Dear Members

Looking back to our first newsletter, its interesting to see how the style and content has changed to the format we now have. This week we have a letter from Rachel and a lovely photo of the happy couple and wish them well in their new life together.

You will see we have also received an appeal which I hope members will be able to help and agree that the committee donate £50 towards costs.

We hope you enjoy this edition of the newsletter and would like to wish you all a Happy Christmas.

Finally on a lighter note 10 Points to Ponder as 2020 draws to a close;

1.  The dumbest thing I ever bought was a 2020 planner.
2.  2019: Stay away from negative people. 2020: Stay away from positive people.
3.  The world has turned upside down. Old folks are sneaking out of the house & their kids are yelling at them to stay indoors!
4.  This morning I saw a neighbour talking to her cat. It was obvious she thought her cat understood her. I came to
     my house & told my dog....   We had a good laugh.
5.  Every few days try your jeans on just to make sure they fit
6.  Does anyone know if we can take showers yet or should we just keep washing our hands?
7.  I never thought the comment, “I wouldn’t touch him/her with a 6-foot pole” would become a national policy,
     but here we are!
8.  I need to practice social-distancing from the refrigerator.
9.  I hope the weather is good tomorrow for my trip to the Backyard. I’m getting tired of the Living Room.
10. Never in a million years could I have imagined I would go up to a bank teller with a mask on and ask for money.


Stay safe

Phil and Nigel



Please email all submissions to  or





“Did you hear the one about that couple who decided to plan a wedding during a global pandemic, and renovate their kitchen?”
“Yeah. Kitchen got done (looks fab by the way) ... due to get married on the Monday; Matt Hancock bursts that bubble by announcing new tier restrictions four days before their wedding”
“What did they do?”
“Rearranged everything from photographer, cake, hair, make up, guests... everyone, everything so they could have their wedding the next day” 
“Madness. First wedding where the bride is three days early to the altar though”



It was a wonderful day - and we have received some lovely cards and messages - thank you!!!!! 
Mum and Dad both looked amazing and were such amazing support. Literally could not have done this without them. Dad looked dapper in the suit, and his speech was wonderful.
I was able to add a small railway element to the proceedings by giving dad a pocket watch engraved with the simple lines from end of The Railway Children “Daddy... My Daddy!” As I often recreate this scene on various railway stations, much to his embarrassment. 

Christmas will surely be different. But I wish each and every one a happy holiday season; stay well, stay safe. 
Much love,





Please read the article below.
If any of our members has any items associated with an OO gauge model railway that they can spare, please let Steve or Derek know so that they can help this 11 year old autistic boy. 

Rolling stock, track, scenery, baseboards etc. etc.


Life with Flinn


Flinn’s is like any other 11-year-old boy in that he likes planes, trains, and automobiles, he is also a keen racing Kart driver and belongs to both drivers’ clubs at Rye House and Harlow, but that’s where it stops. Why? You see Flinn has autism, something that affects 1 in every 100 children in the UK. As with most autistic children Flinn tends to develop a narrow range of interests, in most cases trains or cars, they tend to be happy within their own company, he sometimes has difficulty with social interacting but at the same time he is very bright on what interests him.

Flinn has a train track which he often spends hours with his dad in the “train room” doing what most train enthusiasts do, watching trains go round & round, moving the cars and the people along, however Flinns train set is outdated with the wrong track not compatible with the trains he uses, plus it’s on the wrong board and the scenery is falling apart.

His dad Peter would love nothing more than to build him a new train track layout complete with scenery, like a real picturesque setting, however with Peter only having one arm this would prove difficult for him to do.
So, Peter decided to contact the President of the DHMRS as well as Derek, whom he has met along with Steve over the years whilst visiting the annual show that De Havilland Model Railway Society put on to ask for their help.
Steve came and visited Flinns train room and decided that a lot of the track, scenery plus the table would need to be changed and kindly agreed to go away and think about ideas they could do for Flinn.

The next thing we knew we were contacted by the DHMRS who said they would happily take the task and project to build Flinn a new track, this is an unbelievable gesture from the members of the DHMRS and one which Flinn & Peter cant thank them enough.
Roll on 2021 and the start of “The Track Build”.



700111 Passes Royston working 9S46 from Brighton to Cambridge on the 19th May 2020 in support of our NHS services.


A Twenty first Century Trainspotter.
Part 4


The railways in China and the ‘LOCKDOWN’


Firstly, an apology. For a little bit now, you would maybe have noticed that I did not contribute an article to the weekly newsletter which is provided with all the latest and greatest news and updates from within the model railway club. Well as I have titled this article today, you will see that the word ‘LOCKDOWN’ is dominating this piece and yes it has been a big factor this year for us all, it has been a difficult and challenging time. However, as a key worker on the railways, I have found myself working throughout the lockdown seasons and as you continue to read on through this piece, I will talk about how it has been and what the railways have done for us all during these times of uncertainty.
Back in August of 2019 I was very fortune and grateful to be able to travel to china with my partner and her family, this was by far the most eye-opening experience of my life, since I’d never flown across the world before, this would be the first big big holiday I would’ve been on in my entire life. We flew from Heathrow to Bangkok, before hopping over into China into the province of Yunnan and the capital of Kunming city. We firstly began to travel around the city of Kunming where my partner used to live, before travelling to other parts of the province such as Lijiang and Dali cities.
When we started travelling between cities, we didn’t fly because the cities were within the same province of china, but we decided to use the trains and for me this was such a great experience. Between the city’s of Kunming and Lijiang is part of china’s high speed railway network, which over the year has grown huge in size and there are now miles upon miles of high speed railway lines in the entire country of China, connecting city’s from the west like Kunming, to places such as Beijing, Shanghai and Chengdu.
So we boarded our trains and started to enjoy and experience railway travel within China.


Whilst on holiday in china we ventured on some of china’s CRH network or known as the 'China railway High speed.' The CRH 2E EMU was working train D8776 the 1005 from Kunming to Lijiang on Monday 26th August 2019.


Above is a picture of the first type of train which transferred us from Kunming to Lijiang and this unit is classed as a CRH2E Electric multiple units. This is one of several classes of unit which make up the fleet of high-speed trains for China’s highspeed network. CRH stands for China’s railways high speed and is the dominant carrier for high-speed train travel within the country. There are two types of train travel in the country. You can either travel by High speed train which tends to be much higher in price, however with the yuan exchange to the pound it wasn’t too bad for us. The other way was to travel on either a soft or hard sleeper train and we used one of these trains to transfer from Lijiang to Dali towards the end of our stay in the country of China.


HXD2B Locomotive number HXD2B 0160 is seen shunting around one of many railway depots in china.


The image above is off a Chinese HXD2B Heavy duty freight locomotive, which is usually used for the large freight trains found throughout China, however we had one of these locomotives which hauled our hard sleeper train from Lijiang to Dali and to be honest with you, I really liked them, and I still do like these locomotives. In fact, I managed to buy a brass model of a HXD2B locomotive whilst enjoying my trip in China, so I have very nice souvenir for when I travelled to China.
Train travel in some respects in China is quite similar to train travel within the United Kingdom, the only real difference is the class system between the high-speed trains and the soft and hard sleeper trains. China uses a lot of tier systems, depending on age, wealth etc. and when travelling on the trains in China, one thing you would really notice was the class of people using the trains. When travelling on the High-speed trains, the dress code etc. was very smart, relax and suited, whilst using the other services, you could notice a change in appearance in the way people dressed etc. and when sharing the same compartment with other Chinese people. Overall, it was definitely a great experience but also in some case’s quite a culture shock.

The lockdown………
I travelled back from China with my partner and we flew over the world back home, before relaxing and then heading back to work on the railways. As the days, weeks and months passed by, it soon came to December 2019 and it was another Christmas to celebrate with family and friends and to just relax in each other’s company and welcome in the new year that be 2020. However, as we all know, this was also the start of the current COVID 19 pandemic which originated within Wuhan in Hubei province of China.
Some of you will know that the COVID 19 pandemic was not the first virus to originate from China, with SARS being another; however, this was more controlled and thankfully was contained within the boundaries of china. When the news first announced about the Covid 19 pandemic, I will be honest with you, me and some of my co-workers felt that it wouldn’t affect us as a community and nation too much at the time when we we’re all first getting to know and understand about the virus. However unfortunately, we soon began to realise and understand that this virus was not going to just be within China and that cases of the virus were beginning to appear in different countries.
As the days continued to pass by, it soon became March and at the point there were cases of the virus within England. Yet we still had several hundreds and if not thousands of passengers travelling through the station for jobs, tourism, interviews you name it and even the odd fare evader here and there too. Soon however the prime minister then made an announcement to the country, that because of the situation and with ever growing number of cases, the country would have to go into lockdown for several weeks if not months and this was when the realisation of the situation began to become clear, that this virus had made itself known to the country and we had to combat it one way or another.


91111 stands at Kings Cross prior to departure with 1N29 from London Kings Cross to York on the 23rd December 2019.


When national lockdown was announced, the number of passengers travelling, vanished with maybe unfortunately one or two breaking the rules, but the number of passengers dropped significantly to the point where potentially the amount of passengers we had pass through the station, would be enough for just one train load it was that crazy. However, despite the lockdown being in force, the railways kept on going and kept on running for the key workers, such as doctors, nurses, firefighters you name it. But this was it. Even though the numbers of passengers were gone significantly the railways still must run, to provide and service, but most importantly to keep the country running.
Currently now the railways are being covered under the governments ERMA scheme. This is basically the same style of contract that GTR (Govia Thameslink Railway) has, where all revenue is taken by government and the franchises run the service and are charged fees for certain aspects, such as overruns, delays and cancellations. As the country stood still and nothing was moving passenger wise, the railways have kept on going no matter what and this shows how important the railway is for the country in terms of keeping the economy going and keeping the country connected in all aspects where needed.
For me working through the lockdowns was an eye opener and a big realisation that this is happening and as we read this, the situation is still on-going and we have unfortunately had dealings with COVID first hand with many lives being lost not just across the world, but also in the country. I’ve had days at work where I would be constantly on my toes because of the sheer amount of people passing through Royston, but during lockdown these times just vanished.
However as we continue to progress through the pandemic and potentially now we have a solution and a vaccine to the virus, life I pray can soon come back together and really begin to be normal once more, where we can join up together in the church and enjoy running some trains in the group.
The railway has shown huge resilience and has been the backbone of many such event’s. The world wars, Pandemics etc. you name it, the railway will always be a crucial part of infrastructure but also it’s a crucial part in keeping the country going strong.
To finish I write this. I’m personally hoping that all members of the club are keeping safe and well especially during this current season, but genuinely throughout anytime and any day. Let’s continue to keep going strong and maybe soon there will be signs of life getting back to normal in the future. I hope we can get back together at the model railway club and make the club stronger and much more fulfilling than before. Keep safe everybody and I’m looking forward to writing my next piece for you all.


66743 passes Royston working 6L37 from Hoo junction to Whitemoor GBRF L.D.C during the lockdown of March. I took this on my break during my shift at the station 



Volunteering on The Epping Ongar Railway


Part 5 - Signalling



As I have mentioned previously, I passed out as a signalman in June 2015 and over the last five years have completed some seventy turns. This is far more than I have done on firing. Mainly because signalling is somewhat easier, has a later start and earlier finish time and is mostly in the warm and dry! I say mostly because with a single line it is necessary to leave the box for every train in order to collect or deliver the single line token.

Perhaps I should explain single line working for those not familiar with it, which I am sure most of you are. Every train, light engine etc. entering the single line section must be in possession of a staff, tablet, token etc. There are several different names, some of which originate from different railways, whilst some provide a more accurate description of the particular item.

What I have just written is not really true these days as modern railways use an electronic token rather than actually carrying one, although these do still exist on some lines that have yet to be modernised.

There are two basic ways of single line working with of course the inevitable variations: -

The first uses a ‘staff’ of which there will only be one. The size and shape of this and what it is made of can vary enormously.

To give a couple of examples from the NVR. From Wansford to Yarwell the staff was a fairly large square wooden block. This has a ‘key’ at one end for inserting in the single line instrument in the signal box at one end and another at the other end for unlocking the ground frame at Yarwell.

The section from Wansford to Orton Mere had a smaller triangular brass staff, again with keys at either end.

The second method uses a ‘key token machine’ of which of course once again there are different varieties. There are two identical machines in the signal boxes at either end of the single line section which are linked by wire. There will be several ‘key tokens’ in each machine so that it is possible for several trains to follow each other through the single line section in the same direction before any travel in the opposite direction. This is not possible with a single staff although some flexibility is possible by using a ‘ticket’ of which more shortly.


Examples of Token Machines. The one on the left is the type at North Weald and Ongar on the EOR


In order to release a ‘token’ the signalman at the starting point will send a bell code to the signal box at the other end of the section describing the train which asks if the line is clear as well. If so the signalman at the end point will repeat the bell code and hold the plunger on the last beat long enough for the first signalman to release a token from the machine. Once a token is removed from either machine it is impossible for a second to be released at either end of the section.

These ‘tokens’ are usually small ‘T’ shaped keys and will normally be placed into a carrier which consists of a hoop which the loco crew or signalman can catch on their arms whilst the train is in motion. Needless to say, there are other types as well. For instance, I have seen small round discs on the North Norfolk Railway which are released from the machine at the bottom in what can best be described as a drawer.


Examples of Key Tokens. The one on the left is the type used at North Weald and Ongar on the EOR


Examples of Hoops. The one on the left is the type used at North Weald and Ongar on the EOR


To return to the ‘ticket’ system. To allow two trains to follow each other through a single line section it is possible, subject to the local rules, for the signalman to show the first train the staff and then to issue the driver with a ‘ticket’. This will give authority to proceed through the single line section and must be handed to the signalman at the far end. The ticket may be a simple paper type or, as was used between Wansford and Orton Mere on the NVR, may be a small brass disc or similar. This will of course only work for two trains and the ‘ticket’ must either be kept by the signalman if of the paper type or returned with the staff if of the brass disc type.

There is just one last part to try and explain. The staffs are inserted into a ‘Heppers’ lock in the signal box when not with the train. This is interlocked with the signals so that the starting signal cannot be cleared




Hopefully, I have given a brief insight into single line working. There are of course copious amounts of information about all of this on the internet. Far more than I can explain here.

So to the EOR signalling.

At North Weald for the Epping section there is a Heppers lock and a staff. For the section to Ongar when the box there is open the Key Token machines are used. However, when the box there is closed there is also a Heppers lock with a staff that can be used instead. Finally, there is an Epping – Ongar staff in a Heppers lock that can be used when North Weald box is closed. This would enable say a DMU to shuttle from Epping to Ongar if required. As far as I know it has never been used although we always switch North Weald out at the end of the day.

To close the box a ‘King Lever’ is used. This allows all the signals to be cleared in both directions. Firstly, the relevant points have to be set correctly then the home and starting signals are cleared in one direction and then the King Lever pulled to the centre position which has a cut out to accommodate it. The home and starting signals are then pulled off for the opposite direction. Finally, the King Lever is pulled all the way over which locks the frame.

Ongar has a similar although simpler set up.

On the EOR all points are electrically operated so no long rodding runs making it hard to pull the levers. Most of the signals are also colour light with only four semaphores at North Weald and one at Ongar. All the signal wire runs are comparatively short but still require quite an effort to pull some of the signals off. The signalmen of old must have used considerable effort for the longer pulls!

Now a few instances from my signalling turns: -

Having passed out I was already rostered for one more training turn at North Weald. Having opened the box we found that one set of points had failed and would need to be wound over manually. The rostered signalman offered to do this and set off accordingly. This set of points allowed the loco to move off shed so once this move was completed shouldn’t have been needed for the rest of the day. In the meantime, the signalman, who was also a guard, found out the rostered guard had not arrived and so diverted to that duty, leaving me to work the box solo for the first time. Sort of thrown in at the deep end! Fortunately, S and T (Signal and Telegraph) fixed the points by the end of the day, so I didn’t need to wind them over by hand.

My second turn was in Ongar box. On this occasion a relay failure in the locking room prevented the outer home signal from being returned to danger. This caused the whole frame to lock and therefore no movements could take place. S and T arrived after about half an hour and then spent another half hour resolving the issue, which was a broken wire on the relay.

My third turn was also in Ongar box and on this occasion the block bells were faulty, and we had to resort to using the phone line to request clearance for each train.

The next turn was also in Ongar box and this time there was a lineside fire, started by the loco, which required the fire brigade to turn out. The result was two faulty track circuits as the cable to them had been burnt.

By this time, I was beginning to think that I was somewhat jinxed but fortunately after this, things settled down with no more major incidents although there have been signal failures, point failures, track circuit failures and bell failures at various times over the last five years. The present S and T department head has instigated a policy of regular maintenance and checking over the last couple of years and things have improved drastically.

Lastly back to this year. Having not had a turn for over six months during lockdown a training session was arranged at North Weald in August which went successfully. I then had a turn at North Weald before the next at Ongar. Now I hadn’t been in Ongar box for nearly a year so took a moment to refresh my memory, although it is a comparatively simple box to work with only one train at a time and only six levers to work.

I opened the box and found that number nine lever controlling the outer home signal would not return home in the frame. Of course, this then locked everything else. We managed to run the train using the staff from North Weald from the Heppers Lock and I had to talk each train past the outer and inner home signals at danger. S and T arrived shortly and finally found a faulty relay (yes, the same one again) which they repaired. However, in the meantime they found that the mechanical locking had jammed on one lever preventing several others from being operated. This was established to be the King Lever and once they managed to get it home in the frame all was well. We just had to make sure that at the end of the day the box wasn’t closed, as pulling the King Lever would have resulted in the frame being locked up again.

One last point I should make is just how much walking a signalman can do in a day when needing to exchange the single line tokens. Recently in North Weald on a busy two train day in August when the railway reopened, I measured 9000 steps which equates to about four miles on my pedometer!

(To explain some signal terms: -

The frame is the base of the levers in which they move. When a lever is normal it will be at the back of the frame and will also be ‘home’ and for points will be ‘normal’. When a lever is moved to the front of the frame it is ‘pulled off’ for a signal and ‘reversed’ for point.

The locking frame which is for the interlocking of the points and signals is underneath the frame. It may be vertical or horizontal. In the case of EOR the interlocking is a combination of mechanical and electrical. The electrical part uses relays and whist some are mounted in the locking room, which is underneath the operating floor of the signal box, some are mounted in a separate building, which makes the job of S and T just that little bit more difficult).



Following the success of last weeks item on Bill and Ben we follow up this week with the rest of the characters from Watch with Mother.


Picture Book



1 9 5 5 – 1 9 6 3 (UK)
560 x 16-minute episodes

Picture Book (featuring Bizzy Lizzy and Sossidge the dachshund) was part of the early watch with mother series. It started off the week, screening on Mondays, ahead of Andy Pandy (Tuesday), The Flowerpot Men (Wednesday), Rag, Tag and Bobtail (Thursday) and The Woodentops (Friday).

Although Andy Pandy had been regularly broadcast every week since mid-1950 (normally on Tuesdays), and was joined by Flowerpot Men in December 1952 (normally on Wednesdays), the name Watch with Mother was not adopted until January 1953, shortly before the programming was expanded to three afternoons a week with the addition of Rag, Tag and Bobtail that September. The "classic" cycle of shows was in place by September 1955, with the first showing of The Woodentops Broadcast at 1:30 pm each day, it comprised:

  • Picture Book – Mondays, from 1955
  • Andy Pandy – Tuesdays, from 1950
  • Flowerpot Men – Wednesdays, from 1952
  • Rag, Tag and Bobtail - Thursdays, from 1953
  • The Woodentops – Fridays, from 1955



Bizzy Lizzy had somehow come into possession of a Magic Wishing Flower, which made her outlandish dreams come true but with a catch – she could only make four wishes in any day, and if she exceeded that, all her previous wishes would automatically come undone.


Andy Pandy

Andy Pandy’s coming to play… tra-la-la-la-la



Andy Pandy first aired on Tuesday 11 July 1950 and became extremely popular immediately. Made on film rather than broadcast live, surviving episodes are therefore now among the earliest relics of British television history.

This fondly recalled tv series featured a little puppet boy in a striped romper suit and his friends, a cute and cuddly articulated teddy bear called Teddy and a pretty ragdoll called Looby Loo. These three jolly characters would dance and frolic and play games in and around their nursery and garden, and they would encourage younger viewers to participate at home.
In each episode, the narrator spoke directly to both the audience and Andy, mediating between them: ‘Andy Pandy, the children are here’ or ‘we must sing something for the children first’. At the end of each broadcast, they would sing their goodbyes to us, and that was it. Nothing more substantial, but at the time, it worked splendidly. Of course, today’s viewers look upon these shows as being patronising. They question the “relationship” between the three stars in between knowing winks and nudges and it was all terribly tedious. The point is all the shows in these children’s broadcast slots were right for the period.


Andy Pandy, Teddy & Looby Loo


The original black and white episodes – perhaps fewer than forty in total are thought to have been made up until 1959. Shown weekly in an almost unbroken run until 1969, the film prints eventually became too damaged to broadcast so Westerham produced another thirteen episodes in 1970, now in colour but otherwise virtually unchanged. These would be shown right through the 70s.


The Woodentops



The Woodentops was first shown 9 September 1955. It featured stories about a family of wooden dolls who live on a farm. The Woodentops joined Andy Pandy, The Flowerpot Men, and Rag, Tag and Bobtail on Watch with Mother, the weekday afternoon slot that formed the much-loved heart of programmes for pre-school children on the BBC. Every episode of The Woodentops introduced the family sitting in front of a curtain: Mummy and Daddy Woodentop with Baby Woodentop, the twins Jenny and Willy, and Spotty Dog. They were joined by domestic help Mrs Scrubbitt and Sam, who worked on the farm. The Woodentops was created by Frida Lingstrom and Maria Bird. Bird wrote the scripts and the music as well as doing the narration. Eileen Brown, Josefina Ray and Peter Hawkins provided the other voices. The puppets – with their easily visible strings - were operated by Eileen Brown and Molly Gibson.

The last Woodentops was made in 1958, but they ran for many years on Watch with Mother. Other programmes - like Pogles Wood and Tales of the Riverbank - joined the strand, but The Woodentops was still going in 1969.


Rag, Tag and Bobtail



Rag, Tag and Bobtail is a BBC children's television programme that ran from 1953 to 1965 as the Thursday programme in the weekly cycle of Watch with Mother. The scripts were written by Louise Cochrane, and the series was produced by Freda Lingstrom and David Boisseau

Narration was by Charles E. Stidwell, David Enders, and James Urquhart. These were the simple adventures of three (male) woodland creatures - Rag, a hedgehog; Tag, a mouse; and Bobtail, a rabbit;  and sometimes five baby rabbits also appeared occasionally. All the characters are glove puppets, created and operated by Sam and Elizabeth Williams.

One surviving episode demonstrates the level of storytelling - in this example some rabbit babies get dirty in a mud puddle, but the day is saved when Tag finds a cleansing spring of water by divining with a hazel twig. The episodes used a straightforward single narration to describe events and provide character voices - there was none of the interactive song-and-dance elements of Andy and the Flowerpot Men.

While Andy, Bill and Ben were controlled from above on strings, Rag, Tag and Bobtail were glove puppets manipulated from below. The puppets were filmed using a camera with just one plane of motion, left to right, which slowly scanned along a basic countryside set; there were no close-ups or cut- aways. Each 13-minute episode seems to be shot in one take with no editing.

26 episodes were made but although the first two went unaired (presumably they were technically deficient?), the remaining 24 were run repeatedly every Thursday until finally rested in December 1965.

Phil Blobalob





"It suddenly packed up as I was trying to get the dust off your railway"









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