Indoor Meeting Summaries 2015


15 December 2015 – Christmas Special     by Chris Foren

Bedford Branch’s Christmas meeting was a textbook example of informality. As usual, local members provided the first half’s entertainment.

Possibly to get it over and done, the first item was Alan Ledwick’s Stinker Quiz, which produced the unusual result of a three-way tie for first place with a massive six points. Two tiebreaks were required to determine that Colin Bassett was the worthy winner, rewarded with a wrapped box that could not possibly have been the dreaded Christmas pudding.

Then came an eclectic selection of slides from Bryan Cross, Goff Biggs, Ted Burley, Colin Smith and Steve Lacey. Others stood ready to project but were thwarted by the arrival of the food from the chippie, supplemented this time by some fine mince pies baked by Peter Crossman’s wife. After dinner Frank Banfield entertained with a selection of cine films, concluding with a Road Runner cartoon.

Although the attendance was a tad sparse, those present enjoyed the event.

1st December 2015 -- Engine Sheds Part 6 -- Chris Banks
       by Chris Foren

Chris Banks entertained the us with the sixth part of his “Engine Sheds” series. The focus this time was on the London area.

As has come to be expected from this presenter, some liberties were taken with the alphabet.

The tour began at Bricklayers Arms, progressing to Camden, Cricklewood, Kentish Town, Hither Green (where some diesel shunters could be glimpsed), Kings Cross and Nine Elms before the tea break and Norwood Junction, Stewarts Lane, Plaistow, Stratford, Old Oak Common and Willesden afterwards.

Chris demonstrated not only the variety of power still to be seen as steam declined but the steadily worsening external condition of what remained. Particularly evocative were the pictures of Nine Elms in 1967 with ash everywhere.

In his customary style Chris gave a potted history of each shed and key facts about the locomotives illustrated.

The Branch thanked him warmly for another top quality presentation and looks forward to Part 7 in December 2016.

The evening began with a brief tribute to David Eatwell, Branch fixtures secretary for many years, who had passed away a few days previously. His photographic skills and trenchant opinions will be sadly missed.

Tuesday 17 November 2015– Wanderings on the Midland - Brian Stephenson
       by Chris Foren

The first afternoon meeting of the Branch took place when Brian Stephenson gave a digital presentation entitled “Wanderings on the Midland”.   The images were produced by scanning from glass plates and negatives, enhanced where necessary with the aid of Photoshop.

Among the notable photographers whose collections are in Brian’s care and were featured in the presentation were Messrs W Beckerlegge, T G Hepburn, A G Ellis, F R Hebron, C R L Coles, K Field, D Hepburne Scott and J M Jarvis.

In the first half Brian examined locomotives of the Midland Railway and LMS between 1900 and 1935, showing how design evolved under the stewardships of Johnson and Deeley and later influenced LMS practice. The subjects were captured at a variety of locations, some such as St Pancras and Nottingham being represented more than others such as Aldersgate and Bolton.

Amid the workaday power was portrayed one-offs such as Fury and the Lickey Banker, with tantalising glimpses of preserved locos said to have been destroyed on Stanier’s orders.

In the second half the story continued to 1968 with WDs, 9Fs, the decline of steam and the advent of diesel power before abruptly changing to colour and up to date images taken by Brian in places ranging from the Rhine Valley and the Gotthard Pass to less than a mile from his home.

The Branch is most grateful to Brian for enduring the journey to Bedford, made more difficult by incidents on the railway. In terms of both content and attendance the experiment of an afternoon meeting can be judged a success.

Monday 9th November 2015 – Quiz v. RCTS [Away Leg]
       by Chris Foren

RCTS Northampton Deputy Chairman Keith Sykes (Left) presenting the Ashes to RCTS Tean Captain Graham Onley.

Once again the Branch’s brain power braved the rush hour congestion for the away leg of the Ashes quiz versus RCTS Northampton at the latter’s new meeting place.

Habitual question master Brian Benford delivered the questions with almost indecent haste, a handicap given that the teams needed to consult before writing down the answers in the poor light of the slide projector, and did not help matters by introducing ambiguities to some of the questions.

The subject matter majored on the more abstruse areas of steam locomotive matters, including names and sheds.

The eight round contest was surprisingly close one with Northampton winning by 64 points to 62, much less of a hammering than the impression gained by the Bedford team as it huddled round captain Bill Davies.

Given the need to end the proceedings by 9.30 pm, possibly past the caretaker's bedtime, perhaps one less round would have been more comfortable for all. .

Tuesday -- 3rd November -- Great Northern: Kings Cross to Peterborough – George Howe
       by Chris Foren

Once again the booked speaker was unable to attend. In his place the Branch was pleased to welcome once again George Howe who gave a presentation on the Great Northern Railway.

In addition to being a retired signalman, George is prominent in the Great Northern Society. With the aid of basic but clear maps he set out the origins and development of the GNR, reminding the audience that the present direct route to Scotland via the East Coast Main Line was not achieved straight away: rather, the line from Peterborough via Lincoln to Retford preceded that via Grantham and Stoke Bank.

The GNR’s presence in London was Maiden Lane until Kings Cross was ready and intermediate stations were initially few in number. Much else of interest emerged during the evening, not least the revelation that the good people of Biggleswade clamoured for the railway to go through the town rather than round it.

The proposed branch to Bedford from a triangular junction at Sandy was news to many too. With the history came a varied selection of photographs in slide form garnered from many sources and covering all key periods and many locations served by the line. Of particular interest to many were the images of Langford Bridge box, George’s first. Clearly there is more to this subject than just one evening could hope to cover. The Branch is most grateful to George for once again stepping into the breach at short notice.

Tuesday -- 20th October 2015 - AGM plus Jack Turner part 2
       by Chris Foren

As inevitably as night following day, the attendance at the Branch AGM was sparse. Chairman Bill Davies profered his thanks to the Committee and other regular helpers of the Branch for their contributions and once again sought feedback which might guide those who run the Branch in their deliberations.

He looked forward to the experiment of afternoon meetings. To the surprise of no-one, least of all those concerned, the committee was re-elected en bloc. With the formal business concluded in just over 30 minutes, Club founder Jack Turner took the floor to reminisce, without notes but with his autobiography not far from his mind, about his long career on the railway.

The first section of the talk was a recap of events from 1946, when he joined as a 14 year old school leaver, to 1970 when he arrived at Kensington Olympia as a station supervisor. There he found a complex yet largely unknown mix of freight, milk, parcels and motor-rail traffic, leavened with mystery excursions and the attendant problems of crew relief. More than once he was compelled to act as conductor to drivers who did not know the road.

His next move was to Euston as Operating Inspector, a nebulous job title which at one point led him to Hendon where he kept an eye on the building of the M1 alongside the line. A variety of management roles followed, most involving signalling installations. The flow of anecdotes was constant and attracted far more attention than the projected illustrations. All too soon time ran out on a good meeting which too many missed.

Tuesday 6 October 2015 – Both sides of the Tweed – Denis Lovett
         by Chris Foren

Given the recent re-opening of part of the Waverley route Dennis’s presentation, “Both Sides of the Tweed”, was aptly topical.

St Boswells Station looking North early 20th Century.

It examined the two lines that once connected St Boswells with Berwick-upon-Tweed, one each side of the River Tweed that forms part of the border between England and Scotland.

The presentation began with a sequence of pictures illustrating the territory served by the lines, accompanied by recorded music from a pipe band worthy of the Edinburgh Tattoo.

Dennis then described the routes of the lines from St Boswells to Berwick via Duns and from Berwick to St Boswells via Kelso, giving a brief history of each relevant feature encountered en route. The photographs were selected from those gathered by Dennis for his series of books on the railways of the Border region and included several taken to illustrate the present day scene where traces of the long bygone railway could still be discerned.

Passenger traffic was not heavy on either the Duns or the Kelso route and in the former case was ended by the floods of 1948 which also washed out parts of the East Coast main line. Not forgotten was the turbulent history of Berwick, passed between England and Scotland 13 times in all.

Among the many interesting snippets learned was that Duns is the origin of the dunce’s cap! The Branch is grateful to Dennis for an interesting and thorough insight into two bygone rail routes which clearly deserved to be better known.

Tuesday -- 1st September 2015 -- Don’t Blame Beeching -- Richard Crane
       by Chris Foren

The speaker this time was Richard Crane, former long serving Branch Secretary and more recently promoter of the Bedford – Bletchley line. His presentation, “Don’t Blame Beeching”, examined a selection of the lines closed to passenger traffic from as long ago as 1925 to the appointment of Dr Richard Beeching as Chairman of the BRB in 1961. Many of today’s commentators conveniently lay responsibility for many branch closures at Beeching’s door whilst overlooking the truth.

What Beeching did in fact was to bring to a head the closure process which had gathered pace in the 1950s. With a widely harvested selection of photographs Richard illustrated many of the lines whose passenger services had been abandoned long before Ernest Marples charged Beeching with making the railways pay. The Limpley Stoke to Camerton line, used in 1953 for filming “The Titfield Thunderbolt”, was abandoned in 1925, while the 1930s claimed branches such as those to Kemp Town, Brill, The Dyke, Parkend and Knott End.

By the 1950s more substantial lines were facing the axe, notably the Midland and Great Northern which only saw heavy use for a few weeks in the summer. Fate has been kind to some lines. That from Bathgate to Airdrie, lost in 1956, now has a frequent service of electric trains. Others have been saved by the preservation movement, notably the Bluebell which had the distinction of being closed twice.

For this most interesting talk the Branch thanks Richard warmly and will not be surprised when he returns.

Tuesday 7th July 2015 -- The Network South East Story -- Chris Green
       by Chris Foren

A near capacity audience listened attentively as Chris described the creation of first the sector and then the brand.

Having transformed ScotRail from a drab to a sparkling railway he was brought south to attempt a similar miracle, at the same time tasked with reducing Government subsidy by £100m. By a mix of marketing and management he created one railway for London, introducing such products as the one day Capitalcard and the Network Card, both now familiar, to grow off-peak travel.

An unexpected growth in peak passenger numbers led to new trains, new stations and electrification. The concept of total route modernisation, applied first to the Chiltern line, brought impressive results and is arguably one reason for the present success of London Overground.

By 1990 the recession had brought the Golden Age to an end: passenger numbers declined and the unexpected election result of 1992 heralded privatisation. BR ensured a smooth transition to the private sector and at the end of NSE’s life it was in profit. Chris reflected that if Thameslink 2000 and Crossrail had been implemented when first mooted they would have been achieved at a tenth of the cost.

The first 10 years of privatisation had been a missed opportunity during which costs had risen out of control but if any lesson had been learned it was the benefit of continuity as shown by the Chiltern and SWT franchises.

A lively discussion ensued in which Chris fielded a wide range of questions. The Branch thanks him warmly for a fascinating evening.

Tuesday 2nd June 2015 -- From Rookie Journalist to Grumpy Old Man - David Percival
       by Chris Foren

David Percival entertained the Branch on with his presentation “From rookie journalist to grumpy old man”. David’s rail enthusiasm began in Norbury where he spotted many units and a few steam trains from a creaky footbridge. Later moving to Stevenage, he left school at the end of 1961 and joined Ian Allan, soon being able to afford a decent camera which paved the way for his pictorial contributions to ABCs.

In 1965 he became assistant editor of W H Smith’s staff magazine, making full use of business travel by maximising photographic opportunities in such exotic locations as Bangor, Taffs Well and Weekday Cross. Despite having left Ian Allan he remained involved with the company and later edited Modern Railways Pictorial for a year.

In time his career progressed to the press and public relations office at National Savings, based in the office block near Kensington Olympia seen in countless photographs. Pat of the job was taking part in phone-ins on local radio, giving more opportunities for travel and photography.

In 1995 he took early retirement, enabling him to concentrate on writing and publishing. Why ‘grumpy old man’? Because in David’s view too many books are poorly designed and riddled with inaccurate captions, both being easily avoidable. The talk was rich in his own fine photographs and a wide range of anecdotes and enjoyed by all present. It barely scratched the surface of what he has to say and the Branch hopes to ask him back.

Tuesday 5th May 2015 -- BR 1959 to 1966 – Robin Patrick
        by Chris Foren

LCGB Branch Liaison Officer Robin Patrick graced the Branch with his presence again on 5 May. This time he brought with him scans of some 200 black and white negatives that had never been printed, taken between 1959 and 1966. Robin joined the railway in 1962, working first at Blisworth and then Roade, and taking full advantage of the opportunities thereby made available to record the changing scene. Unlike some photographers, he took careful note of the power and workings that he recorded, enabling him to explain some of the finer points of day-to-day operations that the typical enthusiast does not always understand.

Inevitably the changing West Coast main line was the main focus of his photography but not to the exclusion of all else. Understandably the focus was on steam but a few diesels were allowed in to relieve the unrelenting grime of steam engines in that period.

As the end of steam drew ever nearer Robin travelled widely and further afield to record its last knockings, with particular focus on Scotland and the Southern. Several railtours over long-closed lines with unusual or distinctive motive power were recalled and with them the happy days, now long gone, when photographers could roam almost at will. The Branch is once again happy to thank Robin for a fine evening’s entertainment and hopes very much that he will soon have time to scan some more negatives to show us.

Tuesday 7th April 2015 -- West Coast Main Line Euston to Castlethorpe – Bob Ballard
         by Chris Foren

The Branch welcomed Bob Ballard, long time RCTS stalwart and mastermind of Collectors Corner, who presented an illustrated journey from Euston to Castlethorpe using slides from the photographic collection of the late Bob Berry and a few of his own. Having begun work at Euston in 1964, Bob was in a good position to observe the substantial changes brought about by electrification and was present, albeit at a safe distance, when The Queen opened the rebuilt station.

The illustrated journey headed steadily north, embracing such varied bygones as the old Euston, Camden and Willesden MPDs, Oerlikon units, early pilot scheme diesel locomotives, Stonebridge Park generating station and a Class 317 unit at Watford Junction. The staple steam power of the West Coast Main Line was by no means forgotten, nor supporting players such as the Dunstable branch passenger.

An extended break was taken at Bletchley, where the old station, MPD and pre-flyover landscape were fondly recalled. Glimpses of motive power here ranged from Clun Castle via the Deltic prototype to the almost forgotten 10800. The journey ended at Castlethorpe, which despite its rare location in the centre of the settlement it served has not survived.
It was fitting that the last image shown was that of Bob Berry himself on the footplate of the replica Bloomer. This was an informative and evocative presentation which brought home once more just how rapid is the pace of change and the thanks of the Branch are extended to both Bobs.

Tuesday 10th March 2015 -- Quiz v RCTS [Home Leg]
        by Chris Foren

Our friends at LCGB St Albans were sadly absent from the quiz on 10/3 but a contingent from RCTS Northampton joined battle, bringing with them the Ashes which had chnged hands in Novmber.

No less than six fringe teams also took part, leaving hardly any audience. Quizmaster Bill Davies and chief techie Bryan Cross delivered 46 questions with many parts, covering a wide spectrum and causing very few arguments.

Scores were announced at the end of each round, leaving the totals to be divulged at the end. To their bewilderment Bedford A took an early lead and maintained it through the contest.

The on-screen graphics were helpful but even more laden with stray apostrophes than last year, leading some to ponder whether the culprit had a second job as a greengrocer.

For added amusement there were some choice spelling mistakes, including 'statute' for 'statue' - yes, there was a question on statues.

The final scores were: Bedford A 130, Bedford B 93, Northampton A 65 and Northampton B 92.

The six fringe teams scored between 52 and 88, that named the Hornets (after misplaced enthusiasm for association football, apparently) scooping a reward of confectionery.

The sole member of Bluebirds scored 52 on his own and could find himself in an official team next year if he is unwary.

So Bedford regained the Ashes and everyone forgot about the Fred Cockman trophy

Tuesday 3rd February 2015 -- The Cromford and High Peak Railway Part I -- George Sullivan and Tommy Tomalin.
         by Chris Foren

We welcomed Tommy and George from Northampton for the second time in three months. Their presentation on the Cromford and High Peak Railway had been prepared largely by the late Ian Lyman and began with a tribute portrait. The railway had originally been proposed as a canal to link two other canals but it became clear at an early stage that the topography of Derbyshire and Cheshire was not conducive to this idea given the gradients and sheer profusion of locks that would have been required.

The enabling Bill was laid before Parliament in 1824 -- before the Stockton and Darlington opened. As with many other projects the cost was underestimated. With the aid of Railway Clearing House junction diagrams, Ordnance Survey maps and Google Earth George described the route starting at the Cromford end. To his relief and that of the audience Tommy clarified the difference between the two High Peak Junctions. A remarkable collection of photographs illustrated many of the installations.

The variety of motive power shown was by no means confined to North London tanks and J94s. The LNWR and its successors drafted in a remarkable variety of locos. The working of the Sheep Pasture incline would have been a challenge in today's health and safety culture and promoted some amusing anecdotes. Sadly time ran out on this scholarly yet entertaining presentation. The Branch looks forward to what are understood to be the next four instalments.

Tuesday 6th January 2015 -- The last four Years of BR Steam - George Howe
         by Chris Foren

In the unavoidable absence of the booked speaker we welcomed retired railwayman George Howe from nearby Potton who showed a selection of his own slides covering the period 1964-68 - the last four years of steam

. Armed with a serviceable if basic camera, some colour slide film, the undeniable perk of 'priv' travel and later a Vespa scooter, George set out on day trips to record the changing scene. With the concentration of the last steam locomotives in the North-West it was taken as read that he would make repeated trips there, to Yorkshire and to the lines out of Waterloo. Other parts were not neglected - the bleak Dovey Junction and the unpronounceable (to the speaker if not the audience) Machynlleth, the North-East and even Reading also featured, as did the Great Northern main line where George worked in several 'boxes over the years.

Although his show concentrated on steam the usurping diesels inevitably appeared before his lens, including Deltics, DP2, a stray Co-Bo and several Claytons. Fortunately the visual gloom of neglected steam engines was relieved by George's knowledgeable and entertaining commentary. The Branch is most grateful to him for standing in at such short notice and hopes to be able to welcome him again in due course.