We’ve got the signal, doors are closed, the guard has blown the whistle, we’ve got the right away and we’re off bang on time! The University of Birmingham Railway Society has got off to an amazing start in our first year. We started in the autumn as a handful of first years with an idea and a hastily organised stand at the EPS Societies Fair. Now we’ve got a mailing list of 70 people, most of whom have enjoyed at least one of our events so far. The Society’s aim is to cater for both a professional and casual interest in railways and we’ve certainly done both in our first year.
On the professional side we have formed a strong link with the Birmingham Centre for Rail Research and Education who run the degree programs that many of our members study on. We have visited Cross Country Trains head office not just once, but twice! The first visit was to the Control Team who manage the day-to-day running of their train service. The second visit was to the Train Planning Unit who ran a train planning awareness course for RailSoc members. This was the first time that this course had been undertaken by anyone outside of Cross Country Trains so it really was a privilege. We also visited Kings Heath Depot and the National Training Academy for Rail (NTAR) in Northampton. We were able to see inside the depot well out of the public eye to see how Siemens carries out its train maintenance for the London North Western Railway Fleet. NTAR is a unique facility for training rail staff in both classrooms and a workshop with real train components.
Another highlight for this year was our trip to the Exeter West Signal Box at Crewe Heritage Centre. Railsoc members enjoyed an opportunity to operate the signal box and simulate the passage of trains under instruction. We also enjoyed guided tours of the heritage centre which was closed to the public on the day we visited. In a similar style we also visited the Severn Valley Railway’s Kidderminster Diesel Depot and carriage shed for a tour around the facilities. It was excellent to see up close the work being undertaken by volunteers on the heritage locomotives and carriages.
We also dabbled in social events, something we are looking to expand in the future. The highlight of these was our collaboration with ‘Bad Film Soc’ to watch The Titfield Thunderbolt, a film about a group of villagers who decide to run their own railway after British Rail closed it.
We’re not finished for this academic year yet, we’re working a number of events for after exams including one where members will get to drive a full size train! Watch this space for our next report!
As you can see we’ve had a tremendous first year and we’ll be celebrating with the other College student groups at the EPS Societies’ Awards in June. Please nominate us for an Award if you’re impressed with what we’ve done in just 6 months!
Co-Founder and RailSoc President, 2018/19