Dear Members

Following our request for your views on the club re-opening I am pleased to report we received 12 very helpful replies. Accordingly, the committee will be holding a meeting on Wednesday 29th July to discuss when and how we can safely re-open. If you still have any suggestions or wish for anything to be taken into account please let us know.
We hope you all continue to stay safe as we slowly emerge from lockdown and during this time many members have expressed their appreciation of the newsletter. However, to be able to keep going, it would be good if you could still find some time to send any articles and or photos to share with members.

Unfortunately, there will be no newsletter next week due to holidays! and there after may continue fortnightly depending on your responses.


Phil and Nigel

Please email all submissions to  or






I am not quite sure of the dates, but I believe Middleton was booked to appear at the
CMRA St Albans Exhibition in January 2000.  But by October 1999 it was obvious that it would not be ready,  so the decision was taken to withdraw from the show with a firm booking for January 2001.  This of course took the pressure off, but installed the mindset of ‘we have got loads of time it’s more than a year away’.
Progress continued, quite a lot of it away from the clubrooms.  The lever frame was more or less complete and Dick Turner built the Prospect Hill and hidden section control panel and display, whilst Terry Murphy constructed the Middleton Station and Goods Yard panel and I built the panel for the lower hidden section which became known affectionately as  ‘Underwood’.
Some of the wiring on the boards had been done, but the layout was erected and work was continuing on the scenic side of things, so it became difficult to take boards out and turn them over for wiring purposes.  Whilst we had assembled all the panels and power supplies and CDU etc. there was still a lot of work to be done in bringing it all together, with the umbilical cable which would link all the panels and boards. 
I can remember spending whole days at the club with Dick and Terry in the period  between New Year 2001 and the exhibition finalising it all.  At this stage the layout had not been run, there was just no time left.  The only saving grace was that Dick Terry and myself had been so involved in the wiring that we had every confidence that it would work. On the final Friday we found that the weight of the umbilical cable was so great that it would not support itself along the layout.  Luckily I had a quantity of small pieces of chain which I fixed to the cable with tie wraps and by knocking panel pins, to act as hooks, into the baseboard frames we were able to suspend the cable along the layout.
The van arrived Friday afternoon and the layout was dismantled and loaded and taken to St Albans arena.  I think the principle of assembly was that the first baseboard had 4 legs and the rest had 2 detachable legs each and bolted to the previous board in a piggy back fashion.  Theoretically all the legs were the same but when it came to it we found that not every leg fitted each board and no one had thought to mark them so a lot of time seemed to be spent in actually getting the layout erected.  Assembly of some of the scenery was also quite complicated with many screws, bolts, brackets and wing nuts etc. and only those who built it new how it all went.
By early evening we ran the first train,  then disaster, half way along the layout it crossed a baseboard joint and stopped.  On investigation we found that there was just 1 baseboard that had nothing on it but a single piece of track and somehow no supply had been connected to this piece of track.  Our only option at this stage was to solder two fixed links across the baseboard joint on the outside of the rails.  This was accomplished but with some difficulty with the scenery in place. Little more could be done then and we all left for home  for food and a well earned rest.  I remember phoning Eric Fry at about 9.0pm to let him know that it was all working, as when he left earlier  we were still having problems and I knew he was concerned.
Saturday morning came and with it a sharp learning curve for the operators because no one had run the layout before.  I do recall that at one stage a young lad, who I think was just a visitor to the exhibition got involved and got the hang of it quite quickly,  just the same as youngsters seem to be able to do with mobile phones today.
However one of the most annoying problems we had was that the first point from the hidden section at Prospect Hill was somehow out of gauge and almost every train totally derailed on crossing this point causing considerable frustration and delays. Many other operational problems came to light and whilst the layout did look good, its operation really let it down and I don’t think the exhibition manager was best pleased.
Many items came to light following this first outing, but from my point of view as the main operator of ‘underwood’ I found that when trying to change locos and assemble trains etc. the 2 and often 3 operators necessary for Middleton Station and goods Yard
were unavoidably just in the way.  I had already motorised the turntable at the far end so locos could be turned and moved to other roads without having to go down and do it manually.  However being a small turntable and quite far from the operating position it was impossible to see when the loco was in the correct position especially with the operators blocking the view.  I therefore constructed a frame to act as a stop at the far side of the turntable, so you just drove the loco gently onto the turntable until it hit the frame and stopped.  Then, operating  the turntable energised a relay which pulled the frame clear allowing the loco to turn smoothly on the turntable.  This improved the operation a lot and quite surprisingly worked well.
Another feature of the original layout was that at one point in the programme a heavy coal train was banked up the incline with the banker dropping off at Prospect Hill while the train continued to the hidden section.  The theory was, that provided we used  locos with similar running characteristics, if we sent the train off from ‘underwood’ with the banker behind the guards van both running from the same controller the banker would follow the train out.  We then had a short section of track at Prospect Hill and when the banker reached this section, operating a push button on the panel disconnected this section from the controller and connected a bank of capacitors which supplied sufficient power to allow the banker to slow to a stop as they discharged.  This part of the system worked fairly well, the problem was with trying to achieve consistent operation between the 2 locos.  In practice the banker either became a bit sluggish and a gap developed between the train guards van and the banker which of course just ruined the required effect. Or alternatively the banker pushed too hard and buffer locked the train causing derailments which was equally ineffective.  There were very few occasions when it actually worked well and I believe we decided to remove this aspect from the programme as it was too unreliable.
At this stage further work on Middleton came to a halt for many months as I think it was in September 2001 that we had to vacate the hut which had been the clubs home for many years.

Tony Haward     







One problem I have with lockdown is the cost involved in purchasing kits, although the saving in fuel does somewhat compensate.

I've completed the Spanish OcCre 1/24th Stephenson's Rocket. The quality of the kit is very high with many pre-cut pieces, cast metal bits and plenty of strips of wood of various sizes. The most time consuming bit (not really a problem at the moment) is the insertion of many pins that represent rivet heads. It is however well worth persevering as the result is very satisfying. I have now started on the Adler and hope to continue with a set of three carriages. The problem is going to be how I can sneak it into the house without the wife noticing.





A little out of scale with my OO layout.




The Adler under construction.





The Trials of a Heritage Railway Cleaner


Saturday 13/9/03

This was the Gala weekend. I arrived early at 5.20 with Wayne as he was firing the J94. He had a rules test today with a view to being officially passed out as a fireman. I was on the Swedish ‘B’ 101 with Harry and Micky. We lit up at 7.00 as Micky arrived late. Having cleaned the wheels (remember from last time how they quickly clogged up with oil and dirt compounded by steam).

We double headed to Yarwell with the Polish 0-8-0T no. 9548. Micky suggested that I jump off at the ground frame at the start of the run round loop to save time. Not a good idea as I misjudged the speed etc. and fell forward twisting my wrist in the process. Having been helped up I returned to Wansford on the cushions and went to the first aid room where my wrist was bandaged up. Fortunately it was nothing serious but I couldn’t fire, couple up etc. for the rest of the day. I rode on the last two trips on the footplate but as a ‘passenger’.

We were on shed by 4.45 and away by 6.20.



Sunday 28/9/03

I arrived at 6.10 to find the gates locked. Owen the driver arrived at 6.25 and we set about preparing the Polish 0-8-0T. Duncan the fireman arrived at 7.00.

Owen and Duncan were not happy with the injectors but the engineer Alan insisted that they were OK, although he struggled to get them to pick up. Before coming off shed at 10.30 only the drivers side injector could be made to work.

We did the first round trip but Owen had decided at Peterborough to fail the loco due to the injectors and brakes. Once back at Wansford Alan insisted the injectors were OK and took over as driver as Owen refused to continue.

We managed the next round trip although the injectors were playing up all of the time. Basically if the boiler was full leaving Wansford we would only just about make it to Peterborough with the water level just about in the bottom of the gauge glass. After topping up the tanks the injectors would then usually work as the water was cold.

On the next trip we got as far as Orton Mere before Alan decided that the big end bearing on the fireman’s side had broken. Indeed a piece of the bearing was missing! Added to this neither injector would now work. We uncoupled and run forward onto the Fletton loop clear of the main line and threw the fire out. Fortunately the track has concrete sleepers here as some of the hot embers lay burning on the sleepers which were scorched and the result could be seen for many months after. The injectors could still not be made to pick up, so water was no longer visable in the gauge glass, and, although the fire had been thrown out, the combination of little water in the boiler and the residual heat resulted the loco blowing off!



Alan had to travel back to Wansford by car to collect one of the Class 14’s and return to Orton Mere to collect the train and take it on to Peterborough. I was left waiting on the platform at Orton Mere. By the time that the train had returned from Peterborough James had arrived to drive, so Alan stayed with the Polish Loco and I rode back to Wansford in the Class 14. We then took the stock to Yarwell, ran round and returned to Wansford where we left the coaches in the cutting before the station.  Now we returned to Orton Mere to pull the Polish loco very slowly back to Wansford arriving at 7pm. I finally left at about 7.30. A long and eventful day.











The Tourist Railway of Haut-Quercy,  The Truffadou or Truffle Train 


Travelling through France in 2018 we chanced upon this rather interesting steam railway. The loco pushed the train out for a few miles  with a man in the front carriage signalling the way. Forward on return, obviously, it stopped at Halte de Mirandol for a leg stretch and to appreciate the lovely views. There were also quite a few interesting locos scattered about in various states of decay and other interesting machines. My wife really enjoyed it.








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Answers in the next Newsletter.


  1. Name the longest heritage railway in England?
  2.  In which city was a brick sculpture called train unveiled in June 1997?
  3. How were road vehicles powered in Thomas the Tank Engine?
  4. Name the UK's most northerly railway station?
  5. With which train is Oliver Postgate associated?
  6. At which London station did Sir Gilbert Scott build his Grand Midland Hotel?
  7. Where has the only class 15 locomotive been preserved?
  8. Sitting in a railway station with a ticket for my destination is a line from which Simon and Garfunkel song?
  9. At which London station do trains from Reading terminate?
  10. In which European Capital is Tara Street station?
  11. Which station recently made headline news with a 'kissing ban'?
  12. Why was the Weymouth harbour branch unique in the UK?
  13. When was the last cross channel rail-ferry service in operation?
  14. What is the distance between Lakeside and Haverthwaite station (to the 0.5 mile).
  15. In the film Titfield Thunderbolt 'Mallingford Station' was actually....
  16. Which famous railway line features in ITV's - 'Heartbeat.'
  17. Today what class of locomotive is used as a banking engine on the Lickey Incline?
  18. In what year did Shap Railway Station close?
  19. In the USA brake Van/Guards van is known as a what?
  20. What stock is used on the Isle of Wight public railway?



Answers to last weeks Quiz.


Cupboard                       Love                           Story
Leeds                             United                        Kingdom
Bottom                            Lip                              Stick
Space                             Travel                         Agent
Television                       Set                              Point
French                            Horn                           Pipe
English                           Channel                      Islands
Better                              Half                            Hearted
Washing                          Up                              Market
Milk                                 Bottle                          Top
Dead                               Centre                        Forward
Half                                 Time                            Warp
Cricket                             Match                         Stick
Blue                                 Bottle                          Bank