Rail Rover: Western Ranger by Stephen Heginbotham
Well, after nearly forty years of getting up at 04:50, or sometimes earlier, and arriving home at any time around midnight off late shift and being called out in the middle of the night, I thought retirement might bring some rest and leisurely days, but alas dear reader, that appears to not be the case. Compiling and writing a book of any size or layout, whether it be fiction or non-fiction, is not something that throws itself together overnight.
However, when the subject is close to my heart and beliefs, the task at hand becomes so much easier.
I have a lifelong interest in all things transport, including many years studying railway accidents and incidents that have led to the signalling systems and rules we use today.
I have also been very fortunate to work in an industry which is both my hobby and my career. For the most part it has been an absolute pleasure to go to work every day, even though that meant thirty-eight years of unsociable shifts, early starts and late finishes, working in Derbyshire, Cornwall and Devon as both Signalman and Supervisor was a privilege.
I do feel though that changes in recent years within the industry have fragmented the ‘big family’ that was once BR.
Born in an age of steam, I well remember the transition from steam to diesel and electric and was fortunate enough to see steam to its demise in August 1968, Stockport Edgeley (9B) being one of the very last steam sheds. As a child I watched named trains, with named locos, thunder past my school, and at weekends or school holidays I watched the Woodhead Electrics at Reddish, the trolleybuses in Manchester, or Pacific’s on the West Coast or Crewe, making the journey there by either steam train or pre-war bus.
Ironically, travel seemed easier in those distant days from our past, several decades ago. Aside from there being more trains to locations, the lack of restriction of travelling alone in one’s younger days did not impinge on the more adventurous of us that struck out to locations that could only be dreamed of now by anyone of a similar age. I say ironically, because unlike today, with our modern communications, when one left home for an adventure in the 1960s, even as a twelve or thirteen-year-old, you had little chance of contacting your parents unless you used a public phone box, and assuming home actually possessed a telephone.
This collection of photographs depicts journeys similar to those I undertook as a teenager, but made by friends of mine setting out to explore the railways and trains of the erstwhile Western Region of British Railways during the latter years of the previous century. With a wider choice of routes and trains available just a few decades ago, it was easier then to achieve the desired locations and in this case return home the same day. There were of course many traction types to be seen in and around the West Country during the 1970s and 1980s and of course, at the time, they were common traction types and not thought of as anything unusual, but, like all things in everyday life, complacency creeps in and one just never thinks that this status quo of things is one day not going to be there. A fitting reminder of halcyon days, as the current railway stumbles around trying to get it right, and frequently failing!
In being invited to produce some more books on my favourite subject of public transport I asked some of my many like-minded friends if they wished to contribute to this particular book, and of course, they said they would like to.
As I have mentioned previously, compiling and writing books on any subject, including fiction and subject specific titles, is not as easy as one might presume. It involves countless hours of research, photographic reproduction, digital cleaning and correcting of old and sometimes damaged negatives, slides and prints.
This all has to be set out to a strict and precise format as demanded by the publisher. The final product, its presentation, publicity and promotion are all done by the publishers of course, but is usually with agreement of the author on such things as the covers.
Showcasing a friends or former colleagues’ photographs to display them to best advantage is therefore no easy task and that is why the publishers and biographical authors put their name on the front, even though the content or most of the content was not produced by them originally.
The photos in this book are not arranged in any particular order, so dates and locations are randomly arranged to try and keep the reader interested.
So, having said all that, here is my fourth book on Railways. After much tapping of keys, extensive research, photo preparation and hundreds of hours writing and compiling the book, I hope you find it enjoyable, and that there aren’t too many mistakes.
Stephen Heginbotham's new book Rail Rover: Western Ranger is available for purchase now.