Bedford Past Meetings

7 September 2021 – Modern Traction in the 1960s – David Percival

Bedford Branch’s Indoor meetings resumed in the familiar St John’s church hall with a presentation by David Percival, thankfully without the temperature check that those attending had been led to expect. David’s slide show featured modern traction in the 1960s. This definition was sufficiently elastic to embrace 1958 and glimpses of the declining days of steam. David’s earliest photographs were in black and white but from the mid 1960s he ventured into colour. Many of the subjects depicted, but by no means all, were captured on the East Coast main line near his Knebworth home. In addition to the Deltics there were Class 33s on a cement train, DP2 heading the Sheffield Pullman, the XP64 set, the much maligned Baby Deltics and even a glimpse of the Class 26s before they were transferred to Scotland. Away from the East Coast, David worked first for Ian Allan and then W H Smith. These jobs called for travel on business and provided opportunities for photography far from home, as did trips organised by the Stevenage Locomotive Society. In due course many of David’s photographs graced the pages of the Ian Allan ABCs. 30 slides offered to a magazine went missing for 20 years but fortunately they came to light again. It is fortunate that David bothered to photograph diesels towards the end of steam and the Branch thanks him for an interesting presentation. (Chris Foren)


6 July 2021 – Cathedrals of Steam – Christian Wolmar

On 6th July the branch welcomed, via Zoom, the well-known author and columnist Christian Wolmar to speak on “Cathedrals of Steam”, a survey of London’s termini. In writing the recent book that shares its title with the presentation, Christian found that London has more stations than any other city. His examination of each terminus was in broadly chronological order and began with Spa Road, the predecessor of London Bridge as terminus of the London and Greenwich Railway. Any wish that the railway companies might have had to locate their stations more centrally was thwarted by a decision of 1846 that none should be built within an area broadly equivalent to Zone 1 and bounded by what became the Circle Line. That there were so many termini was due purely to competition. Christian examined the other factors which determined their location and commented on their relative architectural merits. In his view Paddington came closest to being a cathedral with its nave and transept. He saw Waterloo as the messiest of stations yet described the incorporation of the former Eurostar terminal as brilliantly done. He praised the sheer simplicity of Kings Cross but lamented the generations of clutter in front, only recently removed. Broad Street in his opinion was the one that got away, having been allowed to die after once being the third busiest terminus in London. The Branch thanks Christian for an interesting presentation and hopes that one day he will be able to speak live in Bedford. (Chris Foren)

1 June 2021 - With Lance King in Ireland : 1958 – 1963 - Leslie McAllister

Leslie McAllister paid his first visit to the Branch on 1/6. He presented a selection of photographs taken by his late friend Lance King in Ireland between 1957 and 1963, all but a few in colour. The collection is now in the photographic archive of the Irish Railway Record Society (IRRS).

To date, Leslie has scanned over two thousand of Lance’s superb slides and the final choice for tonight’s presentation was given a touch of Photoshop by fellow IRRS member, Richard McLachlan. Leslie paid tribute also to Tony Eaton, Lance’s executor, who scanned Lance’s photographic notebooks.

The period covered was very much the Indian summer of steam, though there was a diesel presence in the form of the GNR(I)’s railcars which had clearly been inspired by those of the GWR. Soon they were joined by the early CIE diesel locomotives, whose performance was famously unsuccessful until they were re-engined with the products of General Motors. At this time, though not for much longer, there was also plenty of narrow gauge steam to see and ride, notably the Cavan and Leitrim and the Co Donegal. Even on the County Donegal there were diesel railcars. Some of Lance’s explorations were enabled by the IRRS’s tours, which embraced some of the more rural branches that would not survive for much longer and are now all but forgotten. The economics of these lines must have been dire but Lance made the most of their photographic potential. Like too few other photographers he often took care to include the whole scene rather than content himself with just the train. Among the many notable images captured by Lance were Phoenix, a steam tractor that became a diesel shunter, and the Fintona horse tram, always hauled by a mare named Dick. The presentation was a fine tribute to Lance and his excellent photography, of which the Branch hopes to see more in due course. (Chris Foren)

4 May 2021 – Railways Around Chesterfield – Glynn Waite

The Branch welcomed Glynn Waite to its Zoom Meeting to speak about railways in and around Chesterfield. With the welcome aid of a map he explained the complexities of the network. The first line to be built was the North Midland, later the Midland Railway, from Derby to Leeds, opening in 1840. In 1870 came the Midland’s line from Chesterfield to Sheffield. The Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway arrived in 1892 before becoming the Great Central. In 1897 the Lancashire, Derbyshire and East Coast Railway opened between Chesterfield and Lincoln before being taken over by the Great Central in 1907. Glynn traced each route in turn, showing a fine selection of photographs illustrating the stations and principal structures. Those of stations positively bristled with staff, possibly because some were taken as shifts changed. Many of the structures clearly showed the effects of subsidence caused by mining coal. A remarkable selection of tickets was illustrated as the speaker described the operation of workmen’s trains. A characteristic of the area was the extent to which stations were rebuilt, relocated and renamed: given that some small places such as Killamarsh found themselves with three stations this was inevitable. Both the Great Central and the LDEC lines have all but disappeared completely and there are few traces remaining. The Branch is most grateful to Glynn for a fascinating presentation of an unfamiliar subject. (Chris Foren)

6 April 2021 – The Cambridge Area Yesterday & Today Part 1 - David Scudamore

David Scudamore gave the Zoom presentation to the Branch on 6/4, comprising the first part of a survey of the railways of the Cambridge area, yesterday and today. Of the eight lines which once radiated from Cambridge, four are still extant and are set to be joined by a fifth, the much vaunted East-West route. The clarity of David’s explanation was reinforced by maps and aerial photographs. His initial focus was on Cambridge station, its buildings, surroundings and traffic, complemented by a brief survey of the station pubs and their signs. The loco shed which used to adjoin the station and later succumbed to redevelopment featured prominently, as did some of the visiting motive power. The latter included not only reminders of the Great Eastern but some perhaps less predictable visitors such as a WD 2-10-0 and two Bulleid light Pacifics. More modern traction was not overlooked either. Some of David’s fine photographs were obtained over Christmas when there was no traffic and no staff to say ‘no’. The talk ended with an examination of the line northward from Cambridge as far as Queen Adelaide, north of Ely, including the recently opened Cambridge North station and the bygone semaphores of Ely. This was a presentation as comprehensive as it was fascinating and prompted much discussion at the end. The Branch thanks David for a first-class evening and looks forward to enjoying parts two and three in due course.   (Chris Foren)

2 March 2021 – The Railways of Northants Part 4 – Robin Cullup

The branch set some sort of record by welcoming Robin Cullup for the second time in as many months. Never one to discard a winning formula, Robin took to Zoom once more to present the fourth part of “The Railways of Northamptonshire”. This instalment covered four lines which opened between 1859 and 1888. Beginning with the line from Northampton to Market Harborough, the virtual journey embraced the line from Northampton to Bedford as far as Turvey continued with the loop from Roade to Rugby and concluded with the branch from Weedon to Leamington as far as its junction with the line from Rugby. To complement his narrative Robin had assembled not only a typically impressive set of photographs but some useful plans including several of the larger stations and the RCH junction map of the Northampton area. Among the photographers represented were Ken Fairey, Henry Casserley, Lens of Sutton, Les Hanson and of course Tommy Tomalin. The images embraced the period from pre-grouping days to the end of steam and beyond. Tunnels, stations and other infrastructure were all well represented. Pictures of traffic struck a good balance between the workaday and the odd special, featuring such rarities as a Midland Flatiron tank and the named WD 2-8-0 “Vulcan” amid the Super Ds and 9Fs. Robin kindly reminded the Branch that there are two more presentations in the series. Watch this space!   (Chris Foren)

2 February 2021 – The Railways of Northants 3 – Robin Cullup

We welcomed Robin Cullup to present by Zoom the third part of his survey of the railways of Northamptonshire, calling this instalment “The Midland Makes for London”. The Leicester to Hitchin line, traversing Northamptonshire between Knighton North Junction and Souldrop, was approved by Parliament in 1853, opened four years later and completed within budget. As audiences now expect from this presenter, Robin had assembled an impressive set of photographs to complement his narrative. The photographers represented included not only the usual suspects such as Ken Fairey but on this occasion R C Riley and A E West. Once again the selection of images provided viewers with a fine portrayal of the line, its traffic and its infrastructure. It would have been no accident that the legendary Garratts were well represented, but not at the expense of more mundane items of motive power – 9Fs, 8Fs, 4F, Jubilees and eventually Royal Scots – nor of the less commonplace such as the diesel 10001 and an elderly E4 captured at Kettering. Lest he be accused of living in the past, Robin took care to include images of the Class 45 diesels, staple power for a generation, as well as of the blink-and-you-miss-them Co-Bos. Enthusiasts’ specials were not forgotten and the story was brought bang up to date by shots of newly arrived Class 360 electrics which will work to Corby. The Branch thanks Robin for yet another fascinating presentation, noting with anticipation that there are three more shows in the series.    (Chris Foren)

5 January 2021 – Rail Days at Leicester – Richard Crane

On 5 January the Branch was entertained once again by Richard Crane, this time with the aid of that sign of the times, Zoom.His presentation, “Rail Days at Leicester”, was pre-recorded but in all other respects followed the format which Richard had employed many tines in the past. After showing illustrations of some Leicester landmarks he set about describing the various rail routes, beginning with the Leicester and Swannington Railway of 1832. This was followed in 1840 by the Midland Counties Railway, absorbed four years later into the Midland Railway, and in 1899 by the Great Central. Not to be overlooked was the Great Northern, whose branch to Belgrave Road station had gone into decline by 1916 but clung on into the 1960s hosting excursions, mostly to Skegness and Mablethorpe. Using photographs chosen carefully from a wide range of sources, including his own camera, Richard illustrated a representative selection of traffic and motive power. Although it majored on the latter days of steam it by no means overlooked the Peak diesels and HSTs of more recent times. Some superseded infrastructure and the present day Great Central Railway were also embraced. The presentation was well researched and, as is usually the case with this presenter, entertaining and informative. The Branch looks forward to another visit from its former Secretary ere long.    (Chris Foren)

1 December 2020 - The Norfolk and Suffolk Joint part 2 - Brian Sullivan

For our December meeting we resorted very successfully to Zoom featuring Brian Sullivan taking us into Part Two of the Norfolk and Suffolk Joint Railway all in the comfort of our own homes. A fishy tale ensued as we commenced our slow train ride from Lowestoft to Yarmouth calling at all stations featuring Lineside Features, stations, the Trains and their Locos mostly of a Great Eastern Stock but also from the Midland and Great Northern a few from the Great Northern then latterly, Standard Class Britannias. It was sad to see how Lowestoft station has contracted into the modern era including most recently re-signalling. Once an important departure point for many fish trains, it also featured a sleeper depot complete with Departmental Sentinel Locos. At least it has survived with services to Ipswich and Yarmouth via the former GE routes. Our route sadly succumbed even after expensive track renewals in 1961 only for the line to be singled in 1967. Complete closure coming in 1970. Much of the traffic came from the numerous Holiday Camps dotted along the route. Local Children would meet trains equipped with home made trolleys to assist holidaymakers with their baggage in the hope of boosting their pocket money. On arrival at Yarmouth the complex rail system that once existed was explained which surprised many of us not well versed with the area. Throughout Brian used photographs and maps to explain the area the line ran through to very good effect to enhance an extremely well researched talk presented recommended.   (Bill Davies)

17 November 2020 – Brunel and Great Western Early Days

On 17/11 the Branch attempted a speaker-based virtual meeting using Zoom. Branch committee member Chris Jones began an exploration of the Great Western from birth to inception. With the aid of some relatively unknown drawings and photographs he looked at the origins of the company from an unusual angle. It would not have been known to many in the audience that the company was conceived as a passenger railway, set up offices near Mansion House in the City of London, or that its charismatic engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel had a house built in Westminster which at one time accommodated 40 people including his butler. Of interest also was the often stormy relationship between IKB and a very young Daniel Gooch, appointed locomotive engineer at the age of only 20. Chris devoted some time to Brunel’s distinctive bridges at Hanwell and Maidenhead with their scarily flat arches that stand to this day and showed that the “different” nature of the Great Western had its origins right at the start. The technology was at times sluggish and frequently unco-operative but the Branch feels sure that this will not deter from continuing his researches.   (Chris Foren)

20 October 2020 – AGM plus “The Palatine” - Ray Schofield

Technology enabled the Branch AGM on 20/10 when the first steps were made into the world of Zoom. Alan Ledwick was named as the new Branch President in succession to the late Jack Turner. Chairman Bill Davies thanked the Committee and other helpers for their contributions to the life of the Branch, particularly Geoff Biggs for running the e-group that has been a lifeline while no meetings are possible. Anxiety and caution combined to make it unlikely that meetings would resume for a while yet but the possibility of making more use of Zoom was being actively considered. The Committee was re-elected en bloc and the formal business concluded in a little over 30 minutes. Branch member Ray Schofield entertained those glued to their computer screens with a presentation, showing that Zoom has the capacity to confuse new listeners! Ray outlined the early history of what became the Midland Railway and traced the route once followed by the Palatine, one of its fondly recalled named trains which ran from St Pancras to Manchester Central. He showed a wide selection of photographs, some from his own camera, and some helpful maps. The Branch will need to get used to this type of “meeting”.   (Chris Foren)

3 March 2020 – Hatfield to Dunstable – Bryan Cross

As the advertised speaker was unable to attend due to illness, his place was taken at short notice by Branch Fixtures Secretary Bryan Cross, who presented an illustrated journey from Hatfield to Dunstable with a diversion via the erstwhile Bedford Central box as an opportunity to include pictures of Garratts. The majority of the images were by Harold Clements, supplemented by others from Bryan’s own collection. Given that the line was part of the Great Northern Railway it was inevitable that the representative selection of rail traffic illustrated was dominated by N7 tanks, though some tender engines appeared. .This gave the speaker the unenviable task of differentiating between J3s and J4s, not easy when ones prime interests lie elsewhere. As the journey reached Luton the motive power on view was leavened by ex-LNWR coal tanks. Although most of the photographs dated from early times, there were examples from closer to living memory and a couple of Cravens dmus appeared to mark the then imminent end of passenger services. The smart industrial tanks working at Vauxhalls were not forgotten and neither were station buildings, goods sheds and signal boxes. A highlight for many present was the inclusion of aerial photographs from the Aerofilms collection and some maps and diagrams helped to clarify the complexities of track layouts. The audience, seldom silent, made some useful contributions to the speaker’s knowledge. The journey was terminated at Chaul End due to late running but this reporter will not be surprised if it resumes at a later date.   (Chris Foren)

4 February 2020 – Around the Regions in the 60s – Phil Wood

The Branch welcomed the return of Phil Wood after an absence of no fewer than 17 years! Phil toured the country extensively in the 1960s with a succession of cameras, the first of which was a Brownie 127. By paying return visits to many places, far and wide, he was able to capture the rapidly changing scene on film, mostly in black and white. The range of his subjects was truly vast, from the profusion of Gresley Pacifics at various locations on the East Coast main line to several oddities tucked away in sheds, many never to turn a wheel again. One notable capture was that of the Departmental diesel ED3, at Bedford shed. Phil certainly made the most of his expeditions and the opportunities that they presented. Who would have turned down the chance of a footplate ride on 92203? Not he! As the 1960s wore on the opportunities to ride behind unusual classes to unfamiliar places proliferated, thanks in part to the LCGB. Perhaps the most notable of these was the Wandering 1500. This was the era of major closures, some more controversial than others and including the Somerset and Dorset. The transition from steam to diesel soon threw up some unexpected casualties, such as the D8400 series which looked most forlorn when photographed at Stratford. This was a fascinating evening which attracted many unfamiliar faces. The Branch is most grateful to Phil for a worthy entertainment.   (Chris Foren)

7 January 2020 – Derbyshire’s Railways Revisited – Richard Crane

We welcomed once again our 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 a 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 evening and the Branch looks forward to another visit from its former Secretary in due course.   (Chris Foren)