Indoor Meeting Summaries 2016

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.