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Thursday 30th: Croydon Branch: The LCGB Baltic Tour of 2018: Speaker: Adrian Palmer


Tuesday 4th: Bedford Branch: Around the Regions in the 1960s: Speaker: Phil Wood
Tuesday 11th: North London Branch: History of Paris railways: Speaker: Mike Bunn
Wednesday 12th: Dorking Branch: Regional Railways: Speaker: Alex Green
Thursday 13th: St Albans Branch: From Railways to Royalty: Speaker: Jack Boskett
Thursday 20th: North West Branch: More Ken Nunn Images (Pre-Grouping to BR Days): speaker: Neville Bond
Friday 21st: Central London Branch: Turkish Delight: Speaker: Don Wilson
Thursday 27th: Croydon Branch: South of the Border (Steam in the 1960s): speaker: David Kelso


Tuesday 3rd: Bedford Branch: North Woolwich to Palace Gates: Speaker: Jim Blake
Tuesday 10th: North London Branch: London to Holyhead: Speaker: Richard Crane
Wednesday 11th: Dorking Branch: Volks’ Electric Railway: Speaker: Ian Gledhill
Thursday 12th: St Albans Branch: A Glimpse of Swiss Railways: Speaker: Paul Russenberger
Friday 20th: Central London: Italian Steam: A Living Museum: Speaker: Nick Lera
Thursday 26th: Croydon: Branch AGM and Members’ Slides



On 7/1 the Branch welcomed once again its good friend Richard Crane, this time with his presentation ‘Derbyshire’s Railways Revisited’. Thoughtfully, Richard had prepared maps to help put the various rail routes into context and supplemented them with photographs which covered a high proportion of the stations and other landmarks that he described. In choosing the pictures he did his best to cover a broad selection of motive power and traffic.

Amid the late LMS designs and locos of Midland origin which predominated were also found the pioneer pair of diesels 10000 and 10001, the Fell with its flailing rods, the Woodhead electrics, the Peaks and whatever else could be found hauling coal, the raison d’etre of much of the rail network and its staple traffic for so long. Some stations, such as Derby, were rebuilt more often than others. Others, including the once significant Trent, became but a memory and vanished almost without trace. Although the Midland Railway was the dominant player in Derbyshire, there was a significant presence of other companies such as the Great Northern and of course the Great Central.

Many sheds have also been swept away, save for Toton and the old roundhouse at Derby which lives on as part of Derby College. As is invariably the case with this presenter, the evening was entertaining and informative, and the Branch looks forward to another visit from its former Secretary in due course.

The Branch Christmas meeting on 17/12 once again welcomed Frank Banfield and his film projector. It is unwise to anticipate just what Frank will choose from his priceless collection. This time he majored on the 1940s, eschewing the BTF collection in favour of much less familiar specimens such as Scotch Express narrated by John Snagge. Humour was injected by some W.C. Fields slapstick and a cartoon starring Tweety Pie and Sylvester. Neither of these had the remotest thing to do with railways but so what? Dinner, supplied as usual by the local chippie, was served at tables in the main hall and projection continued as munching took place. All too soon 10 pm crept up on us. The Branch may well do something like this again.


Our 16/12/19 meeting was our annual evening of Members’ Memories. First up was John Beckett with a very interesting selection of steam locomotives taken on a trip to Spain in the early 1960s. John wove an interesting story of his trip. One particular highlight was a remote station that was built during a rush to build lines in country areas but never finished as the scheme collapsed. Seeing a station and substantial bridge on a remote hillside was quite surreal.

Branch Treasurer Mike Hudson followed up with slides taken on trips in the Americas from Canada down to South America. One of the highlights was a series of shots of a loco being partially dismantled to be roaded out to another location. The chimney was seen being cut off by an oxy-acetylene torch to give clearance. The next slide showed the same locomotive two days later having been returned to the original site and rebuilt.

Following the break it was the turn of Michael Welch. He had a large selection of views from Manchester up to Morpeth. Michael's views showed the wide diversity of train formations during the 1960s. Copious amounts of clag was another feature during the last days of steam in the Manchester area.

Next up was our Facilities Manager Keith Carter who showed a diverse range of Southern electric units. Keith pointed out the various nuances and foibles of the fleet, such as rebuilt and reformed units. Tail End Charlie, Paul Snelling, concluded the evening with a selection of shots he'd taken across Europe in the past 15 years.

This was a very diverse evening's entertainment which would have benefited from a higher turnout of members.

The Branch held its AGM on 25/11. It was pleasing to have Branch Secretary Nick Kelly present after several months in hospital. Since the winding-up of the local RCTS Branch, with which meetings were held jointly for several years, talks with other societies for potential joint ventures have now foundered, therefore our stand-alone Branch meetings will continue in their regular Monday evening slot.

Afternoon meetings have been ruled out because of traffic and parking problems. Financially the Branch remains healthy and the existing committee was re-elected en-bloc.

The AGM was followed by the annual photographic competition, which had four entrants, two each for digital and slide formats. As usual, judging was by audience participation, with Nick Kelly a clear winner in the digital format with a ‘from-above’ shot in the Czech Republic of a Resita narrow gauge tank loco on a dual gauge roundhouse turntable. He also scored with a Brno heritage tram and trailer, and the Klangenfurt-based SS Thalia of 1909.

Paul Snelling was commended for his SWCF 67XXX diesel on an express at Longueville and his SBB ‘Tyrol’ diesel remote controlling a rake of wagons in a Zurich street.

The slide section was won by Michael Welch with a superbly illustrated December view of an S. & D. 2-8-0 on a northbound Bluebell Railway passenger service.

Mike Hudson was placed next with a pair of 2-8-2s double heading a train on a viaduct outside Guatemala City. Mr Hudson was also commended for a slide of a steam tractor at Hollycombe on their passenger circuit. After the competition came the ‘show and tell’ section when all entries were shown again with the photographers giving details of each picture.

The competition was, of course, held in complete anonymity. At the conclusion of the evening, Paul Snelling was warmly thanked for summarising how the competition results were arrived at. More fun again in 2020!

On 28/10/19 we were magnificently entertained by John Beckett on his Mis-spent Years, which were from 1961 to the end of BR steam in 1968. John purchased his first colour slide film, together with a new camera, in Reading and proceeded to Basingstoke Shed where he took his first colour shot of a Southern Mogul at the coaling stage.

Steam on the Southern then featured prominently from the final months of activity in Kent with 6/1961 electrification imminent, through to splendid scenes in Devon and Cornwall with Beattie 0298 2-4-0WTs and T9 4-4-0s in regular use. WR types were covered also. Elsewhere, steam on the Tilbury line and the ECML at Hadley Wood and north of Peterborough were shown. Deltics and DP2 featured also, whilst industrial steam activity was not overlooked.

With the passing years and declining steam, the centre of gravity moved to Cambrian territory with BR Standard locomotives becoming prominent, leading finally to coverage of activity in the north-west, including specials and culminating with 70013 on the ‘Fifteen Guinea Farewell’ trip.

Interspersed with the British scene were visits to France, Germany, Italy, Jugoslavia, Spain and Portugal, featuring several gauges and locomotives ranging from Klose-type 0-6-2Ts on the JZ to Beyer-Garratts in Spain.

The regrettably small audience came away totally convinced that, as suspected, John had not mis-spent those years, but had worked hard to successfully produce a high quality photographic record of steam traction in normal use in scenic settings, and for this he was warmly thanked.

Central London

We welcomed Peter Lemmey on 20/12/19 with a slide presentation entitled India 1980-2000. Nearly forty years ago India was a relatively cheap place to visit with abundant steam traction on the railways, on the broad gauge, metre and narrow gauge systems. There were 8,000 steam locomotives in total with 4,900 on the broad gauge and around 2,900 on the metre gauge. Around the same time steam traction was in significant decline in places such as Europe and South Africa. This was the setting for the description of Peter's own travels. Some of his show was augmented by slides of the late Basil Roberts.

Peter's images included WG Class 2-8-2s which were intended to replace the older HGS class locomotives, a very smartly turned out WP Pacific of the Central Railway and an HPS2 4-6-0 BSA (British Standards Association) of 1905 at Lucknow station. In one lineside view, Laurie Marshall was also noted on the footplate of a YD 2-8-2! Several YP metre gauge locomotives were recorded on a lengthy journey on the Madurai-Tirupati Express. These included last of the class No.2870 which was described by the Indian railwaymen as their Evening Star. At one point a fellow passenger noted Peter's photographic equipment and asked is this a hobby? and when it was explained, asked does your government give a subsidy?!

The Basil Roberts pictures moved away from the title of the show to include some scenes recorded on the North Western Railway in Pakistan. It was noted that after the formation of Pakistan the stations were not modernised in the manner they were in India. There was an impressive view of a WL Pacific on a freight working, an SGS 0-6-0 No 2471 at Taxilla Junction and an SPS 4-4-0 at Malakwal Junction.

Of particular note were the splendid NWR emblem badge and views of the working large-scale model railway at the Lahore HQ of the NWR, designed to teach signalling practice. There were some excellent views of the 1950s Alco Co-Co diesels on the scenic Quetta line. Back in India there were some interesting scenes such as a railcar at Barog on the beautifully-kept Shimla line and pictures of the Class B tank locomotives on the iconic Darjeeling Railway. The fact that this show attracted a near-capacity audience said it all about the presentation and the Branch gives many grateful thanks to Peter for a very enjoyable end to the CLB 2019 programme.

Central London Branch welcomed John Scott Morgan on 15/11 with British Light Railways, a presentation which reviewed many railways built under the terms of the 1896 Light Railways Act. The idea of the Act was, in an age before road haulage appeared in any appreciable quantity, intended to open up the economy of rural areas by building railways that did not require the full standards of the main line networks. They were thus significantly cheaper to construct. Earthworks and signalling systems were much simpler and ungated level crossings could be used. The name of Colonel Stephens appears several times in the history of this subject as it was mainly him who with some others set up a company to build light railways.

Examples of light railways built under the terms of the Act included the Derwent Valley Railway and Easingwold Railway, both in Yorkshire, Bishops Castle Railway in Shropshire, Weston, Clevedon and Portishead Railway in Somerset, and the Welsh Highland Railway. The Selsey Tramway in west Sussex was built initially without a Parliamentary act but with permission and finance from local landowners. The light railways were always short of money and it showed in the use of second and even third hand locomotives and stock.

The situation in Ireland, which at the time of the passing of the Act was still part of the UK, was rather more organised and 3 foot gauge was adopted as standard. The County Donegal, West Clare and Londonderry & Lough Swilly railways were examples. An exception was the Listowel and Ballybunion Railway which used the Lartigue monorail system.

Unfortunately, after WW1 there was a plentiful supply of surplus road vehicles and many light railways did not survive the resulting competition beyond the 1930s. Some that survived WW2 and lasted into the 1950s, such as the Kent and East Sussex Railway, East Kent Railway and several Welsh narrow gauge lines were in time rescued by the preservationists and are now part of the heritage railway industry. The Corringham Light Railway in Essex was subsequently taken over by the Shell Oil Company for the conveyance of large heavy oil tankers. The present line to Gunnislake in Cornwall was built as a light railway and is now part of Network Rail.

This fascinating presentation was followed by a lively and productive question-and-answer session in which John displayed a sound knowledge of his subject. The Branch gives grateful thanks to John for an informative and educational presentation.


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. The meeting room is warm, cosy thus audible and well blacked-out and refreshments are available at half time. So do join us.

28/11/19 saw Keith Gower return to the URC to repeat his talk No Tube Trains to Bushey.
"Repeat", however, is inaccurate, as Mr Gower has such a wealth of information on his subject that the story was left unfinished on the first visit. So the audience enjoyed another absorbing evening considering the ramifications of London Transport's plans to take the GNR North London branches into the Underground and extend the Northern line to Bushey. In the end the War, Green Belt legislation and perhaps cold feet caused curtailment of the original aspirations. The speaker knew his subject and showed many rare photographs of the lines and stations before and after LT took over and at the time of rebuilding the lines for the tube trains. He also illustrated his narrative very well with maps and diagrams marked to identify the places he described. So many thanks to Keith Gower for a very interesting account. Sadly attendance at the talk was slim so the Croydon Committee would urge members and friends to come to the meetings.

The October meeting of the Croydon branch, held on the last day of the month, comprised a talk by Michael Bunn entitled The History of French Railways. The speaker gave an excellent two hour digital presentation on the railways of France liberally illustrated with pictures, maps and graphics to support his detailed knowledge. Many British enthusiasts have studied and enjoyed the railways, in all their forms, of our near neighbour and Mr Bunn's analysis of the history, early to present day, was absorbing.

Although all the history could hardly be covered in one talk the speaker took us through the main stages in planning, construction and development of the lines with some interesting comments on the situation today. He also discussed, for example, the Parisienne development of the Metro and RER, main line electrification and the background to the vast network of narrow gauge rural lines once such a joy to visitors. Mr Bunn admitted he'd never quite mastered the intricacies of the French compounds (which of us has?) but pointed out that in the end the knock-about American Mikados seemed to have won the day. An enjoyable evening for which we thank the speaker.


The first part of the Branch meeting on 11/12/19 was taken up with the AGM. It was reported that a full and varied programme of 11 indoor meetings had been held but the only outside visit had been to the Bluebell Railway to review progress on the recreation of Beachy Head as a follow up to a talk on the same subject. Average attendance at meetings had risen very slightly and the financial position remained satisfactory, such that there was again no need to increase contributions for admission. Some of the Branch reserves had been used to purchase a new digital projector to keep pace with ever changing technology. As is customary, there were no new volunteers for the committee and the existing four members were re-elected for 2020.

The close of formal business was followed by seasonal refreshments and four presentations given by Branch members. Des Shepherd showed scenes of present day steam at such locations as Barrow Hill and Ropley but taken in 1960s black & white style, an intriguing preview of a full talk booked for February 2021. Julian Womersley took his audience on a whistle stop tour from Bangkok via Perth, Cairns and Sydney to Melbourne. Much nearer to home, Andrew Gibbons gave an overview of the history, current position and future plans for the Hampton & Kempton Waterworks Railway, a scheme to restore the 2ft gauge railway which operated from 1914 to 1945 using as much of the original trackbed as possible.

The final contribution came from Robert Jackson who showed a selection of photos from the Ken Nunn collection on a military theme, including troop trains and locos built or acquired for military use. The presenters were thanked for their varied contributions as were all members for their help with the Branch during the year.

Julian Worth was the speaker on 13/11 about the Wolsztyn Experience, the last daily standard gauge steam operated passenger service in the world. Starting with the development of the railways in the Wolsztyn area in the 1890s as part of the Prussian network, Julian went on to describe the creation of Poland as a separate country after WWI and the subsequent history of invasion, destruction and rebuilding in WWII followed by the formation of the current Polish state in 1945.

Of most importance to the Wolsztyn story however was the rebuilding of the locomotive depot and servicing facilities during the period of German occupation in WWII and it is these facilities which provide the basis for the current steam operations. As Poland modernised its railways, regular steam working was finally reduced to the two lines from Wolsztyn to Poznan and Leszno. At the same time, there was increasing enthusiast interest in these operations with a British group establishing a trust, The Wolstzyn Experience, to provide encouragement and support for their continuation.

As well as the regular services, a unique feature is the opportunity for a footplate experience course, firing and driving a scheduled passenger train on a main line railway. The primary route used to be the Poznan line, but with growing commuter traffic, the twice daily services operate to Leszno on weekdays although Poznan is still served at the weekends. Enthusiast tours are also occasionally run in other areas of Poland.

The locos in general use are from the Ol49 class of 2-6-2s although a Pt47 2-8-2 is also available. However, Julian anticipated that the driving courses would probably finish in 2020 and the service trains could possibly finish in about two years. The continued operation of special trains would depend on loco overhauls and availability. Julian illustrated his presentation with many video scenes of both service and special trains and was warmly thanked for his entertaining and detailed talk on this unique operation.

North London

On 14/1 Stephen Jupp made a presentation to the Branch about Rheilffordd Eryri or in English the Welsh Highland Railway. The railway connects Porthmadog to Caernarfon and is twenty-five miles in length. He made a distinction between the Ffestiniog Railway and the WHR by describing the WHR as Welsh and the FR as English although they share a common terminus at Porthmadog. Stephen introduced us to the landscape of the line, with a chart highlighting the steep gradients involved, ranging from 1 in 40 to 1 in 20.

The next subject discussed was the rolling stock; all work is undertaken in-house at Boston Lodge which serves both the FR and the WHR. They have built new coaches including a ‘Pullman Car’ and a plan for the next one is in hand. They are so proficient that they carried out the work to restore the historical Metropolitan line coach.

Stephen continued with a description of a working day for a WHR Fireman. The ‘day’ commenced at 4.45 AM when the typical fireman goes on to shed to start the preparation for the working day ahead. Operations include clearing ash from the loco from the previous day, laying the fire in a precise manner. Checking the water levels and checking the brake pressure, ensuring that the regulator is closed and that the gear is in neutral. Lighting the fire ready for the pressure to build in order to move the locomotive to the coaling point. One final check is on the sanders which is important in order to move the locomotive on wet rails and to improve braking performance. Having completed these tasks, the locomotive is ready to join the empty carriage stock. The fireman spends the rest of the day maintaining the fire and checking the water levels in the boiler.
At the end of the day Stephen and his colleagues carry out essential checks and other maintenance as required. Stephen would sign off typically twelve hours after his shift began and all this as a volunteer.

We moved on to hear a description of the motive power on the line. Currently there are four steam locomotives in service which are all Garratt types. Three of them were built by Beyer, Peacock, one an 0-4-0+0-4-0 wheel arrangement, the rest, along with a single locomotive built by Cockerill, are 2-6-2+2-6-2. The two railways have a common purpose, and this is to continually develop the lines and their stations having spent millions at both Caernarfon and Porthmadog stations. The talk was well illustrated with photographs taken at strategic and picturesque locations. It included aerial photographs highlighting the amount of development achieved.

The group was then presented with a set of statistics describing the operation of the railway. We moved on to questions, one supporter asked why Stephen described the WHR as Welsh and the FR as English. Stephen stated that the FR was built and developed by people from over the border, whereas the WHR was built and developed by the people of Wales employing Welsh people and Welsh materials. The Branch would like to thank Stephen for sharing his experiences with us at North London.

On 12/12 the Branch had a mixed programme for the afternoon. Part one was taken up by John Curry and part 2 of his presentation about the life and locomotives of Sir Nigel Gresley. The talk was excellently narrated and illustrated by John. The locomotives featured were mainly A Class (1-4) which as line siders many of us are familiar with. It was interesting to see named locomotives including Bittern, Flying Fox and Sir Nigel Gresley in BR livery amongst many others.

As mentioned in my report on part one Sir Nigel and his team went beyond Pacific Locomotives. They moved away from the familiar wedge-shaped locomotive when they developed P1 and P2 locomotives with 2-8-2 wheel arrangements. During the talk we were reminded of another two experimental classes of locomotive, the WI 4-6-4 No. 10000 with a curved boiler casing and a Garratt Style locomotive with a wheel arrangement of 2-8-0+0-8-2. Both locomotives survived into British Railways days and were a tribute to Sir Nigel in themselves. All the photographs shown were well chosen and were provided with appropriate captions charting their LNER numbers through to British Rail numbers which was appropriate as Sir Nigel predated British Rail. All North London Branch supporters and I are grateful to John Curry for an excellent presentation of the achievements of Sir Nigel Gresley.

The afternoon was completed with the annual quiz. Ray Stratford stood in as quizmaster in place of the chairman who was unavailable on the day. Questions for the quiz were obtained from a third-party source which supplies questions for pub quizzes in the public domain. The questions were therefore intended for a general audience and not railway enthusiasts.

The challenge for the audience was to beat the average score achieved by the general public. Questions were taken from a series of railway subjects. With eighteen out of twenty-five correct answers, Bob Stonehouse was declared North London Christmas Quiz Champion 2019. There were a few impromptu questions set by Roger Blake after the main quiz. With thanks to everybody who contributed to the afternoon.

North West

On 12/12 the Branch was pleased to receive a show based on a mainly local selection of the 1960s colour slides of the late Bill Ashcroft and presented by Mike Taylor. Bill was a keen railway photographer and steam enthusiast who in later years was able to secure a good deal of footplate travel. One such outing started the show as he recorded a journey on a Black Five working the well known Colne to Preston parcels train in the final months of steam.

The scene then moved back in time and to Bill's home area with comprehensive coverage of the many routes radiating from Preston and in particular the lines around Lostock Hall. We were reminded of the intricate nature of the network south of the town, the wide range of workings which traversed it and the quite remarkable variety of locomotive types involved on these trains. Hence, scenes were shown of everything from ex-LNWR Super Ds to early diesels via the likes of Crabs, Patriots, Jubilees and Pacifics. This all provided a wonderful reminder of the delights of Preston in its heyday, especially on a summer Saturday when almost anything could appear on specials to Blackpool. Besides numerous well known spots we also saw a number of rare and unique viewpoints, including photos taken from Bill's workplace at the time in County Hall.

From the Preston area Mike then moved elsewhere in the region and in particular to some of Bill's pictures of the WCML between Crewe and Carlisle with diversions to the Fylde and to the Barrow route from Carnforth. More variety ensued with rare colour scenes such as a Barrow based Midland 2F on a pick-up freight at Ulverston and a Fowler 2-6-2T in store on Carnforth shed. Many other notable views crossed the screen such as a forlorn Princess Royal in store at Crewe North and a very scruffy A4 60010 being towed away from Lostock Hall to Crewe for restoration and presentation to Canada.

More inspiring views included many examples of well turned out Duchesses and Patriots on a variety of trains and a particularly splendid picture of an absolutely gleaming 46115 working the Horse and Carriage parcels train. Bill's close links with Lostock Hall depot provided him with many tip offs about unusual locos and workings and also gave him access to record such things as the extensive recovery operations following the derailment of a sleeper express at Hest Bank.

As always, Bill's splendid pictures prompted many happy memories of that lost era and we were most grateful to Mike for all his work in reviving and bringing them back to life for our enjoyment.

On 21/11 the Branch was paid a welcome return visit by Tom Heavyside who presented a traditional slide show entitled Steam Saved from the Scrapyard. As implied in his title, Tom set about to illustrate the huge number and variety of locomotives which, after main line or industrial service, were consigned to a scrap dealer but which in subsequent years have been saved by preservationists. The majority of the engines shown had been returned to active service although a handful of pictures depicted derelict and unrestored machines at yards such as those of Woodham's and Muir's. In total, the pictures constituted a quite remarkable record of the magnificent achievements of preservationists over the period since the early seventies and in the process they demonstrated how the preservation scene has evolved both on preserved lines and on main line workings. Hence a number of rare locomotives were seen on the main line whilst workings on routes no longer normally used by steam such as the Cambrian were also visited.

Many scenes were, of course, of locomotives working on preserved lines and particularly on their visits to lines on which they are not usually seen and in the course of the show many of the preserved lines across the country were visited. Well over 100 different machines were illustrated including rare local scenes such as The Bug from the RHDR in service on a visit to the Windmill Farm Railway and the Wigan Coal and Iron Co loco Lindsay at Carnforth. As usual with Tom, the standard of photography was first rate throughout and with constant sunshine the views were a delight especially some memorable ones depicting steam at work on the West Somerset and Kingswear lines.

This splendid show demonstrated the huge legacy which came from Barry and in particular the vast reserves of skill and dedication by all those who restored the engines to such magnificent condition. Tom was therefore warmly thanked for reminding us of all this in a most entertaining presentation.

At the opening meeting of the new season on 24/10, the speaker was our own  Branch Chairman, John Sloane,  who recalled in digital format a 1973 tour under the title Steam Across South Africa. Starting at Pretoria John traced the first part of an extensive trip around Southern Africa and covered the section around the Transvaal then south to the Orange Free State and on to Cape Town. In 1973 the sight of the packed steam shed at Capital Park provided a most welcome tonic some five years on from the demise of steam on BR.

This was only the curtain raiser to much active steam at the depots at Springs, Witbank, Kaserne and Germiston where amongst the many loco types present was GL Garratt No 2352 which was subsequently repatriated and now resides in the Science and Industry Museum, Manchester.

The collieries and gold mines around Witbank and Johannesburg teemed with industrial systems and visits to a number of them produced yet more variety including numerous NB built tanks, an ex-SAR 16D class Pacific and a couple of ex-Rhodesian Garratts. The scene then moved south with haulage from Kroonstadt to Bloemfontein being a large cl. 23 4-8-2 in the charge of a friendly driver who was very amenable to granting cab rides. The following morning was spent line-siding on this very busy, totally steam worked route at the famous photographic positions at Karee and Glen.

Later a visit to the huge and busy shed in Bloemfontein provided the memorable sight of some 99 steam locos of 11 different classes together with just 5 diesels. Photos obtained from an elevated position conveyed the spectacular nature of the remarkable scene here.
 Moving west to Kimberley, a visit to Beaconsfield shed saw acquaintance made with the huge 4-8-4s of classes 25 and 25NC. The former are the legendary condensers designed for traversing the Karoo desert and some 19 of these highly impressive machines were on shed early that morning.

Later, the journey south to De Aar was on a lengthy train hauled by one of the non-condensing 4-8-4s. On arrival the first attraction was naturally the famous and amazing collection of historic locos assembled by the De Aar shedmaster, Mr Watson, and his venerable ‘pet’ 4-8-2s used for pilot duties. The highly active part of the shed hosted many more 4-8-4s with most of the 25NC variety carrying girls names whilst the extensive yards and station saw much condenser activity on both passenger and freight services. The final pictures illustrated the journey down the famous Hex River Pass and the approaches to Cape Town and further different locomotive types.

Thus ended an evening of nostalgia and huge variety (about 65 different classes) on what, at the time, were almost entirely steam operated sections of railway. The contrast to reports of the current virtually moribund nature of much of the system could not have been stronger. John was thanked for his excellent presentation and sharing this fascinating view of the past; we eagerly look forward to seeing Part 2 at some future date.

St Albans

For its first meeting of 2020, the St Albans Branch was pleased to welcome back Chris Green with a new presentation entitled Two Railways for London, the two railways in question being Thameslink and Crossrail. Mr Green was head of Network SouthEast at the time that both these projects were started, during the late 1980s. The first part of the talk was about Thameslink. The scheme began with the reopening of the Snow Hill Tunnel in 1988 between Farringdon and Holborn Viaduct.

The scheme was so successful that it led to a plan called ‘Thameslink 2000’, a bid to create a network linking all four corners of London. An appropriate Bill was given Parliamentary approval in 2005 at a cost of £56bn. This has led to schemes such as the rebuilding of London Bridge Station and a fleet of new Cl.707 EMUs. By 2021, it is estimated that a service of no less than twenty-four trains per hour will be operating; over the lifetime of Thameslink, it has gained no fewer than an extra 40,000 customers.

Crossrail was designed to complement Thameslink, providing an east-west link. The original Bill failed to gain Parliamentary approval in 1988, but was successful three years later. Mr Green highlighted the problems that have affected the project, these being mostly a combination of delays in fitting out the central tunnel section between Paddington and Liverpool Street, together with issues with the computer software to go in the Cl.345 EMUs which are to run the services. However, at the present time, trains are running on the above-ground sections, from Reading to Paddington and Shenfield to Liverpool Street. Seventy nine-car 345s will run the services, providing a 10% increase in capacity.

The St Albans Branch would like to thank Mr Green for another fascinating and informative presentation.

A rainy evening and reports of a General Election did not prevent a bumper attendance at the St Albans Branch meeting on 12/12/19. Frank Banfield returned to the Branch with some further gems from his film collection, the collective subject being Steam in the 1950s.

A series of British Transport Films were seen, these including This is York (1953) and, in a slight variation to the meeting title, Under Night Streets (1958), a look at maintenance work on the London Underground. In addition, a film made on behalf of the British iron and steel industry, Rhythm of the Rails (1954), depicted a journey made by the ‘Royal Scot’ express between Euston and Glasgow.

The most unusual films seen were a group of silent ‘shorts’ made by the late Alan Wilmott, which looked at steam on the Epping-Ongar, Chesham-Chalfont & Latimer and Staines-Colnbrook-Uxbridge branch lines, all with appropriate steam tank engine power and all taken around 1957. The evening finished with a comedy film about a man who became somewhat slightly obsessed with his model layout, to the frustration of his long-suffering wife! The St Albans Branch would like to thank Mr Banfield for another wonderfully nostalgic evening.