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LOCOMOTIVE CLUB of GREAT BRITAIN
BEDFORD BRANCH

Indoor Meetings

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

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


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

Local Information

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

Meeting Progam

[Tuesdays unless otherwise stated]

2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

13th August Annual summer trip to Bletchley

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meeting Summaries



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