November 2011 Magazine
Society 40th Anniversary
As we approached the 40th anniversary of the Society we asked if any of the founding members would like to share their memories about the beginnings of the Society.
The early years of the Cardiff and Avonside Railway Society - Personal recollections from Tony Skinner
The origins of CARS could be said to start in 1968.
After initiating a shed bunking partnership the previous year, Mike Leverington and Tony Skinner joined the Worcester Locomotive Society (WLS) in order to participate in its organised coach tours. Initially this was from homes in Kent picking up the trips in Birmingham and London , but Mike Leverington went to university in Cardiff so started to take trips from the Worcester area pick ups. There he met Dave Conibere and others from the Bristol area.
At Cardiff in 1971 Mike Leverington met up with, amongst others, the substantial group of young spotters who used (the then) Cardiff General and Pengam Bridge as spotting locations. Between discussions within these gatherings and on WLS trips the idea of running their own trips from Cardiff and Bristol was born. At this time Mike Leverington was probably the oldest involved and he was coming up to 22 years old with many of those interested a lot younger. The idea of coach trips directly from Bristol and Cardiff was very attractive to the youngsters (and presumably a better option as far as their parents were concerned) and also the interests of the WLS organisers were focussing more on European and industrial steam visits.
Mike Leverington was persuaded by the others that where everyone really wanted to go was Manchester and Liverpool. So that became the first trip in March 1971.
It was a considerable success so other trips were organised in 1971. London in July, 2 day North in October, and Doncaster and Derby in December.
This was followed by the formal launch of the Society in January 1972, with a monthly news sheet, published trips programme and paid membership.
To start with, Dave Conibere did membership and the news sheet, Bob Chidgey got the copying done at his place of work and Mike Leverington did most other things. Progressively through 1972 a committee structure emerged, but it was only at the end of 1972 that a committee as we now know it really started to fall into place.
The 1972 trip programme was a further success organisationally but together with some problems hanging over from the 1971 trips, there were serious financial problems. There was a bank overdraft and monies owed to coach companies.
This was a difficult time for the fledgling Society with a certain amount of friction between individuals on the organising committee. The end result was that at the December 1972 committee meeting, the first for which there is a written record, it was decided that the Society would be controlled by committee and would operate without a Chairman. The problems both resolved and caused by that decision wandered on for quite a while. And they were not the only ones. Within the next two or three years other tough decisions had to be made about individuals in the best interests of the Society.
There were also external threats. Other groups were trying to set up coach trips for spotting along much the same lines as CARS. The rivalry did become quite personal for a few individuals.
The Society’s financial millstones were, in the end, removed primarily by nothing less than TOPS renumbering of the diesel and electric locomotive fleet. In those days there was not the instant access to data that we enjoy now. CARS was quick off the mark using the fleet renumbering information. Lists were typed up mainly in the waiting room at Temple Meads, copied and then sold to the hordes of spotters who wanted to know what was going on. The Society made a lot of money this way particularly in 1974.
With the trip finances under control, and with all being a bit older and wiser, things all became a bit more stable.
Where to end the story of the beginning? From the personal viewpoint of the writer, definitely the Society constitution. After the ‘who’s in control’ struggle at and from the end of 1972, for the writer (then General Secretary) the obvious way forward was to create an accountability of the committee to the members. So the Society Constitution was written in the summer of 1973 (when I was still only a very arrogant 19 year old!). It was announced to the membership and then formally adopted at the first Society AGM in 1974. And to my great personal satisfaction it is still today recognisably the same document from all those years ago.
08762 –Cemex, Washwood Heath, 20118 –Hope (LaFarge), 31128/461. 33021/103. 45112. 47375/488/744. 73103/105/114/117/134(BH)-BU (Nemisis?) QADD 57301/303/305/306/310/312
BH: 37419/425. CE: 08623. 67021. 90029. CG: 47805/839. 66411/412/413. CP: 90042. CS: 47746. Crewe DHS: 47747. DC: 08804. KM: 37411/416/417. TO: 60096. 66014/019. Boden Rail: 09022.
08428 –TO (Bescot), 08605 –TO (Hams Hall), 08711 –TO (Immingham), 08954. 09018 –BH, 09201 –TO ( Milford Junc), 57010 –KM, 59201. 60010/065. 66016/066 –TO, 66507/526 –LD, 67017/022 –CE.Disposals
Booth: 08909/951. 09024. 09203 Thomson: 08662/856. 09205. 56040/054/083 Sims-Newport: 08734 Hirst –Andover PWM 653 EMR –Kingsbury: 08393/514/646/664/783/798/842/844/854/866/921. 09011/020/023/107. 20032/072. 86226 Boston Docks Co: 09022. HNRC: 08389/685/905/918. NRM: 09017
Diesel Multiple Units
150108/126(TS)-PM ECHQ 180:101/105/107/112/114
172211, 331-333/337-341/343/345 –HQ
Electric Multiple Units
317708/709 –PQ, 719 -CC 508208/211 -ZG
379002/017/019/030 –IL 390054 -MA
Booth: Car 70293
Coaching & NPCC Stock
3223/40 -CP ECXX 5700/10. 9488. 10258. 12104/165. 44065/088/089. HAHQ 10256/260 ECHQ 40424/426/433. 41201/-206, 42401-42409 MBCS 4860. 3223/40. 93930
Booth: 1204 EMR (K): 80797 Raxstar: 5933/49/57/69/77/80. 6028/37 @ZG