LUPTS history: running the Society 

The Society’s week to week activities were based around a series of Ordinary General Meetings (OGMs), meetings at which all members, and guests, were encouraged to attend.   During its 33 year existence, nearly 700 meetings were held (an average of 21 per year), a phenomenal number when you consider that many comparable societies outside the student environment struggle to put on programmes of more than 8-10 meetings a year. 

The purpose of an OGM was to permit the Committee to report to the membership and to provide some sort of entertainment, normally by way of a guest speaker or a film show.   Frequently the Committee business was entertainment enough in itself. 

The meeting would be opened by the Chairman.   LUPTS was never known for prompt starts; a 17:00 meeting would rarely start before 17:20 or so.   The Chairman’s responsibilities were to welcome the members and any guest speaker, publicly thank members for their attendance on any trip since the last meeting and pass over to the Secretary.   The Secretary would then provide details of forthcoming meetings and trips before passing over to the Treasurer who would report on the state of the Society’s finances.   Other Committee members would then have their say.   A regular report in the minutes book would be that of the Journal Editor (often the Chairman again) and the Photographic Competition Secretary (usually some keen fresher) “making the usual noises”, a cryptic way of saying that it was only a few days until the last date for the submission of Photo Comp entries or Journal articles and that none of either had been received. 

The Chairman then opened the meeting to the floor for General Business.   This was an opportunity for members to contribute news items which they thought would be of interest to others.   As such, the records of General Business make a contemporaneous history book, although historians should be aware that the accuracy of reports could not always be guaranteed.   Jonathan Cadwallader’s article “Taken as read” in the 1979 Journal quotes some particularly erroneous examples, including the “fact” that “... the last Liverpool rear-loading bus was withdrawn in 1961 [actually 1976] and at that time all Liverpool buses were painted silver [actually 12 out of a fleet of nearly 1300]”. 

General Business could be quite a protracted affair.   A speaker, having been told that the meeting started at 17:00, and discovering that it was running 15 minutes late, would further find that 45 minutes or even longer would be taken up with the preamble.   Eventually though the Chairman would get round to introducing him.   It was always a him, as far as can be ascertained LUPTS never had a female guest speaker. 

It was the Secretary’s job to ensure a wide and varied programme of subjects, given the differing interests of the members.   Faced with a blank sheet at the beginning of his tenure, he had the summer vacation to draw up his programme.   In spite of having to fill about 25 meetings a year (10 each in the Michaelmas and Spring term and 5 in the Summer) it was not quite as daunting a task as it sounds.   Some meetings fell into place automatically: the Chairman’s introduction to LUPTS for freshers, the Photographic Competition, an evening of British Transport Films, the Chairman’s own talk and several sessions of members’ slides, the latter usually being the last meeting of each term and on other occasions if a guest speaker had to cancel at short notice. 

To these can be added regular talks by the “Old Fogeys”.   This was an unusual feature of LUPTS meetings; what was supposed to be a student society was also attended by ex members, on a regular basis by some of those who remained in the area and on an occasional basis by those who moved away.   The Old Fogeys are probably the reason that LUPTS retained its continuity over the years.   A scan down the list of guest speakers since 1973 confirms this fact, with Jonathan Cadwallader (21), Alan Atkinson (14) and Andy Babbs (10) being the most regular performers. 

The very first OGM was number 2, meeting number 1 having been the open meeting held on Thursday 25 November 1958.   Meeting number 2 took place on 9 December 1958, the speaker being the Society President, Allan Patmore, talking on “The Enthusiast”.   He put forward a number of “rules” for transport enthusiasm (repeated in a later LUPTS journal): avoid intolerance by recognising that the other fellow’s enthusiasm is just as valid as one’s own, avoid introspection by seeking to widen one’s own areas of interest and, thirdly, avoid inaction by making positive contributions to the hobby.   Many LUPTS members over the years subconsciously followed these principles laid down at the first meeting and developed interests way beyond those which they possessed when they initially joined LUPTS. 

The Photographic Competition became a regular part of the LUPTS programme and, over the years, the Society was host to the editors of many enthusiast journals such as John Slater of Railway Magazine, John Parke of Buses and S W Stevens-Stratten of Model Railway Constructor.   The competition gained a national audience on a number of occasions when the judge was prepared to publish the winning entries in his magazine.   Railway World (July 1971), Modern Railways (May 1978) and Railway Magazine (October 1987) are three examples of this happening. 

It is not possible here to comment on all the outside speakers but the fact that some were invited back on a regular basis is a good indication of the quality of their presentations.   A selection of “serial guests” is: Alf Jacob, with his historic films of Liverpool trams, David Clark, with a variety of bus and rail topics, Andy Lowe, with slides of his travels round the world, and David Armstrong, with a selection of his “30000 slides, all filed under M for miscellaneous”.   LUPTS had to keep up to date with the latest technology; one of DA’s talks (in 1985) consisted of he and Alan Johnson leading a debate on the Government White Paper “Buses”, including (to quote the minutes book) “... the first video recording ever to have been shown at a LUPTS meeting”.    

Presumably LUPTS had more success with that piece of technology than with the epidiascope which it hired to allow Professor R Steve Polkinghorn, a visiting professor to Liverpool from California, to show his priceless prints of sugar pine logging railroads.   As Professor Polkinghorn spoke, the audience looked at the screen where the epidiascope was on the verge of causing irreparable damage to some of the prints.   Problems were regularly experienced with more basic visual aids such as slide projectors.   In the early days, LUPTS had its own which used to blow fuses on a regular basis.  The problem was eventually ‘solved’ either by putting silver paper in place of the fuse or by dispensing with the plug and poking the wires directly into the socket.   Later projectors, provided by Guild’s Technical Committee, were not really any better.   Tom Kane’s comb passed into folklore because of its regular ‘Thunderbird’ duty of removing jammed slides from the Carousel. 

A number of nationally known figures in the transport world spoke at LUPTS: Patrick Whitehouse of the Birmingham Railway Museum, BR Managers Richard Hardy and Bill Bradshaw, the Rev Teddy Boston, J C Boyd, prolific author on narrow gauge railways, and David Jenkinson of the National Railway Museum.   It was often regrettable that attendances were embarrassingly low at some of these meetings; in the case of Patrick Whitehouse, 14 turned up to the Stanley Theatre which could accommodate 20 times that number.    

The hiring of British Transport Films was another regular event.   LUPTS was able to hire the films for the day and BR usually sent along Bob Bell from Rail House to set them up in the projector.   It is an interesting comparison that it is now possible to buy these films on video for much the same price as it cost to hire them for a day 20 years ago.   Geoffrey Calvert, the society’s first HVP, used to host his presentations in the Mechanical Engineering Department rather than in the Students’ Union in order to include fluid mechanics demonstrations. 

Most presentations were of a high standard, although Alan Atkinson did comment in the 1983 Journal (the 25th Anniversary edition) that he recalled “... many meetings addressed by members showing countless slides depicting the grimy remnants of BR’s steam locomotive stock”.   He also remembers a slide show by Barrie Towey consisting of “ behind that fence”, where no loco could be seen, and culminating in a blurred image at an angle when he fell down a hole and fired the shutter. 

A meeting in 1981 (names omitted for legal reasons) was perhaps the worst.   The title of the talk was “Transport in the Isle of Man”; the slides and ciné included pictures of a black background with a white light in the middle, which the speaker assured the audience was something like “... tram 19 at Laxey”.   In the audience were two female LUPTS members who actually lived on the Isle of Man.   By the end of the talk, they felt that they had to point out that “Port Erin” was in fact “Port St Mary”, along with a number of other factual errors.   Some members arrived too late for this meeting, the speaker managing to get through all of his material in 20 minutes and the meeting closed 61 minutes after it opened.   As a postscript to this event, in 1989 the then Secretary, Tim Jenkins, invited the same speaker back, thinking that the abusive comments in the Secretary’s address book were meant ironically. 

Many meetings passed into LUPTS folklore for the right reasons though.   One was Edward Piercey’s talk in 1982 (OGM 477) which was reviewed by Nick Richardson in the minutes book as follows, and sums up the general feel of the best meetings:


“The Main Business of the evening was supplied by Mr Piercey who spoke about Transport 1920 to 1980.   He spoke on this until the meeting was closed at 18:47 but continued talking about other things for some time.   Where other than LUPTS does a talk on Transport 1920 to 1980 result in discussion on compulsory purchase in Russia, or how to get arrested in Yugoslavia, or dogs in Burnley?”


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Last updated: 05 March 2002

© Charles Roberts/LUPTS 2001/2002

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