For enthusiasts and researchers of the Great Eastern Railway

Report of the 2008 Half-Yearly Meeting

by Bill King

Saturday 18th October 2008 dawned bright and fresh for the 35th Anniversary of the Great Eastern Railway Society. Our meeting this half-year was to be held in the Goods Shed at Chappel & Wakes Colne station which is, of course, dominated by that magnificent red brick viaduct, the longest on the Great Eastern Railway and built in 1849.

Driving under the viaduct and arriving a little late, I parked right outside the station entrance on what was the down side building. Passing through the former booking hall, I moved onto the platform, crossed the demonstration line and entered the goods shed.

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Barry Jackson was already set up, complete with the latest sales additions. Further down were Nigel Bowdidge and Dave Taylor with books, maps and plans for sale, galore. Much conversation - or circulation as we term it in the Society - was in progress and I saw many old friends.

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I had brought some mementos from Paxmans, in Colchester, for any members to take a look at and another member had a number of Rail News for sale. Both of us erected another table each to display these and what with the Museum's food counter, the meeting room started to fill up pretty well. Authentic steam sounds and smells surrounded our location for the restored RS&H 0-6-0 tank locomotive was giving footplate tuition in the yard.

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Geoff Ashton was soon making an introduction to the day and a special thanks to Peter Barham. This half of our Journal editorial duo has recently become the incumbent at the parish church of St. Mary the Virgin at Ponteland, Newcastle-upon-Tyne. When Peter lived in Bury St. Edmunds he did not always make our local meetings, but now that he was in the north east, well… Moving on, our first speaker of the day, Reg Davies, was introduced for a one hour session on Claud Hamilton - The Man.

Reg Davies

"Soldier, Politician, Railway Chairman and Sportsman," so ran the title of his obituary in The Times, "Born 1843, died 1925". And who realised the significance of the connection between the man - of Irish descent - and the date on which his namesake locomotive was released from Stratford Works? 17th March - St. Patrick's Day.

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A brief biography was followed by Lord Claud's Great Eastern career. It began on 24th April 1872 when he was elected a company director, replacing Lord Salisbury. He became Chairman in 1883 - a position that he held for 40 years, his final meeting being on 20th February 1923. He took an active part in the affairs of the company although some would say that he had conflicting roles, sometimes safeguarding the shareholder's interests and at others being concerned for the welfare of employees.

What can be in no doubt, however, is that he was associated with the railway during a growth period in its fortunes. Shortly before he joined the company its shares were worth a paltry 30% of their face value. By 1872, this had improved to 40%, rising to 75% in 1893, 100% in 1896 and later reaching the dizzy heights - for a company once in Chancery - of 129%. He was held in high esteem by the company's servants - on his retirement in 1923, 1300 contributed to a collection for a rose bowl to be presented to him. At the same time, he refused to accept collective bargaining and disliked the Associated Society of Railway Servants. Amongst his other business interests he was also Chairman of the Railway Clearing House and Director of the Sheffield District Railway and the East London Railway.

Lord Claud's outlook on life were all rather put aside when he recruited the first American to take charge of a British railway - that man was Henry Thornton. After approval from the President of the Pennsylvania Railroad, Hamilton approached Thornton who, at that time was General Superintendent of the Long Island Railroad - a subsidiary of the P.R.R. and operator of the chief suburban system in the USA. And so H.W. Thornton came to the GER and the rest, as they say, is history.


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Lunch was in tourist second open, E3779. It was actually quite cosy to sit four around a table by the window and enjoy a ham or salmon salad. The coach didn't go anywhere, of course, and it was slightly disconcerting to feel it moving on its springs - but enjoyable nevertheless.


Soon enough, the afternoon session was begun and our Chairman introduced Gary Sanford - the late Peter Paton's brother-in-law - who had brought along a selection of Peter's photographs to entertain us. Our speaker explained that Peter had made comprehensive notes and, in any case, many of the pictures were taken at very similar locations. Often he would cycle alongside the Tilbury line from his home at Leigh-on-Sea, taking photographs of the approaching trains as he travelled along.

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Although all of the pictures are from 1¼" negatives and span the period 1948 - 1957, some of the initial ones were taken using a "Box Brownie". They are in black and white and have come accompanied by some 600 hours of cine film - which Gary intends to transfer to video - and some audio tapes. We started our tour on the LTSR and saw a number of pictures of Stanier 2-6-4 tanks hauling the commuter trains.

Peter's travels, however, weren't exclusively on the Tilbury, nor even only in East Anglia, and we were very soon listening to the famed Sammy Gingell of Stewarts Lane. It was a shame, perhaps, that Richard Hardy was not with us. He went onto to describe a run down to Dover with an SECR 4-4-0. The excitement really started at Swanley where a speed around 80 mph was achieved, although this wasn't the best for he went at 86 at one point and arrived at the Channel port ten minutes early!

Passing through many pictures - streamlined B17, some taken at Cambridge and more steam on the LTS - we arrived at Liverpool Street. But where were all the people? Not a soul was to be seen, and yet it was broad daylight. The explanation was that these were taken during the railway strike of 1955. The strike by the members of ASLEF commenced at midnight on Saturday May 28th and lasted for three weeks.


Following a short break for refreshments and the raffle draw we were soon into the third presentation of the day. Mike Stanbury - explained that his talk, "Aspects of Preservation" would encompass the "trials and tribulations" of some parts of the railway preservation movement.

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Outside, was a certain blue painted 0-6-0 tank locomotive. Some younger members might have been forgiven for mistaking the loco for a certain personality from the Island of Sodor, although he was wearing neither his face nor his name and number.

Robert Stephenson & Hawthorns works number 7031 was built at the Kitson factory in 1941. It spent its working life in the British steel industry and arrived at Chappel in 1973. It worked hard there until 1992 when it was withdrawn for a rebuild. The engine returned to steam in early 1993. After only five steamings, however, the boiler was found to be leaking around the firebox stays and had to be withdrawn again in 1994. The causes and possible solutions were not resolved until 2000, the engine only appearing in its new guise at Easter 2008. The locomotive being a licensed Thomas the Tank Engine replica does have significant advantages for the museum.

Firebox stays for RSH loco

Conversion to Thomas

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Another engine, N7 no. 69621 was also reviewed. Currently on the North Norfolk Railway, it went there when the EARM struck a deal concerning the engine's required boiler repair. Great Eastern News 136 demonstrates that they have done a fine job. Mike noted that the restoration was so authentic that when driver Tony Gooding got on the footplate he hung his jacket on the appropriate hook without even looking for it!

Again our Chairman extended the thanks of the gathered members; not only to Mike for his informative lecture but also for the use of the Goods Shed and all the other museum's facilities.

The Society's final meeting of 2008 was over and it remained only to move the residual sales stock to various members' cars and tidy up. This being done we began our way home - all the time looking forward to 2009!

 

2009 Annual General Meeting - A report by Bill King

As Nigel Bowdidge let me in to the car park at the Brentwood Theatre I noticed that I wasn't the first to arrive. The other booksellers and purveyors of Society information - Dave Taylor and Barry Jackson - were already present. Once we did get inside, with Dave Zelly's now-arrived key, we soon set about putting up the stalls and tables for the 36th Society A.G.M.

Others soon started to arrive, Jim Tant with membership records, John Watling, Brian McCarthy and Philip McGovern. One late-comer was Geoff Ashton. Not long returned from a holiday, he reasoned that it was better to come by train. As ten o'clock approached, Dan Glading and Peter Ashton had the urn a-boiling and the coffee, tea and biscuits at the ready. Jas. Millham had brought along a display describing his model railway; Colin Dye, Volunteer Co-ordinator of the Epping - Ongar Railway, was touting for new members; and our very own Mark Baker - deltiologist of note - had brought along his collection.

The meeting would take the usual format, first a talk - this year by Simon Hanney on the Epping - Ongar Railway - then lunch, followed by the official business of the AGM. The second talk of the day was to be presented by well-known railway photographer, Peter Groom.

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Simon Hanney is a great enthusiast for the Epping - Ongar Railway and despite his youthful looks, following his experience on the Swanage Railway, has taken on a number of senior roles in that railway's volunteer society. As well as by Colin Dye - Volunteer Liaison Officer - he was accompanied by Roger Wright, who is President and Owner of the railway.

  • The Loughton to Epping line was opened by the GER in 1865, doubling taking place in 1892.
  • The extension to Ongar had actually been authorised in 1859.
  • There was a plan to extend to Dunmow; as a consequence the former station has a through layout.
  • Branch construction was undertaken by Thomas Brassey, beginning in 1862.
  • Opening took place on 24th April 1865.

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We began with the earliest known picture of North Weald, complete with milk churns in the foreground, this of course a reminder that agricultural traffic was of great importance. We saw an action shot inside the signal box and general views of the station and its surroundings.

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At Blake Hall the buildings are very definitely GE in character and our speaker remarked that it was "a lovely little station". Unfortunately, nobody used it!

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One particular picture of Ongar, showing an F class-hauled train waiting at the platform and surrounded by water tower, signalbox and goods shed seemed to emphasise the essentially rural nature of the line - it could have been taken anywhere in deepest Great Eastern territory, luckily now being carefully recreated by the volunteer team.

These evocative pictures were rounded off with just a few of "1962" tube stock on the line, together with the red-liveried Cravens-built units which are behind the so-named Cravens Heritage Trains group, which along with ORPS and F5 project are now working closely with EOR to re-open the branch. In its latter days, the line boasted the only level crossing on the London Transport system and the last semaphore signals on LT!

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Roger Wright, now said a few words. He was the man behind Blue Triangle, he rode the line's last train and got himself involved with Pilot Developments after they had taken over the line. This organisation had a desire to rid themselves of the line's surplus land and Ongar goods yard was sold in 2007. Following various reorganisations and business transactions, Roger has now found himself the proud owner of the line.

Simon retook the microphone and told us something of the current exciting events that are happening at the railway. At North Weald, during the preparation for repainting in LNER green and cream buildings livery, the team have revealed original Great Eastern paint on a number of occasions, samples of which have been carefully taken. The repainting at both stations is still progressing, but Simon was able to let us in on a World Exclusive - Ongar station is to be repainted in Great Eastern livery!

Simon then went on to highlight that like all heritage railways, the more volunteers who came down to help, the sooner the line would re-open. He appealed to the GERS to assist with additional information, pictures of the branch - especially the interiors - and the rare opportunity to help restore some of the last un-touched original GER stations. It was an opportunity to join a friendly and enthusiastic team. No prior experience was necessary, and there are enjoyable and rewarding tasks to suit all abilities and ages, from 18 to 88!

There was other news, too:

  • The preservation Society's website has been updated and it includes a department diary, discussion forum and details how to get involved in the local GER heritage railway.
  • The footbridge at North Weald is to be restored
  • For those that didn't know already, Ongar station represented 0 miles on the LT network. Consequently, all current LT route mileage is calculated from a station LT no longer serve!

Their presentation finished, Simon and Roger took a number of questions, were thanked by Geoff Ashton and then warmly applauded.


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After the lunch interval the serious business of the AGM was timetabled to begin. Beforehand, however, and it was with everybody's great pleasure, Chairman Ashton presented Membership Secretary Jim Tant with Honorary Life Membership of the Society and a complimentary copy of the GER Magazine on DVD. Jim has tackled this onerous task for twenty years.

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It was a great pleasure to make the acquaintance again of Peter Groom. His talk was entitled "In Search of Great Eastern Steam, 1956 - 1962". He explained that he set out in 1955 to photograph every steam engine in the country - and he almost achieved it! He noted that he is primarily a locomotive enthusiast but was at great pains to say that he expected that he knew less about Great Eastern engines than the assembled audience.

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His slide show was arranged in order of wheel arrangement, so whilst first displaying B44 0-4-0T No. 33, the Stratford Works shunter at Kings scrapyard in Poplar in the spring of 1964, he noted that: "… the Stratford guide had to put up with all sorts of oikes". Next we saw the last member of class J-65 at the Works in November 1956 and Peter pointed out the odd wheel arrangement - one axle had eight-spoke wheels and another had ten-spokes.

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We saw several photos of Buckjumpers, including 68500 which is believed to have avoided being converted with the high steel cab due to its sojourn in Scotland.

Moving on now to 2-4-2Ts, we first saw an F-4, in 1959, whose front Great Eastern wheels had different spokes when compared with the back. The loco also had a shortened stove-pipe chimney "to go where other taller engines feared to tread". We also saw our visitor's personal favourite - it was a regular visitor at Cromer Beach where Peter's family took their holidays and used for working to Mundesley.

Then we reached the 0-6-2Ts - somewhat limited on the Great Eastern, being represented only by the N-7s. 69603, seen in 1958, was the last machine to run with a tall GE chimney. It was fitted with slide valves, as well. The final, sad picture of this class was of a whole line of them waiting to go for scrap, taken in October 1962.

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E-4s were represented by No. 62788, seen in the scrap line in 1959, but fitted with an improved cab for working across Stainmore.

Coming now to the J-15s, 65361 was of the "early style" and one of the longest serving. It was not passenger braked and so had no balance weights fitted to the wheels. It was photographed in the scrap line in October 1962.

The heavy-freight classes were represented by a number of J-17s and J-20s. 65505 was pictured on a Sunday in the spring of 1959 at Hither Green - it would only take a Stratford crew three-quarters of an hour to get home from here by public transport and so locomotives were sometimes left in the yard on a Saturday for another crew to collect on Monday. J-20 No. 64692 was seen at March - these were the country's most powerful 0-6-0s until the advent of the Q1 - although the former class never was joked about by Stanier - "Where's the key?" he is said to have asked Bulleid.

"Claud" 4-6-0 No. 62510 with the framing cut away was at March station in 1956 followed by 62599 at Derby. Its frames were different at the front and it was fitted with piston valves, as working on the Cheshire Lines Committee lines.

A whole range of B-12, B-17s and B-2s were then displayed, including one of the former working from Grantham down Mallard's racing ground - Stoke bank. Then we saw 61608 "Gunton", in 1960, to which is attached a story. Peter worked as a teacher at a school in Walthamstow in the sixties. One day, one of his pupils, knowing that he was interested in trains, approached Peter and said: "'ere sir, do you want to buy a nameplate?" Thinking it to be stolen, our guest turned it down. However, it turned out not to be so, and later he purchased the aforesaid "Gunton" for £8!

The final slide was of a very well turned-out B-2 61671 on the 3.15p.m. or 3.30p.m. from Cambridge to Kings Cross.

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The time had run out, Peter's slides were finished and it remained only for our Chairman to sum up, thank Peter and invite the audience to show their appreciation, which they did without hesitation. Then the 2009 A.G.M. was over. Only the clearing up was left to do - and the Brentwood Theatre was ready for the final performance of that musical!

2010 Annual General Meeting - A report by Andy Grimmett and Bill King

20th March 2010 was wet and windy, but travel was no problem and arrival would have been early at the Brentwood Theatre.

This now boasts an ‘upstairs’. This was where Nigel Bowdidge, Dave Taylor and Rodger Green set up shop. They were joined by Peter Ashton and Dan Glading on the urn. Mark Baker was there with his postcard collection. Jim Tant – membership – and Barry Jackson – publications – were downstairs on the right. Peter Barham took up position on the left. Brian McCarthy was preparing to sell raffle tickets. Simon Greatrex distributed the membership badges as visitors arrived.