"A black cloud of stupidity..." -- gricing foul-ups

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Calthrop

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Thread title is from Bryan Morgan in The End Of The Line: where he berates himself (too harshly IMO), saying “a black cloud of stupidity fell on my mind”, for slightly-inadequate research (which research, re the Continent in the early 1950s, was essentially down to him – virtually no help from learned gricing journals); and a necessary snap decision in which he made what was with hindsight, the wrong choice. This caused him to miss out on one of France’s big metre-gauge systems, including a part of same (that part, most immediately concerned in the incident which he laments) which closed not long after said incident.

I for sure, in sixty-and-some years of railway enthusiasm, have perpetrated various “sins of omission” – leading to losing-out on desirable things -- which I now regret. Some, to do with choices in which one would have had to be a prophet, to make sure of choosing rightly: others which have to be attributed to sheer cluelessness.

My worst “clueless” clangers dropped ever, I consider as follows.

First:

I spent the first half of 1966 in Paris, for higher-education purposes. I knew all about the Réseau Breton – then essentially all “still there and running”; I looked with fascination at its timetables; considered making a couple of days’ expedition there (which would have been affordable, and also possible logistically) to bash the system; and ended up thinking, “Nah, I won’t do it – it’ll probably still be there in future years”. Of all the idiotic things to think, in Western Europe in 1966... it turned out that from early 1967, the RB’s metre-gauge was in stages rapidly abandoned, with the Guingamp – Carhaix section being converted to standard gauge. I managed to get to the area in summer ’67, and experience a bit of the metre-gauge – by then freight-only – “last knockings”; but, to have had the whole thing – at its “five minutes to midnight” -- offered to me on a plate, and to have decided, “ don’t think I’ll bother, after all” – what a half-wit.

The only possible mitigating factor: at the time, I was in a brief spell of what I think of as “Adrian Mole, Aged Thirteen-and-Three-Quarters” Syndrome: with ambitions to be an intellectual, and feeling rather ashamed of my perceivedly-childish railway interest. That idiocy didn’t totally stop me from doing any gricing during that spell in France; but looking back, how I wish that I’d done a great deal more – my Réseau Breton folly, being the worst of such.

Second:

In August 1962, I (aged fourteen) was staying with relatives in Chester. Wishing to bash new track, I travelled solo – permission for this duly granted – from Chester (Northgate) to Wrexham (Central) and return. Despite having access to exhaustive by-the-month up-to-date info (viz. the Railway Magazine) -- my actually taking that info in, tended to be decidedly spotty. For some reason, I had the impression that as at the time of this trip, the Wrexham (Central) – Ellesmere branch had already been closed. In fact, it hadn’t yet – it closed to passengers w.e.f. 10 / 9 / 1962. With the branch’s not-very-frequent service: in my brief spell at Wrexham (Central) – my dmu trip there from Chester, was a smart out-and-back – there happened to be no Ellesmere train in the station; and I didn’t have the nous to take a look at posted-up timetables at the station. (Ellesmere and return added to the itinerary, wouldn’t have been a problem vis-à-vis my relatives.) Again, “what a little moron”; but, “hindsight is 20/20”, and all that.

Would be interested in confessions from others, about similar clueless gricing missing-out episodes – whether in Britain or further afield -- for which you now kick yourselves, as I do for my instances of such.
 
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neilmc

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In November 1967, aged 13, I had planned to visit Carlisle (from Leeds) with my spotter mate Dave. Alas, Dave had had his pocket money withdrawn for some misdemeanour and hadn't enough money, so we decided to go to Goole instead. This netted us around 20 withdrawn WD locos but we missed out on seeing the last of the Britannias at work in reasonable numbers.
 

AJM580

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Missed out on the old GN/GE joint line from Spalding to March in the early 80's and plenty of haulage days when things went pear-shaped, such as not checking what 47333 was doing at Lime Street in 1988 (it worked later that day!!!)
 
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What I missed out on, indefensibly, was seeing the Woodhead route in action.

In the 1970s, a time when characterful first-generation diesels were still thundering express trains up and down Britain's main lines and many enthusiasts were lamenting the end of steam, I perversely had an interest in electric traction.

Despite Woodhead still carrying a good volume of trans-pennine freight at the time and despite being fascinated by photos in railway magazines of Class 76s, chunky 1500V DC infrastructure and coal & freight trains in the pennine landscape, I hardly ever saw them in the flesh. Doubly inexcusible because I lived in Greater Manchester and was young enough to be eligible for super-cheap Selnec/GMT concessionary bus fares to get myself to the western part of the line at Guide Bridge, Mottram or Hadfield.

The closest I got, and the only time I saw actual Class 76s was on a visit to Reddish depot - and those locos were all switched off with the pantos down. I often saw Class 506 Hadfield EMUs sitting at Manchester Piccadilly and thought "next time, I must buy a ticket to ..... ", but next time never came, I moved away to university and before you know it the Woodhead line was closed. Some may think that's not the greatest loss from that era, but as I said I was especially interested in electrics.

My other more recent regret is not paying more attention to the rail scene in the US.

I lived in the USA for many years and visited most of the major cities at various times on business trips. This was during a bit of a hiatus in my interest in rail, and I made hardly any attempt to visit, observe or investigate rail operations of any kind, whether it be the grand old city terminals, heavy freight railroads, modern urban light-rail or whatever. Admittedly I was travelling on business, so time was of the essence, not necessarily my own, and often any gricing would need to be done after business hours - not always safe in unfamiliar urban locations in America.

Compounding work pressures on my time, after a couple of encounters with the unsavoury side of urban transit on our local Boston Green Line, my wife decided public transport was verboten and wasn't keen on me using it either unless absolutely necessary, such as the Subway when in New York (at least after we moved to the West Coast, she discovered Amtrak's Pacific Surliner is an altogether more civilised experience and was even happy to use those trains on her own). Luckily now I can catch up with a bit of retrospective "virtual" overseas travel in the RailUK International Transport Game.
 

Calthrop

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Springs Branch -- We’ve all done the thing of “next time, I must / will”; but as you say, next time never comes – and suddenly it’s too late. And gricing can be a most frustrating pursuit when one is a kid, essentially not earning: there’s always more crying out to be done, than there are funds to do it.

Even had your rail interest at the time, not been rather in low water: your situation in the US as you describe it, was definitely not propitious for rail-type exploring – especially with the “restrictions of the spousal kind”. For myself – other than in childhood, North America’s railways have struck me as not among the world’s more interesting; though I’d reckon that if fate took me there, I’d try and seek out what there was about that scene, that there might be to latch onto.

“Subsequent regrets concerning foreign rail scene not done justice to”: I recall reading some reflections by David Eatwell, a gentleman prominent around the 1990s on the overseas-steam-questing-and-photographing front. He did a spell in the British Army in the mid-1950s (this was during Britain’s brief spell at that time, of universal peacetime conscription: like a number of young chaps in that period, he chose to volunteer for the Forces rather than wait to be “called up” – if you took that route, you had to do a longer term of service, but in various ways things were better than for run-of-the-mill conscripts). While in the Army, he spent a considerable amount of time in Asia. Initially in South Korea: which by his account was in 1954, in the aftermath of the Korean War, rather a shambles – the railways were functioning erratically, when they were operating at all. Subsequently, he was posted to Japan – where all was running smoothly, and the state railways were at that date, overwhelmingly steam-worked.

Eatwell had the same mind-set as the majority of British railway enthusiasts at that time: that the only real railways were those of Britain – foreign stuff very largely was of no interest, and didn’t count. In his recollections, he spoke of casually noticing a lot of rail action in Japan – as mentioned, virtually all steam – feeling the odd passing flicker of interest, but doing nothing to explore further. Looking back decades later, he remarked how furious he now felt at his young self, for this narrow-mindedness and wasting of wonderful opportunity. As we often find ourselves reflecting as regards this whole game – "with hindsight, all men are wise".
 

exile

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Not making a trip to Ditton Junction before it closed - it's only a few miles from my house.
 

pdeaves

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As a young teenager I made many, many trips to London on a Travelcard (and its predecessor the Capitalcard). I passed Broad Street almost as many times to get to and from Liverpool Street, but never even entered Broad Street station, let alone ride the line.

In 1988 (I think) there was a rail day at Basingstoke. A class 40-hauled special ran to Ludgershall. I opted to save my pennies and not travel it.

Those are my two biggest rail-related 'what a numpty' moments.
 

Johnuk123

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Turning down the invitation to travel in the back cab of a Tat (Class 40) from Oxley to Ryecroft in the 1970's.
 

Steveman

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Turning down the invitation to travel in the back cab of a Tat (Class 40) from Oxley to Ryecroft in the 1970's.

Those were the days, when drivers would invite you in the back cab for a little ride, doubt it happens much nowadays.
 

Spamcan81

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As a young teenager I made many, many trips to London on a Travelcard (and its predecessor the Capitalcard). I passed Broad Street almost as many times to get to and from Liverpool Street, but never even entered Broad Street station, let alone ride the line.

In 1988 (I think) there was a rail day at Basingstoke. A class 40-hauled special ran to Ludgershall. I opted to save my pennies and not travel it.

Those are my two biggest rail-related 'what a numpty' moments.

Same rail day. Could have taken the Class 40 trip and connected into the S&D 7F at Andover. Decided to stay in the beer tent and consume large quantities of Pitfield Dark Star. Never got another chance to do the 7F on the main line.
 

Johnuk123

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Those were the days, when drivers would invite you in the back cab for a little ride, doubt it happens much nowadays.

Birmingham New Street used to have a little throng on weekends at the end of the platform for Derby and the North pleading for a back cab trip, didn't happen very often but it was great when it did.
 
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I remember having this "regret" conversation with a colleague many years ago; and we came to the conclusion that whatever we had done we would regret not doing something else.

I regret not taking enough photos, but I couldn't afford it; and if I had had the money I would have regretted not buying a better camera, then not taking more colour photos, then not buying a cine camera,.... and so on.
 

Calthrop

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Somerset / Dorset stupidities in 1970

I get really cross with myself over things done / not done in sheer stupidity, or culpable ignorance, when I really had no excuse for not being better clued-up. A piece of such folly on my part – re which I can’t feel for myself, that I badly lost out; but where I seemingly let others down through my not-on-the-ball-ness – occurred in summer 1970. (And I find that as I write this post, I come to feel still now, more clueless and foolish with each sentence.)

I’ve tended lifelong, to being erratic about taking in generously-and-copiously-provided gricing info – getting progressively less bad, with advancing years; but “slow learner” would seem to be the operative phrase. Plus – while for much of the 1960s and ‘70s, I harboured the ambition of trying to travel over as much as possible of Britain’s rail network as remained in action in any way or shape: my approach was rather “broad-brush” – “routes rather than curves”. The south-west of England was far off my own geographical “patch”, and my chances of gricing it, had long been limited: possibility of bagging the passenger service between Yeovil and Yeovil Junction (withdrawn May 1968) was outside my grasp.

I wanted to fill this gap and travel by rail between “the actual town of Yeovil” and “the station of Yeovil Junction”, on the ex-LSWR London – Exeter route. The rail intricacies and minutiae within the town of Yeovil, were obscure and of not great interest to me: I was aware that the Taunton – Yeovil route (diverging from the GW main line at Curry Rivell Junction) had lost its passenger service in 1964, and no longer carried freight west of Yeovil. I dimly realised that the town held Pen Mill station (still passenger-served by trains on the GW route to Dorchester and Weymouth), and Town station (as at 1970, freight-only). Looking right now at the various historical rail atlases – I honestly have trouble seeing precisely how-come things went wrong on my 1970 bash. No doubt there are people reading this post, who know exact “chapter and verse”, and who – given their having the necessary patience – would and could explain all.

Trying not to be too wordy: I became aware that there was a daily freight train which ran between “the town of Yeovil” (departing in the morning), and Yeovil Junction on the LSW main line – I organised a brake-van trip on this freight (fulfilling my “town-of” to “Junction” longing), and – in good faith, not realising the complications – enlisted several fellow-gricers to take part in this trip with me. Presumably, the arrangements were affected by failed communication and people taking for granted, what should not have been taken for granted – at all events: per my best recollection and understanding, we all rendezvoused at Yeovil Pen Mill station, and got in the freight train’s brake van – it duly ran, direct, from Pen Mill to Yeovil Junction, where we disembarked; and I was happy and satisfied; and the various participants thus went their separate ways.

I subsequently learnt that a couple of the chaps who took part (though they tactfully said nothing to me at the time) were angered and frustrated by their having expected and anticipated that the train would call for freight purposes at – if I have it rightly – Yeovil Town station; which it did not do. They had previously travelled Yeovil Pen Mill – Yeovil Junction, and had joined in my bash for the sake of getting access by rail into Yeovil Town station. This Yeovil Town bit being, re my own wants and priorities, footling stuff of minimal interest to me – but of intense interest to these guys. I’d had no notion of deceiving them – was just oblivious to the “Pen Mill / Town” thing. Am not even completely sure, not far off half a century later, what did in fact happen – I lack rail atlases of a date later than 1947 !

At all events, over the past forty-plus years I’ve felt considerable remorse for screwing things up for the disappointed participants in this bash – should any of them happen to read this post: I’m very sorry, and confess to being a fool who should probably not be allowed to initiate anything in the gricing line without being accompanied by a knowledgeable keeper, on hand to correct my idiocies.
 

RichmondCommu

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Back in around 1990, six years after my spotting days had ended and living in London my Mum announced that she wished to clear out my old bedroom. On my next planned visit to Derbyshire (where I lived until I went to Uni) my wife and I hired a car knowing that I would have to bring a fair bit of stuff back to London. I wisely decided to keep all my photo albums but sadly told my Mum that all my note books and railway magazines could be binned. I made copious notes of all my spotting trips and I really regret getting rid of them. What is even worse is that none of my photos have either captions or dates.
 

DerekC

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Turning down the opportunity to travel in the brake van of the demolition train from Talyllyn to Pontsticill one summer's evening in 1963.

Oh, and not exploring the Reseau du Vivarais when passing through the area in 1966 or so. (Didn't have any money, but that's no excuse).
 

Calthrop

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Oh, and not exploring the Reseau du Vivarais when passing through the area in 1966 or so. (Didn't have any money, but that's no excuse).

As mentioned in my OP, 1966 was the year when I had a golden opportunity to do, at its 11th hour, the Réseau Breton – which opportunity I idiotically threw away. I feel now that if at that time my priorities had been sounder from a gricing point of view; I could probably have made it to the Vivarais at well. Affording that wouldn’t have been easy, and I’d probably have had to hitch-hike and sleep rough – but it would have been summer, and that area is quite far south, thus likely nice and warm !

A few years later, I was all set to visit and travel on the Corrèze metre-gauge system in its very last, freight-only, days. Trip had to be aborted, but that was due to a personal crisis. I tend to feel in general, that fate hasn’t been all that kind to me as regards the French metre gauge...
 

EveningStar

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Chester, Saturday 14 March 1987, arrive from Manchester to see 25035 backing down onto a failed 47424. Get a photo and continue on my planned trip instead of getting a chance to travel on the last (and what would be my only) class 25 hauled passenger train in BR service:sad::rolleyes:.
 
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