk of challenge.

The first part of the show concentrated on record shots of elderly and endangered locos captured on shed, mostly but not exclusively on SLS spotting trips

As the evening progressed themes began to emerge – line-ups in and outside sheds, pairs, tender-first pairs, detail differences between members of the same class, groups of three or four, consecutive numbers and “adding to the atmosphere”, a euphemism for the vast amount of smoke given off by locos only recently lit up. One such image was, according to David, meant to depict a beautiful sunset.

Towards the end of the presentation David sprung a surprise – colour! – which showed the grime of a failed Duchess at Beattock to particularly good effect. On top of all this there were anecdotes too.

The Branch gives grateful thanks to David for a fine evening’s entertainment.

19 November 2018 – Away Quiz vs. RCTS Northampton

                                                                                         by Chris Foren

The Branch’s finest brains headed for Northampton on the afternoon of 19/11 for the away leg of the Ashes quiz versus the RCTS.

Question master Brian Benford, as is his practice, drew his inspiration for the questions on the obscurities of steam locomotion, testing the knowledge of the teams to the utmost and leaving the contestants surprised by what they did know.

At half time Bedford led by 36 points to 28 but Northampton rallied and the final score was a win for the home side by 66 points to 65.

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