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NEXT FIXTURES

AUGUST

Friday 16th: Central London Branch: Members’ Slides

SEPTEMBER

Tuesday 3rd: Bedford Branch: Reflections on the Changing Railway over the last Fifty Years: Adrian Shooter
Tuesday 10th: North London Branch: Operating 92 Squadron: Dr Steve Lacey
Wednesday 11th: Dorking Branch: Railways of Kingston: John King
Thursday 12th: St Albans Branch: Why are there no tube trains to Bushey Heath?: Keith Gower
Friday 20th: Central London Branch: More Pictures from the Peter Bland Collection: Bryan Cross
Monday 23rd: Brighton Branch: Alan’s Unseen Gems: Nick Kelly
Thursday 26th: Croydon Branch: The Premier Line: Stuart Dennison

OCTOBER

Tuesday 1st: Bedford Branch: Railways of Northamptonshire (Part 2): Robin Cullup
Tuesday 8th: North London Branch: AGM & Entertainment
Wednesday 9th: Dorking Branch: Schmal is Beautiful (Part 3): Robert Jackson
Thursday 10th: St Albans Branch: Named Trains of the Midland Main Line: Ray Schofield

NEWS FROM THE BRANCHES

Bedford

John Hastings-Thomson visited the Branch on 7/5 to introduce the Ecclesbourne Valley Railway. As the branch from Duffield to Wirksworth, it opened in 1867 and might have become an alternative route to Manchester but for history. After the passenger service was suspended in 1947 the line relied on Middle Peak Quarry and a few specials for traffic until stone traffic ceased in 1989. The preservation process began in 1994 with the formation of Wyvern Rail, followed in 1997 by the Ecclesbourne Valley Railway Association. From 2000 the track was cleared and made fit for use, entailing the replacement of 7,000 sleepers.

The first passengers were carried in 2004 in a bubble car. Since then other DMU cars have been acquired, three industrial tanks have been restored to steam and five Mk 1 coaches sourced and largely rebuilt. John emphasised the role and importance of volunteers in carrying out the many tasks required to create an operational preserved railway, though professionals are brought in where certain tasks are beyond the volunteers. The help of the Army Logistics Corps in laying a new turnout was particularly welcome. From the first share issue of £750,000 in 2002, when the minimum requirement was raised in 48 hours, fundraising has been a constant activity and an equally constant necessity; the new station building at Wirksworth will account for £500,000. The Branch thanks John for a fascinating presentation.

The Branch welcomed contestants from RCTS Northampton and LCGB St Albans on 16/4 for what may well be the final encounter in the long-running Ashes quiz. In recent years it has suffered from declining attendances and diminished enthusiasm, both for taking part and setting questions. Presenters Bill Davies and Bryan Cross had assembled a wide ranging set of questions and accompanying graphics. Questions were put to each team in turn and passed on to the next team in the absence of a correct answer. Though necessary, this format was a hostage to fortune given the poor acoustics of the venue. It was to the credit of the compilers that few arguments were generated by the questions themselves. The final scores were Northampton 78, Bedford 45 and St Albans 14. The Ashes and other trophies were presented and that was it. No doubt they will be kept in a safe place just in case.

Brighton

Every once in a while, an exceptional subject and speaker comes along and this was very true of our 6/19 meeting when our speaker was Mike King talking about Southern Coaches.

Mike became interested in coaching stock many years ago when most railway enthusiasts were only interested in locos. His interest turned into producing scale drawings of which he's drawn around 125.
Mike started his talk at the Grouping where the SR had inherited a motley selection of coaches from the constituent companies, notwithstanding that they were a variety of lengths and widths. On the latter this meant that a lot of coaching stock was too wide for the South Eastern where such restrictions have continued until fairly recently due to limited tunnel clearances, now removed primarily due to single line working or interlaced track. The electric stock inherited was anything but standard and Mike showed the many variations as he had done with the hauled stock.

The SR, under Maunsell, set to replace some of the older carriage stock but instead of buying new, used long underframes and mounted two older coach bodies onto the underframes, often with additional new sections added in to make the bodies fit the frames. Similarly about 80 electric units were made up from old carriages but with new front ends. Mike instanced a case where the donor coaches were not placed on wooden runners on top of the underframes. The thinking was to bring the carriage height down to meet the loading gauge. However, no-one thought that the runners were there to prevent the moisture on the frames seeping up into the bodywork so inevitably rot eventually set into the affected coaches.


With the commencement of the Brighton Main Line electrification in 1932 new stock was provided for London Victoria / London Bridge services to Brighton / Worthing. Classified as 4-LAV, four car unit with lavatories, this set the scene for the SR's fascination with the toilet facilities in the type designation. Next up were the 2-BIL units, 2 car bi-lavatory, followed by the 6-CITY units then the 6-PUL (Pullman) and 6-Pan (Pantry) units. Here Mike explained the classifications and the various nuances between sets.

The electrification of the Portsmouth Direct line heralded another change, interconnecting gangways. Classified 4-COR, they were better known to enthusiasts as Nelsons due to the cab window at one side of the gangway connection and a route number box on the other giving a one-eyed look, hence the nickname. Gangway connections were another area Mike explored, not to mention in the early days when a detachment was made, if the staff forget to disconnect the gangway correctly on the unit dropped off it could be ripped off by the departing unit, falling on the track and causing another problem. Electrical jumper cables were also an issue as correct procedure had to be followed, if not, a severe electric shock reminded the staff of the correct procedure.


The Maunsell era closed with the 1933 Sentinel Rail Car number 6. Designed to be a cost effective answer for unprofitable lines it first saw service on the Dyke Branch, which promptly closed! The car then visited other branches but wasn't a success. Maunsell retired during 1937 and replaced by O.V.S. Bulleid whose first job in 1938 was to re-work the Bognor Buffet Cars which came out with an Art Deco interior.

This was followed by the new electric stock for the Waterloo and City line and then the 2-HAL units for Maidstone electrification. 2-HAL denotes a two car unit, half lavatory, not as one may expect but there was a lavatory in one coach only. Bulleid's next challenge was to get more passengers into the units on busy commuter lines out of Charing Cross in 1941, the 10 units becoming unpopular but were followed by a further 275 units that were less cramped. We then took a look at Bullieid's 4-DD design for the Bexleyheath line. Unusual in every aspect they were not really a full double deck but more a halfway house to fit the loading gauge. Very claustrophobic, they were an operational flop due to the time it took to unload and load passengers. To conclude Bulleid's electric era in the 1950s were the 4-EPBs with electro-pneumatic braking.

Mike then went onto Bulleid's hauled coaching stock designs. Outstanding, if only for oddity and rarity, was Bulleid's Inspection Car. Essentially a 6 berth sleeping car, number 100S, it was used by Bulleid between 1947 and 1949 but as it was made out of plywood it soon rotted! Bulleid's new restaurant cars proved less than popular due to a lack of windows Mike concluded the presentation with Bulleid's Tavern Cars, basically a pub on wheels with the body sides decorated in a mock timber and brickwork design with each car having its own pub sign. These were converted to Buffet Cars in 1959.

Throughout the presentation Mike explained the many varieties of stock, its uses, restrictions, problems in operation, design faults and liveries, all delivered in an easy going yet highly informative style. It comes highly recommended.

 

The Brighton Branch was entertained on 20/5 by John Bishop with his Bishop’s Treasure Trove. This was an evening of pure transport nostalgia featuring scenes of trams, trolleybuses and railways - all projected on Standard 8 ciné film. We saw Glasgow trams during their last days in 1962 on routes 9 and 26, featuring the ‘Cunarder’ and ‘Coronation’ designs and these were also seen later at Crich, then came various types of Blackpool trams in action including on the Marton route and the original branch to Blackpool North station.

This was followed by views of the cable operated 3’6” gauge Great Orme Tramway which, at that time, was still using a unique telecommunication system in which messages were passed using an overhead wire telegraph and trolley poles on the cars. Many people mistook these as a power supply system. This has since been replaced by a radio system and, although the overhead wires have been removed, the cars still carry their trolley poles. We then saw scenes of the Volk’s Electric Railway featuring shots of the ex-Southend cars running in service coupled together.

Next came shots of a Brighton Hove & District 6340 trolleybus being towed along the A23 (before the road was rebuilt) en route to Middlesbrough. There, we saw it in action on the Teeside network including running over the last trolleybus extension to be opened in the UK on 31/3/68, just three years before the system closed on 4/4/71. The bright red livery of the Brighton vehicle was quite a contrast to the drab looking Teeside trolleybuses. Brighton 6340 is now in the Science Museum store in Wroughton, near Swindon. Sadly, this Aladdin’s cave of a store is not open to the public.

We then saw some interesting film, that John had saved from being dumped, of trolleybuses in Athens, also of trolleybuses and Peter Witt trams in Milano, followed by San Francisco cable cars and trolleybuses and ending with film featuring Solingen trolleybuses.

John then showed some more film that he had saved from being scrapped. This featured a real highlight of the evening of early Bluebell Railway trains arriving and departing at Horsted Keynes alongside BR electric trains (on the Seaford service) also serving the station. John had spliced some later Bluebell material into this film which made a fascinating ‘then and now’ (well 1960s) for both Horsted Keynes and Sheffield Park whilst the inaugural train to Kingscote was also featured. Alas, only a meagre audience was present for this noteworthy and enjoyable evening.

Central London

The Central London Branch welcomed Tony Ellershaw on 26/4 with The Ivatt Diesel Recreation project. Main line steam locomotive preservation and operation is now standard. Many have been restored from scrap condition to main line order and there are several new builds either completed e.g. Tornado or underway such as The Unknown Warrior. Diesel preservation has followed on with preserved examples such as Deltic Alycidon now allowed on the main line. It was unfortunate that the very first viable British main line diesel No 10000, which was constructed by the LMS and lasted into the 1960s, was not preserved despite its historical significance.

The history of the compression ignition engine dating back to the 1890s and the role of the LMS in producing 350hp diesel shunters, the precursors of the Cl.08, were outlined. After WW2, H.G. Ivatt proposed the construction of a diesel of 1600hp, roughly equivalent to a Black 5, using an English Electric 16SVT engine. Construction of body, frames, etc took place at Derby.

The first diesel, 10000, was introduced by the LMS in December 1947 three weeks ahead of nationalisation. The second diesel ,10001, was introduced in June 1948, six months after BR was formed. The performance of these locomotives was good. There was a test run from London to Glasgow and back in a day and a gain of 74 minutes on schedule on another trip to Carlisle. The two locomotives were also used on trains to Northampton and Birmingham and accumulated 120,000 miles a year -10,000 miles a month- in service. By the time of withdrawal in 1963 both locomotives had reached 2 million miles with no significant failures. These two LMS diesels were the precursor of the latter day modernisation plan diesel including the Cl. 40s of which 200 were built, Deltic look-alike DP2 and the Cl 50s. Some of the latter are still in use.

The Ivatt Diesel Recreation Project, now a registered charity, was founded in 2011. The Society has acquired a suitable 16SVT engine, a viable frame from a redundant Cl.58 diesel, and two suitable bogies from a Cl. EM2 electric locomotive. It has one original axle box, one of the horns and the original body side LMS letters. A new body and cab ends will need to be fabricated. The current President of the Society, Stan Fletcher, was an engineer at the time of construction and there is a good technical team to take the project forward.

Thanks to general standardisation policies, other useful components such as ammeters and gauges are still available from donors such as the Cl. 20 and even former WCML electric locomotives. New equipment may be included as necessary but hidden out of sight. Given the money, it is anticipated that the replica 10000 will be in service on heritage railways by about 2030. Construction is likely to take place at Peak Rail in Derbyshire. Main line operation is not planned at present. The Branch gives grateful thanks to Tony for this fascinating talk on a project which at last puts these LMS pioneers in their rightful place in the railway heritage movement.

The Central London Branch welcomed Ian Silvester on 21/6 with Jordan, Syria and Ukraine, a video presentation originally filmed in the 1990s. The Jordan and Syria sequences were taken on the Club's excellent trip to the Hedjaz Railway in 1998. The Ukraine sequences were filmed in 1994.

In Jordan there were scenes recorded at the station in Amman and in its southern suburbs when excellent run pasts were staged. A shepherd was seen ushering his flock across a bridge as the tour train approached! No 51, a Jung 2-8-2 of 1955, was the main star of the show but No. 82, a Nippon Pacific of 1955, and a far from healthy 2-6-2T, a 1955 product of Haine St Pierre Belgium, also featured.

Moving on to Syria there were some interesting scenes with older Hedjaz locomotives at Dera, in the Yarmuk Gorge, at the since-closed station in Damascus and on the scenic Damascus to Serghaya branch. The latter had a weekly regular steam-hauled tourist train which was clearly popular with family groups.

Ukraine in 1994 produced some interesting scenes, with the tour train performing interesting run-pasts, albeit with some in blizzard and sleet conditions. Locomotives on these working included an L class 2-10-0, an Su 2-6-2, a P36 4-8-4, an FD20 2-10-2 and a YeA 2-10-0. A sadder aspect to this show was the fact that both Syria and Ukraine have suffered from the ravages of war since these images were recorded.

One wonders, for example, what became of the happy family groups seen from the train when the Club special returned from Serghaya to Damascus, or what has since happened to the railway system in Syria on which we travelled. Grateful thanks are due to Ian for both his work on preparing the videos and for such a fascinating evening's entertainment.

Croydon

The Branch was pleased to welcome Ray Schofield to give his talk Named Trains of the Midland Main Line at their meeting of 30/5. Using a mixture of his own slides of steam specials and selected historical material, Ray traced the history of the Midland Railway guided by the routes and habits of the named expresses that ran in earlier BR days and the spots he had photographed steam specials at in more recent times. We thus enjoyed an informed reminder of the Midland's assembly, scope and purpose which made for an interesting evening, encouragingly better attended than of late. Thanks go to Ray for his presentation.

The Croydon Branch has had two recent meetings at which it would have been encouraging to see more members.
The Branch AGM was held on 28/3 without controversy, but with a shortage of volunteers to fill vacancies on the committee. For the moment at least, the meetings will continue but concern was expressed on the future of the Branch in the absence of more support from members. Members' slides concluded the meeting.

The April meeting on the 25th was billed as a slide show by David Kelso, who was unable to fill the bill on the day, but will return to Croydon at a later date. Our ever-willing Bob Stonehouse stepped into the breach to show a selection of his own or bought slides taken over a period of nearly 50 years and covering early days near his then home in Suffolk to trips abroad to such hot spots as South Africa.

The Branch is grateful to Bob for providing an enjoyable show at short notice. All members and friends are welcome at the Croydon meetings. The United Reformed Church is a mere five minutes' walk from East Croydon Station where train services are now very comprehensive and have settled down to good reliability after the 5/18 rumpus. The meeting room is warm, cosy thus audible and well blacked-out and refreshments are available at half time. So do join us.

Dorking


After a gap of some five years, David Jones paid a return visit to the Branch on 12/6 to give an update on the Brighton Atlantic Project, the scheme to re-create an H2 ‘Atlantic’ class loco of the former LB&SCR. The last of the original locos, 32424 Beachy Head, was withdrawn and scrapped at Eastleigh in 1958 and the current project for its re-creation has its origins in the discovery in 1986 of a boiler of a virtually identical loco of the former GNR in use for factory heating at Maldon in Essex. Having been built as a spare, this was in relatively good condition and, after purchase, was moved to the Bluebell Railway at Sheffield Park in 1987.

The project team was formed in 2001 and work began in earnest following the building of ‘Atlantic House’ in 2006, with the erection of the frames on 1/10/07 marking the formal start of construction. David described and illustrated in detail the construction process including the use of modern techniques such as water-jet cutting, polystyrene rather than wooden patterns, and fabrication of traditionally cast components such as the valve chest and cylinders.

The loco was wheeled on 17/4/14 and more recent work has concentrated on completing the motion, fixtures and fittings and construction of the tender, with work on the boiler being left until last as testing and certification will mark the start of the loco’s initial operational life. Beachy Head is being built to heritage railway rather than main line standards, the latter being considered too onerous and expensive, and it is currently anticipated that it will be completed in 2020 and be operational in 2021 at a total cost of around £1.25m.

David was warmly thanked for his comprehensive and well illustrated description of the work involved in the project and was assured that its advent on the Bluebell Railway is eagerly anticipated.

Local member David Potter gave a talk to the Branch on 8/5 on the subject of Train Operators since Privatisation. After a short introduction noting the changes from a 1948 British Railways divided into regions, to the creation in the 1980s of passenger and freight business sectors, David explained how a desire for competition and an EU directive requiring separation of track and operations resulted in the 1993 Railways Act.

This created a track authority, Railtrack, 25 passenger and 4 freight operating franchises as well as 3 leasing companies to own the rolling stock, all to be sold to the private sector. In the 25 years since then, there have been many changes, not just in the operators but also in the nature of the franchises themselves both in duration and extent.

The main part of David’s presentation was an alphabetical tour of the most recent operators from Arriva Trains Wales, itself now replaced by Transport for Wales, to Virgin Trains West Coast, all copiously illustrated with an excellent set of photos showing a wide variety of rolling stock and liveries. In addition to the franchised main line operations, there were views of the open access operations of Hull Trains and Grand Central, of Transport for London, the now numerous freight operators and such others as Network Rail and West Coast Railways.

It would indeed be difficult to think of a current or very recent operator not covered in David’s comprehensive and well illustrated talk, for which he was warmly thanked by his audience.

North London

On 11/6/19 the North London Branch organised its inaugural Branch Supporters Afternoon. The contributors were Brian Plate, Alan Sturrock, John Curry with Ray and Tony Stratford. The presenters produced a range of photographs from their extensive travels.

Amongst the places visited were Llandudno, Peterborough, The Mid Hants and The Ecclesbourne Valley railways. Another place included was Welham Green where the timetable was about to change on the Great Northern and Thameslink, along with the introduction of cl. 717 EMUs. Another innovation for the afternoon was the utilisation of a live computer link in order to demonstrate to members the range of websites available on the internet.

Two websites were explored, the first being Realtime trains whereby the trains passing a given point (i.e. Alexander Palace) can be identified and in another part of the website access can be obtained to chart the progress of trains, very useful if you are waiting for a steam special to pass. This part of the presentation would have been better if the website was more compatible with the projector.

The other website featured was Brdatbase which is devoted to recording every locomotive used on British Railways from 1948 until Privatisation, no matter when they were built. The internet played a role in the final part of the afternoon whereby it was possible to download a file from a remote server with Alan Sturrock’s Industrial Locomotives presentation. We thank everybody who contributed to the afternoon and our Branch Supporters for their continuing interest in the branch.

 

On 14/5, Bryan Cross returned to the Branch with a presentation based on the work of Peter Bland. The talk commenced with a concise description of the life and work of Peter. In brief Peter developed a passion for railways in his formative years which survived university and was not interrupted by being the Borough Surveyor for the London Borough of Islington. The photographs shown were from the 1960s onwards. Starting off in the Midlands we visited many parts of Great Britain where several steam locomotives were shown in operation.

The major part of the talk was taken up with a tour of Ireland. Peter’s starting point in Ireland would most likely have been Dublin. Where better to commence than the Guinness brewery at St James’ Gate in Dublin? Here we saw a range of narrow-gauge engines moving ingredients round the plant, and the finished products to be taken to the dock ready for loading on to barges on the River Liffey.


Away from Dublin and Belfast, Irish railways prior to the formation of CIE in the South and the UTA in the North were based on small localised lines with no sense of network. Many of the locomotives illustrated were similar in design, with 0-4-0s and 0-6-0s providing most of the steam power. The smaller lines built or bought locomotives to their own specification, resulting in a lack of standardisation and higher maintenance costs. The permanent way was maintained to an adequate standard; however, in the photographs seen of the yards there was a lack of basic “housekeeping”.

The main lines radiating from Dublin to Belfast, Cork, Wexford and Westport were in a different class. These lines were operated by locomotives which would have fitted into the UK rail system very happily apart from the small matter of the gauge. It was noted that many locomotive engineers including Richard Maunsell started their careers in Ireland. Peter had to use his initiative in moving from location to location including bus services and the occasional guard’s van ride!

The achievement of the afternoon was to celebrate Peter’s travels by highlighting the number of places he visited and sights he is still sharing with us. If you ask where Peter did go, I will show you a map of the railway system of Ireland and ask you where he didn’t go. A lot of interest was shown in the fact that there was a customs border between North and South and how it affected travel.
The knowledgeable audience shared their understanding of what happened then, and what might happen in the future. There were also photographs of diesel railcars used in cross border services. The talk was very well illustrated with contemporary maps and satellite images.

Bryan included one of his famous moving maps highlighting one of Peter’s journeys in Ireland. We would like to thank Bryan Cross for an excellent afternoon and we hope to welcome him and the work of Peter Bland back at some point in the future.

North West

The Branch held its AGM on 11/4. All the usual business was conducted and the Committee re-elected. Following this, a minute's silence was observed in memory of Eddie Bellass, a stalwart of both the Branch and the Club for many years, who sadly passed away on 1/4, his 85th birthday.

The business concluded, three members then showed a selection of digital photos. Neville Bond commenced proceedings with a most appropriate tribute to Eddie in the form of a large collection of Eddie's fascinating pictures taken all around South Lancashire and Cheshire in the late 1950s and early 1960s. A wide range of BR locomotives were seen in a huge range of locations, many of which depicted closed lines, long lost stations, and vanished industrial backgrounds. Eddie had also turned his attention to some interesting old industrial locos and also, famously, to the output of the new diesel and electric engines then emerging from Vulcan Foundry, close to where he lived.

The industrial theme was continued by Geoff Monks who went on to show pictures of more local scenes at Bickershaw and Bold collieries and on the Walkden system. Further industrial scenes in the Manchester area followed before moving on to the North-East. Here, the gems at Morrison Busty colliery, the reputed 1863 Lewin at Seaham Harbour, and the remarkable crane tanks at Droxford's shipyard were all seen before coverage of the large NCB systems at Philadelphia and at Ashington.

Moving overseas, John Sloane then provided a complete contrast with a selection of views taken in the mid-1970s on the Western Railway of India between Bombay, Baroda, Ahmedabad and Bhavnagar. In addition to the usual standard classes on the broad and metre gauges, he showed a very wide range of other types on these gauges and also numerous narrow gauge classes. Hence the pictures showed various 4-6-0s on all three gauges, together with the likes of 0-6-2, 0-6-4T, 2-6-2T, 4-6-4T, 2-8-2 and 4-8-0 types and a splendid A3 replica on a children's park railway in Baroda. In Bombay we saw the Port Trust 2-6-0Ts at work, ex-American Army Bo-Bo diesels and the XA pacific which was the pilot at the Central Railway workshops. Unfortunately time ran out and Norman Matthews was thus prevented from giving his presentation, but that's something to look forward to in the future. This was an altogether absorbing evening enjoyed by a regrettably minimal attendance.

On 21/3 the Branch meeting was faced with a problem when the booked speaker failed to attend but the situation was rescued by Neville Bond, the Branch Secretary, who promptly returned home to collect a memory stick containing the Club's collection of some of the photographs by Ken Nunn. These were then presented by Neville for our enjoyment and comment since at the time we did not have access to details of locations or subjects and as a result much lively discussion ensued!

All the pictures shown were from the pre-grouping period with a heavy emphasis on London and the South-East. The Great Eastern was particularly prominent with many fascinating views of long gone locomotive types and obscure locations. Significant amongst them were a brand new 1500, various ancient 2-4-0s, Claud Hamiltons, a tram loco on the main line near Brentwood and two Y5 0-4-0ST ‘Coffee Pots’ at Stratford. Other East Anglian gems included the Southwold, Mid-Suffolk and Colne Valley and Halstead Railways. The LT&SR also featured strongly with its well turned out tank locos shown to good effect.

South of the Thames we saw the SECR, and LSWR but it was the LBSCR which appeared most frequently with the express tanks and Atlantics making splendid sights as they rushed in full cry through the outer suburbs. Several scenes also portrayed the Sunny South Express ,some showing the loco changes at Willesden whilst a few other North London scenes included the Midland, the Great Northern and the North London itself.

A foray into Belgium produced some rare views of the very interesting types to be found around Brussels including several fitted with the strange square chimneys of the time. In the end very many thanks were due to Neville for rescuing the situation in such fine style. We look forward to a promised further selection of the Ken Nunn pictures next year; we'll probably repeat the format of not revealing the content detail at the time of projection as this certainly encourages audience participation!

St Albans

The St Albans Branch held its AGM on 9/5/19 and a satisfactory year was reported in all departments, with the meeting programme of 2018/9 being well supported. Bill Davies, the Club’s new Branch Liaison Officer, attended alongside the existing committee as they were re-elected for the new season of 2019/20.

Following the AGM, Branch Chairman Ross Middleton gave a presentation on the Rimutaka Incline in New Zealand. This unusual section of line was constructed and opened for public use in 1878; the aim was to bridge the steeply graded Rimutaka Range as part of the route between Featherstone and Wellington. The Incline itself was laid to 3ft 6in gauge and used the Fell System in order to get traffic over the 3-mile section, the average gradient being no less than 1-in-15. The Fell System consisted of a raised centre running rail to give greater braking and adhesion to the trains passing over it. The six steam tank locomotives constructed for this part of the route were built by Neilson and Avonside, and utilised an 0-4-2 wheel arrangement. Working of the Incline was always difficult and a tunnel was constructed and opened in 1955, this bringing to an end the use of the Incline. The Branch would like to thank Mr Middleton for his presentation on this unusual section of railway.

The St Albans Branch provided what could be described as three meetings in one when Colin Brading returned to give a presentation entitled Tracks in the Mist. The presentation was made up of mini-biographies of three independent railway systems, the Swansea and Mumbles Railway, the Wantage Tramway and the Liverpool Overhead Railway.


The Swansea and Mumbles was the first railway to be described. It was a 5.5 mile route connecting Swansea with a nearby resort, the Mumbles. The line has a place in railway history as the first line in the world to offer a passenger service, this starting in 1807 with horse-drawn vehicles. Prior to this, the railway had been opened in 1804, for goods traffic only. Through many years, with an ever-increasing clientele, horses gave way to steam locomotives, which in turn were replaced by electric trams. Starting in 1929, the latter were the biggest of their type in Britain, each being able to carry 106 passengers. Following the end of the Second World War, passenger numbers were eroded by a rival bus service and the line closed in 1960. A single tram car was preserved on the Middleton Railway; sadly, it became the target of vandals and was subsequently scrapped.


The Wantage Tramway was opened in 1875 to passenger traffic and was designed to connect the town of Wantage with the GWR main line at Wantage Road. It was a two-mile route and began services with horse-drawn vehicles, then utilising steam trams and two locomotives. The line flourished for a number of years until road transport took away its trade. The passenger service disappeared first in 1925 and then the goods service twenty years later. Happily, one of the steam locomotives used, Shannon, survives and can be found at the GWS’ premises at Didcot.


The final part of the trilogy came with an overview of the Liverpool Overhead Railway. This seven-mile line was originally opened in 1893 and was not only the only overhead railway in Britain (although similar lines operated in North America and Europe), but was the first to use electric multiple unit trains and electronic signalling. It was built to transport employees to the various docks located along its route. At its peak, no less than twenty million people used the line on an annual basis and it became a vital link in the local public transport network. However, after 1945, major investment was required to upgrade the system, money which was not forthcoming and, amid much protest, it was closed in 1956. Happily, a single car survives in the Liverpool City Museum.
The St Albans Branch would like to thank Mr Brading for a splendid evening’s entertainment.