LUPTS history: trips 

In parallel with meetings, LUPTS organised extensive programmes of visits.    One of the bonuses of student life (which still remains today) is that Wednesday afternoons are left free of lectures and tutorials to allow students to pursue outside interests, particularly sporting ones for those of that inclination.   Thus LUPTS, from its earliest days, was able to offer Wednesday afternoon trips. 

These would take a variety of different forms, albeit with the constraints that departure was usually not until after midday and, given that the majority of the academic year is during the months with shorter daylight hours, distance would be limited to allow photographs to be taken.   Thus, for the most part, Wednesday afternoon trips would be limited to Merseyside, Manchester, Cheshire and North Wales. 

In the early days this was not a problem.   Liverpool alone had six engine sheds and virtually every junction had its own signalbox, for almost all of which it was possible to obtain permits.   Many industrial locations had their own railway systems, most of them using steam.   Bus operators were widespread in the pre Passenger Transport Executive days and the trolleybus systems of Manchester and Ashton were still in operation.   Transport to and from these visits was by public transport, students’ cars or by minibus.    

Saturdays gave the opportunity to travel further afield and, particularly during the Easter vacation and after the summer exams, these trips were extended over several days with accommodation being in cheap bed and breakfast or, occasionally, under canvas. 

The first ever officially organised LUPTS visit was to the control centre and ventilation towers of the Mersey Tunnel on Wednesday 18 February 1959.   The first Saturday trip was on 14 March 1959 to the Manchester Victoria to Bury line to travel on the soon to be replaced 1916 built ex Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway stock.   Indeed many of the trips over the years, particularly in the 1960s, took the form of ‘last rites’ and it almost became a race against time to cover as much as possible.   LUPTS parties managed to visit most of the remaining tramway systems as, or just before, they closed: Leeds in 1959, Sheffield in 1960, Grimsby & Immingham in 1961 and, as described in more detail in the following section, Glasgow. 

Other transport modes were represented as well.   The first of many visits to Speke Airport took place in June 1959 and there were also trips to the Manchester Ship and Llangollen Canals in the early years.   Chris Bennett remembers one trip to the Llangollen Canal to meet up with Geoffrey Calvert on his own canal boat.   The trip became an experiment in human propulsion, the students taking it in turns to haul the boat from the towpath. 

Alan Murray-Rust gives a flavour of some of the early weekend minibus trips:


“Minibus trips invariably involved leaving late on Friday night and driving overnight to the first port of call.   Saturday night would be spent in suitably low priced B&B (but not doss house!) ending with a late night arrival in Liverpool on Sunday.


“The quality of vehicles in the early days left much to be desired.   On the South Wales trip [March 1963] there were two vehicles involved, a Commer and a Ford Thames.   The Commer boiled dry in remotest mid-Wales in the middle of the night and had to be filled from a stream using thermos flask cups.   The Ford had ill-fitting rear doors which had to be kept closed.   It also had battery problems requiring it to be bump started.   The one side door (other than the normal passenger door) was hinged at the rear and tended to swing open if the pushing party was not careful.   At Dyffryn it did just this and rammed itself into the level crossing main post.   The result was that when the door had finally been persuaded to fit in its opening, the pushing party thereafter had to pile in through the passenger door.


“In either 1964 or 65 we had a Bedford Dormobile which made it back on sidelights and intermittent wipers, again due to inadequate battery charging.   It was touch and go whether we would get back.”


From a similar era, Bryan Pyne remembers working parties to the Festiniog Railway:


“We were working unloading and screening spent ballast from BR wagons into FR wagons in the Minffordd transfer yard, then some general clearing up for a spare rail dump.   We must have passed muster, as we were then given a short stretch about ¼ mile above Minffordd station to reballast, with some partial resleepering.


“We stayed at a very good camping ground at a farm on the headland just behind Boston Lodge.   One memorable thing that happened was that we pitched a stores tent in a convenient hollow, only to find it about two feet deep in water after a violent thunderstorm when we returned one evening.”


In connection with these working party visits, LUPTS used to count amongst its assets the likes of buckets and potato peelers, no doubt long since disposed of. 

The Beeching axe and the end of steam gave LUPTS many visit opportunities.   Speke Junction engine shed was a place regularly visited in the period up to 1968 as it was used as the staging point for withdrawn steam locos en route to the scrapyard.   On a happier note, LUPTS was able to visit many fledgling preservation schemes, the Foxfield and Severn Valley being two which were visited as early as the late 1960s. 

Again it is impossible to single out individual visits at the expense of others but a place which always provided a wealth of stories was the White Moss Peat Company’s railway on the outskirts of Kirkby.   This was a 2'-0" gauge industrial railway running on sectioned track which was lifted and relaid each time a new peat seam was developed.   Never designed for passengers, this didn’t daunt the LUPTS party, who travelled in the peat wagons themselves.   (The Health and Safety Executive would probably have something to say nowadays.)   Operating problems were frequent and, on one visit, the coupling between two wagons of the train containing the LUPTS party broke.   Thinking quickly (a trait not always associated with LUPTS members) those in the trailing wagon, by this time distancing itself from the rest of the train, made a grab for the wagon in front and formed a human coupling.   One of them then noticed a chain in the wagon and managed to use it to couple the two wagons together.  Unfortunately, the chain was several feet long and the resultant snatching led to the inevitable derailment.  

A 1976 visit is worthy of mention as well.   LUPTS had asked to visit the railway system at Pilkington’s Cowley Hill Works and the Secretary, Dave Ventry, had duly written off asking for a visit on a particular date.   Unfortunately he failed to notice that Pilkington’s reply, though agreeing to the visit, gave an alternative later date.  The LUPTS party thus arrived eight weeks ahead of schedule but, generously, Pilkington’s allowed the visit to take place and gave LUPTS a brake van tour of the whole system at 30 minutes notice. 

As the years went by, trips became more difficult to organise because many of the ‘old favourites’ were closing in those days of rationalisation.   Whereas in 1959/60 the problem had been one of deciding which places to leave out, by the late 1980s it was more a case of where was still left within the range of a Wednesday afternoon trip.   Declining membership and an increasing reliance on support from the Old Fogeys, for whom Wednesday afternoon was a working one, led to the virtual end of Wednesday afternoon trips some time before the demise of the Society itself, as is explained later.


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Last updated: 04 March 2002

© Charles Roberts/LUPTS 2001/2002

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