From a Distance.....

       A chance discovery of all my old notebooks and Ian Allan "ABCs" in a dark corner of the loft in around 1993 led to many schoolboy memories of our 1950s railway system being rekindled. Entering all the information into the new wonder of computer databases led to some unexpected conclusions, at a time when the merits or otherwise of the various old companies were being hotly debated in the transport magazines. One of the points of contention was that the Great Western Railway was disproportionately over-represented in preservation compared to the other three large companies.

     I wrote a short piece debunking this and other issues, not expecting it to be worthy of publication. To my great surprise it was - in "Steam World" magazine, October 1998 issue, with a selection of other contributor's photographs. Another great surprise was that it did not generate too much derogatory or insulting correspondence - or perhaps it went straight in the editor's bin?  Here is the original text of the article........   

London's Railway Stations

     One of the pleasures of living near London in the 1950s was being able to visit all the main-line railway termini in the capital, with their very varied architecture and layouts. Even the busiest such as Euston and Paddington had many quaint nooks and crannies, soot-encrusted and doubtless unchanged for many decades, which just had to be explored.  The locomotives and trains were themselves distinctive, retaining much of their pre-nationalization character. Within a couple of hours and a few short walks we could see the best that the four main British Railways regions could offer, together with the trains of the London Transport system. Here are some fond memories of those times.... 

London terminal stations.pdf London terminal stations.pdf
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Liverpool Street, and all that "Jazz"

      We travelled quite regularly from Staines to Walthamstow, across the capital via Waterloo and Liverpool Street, as most of our family lived in that area of north-east London. The steam-operated suburban train service out of Liverpool Street was once the busiest in the world, and that terminus quite probably the smokiest!   The carriages were cramped and dirty, but we kids loved them.

    In later years, from around 1960-63, we also explored the London docklands, then still quite busy and with extensive railway systems, though they were soon to change out of all recognition. There were many fascinating nooks and crannies around there too! 

    Here is our story of this part of the world.....   

Liverpool St to Walthamstow, and Docklands.pdf Liverpool St to Walthamstow, and Docklands.pdf
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The Southern Railway in South London 

     The south London area stations of the Southern Region of British Railways tend to be somewhat neglected, perhaps due to the prevalent suburban electric services, but comprised some fine examples of former company architecture and artefacts. The following pictures were all taken in August 1973.....

SR stations in S London.pdf SR stations in S London.pdf
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A London Transport miscellany

     In May 1963 we visited the "Underground Centenary" exhibition held at London Transport's Neasden depot. A few years later, in the summer holidays of both 1967 and 1968 I was employed at the Signal Engineers office at Acton Town station for a few weeks, working firstly on the Northern Line resignalling, and in the second year on the commissioning of the first stage of the new Victoria line from Walthamstow to Highbury. Here are some stories and pictures from those times...... 

London Transport Railways.pdf London Transport Railways.pdf
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Holidays by Train

      Hard to believe nowadays, but until the mid-1960s most people went to and from their main holiday destination by train - and that was usually just one main holiday a year, either one week or two depending on the finances. We start with the Isle of Wight, as we went there in 1955, 1958, 1961 and then every year from 1963-67. And the Isle of Wight was of course famous for its steam trains - a veritable mobile museum of a system. Around half the lines and stations had already been closed down even then, but the remainder had hardly changed over the previous 30 years or so, and both locomotives and carriages dated from the Victorian era.......        

Isle of Wight holidays.pdf Isle of Wight holidays.pdf
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In the intervening years we went mainly to the West Country, to Weymouth in 1956, Brixham in south Devon the proper way from Paddington in 1959, Seaton in 1960 and Tintagel via the "Atlantic Coast Express" from Waterloo and along the North Cornwall line in 1962......

Weymouth, Seaton & Wadebridge holidays.pdf Weymouth, Seaton & Wadebridge holidays.pdf
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Brixham, Devon holiday 1959.pdf Brixham, Devon holiday 1959.pdf
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A popular venue for day trips was Brighton, a 60 mile or so journey from Staines achieved then by a variety of methods and routes. Along the way, after 1960 the fledgling Bluebell Railway preservation activity at Sheffield Park also had to be investigated. We went there several times over the years, also to the Kent & East Sussex Railway at Robertsbridge and Rolvenden in its early days......    

Brighton trips & the Bluebell Railway.pdf Brighton trips & the Bluebell Railway.pdf
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Purbeck Clay

   Just to the south of Wareham in Dorset there used to be two interesting narrow-gauge railway systems serving the ball-clay pits and works in that area, providing an outlet to the sea and later to the Swanage branch railway line. That at Furzebrook was of 2ft 8ins gauge, but having closed down in 1956 there was little to be seen on walking the routes by the time of our first visit to the area. About 2 miles to the south at Norden however the second system, of Pike bros, Fayle & Co (by then English China Clays, and of 1ft 11.5in gauge) remained in operation just into the 1970s.  Here is a small selection of pictures taken in summer 1971, and at the end of that year....

Purbeck Clay.pdf Purbeck Clay.pdf
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The Full Works.......

     The period 1960-63 was the heyday of organized tours around the major railway workshops, travelling to and from by special charter train, often with haulage by an unusual locomotive type. In this way we visited Swindon (twice), Ashford, Eastleigh, Doncaster and Derby on day trips, along with hordes of other like-minded youths.......  (we never did get to Crewe)  

Locomotive Works visits 1960-63.pdf Locomotive Works visits 1960-63.pdf
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National Coal Board steam 1971-75

    Many of the NCB rail operations continued using steam locomotives for shunting work long after British Railways ceased using this form of traction in 1968 – their fuel source was cheap and close at hand!

    A particular attraction to us was South Wales, where some ex-Great Western Railway pannier tank locomotives remained at work until at least 1975. A delightful and more rural location was at Kilmersdon Colliery, Somerset, which was using just one small saddle-tank loco in 1972, but the drivers and staff  were always friendly.  Here is a selection of photographs taken in those years.....

National Coal Board steam.pdf National Coal Board steam.pdf
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Irish Interludes - 1970 and 1976

      I visited Ireland twice in the 1970s with college friends: In June 1970 mainly travelling around Ulster, but starting with a day on the trains from Rosslare via Dublin to Belfast. Six years later in the very hot early summer of 1976 we started from Limerick, spending a very varied week on a circuit of Eire via Ennis, Galway, Athy, Cork, Killarney,Tralee and back to Limerick, and not just looking at railways this time, as our fully-illustrated account relates........  

Irish Interludes.pdf Irish Interludes.pdf
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