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NEXT FIXTURES

JULY

Tuesday 2nd: Bedford Branch: My Early Days at Top Shed by John Morgan
Wednesday 10th: Dorking Branch: Baie de Somme Railway by Mike Bunn
Friday 19th: Central London Branch: Railway Photography: A Different Point of View by Steve Sedgwick.

AUGUST

Tuesday 13th: Bedford Branch: Annual Summer Trip to Bletchley
Friday 16th: Central London Branch: Members’ Slides

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

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.



For our April meeting we welcomed back our very good friend Brian Jackson who presented Photos from the Bill Jackson Collection - Part 4 - 1955. After a slight paucity of photographs in 1954, mainly due to Brian's birth(!), Bill got back into his stride in 1955.As is usual with Bill's photographs Brian offered a number of shots at Brighton Shed. Whilst the backdrop may have been the same, the locos on offer were not. Due to the close proximity of the works there was always something interesting on shed, either visiting or fresh out of works, from the oldest to the newest in the fleet.

For the latter Bill had captured the newest 80xxx 2-6-4 tank which according to a contemporary Railway Observer report it had been released into traffic from the works that day. Further local interest came from shots of workings from Lancing Carriage Works. An electric set was seen without shoe gear as it was being towed towards London, the consensus being that the gear had been removed whilst in works and would probably be replaced once it had reached its destination. We also saw stock which was turned, routing out to Hove them back up the Cliftonville Curve to Preston Park, thence back into Brighton.

A particular highlight of the presentation was a shot taken at Portslade of the level crossing. Brian pointed out that at first he was puzzled as the shot was taken as a grab shot as Bill may have been surprised by the train’s appearance. Nonetheless the period motor vehicles were of interest. Brian then explained that he had been comparing photographs and he realised that over the years the gates had been replaced on at least three occasions.

Whilst searching for pictures to support his findings he came across a stunning picture from the Brighton Evening Argus. This was taken trackside and showed a dozen or more workers on the track, with all the crossing road panels removed. A train was seen departing the shot, possibly the down Brighton - Cardiff, but without a single high-viz vest or hard hat in sight. Today that would have been replacement buses for a month! Further interest was generated from the view into the former goods yard.

Bill covered a number of special trains that year, mainly run by the RCTS. We marvelled at some of the routes taken. Most of these were seen in the South-East but one that was particularly noteworthy ran around Hertfordshire, introducing us to places not normally seen. The special that aroused most interest was one that ran over what is now the Bluebell Railway. It should have run in June 1955 but due to the ASLEF strike it ran a couple of months later. Whilst we are used to specials running a week after closure of the line this one was a good two months late.

In 1955 Bill took his holiday in Norfolk and Suffolk so we saw a good selection of locations in that area. One of the oddities was Serapite AP 6158/1906 which for many years was with Bill McAlpine at Fawley Hill. It was seen at Leiston at the Garrett works, its home for 33 years. One wonders why a traction engine manufacturer bought what is essentially a rail mounted traction engine from another manufacturer. Another item of interest was Stepney at Tenterden. It had been sent over to replace another Terrier that required a boiler washout. Pulling a load of three vans, six loaded coal wagons and a brake van, it attempted to climb Tenterden bank but slipped to a standstill. Eventually the vans and brake van were taken up to Tenterden Town. Stepney returned down the bank with the brake van to pick up the coal wagons. Still it couldn't get up the bank. Eventually the load was moved by taking up just three wagons and the brake van at a time.

This was another fascinating show from Brian. Fortunately Bill had written up notes on each photograph but Brian has worked very hard to gather further information to round out the story.The locations were very varied and memories were jogged as we visited stations long gone. Also, the variety of locomotives and stock was equally broad. We look forward to Brian returning to tell us about 1956.

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.


We welcomed John Stark on 15/3 with a presentation on The Mid Suffolk Light Railway, affectionately known as the Middy. John is Chairman of the present Mid Suffolk Light Railway. This is a part of the line that ran from Haughley Junction, on the GE Norwich main line, to Laxfield in mid-Suffolk, a distance of about 19 miles, and which closed in 1952. John outlined the history of the branch which was made possible by the Light Railways Act of 1896 with the aim of stimulating isolated rural economies. The idea was coal in, crops out.

The Light Railway Order was granted in April 1900 and construction started in 1902. By 1903 the line had reached Laxfield with stations at Mendlesham, Brockford and Wetheringsett, Aspall, Kenton (with a partly-constructed branch to Debenham and Westerfield), Worlingworth, Horham, Stradbroke, Wilby and Laxfield with the line ending at Cratfield. There were plans to reach Halesworth but these were abandoned in 1912. The first revenue-earning freight ran in July 1904 and the first passenger service with three trains a day on weekdays and one on Sunday afternoon began in September 1908 using former Metropolitan Railway stock.

The line, which was never a financial success, was under government control in WW1 and was reluctantly taken over by the LNER in 1924. Motive power on the line was supplied by three Hudswell Clark 0-6-0 tank engines which later became LNER Class J65.

The line reached its peak usefulness in WW2 serving local aerodromes but it suffered from strong road competition afterwards. Dr Ian C. Allen, a GP from nearby Framlingham, popularized the line after the war by taking many photographs which are a good record of the railway and its operation in its final years. Interest in the railway was revived in 1987. John outlined its current fortunes which now has a fully credited museum, founded in 1991, at Brockford and Wetheringsett.

The present station has the typical lightly constructed buildings which have been obtained from other stations on the line. Initially only about 200 metres of line were rebuilt which was sufficient to operate the J15 on loan from the NNR in 2002 with accompanying useful publicity. A visit by Michael Portillo's BBC2 TV programme gave an added boost in 1/17. This year, the short line has been significantly and quickly extended over the former alignment by professional contractors and at the time of writing awaits the laying of track.

It is hoped to organise an exclusive LCGB photoshoot on the Middy in the near future and details will be published in due course. The Branch gives grateful thanks to John for his informative and entertaining talk on this fascinating unsung heritage railway.

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

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.

 

On 10/4 Doug Lindsay, Tenterden resident, active volunteer and onetime Director and Commercial Manager, gave a talk to the Branch on the Kent & East Sussex Railway. It commenced as the Rother Valley Railway and was built under the provisions of the 1896 Light Railway Act, the line from a junction with the South Eastern Railway at Robertsbridge reached Tenterden (now Rolvenden) in 1900 and was extended to Tenterden Town in 1903.

Of several proposed extensions, the only one built was that to a further junction with the SER at Headcorn opened in 1905, prior to which the company had changed its name to the K&ESR. After this early history and an introduction to the company’s Managing Director, the redoubtable Colonel Stephens, Doug presented a station by station tour of the line using a splendid selection of archive photos, followed by a description of the line’s motive power. The first two locomotives, 2-4-0Ts Tenterden and Northiam, were newly built but, with one exception, subsequent locomotives were an eclectic mix of second hand main line and industrial stock of which 0-6-0T Bodiam has fortunately survived to the present day. Also of note was the pioneering use of cheap but basic four wheel railbuses.

Despite these economies, the line ran at a loss from the 1930s, relying increasingly on locomotives hired from the Southern Railway, and, having been excluded from the 1923 Grouping, was finally absorbed in the nationalised British Railways in 1948. Closure to passengers from Robertsbridge to Tenterden Town and complete closure onwards to Headcorn took place in 1954 and final closure to goods in 1961.

A preservation society was formed almost immediately and following a long series of legal difficulties succeeded in opening the line from Tenterden to Rolvenden in 1974 and onwards to Wittersham Road in 1977, Northiam in 1990 and the current limit of operations at Bodiam on the line’s centenary in 2000. A new Rother Valley Railway is currently seeking a Transport & Works Act Order to reopen the ‘missing link’ from Bodiam to Robertsbridge but is again facing legal difficulties. Doug was warmly thanked by the audience for his most comprehensive, well illustrated and excellently presented talk.

North London

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.

On 9/4 the North London Branch welcomed John Sloane of the NW Branch on the subject of British industrial locos which he had entitled Industrials in the Age of Steam. Living in the NW, John was fortunate not only to have the last remnants of BR steam on his doorstep but also the last of industrial steam with Lancashire collieries still operating steam some 10 years and more after 1968. He thus started with late scenes at Bickershaw and Bold before going back to the 1960s for action elsewhere and in particular on the Walkden/ Bridgewater system where the ex-North Stafford 0-6-2Ts operated.

Various other industrial systems were seen including gas works, paper works, the Preston Dock railway and several power stations including ones using electric and fireless locos. Moving on to the East and West Midlands we first saw the gypsum system at Newark with it's nice green Sentinel then on to several more NCB locations, including Corby steel works, Staveley iron works, the Bass system at Burton, more power stations and several of the Ironstone quarry lines. The Potteries saw the once huge Birchenwood plant at Kidsgrove and an NCB colliery Austerity tank which had worked for a while on the Southern Railway at Eastleigh, Southampton and Bournemouth.


Following the break, the scene moved to Yorkshire where the large NCB complex at Manvers Main was seen first followed by several other collieries in the Wath, Doncaster and Barnsley areas where at that time pits were very thick on the ground. A little further north around Wakefield, 47445, the last BR steam loco sold out of service, was seen working at the British Oak Opencast disposal point whilst the massive Glasshoughton coking plant and colliery provided a forbidding sight still belching out smoke and flames at 3pm on New Year's Eve in 1970! An evocative view of the Middlesborough Transporter Bridge signalled our arrival in the North East where the likes of Dorman Long compressed air locos, crane tanks at Consett and Sunderland and the unusual electric locos of the Harton Railway at South Shields were seen. The various colliery systems were also visited together with the fascinating rope worked operations on the South Pelaw, Bowes and Hawthorn to Seaham NCB lines.

Most of the photos had been taken by John but he included a number of most interesting earlier colour shots from his collection such as rare views of the Garratt working at Sneyd Colliery, a double Sentinel at South Bank steel works and an ancient Lilleshall-built loco working a miners’ train between Cannock Wood and Hednesford. Throughout, it was remarkable that almost none of the sites remained in industrial use, although in complete contrast, many of the locomotives themselves had survived into preservation. The presentation showed just how much the Midlands and North had changed over the last 50 years and John was thanked for travelling to London to provide such a fascinating and graphic illustration of the past industrial scene. Yet another presentation that made me pleased to be a member of the LCGB.

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.