February 2017 newsletter

As we mentioned in the September newsletter, the Society is now 30 years old, and we kicked off the anniversary year with Michael McMahon reprising his first talk from January 1987, followed by a look at some of his photographs of 071s.  We look forward to his 32nd talk to the Society!

February and March meetings

Our meeting on 15 February will be addressed by Colin McVea, Signalling and Telecommunications Engineer for Northern Ireland Railways, who will give us a presentation on Phase 2 of the Coleraine-Londonderry railway project, which saw a new station for Bellarena and the end of token working (both electric and manual) on Northern Ireland Railways as Coleraine, Castlerock and Londonderry signal cabins closed and Portrush ceased to be a block post.

The evening of 15 March will be a special meeting – Kit Spackman, Tilt System Development Engineer, will look back on his work on the Advanced Passenger Train (Experimental) (APT-E)

Both meetings will be in Ashfield Girls’ School, Holywood Road, Belfast at 7.15pm.

Annual General Meeting

Continuing the celebrations, this year’s Annual General Meeting will be followed by dinner!

The AGM proper will be at 7pm (note the earlier time) on Wednesday 19 April in the Shandon Park Golf Club in East Belfast.

The MRSI 30th anniversary dinner will be held after the AGM, and seats must be reserved in advance at a cost of £20 (£25 if you choose the steak option on the menu.)

First priority will be given to Society members and partners.


If you haven’t yet renewed for 2016-17, please complete the form on the website and send it with payment to Andy Boal as soon as possible.

As usual, membership cards will normally be issued at our meetings.

Diesel Railtour

We are planning a diesel railtour with our friends in the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland.  Further information will be made available closer to the time, but current plans are to travel to Rosslare on Saturday 9 September.

Programme 2017-18

Dates for the 2017-18 season are: 20th September, 18th October, 15 November, 17th January, 21st February, 21st March and 18th April (AGM.)

Early plans are in train – booked speakers include Edwin McMillan, Sam Somerville, and of course Michael McMahon for the January meeting.  We hope to have the full programme ready for the AGM.

Senior Travel Pass Group

Wednesday 22nd February:  Taking the 0645 from Belfast to Dublin, the destination will be Wexford, with choices to travel home via bus to Waterford or return up the east coast.

Wednesday 22nd March:  Destination to be confirmed.

Contact: To add your name to the mailing list, please send your details to Ken Harte.

Crewe to Ballywatermoy

Retired headmaster of Ballee High School and MRSI and RPSI member Shaun Martin published his first book late last year, and brought copies to the November meeting.

He writes:

The main focus of the story centres around life and work on the Northern Counties Railway as seen through the eyes of Malcolm Ross, the newly appointed Chief Officer who in 1946 has been transferred to Belfast from Crewe.  As he travels around he meets stationmasters, drivers and guards who share their stories with him.

Memories are evoked of warm summer days at Portrush and Sunday School Excursions.  Through the developing relationship between Malcolm and Hazel Blair, his secretary, a farmer’s daughter from Ballywatermoy, a snapshot is revealed of life in Ulster in the immediate post Second World War austerity years. The couple, who have each suffered tragic personal loss during the war, come to terms with their past.

Malcolm, a former army colonel, is haunted by the wartime memory of being on a convoy which was attacked by German U-boats with tragic loss of life. On a happier note  there are glimpses of Paris and Languedoc, where his elderly uncle arranges a visit to see the white horses and black bulls of the Petite Camargue.

At an early stage Brigadier Sir Hector Woodside, the Chairman of the Northern Counties Board, is introduced.  He plays an important part in bringing Malcolm and Hazel together but unfortunately he was unable to attend their wedding. On the way to his castle at Lisnagarron, near Kells, the reader will glimpse the streets of Ballymena as they were in the 1940’s.

This novel shares with the reader railway yarns, romance, a wedding, a funeral and wartime experiences.

Welcome to the age of ration books, petrol coupons, currency restrictions and customs stops on the Belfast to Dublin railway line.

A reader’s response:

“I am enjoying the book so much I don’t want it to end. I love the way you have written an enjoyable story around what is basically a factual book about the NCC including some social history. I am glad you have written about the NCC as so many Irish railway books favour the GNR(I).  Having lived in L’Derry, Castlerock and now Coleraine it is great to be reading about my local line and stations.

Excellent book. Very interesting and readable book full of facts on the NCC.”

Crewe to Ballywatermoy is available from Waterstones, Ballymena and on eBay.  There is more information on Facebook.

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