As a small boy in the 1950s I'd listen to old folk chin-wagging
over back yard walls, moaning in general about life's ups and downs, and
wondering where all the years had gone. I hadn't a clue what they were talking
about, but now I'm their age, I'm just the same…the time seems to have flown by.
Of course, everyone reaches an age when they notice a conspicuous slowing down in energy levels and aching knee joints make climbing stairs more difficult. All things considered this is happening to me right now, but I refuse to let advancing years get me down...I just crack open another bottle of wine...it usually does the trick!
Still I can't ignore the fact that there is a generation of post-war baby boomers now well past their prime. This includes countless hundreds of thousands of ex-train spotters with some truly remarkable stories to tell about their childhood spotting days in the 1950s, but not everyone is interested in our 'gung-ho' spotting adventures from sixty-odd years ago. Perhaps they think we're making it all up?
Whatever the reason, why is it that young people today regard OAPs as having nothing to say that's worth listening to? They've simply written us off as a bunch of grumpy old codgers, constantly moaning about declining standards, and because we refuse to pander to liberal opinion we end up being marginalised, almost criminalised - a slight exaggeration, perhaps, but it'll do for starters.
I'm talking about the calamitous affects of mass immigration, the chronic abuse of our foreign aid budget, the grubby world of politics and dodgy Eurocrats who make up the rules to suit themselves. In short, this crazy world is getting madder by the day and Britain is not the same country we were born and voted for all our lives...oh dear, don't get me going!
Okay, I'll stop there before this turns into a rant…after all this introduction is intended to be a cheery stroll down memory lane; a website built especially for train spotters, all of whom are like old friends dropping in to wallow in some old-fashioned nostalgia - it is them, more than anyone, that makes this site such a joy to work on…
(Above) Doing what countless thousands of schoolboys loved best on a sunny weekend in the 1950s; this shot by RE Toop is a favourite photo from steam days when train spotting was the national hobby for youngsters and large groups like this could be found congregating at every major railway station. This group of boys in blazers and schoolcaps are flanked by 'Hall' class No 6958 Oxburgh Hall and 'Castle' class 7029 Clun Castle at the west end of Bristol Temple Meads station on Saturday 8th May 1954.
(Below) Now in my Seventies, my eyesight and hearing might not be what it used to be, but the memories I have of train spotting are still intact, and so too is a weakness for seeing the funny side of growing old. I must spend the best part of the day sending myself up…and why not? A sense of humour helps to cope with the daily struggle of getting a pair of shoes on the correct feet every morning or remembering to zip up my flies before popping out to the shops. Okay, perhaps a miserablist streak of humour isn't everyone's cup of tea, but a bit of clowning around is a good way of deflecting the sniggering cynicism being meted out by today's stony-faced hoi-polloi, not that I care what they think about our hobby - I don't. In this shot below, a couple of young spotters are awaiting their next 'cop' while a meditative teenager contemplates Britain's balance of payments deficit and the driver of 'Jinty' 0-6-0T has a fag break, doubtless looking forward to the end of his shift and a pint at his local BRSA Club.
A warm welcome to the new Second Edition of the collection, a website full of memories from a gentler, more innocent age when the post-war baby-boom was at its height and kids climbed trees, played hopscotch in the street and rode bikes without brakes, all of which is a far cry from today's mamby-pamby society. Life back then was something of a 'Boy's Own' adventure, if you like...but how time flies!
Fast-forward 50-odd years and my doddering generation is now well past its prime, yet the ageing process does have its advantages - it gives us a chance to draw on feelings that we were unable to express as small boys.
That's why this website is pitched in a light-hearted fashion. After all, the hobby cuts no ice in today's hard-nosed society and this is especially the case at the parties I'm invited, where the people I meet are constantly looking over my shoulder in case someone more interesting enters the room.
Their behavioural tic becomes more frantic when I do my favourite party trick, a tongue-twister...it works best if you pinch your nose and speak in a high-pitched train announcer's voice; it adds pathos to the drama!
'The train now standing at platform four is the five o' four for Forfar, calling at Fife. The first four coaches are for Forfar...the far five for Fife. The first four reach Forfar at four fifty-four and the far five at Fife at five forty-five!'
Okay, you're probably thinking there's a village missing an idiot somewhere so I'll stop larking around. After all, there is a serious side to this site too. It is the growing sense that if we lose sight of our past then we may as well say goodbye to the future.
For many spotters the end of steam overshadowed everything, but locking away one's feelings will not dispose of them, rather it evokes a lot more feelings besides. Once you start unearthing childhood memories long lost in the mists of time a much bigger story starts to unfold; you begin to develop an extraordinary affection for old red telephone boxes, Dinky Toys, Hornby Dublo trains, Vespa scooters, frog-eyed Sprites, old bangers with running boards and starting handles - even women PCs in stockings and suspenders. Indeed much of what has disappeared during the past fifty years means something special to someone in one form or other, especially BR steam in everyday service.
Today countless thousands of ex-spotters still bear the emotional scars of abandoning their allegiance to steam during the 1960s. Many abstained from the hobby as a matter of principle, others in reluctant surrender, but whatever the reason the overall feeling was that as steam had outlived its usefulness, then so had our interest in trains - a view in which we managed to persist until the bitter finale came in August 1968, and just five steam locomotives were left: 3 Black 5s Nos 44781, 44871, 45110; a solitary 8F No 48448 and the last working 'Britannia' No 70013 Olver Cromwell.
Sadly, after the '15 Guinea Special' ran on August 11th 1968 (costing over £216 in today's money) it was all over and train spotting would never be the same again. The huge crowds gathered by the lineside to watch BR's last steam-hauled train was quite extraordinary; indeed when you start to delve into the psyche of the spotting fraternity it is difficult to differentiate between out-and-out dedication and mental illness...
...this reminds me of the tale about a hard-core enthusiast who bought two tickets for the '15 Guinea Special'. As he settled into his seat by the window, another man asked if anyone was sitting in the seat opposite him.
'No', he replied, 'the seat is empty….'
'Really!' said the man surprised, 'Who in their right mind would buy a 15 guinea ticket and not use it?'
'Well, actually the seat belongs to me. My wife was meant to be here, but she passed away.'
'Oh, I'm sorry to hear that...I guess you couldn't find someone else, such as a friend or relative to take the seat?'
'No, they're all at the funeral,' he replied.
THE PSYCHE OF A TRAIN SPOTTER
Watching small children playing with toys can reveal a wealth of information about a child's development and the way gender stereotyping is established early on in infancy. Inherent in every girl is a passion for playing with dolls and clip-clopping around the house in mum's high-heeled shoes, whereas small boys have an unashamed passion for big machines - and the bigger, noisier and dirtier the better!
If I had to run an appraising eye over the big machines I recall as a child - cranes, tipper trucks and diggers; to say nothing of double-decker buses and trams - then nothing could stimulate a rash of goose-pimples in quite the same way as the sight and sound of a hard-working steam locomotive; back in the 1950s the everyday spectacle of BR steam left an indelible impression on countless thousands of youngsters and not surprisingly train spotting became the national hobby for boys.
Indeed all boys like to form strong emotional bonds at a very early age. The need for bonding comes from the desire for social approval and a sense of fitting in with the crowd, either by joining a gang or becoming a member of a club or team.
The same requisite exists in today's digital age, except youngsters today interact in the anonymity of cyberspace by sending endless streams of tweets, emails and texts - none of which comes close to real human contact. If you ask me, a mobile phone is the technological equivalent of a spoiled little brat constantly demanding attention from a doting parent...but then much the same can be said for running a railway website, I am constantly at its beck and call.
Of course, back in the less-worldly 1950s the world was a very different place. With no computer games and mobile phones to distort a youngster's sensibilities, most kids liberated their youthful exuberance by knocking on one another's doors to rally mates into a marathon game of hopscotch, football or cricket in the street. And the fact that it involved old-fashioned rough and tumble gave us an even closer connection. In short, there is no substitute for face-to-face interaction.
(Below) Widely known in spotting circles was a boy's susceptibility to a condition described by analysts as 'unconscious suggestion' - more commonly known as mass hysteria, a classic example being the outpouring of emotion at stations along the East Coast Main Line where the Class A4 Pacifics dominated the Anglo-Scottish expresses. On hearing a Class A4 'Streak's' tri-tone whistle in the distance the interaction among spotters was immediate; a chain reaction of high-octane excitement, we simply couldn't help ourselves; we just got swept along by the raw emotion of it all…In the harsh winter of 1962, Class A4 60028 Walter K Whigham speeds south through Hitchin whilst a Brush Type 2 D5653 awaits departure on a local train.
(Above) With notebooks and pencils at the ready, here is an orderly group of train spotters. No, they're not! They are a 'spick and span' version of how the media envisage us! Well, at the risk of sounding sexist I can't imagine the little girl's handbag is chockful with Ian Allan abc books and jam butties! And just look at Lord Snooty on the right...he's straight out of 'Beano' comic. Not a Bash Street kid in sight! This well-mannered group are featured in a promotional film: 'British Locomotives -1959 Steam Trains, Diesel Trains, Electric Trains' by Greenpark Productions in association with the Film Production Guild. You'll see shades of the famous 'Elizabethan' film in the opening shot of an EE Co Type 4 D208 at speed! Click here to watch this enjoyable 20-minute film uploaded by 'wdtvlive42' on 'Youtube'.
A BIG THANK YOU TO EVERYONE FOR CONTRIBUTING TO THE SITE
Not long ago I bumped into an old spotting chum called Bonzo, a somewhat abrasive character I hadn't seen in years; in many ways it should have been a joyous meeting, but I hadn't bargained on him being the same self-opinionated bully I remember from childhood...not everyone mellows with age.
With hindsight I was a fool for giving way to him during our spotting trips in the Fifties and early Sixties, but being two years his junior made a lot of difference at that age.
However fast-forward to the present day and the two-year age gap means diddly-squat. Not wanting to put too finer point on it, once you get past the 'Big Six-0' and your Seventieth has come and gone, you become acutely aware of your own mortality and the old cliché 'life's too short' carries a lot more clout in the autumnal years of your life. Not that I'm complaining, I thought I'd be pushing up daises by now, so I'm grateful I've got this far.
Had anyone asked me ten years ago what my plans were for retirement, the last thing on my mind would be running a railway website, but having reached retirement age I've spent many enjoyable hours strolling down memory lane back to spotting days. Then in 2007 I decided to build a website to showcase some old rail photos and to provide a platform for anyone else willing to share their train spotting memories on the web.
Since then the site has just grown and grown, though I couldn't have done it on my own; it's all thanks to dozens of writers and photographers - kindred spirits each and everyone - who've dug out their prized negatives, prints and slides for publication on the Internet.
Indeed, I'm grateful to every single contributor, the majority of whom are pensionable age and have succeeded in embracing this new fangled digital technology - not easy when you can't remember what you did two minutes ago! Above all else, they've abandoned the old-fashioned notion that publishing their photos on the web will somehow reduce the currency of their work…it doesn't!
The Internet provides a perfect showcase for anyone genuinely driven to give something back to their hobby; indeed everyone on this site have willingly contributed to this project for its own sake with no prospect of financial gain, just the satisfaction of creation...rare qualities indeed in a world obsessed with money and cheap fame...
NEW TO THE INTERNET? HERE'S A FEW TIPS FOR FIRST-TIME VISITORS...
A warm welcome to the growing band of 'Silver Surfers' new to the Internet. You're never too old to learn. Harking back to the old days before the World Wide Web (www) was launched in 1989, there was nothing I liked better than browsing through the pages of old railway magazines…I've kept back issues of 'Trains Illustrated' and 'Railway Magazine' in the bottom of my wardrobe for donkey's years.
Odd then that it took me so long to surf the largest railway archive in the world on the Internet. When I started with a computer back in 2007 I found the 'drag and click mouse' jargon a bit baffling at first, but once I got going it was great to log on and search through the thousands of railway sites.
Trouble is, surfing the 'communications super highway' is a daunting task unless you know what you're doing. Over the years, the World Wide Web has become a victim of its own success, and the information overload - the sheer volume of material it contains - can take a lot of digesting.
However, the World Wide Web is a fantastic communications tool that allows people from all over the world to keep in touch via the miracle of electronic mail; it provides a wonderful opportunity to meet some really interesting people online…I say meet, you don't actually meet anyone in person, of course, we exist only in one another's hermitically-sealed world of cyberspace and exchange greetings on a keyboard.
Indeed there is something liberating about being online, particularly for the elderly whose mental agility might be impaired by advancing years. As you get older the mind can play the daftest tricks…it does with me; very often I'll be in the middle of a deep meaningful conversation and my mind is like a waste paper bin overflowing with unfinished sentences because I've forgotten a particular name or word! In the most severe cases this missing word may take days, even weeks before I can retrieve it, but by then it's too late - I have no use for a word like 'Steam Cock' when I'm queuing in a supermarket.
However, the inability to remember what I am about to say next never happens to me online, but even if it did I still have the aid of a spell checker and thesaurus. Plus the 'save-draft' option is very useful as it allows me to take as long as I like to communicate via an email without lulling the recipient into a comatose state because my mind is a total blank.
Mind you I rarely get the chance to meet up personally, as David Platt and I did recently at Birch Services on the M62 - just a pair of old geezers gassing about trains, a subject very close to both our hearts. Between infuriating long pauses, I was thinking about something quite different at the time; I was trying to remember if I'd left the immersion heater on at home - it turns out that David is something of an expert on railway jigsaw puzzles and has created a new website dedicated to the subject - click here for link. The site includes an illustration of a painting I did (left) for the Rocket 150 Celebrations at Rainhill in 1980, which was reproduced as a jigsaw puzzle along with 'Lion at Rainhill' (below). David is also the author of a book - 'Steam Trains and Jigsaw Puzzles' (right).
However, a word of caution when surfing the World Wide Web…it's simply a matter of using your noggin; indeed you're probably an open-minded sort of person in the normal way, but really - would you want to invite every Tom, Dick and Harry to access your bank account and rummage through your private life? No, me neither. There are countless websites that deal with internet security…it's worth taking a peek at this link below just to be on the safe side...
Also there has been a lot of bad press lately concerning the harmful effects of the Internet, such as the rise in cyber crime and bullying trolls, and in particular there is a lot of criticism about the way the Internet provides access to evil child pornography and other online extremism.
This was brought to a head recently when Sir James Mulby, the country's most senior family law judge, commented - 'The Internet allows anyone, effectively at the click of a mouse, to publish whatever they wish. The consequence is that the Internet is awash with material couched in the most exaggerated, extreme, offensive and often defamatory terms, much of which has only tenuous connection with objectively verifiable truth.'
Strong words indeed, but he does have a point.
However we must not forget that there is also a fantastic amount of good things to be found on the Internet. It gives everyone super-quick access to every subject under the sun, which, for a serious student seeking the definitive answer to even the fuzziest question is a real boon.
Of course, this new-fangled digital thingamajig called the Internet will look completely alien to the first-time silver surfers, who've probably spent their whole lives traipsing back and forth to and from the public library scouring for books and think the Internet is far too complicated for them to master.
Oh, but master it they will. It's simply a matter of getting your head around all the nonsensical jargon...for example, if we turn the clock back to the days before we had computers, a 'hard drive' was a long trip on the road; 'memory' was something you lost with age; a web was something that spiders spun and a 3½" floppy - well, that's nobody's business but your own!
ARCHIVING THE WEBSITE
By the end of 2015 the site hit a BIG snag! It had just grown and grown over the years until it was full to bursting, and since I had used up Mr Site's maximum permitted one hundred pages I was stuck in the middle with no place to turn.
Then like manna from heaven, at the beginning of 2016 the British Library sought permission to harvest the contents of the site for archiving in the UK Web Archive. It was the perfect solution to my problem because what makes the UK Web Archive so special is that many of the sites they have harvested contains information no longer available on the equivalent 'live' site on the web, or indeed perhaps the 'live' site has been taken down and may no longer exists? In which case the UK Web Archive is likely to hold the only copy that remains available for future generations.
(Right-Below) Memories of Ian Allan ABCs - Click HERE to visit Dave Rowland's 'Famous Ian Allan ABC Books'…a lovely website and beautifully illustrated, featuring the covers of every conceivable spotters' book published…the site is a veritable trip down memory lane. (Below) It will soon be over! Memories of the final months of BR steam, by which time only one member of the Class 7MT 'Britannia' 4-6-2s remained in traffic. Here a group of enthusiasts both young and old gather around No 70013 Oliver Cromwell pausing at Rochdale station with the GC Enterprises 'NW Circular Tour' on 28 April 1968.
In the final analysis since this website is now being archived by the British Library it gives me the chance to free-up space and make wholesale changes...there is a huge amount of material to be added! However, no content from this site will be deleted until such time as I am sure it has been fully harvested. Please note, the archived version does not appear in a search engine therefore links are provided where appropriate.
Please also note - websites usually go off-line whilst maintenance work is carried out or other changes are being made, but in view of the size of the task (it will take several months) it was decided to remain online - after all, there's nothing to hide. I just hope the changes do not spoil your viewing..
Those were the days my friend,
We thought they'd never end,
We'd sing and dance forever and a day,
We'd live the life we choose,
We'd fight and never lose,
Those were the days, oh yes those were the days.
The lyrics of Mary Hopkin's 1968 hit song 'Those Were The Days' will ring a bell with my generation…the Swinging Sixties were the best times ever to be a teenager…but as the saying goes, all good things come to an end, as it did for me back in the mid-Sixties..
Oh dear, there isn't a day goes by that I haven't kicked myself for deserting the hobby when I did; but by the 1960s I'd reached the age when a pubescent boy matures into a teenager very quickly, the girls even quicker; heads begin to turn, eyes start to roam; everyone is sizing one another up.
I remember a group of gangling girls in the 1st year at school whose 'stick insect' legs led to a stream of crude jokes by boys; it was a horrible thing to do and I'm ashamed of myself now, but the tables were dramatically turned three years later when, by some miracle of nature, the girls morphed into the sexiest creatures on two legs in the school's fourth year…well you notice these things at that age, don't you?
Indeed you do. Once an adolescent is smitten by testosterone and every other hormonal imbalances his journey into adulthood is fraught with problems.
A major flaw in every boy's genetic makeup is a natural deficiency in personal hygiene; a soap and water allergy that goes back years. Truth is he's in dire need of a hot bath to neutralise bad odours; a process not dissimilar to fumigating a blocked sewer. But no sooner is his ordeal over and he'll cheerfully douse his hair with a dollop of dad's Brylcreem and skedaddle off in hot pursuit of a bit of crumpet in the local park.
Alas, no sooner have these carnal urges kicked-in and the unthinkable happens; a boy's commitment to train spotting goes downhill fast. It happened to me back in the mid-1960s, by which time Mary Quant's mini skirt was at its height and the rank and file of BR steam had sunk to a new low; indeed things got so bad that the decision to desert the spotting brotherhood was a relatively easy choice to make and many youngsters hung up their anoraks without any rational thinking or sensible weaning-off period. I certainly had no problem at abandoning ship. Maybe it's because I'd picked up on the snide comments behind my back in the school playground? Girls were saying that train spotters were a bunch of sissy kids!
Okay, perhaps my comeuppance was long overdue after dishing out 'stick insect' taunts all those years ago, but to question a boy's macho credentials at such a sensitive age was equally as detestable. Back in the dog-eat-dog world of a 1960's chidhood, long before politically correct demands were placed on children, the school playground was a ruthlessly competitive place ruled by peer pressure and predatory bullies not too far removed from prehistoric cavemen in the Palaeolithic period. This forced a lot of youngsters into making a no-nonsense, spur-of-the-moment decision on what his heart desired the most - chasing dirty steam locos (virtually clinging on for dear life) or curvy girls?
It was a no-brainer. The clear winner by a mile was girls, the loser being his motley collection of Ian Allan enamel badges and prized ABCs which he unceremoniously dumped out of sight never to be seen again, and that was the end of that!
Now I am not about to launch into some rabid tirade or play the self-pitying old geezer wrapped up in victimhood, I'll leave that to the stick-insect girls whose lives I made a misery all those years ago, but I will say this…sadly there is a disturbing trend - more so in today's unforgiving society - where train spotting is considered immature, and in many ways this is true on the surface, but delve a little deeper and you'll discover a very complex and wonderful hobby. Perhaps the anorak bashers will get a clearer picture on this website...
NEW PAGES and UPDATES
Meanwhile three new pages have been added, starting off with Terry Sykes's 'In and Out of Trains', which is an appropriate title for his page and I wish I had thought of it myself. Each and every one of us will have
one time or
another experienced the ebb and flow in our passion for trains and railways,
whether it be an allegiance to steam
or a penchant for more modern diesel and electric traction…however the
appeal of trains frequently comes and goes, but it never leaves us entirely. Terry's
fascination with trains began in the West Riding of Yorkshire during the 1950s
when the majority of small boys shared a passion for train spotting. It started
off as a relatively simple hobby at first, little more than jotting down a few
engine numbers at his local station at Saltaire near Shipley until it dawned on
him that spotting the same old engines time and time again was a fruitless
exercise and a wider search began in earnest. His parents were badgered for
permission to travel further afield, but wisely no mention was made of the
hairy escapades his trips involved, often pedalling mile upon mile on push
bikes to faraway places and climbing over perimeter walls to gain access to
engine sheds. Of course, trespassing on railway property was downright
dangerous and I am not making light of it here, however certain allowances must
be made for young boys, who, by their very nature have yearned for adventure
since time immemorial; the prospect of exploring new places has always been in
a boy's makeup, and this included a generation of post-war 'baby
boomers', whose memories of chasing trains in the 1950s are remembered as a
life-changing experience...click on image (left) to visit the page.
(Right) When I first posted this shot (courtesy of Rail Pictorial.com) on this site, I stated that WD 2-8-0 No 90517 was arriving at Skipton with the Tilcon train from Rylstone on 27 September 1963.Wrong!
I am advised by FW (Bill) Smith, then signalman at Embsay station in 1963, that it is not a Tilcon train. Bill writes -
'On checking my 1963 diary I see I was on duty at Embsay station box that morning, and this was a special train of ballast hoppers from the Skipton Rock Company at Embsay destined for New Hey in Lancashire. I signalled this train out at 9.55am that morning. Special ballast trains from Embsay were common at this time mostly on Thursdays and Fridays for reballasting work at weekends...'
Thanks Bill, corrections are always welcome, and thanks also for all your hard work in creating your new page featuring the railways of Wharfedale...your memories of the old days are priceless!
Click on image (right) to visit the page...
(Left) Derek Dean's memories of the ex-GWR 'King' class locomotives begins at Birmingham Snow Hill station when he was a small boy in the early 1950s.
He writes - 'The 'Kings' were exceedingly photogenic, having clearly defined lines; the immense boiler topped off with a neat, not over-sized chimney and the bulbous smokebox door created an impressive look that distinguished the class from the 'Castles'. The unique leading bogie with its all-powerful looking front stretcher frame and outside bearings, coupled with the diagonal lines of the main frames enclosing the inside valve chests enforced a look of pure solidity that had no equal on the Western Region…'
For the benefit of the discerning railway modellers, beneath every picture on the page is a list of 'BR Modifications' numbered 1 to 10 which cover such things as the fitting of a raised step over the inside cylinders below the smokebox to the re-positioning of the mechanical lubrication unit, and each listed modification is tailored to describe the detail differences that are visible in the photo taken on a particular date as quoted in the captions. Click on image (left) to visit Page 24.
(Right) Another major contributor to this site is former Southern Region engineman, Geoff Burch, who is largely responsible for the content of the BR Southern Region pages 30-37 (see left-hand menu). Following the success of Geoff's first book 'The Ramblings of a Railwayman' (published in 2011) Geoff has decided to self-publish a fully Revised 2nd Edition. The new A4-sized hard back contains 196 pages and is lavishly illustrated with over 300 BW and Colour photos of BR Steam, including many previously unpublished shots taken by Peter Trinder, the late David Salmon and Richard Greenwood MBE. This is an Absolute Bargain! Only £20 + £5 P&P direct from the Author. Click on inset (right) to visit Geoff's 'Rambling Railwayman' website for further details..
(Below) Website proprietors will tell you that the most rewarding part of building a site comes from its creation and then (hopefully) propelling it forward to achieving bigger and better things. But this demands 100% commitment and keeping tabs on even the smallest detail such as informing visitors of the latest site updates, otherwise what's the point in updating!
It occurred to me that this happened some weeks ago when I failed to mention uploading a super collection of photos taken by Charlie Verrall on a new 'BR Southern Region - 9' page HERE. Charlie Verrall is perhaps better known as 'Pondhopper1' on Flickr's online photo management facility; indeed the quality of 'top drawer' railway photographs to be found on the Internet is getting better by the day.
Charlie's interest in trains began at a very early age. His grandfather was a footplateman on the London Brighton & South Coast Railway (LBSCR) and Southern Railway, and his uncle was on the footplate with both the Southern and BR, plus his father was also a railwayman - so it's not surprising that he would follow family tradition. He began working for British Railways in 1953 and the page features many fine pictures, including his oldest surviving negative (left) of ex-Midland Railway 0-6-0s 58137 and 43829 at Cricklewood shed on August 2nd 1950. (Below) The 11.48am Engineers train from Three Bridges to Eastbourne is double-headed by N Class 2-6-0 31813 and U1 Class 2-6-0 31897 between Haywards Heath and Wivelsfield on February 24th 1962
I have recently been contacted by Rail Cameraman, John Stoddart (see pages 71-72). It concerns an aspect of railway photography that rarely gets a mention on the web; I'm talking about stereoscopics, better known as 3D imaging, which is a technique for creating the illusion of depth by means of stereopsis for binocular vision.
John's friend, Ben Clifford, has scanned a number of his grandfather's old photos circa 1900-1935 for archiving purposes. Ben is pretty certain the camera used was a Richard Verascope which took 44mm square images. A similar camera belonging to the Scottish explorer William S Bruce was donated to the Royal Scottish Geographical Society by Bruce's granddaughter Moira Watson of Hamilton, Ontario. Details of the camera and case (above) can be found in
Ben is converting the stereoscopic photos into 3D images viewable with red/cyan glasses. One stereoscopic slide (above) was taken at Liverpool Street station in 1928, and shows the famous old roof with two local trains in the foreground. Ben has scanned this slide in a significantly higher resolution than shown here, however I am advised that there is nothing to be gained in uploading a higher resolution version since a 3.8 megapixel image pair is right at the resolution of a Mac with a 1440p display, and is also just sufficient to show the grain structure of the original 40 mm square images. It should also be noted that parallel viewing without some sort of viewer is difficult, and with large image pairs almost impossible since it requires 'wall-eyed' viewing of the pair. Jack Elam, the cowboy actor (above left) would have been a natural!
Needless to say, the 3D process is a fascinating subject but I lack the savvy to explain how it works in laymans' terms. Thankfully John has kindly stepped into the breach...
He writes - 'David, although you are posting Ben's full narrative on Page 2 (link below) perhaps an explanation of 3D in its simplest form will be of benefit to the casual viewer…
The key to understanding stereoscopic imagery is knowing how the eyes actually see things and how the brain interprets what they see. Start by placing your finger against your nose. Each eye sees the finger from a different angle and presents a separate view to the brain. This is how we see everything at any distance. Obviously, the further away something is, the closer those two images coincide. The brain combines those two images into one and turns the difference between them into our sense of depth and perspective - the third dimension.
Stereoscopic photography mimics what the eyes actually see by taking simultaneous photos through lenses the same distance apart as our eyes - about 70mm. At first sight, the stereoscopic images of Liverpool Street station are exactly the same. But look carefully and you'll see that slightly more of the train's destination board is visible on the right-hand photo than the left hand one. Almost all of 'St' in the right hand photograph (presumably the tail end of Liverpool St) can be seen but it's slightly chopped-off in the left hand one.
(Left) John continues: 'Ben does have some control over the way the anaglyph is made therefore he has sent two images because the success of the 3D effect seems to vary from screen to screen; he thought he'd let you take a look at both possible alternatives. Here is the first example. Click on image to see the full size (the image will open in a new window).
In the other example (below right) it appears as if the subject material is further behind the so-called 'viewingwindow'; click-on image to see the full size; the image will also open in a new window. These differences can be controlled over quite a wide range. He could make one even deeper, but at some point the effect starts to feel less natural. A very close analogy can be gained from
Ben Clifford's fascinating insight can be found on Page 2 HERE
(Below) Mention of South African steam earlierbrings me to the NBL Preservation Group which was formed in 1990 by a small band of NBL Society members to preserve additional North British steam locomotives outside of the NBL Society's framework.
(Above) In October 1991 South African Railways Class 25NC 4-8-4 No.3405 'Bethlehem' became the first locomotive to be saved by the newly formed NBL Society.
And so it was wonderful news to hear that two expatriate Class A4s Nos 60008 and 60010 have found their way back to Britain to celebrate the 75th anniversary of their sister, 60022 Mallard, which secured the world speed crown in 1938. (Above) A4 Pacific 60008 'Dwight D Eisenhower' at Kings Cross on 15th June 1962. You can read more about the repatriated A4s on the 'Rail Centre - York' page. (Below) Full marks to the NRM, for it is due to the sterling efforts of the staff at the National Railway Museum at York that the A4 duo are now back on home soil. The museum not only houses the largest collection of railway objects in the world, but admission is absolutely free - a good excuse to take the Missus and kids for a brilliant day out! Click here to visit the excellent NRM website.
(Above) Railway photographers are creatures of habit, invariably taking the traditional three-quarter shot a train to the exclusion of almost everything else in the surroundings. However, this ER Morten shot of Johnson Midland Class 3F 0-6-0 No 43612 at Gowhole Sidings with a heavy goods train on 21 April 1951 is refreshingly different since it shows the hustle and bustle of a busy railway yard chock-a-block with various loose-coupled freights. With a tractive effort of just 21,010lbs and weighing no more 43 tons, the Class 3F will require the help of a banker and the provision of four brake vans to assist the engine crew over the steeply-graded Peak Forest route to Rowsley.
(Above-Below) With the onset of dieselisation some 10-odd years later, the new generation of rail cameramen faced the task of making their pictures more interesting - photos of diesels on their own are nowhere near as photogenic as those of steam - hence the inclination to embrace more of the railway infrastructure, even when there are no trains! (Below) Of course there is always the surrounding scenery as shown in this shot of the upper Aire Valley line at Steeton between Keighley and Skipton in the 1960s. Beneath it are two more: Aller Junction at Exeter and Slaithwaite near Huddersfield. Whatever the difference in photo-technique, however, the results are exactly the same - it records the railway scene for posterity.
RAILWAY ART GALLERY
I have recently been contacted by 76 year-old Alan Shillum, an ex-Daily Mirror reporter, news editor, finally managing editor, who since retirement on Mersea Island in Essex, has taken up art as a hobby in a variety of mediums and subjects.
This superb pencil drawing 'Good Companions' (below) was inspired by a Jim Carter photo that Alan found on this website. Measuring 18"x12" the drawing was done in 2b,3b,4b pencils on white picture mount card.
Harking back to his childhood days as a train spotter, Alan writes - 'I am still learning (art) and have a go at steam locomotives from time to time because to me they are aesthetically the perfect marriage of form and function. They are also a great challenge...'
....and very worthwhile, I must say...creative work takes a long time and a great deal of patience, but the results are very rewarding; indeed if anyone else is creating pictures of British trains and railways in oils, water colours, pen line, pencil or charcoal etc - I will be delighted to post them on this site for the whole world to see. My email address is at the bottom of the page...
SOUTH AFRICAN STEAM by Craig Duncan
Born in Inverness, Scotland - and proud of his Scottish birth - Craig Duncan now lives in South Africa; he writes...
After inheriting a small box of oil paints in 1978 I began to dabble. I found the discipline of oil painting captivating and began to explore the techniques of composition, perspective, colour mixing, brush control, textures and so on. It was natural that my lifelong interest in railways would soon marry to this newfound medium of expression. Although my first painting was reasonably successful later critical analysis would reveal its flaws such as brush control being too tight etc. This painting now survives 6000 miles away in Earby, Yorkshire!
As paintings started to flow from the easel some seemed worthy of framing. Eventually I would have standing orders with wholesale framing suppliers from where the materials would be transported home, mitred in the workshop and then assembled on a table tennis top in the playroom; almost a home industry. The house soon became a personal art gallery and thankfully appreciated by my wife. In fact we developed a routine whereby she studied while I painted and the studio would reek of turpentine and pipe tobacco.
In mid-March 1991 I received a fax from a friend with an attached entry form for a forthcoming exhibition titled 'Brush with Steam' to be held at the prestigious Total Art Gallery in Johannesburg. A maximum of six paintings could be submitted from which selections, if any, would be made. Those dreaded words 'Curriculum Vitae' was also a condition. So these would all be professional artists but even worse it would be hosted by David Shepherd, someone who everybody had heard of; but only my wife had heard of Craig Duncan. With only a red face to be gained I plucked six paintings off the wall and, together with the required documentation, quickly dropped them off at the Transnet selection room haunted by those misgivings 'Am I out of my depth? 'and 'Is my framing up to exhibition standards?'
To my shock I was only one of two artists to have all six selected for showing, the other one being a well known TV personality renowned for his works. The exhibition was held June 4-18 1991 and there were 53 paintings on show representing 27 artists. On the opening night it was strange to see one's work hanging on alien walls and in exalted company; even appearing in a television programme which my wife would record.
The favourable media reports about my work was a great boost and so I decided to contact all exhibitors with a view to forming a society that would promote railway art in South Africa. I had a brief discussion with David Shepherd during a steam festival and exhibition at Kimberley in early August 1991 and on the 12th October an inaugural meeting was held.
After much help from the Guild of Railway Artists in the UK in drawing up a constitution we held our first general meeting on 29th February 1992 during which I was elected Chairman. And so the Guild of Railway Artists of Southern Africa was born. On 20th July 1992 we were granted affiliation to the GRA in the UK. We had 40 members and began to organize exhibitions in various parts of the country.
Amid all this on the 18th June my wife met a tragic death. For me this proved to be a completely demoralizing factor and with the impetus gone my brushes fell still and the Guild would fold as quickly as it had begun.
However a few years ago I decided to dust down the easel and add my own version to a couple of black and white photos. Surprisingly it all came flooding back and I found that I had produced two of my best ever paintings, and in double quick time. It proved that a leopard never lose its spots.
Another lesson learned over time is that we are our own biggest critics and the perfect painting forever lies a bridge too far. Of some 50 paintings produced over the years 17 were commissions or sales. Belgian canvas was stretched on 20x45 mm mitred supports. Occasionally the canvas would require dampening to obtain a drum tight surface, but without a cropper and underpinner I found production of the outer frames somewhat time-consuming. Some of the recipients still express their pleasure which tends to suppress the inner demons that can lie within an artist...
(Above Left) The embryo stage for many of my paintings. I would sometimes uplift using a rule or sometimes a pantograph then sketch further detail on the canvas. All paintings have a canvas size of approximately 600 X 900mm.
(Above-Below) Germinston Depot...many hours were spent at this location. I had a two-monthly renewable permit and have noted 200 steam locomotives during my Sunday visits there. The positioning of the pole was deliberate to cock a snoot at the purists. Most of my paintings bear an engraved brass plaque denoting the title. (Belw) These were the feeding troughs for the monsters. Coal trucks were taken up the incline and the contents emptied into hoppers from which chutes would discharge into waiting lines of engines on both sides of the dock.
(Above-Below) Free State freight. Two 25NC's hit a straight line grade in the Free State. A trail of smoke could be seen from miles away and seemingly hang forever in the still and cold morning sky. (Below) A montage to pay tribute to the drivers and firemen who were the masters of their beasts. I have driven some, albeit for short distances, hence my admiration and esteem.
(Above-Below) This painting of a morning train leaving Bloemfontein met a sad end. It was damaged beyond repair when trying to remount it. So all I have is a photograph...sound familiar? (Below) 'Lady of the Loch' was the title on the engraved plaque added after I had framed it. Another gift to lifelong friends, it represents the pier end at Balloch, Loch Lomond and is a deviation from the normal railway subjects.
LIVERPOOL MEMORIES by Don Fogg
Don Fogg is another artist to make contact; he writes...
'Hi David, I have spent many happy nostalgic hours perusing your site, I was a train spotter from about 1958 at Edge Hill (8A) in Liverpool before moving to aviation in the Sixties but remain besotted by steam locos, ships and old aeroplanes. We have lived in Adelaide South Australia since 1983. I'm a teacher of Art and Special Ed. I enjoy the tantalising glimpses of your artwork - you should display more. I have been doing some pencil drawings of locos lately and have been using the web for reference. I am therefore asking you if you mind me using your pics as reference for my drawings. I'm not sure what I'll do with them but I have to get it out of my system (you probably know that feeling). I'm working on a fairly small format at present so I can scan them if you would like a look. I love the grimy Black 5s and workhorses (even Jinties) especially in tunnels or stations, very atmospheric. It takes me back to cycling from my home in Wavertree to Exchange station to see if the Glasgow arrival was hauled by a 'Brit'. I wish I'd had a camera! Happy Days! Keep up the fabulous work. Regards, Don Fogg...'
Well, true to his word Don has sent two drawings: 'Edge Hill Tunnels' and 'Sheds', both pencil with gouache highlights on tinted paper measuring 21cm square....
(Below) Here is a painting by artist James Green titled 'Black Fives - Willesden 1963' painted using an unusual mix of acrylic inks and watercolour. James wasn't born until the 1970s and so he wasn't around to see the day to day running of a busy steam shed, but I feel he has captured the overall atmosphere of the end of steam here perfectly. You can see more of James' railway paintings HERE
Are there any more artists out there?
I'll be pleased to post your railway art here...
(Below) I do get one or two complaints from older visitors who've 'clicked-on' a page and find that it takes a long time to download.
The reason why some pages are slow is because of their huge size.
For example, if you 'click-on' a webpage containing text only it is much easier to load than a webpage of photos since it takes much longer to transmit. Many websites avoid this is by limiting the number of images. However, this website is primarily a collection of photographs and so what you are actually opening are pages full of images of steam days…
So please be patient!
Indeed if you like these pages then why not bookmark them? Or add them to your favourite list…I'm sure it will make your next visit a whole lot easier. Happy surfing!
SITE UPDATES! (Left-Below) Having recently acquired a new Negative Scanner I'm making a start on trying to resuscitate some 50 year-old negatives which have never been printed and are like ghosts from the past crying out to be exhumed (digitalized). Over the years the 35mm negative strips have been kept in their original sleeves and are as good as new, though quite a few seem to have been 'got at' by a mysterious fungus, including this one of an unidentified EE Type 4 at Connonley between Skipton and Keighley in March 1961.
This image was taken just a few weeks before the introduction of Type 4 diesels on the Anglo-Scottish expresses north of Leeds; it records a brief period of our railway history therefore it must be worth saving if only for old time's sake. Back in the spring of 1961, BR introduced a crew training programme involving footplate staff at Leeds Holbeck and using 'Peak' class locos between Leeds and Appleby, but on occasions EE Co Type 4s were employed.
Now it has to be said that uploading an inferior photo onto the front page is hardly a ringing endorsement of the quality to be found on the rest of ther site, but it does illustrate the effort that goes into reviving old photos in a digital format (see Page 75 here) which otherwise wouldn't get a look in on the web.
(Below) The marvel of the Internet! Whilst the World Wide Web allows you to wallow in unashamed nostalgia for the old days, it also brings you bang up to date with current goings-on...for example (below) even before the Railway Touring Company's 07-12 Crewe-Scarborough (1Z64) 'Scarborough Flyer' had reached its destination on September 3rd 2010, pictures of the train were already winging their way around the world. In the midst of delightful Pennine scenery at Diggle, Phil Spencer captures the scene of No 6233 Duchess of Sutherland seeking refuge in the goods loop beside the Huddersfield Narrow Canal. The driver is awaiting the passage of a First TransPennine Express (FTPE) before rejoining the main line a few yards short of Standedge Tunnel.
LINKS TO BRITISH RAILWAYS REGIONS
Click photos below to visit the relevant web page.
Click on photo-links (below) for NOSTALGIA FOR THE OLD DAYS
A Silver Surfer's trip down memory lane...
THE FIRST GENERATION DIESELS
BR's Modernisation Plan didn't effect everyone. The 1960's spotting community was made up of countless thousands of youngsters, who, by virtue of their youth had no way of knowing what had gone before, so with the introduction of charismatic diesels like the 'Peaks', 'Deltics', 'Warships' and 'Westerns', the end of steam mattered little to them - and, if truth be told, even die-hard steam enthusiasts had to admire the performances of the new diesels. At the same time, BRs decision to name diesel locomotives was a commendable policy. The fitting of bodyside nameplates and, in some cases ornamental regimental crests, upheld a tradition going back donkey's years which added a certain panache to the new diesel fleet.
THE SECOND GENERATION DIESELS
By 1965, BR's diesel fleet entered the much-maligned era of the 'Corporate Identity Programme' and the newly-formed British Rail Board (BRB) decreed that everything had to conform to a given standard. The BRB's design panel advised British Rail on the best means of attaining a high level of appearance by introducing a new livery for diesel and electric locomotives, passenger coaches, freightliner rolling stock and ships, along with the use of a new barbed wire logo, based upon the idea of two-way traffic movement. The diesel fleet's unimaginative colour scheme (devoid of a two-tone livery and bodyside lining) wasn't helped by the BRB's strict policy forbidding any concession to livery changes, which deprived depot staff of any incentive to take a pride in their particular traction, and it wasn't until the late 1980's that the BRB finally adopted a more enlightening approach for its newly-launched Regional Services and Sectors.
AROUND THE REGIONS - STEAM DAYS
LOST AND FOUND! This site receives a lot of requests for photos and enquiries from visitors seeking information on trains and railway, but since I can't deal with them all myself I've launched a new 'Help' facility to help broaden your own search to a worldwide audience. Over the years, more and more visitors to this site are using the 'Guest Book' page in their search for information, and I am happy to oblige. If you are seeking assistance in your own search then visit the Guest Book page, but please include your email address in the message and deal with it yourself. I am not in the business of brokering any deals, nor am I an Estate Agent...some wag recently posted a house for sale - cheeky! But the facility has produced a result! Regular visitors to this site might recall Adam Parker contacting the Guest Book Page seeking information on a number of railway photos that he unwittingly became the custodian of. In fact, had it not been for Adam taking them under his wing the whole lot would have ended up on a bonfire! It was a most interesting story, and one I was happy to feature on the 'BR London Midland Region' page. Click here for link to 'Adam Parker's Album of Found Photos'. Since the appeal went out on the LMR page Adam has been contacted by the photographer, Richard Courtney and the material has been returned to the rightful owner...the wonder of the Internet - and ten out of ten to Adam for successfully tracking Richard down. It reaffirms one's faith in human nature...
Being a relatively newcomer to the web (better late than never, they say) the whole point of the collection is to try and build the best website possible and give something back to the community. At the same time I was keen to learn something about digitally enhancing old photos, such as 'burning' and 'dodging', sharpening, improving brightness and contrast, and removing spots or other unsightly blemishes. I began by practising in Adobe Photoshop; a powerful graphics tool that is used by cutting-edge designers who work at the sharp point in a studio, but since I have only modest ability, it is more like a computer darkroom that contains all the tools needed to work on old photographs - and, rather like a small boy rummaging in a toy cupboard, it allows me to zoom-in to a single pixel. I'm bound to get up close and personal with all photographers' work!
If you would like to contribute to the website I'll be pleased to include your spotting reminiscences from steam days, but be warned - the seasoned spotter can spot a 'porky' a mile off, so embellishing your story with fictional flourishes is hardly convincing.
That's because train spotting captured the hearts of thousands of boys during the less-worldly Fifties, and although most of us are well past our prime (and forgotten what we did two minutes ago) the ageing process is surprisingly kind in another way. In the glow of memory we only remember the good stuff, so our spotting memories are bound to be mired in sentimentality.
On the other hand, critics would argue that writing a personal account of 'bunking' sheds and chasing 'cops' is seldom illuminating or remarkable because all you are doing is regurgitating old anecdotes, which, by the very nature of the hobby, are exactly the same as everyone else's...RUBBISH! Call me an old-fashioned day dreamer, but any memory of bygone days is better than none. Just send me a favourite old photo accompanied by a meaningful caption and it will give visitors to this site a chance of escaping the grim reality of today's modern world...
On a final note, the most popular idols back in the Fifties were the comic 'cape crusaders' Spiderman, Batman or Superman, together with the Hollywood cowboy stars: Hopalong Cassidy, Gene Autry, Roy Rogers and the Lone Ranger.
PLEASE NOTE - IMAGES FROM THIS SITE SHOULD NOT BE PUBLISHED ELSEWHERE ON THE WEB WITHOUT THE PRIOR CONSENT OF THE RIGHTFUL COPYRIGHT OWNERS. IF YOU WISH TO USE A PICTURE ON THE WEB THEN YOU MUST ASK FIRST. A GOOD FIRST STEP IS TO MAKE CONTACT VIA THE E-MAIL ADDRESS AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS PAGE. YOU ONLY HAVE TO ASK...PERMISSION IS RARELY REFUSED, A RECIPROCAL LINK TO THIS SITE IS USUALLY THE CASE.
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