Spotting in those Early Years

22A
Posts: 27
Joined: Wed Oct 09, 2019 11:26 am

Re: Spotting in those Early Years

Post by 22A » Sun Nov 22, 2020 1:11 pm

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7C56cjVW0ZI

This link may evoke memories. The commentary states up to the Summer of 1965 steam hauled trains arrived at TM from the North.
I spent quite few Saturdays at TM from 1964 onwards, but never saw a Brit.

buxton4472
Posts: 19
Joined: Wed Apr 15, 2020 3:08 pm

Re: Spotting in those Early Years

Post by buxton4472 » Sun Dec 27, 2020 11:16 am

I'm a bit late joining this reminiscence thread and I have really enjoyed reading your posts on this topic and it has stirred a lot of fond memories of the late 1950s through to 1968. So I thought I'd tap away and put them down for posterity!!

Having a grandfather and a father both working on the railway at our local station (Charfield - signal-box and booking office) I was at a bit of an advantage when it came to watching trains and subsequently collecting numbers. Furthermore we lived just a garden length from the line. My first recollection of 'watching trains' was as a child of 5 or 6. On hearing a whistle of a down train coming through the station I could run to the bottom of the garden where there was a shallow cutting and be there in time for even the express trains behind a resplendent 'Jubilee' or 'Patriot'. Probably even earlier than this is a memory of my grandfather (who had just retired as a signalman at Charfield) taking me one afternoon to watch an ex-Midland 3F being re-railed after derailing on the crossover in the station whilst shunting the daily pickup. (In those days I believe the pickup goods originated not at the Bristol end of the line but at Gloucester from where it would wend its way down stopping at each goods yard to presumably St Philips or Westerleigh). I also recall the first loco for which I noted the number. It was LMS 4-4-0 'Compound' 41123, a Gloucester loco and a common performer on the Gloucester - Bristol stoppers, and my mother and I were on our way to Staple Hill to attend a family wedding. It ran short of steam (the loco, not the wedding!) just as it entered Wickwar tunnel and we stood there a good 15 minutes or so before resuming our journey. Teewell Hill springs to mind, very familiar I feel certain to others contributing to this site. As a family, we often went to the Forest of Dean to see my father's relatives near Lydney. We would take the stopping train to Berkeley Rd and decamp to the 'Push-n'-Pull' for the trip across the Severn Bridge, alighting at Severn Bridge station and walk from there through the meadows up to Viney Hill. The driver of the Pannier tank on the two-coach Lydney train invited me travel in the cab with him from Berkeley Rd and over the bridge but I was too shy to accept the invitation. A couple of years later and I would have bitten his hand off for such an offer!

Through the remainder of my pre-teen years I spent many happy hours at Charfield station. My dad was in the booking-office there and I used to help (or was it hinder?) Pat the porter with parcels and pigeon-baskets and Ken in the goods shed unloading sacks of cattle feed from covered vans and barrowing them into the animal feed store, with occasional visits to the signal-box which at Charfield was at the rear of the down platform and easily accessible from the station yard.

My grandparents had by this time moved to a house just half-a-mile from the West Coast main line just south of Acton Bridge in Cheshire. A very accommodating aunt used to accompany me to a lineside viewpoint sandwiched between the main line and Gorstage sidings - the interchange yard for the massive Wallerscote/Winnington ICI complex. So besides the procession of named expresses behind 'Duchesses' and 'Princesses', 'Scots' and 'Jubilees' - The Royal Scot, Mid-Day Scot, Lakes Express, Red Rose, Belfast Boat Express - there was a lot of interesting freight movement, especially the venerable ICI hopper trains arriving from Buxton with limestone. From the sidings, one of a mini-fleet of ICI 0-6-0 diesel shunters named after famous scientists of an earlier age - Cavendish and Joule spring to mind - trundled the limestone the couple of miles along a private connection to the complex. It was around this time that I began to get a much more comprehensive idea of England's social and industrial geography.

By the age of 9 or 10, I was avidly collecting loco numbers, and like others recording them in the Ian Allan ABC books. With a shilling a week pocket money it took five weeks' savings to purchase the Western Region and London Midland editions. I didn't see a Southern loco until a holiday in the Isle of Wight. (Actually, this is not quite true. Our family's frequent jaunts up to Cheshire were normally made via Gloucester and Birmingham, and at that time the ex-M&SWJR was still running a couple of passenger trains a day into Cheltenham Lansdown and I do recall seeing the occasional Maunsell 2-6-0 simmering away at Lansdown Jcn fresh up from Southampton as we passed northwards on the mid-morning Bristol - Newcastle). I do not recall the fate of Eastern Region loco numbers, but see them I must have on a Summer Saturday at Charfield. I was roped in to score for the local village cricket team and despite performing this task efficiently and accurately, I couldn't fail to notice between the sound of leather on willow the stream of 'up' expresses on an August Saturday afternoons and especially the ex-GW classes on the trains bound for Wolverhampton LL, burnished brass and copper, lined green boilers and tenders, Halls, Granges, Counties, Manors and Castles. I remember too one summer Sunday when little else stirred save the cricket match, an ex-S&D 2-8-0 53806 came north (probably on a ballast train) and parked itself outside the signal-box for well over half an hour. By break for tea, the loco had already departed in the direction of Westerleigh and this would be the only occasion I actually saw one of these locos north of Westerleigh yard.

When I was 10 years old, work was underway electrifying the Crewe - Liverpool line and I recall one memorable Sunday at the close of the February half-term 1960 returning from my grandparents in Cheshire with my dad on the Liverpool - Plymouth express. This had been diverted from the WCML at Hartford Jcn and instead of picking up passengers at Hartford did so instead at Hartford & Greenbank. From there it took the west chord at Northwich on to the single line to Sandbach and then on to Crewe, Shresbury and the Marches line. At the time, this train was routed from Rotherwas Jcn (south of Hereford) via Ross-on-Wye and Grange Court. Then from Gloucester Central and as darkness was falling, we sailed through Charfield and bid farewell to the Midland route at Yate South Jcn for the final approach to Bristol via the old GWR. Motive power was a 'Manor' piloted by a 63XX 2-6-0 (at least from Gloucester). This trip was memorable in may ways but I recall vividly the snappy token exchanges at the block posts (Longhope, Ross, Mitcheldean Rd) on the Hereford - Grange Court branch and it was watching these out of an open window of the carriage (probably much to the annoyance of other passengers on a cold February day) that sparked in me an interest in signalling which has persisted to this day.

From the age of 10, the diesel age seemed to encroach insidiously into an otherwise all-steam world. I saw my first diesel hydraulic at Temple Meads - D805 'Benbow' - on a London-bound express in the old Platform 9 whilst waiting for a Gloucester stopper from pl.12. Then, in my last term at Charfield Primary, on my morning walk to school I would regularly see 'Peak' D93 heading by on a down parcels being used as a crew training run. The initial flurry of excitement at seeing a new class of diesel loco on home turf would quickly transform into disappointment and indifference when the class became common-place on the ex-Midland main line.

The end of my first year at grammar school coincided with making new friends with similar railway interests. This was also the last summer when the S&D hosted a dozen or so expresses in each direction on a Saturday which used the ex-Midland main line and would likely have been the last time I saw Southern green stock on such trains as they passed through my village. With new found freedoms, my visits to the signal-box became much more frequent and by 12 or 13 I could happily have worked the box provided there were no out-of-the-ordinary incidents to have coped with! Looking back through a 1964/65 train register I 'lifted' shortly after the station itself closed, I note the frequent occasions I entered times in the register as my hand writing never quite matched that of the signalman himself. The only lever I had real problems pulling was the up distant which was a very hard tug, being almost 3/4 mile south of the box, nearly half-way to Wickwar. But this was replaced by a colour light signal in the early 60s making the job a lot easier! Two of the three regular signalmen were quite amenable to me spending hours there, whilst the very friendly station-master was happy to turn a blind eye to my constant infringement of rule 72, as my dad was still working in the booking office. My time there allowed me to peruse in detail the working timetables, of which Charfield box was issued with both the Gloucester area and Bristol area volumes. These were educational in that I learned about the logistics and geography of transportation of coal, steel, petroleum, chemicals and bananas, the location of heavy industries, and much else besides. The other resources to which I had access were the weekly notices, giving details of extra trains and their passing times at Charfield. I liked to think this gave me a certain advantage amongst my peers as I was able to forearm them with details of the many extra Sunday freights which ran especially in winter, clearing back-logs of Midland coal to the gas-works of the West Country, whilst giving loco-men much sought-after overtime. These freights were mainly steam up until 1965 but management obviously cast a disappproving eye on steam south of Gloucester around this time and a flurry of diesels light engine to Gloucester on a Sunday morning relieved the steam locos there much to my disappointment.

The closure of the station followed by the eradication of steam on the Gloucester - Bristol main line started a decline in my own interest in railways, at least locally. I would still visit the box and did so through its tenuous existence as a fringe-box to the Gloucester panel from 1968 to the point a few weeks before its eventual closure in May 1971, at which point it was fringing both Gloucester and Bristol panels. Most of the lever frame at this point was redundant. The block instruments had gone, in their place was a cheap (to look at) and unreliable train describer panel to/from Gloucester and a solitary block bell to Yate South Jcn and finally, for the last week before Charfield box's closure on 16th May 1971, to Bristol panel. I never saw the removal of the structure as by this time I was studying for my finals at Birmingham. Had I been around I'm sure I could have 'retrieved' a few items from the friendly S&T guys based in a pre-fab hut behind the old goods shed to remember the old box by. The illuminated track diagram would have looked quite nice now on my study wall! And a block instrument outside the loo? Line clear, train on line and line blocked - the mind boggles!
Last edited by buxton4472 on Mon Dec 28, 2020 6:42 pm, edited 3 times in total.

the green mile
Posts: 84
Joined: Tue Sep 24, 2019 10:00 am

Re: Spotting in those Early Years

Post by the green mile » Mon Dec 28, 2020 8:01 am

Great memories there worthy of a wider audience. Have you considered putting this forward as an article for something like Steam Days or Steam Railway magazine if suitable photos could be sourced?

Roy

Andy Kirkham
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Joined: Wed Sep 25, 2019 12:44 pm

Re: Spotting in those Early Years

Post by Andy Kirkham » Mon Dec 28, 2020 12:29 pm

I've read these reminscences with a good deal of pleasure but not without some envy, as I feel my experience of the steam era is defined more by what I missed than what I experienced. I do regret that my father, for all his virtues, was not particularly interested in railways, so that when I asked him in about 1966 whether he thought there were still any steam locos on British Railways, his reply was "Oooh, I shouldn't think so."
The origin of my railway interests can be attributed to an older enthusiast cousin who lived in Birmingham; in 1960 and and 1961 we went on holday to Barmouth with that side of the family, visiting the Talyllyn, Fairbourne and Festiniog. This led to one of my most remarkable railway exploits - a journey from Barmouth to Penychain behind a Dukedog; unfortunately I remember nothing about it and am only aware of it because my cousin recently told me about it!
Following a brief and intense obsession with railways, my interest lapsed through most of my primary school years - those years more-or-less coinciding with the last years of BR steam. Our family tended to favour coach travel for economy (which makes it particularly pognant to me that our 1962 holiday was in Bournmouth) and after we got a car in 1963, we seldom had cause to use public transport for long-distance journeys. I therefore treasure the precious mental snapshots of when I did by chance encounter steam - the pannier tank shunting at Cannons Marsh (the railway closest to my home), the Standard 4-6-0 hauling a freight through Clifton Down; the classic view from the overbridge at Bournmouth Central station near to our guest house on that 1962 holiday; the visit to friends living in a bungalow next to the main line near Yeovil - it must have been a summer Saturday as there seemed to be a steam-hauled express howling past every few minutes - and the sight of a "Spamcan" resting at the buffer stops at Padstow - location of our 1964 holiday; the latter gives an accurate measure of the low ebb of my interest at the time as, although we spent a fortnight in Padstow, It didn't occur to me to visit the station a second time.
I was oblivious to the ending of Western region steam and the closure of the S&D, being at the time procupied with daleks, Airfix kits and miltary matters. I think it was in 1967 that my railway interest began to re-kindle, perhaps due to visiting our Birmingham relations who took us out to visit the nascent Severn Valley Railway and the nearby Hilton Valley miniature railway, and by our summer holiday in Llandudno that year when we re-visited the Festiniog.
Towards the end of the school summer holidays, just before I started at the Cathedral School, my friend David Langley invite me to join him trainspotting at Temple Meads. At that time I assumed that steam on BR had been dead and buried for a few years, so I was intrigued when David told me of this wondrous place called Barry where disused steam locos could still be seen. Then when I purchased a copy of Railway World from the bookstall and opened it to a feature entitled "Steam's Last Fling on the Southern" I was utterly thunderstruck. We had visited Weymouth that Whitsun and had never gone near the station.
I embarked on spotting with enthusiasm and began spending all my Saturday afternoons at Temple Meads (the Cathedral School required attendance on Saturday mornings). I tended to spend my school lunchtimes in the Central Library reading the railway books and magazines, and I spent the next few months reading in agony about those exotic places like Patricroft and Carnforth where steam still operated, but were as unreachable to me as Khatmandu.
Oddly enough my local horizons did not extend much beyond the platforms of Temple Meads and my knowledge of local railway geography remained hazy for some time; the Radstock line, the Severn Beach to Pilning line and the Midland route through Mangotsfield all closed before I had become aware that they existed.
I never considered photographing BR at that time, having the attitude that, while preserved steam railways were a proper subject for photography, photographing "ordinary" trains was a waste of film (not that I could have afforded the film then). I think my attitude changed in 1970 when, on visiting Clifton Down, I found to my surprise that the signal box had suddenly closed and the semaphore signals had gone; that, along with the realization that finest, best-looking, most glamorous and westernest of the diesel locomotives were beinnning to disappear made me realize that I was living in an age of rapid change. The present day might indeed have been a pale shadow of the steam age railway, but it was still rapidly becoming even less interesting month by month.
Having underlined in my ian Allan books all the D800 warships (except D800-2 and the Paxman engined D830) and all the Westerns, I decided that there were no more locos worthy of spotting, so I stopped collecting numbers and changed the focus of my railway activities to photographing the dwindling ranks of the diesel-hydraulics. I felt fate had in some sense granted me a second chance - I had missed steam, but there was still something worthwhile to record. And I think that to some extent I was ahead of the trend; the final demise of the Westerns was attended by frenzied hordes, but the Class 22s and the Warships seemed to slip away without anybody apparently noticing or caring.

the green mile
Posts: 84
Joined: Tue Sep 24, 2019 10:00 am

Re: Spotting in those Early Years

Post by the green mile » Mon Dec 28, 2020 2:16 pm

Having to attend school on Saturday mornings at the Grammar School as well was a real bugbear as there seemed to be all sorts of interesting arrivals during the morning. If you were any good at rugby or cricket, the afternoon was also out of bounds for spotting. Luckily I was useless at both so never selected for the teams. I've often said that my time spent trainspotting was more use to my career than all my formal education, which resulted in a meagre 3 O levels.

I agree that those few odd Warships were conspicuous by their ability to hide. I did see the final Hymeks as they were delivered new and the first batch of Westerns which you could be forgiven for thinking were all to be painted in different colours. Then the first Brush type 4's came along with no initial indication as to how numerous that class would eventually become - D1500 to D1999 then back to D1100 for the final batch. Similarly, the English Electric type 3's which went from D6700 to D6999 went back to D6600 for the final push, although they were rarely seen on the English side of the Severn Tunnel in the 1960's.

It is by revisiting our memories from that era that we are achieving the objective of what this forum is all about. Keep it coming!

Roy

buxton4472
Posts: 19
Joined: Wed Apr 15, 2020 3:08 pm

Re: Spotting in those Early Years

Post by buxton4472 » Mon Dec 28, 2020 7:52 pm

And I think that to some extent I was ahead of the trend; the final demise of the Westerns was attended by frenzied hordes, but the Class 22s and the Warships seemed to slip away without anybody apparently noticing or caring.
Ah, the class 22! I've got a sneaky feeling we would see them occasionally at Charfield, on engineer's trains or even possibly the MWFO pick-up freight although this was almost always a Barrow Rd Fowler 4F. The other occasional visitors on engineer's trains were the class 14s. But I thought how iconic the 'Warships' were (especially in maroon livery) and of course the 'Westerns'. A regular must-see 'Warship' working in the early to mid 1960s on the Midland line was the Sunday Plymouth - Liverpool and its oppo during winter ST diversions, the 'up' train I can blame for me arriving home late for Sunday lunch! A Warship could also be seen on the Stockport - Bristol parcels. Westerns were much rarer, although my dad took photos of the Royal Train empty stock which for whatever reason was being run round at Charfield with D1036 'Western Emperor' as haulage. This might have been the first time a 'Western' was seen there. Date? Probably 1962. Has anyone any idea what the train was doing in the area?

Subsequently, Hymeks and Westerns would be seen quite frequently. After the closure of the Midland route stations in Jan 1965, a number of semi-fast trains were introduced on the Hereford/Worcester - Bristol route. These were mostly 3-car DMUs but the early morning Hereford - Bristol service was a Hymek and coaches working. The two classes could also be seen regularly on the Gloucester New Yard - Bath weekday freight (8B10) until its withdrawal.
Similarly, the English Electric type 3's .......... although they were rarely seen on the English side of the Severn Tunnel in the 1960's.
Yes, rare as hen's teeth on the Gloucester - Bristol line back in the 60s. A class I never saw in those days were the 20s (EE Type 1) but they must have got as far south as Gloucester I would guess. Did any get to Bristol?

Andy Kirkham
Posts: 24
Joined: Wed Sep 25, 2019 12:44 pm

Re: Spotting in those Early Years

Post by Andy Kirkham » Mon Dec 28, 2020 8:11 pm

Have you got Lightmoors volume on South Gloucestershire "Buxton"? I bought it myself for Christmas and t's absolutely cracking
https://lightmoor.co.uk/books/glouceste ... outh/L8672

buxton4472
Posts: 19
Joined: Wed Apr 15, 2020 3:08 pm

Re: Spotting in those Early Years

Post by buxton4472 » Mon Dec 28, 2020 9:16 pm

Have you got Lightmoors volume on South Gloucestershire "Buxton"?
Yes Andy, I bought it back in the summer. It is, as you say, a cracking volume with a wealth of photos of places I know very well. Well worth the thirty quid being asked. There are a couple of inaccuracies I found but nothing that detracts from a very comprehensive coverage of the Midland in Gloucestershire. Interestingly, one of the inaccuracies involves the date assigned to the two photos on p.383. I was up in the signal-box that day and it was a Sunday not a Thursday, which explains the steam-hauled mineral trains - two of a number of 'extra' freights booked. (Others steam-hauled that day included 92108 and 7816). The author's sequence is wrong as well, as the 'black 5' preceded the WD, as my own records show! The next train in the 'up' direction was 7029 'Clun Castle' on an SLS special 1X82 Bristol - Birmingham (SH). Clun had worked down earlier in the day with pannier tank 6435 which was on its way to the Dart Valley Railway. Happy days indeed.

Devonian
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Re: Spotting in those Early Years

Post by Devonian » Mon Dec 28, 2020 10:41 pm

Sorry this is not directly railway related but Andy Kirkham mentioned a chap named David Langley. I recall somebody of that name being in the 77th Redland Cub Scout Pack c. 1967 -69 which used to meet in a hall off Hurle Road off Whiteladies Road. If I have the correct person I wish I'd known he was a railway enthusiast!

the green mile
Posts: 84
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Re: Spotting in those Early Years

Post by the green mile » Tue Dec 29, 2020 8:43 am

buxton4472 wrote:
Mon Dec 28, 2020 7:52 pm

A class I never saw in those days were the 20s (EE Type 1) but they must have got as far south as Gloucester I would guess. Did any get to Bristol?
Never once saw a class 20 in the Bristol area during the 60's. I never knew much about them apart from the Hornby Dublo model. In the early 70's I was sent on a course at the School of Transport in Derby. I spent a few evenings at Derby station where pairs of them were commonplace on freights, mainly with rakes of hopper wagons. Another rarity at Bristol was the class 40. Both of these types were unusual to the 'norm' due to their whistling sound.

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