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Quainton News archive - Quainton News No. 37 - Winter 1978 / 9

Ten Years - A Review - J R Fairman

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J R Fairman - The Midland Railway Hand Crane 30th November, 1972

It has been a fascinating task to prepare this review by reading again every one of the 36 issues of Quainton News and the 35 Newsheets of our predecessor, the London Railway Preservation Society. It made me realise the real progress we have made in 10 years and I smiled when I noted a sentence in the 1977/8 Report of the Executive Committee. It said, 'The last year has been a difficult one ... holding up many of the things we would have liked to have seen started or completed .. . our achievements during the year are the completion of the Down Yard Restoration Building, the transport from Barry of our locomotive Wightwick Hall, the purchase of the the turntable, wheeldrop and Phase I of the Restoration Building in the Up yard.' It was the apologetic tone of the Report that made me chuckle!

Turn back the clock to 1969 and let us follow our history in the past decade and I think you will agree with me that 1979 should be a year of modest celebration. Remember that Quainton Road had been chosen by the LRPS, membership 200, as their future home and this was their decision after 18 months of surveying and exploring possible alternatives by the appointed team comprising Peter Clarke and Roy Miller. Quainton seemed an ideal site and it was secured just in time to meet the deadline date when LRPS rolling stock had to be moved from the sidings at Luton and Bishops Stortford.

What a red letter day was 4th April, 1969! It was the day the first moves took place and pictured above is the old Midland Railway hand crane which was the first item. The Wickham permanent way inspection car, TP53P, then owned by David Alexander was the first rail vehicle at our Quainton premises. Eleven days later our Kerr Stuart diesel shunting locomotive arrived and it was followed on the 16th April by the first steam engines, Punch Hall and Sydenham. It is interesting to recall that these early deliveries were offloaded in the storage depot 'next door' because, in our own yard, members were busy preparing a road / rail access and spreading hardcore to make a car park.

On 31st April 1969 a very important public meeting was held in Quainton village and it was attended by 150 residents and presided over by Mr W T Philbey, the Chairman of the Parish Council. The Society's plans were explained to the audience and a retrospect shows how faithfully those visions of 10 years ago have been pursued. Peter Clarke said, 'Three buildings will be erected; a workshop, a carriage and wagon museum and a locomotive shed. There will be a signal museum in the open. Public train rides will be given to the far end of the track in the down yard and passengers will have the choice of a ride back or a walk through the various museums. Our ambition is to have the other side as well.' Was the museum concept stronger in 1969, I wonder? And we not only bring passengers back from the end of the long siding but we often give them a double trip at a bargain fare!

The next date in this review must surely be Saturday 30th August 1969 when, at 3 pm, Mr Philbey officially declared our Quainton Preservation Centre open for visitors and with shining red paintwork and gleaming brass, Sir Thomas headed up the line with the inaugural special breasting a white ribbon as it left the platform. It was a great day for all who had worked so hard to establish a permanent home for the LRPS and I doubt if any of us who were present then could have imagined the progress to be made in the next ten years as we clapped and cheered Sir Thomas on that memorable first trip.

So successful were the first three Open Days in August that another two were held on 11th and 12th October and the income from these sterling pioneering efforts set the seal on the Society's sound financial policy. By the end of that first year we were able to announce to BR that we had the resources to purchase the track and the land of the down yard and, further more, we were able to establish ourselves as a reputable Society with the BR officers handling our affairs. These early foundations have stood us in good stead in the ensuing years and have been the basis of much of our success. Also in 1969 our internal organisational structure was established and it has stood the test of time. Richard Castle was our Secretary and Peter Clarke our indefatigable Chairman. Committees were set up for Loco, Carriage and Wagon, Signals and Telegraphs and for Depot. Soon after, we had our Operations Committee and Crew Training and later, Permanent Way. Happily most of the original members of these Committees are still busy at Quainton although they have been known to complain of being ten years older!

What landmarks of these past ten years should be recorded in this review? Perhaps it will be helpful to examine the activities of the Society under a number of headings. Firstly though, a framework, surely 1971 was an important year because at the Annual General Meeting in April the London Railway Preservation Society ceased to exist in name and was incorporated into the Quainton Railway Society. The spirit remained but the body changed! Another very significant event in that year was the confirmation of the Charity status of our Society; this was such a wise decision which we will never regret taking. June 1975 is another milestone date because it was the month when Major Peter Olver visited Quainton and gave us his advice which has enabled us to continue operating our Open Days to the satisfaction of the Railway Inspectorate. Clearly we should never forget the obligations this imposes on all of us.

Two more vitally important events must complete the framework within which we work. They are the purchase of the down yard which was concluded in 1970 and the acquisition of a major portion of the up yard more recently. We should be proud of both events so successfully conducted by Roy Miller on our behalf.

Buildings have always been considered as top priority for Quainton. The first storage for a locomotive was a container for John Hutchings Holy War in 1970! Our plans for a major Restoration Building for the down yard were published in 1972 and at the end of the 1973 operating season there was a 'great shunting' day, on 4th November, to clear the sidings for work on the foundations to start. To reduce the appalling effects of inflation on the cost of building materials Phase 2, a doubling of the size of the Phase 1 structure was approved and work continued throughout 1974/5. The whole complex of a three road storage and restoration building, workshops, messroom, stores and 'small exhibits' museum was finished in 1977, a marvellous achievement. Paralleling this constructional work the Society purchased and moved to site from Wembley the framework and sheeting of the building known by that name. This was back in September 1972 and it is only in the past twelve months that it has been possible to tackle the major civil engineering, (lots of concrete), and to restart the effort needed to complete this potentially useful storage building. Meanwhile in the up yard, Phase 1 of our second major Restoration Building started in the winter of 1977 and, by dint of a very considerable financial outlay, again trying to beat inflation, the impressive depot premises have been developed to the stage of having the first occupants shunted inside at the beginning of December 1978. Work continues; the story is not finished yet! After buildings, what about plant? It was Easter 1971 when we were first allowed by BR to use the footbridge. Since then quite a lot of work has been done to maintain the steelwork, decking and abutment brickwork but there is more to do. Two water towers have been obtained from London Transport, one from Rickmansworth which was erected and has been used in the down yard since 1973 and the other from Watford which arrived in 1976 and is destined for duty in the up yard in due course. Machine tools, welding equipment and a forge have been installed in the down yard building over the past three years; a wheeldrop was extracted from the depths of Hither Green shed to celebrate New Year 1977 and most recently we have acquired our turntable and moved it to Quainton from Hitchin. All these achievements in 10 years. Not bad going!

The story of Signalling at Quainton was recounted by Finial in the Summer 1977 issue of Quainton News and it took us through the period when the Department was particularly active and we had an electrically operated system, tokenless block and all sorts of fascinating techniques were employed. In 1977 there was a very successful signalling exhibition, held at the August Bank Holiday. The next development will be a mechanical installation for the down yard - but that is for the future and this article is a review of past activities.

Similarly the Locomotive Department's first five years were explained in a three part article by John Hutchings in Quainton News, issues Nos.16, 19 and 22, in 1973/4. So much has happened since that but perhaps the most splendid achievement was the successful return to service of our Beattie, Southern Railway 0314, in 1976, 102 years after its 'birth' at Beyer, Peacock's works in Manchester in 1874. To see the lovely old well tank gliding along with a train of five four or six wheeled coaching stock in 1978 was a joy to behold. Another similar major restoration project was started by the Loco boys in 1975 when Metropolitan No. 1, the 0-4-4T, was dismantled and some work has also been done towards the return to service of our geared locomotive, Sydenham, which is so similar to the engines used on the erstwhile Brill Tramway in 1871. Another milestone in the Quainton history of the decade was the arrival of the King, 6024 King Edward I, in 1973. The restoration of any large main line express locomotive is a colossal task, expensive in man-hours and cash. Yet such is the attraction of these giants that the Society decided to support the fund raising activities of the Wightwick Hall group and it was a memorable day when 6989, our own mainliner, was delivered to Quainton up yard on 10th January, 1978. Of course there are bound to be comings and goings in the locomotive realm. We 'lost' two to the Mid Hants Railway, 34016 Bodmin and 76017 but it was a triumph for our Society when on 4th and 5th September 1977 six engines paraded in steam for our first cavalcade.

Coaching stock quality has been a strong feature of Quainton since 1969. In fact, our prized London, Chatham and Dover Railway 1st class four wheeler was the very first vehicle owned by the LRPS and it came into our possession in August 1962, nearly twenty years ago! It was also the first coach to arrive at Quainton, in June 1969, and it has given us sterling service and much visual pleasure since it entered service in August 1973. What a joy it is to have our LNWR Dining Car under cover and receiving such skilful attention to restore its elegant appearances for the appreciation of future generations. That's what railway preservation is all about, saving our inheritance for others to marvel at and enjoy.

Another milestone in the story of our carriages will be reached when the Cinema Coach is in use, not only for its usefulness to show films but also because it is truly a historic vehicle. It arrived in 1974. MSLR, LSWR, GCR and GWR vintage carriages and vans are all at Quainton but another landmark was surely the arrival of one more LNWR coach last December to give our depot the largest and most comprehensive collection of stock from the Premier Line.

It is not possible to identify the high points of so many departments at Quainton. Sales, for example, have been hard at it since 1965 doing business at our depot, manning sales stands and publishing Stock Books and Guides and Programmes; wonderful work producing the cash for others to spend! Publicity too plays a vital role in keeping the public and other enthusiasts in touch with Quainton by posters and articles in the railway and other press.

But there are other departments on which the continuing success of our Society depends: for example, the Permanent Way section. Under a number of Chairmen they have contrived to give our locomotives and rolling stock a good main line to run upon. Milestones in PW department should be expressed as ¼ mileposts maybe! And how about the gallant catering ladies who carried on serving lifesaving victuals under adverse conditions. Thank goodness the time is about to end when a draughty flapping tent will be replaced by a cosy GWR Brake coach. That indeed will be a landmark in the history of the sandwich and tea brigade!

In this review of the past ten years it has been an impossible task to mention every worthwhile Society activity. Officers serve the members week after week, year after year. Roy Miller has been our Secretary since 1970 and Andrew Bratton our Treasurer since 1971. I first produced Quainton News with issue No. 7 in March 1971, when it was called the Newsletter and comprised a few pages of A4 paper duplicated and without a proper cover. Ten years is a long time when you are looking forward but it is not so long when you look back. Until, that is, you realise how much has changed in that span of time!

Here's hoping the next ten years will be as eventful and progressive as the past decade. Let us enjoy 1979 with some celebration and together in all Departments resolve to make the corresponding events in 1989 of equal significance to this year.

The text in this Quainton Railway Society publication was written in 1978 and so does not reflect events in the 36+ years since publication. The text and photographs are repeated verbatim from the original publication, with only a few minor grammar changes but some clarifying notes are added if deemed necessary. The photos from the original publication are provided as scans in this internet version of this long out of print publication.

Ten Years - A Review - J R Fairman - Quainton News No. 37 - Winter 1978 / 9

Text © Quainton Railway Society / Photographs © Quainton Railway Society or referenced photographer
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Page Updated: 17 November 2017