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Thursday 30th: Croydon Branch: Named Trains of the Midland Main Line by Ray Schofield


Tuesday 4th: Bedford Branch: Crossing the Border by Dennis Lovett
Tuesday 11th: North London Branch: Members’ Afternoon
Wednesday 12th: Dorking Branch: Brighton Atlantic Progress by David Jones
Friday 21st: Central London Branch: Jordan, Syria and Ukraine by Ian Silvester
Monday 24th: Brighton Branch: Southern Coaches by Mike King
Thursday 27th: Croydon Branch: Photos from the Peter Bland Collection by Bryan Cross


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



The Branch welcomed contestants from RCTS Northampton and LCGB St Albans on 16/4 for what may well be the final encounter in the long-running Ashes quiz. In recent years it has suffered from declining attendances and diminished enthusiasm, both for taking part and setting questions. Presenters Bill Davies and Bryan Cross had assembled a wide ranging set of questions and accompanying graphics. Questions were put to each team in turn and passed on to the next team in the absence of a correct answer. Though necessary, this format was a hostage to fortune given the poor acoustics of the venue. It was to the credit of the compilers that few arguments were generated by the questions themselves. The final scores were Northampton 78, Bedford 45 and St Albans 14. The Ashes and other trophies were presented and that was it. No doubt they will be kept in a safe place just in case.

Peter Groom returned to the Branch on 2/4, this time with one of his lesser-known presentations. The Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway is one of Peter’s favourite lines and he made a masterful job of explaining the twists and complexities of its history.

Captain Jack Howey, a wealthy racing driver and landowner, coveted his own 15 inch gauge railway and, after a brief dalliance with the Ravenglass and Eskdale, chose the territory between New Romney and Hythe on the advice of Henry Greenly. The first section opened in 1927 with an extension the following year. Greenly served as chief engineer until his abrupt and unexplained departure in 1929.

As Romney Marsh was perceived as a prime target for invasion the railway was requisitioned during World War 2 and an armoured train deployed regularly. On cessation of hostilities the railway reopened but patronage peaked around 1960. After Howey’s death in 1963 ownership of the railway changed several times without noticeable benefit to its finances. Before the break Peter showed some rare contemporary photographs of the railway featuring such notables as Nigel Gresley and HRH the Duke of York.

After tea he showed colour slides - a rarity for this presenter - of the locomotives, stations and the far from camera-shy bar car. As is his wont Peter was pleased to explain the detail differences in the motive power fleet. Once again the Branch was educated and entertained. It thanks Peter for another worthwhile evening.



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For our March meeting we welcomed local member Lawrie Marshall who presented Images of the LBSCR. Many members will probably know that Lawrie is a very keen student of the London, Brighton & South Coast Railway. He has a very substantial collection of LBSCR photographs and his presentation was taken from that source. Lawrie pointed out that the collection was built up from many of the top photographers of the day. However, he commented that an interesting source has been from contemporary newspapers of the period which has yielded some fascinating images. One such was a photograph taken at Christs Hospital with the boys of Christs Hospital School lined up along the fence line as the Royal Train passed.

Lawrie had divided his presentation into three sections, locomotives, buildings and works. The locomotives were presented in class order. Lawrie gave a good commentary on each photograph pointing out the finer details within classes and with many there were interesting backgrounds where again he pointed out detail that would otherwise go unnoticed. He did mention that there are only six locomotives for which he doesn't have a photograph. He would be surprised if a picture turned up now but one never knows. The buildings section covered mainly stations which drew a lot of interest, especially an early view of Clapham Junction which bears no resemblance to the station we know today.

Within the works section we saw a number of activities that took place within Brighton Works. Comment was made on the activities within the works that would make today's Health and Safety Officers have kittens. One of the shots showed the interesting juxtaposition of new locomotives being constructed on one road with the adjacent road being full of locomotives to be scrapped. It was noted that the rather dire situation at Brighton was only finally relieved when the new works at Lancing was built.

This was an evening brim full of nostalgia from a long gone era and we thank Lawrie for his effort in searching out such a diverse selection for our enjoyment.

Central London

The Central London Branch welcomed Tony Ellershaw on 26/4 with The Ivatt Diesel Recreation project. Main line steam locomotive preservation and operation is now standard. Many have been restored from scrap condition to main line order and there are several new builds either completed e.g. Tornado or underway such as The Unknown Warrior. Diesel preservation has followed on with preserved examples such as Deltic Alycidon now allowed on the main line. It was unfortunate that the very first viable British main line diesel No 10000, which was constructed by the LMS and lasted into the 1960s, was not preserved despite its historical significance.

The history of the compression ignition engine dating back to the 1890s and the role of the LMS in producing 350hp diesel shunters, the precursors of the Cl.08, were outlined. After WW2, H.G. Ivatt proposed the construction of a diesel of 1600hp, roughly equivalent to a Black 5, using an English Electric 16SVT engine. Construction of body, frames, etc took place at Derby.

The first diesel, 10000, was introduced by the LMS in December 1947 three weeks ahead of nationalisation. The second diesel ,10001, was introduced in June 1948, six months after BR was formed. The performance of these locomotives was good. There was a test run from London to Glasgow and back in a day and a gain of 74 minutes on schedule on another trip to Carlisle. The two locomotives were also used on trains to Northampton and Birmingham and accumulated 120,000 miles a year -10,000 miles a month- in service. By the time of withdrawal in 1963 both locomotives had reached 2 million miles with no significant failures. These two LMS diesels were the precursor of the latter day modernisation plan diesel including the Cl. 40s of which 200 were built, Deltic look-alike DP2 and the Cl 50s. Some of the latter are still in use.

The Ivatt Diesel Recreation Project, now a registered charity, was founded in 2011. The Society has acquired a suitable 16SVT engine, a viable frame from a redundant Cl.58 diesel, and two suitable bogies from a Cl. EM2 electric locomotive. It has one original axle box, one of the horns and the original body side LMS letters. A new body and cab ends will need to be fabricated. The current President of the Society, Stan Fletcher, was an engineer at the time of construction and there is a good technical team to take the project forward.

Thanks to general standardisation policies, other useful components such as ammeters and gauges are still available from donors such as the Cl. 20 and even former WCML electric locomotives. New equipment may be included as necessary but hidden out of sight. Given the money, it is anticipated that the replica 10000 will be in service on heritage railways by about 2030. Construction is likely to take place at Peak Rail in Derbyshire. Main line operation is not planned at present. The Branch gives grateful thanks to Tony for this fascinating talk on a project which at last puts these LMS pioneers in their rightful place in the railway heritage movement.

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

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

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

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

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

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


The Croydon Branch has had two recent meetings at which it would have been encouraging to see more members. The Branch AGM was held on 28/3 without controversy, but with a shortage of volunteers to fill vacancies on the committee. For the moment at least, the meetings will continue but concern was expressed on the future of the Branch in the absence of more support from members. Members' slides concluded the meeting.

The April meeting on the 25th was billed as a slide show by David Kelso, who was unable to fill the bill on the day, but will return to Croydon at a later date. Our ever-willing Bob Stonehouse stepped into the breach to show a selection of his own or bought slides taken over a period of nearly 50 years and covering early days near his then home in Suffolk to trips abroad to such hot spots as South Africa.

The Branch is grateful to Bob for providing an enjoyable show at short notice. All members and friends are welcome at the Croydon meetings. The United Reformed Church is a mere five minutes' walk from East Croydon Station where train services are now very comprehensive and have settled down to good reliability after the 5/18 rumpus. The meeting room is warm, cosy thus audible and well blacked-out and refreshments are available at half time. So do join us.

The Croydon Branch AGM on 28/3 was very poorly attended, with only the committee and a couple of other members being present. While in many ways the Branch had had a successful year, with an interesting and varied programme of speakers, there were a couple of areas of concern. The first was that there was a need for more members to join the committee; while the existing committee of Pat Dennison and Jeremy Harrison could keep things running, if either could not attend meetings it caused difficulties, and while both were re-elected for another year, it was felt that, in the absence of other members coming forward, the future of the Branch would have to be considered carefully (or, to be blunt, it’s in doubt beyond the next AGM).

The other was that the Branch had made a financial loss in 2018; to compensate for this, an increase in the requested donation to £4.00 was agreed.

Following the business part of the meeting, Jeremy Harrison entertained those present, by showing a selection of Ken Nunn images from 1919, and then some more recent images of his own. (JGH)


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

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

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

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

On 13/3, the Branch was treated by the award winning cameraman and well known presenter Nick Lera to an evening of video under the title of China – The last great steam show on earth. China is noteworthy as being the last country to continue building steam locomotives in large numbers for both main line and industrial use, production not ending until the 1990s, although modernisation and the growth of the economy has meant their use has now almost ended. Nick filmed them at work over a period from 1989 to 2006, the earlier scenes being of passenger and freight on the main lines and the latter focussing on industrial and narrow gauge use.

Over that time he managed to film nine classes of loco, although in some cases this was just one loco on one occasion and the majority of the scenes featured the QJ class 2-10-2s and JS and SY class 2-8-2s, the last being the predominant industrial loco. On the narrow gauge, all the scenes were of the ubiquitous 0-8-0 locos similar to the Polish Px48 class.

Of the many outstanding sequences shown, particularly striking were the massive opencast coal and iron mines with multi-level working including banking; the double headed QJs on the Ji-Tong line over the Jingpeng Pass only built as recently as the mid-1990s; and the fireman of a narrow gauge logging train loco sitting on the front using his feet to clear snow off the rails!

For all those who love the sight and sound of hard working steam this was a memorable evening for which Nick justifiably received the warm thanks of his audience.

North London

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

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

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

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

On 12/3 Jim Pentney made a welcome return with his talk entitled Travels with My Video Camera. The subjects this year were based on visits to the Bay of Somme Railway and the Hartz Mountain Railway. The Bay of Somme Railway connects Le Croytoy to Cayeux-sur-Mer with junctions at Saint-Valery-Surr-Somme and Noyelles-sur-Mer. The railway is based on one metre gauge track mainly, apart from the section between Saint Valary and Noyelles where it becomes dual gauge in order to allow connections to Amiens and Paris or Boulogne via SNCF. Jim chose some excellent vantage points showing the railway in its best light. The focus of the afternoon was, of course, steam operated services; however, there are diesel operated railcars and trams available on the line. The steam locomotives are all tank engines with wheel arrangements ranging from 0-4-0 to 4-6-0. The rolling stock is very well maintained and is attractive to view.

Our attention then turned to the Hartz Mountain Railway which is divided into three lines namely Brockenbahn, Hartzquerbahn and Selketbahn. As many will know, the Brockenbahn shares part its of its name with the highest of the Harz Mountains. Rather conveniently the engineers built Brocken Station near the summit, from which Jim produced excellent views of the narrow-gauge steam locomotives at work. The Brockenbahn has a junction with the Hartzquerbahn at Drel Annen Hohne, from which Jim took very interesting shots both here and many other locations on the various lines. The locomotives and rolling stock were in excellent condition.

The videos were created between 2005 and 2016 and have persuaded me to put these locations on my wish list. One question came about signage on the railway, the first was a black P on a white background and a wavy letter W. The answer is the P represented a whistle board and the W represented a shunting limit board, it all stems from the German language.

We would like to thank Jim for his presentation and sharing his knowledge of the locations with the Branch.

North West

On 21/3 the Branch meeting was faced with a problem when the booked speaker failed to attend but the situation was rescued by Neville Bond, the Branch Secretary, who promptly returned home to collect a memory stick containing the Club's collection of some of the photographs by Ken Nunn. These were then presented by Neville for our enjoyment and comment since at the time we did not have access to details of locations or subjects and as a result much lively discussion ensued!

All the pictures shown were from the pre-grouping period with a heavy emphasis on London and the South-East. The Great Eastern was particularly prominent with many fascinating views of long gone locomotive types and obscure locations. Significant amongst them were a brand new 1500, various ancient 2-4-0s, Claud Hamiltons, a tram loco on the main line near Brentwood and two Y5 0-4-0ST ‘Coffee Pots’ at Stratford. Other East Anglian gems included the Southwold, Mid-Suffolk and Colne Valley and Halstead Railways. The LT&SR also featured strongly with its well turned out tank locos shown to good effect.

South of the Thames we saw the SECR, and LSWR but it was the LBSCR which appeared most frequently with the express tanks and Atlantics making splendid sights as they rushed in full cry through the outer suburbs. Several scenes also portrayed the Sunny South Express ,some showing the loco changes at Willesden whilst a few other North London scenes included the Midland, the Great Northern and the North London itself.

A foray into Belgium produced some rare views of the very interesting types to be found around Brussels including several fitted with the strange square chimneys of the time. In the end very many thanks were due to Neville for rescuing the situation in such fine style. We look forward to a promised further selection of the Ken Nunn pictures next year; we'll probably repeat the format of not revealing the content detail at the time of projection as this certainly encourages audience participation!

For the Branch meeting of 21/2 John Cashen paid a welcome return visit with his digital presentation entitled North-West and North Wales Reminiscences of the 1960s. Although the area concerned was very wide, covering the West Coast Main Line between Crewe and Carlisle together with everything to the west of it, the photography was remarkably comprehensive and included many obscure and lesser known locations. Through the large number of images shown, John was able to convey the splendid variety of locomotive and train types which prevailed at that time and in the process recreate the unique atmosphere of the railway during the steam age.

Starting in his home city of Liverpool at Exchange station, the presentation took the form of a tour, line by line, of firstly South Lancashire then the intricacies of the Liverpool network including the dock system before striking off to Crewe, Whitchurch and Chester. The North Wales route to Holyhead preceded scenes on the Cambrian as far south as Aberystwyth before returning to the Wirral area via the Western and Wrexham. After exploring Birkenhead the route then returned to Crewe for a journey north through more lines in South Lancashire and on through the Wigan and Preston areas.

Moving further north, the Fylde, Morecambe and Cumbrian Coast were visited before arriving in Carlisle. This momentous photographic tour then returned home via Shap, Preston and Ormskirk to conclude back at Liverpool Exchange.

Along the way we were shown a huge array of locomotive types, primarily from the LMS group, but also including Standards, a selection of GWR types and also the occasional LNER, industrial, and narrow gauge machine. A number of considerable rarities crossed the screen such as a Super D on the Docks, the Overhead Railway, a Dukedog at Aberystwyth, a 14xx on Bidston shed, 2012 at Birkenhead, 69281 at Seacombe and an O4 at Chester Northgate.

Further scenes of note included the ex-LTSR locos stored at Over and Winsford, 58926, 56027 and CD7 at Crewe, the Millom Iron Works locos, 46205 on Shap and the various Merseyside dock tanks. Further spice was added with views of the Deltic and various early diesel and electric types including a fine shot of 10203 at Acton Grange.

This was an absolutely magnificent selection and the Branch was greatly indebted to John for sharing it all with us.

St Albans

The St Albans Branch provided what could be described as three meetings in one when Colin Brading returned to give a presentation entitled Tracks in the Mist. The presentation was made up of mini-biographies of three independent railway systems, the Swansea and Mumbles Railway, the Wantage Tramway and the Liverpool Overhead Railway.

The Swansea and Mumbles was the first railway to be described. It was a 5.5 mile route connecting Swansea with a nearby resort, the Mumbles. The line has a place in railway history as the first line in the world to offer a passenger service, this starting in 1807 with horse-drawn vehicles. Prior to this, the railway had been opened in 1804, for goods traffic only. Through many years, with an ever-increasing clientele, horses gave way to steam locomotives, which in turn were replaced by electric trams. Starting in 1929, the latter were the biggest of their type in Britain, each being able to carry 106 passengers. Following the end of the Second World War, passenger numbers were eroded by a rival bus service and the line closed in 1960. A single tram car was preserved on the Middleton Railway; sadly, it became the target of vandals and was subsequently scrapped.

The Wantage Tramway was opened in 1875 to passenger traffic and was designed to connect the town of Wantage with the GWR main line at Wantage Road. It was a two-mile route and began services with horse-drawn vehicles, then utilising steam trams and two locomotives. The line flourished for a number of years until road transport took away its trade. The passenger service disappeared first in 1925 and then the goods service twenty years later. Happily, one of the steam locomotives used, Shannon, survives and can be found at the GWS’ premises at Didcot.

The final part of the trilogy came with an overview of the Liverpool Overhead Railway. This seven-mile line was originally opened in 1893 and was not only the only overhead railway in Britain (although similar lines operated in North America and Europe), but was the first to use electric multiple unit trains and electronic signalling. It was built to transport employees to the various docks located along its route. At its peak, no less than twenty million people used the line on an annual basis and it became a vital link in the local public transport network. However, after 1945, major investment was required to upgrade the system, money which was not forthcoming and, amid much protest, it was closed in 1956. Happily, a single car survives in the Liverpool City Museum.
The St Albans Branch would like to thank Mr Brading for a splendid evening’s entertainment.

We were pleased to welcome railway photographer Geoff Brockett, who gave a presentation entitled Freight Trains Around Britain in the Last Century. The title was a little misleading as the period of time within which the illustrations were taken ranged from 2006 to 2018. No fewer than 140 locations were noted, covering the whole of the UK. It illustrated the wide variety of material conveyed, including coal, container loads of numerous items and nuclear flask traffic, to name but a few. Motive power was, as might be expected, made up mostly of the ubiquitous Cl. 66s, but other machines were seen, from Cl.08 shunters through a number of ‘heritage’ diesels, right up to examples of the latest 68s, 70s and 88s.

Mr Brockett’s roving lens showed that the railway freight scene is alive and well, proving that the railways excel when moving large loads from point A to point B. The St Albans Branch would like to thank Mr Brockett for an interesting viewpoint on modern freight operation.