Indoor Meetings

Our indoor meetings are enjoyed by both LCGB members and guests 13 times a year. All railway enthusiasts are welcome. Only August is without a meeting. Subjects vary enormously – with our guest speakers treating their subjects in a variety of styles varying from light-hearted to technical (but not too technical!)

Meetings are held at 7.30pm on Tuesdays at St Johns Church Hall,St John’s Street, Bedford MK42 0DL (Click for map and Rail Links) Refreshments are served at half-time.

You can buy new and second-hand books and other items at all indoor meetings. We also visit exhibitions, open days etc.

Local Information

Bedford Tourist Information St Paul’s Square, MK40 1SJ
01234 215 226 Click here for website

Indoor meetings

[Tuesdays unless otherwise stated]


August No meeting

1st September --Don’t Blame Beeching -- Richard Crane
Richard recalls and illustrates some of the rail routes which closed before the Beeching Plan.

6th October-- Both sides of the Tweed -- Dennis Lovett
Dennis recalls the two railways that ran between St. Boswells on the Waverley Route and Berwick on the East Coast Main Line. The circular tour criss-crosses the border on North Eastern and North British metals through territory long deprived of the railway.

20th October - AGM plus Jack Turner part 2
Our annual outbreak of democracy followed swiftly by “46 Years on British Railways: From Nationalisation to Privatisation Part 2”. LCGB Club President Jack Turner will complete the story of is his 46 years in railway service with the aid of a digital presentation.

3rd November --The Great Northern & London & North Western Joint Line -- Robin Cullup
Robin describes the complex history, geography and traffic of this once essential artery of the East Midlands rail network.

Monday 9th November -- Quiz v. RCTS [Away Leg] We need to travel to Northampton this time to St Crispin Social Club, Berrywood Rd, Duston, Northampton, NN5 4XD. (Note this is on a Monday)

17 November - Archive Photographs of the Midland Railway and its successors -
Brian Stephenson
Brian presents a digital selection of images covering the “Former Midland Railway and its successors” from his comprehensive archive of work by many noted photographers of the past, including himself.

Please note this is an afternoon meeting 14.30 – 17.00

1st December -- Engine Sheds Part 6 -- Chris Banks
Chris continues his grand tour of Britain’s sheds illustrated with colour slides showing engines, depots and infrastructure. This time his distinctive take on the alphabet leads us to London but how direct is the route to Norwood? All will be revealed!

15th December -- Christmas Special
In which we entertain ourselves accompanied by our customary supper from a local chippy.

Meeting Summaries

Tuesday 7th July -- The Network South East Story -- Chris Green
       by Chris Foren

A near capacity audience listened attentively as Chris described the creation of first the sector and then the brand.

Having transformed ScotRail from a drab to a sparkling railway he was brought south to attempt a similar miracle, at the same time tasked with reducing Government subsidy by £100m. By a mix of marketing and management he created one railway for London, introducing such products as the one day Capitalcard and the Network Card, both now familiar, to grow off-peak travel.

An unexpected growth in peak passenger numbers led to new trains, new stations and electrification. The concept of total route modernisation, applied first to the Chiltern line, brought impressive results and is arguably one reason for the present success of London Overground.

By 1990 the recession had brought the Golden Age to an end: passenger numbers declined and the unexpected election result of 1992 heralded privatisation. BR ensured a smooth transition to the private sector and at the end of NSE’s life it was in profit. Chris reflected that if Thameslink 2000 and Crossrail had been implemented when first mooted they would have been achieved at a tenth of the cost.

The first 10 years of privatisation had been a missed opportunity during which costs had risen out of control but if any lesson had been learned it was the benefit of continuity as shown by the Chiltern and SWT franchises.

A lively discussion ensued in which Chris fielded a wide range of questions. The Branch thanks him warmly for a fascinating evening.

Tuesday 2nd June 2015 -- From Rookie Journalist to Grumpy Old Man - David Percival
       by Chris Foren

David Percival entertained the Branch on with his presentation “From rookie journalist to grumpy old man”. David’s rail enthusiasm began in Norbury where he spotted many units and a few steam trains from a creaky footbridge. Later moving to Stevenage, he left school at the end of 1961 and joined Ian Allan, soon being able to afford a decent camera which paved the way for his pictorial contributions to ABCs.

In 1965 he became assistant editor of W H Smith’s staff magazine, making full use of business travel by maximising photographic opportunities in such exotic locations as Bangor, Taffs Well and Weekday Cross. Despite having left Ian Allan he remained involved with the company and later edited Modern Railways Pictorial for a year.

In time his career progressed to the press and public relations office at National Savings, based in the office block near Kensington Olympia seen in countless photographs. Pat of the job was taking part in phone-ins on local radio, giving more opportunities for travel and photography.

In 1995 he took early retirement, enabling him to concentrate on writing and publishing. Why ‘grumpy old man’? Because in David’s view too many books are poorly designed and riddled with inaccurate captions, both being easily avoidable. The talk was rich in his own fine photographs and a wide range of anecdotes and enjoyed by all present. It barely scratched the surface of what he has to say and the Branch hopes to ask him back.

Tuesday 5th May 2015 -- BR 1959 to 1966 – Robin Patrick
        by Chris Foren

LCGB Branch Liaison Officer Robin Patrick graced the Branch with his presence again on 5 May. This time he brought with him scans of some 200 black and white negatives that had never been printed, taken between 1959 and 1966. Robin joined the railway in 1962, working first at Blisworth and then Roade, and taking full advantage of the opportunities thereby made available to record the changing scene. Unlike some photographers, he took careful note of the power and workings that he recorded, enabling him to explain some of the finer points of day-to-day operations that the typical enthusiast does not always understand.

Inevitably the changing West Coast main line was the main focus of his photography but not to the exclusion of all else. Understandably the focus was on steam but a few diesels were allowed in to relieve the unrelenting grime of steam engines in that period.

As the end of steam drew ever nearer Robin travelled widely and further afield to record its last knockings, with particular focus on Scotland and the Southern. Several railtours over long-closed lines with unusual or distinctive motive power were recalled and with them the happy days, now long gone, when photographers could roam almost at will. The Branch is once again happy to thank Robin for a fine evening’s entertainment and hopes very much that he will soon have time to scan some more negatives to show us.

Tuesday 7th April 2015 -- West Coast Main Line Euston to Castlethorpe – Bob Ballard
         by Chris Foren

The Branch welcomed Bob Ballard, long time RCTS stalwart and mastermind of Collectors Corner, who presented an illustrated journey from Euston to Castlethorpe using slides from the photographic collection of the late Bob Berry and a few of his own. Having begun work at Euston in 1964, Bob was in a good position to observe the substantial changes brought about by electrification and was present, albeit at a safe distance, when The Queen opened the rebuilt station.

The illustrated journey headed steadily north, embracing such varied bygones as the old Euston, Camden and Willesden MPDs, Oerlikon units, early pilot scheme diesel locomotives, Stonebridge Park generating station and a Class 317 unit at Watford Junction. The staple steam power of the West Coast Main Line was by no means forgotten, nor supporting players such as the Dunstable branch passenger.

An extended break was taken at Bletchley, where the old station, MPD and pre-flyover landscape were fondly recalled. Glimpses of motive power here ranged from Clun Castle via the Deltic prototype to the almost forgotten 10800. The journey ended at Castlethorpe, which despite its rare location in the centre of the settlement it served has not survived.
It was fitting that the last image shown was that of Bob Berry himself on the footplate of the replica Bloomer. This was an informative and evocative presentation which brought home once more just how rapid is the pace of change and the thanks of the Branch are extended to both Bobs.

Tuesday 10th March 2015 -- Quiz v RCTS [Home Leg]
        by Chris Foren

Our friends at LCGB St Albans were sadly absent from the quiz on 10/3 but a contingent from RCTS Northampton joined battle, bringing with them the Ashes which had chnged hands in Novmber.

No less than six fringe teams also took part, leaving hardly any audience. Quizmaster Bill Davies and chief techie Bryan Cross delivered 46 questions with many parts, covering a wide spectrum and causing very few arguments.

Scores were announced at the end of each round, leaving the totals to be divulged at the end. To their bewilderment Bedford A took an early lead and maintained it through the contest.

The on-screen graphics were helpful but even more laden with stray apostrophes than last year, leading some to ponder whether the culprit had a second job as a greengrocer.

For added amusement there were some choice spelling mistakes, including 'statute' for 'statue' - yes, there was a question on statues.

The final scores were: Bedford A 130, Bedford B 93, Northampton A 65 and Northampton B 92.

The six fringe teams scored between 52 and 88, that named the Hornets (after misplaced enthusiasm for association football, apparently) scooping a reward of confectionery.

The sole member of Bluebirds scored 52 on his own and could find himself in an official team next year if he is unwary.

So Bedford regained the Ashes and everyone forgot about the Fred Cockman trophy

Tuesday 3rd February 2015 -- The Cromford and High Peak Railway Part I -- George Sullivan and Tommy Tomalin.
         by Chris Foren

We welcomed Tommy and George from Northampton for the second time in three months. Their presentation on the Cromford and High Peak Railway had been prepared largely by the late Ian Lyman and began with a tribute portrait. The railway had originally been proposed as a canal to link two other canals but it became clear at an early stage that the topography of Derbyshire and Cheshire was not conducive to this idea given the gradients and sheer profusion of locks that would have been required.

The enabling Bill was laid before Parliament in 1824 -- before the Stockton and Darlington opened. As with many other projects the cost was underestimated. With the aid of Railway Clearing House junction diagrams, Ordnance Survey maps and Google Earth George described the route starting at the Cromford end. To his relief and that of the audience Tommy clarified the difference between the two High Peak Junctions. A remarkable collection of photographs illustrated many of the installations.

The variety of motive power shown was by no means confined to North London tanks and J94s. The LNWR and its successors drafted in a remarkable variety of locos. The working of the Sheep Pasture incline would have been a challenge in today’s health and safety culture and promoted some amusing anecdotes. Sadly time ran out on this scholarly yet entertaining presentation. The Branch looks forward to what are understood to be the next four instalments.

Tuesday 6th January 2015 -- The last four Years of BR Steam - George Howe
         by Chris Foren

In the unavoidable absence of the booked speaker we welcomed retired railwayman George Howe from nearby Potton who showed a selection of his own slides covering the period 1964-68 - the last four years of steam

. Armed with a serviceable if basic camera, some colour slide film, the undeniable perk of 'priv' travel and later a Vespa scooter, George set out on day trips to record the changing scene. With the concentration of the last steam locomotives in the North-West it was taken as read that he would make repeated trips there, to Yorkshire and to the lines out of Waterloo. Other parts were not neglected - the bleak Dovey Junction and the unpronounceable (to the speaker if not the audience) Machynlleth, the North-East and even Reading also featured, as did the Great Northern main line where George worked in several 'boxes over the years.

Although his show concentrated on steam the usurping diesels inevitably appeared before his lens, including Deltics, DP2, a stray Co-Bo and several Claytons. Fortunately the visual gloom of neglected steam engines was relieved by George's knowledgeable and entertaining commentary. The Branch is most grateful to him for standing in at such short notice and hopes to be able to welcome him again in due course.

Tuesday 16th December 2014 -- Christmas Special
         by Chris Foren

The Branch Christmas meeting on followed the now customary format of informality with local members providing the entertainment.

A selection of the 23 diners. President Jack Turner is on the right.
The first item was a selection of slides. The smooth running of the evening, always a precarious ideal, was disrupted by the inability of some of the presenters to recall which way round slides should be loaded in the carousel.

Alan Ledwick punctuated the mayhem with his Stinker Quiz and in a welcome break with tradition the lucky winner, who scored six out of ten, was rewarded with something other than a Christmas pudding.

The next anxiety was the late arrival of the food from the chippie but it was worth the wait. After dinner the digital projector was switched on so that Jack Turner, Bryan Cross and Peter Neal could show some images.

After the bumper raffle draw in which it seemed that everyone must have prizes the evening concluded as oft times before with a Tom and Jerry cartoon, followed by another.

The Branch seems to enjoy this annual opportunity to let its receding hair down: it is a simple formula but it works

Tuesday 2nd December 2014-- Engine Sheds Part 5 -- Chris Banks
         by Chris Foren

As is becoming customary, the Branch welcomed Chris Banks with part 5 of his “Engine Sheds” series. This time the tour began at Gateshead but for the remainder of the first half focused on Glasgow sheds ranging in size from the expansive Eastfield and Polmadie to the two-road former goods shed at Yoker.

Ex-MR Gloucester Barnwood shed was home to Midland Rly Deeley 0F 0-4-0 Tank No.41537. Built in 1907, it shunted Gloucester Docks.
Inevitably some sheds and the locomotives to be found there were better photographed than others but those present could not fail to be impressed by the variety of classes featured, particularly survivors of pre-grouping times. The conditions of the motive power depicted ranged from ex-works to terminal decrepitude.

After tea the odyssey ventured out of Scotland to visit Gloucester, Goodwick, Grantham, Guildford, Horsham and many more, once again taking liberties with the alphabet to embrace some obscure sub-sheds.

The tour ended with a return to Scotland at Hurlford. As usual, Chris gave a brief history of each shed and key facts about the locomotives illustrated, supplemented by some amusing anecdotes and tales of shed visits.

This presentation benefitted from painstaking research and much luck in acquiring suitable slides. The Branch thanks Chris once more for an entertaining evening and looks forward to Parts Six to Infinity!

Monday 10th November 2014 -- Quiz v. RCTS Northampton [Away Leg]
         by Chris Foren

The Branch's brain power took to the road on 10/11 for the away leg of the Ashes quiz versus RCTS Northampton.
Once again Brian Benford of Kettering was the question master. Both sides had to dig deep into their trivia banks to have any hope of answering the questions which, as expected, majored on the more esoteric and abstruse areas of steam locomotive matters.

After a long run of victories Bedford's luck ran out when the home team took an early lead and kept it. The eight round contest was a close one with Northampton winning by 66 points to 62. There was no presentation of awards because Bedford forgot to bring the Ashes and Northampton could not find the buffer customarily presented to the losing side.

The Branch looks forward to the return match in March 2015, possibly with trophies this time.

Tuesday 4th November 2014 -- Last Train to Kensington Midland Style -- John Downing
         by Chris Foren

The Branch welcomed back John Downing, well known as a former Cricklewood fireman and historian of the Midland, with a presentation about the services which used to run over the Dudding Hill line.

John dealt first and briefly with the succession of short-lived passenger flows, none of which lasted beyond 1902, illustrating the 0-4-4 tanks which worked them and owed much to the Metropolitan for their design. The freight traffic over the line was more successful and can still be seen. The Midland had several coal depots outside its own territory which generated traffic flows depending on running powers for access.

The two which John examined with his typical thoroughness were from Cricklewood to West Kensington and High Street Kensington, both on the District Line of London Underground and lasting into the 1960s. Some dismantled spurs were included and John projected some useful maps to help describe the route taken by the unbraked freights.

The scope of the illustrations was wide enough to recall the 1992 steam on the District and several generations of bygone District Line stock and it was noticeable from the shots of District Line stations that London Underground is much more inclined to conserve historic architecture than the national railway.

The Branch thanks John warmly for an interesting and erudite presentation.

Tuesday 21 October 2014 -- AGM then Boston to Stafford by GNR - Tommy Tomalin and George Sullivan
         by Chris Foren

The Branch AGM on 21/10 was sparsely attended. Chairman Bill Davies added a plea for feedback to his thanks to the Committee and other regular helpers of the Branch for their contributions and called on those who natter during meetings to desist. Afternoon meetings are still under consideration. Yet again the committee was re-elected en bloc.

Following increasingly dismal support the photographic competition was rested this year in favour of a digital presentation by Tommy Tomalin and George Sullivan. The subject was the former GN route from Boston to Stafford, which had been recorded on film comprehensively by Tommy since 1960.

With the aid of maps from the Cobb atlas and a wind-up torch to help Tommy read his notes the route was described and a representative selection of infrastructure illustrated. Traffic depicted ranged from a Deltic on a Skegness train to that rarest of sights, a clean WD, embracing a wide range of first and second generation diesel multiple units and the inevitable pairs of Class 20s on summer Saturday holiday trains. 80080 and its piebald stock forming the Jolly Fisherman special of 1993 made several appearances.

The intricacies of Barkston Junction occupied a significant proportion of the show but unfortunately time ran out before the complex network in the Colwick and Netherton area could be given more than introductory coverage. Tommy and George deserve the Branch's thanks for the evening, a repeat invitation in 2016 to continue the odyssey and a more plentiful congregation to enjoy them doing it.

Tuesday 7 October 2014 -- Irish Surprises – Colin Boocock
         by Chris Foren

Colin Boocock returned to the Branch after a lengthy absence with his presentation "Irish Surprises". He set out the changes to the Irish rail network since his first visit in 1956, beginning with a look at the steam power still in service at the time. Some of the designers played a part in UK locomotive history, notably Maunsell, Ivatt, Robinson and of course Bulleid.

The disappearance of much of the rail network on both sides of the border, particularly all but one of the cross-border lines, was displayed starkly on maps. CIE's early experience of diesels was unhappy to put it mildly until the bold decision to replace Crossley power plant with General Motors equipment.

Today modern diesel multiple units carry passengers on both sides of the border and in Dublin the electric DART thrives but in the south the recession has led to service reductions, a surplus of stock and disappointing business on some reopened lines.

Some of the formerly extensive narrow gauge network lives on in preservation. The talk was accompanied by a comprehensive selection of photographs depicting both the workaday and the idiosyncratic.

Many in the sadly depleted audience who have not visited Ireland will surely be tempted to do so following Colin's presentation, for which the Branch extends grateful thanks.

Tuesday 2 September 2014 -- The Peter Bland Collection Part 4 -- Bryan Cross
         by Chris Foren

Branch Fixtures Secretary Bryan Cross showed a fourth selection from the late Peter Bland's photographic collection, of which he is custodian.

On this occasion the emphasis of the presentation was on industrial locos and locations. Clearly Peter had devoted much of 1953 to their pursuit. Remarkably, several of the subjects depicted survive in preservation, including the 0-6-4T Cecil Raikes seen at a colliery near Ilkeston and a saddle tank inherited by the GWR in 1923 found at a factory in Kent.

A trip to North Wales later in the year provided much for Peter to record on the standard and an assortment of narrow gauges, including a very derelict Festiniog Railway at Portmadoc and a newly revived Talyllyn at Towyn. Peter had also managed to record an RCTS railtour starting at Bishopsgate Goods and ride on it around the East of England, taking pictures at every stop.

Although Bryan had expended incalculable time and effort in research, there were gaps even in his knowledge which audience members fell over themselves, often boisterously, to fill for him.

The evening ended with a look at local services between St Pancras and Bedford in 1959, on the eve of dieselisation. Much remains in the collection to be catalogued, scanned, researched and shown. The Branch repeats its regret that Peter had not been more willing to show his fine work during his lifetime and prays that Bryan will be granted the many more years needed to do his work justice!

Tuesday 1 July 2014 - Aspects of a Footplate Career 1964-2007 - Bill Davies
         by Chris Foren

The title afforded Branch Chairman Bill ample opportunity to pick and choose the subjects of his reminiscences, anecdotes and ridicule and it was clear from the start that he was spoilt for choice.

Before him was a table groaning with memorabilia which would have reaped a fortune had it been auctioned or even given as raffle prizes.

Instead, the exhibits served as props for Bill's chronicle of bright ideas from successive managing directors of train operating companies - mugs, marketing literature, miscellaneous trinkets and ties, the latter provoking particularly scathing comment.

Included in Bill's experiences was Test Car Iris. Once to be seen at high speed on the Midland Main Line, it is now back to passenger duty on the Ecclesbourne Valley Rly. [by Bill Davies

Having begun his railway service at Toton, Bill always looked upon himself as a Midland man.

Whether he was critical of some of the entrenched and rigid attitudes that prevailed long after the Grouping was not clear but the tale of the driver who refused to go further than Lincoln St Marks was both entertaining to the audience and revealing of the problems facing BR in the 1960s.

The talk was accompanied by some wide ranging and well chosen slides of which the first few served to illustrate Bill's love for silly notices. Others provoked more anecdotes which if repeated here would probably land someone in trouble.

Nostalgia was evoked and more tales prompted by a series of shots depicting the old station at Bedford.

Laughter filled the air for most of the evening. As some famous comics have shown, there is much humour in the truth. Surely a career in stand-up is the next step for Bill

Tuesday 6 June 2014 - LNER Locos transferred to BR in 1948 - Brian Benford
         by Chris Foren

Brian Benford of the Kettering Locomotive Society returned to the Branch armed with his own venerable projector and projectionist. In contrast to his first visit, which dealt with LMS locomotives, he showed slides of LNER motive power from his remarkable archive.

Equally remarkable was his grasp of detail and minutiae which has served him well in compiling and presenting quizzes over the years. To discipline a potentially rambling subject Brian dealt first with the formation of the LNER from its several constituent companies before proceeding to review its motive power as handed over to BR in the order listed by Ian Allan's ABC. Not forgotten was the WD 2-8-0, of which the LNER bought 200 examples later renumbered in the BR Standard series, nor the Sentinel steam railcar, one of which lasted until 1948.

Many amusing anecdotes came to light, such as the time when a B1 had its whistle stolen whilst awaiting spares at Kettering and was fitted with one from a scrap 4F. Oh, the indignity! It was news to much of the audience that a V2 received a copper-capped chimney after repair at Swindon and that over 4 million miles of light engine running were clocked up in 1924/5.

Brian clearly finds this aspect and level of enthusiasm totally fascinating and the Branch thanks him for a full evening

Tuesday 6 May 2014 - Steam: At Home and Abroad -- Ted Burley
         by Chris Foren

Local member Ted was a late comer to photography, having acquired a camera only in 1988, but had shadowed other cameramen such as David Eatwell and Ray Schofield beforehand. Both these luminaries proffered comments during the presentation.

The first part covered British subjects, both main line and preserved railways. The speaker's preferences for snow, water and silhouettes became clear at once, as did his determination to reach and maintain high standards of composition.

The focus then shifted to Scandinavia and mainland Europe and in particular to Germany, both pre- and post-unification, before heading for the USA and Cuba. The world of steam would not have been complete without visits to China and South Africa, nor to Java, Burma and Cambodia. In his extensive travels

Ted also took pains to capture images of what the more average tourist might see and was not afraid to include non-steam subjects where they were of historical interest. The quality of the images projected was high throughout, whatever the photographer may have thought of some of them himself. Sadly Ted's photographic activity has wound down with the demise of Kodak slide film.

Tuesday 1st April -- 46 Years on British Railways: From Nationalisation to Privatisation -- Jack Turner
         by Chris Foren

The Branch welcomed its own Jack Turner, founder and current President of the LCGB, with a presentation based on his recently published autobiography.
Jack retired from the railway 21 years ago after 46 years’ service punctuated with no less than eight redundancies!

Jack’s first job as a qualified fireman was at Leighton Buzzard, where his first turn was on an LNWR “Super D” 0-8-0 to Dunstable up the 1 in 40 Sewell Bank.
[this photo by Harold Clements in 1951

His early life was spent close to the railway in Aylesbury and in 1947, aged 14, he joined the LMS as a junior clerk in the goods department.

At 16 he became a cleaner at Bletchley and soon found himself firing and relieving at other sheds. After National Service from 1950 to 1952 he found himself at Aylesbury Town shed and learnt the craft of driving

. A job at Bedford fell through and after a spell in the brickworks he became a signalman on the Midland, working in many boxes as a regular and relief man. As might be expected, Jack had a great many stories to tell of incidents and fellow railwaymen, ranging from the absurd to the poignant and covering some of the more unofficial aspects of railway life as well as the day-to-day business.

The accompanying photographs were selected with care and acted as a garnish to the tale. There was never a remote possibility that he would be able to tell the whole tale in one evening and what happened after he became a relief station master will just have to wait for another time!

Tuesday 11 March 2014 - Quiz versus RCTS Northampton and LCGB St Albans
      by Chris Foren

Ouiz teams from RCTS Northampton and LCGB St Albans visited the Branch seeking to wrest the Ashes from the home team. .

Best “Fringe” Team was “No Hopers”. Captain Dave Britton accepts his team’s Thomas eggs from LCGB President jack Turner

Once five fringe teams had formed there were nearly enough aspiring contestants for each club to field two teams of three.

The established team of quizmaster Bill Davies and chief techie Bryan Cross delivered 44 questions with many parts which appeared to grow in difficulty as the contest progressed.

Scores were announced at the end of each round but not totalled until the end, creating some suspense

Although the questions were compiled with skill and care, a couple of answers were given away in their phrasing, possibly so that all but the most dense would come away with some marks!

The quizmaster’s carefully cadenced delivery embellished the on-screen graphics which worked well until someone clouted the projector, causing a brief shut-down.

The final scores were: Bedford A 131, Bedford B 109, Northampton A 123, Northampton B 84, St Albans A 107 and St Albans B 31.

The five fringe teams scored between 53 and 90, the highest scoring calling themselves the No-Hopers and being rewarded with some Thomas merchandise. Perhaps that will encourage them to offer themselves to an official team in future.

Meanwhile Bedford retain the Ashes and the Fred Cockman trophy. Well done to Roger Whitehead (Captain),Alan Ledwick and Chris Foren.

Tuesday 4th February -- The Railways of East Lincolnshire -- Mike Fowler
         by Chris Foren

A year later than originally intended, the Branch welcomed Mike Fowler and his presentation on the railways of East Lincolnshire.

Mike outlined the development of the rail network which took from 1846 to 1913, explaining the traffic which initially sustained each line. As might be expected in such a rural area bounded by a lengthy coastline, this amounted principally to fish and vegetables, augmented during wartime by armaments.

The carriage of passengers became important too with the growth of holiday resorts at Skegness and Mablethorpe and the port of Grimsby but the ambition of turning Sutton-on-Sea into a significant port was never realised.

Mike Fowler poses by two of his priceless artefacts [photo Geoff Biggs

Even before Beeching the network had begun to wither but the proposal to close most of it was first issued in 1962 and implemented in 1970, helped on its way by over 60 expensive-to-run level crossings.

Unusually a passenger service between Peterborough and Spalding was restored soon after withdrawal. Some of the infrastructure that survived after closure was illustrated with slides and prints.

Sadly Mike’s aim to show two DVDs was thwarted by technical failure but, as befits a former radio presenter, he was able to keep going almost regardless. The talk concluded with an evocative article from a local paper.

In his effusive vote of thanks Branch Chairman Bill Davies praised the presentation as an example of how it should be done and expressed the hope that the missing footage would be shown one day – technicalities permitting!

Tuesday 7th January -- 50- 50 Kings Cross -- Richard Crane
         by Chris Foren

Former Branch Secretary Richard Crane returned to the Branch with another of his "Fifty-Fifty" presentations, this time covering the Great Northern main line.

Again denying any expertise of his subject, Richard began his journey at milepost 50, just south of St Neots, and headed south methodically towards Kings Cross. Extended coverage of Sandy reflected the speaker's early spotting expeditions and at Biggleswade the focus was on his avoidance of cross-country running at school! A representative selection of motive power, from the various Pacifics to the Pilot Scheme diesels, HSTs and electrics, was illustrated by slides from the Colour-Rail catalogue and many of his own taking.

In the approximate 50 year timespan of the presentation the Deltics arrived on and departed from the scene and the decline of steam from 1963 was rapid. Although the electrified GN main line is busier than ever the heavy coal traffic is but a memory as are the filthy WDs that worked it.

The bottlenecks at Sandy, Arlesey and Potters Bar have gone but that of Welwyn Viaduct is likely to remain indefinitely. As Kings Cross approached some shots of Top Shed were accompanied by Richard's admission that he never bunked it. The show concluded with some evocative shots of locomotives at the buffers and the present-day terminus, now tidied almost beyond recognition.

The Branch thanks Richard for another evening's entertainment and congratulates him for overcoming the acoustics in the hall with his own PA system.

17 December 2013 – Christmas Special
              by Chris Foren

As usual, the Branch Christmas meeting was a less formal affair with local members providing the entertainment. Alan Ledwick returned with his notorious Stinker Quiz, the lucky winner being rewarded with a small Christmas pudding.

The photo shows a selection of diners.

Next came the slide projector, used by Ken Dickens, John Parker, Geoff Biggs, Bill Davies and Roger Whitehead to show wide-ranging selections of images.

The digital projector was put to good use too, with presentations by Colin Smith, Bryan Cross, John Morgan, Ted Burley, Geoff Biggs and Steve Lacey covering subjects ranging from the overhaul of 34081 to a visit to Japan.

By ancient custom the evening ended with a Tom and Jerry cartoon.

A local chippie provided enjoyable food at half time, augmented by home-made mince pies courtesy of Peter Crossman.

The branch thanks go to all those who took the time and trouble to provide festive entertainment and those who helped with the extensive catering.

3rd December 2013 -- Engine Sheds Part 4 -- Chris Banks
              by Chris Foren

The presentation commenced with an in-depth look at Eastleigh. The first two shots portrayed a yard full of lifeless locos during the 1955 ASLEF strike and individual portraits covered almost 40 different classes, ranging from the diminutive C14 to the mighty 9F.
One photo that was shown:- Feltham Shed near the end of steam. S15 4-6-0 No.30506 and G16 4-8-0T Hump Shunter No.30495. Both of LSWR parentage.

The three sheds of Edinburgh – Dalry Road, Haymarket and St Margarets - were next, followed by those at Exeter, Exmouth Junction, Feltham and Fort William with a parting shot of the arguably less than elegant timber structure at Frome.

As usual, the speaker gave a brief history of each shed and key facts about the locomotives illustrated, supplemented by some amusing anecdotes and tales of shed visits.

The locomotives illustrated ranged in condition from ex-works to derelict.

Part 5 of the series is scheduled for December 2014 but parts 6 to 14? Your guess is as good as this reporter’s!

11 November 2013 -- AWAY QUIZ versus RCTS NORTHAMPTON
              by Chris Foren

Some of the Branch's stalwarts travelled to Northampton for the away leg of the long-running Ashes quiz versus the RCTS.

Brian Benford set the questions once again and must be mellowing as one of the slides featured a Co-Bo diesel.

For once the subject matter did not rely totally on the LMS and both teams had the chance to reveal their ignorance of other railways as well.

As is so often the case the contest was close and there were hardly any arguments except within the Northampton team.

Despite being without some key brains Bedford took an early but slender lead and although coming second in three rounds out of eight won by 57 points to 53.

Captain Roger Whitehead accepted the Ashes trophy, which the Branch really must get round to having engraved to commemorate all its recent victories.

Chris Foren's pictures show - The Ashes - the remains of Ravenstone Wood Junction 'Box, and below RCTS Northampton's President John Harrison congratulates our Captain while their Chairman Ron Hart makes a point.

5th November 2013
The North East - Cradle of the Railways and Hotbed of Soccer - Colin Briggs
         by Chris Foren

The Branch welcomed back Colin Briggs with the latest of his presentations which combine his twin passions of railways and association football. This time Colin examined the North-East, described as the cradle of railways and (in the words of the late John Arlott) hotbed of soccer.

The journey began at Wylam with the birth of George Stephenson and the Stockton and Darlington Railway, in the process recalling the cavalcades of 1925 and 1975 and the short-lived electrification between Shildon and Newport.

Newcastle was next with the several bridges across the Tyne and the Central station, arguably one of the finest in the land. After heading for Berwick and the Royal Border Bridge the journey returned to Darlington via the North Sea coast, Sunderland, Hartlepool and Middlesbrough, venturing inland to Bishop Auckland.

As the odyssey progressed Colin introduced the major football teams, their grounds and some of their notable achievements. Many of the North Eastern Railway's long-lived locomotives were illustrated alongside their successors and many of the sheds which they inhabited. All too soon this interesting evening came to an end.

In extending its thanks to Colin the Branch can only speculate how he will next link railways and football and hopes that he will return with the results.

22 October 2013 - AGM & PHOTO COMPETITION
We once again combined the Branch AGM and Photographic Competition.

AGM In his inimitable upbeat fashion Chairman Bill Davies thanked the Committee and other regular helpers of the Branch for their contributions and yet again appealed for new ideas. Afternoon meetings will be considered. The re-election of the committee en bloc was no surprise.

Re-elected Committee
Chairman        Bill Davies
Treasurer and Sales       Peter Crossman
Fixtures Secretary       Bryan Cross
Secretary       Geoff Biggs
Committee Member       John Morgan

The Photographic Competition followed with long-time Branch supporter Ted Burley assuming the role of judge.

Ted explained his photographic preferences at the outset and referred to them as images were projected. However, he was not always able to speak as constructively of non-steam photographs as of those where steam was the subject.

The expressions "record shot" and "this will never win a competition" may come across as harsh and dismissive but were meant kindly. Inevitably the age of nearly all the slides entered was considerable. To reflect reality the competition categories had been revamped.

No dissent was expressed at the judge's choice of winners and the Branch thanks Ted for taking on the often tricky and always unenviable job.

The Derek Robinson Trophy* for the best photograph as voted by those present went to Steve Lacey*. His print really caught peoples' imagination - and not a steam engine in sight!

(Right)Steve Lacey's winning photo Wansford coaling dock on the Nene Valley Railway, 12th Dec 2012 at 12.25 using my LG mobile phone!


1st October 2013 - North Wales Coast Part 3 - David Scudamore
              by Chris Foren

David Scudamore returned to the Branch with the third part of his presentation on the North Wales Coast. Having reached Llandudno at the end of Part 2 last year, David began with visits to the Llandudno and Colwyn Bay tramway, which closed in 1956, and the Great Orme Tramway, which is still with us.

After a brief glimpse of the pleasure steamer St Tudno, the journey west from Llandudno Junction resumed. Once the route of the Irish Mail, of which there were several reminders during the evening, much of the line hugs the coast, particularly near Penmaenmawr. Amid the more recent photographs shown, the majority taken by David himself, were fascinating illustrations of the tubular bridges at Conwy and the Menai Straits from the Illustrated London News. Lovers of steam were not disappointed with views of A4s on the North Wales Coast Express and 46233 heading the Royal Train in several locations, all sunny!

Passenger traffic has held up and some of the wayside stations closed in 1966 have reopened, including the legendary Llanfair PG. Freight is another matter with only the nuclear flasks to and from Valley providing regular business and the loss of container traffic from Holyhead has had a drastic effect upon the once busy port. It is always a pleasure to welcome a speaker with a comprehensive knowledge of his subject and in thanking David for an excellent evening the Branch hopes that he will return with another equally interesting topic in due course.

3rd September 2013 -- The Peter Bland Collection Part 3 – Bryan Cross
              by Chris Foren

Bryan Cross showed a third selection from the late Peter Bland’s photographic collection. The effort that Bryan had expended in scanning Peter’s colour slides was clear when he showed some ‘before’ and ‘after’ examples.

This time the major part of Bryan’s presentation comprised views that Peter had captured on a return visit to Ireland in June 1961. By this time little remained of the once extensive narrow gauge network save for some sad and rusty remnants. On the broad gauge enough steam remained more or less serviceable to provide a variety of power for the tours which took Peter around the Emerald Isle. As befitted the ramshackle condition of the network at the time one shot showed most of the railtour participants willingly helping to push or pull a turntable round!

Before his Irish trip Peter had visited the Northamptonshire iron fields and afterwards made an extensive visit to Beckton Gasworks, supplemented by visits to, among other places, the Midland main line near St Albans, the Belmont branch near Harrow and the neighbouring Southern sheds of Nine Elms and Stewarts Lane.

The Branch pays tribute to Bryan’s sterling work in conserving Peter’s collection and shares his regret that Peter had not been more willing to show his fine work during his lifetime.
2nd July 2013 - Five and Nine the Brighton Line: Part 2 - Ron Hart               by Chris Foren

Ron Hart made a return to the Branch with Part 2 of his presentation, which he subtitled "The Nuts and Bolts".

Ron began with a brief overview of the territory to be featured and a slight digression into archive film of the Golden Arrow before describing the 1840s experiment with atmospheric propulsion which pre-dated Brunel's ill-starred effort in Devon. He went on to examine the Elevated Electric, the LB&SCR's AC electrification considered equally suitable for main line and suburban routes but outvoted by the third rail at the Grouping and converted by 1929.

After further digressions to Croydon Airport and the Brighton trolleybus system Ron looked at the Brighton's steam locomotives and their designers. He placed the works of Craven, Stroudley and the Billintons in context while according the greatest emphasis to the work of Marsh such as the H2 Atlantics and the large Baltic tanks.

The culmination of Ron's talk was his account of the life and work of Brighton Works where he served as an apprentice in the 1950s in the gang which had worked on the Leader tanks. In addition to routine surgery on the fleet the works built 1,200 locomotives including 73 8Fs and a batch of Fairburn tanks as well as contributing to the design of the BR Standards. Sadly the buildings were demolished and the site given over to car parking.

To judge by the anecdotes, Ron clearly enjoyed his formative years at Brighton and gave those present what Chairman Bill Davies rightly described as a "super insight". The Branch extends heartfelt thanks to Ron and longs for Part 3.

4th June 2013 – How Steam Was My Valley – Chris Jones
              by Chris Foren

Former Branch Chairman Chris Jones visited us to speak on “How Steam Was My Valley”.

This might have led the unwary to expect a tour of South Wales. Instead, Chris shared some of the influences that shaped his enthusiasm for railways, beginning with his Uncle Mark, a very senior railwayman. His childhood in Swansea embraced the Swansea and Mumbles and the Central Wales line out of Swansea Victoria, which station was made even more decrepit after closure by some of his schoolfellows!

His first railtour was a brake van trip to Graig Merthyr colliery but the industrial scene was a lesser enthusiasm compared with the narrow gauge such as the Corris and Vale of Rheidol. Closer to home the rail network and some of the communities that it served had been in slow decline long before Beeching.

The well chosen photographs served to emphasise this by portraying places like Three Cocks, Fochriw, Colbren Junction and Blaengwynfi where barely a trace of the railway remains. Although Chris grew up in LNWR territory with a touch of Midland influence the GWR was not forgotten, with shots of Swansea High Street (where he worked fleetingly as a porter) and Duffryn Yard shed.

Unfortunately the odyssey could not reach the better-known parts of the Valleys before the end of the evening but there was just time for an acapella rendition of ‘Gwalchmai’, apparently a well-known Welsh hymn tune!

The new and improved Branch PA system emerged from its box for the evening but Chris was able to hold the attention of the congregation regardless of its use. He is to be congratulated for an entertaining and informative presentation.

7th May 2013 – The New Waverley Novels – Dennis Lovett
              by Chris Foren

We welcomed the return to the Branch of Dennis Lovett, this time with his presentation on the Waverley Route old and new.

To set the scene Dennis showed a montage of stills with the perhaps startling musical accompaniment of a pipe band. He went on to explain the genesis of the line as a carrier of coal to satisfy the demands of Edinburgh and the textile towns to the south.

The section from Hawick to Carlisle through territory populated largely by sheep was built principally to keep out the Caledonian Railway, not the best of friends with the North British. Closure in January 1969 of what had become a valuable through route was opposed bitterly: it was said to have been sacrificed to justify electrification on the West Coast main line.

With a varied selection of photographs and extracts from maps Dennis described the route from north to south. Work is well in hand on reinstating the railway between Newcraighall and Tweedbank with the expectation that it will alleviate Edinburgh’s chronic road traffic by providing a park and ride facility.

Even with the propensity of the Scots to just get on with the job the work has proceeded with remarkable speed and is due to be completed in 2015. Traditional rivalries suggest that once the job is complete a clamour will arise from Hawick for a connection to the railway. The Branch extends thanks to Dennis for a fascinating and informative presentation.

2nd April 2013 – Midland and LMS Locomotives – Brian Benford               by Chris Foren

Brian Benford, leading light of the Kettering Locomotive Society and prolific quizmaster, paid his first visit to the Branch.

In contrast to the digital razzmatazz of the previous month’s quiz, Brian employed steam age technology in the form of slides and projector to show a mere fraction of his enormous archive. Many of the images projected were recent additions to the archive and had come from the collection of the late John Adams, warmly remembered by many as one of the presenters of “Railway Roundabout”.

After introducing the constituent companies of the LMS the first part of the presentation majored on the Midland, featuring several glimpses of the 0-10-0 Lickey banker and other curiosities amid the more workaday power, such as the ex-Tilbury Baltic tanks and a couple of Flatirons in unexpected places.

After tea the subjects covered included Garratts and amid the curiosities the unique Ljungstrom machine whose wheel arrangement strained the Whyte notation to its limits. Locations were many, diverse and occasionally wrongly attributed but those present showed their customary willingness to offer corrections, both to the speaker and each other. With a selection of amusing anecdotes and reminiscences of footplate days there was something for all interests.

12th March 2013 – Inter-Club Quiz
              by Chris Foren

The Branch welcomed quiz teams from RCTS Northampton and LCGB St Albans for the home leg of the contest for the Ashes.

This time there were sufficient bodies for each club to field two teams of three and enough left over to form no less than five fringe teams.

Quizmaster Bill Davies presided over another good-natured contest which covered a commendably broad range of subjects and tested the knowledge and memories of the contestants.

One team was baffled by the depot code WZ and suggested not the correct answer – Warsaw – but Whipsnade Zoo.

The skills of chief techie Bryan Cross in assembling the on-screen graphics continue to progress and the sheer amount of work involved in preparing a good quiz cannot be underestimated. However, just a few spelling mistakes and stray apostrophes!

Not for the first time, Bedford A took an early lead and built on it to win the Ashes and the Fred Cockman Trophy.

The final scores were: Bedford A 129, Bedford B 85, Northampton A 100, Northampton B 90, St Albans A 72 and St Albans B 43. The five fringe teams scored between 37 and 71.

It is to be hoped that their members are sufficiently encouraged to join the official teams in future.

5th February 2013 – Railways of Lincolnshire – Richard Crane
              by Chris Foren

Richard Crane kindly stood in for Mike Fowler who couldn’t be present. The evening’s subject remained as Lincolnshire.

The tour began at Stamford, which but for local opposition might have found itself on the East Coast main line instead of the Midland. After a brief visit to Essendine the focus switched to the Great Northern and Great Eastern Joint, now facing an upgrade after a long period of gradual decline and part closure.

An interlude at Grantham preceded the trip to Boston and nostalgic images of Class 20s on Skegness holiday traffic with the suspicion that today’s train operators would gladly be rid of what remains. The core route today is undoubtedly that serving Immingham and Scunthorpe over which freight traffic remains heavy but with a radically different pattern. For those who, like the speaker, appreciate the finer points of mechanical signalling there is still much to be seen but not for much longer.

Many traces of closed lines can be discerned but several ‘then and now’ shots illustrated all too clearly how quickly and completely old railways can be erased. The Branch wishes to thank Richard who, as a late replacement, made a commendably thorough presentation on a subject in which he professes no expertise!

8th January 2013 – The British Preserved Steam Scene – David Eatwell
              by Chris Foren

Former Fixtures Secretary David Eatwell paid what he insisted was to be his final visit to the Branch with a slide presentation on the British preserved steam scene. The images projected covered a high proportion of the possible combinations of locomotive and location over the last 40 years.

Thanks to built development and the unchecked growth of lineside vegetation many choice and classic viewpoints were no longer available. The choice of images was wide ranging, covering main line outings and preserved railways, and arranged by logical theme.

David’s fondness for night photography came across particularly well with images from the Didcot evenings that he had once helped to arrange and some other places where he had benefitted from special arrangements best left unspecified. How some of the shots shown had been obtained was the subject of many amusing anecdotes and many memories were evoked of locomotives that have not been seen in public for many years.

David has clear and forthright views on what constitutes a good photograph: in an ideal world it would not include an Ethel or a multi-liveried rake of coaches but would have every loco with its rods down! Even the photographs which failed to match these exacting criteria were of a standard to which some others merely aspire.

Those present enjoyed the evening and hold out the hope, be it forlorn or no, that David will return one more time.