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Tag Archives: Locomotives

  • Steam in the British Coalfields by Mick Pope

    Trainspotter, a description that has somehow become a term of ridicule, conjuring up an image of some bespectacled nerd who is unable to function in normal society and definitely won’t have any dress sense, wife or girlfriend. Funny how this has come about as an interest in railways in general as the second most popular hobby among men in the United Kingdom after angling. I did wear glasses as a young lad and so I was part way there already!

    Joseph climbs away from the screens at Bold Colliery with loaded 21-ton hopper wagons, probably destined for Fiddlers Ferry Power Station. August 1981. (Steam in the British Coalfields, Amberley Publishing)

    I must admit that my father was the first to encourage me to take an interest in the model variety of trains, having himself grown up as a collector of the old fashioned clockwork, tinplate Hornby ‘O’ gauge ones. I suspect his encouragement was merely to give legitimacy to him continuing his own passion as I had only a passing interest at that time. Then one day I was rebuffed by a school friend when I asked him what we would do over the coming weekend. After a hushed conversation with another friend he declared that he was going to Chester station to collect train numbers. It seemed a bit pointless to me but I tagged along anyway out of curiosity. I was advised to buy a ‘locoshed book’ published by the Ian Allen company as this contained the number of every locomotive working for British Railways, as it was then, plus the place where they normally were based. I was told that I also needed a notebook and that I should write down the number of every locomotive seen and then underline that number in the locoshed book when I got home. It all seemed a bit boring although it had an element of acquisitiveness that is present in most kids. One day and I was hooked! There was just something about the big powerful machines that seemed alive. I didn’t know what I was looking at in any detail but noted that some locomotives had names, that some were green, most were black and some very special ones were a kind of red and these got a special cheer from the assembled spotters. I needed more information and so bought more detailed pocket sized books with photographs and technical details. I learned fast.

    Warrior with a rake of 16-ton mineral wagons. The snow manages to cover what was normally a very muddy environment! (Steam in the British Coalfields, Amberley Publishing)

    With my friends we travelled further afield. Holidays on the south coast, and with relatives in Somerset, introduced me to new kinds of locomotives. We revived a moribund railway society at our grammar school, really just an excuse to obtain permits from British Railways to visit their locomotive depots, although we frequently ‘bunked’ these places, i.e. sneaked in without permission. Being well over six feet tall at age sixteen I could pass as an adult and, telling that little white lie, was allowed to obtain the required permits.

    Eventually, as with many childhood fads or hobbies, many of my friends gradually dropped out. By this stage I had also developed an interest in photography and, again encouraged by my father, owned a reasonably effective camera rather than the Kodak ‘Instamatic’ used by most of my fellow enthusiasts. By this time British Railways was rapidly disposing of its steam locomotives and collecting their numbers had become a bit pointless, you could never see them all which had been the original aim, and so taking photographs of what was disappearing seemed a sensible thing to do.

    Around this time I got a place at Nottingham University and, as bad luck would have it, this was an area where steam power had already been eliminated. Studies in Nottingham and a girlfriend back home took up most of my time and money. One day in 1968, the year steam locomotives were eliminated on British Railways, I was sat in the Social Science library at the university pondering a life without steam locomotives when I spotted a column of steam moving about in the distance. This puzzled me as it was unlikely that anything had strayed from the last stronghold in the North West. Studying an Ordnance Survey map that evening I guessed that the steam was coming from Clifton Colliery. I checked this out and sure enough they had a small steam locomotive. I knew from my GCE ‘O’ level Geography that there were lots of coal mines around Nottingham and therefore there might be other places with steam power. Further research discovered that there was actually a national society for those interested in industrial locomotives and that they published books recording every location and what could be found there. My studies took a downward turn and I was out and about, ironically photographing not the coalmining locations, few had steam power working by then, but the ironstone quarries in Lincolnshire, Rutland as was, and Northamptonshire.

    Descending from the colliery, a loaded train passes the mangled remains of a recent load that ran away on the steep gradient and derailed. (Steam in the British Coalfields, Amberley Publishing)

    Returning home to Liverpool once I graduated – with a very moderate degree – I found that the coal mines of Lancashire were still home to many steam locomotives as were those a little further afield in Cumbria. By the early 1970s my younger brother had also become something of an industrial steam nerd by this time, being handy for the last strongholds in North Wales, and so we went on expeditions together.

    Sadly even this means of satisfying our appetite was diminishing and in 1975 I made my first trip abroad to photograph steam locomotives in East Germany, Poland and, with my wife to be in tow, Spain and Portugal. By the end of the 1980s I had added, with several visits, India, China, South Africa, Turkey and Zimbabwe to the list, photographing both steam trains on the national lines of those countries but also industrial sites. When asked if I had seen the ‘Terracotta Army’ on a trip to China I had to answer ‘No but I did go to the steelworks at Anshan and the forestry line at Langxiang’ [where we taught the local workers how to play musical chairs at a social evening]!

    I had many adventures on these trips, some printable, some not! I also have a cupboard full of negatives and colour slides that I need to transfer into digital format before they fade away. So call me a nerd if you must but I have seen far more of the world than most and don’t regret it one bit. See my photos and judge for yourself!

    Mick Pope's new book Steam in the British Coalfields is available for purchase now.

  • Locomotives of the Eastern United States by Christopher Esposito

    When I was asked to put together this book for Amberley, I knew it was going to be a challenge. After all, how does one comb through over 10,000 photos of trains and select the best images to present to readers? What lines to pick? What engine models?

    NS ES44DC 7716 leads 13R over the Potomac River as it crosses from Maryland into West Virginia on the H Line. Shepherdstown, WV. Taken on 26 October 2018. (Locomotives of the Eastern United States, Amberley Publishing)

    In this blog post, I’m going to give a behind-the-scenes look at how I arrived at the selection process for the images used in this book.

    The first thing I looked at was variety. Since the topic of the book is locomotives, I wanted to include as many different locomotive types as possible. With the monotony of modern diesel power in the form of EMD SD70 variants and GE GEVO models, this was no easy task. While I did not include EVERY type of engine currently in use, I feel the book presents a realistic look at what is currently used by the major railroads.

    The second criteria I used was scenery. The Eastern region of the United States can range from vast mountain regions around Pennsylvania and Virginia to virtually flat plains of red clay in the Carolinas. In my selections, I used shots I felt captured the flavor of each region:  the quaint countryside dotted with family farms in eastern Pennsylvania, the mountainous and gritty coal country of West Virginia, the dense and populated commuter towns in New Jersey, the urban setting of downtown Atlanta. It was key for me to not just show you, the reader an image of an EMD SD70ACe for instance, but to show it as part of the bigger picture. Too often, rail photographers will focus on the train and ignore the greater surrounding scenery.  By doing that, you tend to lose the feeling of the area in which you are shooting.

    Union Pacific GE AC44CW No. 6588 leads eastbound intermodal No. 234 through Waburn, VA on the ex-N&W main line as a light dusting of snow covers the ground. Taken on 13 March 2018. (Locomotives of the Eastern United States, Amberley Publishing)

    The third condition on my list was consistency. While I did make a few exceptions by including older photographs, I made a conscious decision to use only photographs taken with my current model of camera – the Nikon D4S. The quality of the image produced by the D4S really jumps out at you, and I wanted to use the best quality shots for this publication.

    My final point was to try and include an assortment of railroads that run on the east coast. Due to traffic density, line proximity and fitting in trackside time, the photos used in the book tend to favor the Norfolk Southern railroad. While the black and white scheme used on the NS diesels is nothing to write home about, I feel the settings in which the trains operate make up for the lack of color on the engines.

    I hope as you page through the photos in this book, it gives you a sense of not only the engines in use on today’s railroads, but also a glimpse into the regions of America these trains traverse and the industries they serve.

    Christopher Esposito's new book Locomotives of the Eastern United States is available for purchase now.

  • Shed Bashing in the 1970s and 1980s by Colin Alexander

    When my mate David, now exiled in France, made me custodian of his collection of railway photos from the early 1980s it sparked the idea of compiling a book recalling our teenage years, misspent bunking BR diesel depots.

    Unidentified Class 31/1 on 31 July 1982. (Author's collection, Shed Bashing in the 1970s and 1980s, Amberley Publishing)

    Wishing to include as much variety as possible I decided the book would encompass two decades, from 1970 to 1989. In 1970 I was six years old and my Dad was taking me to ‘watch the trains’. On these trips I can clearly remember seeing Clayton Type 1s dumped at the back of Tyne Yard.

    It wasn’t until 1978, aged fourteen, that I was allowed to go independently to Newcastle Central station. The cost of a return from Tynemouth and a platform ticket was less than 10p.  I quickly made friends with other ‘platform-enders’, forming lifelong friendships. Forty years later, we still go on rail-tours and to preserved diesel galas together.

    The west end of Central station provided a tantalising glimpse across the Tyne to Gateshead depot. A walk across Robert Stephenson's High Level Bridge led us via the old NER Greenesfield Works to the shed foreman's office door where we made the mistake of knocking and asking permission to look around. Having been chased off, next time we knew better and just sneaked in up the bank beside the King Edward VII Bridge and through a hole in the fence, to the sidings known as the ‘ash-heaps’.

    We soon progressed to travelling, usually with the excellent £2.60 weekly Northumbrian Ranger ticket. We mostly ‘bashed’ Deltics between Berwick and York but always made time to visit Carlisle’s Kingmoor shed. On all but one occasion we were flatly refused entry by the ‘gadgie’ in the office so we’d trudge back over the bridge, forced to view the locos across the main line from rusty sidings which often contained withdrawn locomotives awaiting disposal. They led to one of our favourite vantage points, the Waverley route bridge and its view of the secondary shed in the marshalling yard.

    The exterior of Inverness shed featured these bodly striped doors, outside which No. 27203 is stabled on 27 March 1982. (Author's collection, Shed Bashing in the 1970s and 1980s, Amberley Publishing)

    We began to travel further afield in our quest for diesel exotica, and found Scottish shed foremen far more amenable to scruffy youths wandering about than their Gateshead and Kingmoor counterparts.

    The Ian Allan Locoshed books became indispensable, providing directions through the dodgiest parts of Britain's towns and cities to depots. My friend Tim and I, then aged 12 and 14 respectively, had been taken by his parents to Glasgow for the day. The grown-ups set off shopping, leaving us kids to visit Eastfield shed. Like many depots it was surrounded by run-down estates and we soon became aware we were being followed. Turning, I saw a boy about our age, but looking much ‘harder’ than us (not difficult), accompanied by a much older lad who looked even scarier. What caught our eye was that one wielded a half-brick while the other carried a bike chain. We ran as fast as we could but Tim’s legs could not carry him fast enough. I made it to the security gates of The Metal Box factory and got the guards there to rescue Tim. Our assailants scarpered but not before robbing Tim of what little cash he was carrying.

    One of the less numerous first-generation DMU types was the Class 100, built by the Gloucester Railway Carriage & Wagon Co. (Author's collection, Shed Bashing in the 1970s and 1980s, Amberley Publishing)

    The police were called and soon we found ourselves in a scene from “Rab C Nesbitt”, riding the tenement streets in a ‘jam sandwich’ squad car on the lookout for the baddies. Our description of the older of the two matched that of one of their most wanted, and soon enough we spotted them. He and his younger sidekick were hauled into the back seat and the former was literally sat on by the arresting officer for the journey to the ‘nick’, six of us jammed into a five-seater car! Their pockets were emptied, the contents given to us and we were sent on our way. A tidy profit was made and nothing was said to my friend’s parents.

    On another occasion, having used Merseyrail under the river to get to the sheds in Birkenhead, I lost my ticket and had no cash, and had no means of boarding a train back to Liverpool. Imagine the look on the ticket vendor’s face when I asked where the nearest bridge was, thinking I could simply walk back over the river. I now know that it is approximately a 25-mile walk to the bridge at Runcorn. Fortunately he took pity and let me fare-dodge back under the Mersey.

    With her headcode panel intact in 1982, Class 81 electric locomotive No. 81007 is captured at the buffer-stops outside Kingmoor. (Author's collection, Shed Bashing in the 1970s and 1980s, Amberley Publishing)

    Whole weekends would be planned around shed-bunks. Just after my sixteenth birthday six of us travelled overnight from Newcastle to London. Three of us travelled in style behind Deltic 55012 CREPELLO to York then 55009 ALYCIDON the rest of the way to the capital, arriving in the early hours of Saturday morning. The other three lads were not so well-off so they met us at Victoria off the overnight National Express coach.

    We visited Clapham Junction, Selhurst and Hither Green with their Class 73 electro-diesels.  Then followed the trainspotters’ mecca of Stratford to see the last remaining Class 31/0s. The North London line took us to Willesden where AC electrics awaited, then trudged down the road to Old Oak Common to see Class 50s. Our trip was concluded with more Deltic haulage behind 55014 THE DUKE OF WELLINGTON’S REGIMENT overnight from King’s Cross, with diversions via Lincoln and the Leamside line, while our mates suffered another night on the M1 and A1. We all got home early next morning, tired, filthy and happy.

    If the varied contents of BR’s sheds were not interesting enough, it was even more exciting to visit the workshops of British Railways Engineering Ltd, normally accessible only on open days. Dad came up trumps, taking me to open days at Doncaster in 1978 and Crewe in 1979.  These events introduced me to the unforgettable smell of the paint-shops and the fascinating sight of locomotives being built, overhauled or scrapped.

    My only visit to Laira was on an open day, on 25 April 1982. (Author's collection, Shed Bashing in the 1970s and 1980s, Amberley Publishing)

    The most memorable open day was the “Deltic D-Day” at Doncaster, in February 1982. Thousands of enthusiasts converged on the town to pay their last respects to the survivors of the class, all having been withdrawn from service and several having already been cut up.

    Open days were fine but their very legitimacy meant they weren’t a patch on blagging our way into a location where we shouldn't be!

    Perils associated with shed visits were unlit inspection pits, oily puddles, tripping hazards and moving trains. Southern Region depots offered a 750vDC third rail as an additional danger, but we are all still here. It is difficult to imagine in today’s era of health and safety that enthusiasts were ever allowed to access such facilities!

    In this book I have assembled a collection of photographs that show the widest possible variety of traction in the principal depots and works all over the network, along with many of the lesser installations.

    Colin Alexander's new book Shed Bashing in the 1970s and 1980s is available for purchase.

  • Survivors of Beeching by John Jackson

    It seems like only yesterday that I was lying on the carpet at my best friend’s house. Dave lived ‘seven doors down’ and had the superior Hornby double 0 gauge model railway layout. As school chums, we spent many a happy hour playing trains there.

    The view from the train as it approaches St. Ives. (Survivors of Beeching, Amberley Publishing)

    On more than one occasion I distinctly remember our two dads having the audacity to invade our space and enter our playroom. I recall their conversations on how this man Beeching would have a lasting effect on their lives, not to mention ours.

    My Dad was explaining that the railway lines east of Northampton would soon be no more. These were the very lines that I had taken for granted were there to take us home to see my Nan who lived not far from Haverhill on the Essex and Suffolk county border.

    David’s Dad had responded in a ‘tit for tat’ sort of way by explaining that this would also ruin their family holidays to Hunstanton in particular.

    In those days, when car ownership was not a given, I didn’t appreciate that there would have been similar discussions going on across the land as the country came to terms with the Beeching Act or the Beeching ‘Axe’, as it would become known in the annals of twentieth century history.

    How could I be expected to understand the economic necessities of a radical review of our railways?

    Fast forward a quarter of a century and adulthood had made me realise just what the ‘before’ and ‘after’ railway map looked like once the substantial cull of lines, stations and services had been fully implemented.

    The remote outpost of Altnabreac on Scotland’s Far North Line. (Survivors of Beeching, Amberley Publishing)

    Most childhood weekends had been spent watching the variety of steam locomotives heading up and down the West Coast Main Line. These steam locos were ousted by the rapid introduction of diesel engines followed by the northward march of the line’s electrification. Worse, Roade station, ‘our’ station had become just one of the station closure casualties. There would be no more spotting from the platforms at this strategic point where the Northampton loop split from the main line.

    In time I would, of course, get things in perspective and come to terms with the post Beeching railway map. My goal to travel on all the passenger lines in the country would be that much easier to achieve and there would be considerably less stations to visit.

    But there would still be challenges. The remote station of Rannoch may be on the West Highland Railway Line but, oddly, its road access is from much further east. The B846, a no through road, runs for about fifteen miles from the isolated village of Kinloch Rannoch, itself a similar distance from the main A9. This makes Rannoch around thirty four miles from the comparative civilisation of the Central Highlands. Yes, Rannoch is most certainly ‘a survivor’.

    My seventh title for Amberley, ‘Survivors of Beeching’, is a recognition that many lines were saved for today’s rail travellers to enjoy. The line from Cambridge to Sudbury is gone and Haverhill station has been consigned to railway history. That said, my wife and I continue to enjoy travelling on the lines that have survived. From the branch from St. Erth to St. Ives in Cornwall to Scotland’s Far North line to Wick and Thurso, the lines featured in my book are examples of what today’s railway network still has to offer.

    John Jackson's new book Survivors of Beeching is available for purchase now.

  • DB Cargo Locomotives and Stock in the UK by John Jackson

    Railways have been around in this country for nearly two hundred years, and there have been many significant milestones when documenting their place in British Social History. In the early days, they were the only way to travel as they pre-dated both motor car and aeroplane. They were also instrumental in giving the UK a standardised time for us all. Often taken for granted, they helped deliver day to day necessities such as the milk, the mail and fresh meat, fish, fruit and veg to our towns, if not directly to our doors.

    On a more sombre note, they played an extremely important part too in the country’s efforts during not one, but two, World Wars.

    66001 at Toton in August 1998. (DB Cargo Locomotives and Stock in the UK, Amberley Publishing)

    Times change of course, and our railways have seen many changes since those early days of the iron road from Stockton to Darlington. Steam locos have been replaced by diesel ones, and these diesels have in turn given way to electric power. For many, though, the railways’ usefulness has been superseded by private car and commercial lorry. Some of us opt to fly between the UK’s towns and cities.

    Our railways have been nationalised, and subsequently privatised, with a drastic streamlining under the Beeching Axe carried out between the two.

    One significant outcome of privatisation was the 1990’s creation of the company that was to handle much of the country’s rail freight movement. English, Welsh & Scottish Railways (EWS) inherited much of British Rail’s freight related assets and that company, in turn, evolved into DB Cargo today.

    In 1998, the company proudly displayed their first few examples of their Class 66 locos. This unveiling was a hint of what lay ahead. Older locos were deemed life expired or unsuitable to meet the company’s future plans. They were to be replaced by this new order. It was an order that would see two hundred and fifty Class 66 locos delivered in a little over two years. This display, at the company’s new home at Toton on the Derbyshire & Nottinghamshire border, was held over the weekend of August 29th & 30th 1998. It was seen by many, myself included, as an endorsement of promising times ahead in the rail freight sector.

    Old and new corporate colours on 90018 & 90028 at Nuneaton. (DB Cargo Locomotives and Stock in the UK, Amberley Publishing)

    That promise may not have been totally fulfilled but the DB Cargo owned examples of this class, together with a mixed bag of loco survivors from a previous era, have earned their place in the annals of railway history.

    My sixth title for Amberley, ‘DB Cargo Locomotives & Stock in the UK’, takes a look at the workings of the company in the 21st century. Like them or hate them, these Class 66 locos, or ‘sheds’ as they quickly became known, form the basis of our hobby for the many enthusiasts who rise to the challenge of trying to see the whole of this UK class during each calendar year.

    Many of the 250 class members on DB’s books have since found permanent work aboard, leaving around half on them based in the UK. Before those loco despatches to mainland Europe, I recall the red-letter day when I saw loco number 66222 pass through the high level platforms at Tamworth station, meaning I had seen all 250 EWS locomotive examples (as they were then) through the Staffordshire town.

    A mix of diesel and electric locomotives meet today’s DB Cargo needs. The book’s pages take a look at the variety of workings on which they are found.

    Whatever the level of interest of today’s rail enthusiast, the place of DB Cargo in the freight sector in particular can’t be ignored. A browse through the pages of this book gives an indication as to why.

    John Jackson's new book DB Cargo Locomotives and Stock in the UK is available for purchase now.

  • Electric Locomotives on Scottish Railways by Colin J. Howat

    No. 90001 (HQ) at Glasgow Central with a dynamometer coach. This was a special coach used by BR to record track alignment and provide various other technical information mainly for the benefit of the civil engineers. Taken March 1988. (Electric Locomotives on Scottish Railways, Amberley Publishing)

    Electric Locomotives on Scottish Railways covers virtually the whole of the electrified network across Scotland. The first electrification took place on the north side of Glasgow from 1960 when the Airdrie to Helensburgh line and branches in between were done. This was followed closely by the Glasgow South side when electrification spread to the Cathcart Circle, Neilston and Newton areas in 1962. In 1967, the lines between Glasgow Central and Gourock along with the Wemyss Bay branch were added to the system. Progress throughout the Central Scotland area has been steady since with now approximately 40% of the whole network now electrified. This book covers electric locomotives from humble Class 81s up to and including Class 92s with images from 1974 until the present day. I have also included shots of the APT (Class 370) and Virgin Class 390s (Pendolino) as they show the further development of the original AC locomotives. Technically the APT and Virgin Pendolinos are electric multiple units but I have included them as most people regard them as electric locomotives within a powered unit.

    No. 92031 (CE) “Schiller” stabled at Ayr Depot. This was an open day organised by EWS for staff and friends. This loco is still active with DB Cargo. Taken April 2002. (Electric Locomotives on Scottish Railways, Amberley Publishing)

    The AC electric locomotive fleets are not among the most popular to have operated over Scottish metals. The 100 strong first generation of AC electric locomotives came from five construction groups. All were built to a common design theme stipulated by the British Transport Commision (BTC) design panel. Originally classified as AL1 – AL5, the fleets were later classified 81-85 and were the backbone of the modernised electric Scottish routes until AL6 (Class 86) locomotives emerged in the mid-1960s. The first generation fleets were not without operational problems and I feel if it had not been for the extension of the WCML electrification to Glasgow Central in 1974, some would certainly have been withdrawn much earlier than they were.

    The UK government gave the go ahead for the electrification of the WCML from Preston to Glasgow Central in 1970 and this was completed in 1973 with services between Glasgow Central and London Euston commencing from May 1974. In conjunction with this, the Hamilton Circle line from Newton and the Belshill route to/from Motherwell were also electrified. Next on the list was the Argyle Line between Kelvinhaugh Junction in the west and Rutherglen Central Junction in the east which allowed through running of trains between the south and north side of Glasgow. This also included a small spur at Rutherglen West Junction which allowed trains direct access from the Argyle Line to the WCML and thence direct access to/from Shields Depot.

    No. 86438 (WN) at Glasgow Central having just arrived with the overnight postal from London Euston. This loco is still employed by Freightliner. Taken February 1990. (Electric Locomotives on Scottish Railways, Amberley Publishing)

    In 1986 the Ayrshire area was added to the electrified network when the overheads were extended from Paisley Gilmour Street to Ayr, Largs and Ardrossan Harbour. However, in one of the more short sighted decisions made by BR and Strathclyde PTE, the track bed beyond Paisley Canal was lifted and houses allowed to be built on it. This has made it virtually impossible to re-open services to/from Kilmacolm. However, given the amount of houses that were compulsory purchased for the re-opening of the Waverley route to Tweedbank, nothing is impossible. Other parts of the Scottish network added in have been the Whifflet spur which allows trains to run from Motherwell onto the North Electric system. This was used extensively from December 1994 until December 1995 after the Argyle Line was shut due to severe flooding. The Larkhall branch was added in 2005 and the R&C line from Rutherglen to Whifflet via Mount Vernon was also electrified in 2014. The E&G line between Glasgow Queen Street and Edinburgh was finally opened up for electrics in December 2017. On the East Coast main line, the Edinburgh to Berwick-upon-Tweed line was electrified in 1989. This included the North Berwick Branch and in 1991 the line between Midcalder Jn and Carstairs was electrified allowing GNER trains from London Kings Cross direct access to Glasgow Central. Photographing electrics can be a challenge particularly from high locations as the overhead equipment creates obstructions which in turn affects focusing. Most of the shots in this book are taken from ground level. Some modern electric locomotives are so silent that they are literally on top of you before you know where you are particularly during windy conditions.

    Colin J. Howat's new book Electric Locomotives on Scottish Railways is avialable for purchase now.

  • Type 4 Locomotives of British Rail by Andrew Walker

    Type 4 Pioneer at Sheffield. The first of what might be called BR's 'production' Type 4s, the 2,000 hp English Electric Class 40, entered traffic in 1958. (Type 4 Locomotives of British Rail, Amberley Publishing)

    Discovering the ‘Type 4s’

    There was a time when, as a novice train spotter in the mid-70s, I was not quite able to distinguish between the various types of diesel locomotive found on the BR network. My brother John had recently purchased an Ian Allan ‘Locoshed’ book, the 1976 edition, and we had pored over the lists of numbers, wondering when we might see examples of each particular class of engine. We soon realised that certain classes of locomotive were, at that time, allocated to depots on a regional basis. So for example, to see a Class 26 or 27 one had to go north, to Haymarket or Eastfield, whereas to see a Class 33 one had to go south, to Hither Green or Stewarts Lane. This accounted for the fact that these locomotives never put in an appearance on our regular visits to Leeds, Sheffield or York, our regular spotting haunts then. Early on though, we began to see plenty of Type 4s. We did not know they were Type 4s at that time, as the objective was simply to discover if we’d seen something new and to tick it off in the book. I well recall the time on one of the very first visits to Leeds, when looking at a Class 40 in profile, that I suddenly realised it had an ‘extra’ pair of wheels compared with the similar-looking Class 37s. It may have been on the same day that I saw a Class 45 for the first time and noted that it had the same wheel arrangement as the Class 40, but although superficially similar in appearance, with the three cab windows and the protruding nose, there were some differences – the large body side grilles, a slightly flatter and shallower bonnet.

    No more freight duties for these Type 4s. In the industrial surroundings of the works at Crewe, numerous Class 40s await their final visit to the scrapyard. In this early 1984 view Nos 40115 and 40088 stand in the sidings while in the background are Nos 40065 and 40023. (Type 4 Locomotives of British Rail, Amberley Publishing)

    If you are interested in something, it doesn’t take long to become knowledgeable about the subject. Those early experiences of trying to figure out what made a ‘45’ different from a ‘46’, and realising that a ‘40’ had more wheels than a ‘37’ seemed to last mere days – and perhaps they did. The nature of the discovery evolved into a more focused process – more like a quest I suppose. Finding out that a Stratford-based Class 47 might appear on a passenger turn at Sheffield led to routine heightened anticipation on visits there. Likewise, it was always a bit of an event when one of the Western Region’s named 47s, perhaps ‘Odin’, or ‘Cyclops’ turned up. The 46s contrived to make themselves slightly more interesting than the 45s, largely because there were fewer of them in service, but then the 45s provided a counter-balance because many of them were named, and that always added a new dimension which the 46s could not offer (with the exception of the mysteriously singular 46026). So it did not seem to take very long to start to mentally categorise the various classes and the individuals therein, to a kind of hierarchy of interest, much of which was based on rarity, actual or perceived. This has probably always been an intrinsic aspect of any ‘spotting’ hobby, whether it be trains or birds. To a Yorkshire-based enthusiast with limited travelling capability, a Western Region 47 from Old Oak Common was always going to rank above say, a Knottingley-based classmate. No doubt if I’d lived in Devon it would have been otherwise.

    Backdrop of Wild Boar Fell. A Carlisle to Leeds service approches the summit of the Settle & Carlisle line at Ais Gill on 17 June 1989. Large logo-liveried Class 47 No. 47597 provides the motive power for this service, which has been strengthened to ten coaches on this occasion. (Type 4 Locomotives of British Rail, Amberley Publishing)

    The 47s were always up against it, so to speak, in desirability terms. ‘Just another Brush 4’ was an oft-heard remark, understandably so when they outnumbered all other Type 4s by a substantial margin. Not only that, but the 47s did not even offer the differentiation factor that the 40s and Peaks achieved by having a range of headcode panel configurations. Until their conversion to uniform sealed-beam marker lights, the Peaks offered four possibilities in this respect – if one includes the original discs of the Class 44s. The ‘split headcode’ Peaks were perhaps not the most aesthetically pleasing, but the two central headcode types, a singular panel or two square-ish adjacent panels, looked nicely balanced.

    An early revelation concerned the Class 40s. Pictures of some of these locomotives in the railway magazines would say, for example, ‘…40013, formerly ‘Andania’…’ and it became apparent that a sizeable contingent of the class had once been named but at some point the nameplates had been removed – every single one of them. Then I spotted the bolt-heads on the side of 40020 at Leeds, and on 40012 at Sheffield, and realised that these marked the spot. I read in several magazines and books that a decision had been made by BR to remove the nameplates, but there was never really a satisfactory explanation, nor was any responsible individual ever identified. I read that the motivation was to do with corporate uniformity, or perhaps that the 40s were no longer seen as top-link motive power and therefore unworthy of carrying names, but these seem very weak arguments. Why not just leave the plates where they were? There were no operational or reputational implications. Not long after finding out about the removal of the Class 40 nameplates, I discovered that the same had been done with the Class 44s. All ten were named shortly after construction, lending the collective nomenclature to the class, but again, someone somewhere in the BR hierarchy deemed it best to remove them en masse. Maybe it’s no big deal, but why do it? What benefits accrued? I would say none, but that’s just my opinion.

    The disappointment at being too late to see the 40s and 44s with their nameplates in situ did not, nevertheless, prevent a great affection building for them. The consolation was in trying to ‘collect the full set’ of named Class 45s, and in the excitement of seeing for the first time one of the 47s with truly gargantuan plates – ‘Isambard Kingdom Brunel’ and ‘George Jackson Churchward’, their appearance making a day at Sheffield always truly memorable. They were the celebrities of their day.

    Andrew Walker and John Walker's new book Type 4 Locomotives of British Rail is available for purchase now.

  • Cornish Traction by Stephen Heginbotham

    Number 45059 (formerly D88) Royal Engineer stands at the blocks at Platform 2 in Penzance station after arrival with the Down Cornishman on Monday 21 February 1977. Penzance Station has changed little in the intervening years since this iconic picture was taken. But the type of traction regularly in use throughout Cornwall certainly has changed. (Cornish Traction, Amberley Publishing)

    Well, after nearly forty years of getting up at 04:50, or sometimes earlier, and arriving home at any time around midnight off a late shift or 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, and 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, though a quarter century of working in 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 more 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.

    An HST power car from set 253001 is connected up to the mains in Ponsandane Yard at Penzance during the HST crew training period in Cornwall. Friday 3 November 1978. Ironically, this livery has been reprised recently in a nostalgic nod to a train that helped save both BR and express services to and from the West Country. (Cornish Traction, Amberley Publishing)

    This collection of photographs depicts many of the traction types that were seen in their daily duties around the West Country during the 1970s and 1980s. 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. I can recall the same feelings about seeing Black-Fives, 8Fs, and WD locos in the 1960s, and just sitting waiting for a Jubilee, or Royal Scot, or Patriot, or Britannia, to name but a few. To be fair, when the ‘Peaks’ arrived along with the English Electrics (class 40) and names started to appear on some of them, they became nearly as exciting to ‘cop’ as a steamer. Of course, in those days, the names were as interesting as the locomotives, and the management of the time put a great deal of thought into the naming process. This generally still applied in the 1980s and it was only when privatisation got a grip did we start to see names that were both dubious and uninteresting, much like the monotonous and boring liveries that assault our senses daily.

    Whilst I accept that modernisation was desperately needed throughout the network, it has not happened everywhere and it is very much a post-code lottery of investment in technology and innovation, and many routes are still in the pre-BR era of rolling stock, signalling and infrastructure. At least the era covered by this book shows some variety of livery as opposed to BR corporate blue and the yet to come liveries of the private sector, but it is more about remembering the variety of traction still around in in the West Country during that period, and with it sometimes the audible cacophony accompaniment.

    People used to vilify BR, for its service, but having worked for BR, I can tell you that the service delivery shortfalls of BR pales into insignificance when compared to the abysmal service of the shambolic British railway we have today. In my day working as a Signalman and later as a Signalling Inspector and MOM, I can assure you that cancelling a train was a very last resort.  In general, the duty of all railway staff in those BR days was that the service will run if at all possible. It was considered a disservice to the public not to run a service and if a service was run late. Drivers and Signalmen in particular took pride in trying to get services back on time where possible.

    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. David in particular, being a Cornishman, spent many days, weeks, months and years photographing trains within the Duchy.

    So, having said all that, here is my third book on Cornwall’s 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 Cornish Traction is available for purchase now.

  • Bulleid Pacifics by Nigel Kendall

    My favourite Merchant Navy, No. 35008 Orient Line, rockets past the New Milton goods yard with the eastbound 'Bournemouth Belle' on 13 May 1966. I was travelling behind No. 35008 when it broke the record for fastest run between Southampton and Waterloo without exceeding the 85 mph speed limit. (Bulleid Pacifics, Amberley Publishing)

    Before my introduction to Bulleid Pacifics in 1960 my memory of an early growing interest in railways was when as a boy in New Zealand I would travel to school by train. I lived on the slopes of the Waitakere Hills, west of Auckland, and so the process of getting to my destination near the centre of the city tended to be a complicated affair.

    My daily commute started on a rickety old bike, which carried me the three miles downhill to New Lynn Station on an awful unsurfaced road, coasting practically all the way. Then, throwing the unfortunate machine onto the pile of other bikes in the station yard, I would dash onto the station platform and join my school mates as a big oil-burning ‘Ja’ 4-8-2 rolled into the station with the 8am school train.

    The homebound trip entailed a similar routine, except that my bike ride was an uphill slog that I always hated.

    So eight years later, having moved to England, the weekly journeying between southwest Hampshire and Waterloo behind Bulleid Pacifics seemed a natural progression from my daily travels behind NZ steam. But the biggest difference, of course, was that within the intervening years my interest in railways had turned into a strong passion for all steam locomotives, and it’s a passion that lives with me to this day.

    I was so lucky that my new home in New Milton, Hampshire, was just 5 minutes’ walk from the station, which served the Waterloo to Weymouth main line, mainly with its large stud of Bulleid Pacifics. Apart from being able to nip down to the station whenever I had a spare 15 minutes, it also meant I got to know the station staff very well. Bob and Len, the signalmen, were particularly useful when I started to use my camera, and gave me the freedom of the lineside within their vision provided I never ventured onto the actual track.

    Driver Alf Boston of Bournemouth waits for the guard's green flag at New Milton on 27 December 1964. Battle of Britain No. 34085 501 Squadron was a Bournemouth 'good'un' during the 1960s. It was frequently seen hauling the 'Pines Express' following re-routing in 1963. The loco was introduced in November 1948 and rebuilt in June 1960. It was withdrawn in September 1965. (Bulleid Pacifics, Amberley Publishing)

    On my frequent London trips I would often catch a local train from New Milton to Southampton and connect with the 7.30am from Bournemouth Central. It was a well-patronized service headed by the usual Merchant Navy and loaded to 12 coaches including a restaurant car. Apart from a stop at Winchester it was non-stop to Waterloo, timed to arrive at the tail end of the rush hour – not an easy task for the crew.

    With all this railway travelling to London it wasn’t long before I got quite familiar with the Merchant Navies, West Countries, and Battle of Britain’s shedded at either Eastleigh, Bournemouth or Weymouth. Names that spring to mind are ‘Orient Line’, ‘New Zealand Line’, ‘Royal Mail’, ‘Swanage’, ‘Lapford’, ‘Combe Martin’, ‘Ottery St Mary’, ‘Dorchester’, and ‘501 Squadron’ or ‘Fighter Command’ with its Giesl Ejector. I travelled behind most of these locos, and more.

    Bulleid didn’t worry too much about coal consumption – he just wanted locomotives that would do all that was asked of it, and more when necessary. This philosophy brought about arguably the finest locomotive boilers ever produced in Britain. The fact that in the final months of Southern steam theoretically run-down Pacifics were achieving some of the finest performances of their careers was ample testimony to the concepts Oliver Bulleid laid down at the start of his reign as the Southern CME during the Second World War.

    It therefore goes without saying that I arranged my 1967 summer holiday to coincide with the end of Southern Steam on 9 July. In the last fortnight l travelled on as many Bulleid Pacific-hauled trains as I could – the cost was enormous! But I would not have missed it for the world.

    Within a week of the withdrawal of Southern Steam I logged two of the best runs I have ever experienced. It has to be said that a degree of irresponsibility was displayed in the quest for a 'ton' in those final days, however, who am I to stand in the judgement on the passing of an era.

    Nigel Kendall's new book Bulleid Pacifics is available for purchase now.

  • The North British Locomotive Company by Colin Alexander

    Urie's London & South Western Railway Class N15 express 4-6-0 was perpetuated by the Southern Railway after the Grouping. (Author's collection, The North British Locomotive Company, Amberley Publishing)

    In July 1980, aged 16, during a family holiday in the Cotswolds I made the pilgrimage to South Wales and the legendary Woodham’s scrapyard on Barry Island. As well as wishing to photograph the rusting hulks of over a hundred ex-British Railways steam locomotives which had languished there since the 1960s, there were two other items of interest that I was keen to see. They were the last two remaining ex-BR main line diesel locomotives built at the North British Locomotive Company in Glasgow.

    One was D601, once the pride of BR Western Region, and previously carrying the name ARK ROYAL. She was one of five 2000hp ‘Warship’ class diesel-hydraulics ordered as part of BR’s Pilot Scheme. Delivered in 1958 she and her sisters would last in service only until 1967, when withdrawn due to their non-standard status. They had never been the most reliable locomotives and after initial use on glamorous services like the ‘Cornish Riviera Express’ they were quickly demoted to secondary duties. Upon withdrawal, D602-D604, named BULLDOG, CONQUEST and COSSACK respectively, were quietly cut up at Cashmore’s scrapyard in Newport. D600 ACTIVE and D601 however made it to Barry.

    Of almost 300 BR locomotives consigned to the legendary Dai Woodham's scrapyard at Barry in South Wales, only one was an ex-LNER engine. Thompson Class BI 4-6-0 No. 61264 arrived there after departmental service and was fortunate enough to be one of the 213 locomotives to be rescued from Barry for preservation. (Author's collection, The North British Locomotive Company, Amberley Publishing)

    Dai Woodham famously tried to avoid cutting up locomotives, as he knew that the preservation movement would salvage most of them for posterity so as much as possible his workers concentrated on cutting up redundant mineral wagons and the like. Indeed all but two of the steam locomotives I saw that July 1980 day would escape to preservation, and many have since steamed.

    ACTIVE, proudly wearing the new BR Blue livery she wore in service for a few short months was dispatched after a few years in the open air of Barry Island but ARK ROYAL hung on until 1980.

    Meanwhile back in the 1950s, North British had also built a much more numerous class of fifty-eight diesel-electric locomotives numbered D6100 and D6157. They were of 1100hp and found work on the Eastern and Scottish Regions, although before long all were concentrated north of the border.

    They were just as unreliable as their illustrious named Warship cousins and despite twenty of them being re-engined to extend their lives, all were gone by 1972. All that is except for D6122. Following withdrawal in Scotland she found herself dumped at Hither Green in Kent and there she suffered the indignity of being used for re-railing practice. She ended up at Barry with D600 and D601 and like ARK ROYAL she lasted there until 1980.

    A rare NBL diesel success came with the 3 ft 6 in. gauge diesel-hydraulic 0-8-0 for East African Railways & Harbours. (Author's collection, The North British Locomotive Company, Amberley Publishing)

    Unfortunately for me, when I got there, the cutters had beaten me to it and all I could find was one solitary rusty NBL/MAN diesel engine on the ground. It could have been D6122’s or it could have been one of the pair of identical units from D601. I will never know. I had missed them by a matter of weeks. There ended the story of BR’s NBL main line diesels.

    NBL was formed in 1903 by the merger of three established Victorian Scottish locomotive manufacturers, and it became the largest such concern outside of the USA. It gained an excellent reputation through the export of countless dependable locomotives all over the world and for many domestic railway companies. That reputation was shattered when NBL’s BR diesels began to fail and the company closed down due to the cost of repairing its errant products under warranty.

    Many North British steam locomotives survive globally as a living testimony to the company’s success and influence, but the burgeoning diesel preservation movement in the UK came too late to save D601 and D6122, just as I arrived too late to take their photographs.

    Read more about the North British Locomotive Company story in my new book The North British Locomotive Company, published in May 2018. You can still purchase a copy of my other book The British Railways Pilot Scheme Diesel Locomotives. Proceeds from sales of this title contribute directly to two related heritage diesel projects. They are the restoration of a true diesel ‘dinosaur’, the unique surviving Metropolitan Vickers Co-Bo D5705 at the East Lancashire Railway; and the recreation of another extinct class, a Napier Deltic engined English Electric Type 2, being built by the Baby Deltic Project at Barrow Hill Roundhouse.

    Colin Alexander's new book The North British Locomotive Company is available for purchase now.

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