“Irish Steam in the 1960s” by Conrad Natzio
Thursday March 16th 2017, Calthorpe Arms, London
Conrad began his talk with a quiz, making good use of his wide selection of Irish photographs, mainly taken in the 1950s and 1960s – needless to say won by a senior Irish member who was on some of the trains!
Conrad was at Trinity in the late 1950s and early 1960s and he explained how he travelled far and wide in search of the remaining Irish steam workings, aided latterly by a secondhand van which appeared in at least one photograph! As well as well-known mainline activity, he recorded the “seaside” excursions run on the Great Northern lines to take Dubliners to the seaside and the remarkable three day ballast cycle which was steam worked from Lisduff quarry until the early 1960s.
An evocative view of the past, illustrated by superb photographs with a lively commentary full of anecdotes.
“Midland (north) and Midland (south)” by Tony Ragg and Richard McLachlan
Thursday February 16th 2017, Calthorpe Arms, London
Part 1 – Two contrasting Locomotive Engineers – Tony Ragg
Tony Ragg described the careers of the remarkable Bowman Malcolm who became Loco Superintendent of the B&NCR when just 22 years old, and one of his successors, Percy Stewart, who just happened to be Tony’s grandfather.
Tony structured his account under three headings – Family, Engineering and Retirement.
Most notable of the family connections was that Percy married his Boss’s children’s’ governess – a variation on marrying the Boss’s daughter?
Malcolm is justly famous for his espousing compounding (encouraged by Lang of Beyer Peacock) and especially the two-cylinder variety. Malcolm tested otherwise identical locos working as simples and as compounds and found the latter 12% more economical. He also introduced automatic vacuum brakes to the B&NCR, in advance of governmental demands after the Armagh Disaster. As a Civil Engineer, he rebuilt the Bann Bridge at Coleraine.
While working to Wall, the Civil Engineer, Percy Stewart was effectively the Loco Engineer and was responsible for the rebuilding of many earlier locomotives into the famous “Whippets”. He became Loco and Civil Engineer in 1930 and supervised the building of the Bleach Green viaducts – Ireland’s only “flyover junction” and an enduring legacy to him. Unhappily, he died before it was completed.
He clashed with the NCC’s Manager Major Malcolm Spier over the direction to be taken by his department. Stewart wanted a variant of the famous Midland Compounds, but Spier was insistent on a mixed traffic loco and of course had his way with the famous “Moguls”.
Percy Stewart resigned in 1932, suffering from ill health, and died the following year after a very short retirement. Malcolm, on the other hand, had enjoyed a long retirement, but died the same year as his less well-known, but worthy pupil.
Part 2 – MGWR Curiosities – Richard McLachlan
Richard McLachlan explained his role as assistant archivist (drawings) which meant that he was busy digitising botht the existing drawings in the Archive, but also a number of collections either bequeathed or loaned to the Society. Among these were many drawings and documents apertaining to the Midland Great Western Railway of Irealand. These were the subject of his talk to the Area.
He explained that he found many railway histories a bit dry, leaving him wondering just what it was like to be a passenger on the trains of yesteryear. A study of the documents in the Archive was starting to provide him (and us) with the answers.
Illustrating his talk with maps, working timetables, and rolling stock returns, Richard explained that the MGWR at its peak had 139 locomotiveas and less than 200 coaches. This seemed few for such an extensive network of lines, but a glance at the timetables showed why these sufficed – typically just three or four passenger trains each way per day on each line!
He then went on to show astonishingly-detailed drawings of all manner of passenger rolling stock from the lowly third (which looked to have better seating than some London suburban trains these days!) to the oppulence of the bogie First Class carriages, right down to the provision of toilets. He described the evolution of horseboxes (an important traffic for the Railway) showing that the equine passengers seemed to fare better than the grooms accompanying them!
Concluding, Richard showed a number of very detailed civil engineering plans showing exactly where the railway passed through the countryside. His tlak provoked lively comment and questions from the floor – an enlightening presentation.
“70 years of development of the Irish rail system” by Oliver Doyle
Thursday November 10th 2016, Irish Embassy, London
The London Area of the IRRS celebrated the 70th anniversary of the society in the splendid surroundings of the Irish Embassy in London.
His excellency, Ambassador Dan Mulhall opened the evening’s event by greeting guests at the top of the stairs leading to the ballroom. He spoke about the shared experiences of railwaymen in Britain & Ireland and the old experiences of Irish people travelling to Britain, arriving at Euston & Paddington off ferries to Holyhead & Pembroke. He concluded his welcome with an excerpt from James Joyce’s “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man”, about Stephen Dedalus’ experience on the mail train from Dublin to Cork.
IRRS Board member, Alan Hyland, gave a brief history of 70 years of the society, from its initial inception & humble beginnings through to modern times and the introduction of an eJournal. There was a palpable swell of pride among members in the room as he spoke of the community of Irish rail enthusiasts.
London Area’s Chairman Tim Morton spoke about the Area’s regular activities, (which are set out elsewhere in this website) and gave a history of the Area from its earliest days when Lance King established the Society in London in 1961. He explained how the London Area maintains close relations with the Parent Body in Dublin through financial support for archiving activity there, expanding the Society in Britain through attracting new members to its meetings, and in handling bequests to the Society received from members and friends based in England.
Oliver Doyle, recently retired Operations Manager for Irish Rail gave a fascinating presentation of Irish Railway history over the 70 years of the Society’s existence. He highlighted many key changes in the railway system over that time, generously illustrated by photographs from his time with Irish Rail, including his own involvement in many of the projects described.
Oliver’s talk was followed by drinks & networking among those present. Notable guests included Phil Gaffney (Chair of Irish Rail), current & previous CEOs of Irish Rail, David Franks & Dick Fearn, Lord Faulkner of Worcester (President of the Heritage Railway Association), Gerald Beesley (Commissioner for Railway Regulation in Ireland), and about 100 IRRS members from both Ireland and Great Britain.
All present greatly enjoyed this very special occasion, the hospitality of the Ambassador and the Embassy, and the opportunity to enjoy the camaraderie of many fellow IRRS members and others. It was unique in the history of the London Area and it was a memorable evening for all who attended.
Additional photos, to those shown here, can be found at Hassard Stacpoole’s Facebook page; click here to access.
Photographs here compliments of Ian Grainger and Leonard Hatrick.
“Broad and Narrow Gauge in the 1950’s” by Michael Davies
Thursday October 13th 2016, Calthorpe Arms
Michael opened the evening with a wonderful stories of his early excursions to Ireland as a teenager, stories delivered with such clarity, he may have only travelled last week instead of nearly seventy years ago! He shared anecdotes of making lifelong friends, of characters he met along the way and the journeys he took. Micheal then presented some of his extensive slide collection, including many mono-chrome slides from his own collection and colour slides he has gathered during his life. Two slides stood out for me, the first showing the wreckage of a car
having been hit at a level crossing; the second was as slide he had purchased only to realise after buying it, he was the person standing on the platform. Michael’s charm & easy storytelling made the evening a most enjoyable one and Tim expressed his hope that Michael will return again to share more stories & slides in the future.
“What lay behind the 1957 GNR(I) Closures” by Steve Rafferty
Thursday 21st January 2016, Calthorpe Arms
Steve shared his wonderful insights into what lay behind the decisions to close many Great Northern Railway (Ireland) lines. Steve’s presentation included contemporary, 60 year old BBC Northern Ireland (NI) material which highlighted the key issues and sensitivities at the time.
Stopping frequently during the recording, Steve elaborated on the complex political, media and social discussions leading up to the 1957 closures as well as using the footage to share unique views of railways in Northern Ireland taken by BBC’s professional cameramen. Steve’s talk ended with a lively conversation about the political & economic realities of the day and Steve shared his own conclusion that ultimately, economic reasons lay at the heart of the decision to close the lines. Steve’s engaging style and excellent supporting material made for a very successful night with a capacity crowd of over 50 people in attendance.
“The West Clare Railway” by Michael Walsh
Thursday 10th December 2015, Rugby Tavern
Michael Walsh, the former IRRS Chairman, gave a very interesting & enjoyable talk about the
West Clare Railway. He showed a collection of images shot in 1930s, including some West Clare vehicles at Inchiore works, together with a substantial number of images from
the ‘Callender Collection’ showing views in the final years to closure in 1961. In addition, some contemporary scenes were included, recently taken by Ciaran Cooney, depicting extant buildings and how , in most instances, where they had been sympathetically adapted for modern day use; it was interesting to note some retain the station canopies.Michael’s excellent talk was enjoyed by all
“Keeping Irish Steam Alive – The Work of Heritage Engineering Ireland” by Peter Scott MBE
Thursday 12th November 2015, Calthorpe Arms
Peter gave a truly excellent talk. He spoke of his studies at the Royal Belfast Academical Institute (the ‘Inst’ – one of the components of the nascent RPSI in 1963) and after University, he joined NIR spending 30 years mainly in Special Projects until retirement 5 years ago. As the RPSI’s Loco Officer since 1972, that society owes Peter a huge debt in establishing Heritage Engineering Ireland Ltd (HEI), a wholly owned subsidiary that maintains the Society’s Locos and undertakes contract work for other concerns in the U.K. and Ireland.
Peter illustrated his talk with a fascinating selection of photos and videos of the many and diverse processes undertaken by the company, including forging replacement connecting rods, cross heads, smokeboxes, etc. During questions from the floor, Peter outlined the possibility of a new ‘Jeep’ similar to No 4, built from many parts that are ‘in-stock’, comparing this to the ‘new-build’ projects being undertaken elsewhere. Peter stated that the production of a second loco will greatly assist with the RPSI’s expanding programme of special trains operated throughout Ireland.
Those present were hugely impressed by the standard & range of activities spoken about.
“Reflections on NIR – looking back and looking forward” by Mal McGreevy MBE
Thursday 15th October 2015, Calthorpe Arms
Mal recently retired as NIR’s General Manager and offered unique insights into NIR’s success since the turn of the century. With investment in new CAF-built trains, park-and-ride schemes and station & track upgrades, this positive approach to improving rail services has been rewarded by more than a doubling of passengers.
Mal also set out the current vision for the future development of the rail system, including the ambitious Belfast Transport Hub beside Great Victoria Street station, aspirations for electrification and a 90-minute Belfast-Dublin Enterprise timing at speeds of up to 125 mph.
This is an exciting period for NIR and it was illuminating to hear about it from a company perspective.
“Ulster Steam in the 1960’s : Some Untold Stories” by Joe Cassells
Thursday 16th April 2015, Imperial College
A lifelong observer of the Ulster railway scene, Joe Cassells, shared his intimate knowledge of UTA steam operations in the 1960’s and of the men who worked the railway.
His wonderful presentation was Illustrated by his own photos and those of the late Irwin Pryce, including images of one coach locals, heavy freight on the Derry Road, 800t spoil trains, docks shunting, steam boat trains, Sunday excursions and much more, plus behind-the-scenes shots from railway workplaces such as footplates, sheds, stations and signal cabins.Joe’s talk was replete with insights, insider memories and rarely told stories and thoroughly enjoyed by all present.
“Bord na Móna Railways Today” by Sean Cain
Thursday March 19th 2015, Calthorpe Arms Pub
Bord na Móna carries over 3 million tons of peat each year on approx. 900km of track, hauled by locos ranging from Rustons built in the 1940s in Lincoln (which outlived more modern Andrew Barclay steam traction) to modern Irish built locos designed and built in house by Bord na Móna themselves.
Sean Cain (who works as a Traincare Technician with Iarnród Éireann) shhared his interest in the Bord na Móna Railways, with stories & photos dating back to childhood days in the 1980’s. He spoke of the large and small Bord na Móna operations across Munster, Connaght and Leinster and showed how they have evolved over the decades.
“The North Kerry Line” by Alan O’Rourke
Thursday February19th 2015, Calthorpe Arms Pub
Alan spoke about the railway lines between Limerick, Tralee, Foynes and Fenit, covering
construction in the 19th century, operation & traffic, decline and fall in the 20th century and recent resurrection as a walking & cycling Greenway for the 21st century.He presented some very odd stations and shared entertaining anecdotes about Newcastlewest’s very own runaway train and how the impecunious Rathkeale company almost got “one up” on the Board of Trade!
“The Armagh Railway Disaster of 1889″ by Canon John McKegney + AGM
Thursday January 15th 2015, Calthorpe Arms Pub
John’s presentation recalled the
devastation of the 1889 Armagh Railway disaster with contemporary photographs and recordings of eye-witnesses of the event.John also shared his experience of meeting a “survivor”, a man forbidden from travelling on the day In his childhood and who recalled visiting the site of the accident and seeing the bodies of his friends.
John gave insights into the effect of the accident on the community in Armagh and how it forced the government’s hand in introducing the first health & safety legislation for the railways.
The AGM that followed led to the re-election of the existing committee and a lively discussion about future venues and promoting the society to younger enthusiasts.
“A Classic and Colourful Journey on Irish Railways in the Early 1960s” by Ciaran Cooney
Thursday December 4th 2014, Exmouth Arms pub
Railway photographer and IRRS Photographic Archivist, Ciaran Cooney, gave a wonderful presentation of the late Norman McAdams’s photo-collection, depicting both everyday and rare scenes throughout the Irish railway system during the early 1960s – all in colour, digitised and painstakingly restored to their superb original quality.Steam and diesel traction from CIE and GNR(I) featured, as well as a many lines now long since consigned to history.
Ciaran also briefly described the digitisation of the IRRS collections, and the preparation of high quality photos for the Journal.
“Ten Happy Years with Iarnrod Eireann – 2003 to 2013″ by Dick Fearn
Thursday November 13th 2014, Exmouth Arms pub
Dick reflected on his time with Iarnrod Eireann, both as Chief Operating Officer from 2003 to 2006 and as Chief Executive from 2006 up to his retirement last year.
Having previously spent 30 years with the railways in the UK before moving to Ireland, Dick compared and contrasted the job of managing railways in the different cultural and political environments of the UK and Ireland. He shared many hilarious anecdotes of his encounters with Irish politicians and CIE board-members.
He spoke of the enjoyment he had in the job and talked fondly about some of the characters he met whilst living and working in Ireland over the past decade.
“Railway Preservation Society of Ireland : Fifty Not Out” by Charles Friel BEM
Thursday October 16th 2014, Exmouth Arms pub
Charles Friel has had many roles in the RPSI throughout its first 50 years.
On October 16th, to an enthusiastic and appreciative audience (who were not afraid to share their own anecdotes) he celebrated the hard work of his fellow, determined amateurs (many of whom are still active) on the long road to establishing today’s self-sufficient heavy engineering base, and running 71 main line trains and attracting over 20,000 visitors in 2013.
RPSI steam trains have visited every corner of the system and Charles recalled many almost-forgotten episodes and first time events.
He also gave a glimpse of what is envisaged for the next 50 years.