Indoor Meeting Summaries 2017

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.