Indoor Meetings


Meeting Summaries 2014

Tuesday 16th December 2014 -- Christmas Special
         by Chris Foren

The Branch Christmas meeting on followed the now customary format of informality with local members providing the entertainment.

A selection of the 23 diners. President Jack Turner is on the right.

The first item was a selection of slides. The smooth running of the evening, always a precarious ideal, was disrupted by the inability of some of the presenters to recall which way round slides should be loaded in the carousel.

Alan Ledwick punctuated the mayhem with his Stinker Quiz and in a welcome break with tradition the lucky winner, who scored six out of ten, was rewarded with something other than a Christmas pudding.

The next anxiety was the late arrival of the food from the chippie but it was worth the wait. After dinner the digital projector was switched on so that Jack Turner, Bryan Cross and Peter Neal could show some images.

After the bumper raffle draw in which it seemed that everyone must have prizes the evening concluded as oft times before with a Tom and Jerry cartoon, followed by another.

The Branch seems to enjoy this annual opportunity to let its receding hair down: it is a simple formula but it works

Tuesday 2nd December 2014-- Engine Sheds Part 5 -- Chris Banks
         by Chris Foren

As is becoming customary, the Branch welcomed Chris Banks with part 5 of his “Engine Sheds” series. This time the tour began at Gateshead but for the remainder of the first half focused on Glasgow sheds ranging in size from the expansive Eastfield and Polmadie to the two-road former goods shed at Yoker.

Ex-MR Gloucester Barnwood shed was home to Midland Rly Deeley 0F 0-4-0 Tank No.41537. Built in 1907, it shunted Gloucester Docks.

Inevitably some sheds and the locomotives to be found there were better photographed than others but those present could not fail to be impressed by the variety of classes featured, particularly survivors of pre-grouping times. The conditions of the motive power depicted ranged from ex-works to terminal decrepitude.

After tea the odyssey ventured out of Scotland to visit Gloucester, Goodwick, Grantham, Guildford, Horsham and many more, once again taking liberties with the alphabet to embrace some obscure sub-sheds.

The tour ended with a return to Scotland at Hurlford. As usual, Chris gave a brief history of each shed and key facts about the locomotives illustrated, supplemented by some amusing anecdotes and tales of shed visits.

This presentation benefitted from painstaking research and much luck in acquiring suitable slides. The Branch thanks Chris once more for an entertaining evening and looks forward to Parts Six to Infinity!

Monday 10th November 2014 -- Quiz v. RCTS Northampton [Away Leg]
         by Chris Foren

The Branch's brain power took to the road on 10/11 for the away leg of the Ashes quiz versus RCTS Northampton.
Once again Brian Benford of Kettering was the question master. Both sides had to dig deep into their trivia banks to have any hope of answering the questions which, as expected, majored on the more esoteric and abstruse areas of steam locomotive matters.

After a long run of victories Bedford's luck ran out when the home team took an early lead and kept it. The eight round contest was a close one with Northampton winning by 66 points to 62. There was no presentation of awards because Bedford forgot to bring the Ashes and Northampton could not find the buffer customarily presented to the losing side.

The Branch looks forward to the return match in March 2015, possibly with trophies this time.

Tuesday 4th November 2014 -- Last Train to Kensington Midland Style -- John Downing
         by Chris Foren

The Branch welcomed back John Downing, well known as a former Cricklewood fireman and historian of the Midland, with a presentation about the services which used to run over the Dudding Hill line.

John dealt first and briefly with the succession of short-lived passenger flows, none of which lasted beyond 1902, illustrating the 0-4-4 tanks which worked them and owed much to the Metropolitan for their design. The freight traffic over the line was more successful and can still be seen. The Midland had several coal depots outside its own territory which generated traffic flows depending on running powers for access.

The two which John examined with his typical thoroughness were from Cricklewood to West Kensington and High Street Kensington, both on the District Line of London Underground and lasting into the 1960s. Some dismantled spurs were included and John projected some useful maps to help describe the route taken by the unbraked freights.

The scope of the illustrations was wide enough to recall the 1992 steam on the District and several generations of bygone District Line stock and it was noticeable from the shots of District Line stations that London Underground is much more inclined to conserve historic architecture than the national railway.

The Branch thanks John warmly for an interesting and erudite presentation.

Tuesday 21 October 2014 -- AGM then Boston to Stafford by GNR - Tommy Tomalin and George Sullivan
         by Chris Foren

The Branch AGM on 21/10 was sparsely attended. Chairman Bill Davies added a plea for feedback to his thanks to the Committee and other regular helpers of the Branch for their contributions and called on those who natter during meetings to desist. Afternoon meetings are still under consideration. Yet again the committee was re-elected en bloc.

Following increasingly dismal support the photographic competition was rested this year in favour of a digital presentation by Tommy Tomalin and George Sullivan. The subject was the former GN route from Boston to Stafford, which had been recorded on film comprehensively by Tommy since 1960.

With the aid of maps from the Cobb atlas and a wind-up torch to help Tommy read his notes the route was described and a representative selection of infrastructure illustrated. Traffic depicted ranged from a Deltic on a Skegness train to that rarest of sights, a clean WD, embracing a wide range of first and second generation diesel multiple units and the inevitable pairs of Class 20s on summer Saturday holiday trains. 80080 and its piebald stock forming the Jolly Fisherman special of 1993 made several appearances.

The intricacies of Barkston Junction occupied a significant proportion of the show but unfortunately time ran out before the complex network in the Colwick and Netherton area could be given more than introductory coverage. Tommy and George deserve the Branch's thanks for the evening, a repeat invitation in 2016 to continue the odyssey and a more plentiful congregation to enjoy them doing it.

Tuesday 7 October 2014 -- Irish Surprises – Colin Boocock
         by Chris Foren

Colin Boocock returned to the Branch after a lengthy absence with his presentation "Irish Surprises". He set out the changes to the Irish rail network since his first visit in 1956, beginning with a look at the steam power still in service at the time. Some of the designers played a part in UK locomotive history, notably Maunsell, Ivatt, Robinson and of course Bulleid.

The disappearance of much of the rail network on both sides of the border, particularly all but one of the cross-border lines, was displayed starkly on maps. CIE's early experience of diesels was unhappy to put it mildly until the bold decision to replace Crossley power plant with General Motors equipment.

Today modern diesel multiple units carry passengers on both sides of the border and in Dublin the electric DART thrives but in the south the recession has led to service reductions, a surplus of stock and disappointing business on some reopened lines.

Some of the formerly extensive narrow gauge network lives on in preservation. The talk was accompanied by a comprehensive selection of photographs depicting both the workaday and the idiosyncratic.

Many in the sadly depleted audience who have not visited Ireland will surely be tempted to do so following Colin's presentation, for which the Branch extends grateful thanks.

Tuesday 2 September 2014 -- The Peter Bland Collection Part 4 -- Bryan Cross
         by Chris Foren

Branch Fixtures Secretary Bryan Cross showed a fourth selection from the late Peter Bland's photographic collection, of which he is custodian.

On this occasion the emphasis of the presentation was on industrial locos and locations. Clearly Peter had devoted much of 1953 to their pursuit. Remarkably, several of the subjects depicted survive in preservation, including the 0-6-4T Cecil Raikes seen at a colliery near Ilkeston and a saddle tank inherited by the GWR in 1923 found at a factory in Kent.

A trip to North Wales later in the year provided much for Peter to record on the standard and an assortment of narrow gauges, including a very derelict Festiniog Railway at Portmadoc and a newly revived Talyllyn at Towyn. Peter had also managed to record an RCTS railtour starting at Bishopsgate Goods and ride on it around the East of England, taking pictures at every stop.

Although Bryan had expended incalculable time and effort in research, there were gaps even in his knowledge which audience members fell over themselves, often boisterously, to fill for him.

The evening ended with a look at local services between St Pancras and Bedford in 1959, on the eve of dieselisation. Much remains in the collection to be catalogued, scanned, researched and shown. The Branch repeats its regret that Peter had not been more willing to show his fine work during his lifetime and prays that Bryan will be granted the many more years needed to do his work justice!

Tuesday 1 July 2014 - Aspects of a Footplate Career 1964-2007 - Bill Davies
         by Chris Foren

The title afforded Branch Chairman Bill ample opportunity to pick and choose the subjects of his reminiscences, anecdotes and ridicule and it was clear from the start that he was spoilt for choice.

Before him was a table groaning with memorabilia which would have reaped a fortune had it been auctioned or even given as raffle prizes.

Instead, the exhibits served as props for Bill's chronicle of bright ideas from successive managing directors of train operating companies - mugs, marketing literature, miscellaneous trinkets and ties, the latter provoking particularly scathing comment.

Included in Bill's experiences was Test Car Iris. Once to be seen at high speed on the Midland Main Line, it is now back to passenger duty on the Ecclesbourne Valley Rly. [by Bill Davies

Having begun his railway service at Toton, Bill always looked upon himself as a Midland man.

Whether he was critical of some of the entrenched and rigid attitudes that prevailed long after the Grouping was not clear but the tale of the driver who refused to go further than Lincoln St Marks was both entertaining to the audience and revealing of the problems facing BR in the 1960s.

The talk was accompanied by some wide ranging and well chosen slides of which the first few served to illustrate Bill's love for silly notices. Others provoked more anecdotes which if repeated here would probably land someone in trouble.

Nostalgia was evoked and more tales prompted by a series of shots depicting the old station at Bedford.

Laughter filled the air for most of the evening. As some famous comics have shown, there is much humour in the truth. Surely a career in stand-up is the next step for Bill

Tuesday 6 June 2014 - LNER Locos transferred to BR in 1948 - Brian Benford
         by Chris Foren

Brian Benford of the Kettering Locomotive Society returned to the Branch armed with his own venerable projector and projectionist. In contrast to his first visit, which dealt with LMS locomotives, he showed slides of LNER motive power from his remarkable archive.

Equally remarkable was his grasp of detail and minutiae which has served him well in compiling and presenting quizzes over the years. To discipline a potentially rambling subject Brian dealt first with the formation of the LNER from its several constituent companies before proceeding to review its motive power as handed over to BR in the order listed by Ian Allan's ABC. Not forgotten was the WD 2-8-0, of which the LNER bought 200 examples later renumbered in the BR Standard series, nor the Sentinel steam railcar, one of which lasted until 1948.

Many amusing anecdotes came to light, such as the time when a B1 had its whistle stolen whilst awaiting spares at Kettering and was fitted with one from a scrap 4F. Oh, the indignity! It was news to much of the audience that a V2 received a copper-capped chimney after repair at Swindon and that over 4 million miles of light engine running were clocked up in 1924/5.

Brian clearly finds this aspect and level of enthusiasm totally fascinating and the Branch thanks him for a full evening

Tuesday 6 May 2014 - Steam: At Home and Abroad -- Ted Burley
         by Chris Foren

Local member Ted was a late comer to photography, having acquired a camera only in 1988, but had shadowed other cameramen such as David Eatwell and Ray Schofield beforehand. Both these luminaries proffered comments during the presentation.

The first part covered British subjects, both main line and preserved railways. The speaker's preferences for snow, water and silhouettes became clear at once, as did his determination to reach and maintain high standards of composition.

The focus then shifted to Scandinavia and mainland Europe and in particular to Germany, both pre- and post-unification, before heading for the USA and Cuba. The world of steam would not have been complete without visits to China and South Africa, nor to Java, Burma and Cambodia. In his extensive travels

Ted also took pains to capture images of what the more average tourist might see and was not afraid to include non-steam subjects where they were of historical interest. The quality of the images projected was high throughout, whatever the photographer may have thought of some of them himself. Sadly Ted's photographic activity has wound down with the demise of Kodak slide film.

Tuesday 1st April -- 46 Years on British Railways: From Nationalisation to Privatisation -- Jack Turner
         by Chris Foren

The Branch welcomed its own Jack Turner, founder and current President of the LCGB, with a presentation based on his recently published autobiography.
Jack retired from the railway 21 years ago after 46 years’ service punctuated with no less than eight redundancies!

Jack’s first job as a qualified fireman was at Leighton Buzzard, where his first turn was on an LNWR “Super D” 0-8-0 to Dunstable up the 1 in 40 Sewell Bank.
[this photo by Harold Clements in 1951

His early life was spent close to the railway in Aylesbury and in 1947, aged 14, he joined the LMS as a junior clerk in the goods department.

At 16 he became a cleaner at Bletchley and soon found himself firing and relieving at other sheds. After National Service from 1950 to 1952 he found himself at Aylesbury Town shed and learnt the craft of driving

. A job at Bedford fell through and after a spell in the brickworks he became a signalman on the Midland, working in many boxes as a regular and relief man. As might be expected, Jack had a great many stories to tell of incidents and fellow railwaymen, ranging from the absurd to the poignant and covering some of the more unofficial aspects of railway life as well as the day-to-day business.

The accompanying photographs were selected with care and acted as a garnish to the tale. There was never a remote possibility that he would be able to tell the whole tale in one evening and what happened after he became a relief station master will just have to wait for another time!

Tuesday 11 March 2014 - Quiz versus RCTS Northampton and LCGB St Albans
      by Chris Foren

Ouiz teams from RCTS Northampton and LCGB St Albans visited the Branch seeking to wrest the Ashes from the home team. .

Best “Fringe” Team was “No Hopers”. Captain Dave Britton accepts his team’s Thomas eggs from LCGB President jack Turner

Once five fringe teams had formed there were nearly enough aspiring contestants for each club to field two teams of three.

The established team of quizmaster Bill Davies and chief techie Bryan Cross delivered 44 questions with many parts which appeared to grow in difficulty as the contest progressed.

Scores were announced at the end of each round but not totalled until the end, creating some suspense

Although the questions were compiled with skill and care, a couple of answers were given away in their phrasing, possibly so that all but the most dense would come away with some marks!

The quizmaster’s carefully cadenced delivery embellished the on-screen graphics which worked well until someone clouted the projector, causing a brief shut-down.

The final scores were: Bedford A 131, Bedford B 109, Northampton A 123, Northampton B 84, St Albans A 107 and St Albans B 31.

The five fringe teams scored between 53 and 90, the highest scoring calling themselves the No-Hopers and being rewarded with some Thomas merchandise. Perhaps that will encourage them to offer themselves to an official team in future.

Meanwhile Bedford retain the Ashes and the Fred Cockman trophy. Well done to Roger Whitehead (Captain),Alan Ledwick and Chris Foren.

Tuesday 4th February -- The Railways of East Lincolnshire -- Mike Fowler
         by Chris Foren

A year later than originally intended, the Branch welcomed Mike Fowler and his presentation on the railways of East Lincolnshire.

Mike outlined the development of the rail network which took from 1846 to 1913, explaining the traffic which initially sustained each line. As might be expected in such a rural area bounded by a lengthy coastline, this amounted principally to fish and vegetables, augmented during wartime by armaments.

The carriage of passengers became important too with the growth of holiday resorts at Skegness and Mablethorpe and the port of Grimsby but the ambition of turning Sutton-on-Sea into a significant port was never realised.

Mike Fowler poses by two of his priceless artefacts [photo Geoff Biggs

Even before Beeching the network had begun to wither but the proposal to close most of it was first issued in 1962 and implemented in 1970, helped on its way by over 60 expensive-to-run level crossings.

Unusually a passenger service between Peterborough and Spalding was restored soon after withdrawal. Some of the infrastructure that survived after closure was illustrated with slides and prints.

Sadly Mike’s aim to show two DVDs was thwarted by technical failure but, as befits a former radio presenter, he was able to keep going almost regardless. The talk concluded with an evocative article from a local paper.

In his effusive vote of thanks Branch Chairman Bill Davies praised the presentation as an example of how it should be done and expressed the hope that the missing footage would be shown one day – technicalities permitting!

Tuesday 7th January -- 50- 50 Kings Cross -- Richard Crane
         by Chris Foren

Former Branch Secretary Richard Crane returned to the Branch with another of his "Fifty-Fifty" presentations, this time covering the Great Northern main line.

Again denying any expertise of his subject, Richard began his journey at milepost 50, just south of St Neots, and headed south methodically towards Kings Cross. Extended coverage of Sandy reflected the speaker's early spotting expeditions and at Biggleswade the focus was on his avoidance of cross-country running at school! A representative selection of motive power, from the various Pacifics to the Pilot Scheme diesels, HSTs and electrics, was illustrated by slides from the Colour-Rail catalogue and many of his own taking.

In the approximate 50 year timespan of the presentation the Deltics arrived on and departed from the scene and the decline of steam from 1963 was rapid. Although the electrified GN main line is busier than ever the heavy coal traffic is but a memory as are the filthy WDs that worked it.

The bottlenecks at Sandy, Arlesey and Potters Bar have gone but that of Welwyn Viaduct is likely to remain indefinitely. As Kings Cross approached some shots of Top Shed were accompanied by Richard's admission that he never bunked it. The show concluded with some evocative shots of locomotives at the buffers and the present-day terminus, now tidied almost beyond recognition.

The Branch thanks Richard for another evening's entertainment and congratulates him for overcoming the acoustics in the hall with his own PA system.