“Why the fascination with trains?” I am sometimes asked …“Fascination” being the polite word used, rather than the more derogatory “obsession” or “this rather unhealthy interest” which is what is really being asked, and seems to demand some sort of apology.
None of these attributions are accurate or fair. In my case I have been involved with railways all of my life. My father and grandfather were engine drivers, both of whom simply loved what they did, and this ensured that I would regard the railways as “a good thing”. The sound of the railway working through the night, seeing and hearing passing trains with that characteristic smell of hot oil, smoke and steam were always part of the background of my growing up. Such things still attract my attention.
As someone who has refused to set foot on an aeroplane since 1973 and is not particularly fond of driving, trains, and where necessary ferries, are the obvious way to get around. There is nowhere in Europe or Asia that cannot be reached by train and ferry. Such a more pleasant, civilised, and nowadays lets not forget green, way to travel!
I do not share the general slightly patronising disdain felt towards train spotters who are after all, completely harmless. I stopped collecting engine numbers aged thirteen, about the same time as I began to notice girls, but trains were always and continue to be wonderful subjects for photography. This was particularly true of steam trains – a clear frosty day, lots of smoke and steam with a low sun…but that’s another story.
I apologise for none of it! And I know I’m in good company.
There are still a few steam engines around.
Oliver Cromwell at Reading.
On the Kent and East Sussex Line.
On the West Somerset Railway.
Leaving Porthmadog on the Ffestiniog Railway.
A "black five" at Grosmont.
On Grosmont Shed.
About to change tokens on the Swannage branch.
West Somerset Railway.
"The White Rose" leaving Leeds Central behind A3 Pacific Woolwinder, driven by my grandfather. This photo was taken by Eric Treacy who was a great railway photographer and an Anglican bishop, producing a host of evocative black and white images. The engine crew were aware that their departure was to be photographed which is why they are both looking out. It was the Bishop's practice to speak to the driver beforehand and encourage him to open the throttle as he set off, to create a more dramatic exhaust. Grandfather has clearly obliged!
A slightly better known A3 near Grosmont.
The same locomotive a year or so earlier...you may notice a few subtle differences!
Departing from Grosmont...
I have been to Grosmont quite often...
The railway on Mull is noted for its flexible labour policy!
The line runs between Craignure and Torasay Castle for about a mile.
A4 Pacific Union of South Africa at Edinburgh Waverley with a special train on the newly reopened Border Railway to Tweedbank.
The "Jacobean" on the Mallaig to Fort William line.
The last train of the day to Pickering about to leave Goathland on a murky Autumn afternoon.
A preserved locomotive on Zagreb Station.
My grandfather, in full working dress, posing beside a recently built A1 Pacific which was later named Oliver Stirling. This is probably on Doncaster Shed c.1950.
You will never guess where I saw the Royal Scot!
It is not quite the same as seeing them in steam and working, but York Railway Museum is the place to see steam locomotives and provides a great day out. A few of the exhibits are shown below.
It needs a second look, but yes! This is a model.
Another excellent railway museum can be found at Shildon. A few of the exhibits are shown below, including some on loan from York.