York Evening Meetings
7pm for 7.30pm start
Venue: Mallard Suite NRM York
Do you live near York?
Have you used ZOOM before?
Would you be able to spend an evening helping at the NRM please?
At our York monthly evening meetings, we are planning to have a ‘physical’ meeting but also include members across the country (and beyond) with ZOOM.
To do this, David Thomas, our ‘Master of Ceremonies’ at the meetings needs somebody to look after the ZOOM side, admitting attendees as they dial-in and monitoring any questions coming through the ‘chat’ feature. Full training will be given!
The meetings are usually the second Tuesday of the month, September to April except December, and take about three hours – an hour to set up, an hour to hour and a half for the talk and then half an hour to put the kit away, so roughly 6.30pm to 9.30pm.
You will not be expected to speak at the meetings (unless you want to!)
If you’d be available for any of the dates (see the list of talks below), please phone the office or drop an email to email@example.com
To participate in a meeting through Zoom it is essential that your e-mail address is recorded in the Friends office in advance.
Please join our mailing list firstname.lastname@example.org
York Meetings 2023/4 Live and on Zoom
The York Evening Meetings will be held in the Mallard Suite starting at 7.30pm. Doors open at 6.45pm and tea and coffee will be available on the Evening Star Balcony. Admission will be free but members and guests will be requested to sign the attendance book and make a donation of not less than £3 before leaving the meeting, or on line by following the DONATE tab.
The meetings will also be available on Zoom. The joining link to receive the Zoon transmission will be distributed via e-mail a few days before each event, together with a request for a donation of not less than £3 to be paid by following the DONATE tab.
To participate in a meeting through Zoom it is essential that your e-mail address is recorded in the Friends office in advance. If you need to check or update your email please contact the office.
19 September 2023 Mail on Rail - Sectorisation to Privatisation to Cessation David Copeland
The story of what happened to the Royal Mail Contract on Rail, from 1982, when British Rail was reorganised into Sectors and follows the fortunes of the fluctuating performance issues that the Postal trains experienced, from then on. The talk goes on to the formation of 'Rail express systems' (Res) that was to go into the private world holding the Royal Mail Contract as its dowry. David describes what happened after privatisation, and how the Royal Mail Contract on rail was eventually lost and concludes with a brief summary of what happened afterwards to mail on rail.
24 October 2023 The Selby Diversion : A Retrospective Hugh Fenwick
The year 2023 is the 40th anniversary of the opening of 14 miles of new 125mph railway, the Selby Diversion railway, part of the present East Coast Main Line between York and Doncaster. The first public train ran over the new railway on 30th September 1983. This presentation looks at why the railway was built, how it was developed and shows in some detail how it was built.
15 November 2023 Coping with a Soggy Railway Mike Hogg
In early 2014, the sea wall at Dawlish was breached and railway routes inundated with water in Somerset and the busy Thames Valley. In this talk Mike, then a director at First Great Western, describes how innovative operational, engineering and commercial approaches were taken by the company in support of Network Rail to respond to this sudden emergency. These notably customer-centred and ‘whole railway’ approaches led to pleasingly high levels of passenger and wider stakeholder satisfaction with the arrangements that had been temporarily put in place. His talk is illustrated with many previously unpublished images.
12 December 2023 Christmas Films and Buffet Dinner Rob Foxon
Films from the pre-war LMS Railway Production Film Unit
Booking details to be in the Autumn issue of the Review
9 January 2024 Restoring the World’s first internal combustion passenger train Steve Hoather
Steve will describe the history of this train which was built at York in 1903 and is the Grandfather of all diesel-electric trains running today. After being taken out of service in 1930 the body was used as a holiday home until being rescued in 2003. Steve will then describe how it was made into a working vehicle again, using mainly parts from other diesel and electric trains over a period of 12 years.
13 February 2024 Locomotives of the London and South Western Railway John Stanton
John’s talk will cover locomotives designed by all of the Locomotive Superintendents/CMEs of the LSWR. He intends to link them to artefacts at the Museum, or in the National Collection, e.g. J. Beattie well tank, Adams T3 (and siblings), Drummond T9, and Urie’s S 15 class.
12 March 2024 Getting the Railway Off the Ground - the Liverpool Overhead Railway Colin Brading
Just seven miles from end to end, the Liverpool Overhead Railway was a truly pioneering venture with unique character. From its inception, through innovative construction methods and the application of technological 'firsts' in its operation, the railway helped to transform the very nature of urban rail travel far beyond the city that it served so well for more than sixty years. In the end, its demise was probably inevitable, but the nickname 'The Dockers' Umbrella' gives a clue as to the great affection in which it was held.
9 April 2024 Transpennine Route Upgrade Stephanie Lugsdin
Our Past Events
The Grouping of 1923: before and after with emphasis on the north east
The history of British railways from 1830 to the present day could have been very different if the government had controlled the building of railways, and allowed steam-driven road transport to develop at the same pace as railway locomotives were. Even by 1840 railway building was in chaos, for example; just in County Durham two railways had gone bankrupt and three were incapable of financing the completion of their approved routes. Had some control been exercised then the ‘railway mania’ would not have happened and many unprofitable competing lines would never have been built. Until 1920 the government was incapable of deciding whether competition or amalgamation was best for the country. The railways had been under state control from August 1914 until August 1921. After this only 23 of the 170 companies, in mainland Britain, were making a profit of over £100,000 per annum, and the government eventually realized that many railway companies were in wasteful competition with each other and they had permitted the building of many unprofitable routes. Grouping 120 independent railways into four became the chosen solution with the former deputy-general manager of the NER being in charge as the first minister of transport. The LNER, LMSR, SR, and GWR became the chosen groups. However, competing routes were not eliminated and few unprofitable branch lines or stations were closed. The global recession of the 1930s and the rise of road transport really hit the railways hard. The North Eastern Area of the LNER was the worst hit with many heavy industries going on to ‘short-time’ or closing completely, and the demand for coal dropping by 25%. With the outbreak of war in 1939 the railways again came under government control. After the war the railways were in a sorry state, and nationalization was the option chosen by the Labour government. Railway profitability continued to decline resulting in the Marples/Beeching cuts being implemented. If the government had exercised control over the building of railways, as other countries did, we could have had a trim, viable system that did not need cuts or government subsidies.
In February, we embarked upon a 605km high speed journey from London St Pancras International to Amsterdam Centraal via the Channel Tunnel. Along the way we encountered the myriad of signalling systems found on the Eurostar fleet to allow the journey to seamless operate across the 4 countries. From lights on sticks and basic protection systems such as KVB / TBL through to full in-cab signalling with TVM-430 and ETCS Level 2 allowing the train to reach 300 km/h (186mph) safely and with the driver not necessarily having to look out of the windscreen!! The usual 4h journey took us just over an hour with a look at the technical differences and similarities between the signalling systems and their evolutions across each of the networks. Those on-board were amazed a just how complicated the on-board systems were but equally impressed that the train and its crew can seamless manage the various transitions without disturbance to the passengers.
Conditions of Carriage
Colin is a regular presenter at our meetings, and for this season's talk, Colin looked at carriages and how they have evolved over many decades. What we take for granted about rail travel today has been a long time in the making. This presentation took us back to the dawn of the age, when railway carriage design was simply borrowed from the old stagecoaches and the prevailing social hierarchy was rigorously maintained in the quality of accommodation. The only difference was that instead of travelling on the roof with the guard and the luggage, third class passengers were consigned to miserable open trucks. The Great Western even called them ‘goods train passengers’!
Progress was painfully slow, and the railway companies often had to be forced into improving safety and the conditions of travel. Shamefully, and not until after many tragic accidents, even the provision of continuous automatic brakes was not achieved until mandated by legislation in 1889. Even then, third class passengers still sat on hard wooden benches in four and six wheeled vehicles.
However, some companies were more far-sighted. In the 1870s the Midland shocked its competitors by abandoning 2nd class, upgrading 3rd to a much higher quality and introducing the first standard gauge bogie carriages in Britain. These luxurious vehicles, built by Pullman in the USA and assembled in Derby, raised the quality of rail travel to new heights, but they were not universally acclaimed. The public was wedded to the idea of compartments and disliked Pullman’s open carriages, while some engineers (such as Webb and Stirling) opposed the idea of bogie vehicles.
Colin showed how the railways developed carriages of all shapes and sizes to cope with ever increasing demand in urban areas, to meet economic pressures and to deliver great improvements in passenger amenities. By the turn of the century, it was possible to enjoy heating and lighting and to eat and sleep on trains too. Some truly opulent carriages were produced at the beginning of the 20th century and the LNWR and GWR built some that gave the famous Pullman brand very strong competition.
Unfortunately, time pressures prevented proper coverage of the later stages of carriage development such as Gresley articulation, electrification, the streamliners of the 1930s and the design of a standard coach for the newly nationalized industry.
The BR Mark 1 coach not only served Britain’s railways well from 1950 onwards, but as they were withdrawn they became the mainstay for many heritage railway fleets. Veterans themselves, corrosion problems are making them an increasing maintenance liability and Colin suggested that older carriages offer enormous potential to railways that must do everything possible to attract visitors and capture their imagination. It’s difficult to resist a cream tea in a genuine saloon once used regularly by Queen Victoria!
Over 1100 pre-nationalisation coaches exist, almost 60% of those pre-dating the 1923 Grouping. Preservation and restoration of such vehicles poses many challenges, nearly always requires large budgets and can take years of effort. The passion, ingenuity and dedication of carriage restorers is evidenced by superb examples of their skills, the length and breadth of the country.
Many more vehicles remain in the queue, in sheds and under tarpaulins, awaiting their turn to carry passengers and to turn heads once again. Such carriages have great stories to tell and we owe a great debt of thanks to all those who rescue, rebuild, restore and run them. Quite simply, without them our heritage railways would be infinitely poorer.
The History of Stephenson's Newcastle factory
Hugh is a FNRM Council Member. During his working life he was a career railway civil engineer involved with the design, construction, maintenance and renewal of railway civil engineering infrastructure in the UK and abroad. Being a north-eastern lad, he was always an admirer of the achievements of Robert and George Stephenson. Presently, he is vice-chairman of The Robert Stephenson Trust, the principal aim of which is to make todays and future generations aware of the achievements of Robert and George, their associates, and their contribution to modern society.
The talk described how the firm Robert Stephenson & Co. (RS&Co.), the world’s first locomotive factory, came to be. It outlined the company’s role in establishing the principles of locomotive design that endured for more than a century. It summarised their successes, challenges and the diversity of products manufactured at the Forth Banks works, Newcastle, from its founding in 1823 until closure in 1902, when the business moved to a new factory at Darlington. The 23rd of June 2023 will be the bicentenary of the founding of the company and the presentation was aimed at promoting awareness of that historic event.
Products of the works included the pioneering Locomotion that hauled the first train at the opening of the Stockton & Darlington Railway in 1825 and the famous Rocket that won the Liverpool & Manchester Railway’s Rainhill Trials in 1829. The Planet locomotive, built in 1930 for the Liverpool & Manchester, effectively set the template for all future steam locomotive design. RS&Co. built the locomotives for the opening of the first section of the GWR, between Paddington and Maidenhead in 1838. Brunel wrote of North Star: “We have a splendid engine of Stephenson’s. It would be a beautiful ornament in the most elegant drawing room”. Who would argue with that?
Locomotives were built for railways across the world. The first locomotives on the American continent were shipped from Newcastle in 1828, the first on the African continent in 1852 and the first in New South Wales, Australia in 1854.
From the 1870s the company’s fortunes began to flounder as railway companies opened workshops to build their own locomotives and there was increasing competition from other British locomotive builders with more spacious sites to develop production line manufacture. Despite diversification into marine engines, ships boilers, bridge fabrication and stationary engines for collieries, the company had to close the Newcastle works in1902, having built more than 3000 engines, and move to a new purpose built factory at Darlington. Locomotive manufacture under the name of Robert Stephenson continued there for more than 60 years with the last locomotive leaving the Darlington factory in 1964.
The L&Y in BR Days
(Treasurer, Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway Society)
In 105 PowerPoint slides he tried to show what had happened to L&Y steam locos in the 21 years between 1948 and 1967 when the last Railtour ran from Wardleworth to Whitworth using a preserved ‘Pug’. Dealing first with early renumbering and repainting, Noel went on to show photographs from the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s before dealing with some of the more esoteric events such as sludge tenders and working elsewhere in Britain. He went on to explain how the five surviving L&Y locos outside the National Collection had managed, through sheer luck, to make it to the present day. The emphasis was very much mechanical engineering as there are still plenty of civil engineering features around and still performing their original function to this day. The final section ‘Thank goodness for a photographer’ had some more strange happenings including a final slide of the four working survivors on the last train out of Bury on October 16th 2022 – a quadruple header and you don’t get many of those'.
SNCB (Belgium) classic lineside signal with in the 4’ ETCS eurobalise, TBL antenna and Memor crocodile ramp for on-board safety systems
The chaotic state of railway development in County Durham by 1840. Two railways already bankrupt, and three unable to fund their approved routes
A typical late 1820s steam carriage which, if allowed to develop, could have rendered a number of branch lines unnecessary.
Sir Eric Campbell Geddes (1875-1937) the first minister of transport and architect of the railway grouping.
In-cab signalling TVM430 drivers display showing a permitted linespeed of 320 km/h
SNCF (France) classic lineside signal with KVB antenna and BRS crocodile ramps in the 4’ for on-board safety systems
TVM block section marker (repere) at Stratford International on HS1 with a replacement signal head to allow for passing of the N (non passable) marker in the case of cab signalling failure
Isle of Wight Railway Carriage No. 10 dating from 1864 and built by the Oldbury Carriage & Wagon Co.
LNWR 12 wheel 1st Class Dining Saloon, part of Royal Trains from 1905 - 1966. Preserved at Quainton Rd..
NER Petrol-Electric Autocar No. 3170. Built 1903, restored and operational at Embsay.
Gresley Open Third, built 1934. At the Severn Valley Railway.
National Collection MR 12 wheel 3rd Class Dining Saloon, built 1914. Pictured at Kings Cross on the occasion of the BR Centenary of On-Train Dining in 1979
“Locomotion” hauling the first train on the Stockton & Darlington Railway, September 1825.
Robert Stephenson & Co. “North Star” built for the GWR in 1838.
A RS & Co. locomotive crossing Robert Stephenson’s High Level Bridge, Newcastle.
Robert Stephenson & Co. business card showing the diversity of their manufactured products.
The birth of the railtour, 50865 on the joint SLS/MLS railtour of closed branches in the West Riding on 5 May 1951, starting from Huddersfield they did Kirkburton, Rishworth and Stainland in one afternoon.
The location is Sowerby Bridge loco shed c.1954 when it was re-roofed.
A reminder of shed bashing and one from Horwich with a diesel shunter (12004) being tried out whilst 11324 awaits its next duty.
The National Collection
Amongst other responsibilities, Anthony is in charge of the NRM’s vehicle collection. He gave a very comprehensive presentation on how the collection started, from the 1950s British Transport Commission ‘Historic Relics’ (Clapham and York Queen Street museums) through the Transport Act (1968) which proposed the NRM to the opening of NRM in September 1975.
“History doesn’t stop” as museums add more to their collections. No museum can display everything it holds and some items get neglected, eg. an 1889 tank wagon acquired in 1961 has just gone for restoration to Newcastle College. The RHDAB (Rail Heritage Designation Advisory Board) now administers what comes to NRM and other heritage railways. NRM gets offered many items but “just how many lever frames do you need” Anthony asked. We can’t keep everything so Pacer 142 is ‘representative’ of Pacers 140/1/2/3/4. A class 91 is coming soon. Previously under BR, NRM could ‘claim’ whatever is wanted at no cost, but privatisation stopped this.
The collection is dynamic; vehicles come and go, sometimes controversially. But GWR 2-8-0 no. 2818 is now proudly displayed at STEAM (Swindon) and the T3 4-4-0 is now being restored at Swanage. Although the only two-cylinder outside cylinder 4-4-0 we have, we have seven other 4-4-0s! Other organisations have facilities, time and money to do what the NRM can’t. Green Arrow is now at DANUM Museum (Doncaster). We loan operational vehicles as we don’t have room to use them, eg. Class 37 now at GCR. Recipients of vehicles pay for transport to and from their site, with road transport being preferable. Transfer by rail is very expensive and troublesome (finding paths and having to pass safety checks) whereas a road transfer can be done without pathing issues and often at night. They’re much easier to plan and execute, although Flying Scotsman will never be road-transferred! Flying Scotsman is of course our flagship operational loco, and at the time of speaking, had just received its certificate of fitness and was heading to Kings Cross to start the centenary celebration year.
Anthony covered all aspects of how the collection is managed, even though the vehicles represent just 0.0014% of the collection (we have 10,000s of photos!) and with over a quarter of an hour of questions afterwards, it’s a subject close to FNRM members’ hearts.
Part of the National Collection in the superb surroundings of the Great Hall at the NRM, York
East Midlands Railways Oral Histories
John Swanwick’s talk on East Midlands Oral Histories proved technically challenging and we were not able to put this on with both a physical audience and Zoom.
During the period 2015-17 there was a plan to build a new railway museum at Belgrave and Birstall, known on the present Great Central Railway as ‘Leicester North’. In the event the project has been mothballed but not before a considerable amount of planning was done and oral histories recorded, covering those who worked on, travelled on, or were generally involved with, the old GCR route through the East Midlands before its closure in the 1960s. These recordings amount to over 50 hours and are now safely in the archive of the NRM and the East Midlands Oral History Archive at Leicester University.
John’s talk began with an overview of the Great Central route and how its construction was photographed by Sydney Newton whose many images are also archived. The route passed through the cities of Nottingham and Leicester, together with a number of other settlements in the East Midlands. Three Motive Power Depots (MPDs) serviced the locomotives used and each had a quite different origin. Annesley in Nottinghamshire was in a coal mining district with a plentiful supply of railway labour, Leicester Central was in the middle of a growing industrial city, and Woodford Halse in Northants, was not much more than a hamlet before the GCR arrived, with a consequent shortage of labour.
John played extracts of several recordings from footplate men from all three MPDs, showing what the work involved and how their lives were entwined with surrounding communities. The loyalty to the route was very apparent and its closure both controversial and emotional.
John discussed techniques for collecting oral histories, the tracking down of interviewees and handling the actual interviews. Several members of the audience added their own reflections along with suggestions for more recordings before those who remember working on the line are gone.
Oral history has its place in the documenting of railway history more generally but the human side of railway life came out strongly in John’s recordings creating an interesting and engaging talk.
Annesley MPD c.1963/4. An abundance (or whatever the collective name is) of 9Fs…and a diesel shunter. Note the aerial ropeway across the site transporting spoil from Annesley pit to the pit tip. (Photo Chris Ward)
Annesley pit was adjacent to the MPD to the west with the aerial ropeway marked on this 1967 OS map across the south western edge of the MPD to the tips just to the south. Courtesy: maps.nls.uk
The Rebuilding of Sir Nigel Gresley
Darrin covered the move to York from Grosmont, then described the dismantling, refurbishment and reassembly of the engine. He indicated the complexity of skills and facilities available for the work and gave reasons for putting various components out for contractor overhaul including the boiler and wheelsets. He described the value of using the NRM workshop and volunteer labour for the project.
Changes to the rail services in South Wales
Colin Brading, is a regular speaker at our winter series, he gave a lavishly illustrated talk on changes to rail services in South Wales. Looking at the history of the valley lines from mass coal production to the decline of industries in the 1960s, Colin is working on revitalising the passenger services in the lines leading down to Cardiff.
Colin also posed the question as to what this apparatus was for; answers ranged from "something for pigeons to sit on" to "a line for hanging out the crew's washing".
The answer of course was somewhat technical:-
Data from "Tank Locomotive for the Taff Vale Railway", Engineering, Volume 39 (27 March 1885), pp. 266, 312-314.
T Hurry Riches served for years as the TVR's locomotive superintendent and from the start seems to have sought the best performance from all of his locomotives. Better known for a long string of 0-6-2T engines, the TVR built this trio four-coupled with bogie tanks in 1884-1885.
Riches adopted a "special form" of blast orifice that may have been unique. The orifice opening could be enlarged by 1/2" (12.7 mm) and shortened by "a couple of inches." He reported that experiments showed that "this blast has enabled goods engines to work at a reduction of fuel of as much as 4 lb to 5 lb per mile compared to the ordinary form of blast.
180 photos taken in 1962/3 as steam was being withdrawn
Brian Holland, assisted by his technician Michael Chapman, shared some 180 photos taken in 1962/3 as steam was being withdrawn. Travelling all over the UK, the range of topics covered was superb. With what seemed like an encyclopaedic knowledge of every detail of every image, he enthralled us with date, day, what he was doing and even why he'd gone there to take each picture. The four examples here are but just a snippet of the 'journey' Brian took us on in those far off days. Superb!
Top left is Jubilee 45669 Fisher, at Nuneaton on 25.9.62 as overhead catenary is being constructed. Steam locos would soon have an ugly yellow stripe across their cab sides to denote whether they could operate under wires.
Top right is O2 63977 at York with a train of oil wagons. Didn't steam locos have to have a barrier wagon when pulling inflammable tankers?
Lower left is unnamed Britannia 70047 double-heading with diesel 10000 at Bletchley.
Lower right. No review of the end of steam would be complete without a scrapline view, and here 0-4-2 5815 awaits its end at Swindon.
Holding the line: Female Railway Workers in WW2
Susan Major gave a fascinating talk, together with audio clips about Female Railway Workers in WW II, which featured the voices of women recorded by the Friends of the National Railway Museum, discussing their wartime railway experiences. During World War II women took on railway roles which were completely new to females. They worked as porters and guards, on the permanent way, and in maintenance and workshop operations. Many were working in ‘men’s jobs’, or working with men for the first time, and these interviews offer tantalising glimpses of conditions, sometimes under great danger. Her talk included women working in the York area: Betty Chalmers was a telephonist when York Station was bombed, and Nellie Nelson was a porter there. Guard Gladys Garlick helped bring a train to a stop after a V2 had blown a huge hole in the track (V2 flying bomb that is....not a Gresley 2-6-2!).
LNER Guard Gladys Garlick and colleagues Rita and Irene at Bowes Park 1942-43 (National Railway Museum/ Science & Society Picture Library)
A GWR wartime travelling porter (University of Leicester Special Collections)