Confessions of an Unrecalcitrant Trainspotter!

Diplodicus

Member
Joined
8 Mar 2013
Messages
191
At my age, I spend quite a lot of time wandering down the lanes of my memories suddenly recalling event thought long-forgotten. This forum's content reminds me just how much "Health & Safety" imposes itself on so many aspects of our lives. Please let us not embark on another panegyric about HASAWA: you have all said much on many threads. So, I offer the following tale as a counterpoint...

It's about 1960 and I am an enthusiastic trainspotter besotted by all things GWR. I decide that "bunking" 81A Old Oak is offering diminishing rerurns for 'cops' so it's time to hunt further afield. Southall? Too small. Where's next? Ah... 81D - Reading. Off I go. Aged thirteen, no money, what could possibly go wrong?

East Putney to Paddington. Wait for the porter to return to his cuppa and up to the platform. Oh goody: a Q Stock journey. Leather, veneer, lampshades over light bulbs. Perfect start. Paddington ticket barrier? Eezy peezy.

Now for Reading. The "safe" way would be a down stopper (hauled by a 'Tanner One' and in non-compartment stock). That would take too long so hop on the first down fast and be prepared to climb onto the luggage rack if "The Inspector Calls". He didn't. 81D here we come.

Reading shed is visible from the ramp at the west end of platform one. Seems daft to try and get through the barrier so immediately after a down departure, I sneak down onto the main line, across the narrow path on the bridge over the road and down into a a whole new world of Halls, Granges and 57xx.

Job done so back along the down line to platform 1 and the waiting porter who dispensed the usual "you could haven been killed, diatribe but, being a young teenager, I had already perfected the direct auditory route from one 'in' ear and straight out t'other. Time to go home.

Up stopper this time, and the same LT technique homeward for my tea.

"Hi Dad."

"Hi. What have you been up to?

Noffink much.
 
Sponsor Post - registered members do not see these adverts; click here to register, or click here to log in
R

RailUK Forums

EbbwJunction1

Established Member
Joined
25 Mar 2010
Messages
1,332
That's a nice story, thanks.

As a matter of interest, what would have happened had you told your dad what you'd done?
 

XAM2175

Established Member
Joined
8 Jun 2016
Messages
1,341
Location
Glasgow
Did you mean perhaps mean to use "recalcitrant" in the title? Or perhaps "unrepentant"?
 

Pigeon

Member
Joined
8 Apr 2015
Messages
423
Reminds me of my bunk of Swindon works... My intention had been merely to find vantage points to survey the place from outside and cop things by telescope, with very little idea whether there actually were any or not, but I thought there would have to be something somewhere. I ended up first wandering round the back streets of Swindon and then shoving my way for quite some distance through a load of undergrowth and scrub trees, without much of an idea where I was. Went up a bank, and found myself standing on the edge of the main line, looking across it straight into the works with nothing in between other than the rails. So I thought... bugger it, why not. Place was absolutely deserted and I was able to wander round everything outside without even seeing anyone in the distance. Went out through the actual gate when I'd finished, at which point I did get shouted at by a couple of guys in the gatehouse, but since I was heading out rather than in they didn't really care and it was too late to matter anyway.
 

Calthrop

Established Member
Joined
6 Dec 2015
Messages
2,406
@Diplodicus: have hopes that you won't mind my homing-in on your ticketless travel to Reading and back. Not getting on your case about it -- such things are, as they say, "between a person and their conscience"; and there's no doubt that very many cash-strapped juvenile railway enthusiasts have done that thing to accomplish journeys which they were desperate to make. I -- very much "of an age with" yourself -- was never a spotter, as such: with my being borderline innumerate, I never saw point or pleasure in the number-grabbing thing. My fancy in this "fancy" was, from the outset, line-bashing. There were many routes imminently threatened with closure, on which I yearned to travel: but, for one thing, parents or those "in loco" thereof were in my view, frustratingly over-protective -- forbidding solo ventures, some way into my teens; and to the best of my memory, attempting travel-without-paying on lines which I craved, just did not enter my head. Not a matter of temptation and resisting it -- people tend to find me in various ways, rather as though from another planet: ticketless travel simply did not occur to me.

An enthusiast friend of mine, also born in the late 1940s, has had an idiosyncratic "take" on this business. His emphasis on the hobby has always been very much, spotting plus photography; but in the early 1960s he travelled on various shortly-to-close lines in his home area, in order to "cover" them in time. This guy was "born old" -- big from childhood on being a responsible citizen: never engaged, I think, in even the most trivial "youthful scallywag" stuff. He has thus always been rigorously rule-abiding and honest; but also, exceedingly careful with money / mean (choose your preferred expression) -- always pays what is legally required, but is endlessly resourceful in finding permitted ways of wriggling out of parting with cash. Thus, in his teenage line-bashing he either found the fare somehow, or refrained from making the journey. In that connection, he came up with an interesting notion: taking the view that since his journeys were "for fun and interest" -- unlike passengers who needed to travel from A to B for serious, "real-world" reasons (that being so, they should be charged the agreed fare for their journey); he, and other railway enthusiasts in similar case, should be granted free travel. He went to the extent of actually making this argument to some people in British Rail employ / authority. With my being definitely in the "spendthrift", not the "Scrooge" category: my sentiments here are, "full marks for cheek ingenuity".
 

Paul Jones 88

Member
Joined
15 Dec 2020
Messages
238
Location
Headcorn
Reminds me of Bunking off school in 1982, got a train from Lower Edmonton to Cheshunt then a fast EMU to Bishop Stortford then a 47 hauled to King's Lynn, stayed with that for the return journey back to Liverpool Street, got a 305 back to Lower Edmonton all ticketless travel, everything was fine until Seven Sisters when a ticket inspector got on, I was still small enough to hide under the seats so I got away with it all.
 

Bevan Price

Established Member
Joined
22 Apr 2010
Messages
5,759
Reminds me of my bunk of Swindon works... My intention had been merely to find vantage points to survey the place from outside and cop things by telescope, with very little idea whether there actually were any or not, but I thought there would have to be something somewhere. I ended up first wandering round the back streets of Swindon and then shoving my way for quite some distance through a load of undergrowth and scrub trees, without much of an idea where I was. Went up a bank, and found myself standing on the edge of the main line, looking across it straight into the works with nothing in between other than the rails. So I thought... bugger it, why not. Place was absolutely deserted and I was able to wander round everything outside without even seeing anyone in the distance. Went out through the actual gate when I'd finished, at which point I did get shouted at by a couple of guys in the gatehouse, but since I was heading out rather than in they didn't really care and it was too late to matter anyway.
I had no need to bunk Swindon Works. Just park yourself outside the entrance at 2:00 pm on a Wednesday or Sunday, and there were free organised tours round the works in the 1960s. Unfortunately, these did not always include the scrapyard.
 

contrex

Member
Joined
19 May 2009
Messages
305
Bunking off school in 1982, got a train from Lower Edmonton to Cheshunt then a fast EMU to Bishop Stortford then a 47 hauled to King's Lynn, stayed with that for the return journey back to Liverpool Street, got a 305 back to Lower Edmonton all ticketless travel, everything was fine until Seven Sisters when a ticket inspector got on, I was still small enough to hide under the seats so I got away with it all.
I used to bash a big part of Southern suburban area in 1963-64 or so. I always did have a ticket, usually child single "North Dulwich to Tulse Hill or West Norwood". Just made sure I got off at either of these. Grippers were unknown. Never bunked off school, did it on a Saturday usually.
 

Loppylugs

Member
Joined
26 Jul 2020
Messages
150
Location
Swindon
Reading shed is visible from the ramp at the west end of platform one. Seems daft to try and get through the barrier so immediately after a down departure, I sneak down onto the main line, across the narrow path on the bridge over the road and down into a a whole new world of Halls, Granges and 57xx.
Lucky for you that there was nothing from the Westbury line awaiting crossing to the up main platform. I lived in the railway hostel in Reading and crossed the tracks many times on my way to work at the shed. A hazardous journey at the best of times, day or night.
Having said that, I bunked many sheds in my youth, and got ejected from some too! Best one was Thornton Junction (62A) where the foreman caught me and my cousin. When he realised we were far from home he organised a driver to escort us round. What a great gesture.
 

Ostrich

Member
Joined
15 Jul 2010
Messages
155
Reminds me of spotting in the '60s whilst living in Birmingham.
Afternoons off school were possible if you weren't involved in sports.
Parents issued the following edicts: (a) you must be home by xx:xx and (b) definitely no further afield than Tamworth.
However, I found New Street - Tamworth - Derby (change) - Trent Junc - Nottingham (change) - Loughboro' - Leicester (change) - Nuneaton - New Street was eminently doable within the time constraint. :E
Which worked brilliantly until the day my DMU failed at Beeston ...... :oops:
 

GRALISTAIR

Established Member
Joined
11 Apr 2012
Messages
5,996
Location
Dalton Georgia USA
I only tried evading paying my fare once. It was a Preston - Crewe Day Return. 1971 and I bunked a day off school. I was caught by the guard and never did it again. I always paid my train fare after that.
 

beardedbrit

Member
Joined
1 Aug 2019
Messages
24
Location
Massachusetts, USA
At my age, I spend quite a lot of time wandering down the lanes of my memories suddenly recalling event thought long-forgotten. This forum's content reminds me just how much "Health & Safety" imposes itself on so many aspects of our lives. Please let us not embark on another panegyric about HASAWA: you have all said much on many threads. So, I offer the following tale as a counterpoint...

It's about 1960 and I am an enthusiastic trainspotter besotted by all things GWR. I decide that "bunking" 81A Old Oak is offering diminishing rerurns for 'cops' so it's time to hunt further afield. Southall? Too small. Where's next? Ah... 81D - Reading. Off I go. Aged thirteen, no money, what could possibly go wrong?

East Putney to Paddington. Wait for the porter to return to his cuppa and up to the platform. Oh goody: a Q Stock journey. Leather, veneer, lampshades over light bulbs. Perfect start. Paddington ticket barrier? Eezy peezy.

Now for Reading. The "safe" way would be a down stopper (hauled by a 'Tanner One' and in non-compartment stock). That would take too long so hop on the first down fast and be prepared to climb onto the luggage rack if "The Inspector Calls". He didn't. 81D here we come.

Reading shed is visible from the ramp at the west end of platform one. Seems daft to try and get through the barrier so immediately after a down departure, I sneak down onto the main line, across the narrow path on the bridge over the road and down into a a whole new world of Halls, Granges and 57xx.

Job done so back along the down line to platform 1 and the waiting porter who dispensed the usual "you could haven been killed, diatribe but, being a young teenager, I had already perfected the direct auditory route from one 'in' ear and straight out t'other. Time to go home.

Up stopper this time, and the same LT technique homeward for my tea.

"Hi Dad."

"Hi. What have you been up to?

Noffink much.
1960 +/- a couple of years was peak spotting time for me too. Memories of Sunday afternoons spent bashing Willesden / OOC / Cricklewood / Neasden sheds all of which were easy to enter. Weekdays after school a friend and I would do Kentish Town - looking back, a somewhat foolhardy thing to do as we were in school uniform and there would have been hell to pay had we been caught and reported to the school!

I also joined a spotters' club around 1958 which broadened my horizons. They organized trips by train or coach to sheds outside London, usually on Sundays. I recall a freezing January trip to Swindon shed and works, and others to all the 81X sheds, Doncaster shed and works, Midland main line sheds up to Leicester, Nottingham area sheds. Most memorable was a trip to Manchester area sheds, travelling overnight on the Great Central route just before express trains were withdrawn in 1960.

I can't remember the name of the club - I wonder if anyone on the board was also a member and would recall it's name ?

In the summer of 1963 I spent a week bashing Scottish sheds, with the help of a 7-day Rover ticket, and staying in youth hostels. I wrote off for permits for many of them, all of which were granted. Started at Carlisle, then to Glasgow (Polmadie/Corkerhill/St Rollox and a few more I don't remember), Edinburgh and Fife sheds. I think I got as far as Aberdeen.

I had a gap year between school and university in 1964. On the strength of a good Chemistry 'A' level result I got a job as a lab technician in the British Railways Research lab on the site of the old Northern Heights station at Alexandra Palace. Don't remember much about the job, but there was a kindred trainspotting spirit also working there; subsidized by privilege tickets we spent many happy weekend days traveling/shed bashing far and wide, including one weekend overnight trip to North and West Wales where we travelled on all three narrow gauge railways.

That was probably the swan song of my spotting days. The summer of that gap year was spent working in Paris and hitchhiking around southern Europe with a school friend. Very little interest in spotting thereafter (as you might predict once you start meeting girls at uni ;=). At the end of steam in 1968 I was actually in Prague with my girlfriend (a couple of weeks before the USSR invaded) and not overly concerned about its demise. Ave atque vale.
 

MP33

Member
Joined
19 Jun 2011
Messages
285
There used to be a number of disused platelayer huts and we had a den in one of them. All was well until we decided to light a smoky fire in the stove. We were caught by railway staff and by giving false names and addresses and by chance one of us brother turning up and giving all of us a lift in his van, we left the scene before anything could be checked.

I found out a little later that a large group of boys from my school had been caught trespassing shortly after us. We stayed in the hut which was some distance from the railway. However these other boys had been doing things such as placing objects on the line. I assumed that the BTP thought that we were part of the second group and did not bother investigating us further.
 
Last edited:

HST274

Member
Joined
3 Mar 2020
Messages
450
Location
Worcestershire
As a novice trainspotter can I ask what 'shed-bashing' is? Is it in affect creeping into the shed or perhaps with permits as some mentioned?
 

Gloster

Established Member
Joined
4 Sep 2020
Messages
2,374
Location
Up the creek
I suspect that it is couple of words that do not have an exact dictionary definition and different people may have slightly varying interpretations: mine is that it was obtaining the loco numbers on a particular loco shed. This could be by observation from publicly accessible areas, by going round in an officially organised party, turning up and asking for permission to go round, or sneaking in and doing your best not to be seen. The last seems often to have been called bunking.
 

neilmc

Member
Joined
23 Oct 2011
Messages
907
I'd consider shed-bashing to be visiting an area trying to get around as many sheds as possible - in, say, East Anglia this could have only really been done by private car (not many of us had these) or by an organised locospotters group in a coach, but many urban areas had several sheds, especially in steam days, which could be done by public transport. In late 1967 I "bashed" Newton Heath, Patricroft, Bolton, Trafford Park, Heaton Mersey and Stockport Edgeley, and maybe Longsight and Reddish, all in one day. Ian Allan produced handy shed guides with itineraries which would show you how to get from Newton Heath across city suburbs to Longsight and then on into Stockport, Heaton Mersey and Reddish by bus, We would "bunk" the lot, never having any permit for a self-organised day trip, and I reckon the success rate at getting around unimpeded was at well above 90%, especially in steam sheds where nobody cared who went round them in their final days.

I gave up the whole lot in 1971 when I went to university but "bunked" St. Blazey for old time's sake when I was in Cornwall in the early 1980s, I wanted my last ever shed to be an interesting ex-steam shed.
 

GRALISTAIR

Established Member
Joined
11 Apr 2012
Messages
5,996
Location
Dalton Georgia USA
I'd consider shed-bashing to be visiting an area trying to get around as many sheds as possible - in, say, East Anglia this could have only really been done by private car (not many of us had these) or by an organised locospotters group in a coach,
That is what I did. Go around as many sheds and stabling points as possible with the ultimate goal of clearing your locos. I personally used NCTS (https://www.northerncountiestransportsociety.com/ ) and car as well as the train. A bonus was if we got a works visit on the trip.
 

neilmc

Member
Joined
23 Oct 2011
Messages
907
We once ended up on the wrong side of Stewarts Lane by using a street map. Between us and the luvverly locos was an electrified four track along which a unit zipped by about every 30 seconds, in view of a signal box. For once we decided to stick to the locos we could see and give bunking the shed a miss. Never did get round Stewarts Lane.
 

SteveM70

Established Member
Joined
11 Jul 2018
Messages
1,797
Me and my mates had a few trips to far flung places as teenagers. We must’ve been 14 at the most, given one of the participants left our school that year.

I can remember going to Swindon and somehow (I still can’t work out how despite later having lived there) getting caught in between the works and the main lines. We got a relatively good natured telling off and escorted off the premises

For some insane reason we did a trip to March. Saturday afternoon and we bunked the shed. Loads of exotic 37s. A lad in our group somehow got detached and caught by someone. We obviously took advantage of the diversion he’d unwittingly created to leg it round the rest of the place.

Happy days

[Edit]

We did Shirebrook on a Sunday once. Lord knows how we got there but it involved buses and walking and seemed to take a long time, but once we got there we were rewarded with the sight of dozens of 20s / 56s and a few of the then new 58s
 
Last edited:

racyrich

Member
Joined
25 Jan 2014
Messages
177
My spotting years were as a young teenager in the late 1970s. Living in Basildon, there wasn’t much of interest apart from seeing what 31 or 37 was on the evening parcels from Southend East.

School holidays meant days spent at Barking or Stratford or Romford, or a cycle to Wickford or Shenfield. If I’d saved any money I’d go for a tour of London termini or Clapham Junction or Willesden/Old Oak.

By 1979 I was alternating Saturdays between riding to Stratford and crashing the depot or riding to Welwyn GC. The thrill of pushing my bike through the little tunnel next to Stratford station, wondering how far you’d get before someone stopped you. In fact I was never stopped and I must have wandered round there 20 times!

I did once have a proper guided tour of SF. My dad taught BR apprentices at West Ham college and persuaded the training officer to give us a tour. I had a similar trip round Fords at Dagenham.


Summer holidays in 1979 my mate and I went off for a week on bikes around East Anglia and East Mids, camping. Those were the days! 14 year olds just disappearing for a week, knocking on farmers’ doors asking if we could camp in their field.

Days spent at Norwich and Peterboro and Leicester with March and Coalville sheds crashed. Not much of interest at March as most of those locos turned up at SF anyway.


1980 was much the same, with the bike tour going straight up the A1. Day 1 183 miles, Wath stabling point crashed and camp just south of Doncaster. The shed seemed inaccessible so we spent the day on the station, riding to York in the evening. Another inaccessible shed and another day on the station.

Next day we headed back via all those West Yorkshire sheds. Shirebrook and Knottingley we couldn’t crash. Westhouses, Tinsley and Toton we did. Marvellous!

Then a couple of days riding home.


Other depots crashed were Ripple Lane, Willesden (just once with my dad, chucked out every other time!), Old Oak several times, Hither Green, Bletchley (a 2 day bike trip to my mate’s relatives at Leagrave).

Plus railtours to works, so Doncaster, Crewe, Derby and Swindon visited. It’s a strange thing seeing 56s being scrapped when you saw them being built.


By then end of 1980 I was enjoying riding my bike more than watching trains and joined a cycling club. Started bike racing the next year and that was my life for the next 20 years.
 

70014IronDuke

Established Member
Joined
13 Jun 2015
Messages
2,947
Lucky for you that there was nothing from the Westbury line awaiting crossing to the up main platform. I lived in the railway hostel in Reading and crossed the tracks many times on my way to work at the shed. A hazardous journey at the best of times, day or night.
Having said that, I bunked many sheds in my youth, and got ejected from some too! Best one was Thornton Junction (62A) where the foreman caught me and my cousin. When he realised we were far from home he organised a driver to escort us round. What a great gesture.
Surely there was a tunnel under the main lines to get into 81D? No need to cross the lines. And not like, say, Guildford, where if you went in via the official entrance you passed by the foreman's office and got ejected.
 

Top