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]


5th June - The Wymington Diversion
Peter Butler examines the goods lines north of Bedford and explains why the quadrupling necessary to cope with increased traffic led to the building of a tunnel and a loop.

3rd July - 92 Squadron
Steve Lacey takes a night off from selling raffle tickets to tell his story of the overhaul and return to steam of a preserved Bulleid light Pacific

4th September - Border Raiders
Dennis Lovett is noted for his knowledge of and writings on the Borders. Tonight he draws on them to explore the two North British Railway cross border routes from Hexham to Hawick and from Morpeth to Bellingham which linked up at Reedsmouth Junction.

2nd October -150 years of the Midland Railway Bedford – St Pancras London Extension.
With the anniversary upon us, John Downing looks at the history and development of the line, its stations and infrastructure past and present. He also surveys the changes and development of the traffic and motive power over its 150 years.

16th October - AGM and Peter Bland Part 6
Our annual outbreak of democracy is followed this year by another selection of photographs taken by the late Peter Bland, scanned from the original negatives and presented by their custodian Bryan Cross.

6th November - Railways of Northamptonshire Part 1
Robin Cullup begins his chronological tour, starting with the London and Birmingham main line and its branch from Blisworth to Peterborough. On past form a thoroughly researched and profusely illustrated commentary can be expected.

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 - Engine Sheds Part 9
Chris Banks presents another leg of his grand tour with the aid of his prodigious slide collection and a few liberties with the alphabet. This time he takes us from Peterborough to Rugby via a route worthy of G K Chesterton, embracing Plymouth, Ramsgate and Rose Grove among others. What others? The suspense is killing

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


Meeting Summaries

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.

20 December 2016 – Christmas Special
   by Brian Cross

This year’s Branch Christmas meeting was generally similar to previous years. As usual, there were members’ slides, contributed by Ken Dickens, Ted Burley, Geoff Biggs and Bill Davies. Bryan Cross showed some mystery slides covering a selection of LCGB railtours and set the audience the task of identifying them.

While dinner was being munched, supplied as usual by the local chippie, Steve Lacey left his laptop lying about so that footage of the newly restored 92 Squadron could be viewed. After dinner Frank Banfield entertained once again with a selection of cine films, this time including some rare film of the Corris Railway in the 1920s and some gems with a local flavour taken by the late Brian Lockey.

Once again the attendance was disappointingly low although those present appeared to enjoy the event despite the absence of two regular features. One was the Tom and Jerry cartoon which would have ended the evening if only the right projector had been available.

The other was the legendary Alan Ledwick Stinker Quiz. At least the Branch did not have to reward the lucky winner with a pudding this time.

6th December 2016 – Engine Sheds Part 7 – Chris Banks
   by Chris Foren

Chris Banks seems to have become a Branch fixture in December. This tine he returned with part 7 of his epic series, “Engine Sheds”. With the theme of roof replacement running through the presentation, the journey began at Immingham and ended at Patricroft. The latter was presented as a Manchester shed, as were Agecroft, Gorton, Longsight and Newton Heath. Similarly Aintree and Edge Hill were treated as part of Liverpool.

Followers of this series are accustomed to interpretations of the alphabet such as this! The selection of sheds described included some lesser known establishments such as Kings Lynn, Kirkby-in-Ashfield, Louth, Macclesfield and Malton amid those more widely recorded, the latter including Inverness, Machynlleth and Neville Hill which was of course filed under Leeds.

Even Chris has been unable, so far, to find photographs of every shed but in his customary and diligent style he gave a potted history of each one included and key facts about the locomotives illustrated.

The condition of most of the motive power depicted inevitably tended towards the decrepit, with the stunning exception of those captured at first light on Lostock Hall on the last day of steam which had been bulled up by volunteers. The memory of this shed lives on as the name of Chris’s house which, he admitted, raises the odd eyebrow when spotted on his letterhead.

Once again the Branch applauded the speaker warmly for a thoroughly entertaining evening. Part 8 is scheduled for December 2017.

7th November 2016 – Away Quiz v RCTS Northampton   by Chris Foren

The Branch’s delegation to Northampton for the away leg of the Ashes quiz versus the RCTS was not aided in its journey by road closures and traffic problems.

As usual, question master Brian Benford focused the questions on the more abstruse facets of steam locomotion, leavened by the token presence in each of the eight rounds of a ‘where is it’ featuring a shed.

By not acknowledging the existence of the diesel at all he avoided the epithet ‘paraffin can’ of which he is so fond.

Some of the questions were less clearly expressed than might have been desired.

The eight round contest was reminiscent of the battle between Hamilton and Rosberg for the Formula One title, with one team establishing an early lead which first narrowed and then extended.

Northampton won by 70 points to 61 and once again pick up the bill for engraving the trophy.

I November 2016 -- Kettering to Cambridge Revisited -- Robin Cullup   by Chris Foren

Robin returned to the Branch with his presentation on the Midland route to Cambridge. His great-grandfather, William Morby, had been stationmaster at Grafham. This and a trip over the line in 1958 served to trigger his interest.

After chronicling the stages and complexities of the line’s origins and its traffic, Robin described it from west to east, illustrated by as comprehensive a selection of photographs as could be desired, supplemented by the relevant RCH junction maps where relevant.

Passenger traffic was always sparse, amounting to four trains each way per day with through holiday traffic in high summer. In earlier days it was worked by small elderly engines – often double-headed despite this not being permitted - until the 1950s when the Ivatt Class 2 2-6-0s arrived.

Freight included ironstone, military traffic and the seasonal fruit train from Histon to Ancoats and in later years attracted larger power such as the 8F. Although the line was built to accommodate double track very little was laid.

The creaking wooden trestles bridging rivers and flood plains east of Huntingdon and the stated need for costly relaying contributed to the relatively early closure, in 1959. Much of the trackbed now lies beneath the A14 and the ex-Great Eastern section east of St Ives has become a busway which some describe as misguided.

Such a comprehensively researched talk as this was a pleasure to attend and the Branch hopes that Robin will return with another of his presentations before long. A rather farcical raffle draw ensured that the evening would be remembered as entertaining.

18th October 2016 -- AGM and the Peter Bland Collection (Part 5) -- Bryan Cross   by Chris Foren

The Branch AGM was, as usual, poorly attended. In a notably witty speech Chairman Bill Davies thanked the Committee and other regular helpers of the Branch for their contributions to its functioning. Peter Crossman gave 12 months’ notice of his intention to relinquish the job of Sales Officer.

To this and other subtle hints that the Committee would welcome new blood the response was studious contemplation of the floor.

Senior Branch member Ken Dickens presided over the en-bloc re-election of the committee. Thanks in part to the absence of a member who delights in posing awkward questions the formal business was transacted in 26 minutes.

Bryan Cross then presented a fifth selection from the Peter Bland photographic collection. The first part covered mostly shed visits between August 1958 and June 1959 in which a mere fraction of the locomotives present was captured on film. A visit to South Wales recorded a plethora of Pecketts at locations where all traces of industry and the complementary railway are but memories.

After a brief excursion to France and Belgium the focus shifted to the Midland main line and to geographical rather than chronological order. Peter had recorded much of the end of steam on local passenger services in late 1959 but not the conquering dmus.

Images from other collections were shown to fill some gaps. Sadly time ran out before the journey was completed. Bryan Cross has invested considerable time and effort in sorting and enhancing the images left by Peter so that others may enjoy them, as they did on this occasion.

Tuesday 4 October 2016 – 55 Years of Railway Photography Part 1 – Les Nixon   by Chris Foren

Dr Les Nixon made a return to the Branch after too long an absence. His presentation, “55 years of railway photography”, comprised an apparently random selection of fine images made at many locations both at home and abroad.

As the evening progressed the presenter’s concepts of a good photograph began to come across loud and clear.

He prefers to include objects of interest to complement an otherwise dull or routine subject, to make the best use of the landscape and to eschew the traditional front three- quarter view in favour of other viewpoints, such as a broadside.

His approach to recording modern traction is to give much greater prominence to its surroundings than to the subject. Above all he emphasised the importance of capturing a subject while it is still possible to do so.

This latter point was made poignantly by images of such subjects as the coal industry and its rail traffic and of many locations where the growth of vegetation in recent years has made it impossible to replicate the shot, or indeed in some cases even to reach the location.

Among the many anecdotes were tales of evading arrest behind the Iron Curtain and of defying little things like prohibition of entry to railway land by simply donning an orange vest and behaving as if he owned the place – an approach which readers are not advised to emulate!

This was Part 1 of a series of 6. In thanking the speaker warmly Chairman Bill Davies expressed the hope, surely echoed by those present, that Les would return soon.

Tuesday 6 September 2016 -- Colour-Rail Jouney 5 – Paul Chancellor   by Chris Foren

Paul Chancellor came to present his fifth Colour-Rail journey. He selected a number of localities – Crewe, Oxford, Dundee/Perth, Exeter, Teesside and London sheds - which were then explored more or less chronologically.

Each segment contained a photograph which was used as a brain teaser to establish where it really was as opposed to what the photographer had said.

The period covered extended from, in one case, 1919 until almost the present day. Naturally the emphasis of the selection was on motive power, both native and visiting and in conditions covering the full range from workaday grot to utter perfection.

A s an example of the latter, a ‘Schools’ at Stewarts Lane, prompted a question from a member of the audience so worthy of babes and sucklings: “Was it a special occasion?”

Aside from this, plenty of examples were projected where the photographer had chosen to depict the wider scene.

The late Trevor Owen was a master at this and fortunately his collection is now in Colour-Rail’s care. Despite its name the Colour-Rail collection now contains many monochrome images, some of which were used to good effect in portraying the scene before the first faltering advent of colour photography in the 1930s and until it really caught on in the 1960s.

Those present thoroughly enjoyed the presentation which must have evoked many memories. The Branch thanks Paul warmly for another good evening’s entertainment.

Tuesday 5th July 2016 -- The Unknown Warrior -- John Hastings-Thomson   by Chris Foren

John Hastings Thomson from the Patriot Project told us of their aim to complete a replica ex-LMS Patriot. The name “Patriot” was first applied to a Claughton in remembrance of the LNWR staff who fell in the Great War.

The LMS Patriot class was a nominal rebuild of the Claughtons and none were preserved. The new build project was mooted in 2007 and launched at Llangollen in 2008, attracting support from many quarters.

The name “The Unknown Warrior” was chosen by Steam Railway’s readers and helped to secure the support of the Royal British Legion.

With the aid of many interesting photographs John described what parts were required and how they were sourced. Much kindness was extended to the project by the preservation movement as a whole – erecting shop facilities at Llangollen, the loan of casting patterns by Tyseley and the supply of surplus bits of 8F by the County project.

To this was added some luck, such as finding a Claughton whistle on E-bay. Despite all this good fortune a substantial amount of new build was required, principally the frames, cylinders, cab and boiler.

All of this was costly but the project has been most successful in raising funds and attracting high profile supporters such as its new patron, Simon Weston. If the aim of having the completed locomotive in London on 11th November 2018 can be achieved it will be most impressive. Chairman Bill Davies thanked John for a fascinating insight into the project which demonstrated clearly the approach adopted and the spirit of co-operation generated. These thanks were echoed warmly by the audience.
London’s rail network.

The scale of the project is breathtaking and the Branch is most grateful to Patrick for explaining it so clearly, effectively and enjoyably

6th June 2016 -- Crossrail, Moving London Forward – Patrick Griffin   by Chris Foren

Patrick’s enthusiasm for what is the largest civil engineering project in Europe was evident throughout his first-class PowerPoint presentation, which traced the origins of Crossrail from Marc Brunel’s Thames Tunnel through the beginnings of London’s Underground network in the 1860s and the succession of planning studies on which no significant action was taken.

The Central London Rail Study of 1989 led to a Bill being prepared only to be pulled by the cold-footed Treasury. Fortunately a later study by the Shadow SRA was taken seriously.

Funding was secured including a significant contribution from Canary Wharf and a Bill deposited in 2005, receiving significant and public support from politicians.

Patrick explained clearly and methodically the planning and construction processes, pointing out the many obstacles to building a full size tunnel under London (mostly other tunnels), the steps taken to avoid damage to existing buildings and the many other challenges before describing the 66 new trains – a snip at £1bn each - and their phased introduction leading to the full service of 24 trains per hour each way through the central section in 2019.

What will be known as the Elizabeth Line will deliver key cuts in journey times and a notable increase in capacity for London’s rail network.

The scale of the project is breathtaking and the Branch is most grateful to Patrick for explaining it so clearly, effectively and enjoyably

3rd May 2016 -- Scotland in the 1950's & 60's - David Kelso    by Chris Foren

After a gap of some five years David Kelso returned to the Branch, this time bringing a fine selection of black and white images, projected digitally and captioned informatively, depicting steam in Scotland between 1948 and 1960.

The young David’s box Brownie was trained on subjects in and around Edinburgh until he joined the RCTS, SLS and LCGB at, let’s say, an early age. During convalescence from TB he was inspired by Treacy’s “Steam Up” and bought a decent 35mm camera in 1952.

Once his finances had recovered his horizons were greatly expanded. In the ensuing years he travelled extensively in Scotland, capturing the final years of pre-grouping motive power alongside the final LNER Pacifics and the new BR Standards.

The show was arranged by area rather than chronologically and portrayed everything from tired shed pilots and grimy WD 2-10-0s to shiny top link expresses. With regular access to weekly notices there was very little that David missed: in particular he managed to record many rugby and soccer specials, largely double-headed, and, on a couple of occasions, the Royal Train.

Perhaps the most evocative shots were those on the West Highland and Far North lines, where the landscape fully merits the inclusion of trains, but equally charming were some pictures of industrial power.
Many of the locations captured have been swept away and most of the rest changed almost beyond recognition. The Branch extends grateful thanks to David for a fine evening’s entertainment and may well act on the hint that he has another programme available.

5th April 2016 -- Eastleigh Works -- Colin Boocock   by Chris Foren

Colin Boocock paid a welcome return visit to the Branch to tell the story of Eastleigh Works, where he had been an apprentice. The strategically located greenfield site was chosen by Dugald Drummond to replace the cramped and cluttered establishment at Nine Elms.

The new works opened in 1909 and was designed to allow for expansion. One locomotive a month was built there until 1950. With the aid of a comprehensive selection of photographs, including many from his own camera, Colin described the wide range of processes used in building and overhauling locomotives and carriages.

During World War 2 the works turned out such important items as howitzers and landing craft to complement the 23 8Fs built there and in the BR era the overhaul of diesel and electric power was added to the range of skills.

Following a review in 1962 the number of BR workshops was halved and at Eastleigh the locomotive and carriage shops were combined. This was not the last restructuring of this part of the industry and Eastleigh would become one of only six works undertaking Level 5 overhauls.

In 1996 what had become Wessex Traincare was bought by Alstom, who did not make a success of their operation and surrendered their lease ten years later. Fortunately Eastleigh survived to mark its centenary in 2009 and now sees use as a storage facility for off-lease rolling stock. Colin's excellent talk, enjoyed by all present, showed once again that there is nothing to beat expert inside knowledge delivered by a career railwayman.

8th March 2016 -- Quiz v RCTS Northampton and LCGB St Albans    by Chris Foren

This meeting was the second to be held in the afternoon and featured the Inter-Branch Quiz, a fixture of very many years’ standing.

It was good to welcome back the contingent from LCGB St Albans, sadly absent last year, to join battle with the home side and RCTS Northampton. Each Club fielded two teams and three fringe teams also took part, possibly depleting the home side’s brainpower.

Quizmaster Bill Davies delivered five rounds of 10 questions each, one round having been compiled by chief techie Bryan Cross.

The questions embraced a refreshingly yet frustratingly wide range of subjects and certainly tested the knowledge and guessing power of the contestants. Scores were announced at the end of each round.

At the end and after some tantalising recounts the totals were revealed:- Northampton retained the Ashes with 113 points versus Bedford's 107. The fringe teams clocked up scores ranging from 62 to 106.

Once again the helpful on-screen graphics suffered from spelling mistakes too numerous to list and more than their fair share of stray apostrophes. Fortunately more attention to detail was applied to the questions! Once again, everyone forgot about the Fred Cockman trophy.

2nd February 2016 -- Cromford & High Peak Railway (Part 2) -- George Sullivan    by Chris Foren

George Sullivan together with Tommy Tomalin returned to the Branch with the second instalment of their entertaining presentation on the Cromford and High Peak Railway. Once again the first illustration was of the late Ian Lyman who had prepared the script and found so many of the illustrations.

After a brief recap of the line’s origin as a proposed canal the slow journey westward from the two High Peak Junctions resumed. This time the section between the Sheep Pasture and Hopton inclines was explored, once again with the aid of Ordnance Survey maps thoughtfully embellished with arrows to assist the viewer. This section included the incline at Middleton and the technology entailed in its cable working was described comprehensively.

The many photographs shown depicted the characteristic motive power deployed on the line and some unexpected oddities such as wagons branded for Derbyshire County Council. Of the mishaps described, perhaps the most notable of these was the occasion in July 1955 when Kitson 0-4-0ST 47000 derailed spectacularly, becoming a temporary and not altogether welcome garden feature.

Its recovery was accomplished with the aid of another loco and prodigious earthworks but despite extensive damage the runaway was absent for repairs for only two months. Among the many other features illustrated were some early cast fishbelly rails and stone blocks laid when the line was worked by horses.

Again the evening proved too short. The Branch looks forward to a return by George and Tommy as soon as an opportunity can be found.

5th January 2016 -- 175 years of Wolverton Works and the Royal Train -- Phil Marsh    by Chris Foren

This meeting turned out to be three presentations in one. The first part recreated an early journey along the London and Birmingham Railway, featuring illustrations of some of its well-known landmarks under construction. Many were taken from engravings by Bourne and featured right hand running for which the railway was not noted. An extract from an early timetable revealed that the journey time from Euston to Birmingham was 5 hours 37 minutes, a marked improvement on the stagecoach.

This 2013 view shows the Royal Train departing from Wolverton Works on the original WCML alignment past the 1838 opened Erecting Shop.
P.Marsh Collection.

The focus then shifted to the evolution of the Royal Train from the saloons built for Queen Victoria in 1869, sumptuous on the inside but basic on the outside, through the armoured vehicles built for King George VI in 1941 to the present relatively modern nine coach set which is far more functional than its predecessors.

Finally Phil presented an affectionate portrait and history of the Royal Train’s home, Wolverton Works, and some of those who worked there. Hr looked back at its role in wartime and its provision of the local fire brigade, noting that the future of the facility is now far from certain given its ownership by a property developer.

There was no shortage of humorous anecdotes and the section on the Works in particular emphasised the incalculable value of oral history. How some of the photographs were obtained is best described as ‘carefully’. The Branch thanks Phil for a fascinating and informative evening.