Michael L. Roach
In the second half of the nineteen fifties I would occasionally cycle out to Plymouth Airport with a friend to watch the planes landing and taking off. The airport was situated at Roborough on the northern outskirts of the City with Dartmoor a short distance away as a backdrop. There were few scheduled flights but plenty of private aviation and if my memory serves me right trainee pilots from the Royal Navy Air Service were trained there for a number of years.
It was 90 years ago in 1933 that the first railway-operated air route was started by the enterprising Great Western Railway. The route was from Cardiff to Plymouth and return, twice a day, stopping at Haldon Aerodrome en-route for Exeter and Torquay. The aeroplane used was a 3-engine 6-seater Westland Wessex made at Yeovil and operated by Imperial Airways on behalf of the GWR. The first day was on Tuesday 11 April 1933 with public services starting next day. Much more about Imperial Airways on the internet. The attached article from the GWR Magazine for May 1933 explains all.
In a strange twist of fate none of the three airports used in the 1930s is still used as a functioning airport. Cardiff Municipal Airport was two miles south-east of the city centre on the coast and became RAF Pengam Moors for World War Two; it closed in 1954 when all services were transferred to the present Cardiff International Airport which is some miles west of the city. Haldon became a Royal Navy Air Station during World War Two but closed after the war. Meanwhile Plymouth Airport lies unused waiting for a white knight to save it from the ignominy of having housing built on it.
Plymouth Airport closed and ceased all operations 12 years ago on 23 December 2011. Since that time all the infrastucture has been mothballed at a reputed cost of £500,000 per annum. Most of the 113-acre site is owned by the City of Plymouth but it is let on a long lease to a local firm who wish to redevelop the site against the wishes of others who wish to see it reopened as an airport. One would hope that there is room for compromise with perhaps a smaller airport using helicopters to provide a link from Plymouth to the airports at Exeter, Bristol and Cardiff to feed passengers into the many long distance routes available at those three airports.
MLR / 11 December 2023
Happy Christmas to you and all the team from the two Michaels.
Two photos taken at dusk at Westbury on the shortest day of the year.
1) 66779 Evening Star at rest as darkness begins to set in. This was the last class 66 built for the UK market and is operated by GBRF who in recent times have increased their activities here. This in contrast to fellow freight company DB Cargo who have reported a countrywide 25% drop in traffic and a number of redundancies. Time to reflect on a not particularly good year with 2023 having seen the end of most HST operations in all but the far south west and DB Cargo retiring their remaining class 60 locos to store. 2024 looks like being the time to finally start catching up with updating several years of records.
2) 158762 shortly before departure on the 2M21 1623 to Swindon. The former buffet on P1, although well lit and in good condition is used only occasionally by a local rail users group and no longer available for general use.
I have enjoyed reading Mike Roach’s excellent articles about 1962 and the recent one regarding 5572 to which there was additional information supplied by Roy Hart. I was interested in the reference about the Dart Valley Railway being interested in the engine and that in the end the late Bob Saunders (he was very helpful to 4566 as well) kindly gave way and went for 4588 instead.
I have in my 4566 archive a letter addressed to the late Bob Sim (then Secretary, 4566 Preservation Society) from Dai Woodham dated 8th January 1970 referring to a letter (5.1.70) and deposit cheque for the engine. It states that another a letter had arrived the same day from the Dart Valley Railway who also wanted 4566. Mr Sim was requested to liase with the DVR to agree with them who was to have the engine.
In addition, the deposit was returned not because of the conflict of interest but and I found this quite amazing that Woodham Bros did not accept deposits until engines were successfully withdrawn from their present position in, the bays, to Barry Goods yard. The letter also states that Woodham’s Bros had notified the DVR of the position.
As things stand I have been unable to ascertain how our Group were successful in acquiring 4566 as both Bob Sim and David Rouse are no longer with us. I assume that there was some sort of agreement between the DVR and our Group and whilst I didn’t know about the interest in 5572 (similar situation?) this might be the reason 4588 was selected and subsequently acquired.
An additional snippet of information that might be of interest is that I also have a copy of the BR(W) Notice No.319 sheet three, 1962 which is headed “Sale of Condemned Locomotives for Demolition”. Please note that the following condemned locomotives will be forwarded to Barry Docks via Gloucester on the 3.25am Tavistock Junction to Swindon as under:
5572 ex Laira - Friday 20th July
5539 ex St Blazey - Monday 23rd July
4566 ex Laira - Tuesday 24th July (courtesy of Mike Roach’s excellent detailed records this train was hauled by 3854)
5521 ex Laira - Wednesday 25th July
Three of the movements 5539, 4566 & 5521 have red ticks alongside each and I have been told that these were actually witnessed by the original holder of this notice. As we know all of the above survived into preservation.
Another interesting letter I have is from a/the Sales Controller at the BR Board (Derby) stating that there appeared to be a misunderstanding on the re-sale of steam locomotives originally sold by the Board to Mr Woodham. Apparently it was Mr Woodham who had to obtain authority before re-sale to a third party as one of the contractual conditions of the sale was that the locomotive was sold for breaking up.
Furthermore, he then goes on to state that having cleared up that point he was prepared to allow the agreed price of the sale of 4566 to stand in light of the efforts made to raise the money. He also said he thought that in light of the original sale (BR to Woodham Bros) we should be grateful to Mr Woodham indeed for him allowing us to purchase 4566 at the price suggested as he thought it was well below the current scrap value of the locomotive and did not in his opinion represent anything like todays value!
He informed Mr Woodham of his decision and left us to progress the matter with him.
Is it me or do I get the impression that this gentleman was none too happy about steam engines being preserved?
Keep up the good work.
May I take this opportunity to wish you and all Cornwall Railway Society members a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
4566 Preservation Group
Hello Keith and Valerie, Another year is rapidly coming to an end and Christmas approaching too quickly.
We hope you are in good health and continuing to enjoy life.
Age is catching up with us but we manage to keep going although at a slower pace.
We have been very active with Waterloo Central Railway who recently produced this video.
June and her team were responsible for decorating the interiors of all five coaches, a mammoth effort.
I have been doing security duty on both day and evening shift at the Shop. 1600 to 2230h simply wears me out.
Not sure of the people count but we have operated over 125 trains this Christmas season.
Two more days/evenings and we are finished for this year.
Very little snow so far this season, minus 3C today with plus10C forecasted for Christmas day - that's not Canadian !
Here's wishing you both, a most Happy Christmas and good health in the New Year.
June and Victor.
From: Victor Menhennet [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: December 18, 2023 12:30 PM
To: 'Victor Menhennet'