Railway & Transport Club

We meet at 7:30 pm (new time from January 2023) on the 3rd Tuesday of each month, except July, August and December.  Contact: John Soer or Jim Dunning.

The Club has over 40 members and enables men and women of all ages to share their common interest.

We meet in the Bradbury Centre of the Methodist Church, in Rose Street (Peach Place), where members enjoy a wide range of good quality presentations on transport topics, including heritage and steam railways, with the opportunity for refreshments and time for a chat.

Future Programme

Note meetings are at 7.30pm in the Bradbury Centre.

21 November Annual General Meeting - followed by Members Evening
Bring a selection of up to 20 pictures (preferably in powerpoint format or JPEG) you would like to share.
16 January 2024 ‘My life with Trains’ - Shaun Bradbury
This talk will include DVD footage.
20 February ‘The Great Western bus services’ - Colin Billington
Colin will tell us about the Thames Valley and Great Western Omnibus Trust.  They have preserved several vehicles.  He will then tell us how the GWR provided a system of integrated transport using their own buses to feed their trains.
19 March ‘Another visit to the Midlands’ - John Soer
We have enjoyed several of John’s well informed talks with wonderful photography on the Midland Railway.  Tonight we are in for another treat.
16 April ‘The Lynton and Barnstaple Railway’ - Mike Pearce
In the first half Mike will tell us something of the history of the original line.  The second half will focus on the 'new' L&BR which now has one mile of operational track, new-build replica of the Baldwyn locomotive LYN, five rebuilt heritage coaches, and much more.

Meeting Reports

The subject of Richard Crane, our speaker in May, was The Oxford to Cambridge Railway often called the Varsity Line and which is now in the process of being resurrected as East-West Rail.  Richard began by outlining the history of the line.  As a result of various business interests in Bedford agitating for a link to the London and Birmingham Railway (later part of the London North Western Railway), George Stephenson visited Bedford in 1844 to outline a proposed line to Bletchley which was eventually completed in 1851.  Ten years later the line was extended to Cambridge.

In this instance Dr Beeching cannot be blamed for the closure of most of this line for he recommended its retention.  British Rail (or was it the denizens of HM Treasury?) disagreed and most of the stations closed in January 1968 and, later, much of the track lifted.  Only the section between Bletchley and Bedford (later known as the Marston Vale Line) was retained following a number of protests and the lack of alternatives.  A later development was the reopening of the station at Bicester – Bicester Town with a service from Oxford in 1987.  This station was later rebuilt with two platforms and renamed Bicester Village to reflect its proximity to the shopping outlet.

Richard then showed slides of the various types of engines and trains used on the line.  Of particular note were the GWR Steam Rail Motors used between Oxford and Bicester in 1907, and the Viva Rail units.  The latter were constructed from the withdrawn D Stock of the London Underground.  Unfortunately, the bankruptcy of the company led to the withdrawal of these and their replacement up to the present by buses, such is the paucity of rolling stock on the privatised railway.

The last part of Richard’s talk consisted of a trip along the line.  Among the many interesting slides were the Bicester Military Railway, the crossing over HS2, the flyover at Bletchley which is being completely rebuilt, the restored crossing keeper’s house at Aspley Guise, and finally, somewhat ignominiously, the guided busway into Cambridge.

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There was a double act for our meeting in June when Freddie Huxtable and Amyas Cramp gave a presentation on the Devon and Somerset Railway a line which ran for nearly forty-five miles directly from Taunton to Barnstaple.  Freddie took the first part of the talk describing the history of the line which opened in stages between 1871 and 1873.  In 1876 the GWR took over the line, and carried out a number of improvements such as passing loops in the largely single-track line.  The line was initially built as broad gauge but in 1881 was converted to standard gauge.  As the line cuts across the grain of the country, passing over the valleys of three rivers, there are some steep gradients, two viaducts and four tunnels along its length.  He then went on to describe the various classes of engine and types of traffic carried.

Devon JS 0114WIn the second half Amyas took us on a trip along the line starting at Taunton. We saw superb slides of all of the fourteen stations and numerous trains. The stations ranged from a single platform halt such as Yeo Mill Halt, opened as late as 1932, to those with all the usual facilities such as Dulverton.  This station, a junction with the Exe Valley Line to Exeter, was actually not in Dulverton but two miles to the south in the village of Brushford.  Such is the glorious scenery through which the line ran, it would surely be a tourist attraction today.  Sadly, it was a victim of the Beeching axe and closed in October 1966.

John Soer

Annual Report (March 2023)

In 2022 we held ten meetings covering a wide range of transport topics ranging from Reading Buses to the Dunkirk evacuation.  Our meetings, at which the average attendance is about 20, attract a number of people who are not members of the church.  A number of our speakers do ask for a donation to a particular charity as a fee.  In addition, we have been able to donate £60 to the Railway Children Charity.

John Soer