6th June -- Crossrail, Moving London Forward –
Patrick Griffin by Chris Foren
Patrick’s enthusiasm for what is the largest civil engineering
project in Europe was evident throughout his first-class PowerPoint
presentation, which traced the origins of Crossrail from Marc Brunel’s
Thames Tunnel through the beginnings of London’s Underground
network in the 1860s and the succession of planning studies on which
no significant action was taken.
The Central London Rail Study of 1989 led to a Bill being prepared
only to be pulled by the cold-footed Treasury. Fortunately a later
study by the Shadow SRA was taken seriously.
Funding was secured including a significant contribution from Canary
Wharf and a Bill deposited in 2005, receiving significant and public
support from politicians.
Patrick explained clearly and methodically the planning and construction
processes, pointing out the many obstacles to building a full size
tunnel under London (mostly other tunnels), the steps taken to avoid
damage to existing buildings and the many other challenges before
describing the 66 new trains – a snip at £1bn each - and
their phased introduction leading to the full service of 24 trains
per hour each way through the central section in 2019.
What will be known as the Elizabeth Line will deliver key cuts in
journey times and a notable increase in capacity for London’s
The scale of the project is breathtaking and the Branch is most grateful
to Patrick for explaining it so clearly, effectively and enjoyably
3rd May -- Scotland in the 1950's & 60's - David
Kelso by Chris Foren
After a gap of some five years David Kelso returned to the Branch, this time bringing a fine selection
of black and white images, projected digitally and captioned informatively,
depicting steam in Scotland between 1948 and 1960.
The young David’s box Brownie was trained on subjects in and
around Edinburgh until he joined the RCTS, SLS and LCGB at, let’s
say, an early age. During convalescence from TB he was inspired by
Treacy’s “Steam Up” and bought a decent 35mm camera
Once his finances had recovered his horizons were greatly expanded.
In the ensuing years he travelled extensively in Scotland, capturing
the final years of pre-grouping motive power alongside the final LNER
Pacifics and the new BR Standards.
The show was arranged by area rather than chronologically and portrayed
everything from tired shed pilots and grimy WD 2-10-0s to shiny top
link expresses. With regular access to weekly notices there was very
little that David missed: in particular he managed to record many
rugby and soccer specials, largely double-headed, and, on a couple
of occasions, the Royal Train.
Perhaps the most evocative shots were those on the West Highland and
Far North lines, where the landscape fully merits the inclusion of
trains, but equally charming were some pictures of industrial power.
Many of the locations captured have been swept away and most of the
rest changed almost beyond recognition. The Branch extends grateful
thanks to David for a fine evening’s entertainment and may well
act on the hint that he has another programme available.
5th April 2016 -- Eastleigh Works -- Colin Boocock by
Colin Boocock paid a welcome return visit to the Branch to tell
the story of Eastleigh Works, where he had been an apprentice.
The strategically located greenfield site was chosen by Dugald
Drummond to replace the cramped and cluttered establishment at
The new works opened in 1909 and was designed to allow for expansion.
One locomotive a month was built there until 1950. With the aid
of a comprehensive selection of photographs, including many from
his own camera, Colin described the wide range of processes used
in building and overhauling locomotives and carriages.
During World War 2 the works turned out such important items as
howitzers and landing craft to complement the 23 8Fs built there
and in the BR era the overhaul of diesel and electric power was
added to the range of skills.
Following a review in 1962 the number of BR workshops was halved
and at Eastleigh the locomotive and carriage shops were combined.
This was not the last restructuring of this part of the industry
and Eastleigh would become one of only six works undertaking Level
In 1996 what had become Wessex Traincare was bought by Alstom,
who did not make a success of their operation and surrendered
their lease ten years later. Fortunately Eastleigh survived to
mark its centenary in 2009 and now sees use as a storage facility
for off-lease rolling stock. Colin's excellent talk, enjoyed by
all present, showed once again that there is nothing to beat expert
inside knowledge delivered by a career railwayman.
8th March -- Quiz v RCTS Northampton and LCGB St Albans
by Chris Foren
This meeting was the second to be held in the afternoon and featured
the Inter-Branch Quiz, a fixture of very many years’ standing.
It was good to welcome back the contingent from LCGB St Albans,
sadly absent last year, to join battle with the home side and RCTS
Northampton. Each Club fielded two teams and three fringe teams
also took part, possibly depleting the home side’s brainpower.
Quizmaster Bill Davies delivered five rounds of 10 questions each,
one round having been compiled by chief techie Bryan Cross.
The questions embraced a refreshingly yet frustratingly wide range of
subjects and certainly tested the knowledge and guessing power of
the contestants. Scores were announced at the end of each round.
At the end and after some tantalising recounts the totals were revealed:-
Northampton retained the Ashes with 113 points versus Bedford's
107. The fringe teams clocked up scores ranging from 62 to 106.
Once again the helpful on-screen graphics suffered from spelling
mistakes too numerous to list and more than their fair share of
stray apostrophes. Fortunately more attention to detail was applied
to the questions! Once again, everyone forgot about the Fred Cockman
2nd February 2016 -- Cromford & High Peak Railway
(Part 2) -- George Sullivan by Chris
George Sullivan together with Tommy Tomalin returned to the Branch
with the second instalment of their entertaining presentation on the
Cromford and High Peak Railway. Once again the first illustration
was of the late Ian Lyman who had prepared the script and found so
many of the illustrations.
After a brief recap of the line’s origin as a proposed canal
the slow journey westward from the two High Peak Junctions resumed.
This time the section between the Sheep Pasture and Hopton inclines
was explored, once again with the aid of Ordnance Survey maps thoughtfully
embellished with arrows to assist the viewer. This section included
the incline at Middleton and the technology entailed in its cable
working was described comprehensively.
The many photographs shown depicted the characteristic motive
power deployed on the line and some unexpected oddities such as
wagons branded for Derbyshire County Council. Of the mishaps described,
perhaps the most notable of these was the occasion in July 1955
when Kitson 0-4-0ST 47000 derailed spectacularly, becoming a temporary
and not altogether welcome garden feature.
Its recovery was accomplished with the aid of another loco and prodigious
earthworks but despite extensive damage the runaway was absent for
repairs for only two months. Among the many other features illustrated
were some early cast fishbelly rails and stone blocks laid when
the line was worked by horses.
Again the evening proved too short. The Branch looks forward to
a return by George and Tommy as soon as an opportunity can be found.
5th January 2016 -- 175 years of Wolverton Works and
the Royal Train -- Phil Marsh by
This meeting turned out to be three presentations in one. The
first part recreated an early journey along the London and Birmingham
Railway, featuring illustrations of some of its well-known landmarks
under construction. Many were taken from engravings by Bourne and
featured right hand running for which the railway was not noted.
An extract from an early timetable revealed that the journey time
from Euston to Birmingham was 5 hours 37 minutes, a marked improvement
on the stagecoach.
This 2013 view shows the Royal Train departing
from Wolverton Works on the original WCML alignment past the
1838 opened Erecting Shop.
The focus then shifted to the evolution of the Royal Train from
the saloons built for Queen Victoria in 1869, sumptuous on the inside
but basic on the outside, through the armoured vehicles built for
King George VI in 1941 to the present relatively modern nine coach
set which is far more functional than its predecessors.
Finally Phil presented an affectionate portrait and history of
the Royal Train’s home, Wolverton Works, and some of those
who worked there. Hr looked back at its role in wartime and its
provision of the local fire brigade, noting that the future of the
facility is now far from certain given its ownership by a property
There was no shortage of humorous anecdotes and the section
on the Works in particular emphasised the incalculable value of
oral history. How some of the photographs were obtained is best
described as ‘carefully’. The Branch thanks Phil for
a fascinating and informative evening.
15 December 2015 – Christmas Special by
Bedford Branch’s Christmas meeting was a textbook example
of informality. As usual, local members provided the first half’s
Possibly to get it over and done, the first item was Alan Ledwick’s
Stinker Quiz, which produced the unusual result of a three-way tie
for first place with a massive six points. Two tiebreaks were required
to determine that Colin Bassett was the worthy winner, rewarded
with a wrapped box that could not possibly have been the dreaded
Then came an eclectic selection of slides from Bryan Cross, Goff
Biggs, Ted Burley, Colin Smith and Steve Lacey. Others stood ready
to project but were thwarted by the arrival of the food from the
chippie, supplemented this time by some fine mince pies baked by
Peter Crossman’s wife. After dinner Frank Banfield entertained
with a selection of cine films, concluding with a Road Runner cartoon.
Although the attendance was a tad sparse, those present enjoyed
1st December 2015 -- Engine Sheds Part 6 -- Chris Banks by Chris
Chris Banks entertained the us with the sixth part of his “Engine
Sheds” series. The focus this time was on the London area.
As has come to be expected from this presenter, some liberties
were taken with the alphabet.
The tour began at Bricklayers Arms, progressing to Camden, Cricklewood,
Kentish Town, Hither Green (where some diesel shunters could be
glimpsed), Kings Cross and Nine Elms before the tea break and Norwood
Junction, Stewarts Lane, Plaistow, Stratford, Old Oak Common and
Chris demonstrated not only the variety of power still to be seen
as steam declined but the steadily worsening external condition
of what remained. Particularly evocative were the pictures of Nine
Elms in 1967 with ash everywhere.
In his customary style Chris gave a potted history of each shed
and key facts about the locomotives illustrated.
The Branch thanked him warmly for another top quality presentation
and looks forward to Part 7 in December 2016.
The evening began with a brief tribute to David Eatwell, Branch
fixtures secretary for many years, who had passed away a few days
previously. His photographic skills and trenchant opinions will
be sadly missed.
Tuesday 17 November 2015– Wanderings on the Midland - Brian
Stephenson by Chris
The first afternoon meeting of the Branch took place when Brian
Stephenson gave a digital presentation entitled “Wanderings
on the Midland”. The images were produced by scanning
from glass plates and negatives, enhanced where necessary with the
aid of Photoshop.
Among the notable photographers whose collections are in Brian’s
care and were featured in the presentation were Messrs W Beckerlegge,
T G Hepburn, A G Ellis, F R Hebron, C R L Coles, K Field, D Hepburne
Scott and J M Jarvis.
In the first half Brian examined locomotives of the Midland Railway
and LMS between 1900 and 1935, showing how design evolved under
the stewardships of Johnson and Deeley and later influenced LMS
practice. The subjects were captured at a variety of locations,
some such as St Pancras and Nottingham being represented more than
others such as Aldersgate and Bolton.
Amid the workaday power was portrayed one-offs such as Fury and
the Lickey Banker, with tantalising glimpses of preserved locos
said to have been destroyed on Stanier’s orders.
In the second half the story continued to 1968 with WDs, 9Fs, the
decline of steam and the advent of diesel power before abruptly
changing to colour and up to date images taken by Brian in places
ranging from the Rhine Valley and the Gotthard Pass to less than
a mile from his home.
The Branch is most grateful to Brian for enduring the journey to
Bedford, made more difficult by incidents on the railway. In terms
of both content and attendance the experiment of an afternoon meeting
can be judged a success.
Monday 9th November 2015 – Quiz v. RCTS [Away Leg]
by Chris Foren
RCTS Northampton Deputy Chairman Keith
Sykes (Left) presenting the Ashes to RCTS Tean Captain Graham
Once again the Branch’s brain power braved the rush hour congestion
for the away leg of the Ashes quiz versus RCTS Northampton at the
latter’s new meeting place.
Habitual question master Brian Benford delivered the questions with
almost indecent haste, a handicap given that the teams needed to consult
before writing down the answers in the poor light of the slide projector,
and did not help matters by introducing ambiguities to some of the
The subject matter majored on the more abstruse areas of steam locomotive
matters, including names and sheds.
The eight round contest was surprisingly close one with Northampton
winning by 64 points to 62, much less of a hammering than the impression
gained by the Bedford team as it huddled round captain Bill Davies.
Given the need to end the proceedings by 9.30 pm, possibly past the
caretaker's bedtime, perhaps one less round would have been more comfortable
for all. .
Tuesday -- 3rd November -- Great Northern: Kings Cross to Peterborough
– George Howe by
Once again the booked speaker was unable to attend. In his place
the Branch was pleased to welcome once again George Howe who gave
a presentation on the Great Northern Railway.
In addition to being a retired signalman, George is prominent in
the Great Northern Society. With the aid of basic but clear maps
he set out the origins and development of the GNR, reminding the
audience that the present direct route to Scotland via the East
Coast Main Line was not achieved straight away: rather, the line
from Peterborough via Lincoln to Retford preceded that via Grantham
and Stoke Bank.
The GNR’s presence in London was Maiden Lane until Kings Cross
was ready and intermediate stations were initially few in number.
Much else of interest emerged during the evening, not least the
revelation that the good people of Biggleswade clamoured for the
railway to go through the town rather than round it.
The proposed branch to Bedford from a triangular junction at Sandy
was news to many too. With the history came a varied selection of
photographs in slide form garnered from many sources and covering
all key periods and many locations served by the line. Of particular
interest to many were the images of Langford Bridge box, George’s
first. Clearly there is more to this subject than just one evening
could hope to cover. The Branch is most grateful to George for once
again stepping into the breach at short notice.
Tuesday -- 20th October 2015 - AGM plus Jack Turner part 2
by Chris Foren
As inevitably as night following day, the attendance at the Branch
AGM was sparse. Chairman Bill Davies profered his thanks to the
Committee and other regular helpers of the Branch for their contributions
and once again sought feedback which might guide those who run the
Branch in their deliberations.
He looked forward to the experiment of afternoon meetings. To the
surprise of no-one, least of all those concerned, the committee
was re-elected en bloc. With the formal business concluded in just
over 30 minutes, Club founder Jack Turner took the floor to reminisce,
without notes but with his autobiography not far from his mind,
about his long career on the railway.
The first section of the talk was a recap of events from 1946, when
he joined as a 14 year old school leaver, to 1970 when he arrived
at Kensington Olympia as a station supervisor. There he found a
complex yet largely unknown mix of freight, milk, parcels and motor-rail
traffic, leavened with mystery excursions and the attendant problems
of crew relief. More than once he was compelled to act as conductor
to drivers who did not know the road.
His next move was to Euston as Operating Inspector, a nebulous job
title which at one point led him to Hendon where he kept an eye
on the building of the M1 alongside the line. A variety of management
roles followed, most involving signalling installations. The flow
of anecdotes was constant and attracted far more attention than
the projected illustrations. All too soon time ran out on a good
meeting which too many missed.
Tuesday 6 October 2015 – Both sides of the Tweed – Denis
Given the recent re-opening of part of the Waverley route Dennis’s
presentation, “Both Sides of the Tweed”, was aptly topical.
St Boswells Station looking North early
It examined the two lines that once connected St Boswells with Berwick-upon-Tweed,
one each side of the River Tweed that forms part of the border between
England and Scotland.
The presentation began with a sequence of pictures illustrating the
territory served by the lines, accompanied by recorded music from
a pipe band worthy of the Edinburgh Tattoo.
Dennis then described the routes of the lines from St Boswells to
Berwick via Duns and from Berwick to St Boswells via Kelso, giving
a brief history of each relevant feature encountered en route. The
photographs were selected from those gathered by Dennis for his series
of books on the railways of the Border region and included several
taken to illustrate the present day scene where traces of the long
bygone railway could still be discerned.
Passenger traffic was not heavy on either the Duns or the Kelso route
and in the former case was ended by the floods of 1948 which also
washed out parts of the East Coast main line. Not forgotten was the
turbulent history of Berwick, passed between England and Scotland
13 times in all.
Among the many interesting snippets learned was that Duns is the origin
of the dunce’s cap! The Branch is grateful to Dennis for an
interesting and thorough insight into two bygone rail routes which
clearly deserved to be better known.
Tuesday -- 1st September 2015 -- Don’t Blame Beeching -- Richard
Crane by Chris
The speaker this time was Richard Crane, former long serving Branch
Secretary and more recently promoter of the Bedford – Bletchley
line. His presentation, “Don’t Blame Beeching”,
examined a selection of the lines closed to passenger traffic from
as long ago as 1925 to the appointment of Dr Richard Beeching as
Chairman of the BRB in 1961. Many of today’s commentators
conveniently lay responsibility for many branch closures at Beeching’s
door whilst overlooking the truth.
What Beeching did in fact was to bring to a head the closure process
which had gathered pace in the 1950s. With a widely harvested selection
of photographs Richard illustrated many of the lines whose passenger
services had been abandoned long before Ernest Marples charged Beeching
with making the railways pay. The Limpley Stoke to Camerton line,
used in 1953 for filming “The Titfield Thunderbolt”,
was abandoned in 1925, while the 1930s claimed branches such as
those to Kemp Town, Brill, The Dyke, Parkend and Knott End.
By the 1950s more substantial lines were facing the axe, notably
the Midland and Great Northern which only saw heavy use for a few
weeks in the summer. Fate has been kind to some lines. That from
Bathgate to Airdrie, lost in 1956, now has a frequent service of
electric trains. Others have been saved by the preservation movement,
notably the Bluebell which had the distinction of being closed twice.
For this most interesting talk the Branch thanks Richard warmly
and will not be surprised when he returns.
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
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
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
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
. 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
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
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
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
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
Branch Fixtures Secretary Bryan Cross showed a fourth selection
from the late Peter Bland's photographic collection, of which he
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
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
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
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
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
[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
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
. 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
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
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
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.