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The Probus Club of Stokesley and District

Minutes of the 363rd meeting held at 10.00 in Stokesley Town Hall on Tuesday 17th April 2018:

Speaker Ted Parker: ‘Steam

Ted gave his third talk to Probus, having previously delivered ‘By train across China’ in

January 2014 and ‘China Part 2’ in August 2015. This was entitled ‘Steam’ instead of the

advertised ‘Trans-Siberian Railway’. He had decided that the latter was too long. Ted was

born in Sheffield in 1949. He started work as a photographer for BISRA in 1969. In 1989, he

went freelance and set up Action TV. He has published 3 books on railways. His talk was

based on a DVD showing interesting and contrasting rail journeys in South Africa,

Zimbabwe, Ukraine, Siberia and China.

The DVD was a very good mixture of railways and local interest. The first part covered a

journey on a chartered train from South Africa to Victoria Falls and back again in 1991. In

South Africa, steam locomotives were still in use and in Zimbabwe, diesel was just being

introduced. In South Africa, coal was plentiful and prolonging the life of steam locomotives

made good sense. As well as excellent views of the train passing through varied and

beautiful countryside, we saw views of wild life and a South African male voice choir. The

train stopped in Messina, the most northern town in South Africa, where the 12 nationalities

in the travelling party fascinated local residents. Having crossed the border into Zimbabwe,

the train made a visit to the Bulawayo steam depot. There were many Garratt locomotives

which were not as well maintained as the engines in South Africa. Water, oil and ash were

everywhere and steam seemed to leak from every joint. From Bulawayo, the train travelled

to Victoria Falls through the bush and we saw baboons playing on the line. The train crossed

the bridge over the Zambezi and the film showed many giraffe and antelopes. At Barkley

Oos, the kids were delighted to see it, but the local mayor expressed displeasure that she

had not been notified of the visit and could not organise a welcome! Finally they visited

Dordrecht where they had lunch at the George Hotel.

The next part was in Ukraine in mid-winter in 2004. Gone was the beautiful weather and the

party was very well wrapped up. The locomotives were Russian built 2-10-2s but all were at

the ends of their working lives and in poor condition. The snow was several feet deep and

the train was hauled by two locos through the Carpathian Mountains. There were dramatic

views of the wild countryside. In Russia, the party travelled on a train to St. Petersburg which

was celebrating the 100th anniversary of the opening of the line. This was pulled by a P36

loco especially repainted to mark the occasion. Unfortunately, the engine ran a wheel

bearing and had to be replaced by two much less smart old locos. However the

compartment was very comfortable and the journey continued after the delay. We saw a

music group play at Lake Baikal. Continuing into Mongolia, we saw footage of Ted travelling

on the footplate.

From Russia, the party flew on to China and we saw pictures of mountains in Siberia, a huge

opencast coal mine and the Great Wall of China. This trip was before the advent of mass

tourism. When they travelled to the industrial city of Fuxin in the north of the country, they

found a very poor and polluted place. There were open sewers in the streets and people

lived in abject poverty with many employed in rubbish picking.