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  • Merseyside Traction by Doug Birmingham

    On 15 March 2017, at a rarely photographed location, Rail Operations Group, Class 47, No 47815 arrives at Edge Hill Wapping with 5V67 12.17hrs Allerton Depot to Long Marston empty coach stock move. The train consisted of two Class 319 EMU’s No’s 319218 and 219 which were being returned to storage pending possible further use. This image was originally considered for the front cover of the book before the present cover was selected. (Merseyside Traction, Amberley Publishing)

    I think most people during their lives have wishes, some would call it a bucket list but more often than not they remain just dreams. Occasionally some dreams do happen which fortunately for me some on my bucket list have actually come true, mainly by good fortune rather than preplanned. One of my wishes, has been to publish a book with a selection of my railway images, but approaching any publisher with such a proposal has always been put on the back burner. Consequently, as the years go by, it has remained just a dream. By sheer coincidence and out of the blue on my birthday in 2017, Connor Stait on behalf of Amberley Publishing emailed me asking would I be interested in compiling a book, entitled ‘Merseyside Traction’. At first, I thought this may be a little wind up but in reality it was not, as Connor had viewed my 8A Rail Flickr photographic site and thought I would be the ideal person to compile such a book.

    Connor had agreed that it was up to myself what the contents would be as long it was related to Merseyside. In due course, the formalities were agreed upon, along with providing two previous published book examples to give myself an idea what the layout and format of the book should look like. On viewing these book examples, I knew that I could complete the project given a little time with the brief of a maximum of 180 images and 10,000 words, along with the front and back cover images too. I also had to consider that other authors had published books on a variety of rail related subjects linked to Merseyside, some whose knowledge and experience I would acknowledge well beyond my own.

    Now the hard work began with a completion date set for December 2017. I had to choose the images first and foremost. That was not an easy task, as I have been photographing trains in Merseyside since 1980 with a total of images taken running into five figures! This figure did not include other images I have taken around the UK, let alone the thousands I have taken of preserved steam too. Clearly I had to decide a time spam to cover, as realistically it would take more than one book to cover almost 40 years to give the locality some justice. Having decided to cover a 20 year period from 1998 to 2017 rather than say the last 10 years as example, I wanted to include the variety of motive power and liveries that had operated in Merseyside during that time, as well as the variety of photographic locations too.  Basically I needed to make the book as interesting as possible to attract wide attention as Merseyside is not exactly known as a mecca of railways within the United Kingdom. However, I knew different and maybe this was an opportunity to prove otherwise?

     

    Another image that did not quite make the final cut but still provides a good representation of the contents of the book is GBRf Class 59, No 59003 working 6F27 12.47hrs Liverpool Biomass Terminal to Tuebrook Sidings Biomass were the Class 59 will detach before heading to Drax AES Power Station behind a single Class 66 locomotive. It is seen here on a nice autumn day approaching Edge Lane Junction on the Bootle Branch line. 29 October 2015. (Merseyside Traction, Amberley Publishing)

    However, the hard work was only just about to begin with the process of selecting images for the book given the thousands of images to choose from! Why I selected the last 20 years was an easy decision as one of the images I wanted to show, was the last occasion a ‘Peak’ class locomotive hauled a Freightliner train in May 1999 and I was one of the few to record the working(s). I had also established early on, that over that period of time, numerous different locomotive classes had appeared in the area, not forgetting the variety of multiple units along with all the different liveries too. However, what I needed to avoid was the repetition of the ‘much loved’ EMD Class 66’s as that alone would be prevent people looking at the book let alone purchasing one! So a balance had to be met in order to make a fair representation of the motive power operated in Merseyside. Also during the 20 year period I had chosen, many locations and lines had changed, especially with regards to the railway infrastructure, basically out with the old, in with the new. Non-more so than the Liverpool & Manchester line with the introduction (and long over-due) of the overhead electrification. In consequence this allowed me the opportunity of one or two before and after images to be presented in the book.

    While compiling the images for the book, it was only then I realised the extent of the actual Merseyside county boundaries, where I thought a couple of locations were in Cheshire, were actually in Merseyside. However, I also then noted that the ‘Merseytravel’ transport boundary did actually go beyond the county boundary which gave me good reason to include, for example, Rainford which is in Lancashire. I had also noted at least twenty-six locomotive classes had been recorded as well as the appearance of twenty-two classes of multiple units most of which are regular visitors to the area. Merseyside is currently regularly served by seven Train Operating Companies, including Arriva Wales, Arriva North, East Midlands Trains, London Midland (now LNWr), Merseyrail, Trans Pennine Express and Virgin Trains with three Freight Operating Companies operating daily in and out of the area including DB Cargo, Freightliner and GBRF. However, Colas, Direct Rail Services, Network Rail, Rail Operations Group, and West Coast Railways do pass through the area too. So there is much variety to be recorded and that does not include the amount of liveries that have appeared too. It would also beg the question, how many areas around the UK actually provide such variety too? Not many I imagine!

    Passing the closed but now preserved Rainhill Signal Box on the Liverpool and Manchester line, Direct Rail Services Class 37, No 37194 with sister locomotive No 37667 on the rear hauling 1Q14 08.52hrs Derby RTC to Crewe 'Network Rail’ Measurement train. Since this image was taken, this line has now been fully electrified. 17 September 2012. (Merseyside Traction, Amberley Publishing)

    In selecting the 185 images which took me 3 months to complete and no easy task either (not including the captions), I then realised how many images that were excluded rather those included, that gave me the feeling that this project had only just began. This is also not forgetting the numerous images taken from 1980 to 1998 which could produce another book or two also? However, I need to wait to see how ‘Merseyside Traction’ is received first and foremost, along with the sales too! Added to this is the thousands of other railway images I’ve taken around the UK including preserved steam, which makes me wonder are there other book projects could be in the offering especially as I enjoyed putting ‘Merseyside Traction’ (Part One??) together.

    Finally, I must thank Connor Stait, Commissioning Editor for considering me for this project and hopefully his faith is rewarded in due course. I also wish to sincerely thank various staff at Amberley Publishing for their time, patience and support. Also to Gordon Edgar whose words of wisdom and encouragement were much appreciated. Now it remains to see how the book is received and hopefully it becomes a popular book, but more importantly, I have done my local area proud? Fingers Cross.

    Doug Birmingham's new book Merseyside Traction is available for purchase now.

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