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Meeting Report
GERS Half-yearly meeting at the Assembly House, Norwich on 15th October 2011

Although I had an invitation to accompany Andy Grimmett on the cushions, my excuse for driving to Norwich was that I had four boxes to deliver to Rodger Green.
Norwich is a wonderful city and the Assembly House a fantastic venue.  On arrival all the usual features were to be seen.

The Society's well-stocked second-hand stall had many interesting books and drawings.  I found one dating from the 1930s which contained three interior views of Stratford Printing Works. This was passed on to David Challis for a Journal article he is preparing.

The first talk of the day was by Rik Alewijnse and considered Railway Shipping in East Anglia. 1883 saw the opening of Parkeston Quay and the launch of the S.S. Norwich and the S.S. Ipswich.  They were fine new screw ships and heralded the Great Eastern Railway's switch from paddlers. Rik described the preceding paddle-propelled ships, including the Adelaide, which was the company's first ship built of steel instead of iron.  He noted that navigation of the river delta to Rotterdam was more suited to paddle-steamers.

Using the Society-produced minutes extracts, the need for new construction technologies and screw propulsion was demonstrated. By reference to an article in "The Engineer" of 23rd January 1885 and a fine line drawing of the ships the layout of the two vessels was described. Interior and deck scenes were illustrated from contemporary newspapers and GER publications.
The use made of the ships and their fares was then described. The S.S. Ipswich was particularly accident-prone but the S.S. Norwich had a much less eventful career - although she did transport a tiger in 1893. The Norwich was also used as an icebreaker during the Great Freeze of 1895. Rik noted, finally, that Able Seaman C.A. Fryatt joined the GER service in the Ipswich in 1892 but that, as he said, was another story.

After lunch the Harry Jones Award was made to David Challis for the first in the series of two articles concerning the Mildenhall branch. The Award was presented by Journal Editor Geoff Ashton.
Following this, the Society's latest venture, the Files Emporium, was launched by the President, John Watling.

Our second presentation was entitled The Ups and Downs of the GER in Norfolk and was by Graham Kenworthy.
He explained privately beforehand that the Ups were aerial photographs taken by Mike Page and the Downs were ground level pictures at the same locations. Graham told me:  "I don't usually reveal the content behind the enigmatic title until I start on the images, so I would prefer that you left things up in the air, so to speak". We were treated to views of Norfolk's railways such as we had not seen before and gradually made our way from the county's hinterland to its capital.
One was of the station buildings at Norwich Victoria, which housed a circus prior to their railway use. There was on especially fascinating view of the Low Level sidings at Norwich Thorpe station.  This was interesting as it is the only one known to our speaker which includes a view of the Italianate tower of the original station, there. One member was surprised at the description "low level sidings" as they were only three feet below the level of the remainder of the yard.  He wondered, too, about the pronunciation of some Norfolk station names.  Was it Hunstanton, for example, or Huns'ton? Graham provided us with a really most enjoyable "all round view" of the railways of Norfolk.

Before the refreshment break, the Society Archivist, Lyn Brooks, provided an update on the status of the Society's Collection and the soon-to-be-available digital index.
Afterwards was the raffle draw, when five or six lucky winners were able to select a book-prize of their choice.

The final presentation of the day was by John Hull, Vice-Chairman of the Mid-Norfolk Railway.  His chosen subject was The Mid-Norfolk Railway, Past and Present. John has been involved with the Wymondham - Dereham - Fakenham line since he moved to Norfolk in 1974. He joined the Rail Action Committee that campaigned to get passenger services reinstated.  They ran several special trains over an eleven year period until final closure to freight traffic in 1989. Publicity from these activities led to the formation of the MNR and the local council's purchase of the line between Wymondham South Junction and County School station. John was elected Chairman of the railway and continued in that role during the initial opening of the line. Later, he became a normal volunteer.  Now retired, he has been able to take a more active part, once again.
John's talk had three sections and each was prefaced with a brief history and introduction:

  • General slides of the line from Wymondham to Fakenham between 1974 and 1985
  • Pictures taken during a brake van ride in 1975
  • Transparencies made in the weeks before the presentation.

All-in-all an entertaining and informative day was had.  Many thanks to all our speakers and the Meeting's Organisers for their efforts prior to and at the meeting.


Report of the 2006 Annual General Meeting

Brentwood Theatre, 18th March 2006

by Bill King

The Annual General Meeting of the GERS was held at the Brentwood Theatre on 18th March 2006. The official record of the meeting will be made by the Society Officers and minuted elsewhere.

Taking one item slightly out of order, I am very pleased to say that Rodger Green was nominated for and received the Harry Jones award this year. His article "The Millwall Extension Railway - Part 1" - or as he subtitled it "The Penny Puffer" - appeared in Journal 124, last year. Paul Goldsmith was honoured, too, by rightly being made a Vice-President of the Society.

Two Essex Lights - The Branches to Thaxted and Tollesbury

by Peter Paye

Like all good light railways, the two that formed the subject of Peter Paye's talk, of course, had nicknames. The Kelvedon and Tollesbury Light Railway was locally known as the "Sprat and Winkle" (a name apparently also claimed by the Andover to Southampton line, see here.) The other line, properly the Elsenham and Thaxted Light Railway, was the "Gin and Toffee". Sir Walter Gilbey of Elsenham Hall was the gin and George Lee of Thaxted the toffee. The former gentleman provided much of the money to build the railway.

Promoters of the Kelvedon and Tollesbury had been meeting with the Great Eastern Railway since 1889 but without much success. A light railway order was obtained in 1901, Colonel von Donop inspected in 1904 and the line was opened on 1st October of that year. In 1907 the extension from Tollesbury to its pier was opened, but immediately after the First World War George Osborne commenced competitive bus services with a twelve-seater Ford Model T. (Not entirely the same period, but some memories of this bus operator can be found here.)

Meanwhile, on the Thaxted line, Sir Walter Gilbey called a meeting in July 1896 and Walter Hopkins, who had been appointed engineer to the scheme, proposed a 2'6" gauge line. Von Donop inspected this line too, but in 1913, and on 1st April of that year it was opened.

After the Grouping the London and North Eastern didn't do much with either line but mobile guns operated on the branch during World War Two along with two Dean Goods and two other WD locomotives. In 1950 the Railway Executive announced that closure to passengers would take place in May 1951. Appropriately the last train was freight from Wilkin's jam factory.

The Thaxted line (See here and here.) didn't really fare as well as that from the coast. The last passenger train, complete with 400 customers, ran on 13th September 1952. A black-draped coffin lettered "Died Waiting R.I.P." was conveyed along the platform as the last up train waited, one of the pall-bearers having the distinct looks of our presenter, although he denied it!

The Holden F5 Steam Locomotive Trust

By Graham Rowlands


The day's second presentation was by Graham Rowlands of the Holden F5 Steam Locomotive Trust, whose aim is to continue the evolution of the 2-4-2T locomotive originally designed by T.W.Worsdell.

Their society website can be found at: Another group at the Epping - Ongar railway - Cravens Heritage Trains - has two preserved Underground trains and a locomotive and their website includes a brief history of that line.

The LNER F5 2-4-2T locomotives (Great Eastern Railway class M15R), usually known as "Gobblers", were synonymous with the Ongar branch. The nickname had originated with the F4 class which were fitted with Joy valve gear and are said to have had a voracious appetite for coal.

Graham was able to show us a number of pictures of F5 locomotives working on the branch, including three on the last day of steam operation and, very sadly, the remains of No. 67199 - smokebox door and numberplate - in a scrap wagon! The F5 Society has made good progress with its project and collected a number of locomotive drawings.

The building work is being carried out at a workshop at Ovington, near Great Yeldham where wooden patterns have been produced for the engine's trailing wheels. The intention is to cast these in 2007. The buffer beams have been machined and these have been assembled with the valances to form a "perimeter frame". The boiler will have to be built to meet current safety requirements and the Society hope to build the main frames for the locomotive in 2008 with a completion date planned for 2012. Graham noted that this would coincide with the Olympic Games - perhaps the locomotive might be named appropriately!


Ramblings on Tickets

By Graham Kenworthy


Graham Kenworthy is known to many Great Eastern Railway Society members as the co-author of several books in the Middleton Press series.

His speciality lies in the area around the Norfolk and Suffolk borders. Less well known is that he is an avid ticket collector. He gave an illustrated talk about a whole range of Edmondson card tickets.

Edmondson invented a ticket printing and numbering machine, which pioneered a system of fare collection in the development of the railways, see here and here.


Graham's first batch of tickets was issued at Liverpool Street, but all had different issuing points. These included:

  • WS - West side ticket office
  • ES - East side ticket office
  • MetLO - Metropolitan line office
  • CLR(Liv.St.) - Central London Railway Office

He also explained that all single tickets purchased at Liverpool Street, and all other down direction tickets were green. Buff coloured tickets were for the up direction.


Next to be shown was an undated map of the Woolwich branch - our speaker explained that his talk had originally been given to a group up in Norwich and "those 'ol bois" wouldn't have known where North Woolwich was - without a map! Included was a Royal Albert Dock to Liverpool Street boat train ticket. We then had a map of the Millwall Docks and tickets issued by the Millwall Docks Company. The reverse of that company's tickets contained some unusual text: "The Railway Company will not be responsible for delays caused by the opening of the Company's swing bridges"!

Graham showed us a slide of a ticket issued at "The Piazza, Covent Garden" - an agency for the railway - and for an unusual journey from St. Pancras to Wisbech, via Tottenham and another for a trip from the same London terminal to Huntingdon, via Tottenham and asked why anyone would go that way and not from Kings Cross.

In 1964 Graham was at Haddiscoe station where he met an agent of the Lowestoft Journal. After some discussion the agent agreed to write an article about ticket collecting and this duly appeared in the newspaper. After a while, Graham received a letter from Australia together with an unused portion of a railway ticket explaining that the writer bought this during his emigration - just in case he didn't go - but no longer had any need of it!

Later - and, nicely connecting to our first talk - were three conductor guard tickets, one each for journeys: Kelvedon to Tollesbury, Elsenham to Thaxted and Yaxley Hall to Stowmarket.

The talk was wrapped up with a South Woolwich to Stratford Market issue - note that the GER had a ticket office on the south bank of the Thames and in Kent! There was time for a few questions to which Graham humorously responded and then Geoff Ashton invited the audience to thank our speaker - which they warmly did.


And so another AGM was brought to a close - entertaining as usual and always a good Saturday out. Looking forward to seeing you again at the next!


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