Student railway society, RailSoc, gets its 3rd year off to a busy start

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Matthew Teller, 3rd year BEng Electrical & Railway Engineering Student and Chair of the University of Birmingham Railway Society, tells us about this term’s society activities.

RailSoc is now well underway with its 3rd year as a society and we have continued to organise some fantastic events this autumn term.

Crewe Railway Heritage Centre

Our first major event of the year was a trip to the Crewe Railway Heritage Centre where we had arranged for private tours of the museum and operating sessions in the Exeter West Signal Box. The aim of the signal box visit was to get hands-on experience with a mechanical signal box in a simulated environment and Exeter West certainly fulfilled that. The signal box itself was moved to Crewe, piece by piece in railway wagons, from Exeter after it closed in 1985. The box now operates as a simulator operating just like it was before it closed even using an accurate timetable in real time, just with slightly different view out the window! Four friendly volunteers from the Exeter West Group very kindly gave their day to operate the box and show us how it worked. Everyone was able to have a go pulling the levers and ringing the bells under instruction; for most this was their first time operating a signal box. RailSoc members were also able to take a look at the restored Crewe ‘North Junction’ Signal box which was excellent to see and compare with the older Exeter West.

 Railsoc members in the Exeter West Signal Box at the Crewe Heritage Centre
 Railsoc members in the Exeter West Signal Box at the Crewe Heritage Centre

For those on the School of Engineering’s undergraduate railway engineering courses this was a great opportunity to reinforce lectures about signalling with a practical experience. We would like to take this opportunity to thank BCRRE for sponsoring our member’s rail transport on this trip.

RailSoc members pose for a photo with a class 68 locomotive at Birmingham Moor Street before heading to London Marylebone
RailSoc members pose for a photo with a class 68 locomotive at Birmingham Moor Street before heading to London Marylebone

Meeting up with other societies

On Wednesday 13th November we met up with three other university railway/transport societies at Imperial College London to network and gain an appreciation for how each society runs. To our knowledge, this is the first event of this kind in many years! The societies involved were:

  • Cambridge University Railway Club
  • Loughborough Velocity
  • Imperial College Transport Society
  • University of Birmingham Railway Society

Each society brought forward a round for a railway themed quiz, with competing teams being formed of a mix of members from each society. It was a great evening, enjoyed by all, and we hope this event will be the first of many!

This new-found inter-university collaboration continued at the end of November, when Loughborough Velocity kindly invited RailSoc to join them on a fascinating behind the scenes tour of Birmingham New Street station. Both societies then headed for Birmingham University to hear from Andrew Pennington of South Western Railway talk about the Operational Challengers of Fleet Introduction, focusing on the class 442 and class 701 projects. This proved to be Railsoc’s best attended event to date, including students from Aston University studying transport management who had headed over especially for it! Again, we hope to continue meeting up with other Rail/Transport students in the future.

Model railway social

It’s not all work and we held another one of our popular model railway socials where we set up a model railway and played trains for an evening.

Model railway social evening

RailSoc members’ evening with model railwaysVintage Trains, Tysley

To finish off the term RailSoc was kindly invited by Vintage Trains to spend an evening riding in their Directors Saloon hauled by a steam engine from Birmingham Moor Street. There was cheese and wine and an opportunity to learn about the work of Vintage Trains based locally at Tyseley Depot. “It was a truly amazing experience, what a way to finish 2019!”

RailSoc members' visit to Vintage Trains
RailSoc members’ visit to Vintage Trains


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