Interest in the Railways - where did it start?

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jamesie86

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Just wondering how, when and where people's interest in the railways started?

I grew up near to Burton-on-Trent station. My Dad went down spotting most nights, occasionally he'd take me but after a short while I'd become really bored and want to go home.

Then one night, when I was 6, we went down and for some reason I just really enjoyed writing it, writing all the numbers and loco names down. So from then on, most nights we'd be down Burton station.

Traction back then from 1992 and into the mid 1990's would be 156's, 158's, HST's, 47's on freight and passenger, 31's, 37's, 56's, 58's, and 60's - loved the names on them.

Would stand at the end of the platform, watching the trains come in from the distance and would try and guess what they were. Wanted to see something unusual like a class 73 so much! - funny that 20 years on I could see them most days at Nemesis depot.

Did regular trips to Derby, BNS (onto Bescot) and occasional jaunts to Stafford, Crewe, and Donny which was a particular fave with the 91's.

My standout memories though are of going on holiday to my grandparents in Balloch, Loch Lomond, and the journey up from Tutbury-Crewe, then onto Glasgow Central. That place was magical, all the orange units with "Strathclyde Transport" on the side.

My Dad would make sure we got a day or 2 spotting in at Central, and I remember being stood at the end platforms at rush hour as units rolled in and out relentlessly.

Did Crewe open day in May 1997, double headed 37 haulage from BNS-Crewe which sounded amazing!

Also remember going London, it was April '93 I think so I was 6 - the same day an IRA bomb went off in the capital.

We got a Tamworth - Euston train, I remember getting into Euston and as we stood writing the numbers down I just felt overwhelmed at the busyness of it all with trains coming in and out either side of us! Also, it started raining so my pad was getting wet meaning I couldn't write down the numbers, disaster, but Dad saved the day.

I remember seeing homeless people and that was quite weird and unsettling for me as a young kid growing up in a small town, not used to seeing things like that.

Went Clapham Junction which was madness compared to Burton and it's one train every 10/15 minutes that trundled through.

That's when my Dad noticed police helicopters and overheard something about the bomb so thought best head home - when we finally got home Mum was relieved saying she'd been worried - no mobile phones and we didn't even have a house phone then for Dad to call home.

Toton open day in 1998 was one of my last trips back then, double 58 haulage from Derby-Toton. Then as I hit my teens I just didn't bother as much, was well into my footy and then obviously girls come onto the scene, and also it's a shame but people seem to take the mickey out of spotting and the scene - probably another factor in why I stopped bothering as much?

Then a few years ago the missus and me got a place not far from the Nemesis depot in Burton. Seeing the shunters, 20's, 37's, 47's etc stabled there evoked some nostalgia and interest in me and I started getting back into it a bit, and I'm glad I have.

Occasionally pop down the bridge if RTT is showing anything interesting coming through (saw my first Western a few Sunday's back) and 2 weeks ago I was up in Scotland for a footy match - going back to Glasgow Central was magical! Even if there was a lack of orange 303's.

I'm currently trying to get myself a job in the rail industry. I'm keeping an open mind as to what type of job (currently an analyst with an energy provider), but the rail industry is definitely what I want to be in.

Anyway that's it for now, just wanted to share some memories and read other people's?

Cheers
Jamie
 
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trash80

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At secondary school in the mid-late 80s, at lunchtime i used to go down the Bromford and watch the trains go past. Finally I got an ABC and it all stemmed from there...

Soon i was spending as much time as i could at Stetchford and Bescot and my Dad would take me to exotic locations like Nuneaton. Ah i remember being at Stetchford and a class 58 came in with a freight. I was so excited i nearly wet my pants. :D

In my late teens and early 20s i lost interest for awhile (though remained in the background - i'd buy the occasional mag just to keep up to date) but came back a few years ago after a short period working in Worcester meant i was train commuting every day and my interest in trains was renewed...
 

AJM580

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My late father was into trains and during the 70s he collected a part-work called History of Railways, I remember flicking through it as a child and being interested by the pictures of engines and units. We regularly visited places like Sheringham (North Norfolk) Bressingham and the like, but it wasn't until I was about 14 that I got into spotting. A mate at school was interested in trains as well, and we did a few trips that whetted my interest to Peterborough, Ely, March etc. Been doing it ever since!! (37 n.o)
 

Calthrop

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My two-penn’orth (or more – I tend to be verbose); born in 1948, childhood in a railway-prominent small town – Spalding, Lincolnshire: focal point then, of three secondary main lines running in different directions. In flat, low-lying terrain – Spalding and surrounding area, were chock-full of level crossings. Throughout my childhood in the region (we moved elsewhere, when I was aged 8) we lived within sight of one or another railway line.

In the early 1950s, our family was basically without car / had only unreliable such; thus, considerable use of rail for our travels, giving me the rail-passenger experience, and that of going thus to other parts of the country. “All of the above” – with steam traction the norm, and the majority of the system as at peak, still active – caused me to fall in love from infancy, with the then railway scene. Also, my parents (father very borderline railfan, mother quite liking trains but basically a “normal person”) considered this interest of mine, a positive thing (or just spoiled me, not quite sure which) – they very kindly bought for me books of railway interest, and paid for monthly Railway Magazine subscription for me, as soon as I learned to read.

Have been in my way an obsessive railway enthusiast, from that date to this – though feeling that the whole railway “thing” worldwide has from the late 1950s on, been declining always in the direction of duller and less interest-inspiring. This is just my, likely unfortunate, personal “take” – no contempt implied toward any who feel otherwise. If I hadn’t been born in the last years of the era when steam traction was standard, and most of the rail network was still “there and functioning” – I’m not sure whether I would have become a lifelong railfan. Not that anyone has any way of knowing such things...
 

Bevan Price

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I first lived at Moss Bank, near the station on the long-closed branch from St. Helens to Rainford, and could see trains pass behind houses on the opposite side of the road, and was fascinated by them (all steam in those days). Been interested in railways ever since.
 
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My interest in railways started in the late 1960s and early 70s, when many people were abandoning the hobby following the end of steam, and came about largely because of my maternal grandfather.

My grandad was neither a railwayman nor an enthusiast; instead he was a keen cyclist and eager that his eldest grandson (that’s me) took an early interest in cycling. Even though I was still at primary school, and my little legs and fixed-gear bike must have really hindered him, nonetheless he took every opportunity to take me with him on cycling trips around the local area. At one point this led to finger-wagging from some neighbourhood battleaxes (of the Nora Batty ilk), with regards to him taking “the lad” much too far and encouraging me onto main roads on my bike, but my parents never seemed to mind.

Around this time, my grandmother died. She was interred at a local cemetery in Wigan and my grandad made regular visits to her grave (by bike of course), often taking me along for the ride. The cemetery is adjacent to the WCML and across the road from - ahem - Springs Branch, with the approach road (Cemetery Road) crossed the railway by an overbridge. After the first couple of trips accompanying him into the cemetery, I negotiated to stay by the railway bridge "watching the trains" while he got to potter around in peace without a bored child.

As I became a stronger cyclist, I started making the journey to Springs Branch by myself, even though it was well beyond the permitted radius of solo bike travel dictated by my parents at the time. When I started secondary school, I recognised some of the other spotters at the lineside from school, and they introduced me to “Spotting 101” – Ian Allan ABC books, the meaning of loco head-codes and how to sneak around Springs Branch shed at weekends.

Compared to today, the frequency of passenger trains was lower in the early 1970s, but this was more than compensated by the great variety of traffic and traction on the WCML in the last few years before electrification in 1973.

Stars of the show were the Euston/Glasgow expresses, hauled north of Crewe by thundering pairs of new Class 50s.
Then, during any decent period trackside, you would see a selection of:-
  • Other Inter-City trains – a single Class 47 or 50 hauling Mk1 or early Mk2 stock.
  • Parcels trains.
  • Motorails (in summer).
  • DMUs on the hourly Wigan NW/ Lime St. stoppers, plus Liverpool/Blackpool trains in summer, which could be made up to 8-car DMU formations and seemed to be running flat-out on the Fast Line.
  • Loco-hauled excursions - shabby Mk1 carriages, often hauled by Class 40, sometimes a Class 25 or two, and on one occasion a handsome Swindon Class 124 Trans-Pennine DMU.
  • Through mixed freight trains, made up of bogie and 4-wheel vans and wagons, chemical tanks, cement wagons and the like, usually still with a guard’s van on the back.
  • Coal trains (either MGRs, or trains of clanking, squealing loose-coupled 16-ton wagons).
  • Weighty-looking trains of oil tankers to/from Ellesmere Port or the local Haydock oil terminal.
  • Freightliners (with those original Beeching-era grey and red "Freightliner"-branded containers).
  • Class 24 and 25s pottering about with lightweight trains and trip workings made up of all sorts of odds and sods of goods wagons, such as sand hoppers for the nearby glassworks, elderly condemned rolling stock for the scrapyard up the Springs Branch itself, and engineers’ trains for the upcoming electrification.
And being near the diesel depot, there was a regular procession of light engines of classes 08, 24, 25, 40 and 47 going on and off Springs Branch shed after working old-school goods trains all around industrial South Lancashire.

On any one visit I might see all of the above, or a few from the list, or sometimes nothing at all except one 2-car DMU and a coal train sitting on the goods line for 2½ hours with an idling loco. Unlike the same place today, you never knew what to expect, and that uncertainty added to the allure. My record was 35 trains recorded in my spotting book in just over 2 hours one afternoon and a total of 53 trains in 6 hours on that day (I had to cycle home for lunch because – officially – I wasn’t supposed to be so far away, and I don’t know if my mother ever wondered why my clothes always smelled of diesel fumes).

Finally, mechanical signalling was still in place, with a couple of large signalboxes (Springs Branch No.1 and No.2). The approach and passage of trains was accompanied by the tinging of block bells, crashing levers and the rise and fall of semaphore arms or changing colour light aspects, which initiated my interest in railway signaling.

I sometimes wonder whether I would have ever developed an interest in railways if not for my grandad taking me on those bike trips to the cemetery, together with the great variety of the railway scene I discovered along the way (even without steam locos). And if not, what would I have taken up as a hobby instead?
 

DerekC

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I thought by the thread title that you meant where did interest in railways start - in which case I should think the answer is somewhere between Stockton and Darlington - unless you want to go back to the horse-drawn variety.

Has anybody written a history of trainspotting? I am sure there is lots out there. My treasured (and very battered) copy of Ian Allan's ABC of British Railway Locomotives, Winter 1958/9 Edition, doesn't tell me when it was first published, but a quick Google suggests the first edition was in 1943. The Railway Magazine goes back to 1897 - but I am sure there was an interest before that. Does anybody know more?
 

nmbenson

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My earliest memories are when I was around 5 (very early 60's) - I remember seeing the Queen of Scots Pullman passing through Ripon around 4pm, you could see it from our house if you sat on the landing! Also, being ever hopeful that there would be a train at Littlethorpe Crossing, just outside Ripon, whenever we walked that way.
 

Lankyline

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For me my interest in railways started in the 60's when I would walk with my mum down a track near our house to the Preston Southport line that came out between Lindle Lane and Broad oak lane crossings, nearly getting flattened a few times as I ran across the tracks !
During school holidays my parents would unload me onto my grandparents in Ashton - on - Ribble and my granddad would take me to the end of the street and we would sit on the wall watching the trains on the Preston Blackpool line.

Later my interest developed into spotting on Preston station on a Saturday sat on the trollies at the end of Platform 4 waiting for the specials coming through to Blackpool hoping that a Peak, Growler or something that was different to the whistlers, doubleheaded 50's and rats/skinheads that were the norm around Preston at the time.

Also at the time I was good friends with a schoolmate of mine whose dad worked in the forensics dept at Lancs Police and we would go shed bashing, amazing what the production of a warrant card could do, no climbing over fences or sneaking around !

I also should mention that railways run in the family, on my mum's side, my great grandfather was a top link driver on the L&NWR, my great uncle was a train reporter at Preston for L&NWR and my granddad was an engineer at Dick Kerr's later English Electric in Preston. On a historical note , my granddad joined the Royal Engineers in WW1 waterways & railways division, my great uncle joined the Loyal North Lancs regt and was kia near Ypres aged just 20

On my dad's side, my uncle was a driver based at Birkenhead for what we now know as Merseyrail. Looking back I wish now i had considered the railways for a career, but at the time it was a choice between joining up with the Grenadier Guards (my dad's regt) or a career in sales, since me and my dad didn't see eye to eye I chose sales !
 

GrimsbyPacer

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Well I always had The Railway Series books (Thomas the tank engine) when little. I loved them :)
My Mum even made me a Thomas Bed herself out of cardboard, it was awesome, can't remember my age then.

I remember fondly of getting on an old double decker tram with wooden bench seats and sitting at the front everyday and loving it, this was back in the late 90s in Fleetwood when I was a kid.
I also used to get a HST in Intercity livery to get to nursery in Sheffield at one point (can't remember why), and I also used the train to get to the underground bit in Liverpool from Ormskirk, I moved around alot back then.

By the time my family moved to Derby we found Markeaton Park with it's mini railway and roadtrain to be a great place to go. The next year we moved back to Nottingham again, and didn't use the train much, but I was fascinated by the new trams and loved them despite not needing to use them.

I first visited Grimsby (and the other towns when searching for a new family home) by train, the Class 185 was introduced just after moving here and we initially travelled on trains often to explore the region.

I'd say I've always liked trains, I have to add that I was always more fond of Diesels than Steam trains even as a kid, my first ride on a Pacer, on a Class 91, a HST are highlights more so than when I rode on the Flying Scotsman before it was broken up.
 

Harbornite

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I thought by the thread title that you meant where did interest in railways start - in which case I should think the answer is somewhere between Stockton and Darlington - unless you want to go back to the horse-drawn variety.

Has anybody written a history of trainspotting? I am sure there is lots out there. My treasured (and very battered) copy of Ian Allan's ABC of British Railway Locomotives, Winter 1958/9 Edition, doesn't tell me when it was first published, but a quick Google suggests the first edition was in 1943. The Railway Magazine goes back to 1897 - but I am sure there was an interest before that. Does anybody know more?

The rm recently did an article about locospotters in the 19th century. One was a young girl.who listed the GWR engines she had copped in the 1840's.
 

Calthrop

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The rm recently did an article about locospotters in the 19th century. One was a young girl.who listed the GWR engines she had copped in the 1840's.

I consider it not reprehensibly sexist -- just accurate -- to observe that those of the female sex who acquire a positive liking / interest re trains and railways, exist, but are very rare: hugely outnumbered by their male counterparts.

Another of the female extremely-few in the early days, was the actress and author Frances Kemble (1809 - 1893): who was friendly with George Stephenson, and was treated by him to a ride on one of the Liverpool & Manchester's locomotives shortly before the line's official opening. In a letter to a friend, she enthused: "You cannot imagine how strange it seems to be journeying thus without any visible cause of progress other than the magical machine, with its flying white breath and rhythmical, unvarying pace...no fairy tale was half as wonderful as what I saw." She also referred to the loco as "this snorting little beast, which I felt rather inclined to pat".
 

Requeststop

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I've had an interest in the railways for as long as I can remember. This was in the late 50's and early 60's. Going down the Hill with my mother to Lelant Station to see the trains and the birds in the Hayle estuary. By myself, going across the road, Church Lane, past the church and through the golf course to see the trains pass by Porthkidney Sands, leaving the cutting by the church and rising up towards Porthrepta Head and returning from St Ives. My mother always telling me to be aware of those dirty men and women in the sand dunes. In those days, kids had far more freedom to wander away from home within reason and my parents always knew where I was headed to, even though I longed to creep aboard a train to Looe, Plymouth, or Torquay.

Summertime, at St Erth Station, watching the branch line trains coming to and fro and the services from London Paddington and from Bristol and beyond.

I remember wishing I could announce the trains to Newcastle, Manchester, Bristol and Cardiff, memorising all the change points on the journey. "change at Truro for Falmouth, change at Par for Newquay, change at Bristol Temple Meads for services to Newport, Cardiff and South Wales; change at Wolverhampton for stations to Shrewsbury and stations to Mid Wales etc etc.

I remember two summers in particular. We went on holiday to Derbyshire to stay with an aunt who lived in Etwall. I remember taking the train north and crossing the Tamar and seeing the road bridge being built. I recall reversing at Plymouth and asking my father why we were going backwards travelling to Exeter via Okehampton. I remember the excitement of seeing the stations announced at St Erth. The next summer, we went to Chester, I think via Hereford and Shrewsbury. I recall vividly, going under the Mersey Tunnel and taking the ferry back to Hamilton Square, and also riding the line from Woodside to Chester, and the lines from New Brighton to Chester via Neston.

My dad got me a UK rail map and I started at about 7 years old, shading in the lines I had covered. A School trip to London on the Berks and Hants was another big trip. Since then I have always loved travelling by train. One of the last things my mother said to me was that I always loved travelling, though Cornwall was very much in my heart.

When the village school closed down and I had to travel to St Ives each school day by train, and then when I went to senior school in Penzance also travelling by train. Just loved it. When I went to Uni in Bristol, and was able to do the weekend specials for a fiver. Weymouth, Tenby, Nottingham, Canterbury, Edinburgh, Lincoln, Heart of Wales, damn these were great times, and my rail map slowly but surely being coloured in, though by the 70's I was using new maps.
My father had a job in Switzerand for two years when I was between 12-14, and We lived in Freiburg/Fribourg. What a marvellous station it still is. So much bigger than St Erth and oh so many lines coming in and out of the station and the announcements in French and German! I travelled a lot around Switzerland. Berne, Zurich, Geneva, Sion, Zermatt, Lugano, and from Martigny to Chamonix, still my favourite line in all the world. (Yes it beats the St Ives branch but just by a whisker)
The types of engine never bothered me, classes and numbers either. For me it was to ride, see, explore and travel on what I still consider to be the certainty of where you are going to and from. The rails are a fixture of certainty. You have to go where the rails are lined up to go. That surety is something that my brain is confident with. Some psychiatrists might be interested in this fascination.

I love rail, the travel, and watching RTT even here in Thailand, is fun. I may not be riding the lines, but I have my UK rail map, and I am slowly covering the entire UK rail system virtually. It's a nice hour in the evening seeing how a planned trip passed by filling in the map, and using RTT to see if I am on time or early or late or cancelled services. (today I'm doing Norfolk and Suffolk, tomorrow Essex branches).

So there you go. That's how it started for me, and it's still there now I'm in my mid sixties. It's a bug that started years ago and it still has me. Hope I've not bored too many people.

Cheers.

By the way, just after posting, it came to mind that I and other school children were given plastic tokens to use as fare on the trains, about the size of a present day 10 pence piece or a bit smaller. The school secretary used to given them out each Friday afternoon. There were different colours for different values, Red, Blue, Black, Yellow and White I seem to recall. You couldn't exchange them for cash. You handed them over at the ticket office asking for a school single/return to Penzance/St Ives/Hayle/Redruth/Truro. Any others do this sort of thing?
 
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43074

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So there you go. That's how it started for me, and it's still there now I'm in my mid sixties. It's a bug that started years ago and it still has me. Hope I've not bored too many people.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading - I particularly enjoyed your comments about the weekend specials at Uni - I'm at Uni in Leeds and slowly covering much of the North on my spare Saturdays, colouring a map as I go, much as you did from the sounds of it!

My interest in railways doesn't go anywhere near so far back as posts by others suggest, I haven't even turned 20 yet! I was taken to the North Yorkshire Moors Railway & National Railway Museum when I was 4; subsequently my father would take me down to Leicester station to see the trains, as well as doing the occasional trip further afield: Swindon & York are some of the earliest I can recall doing, whilst my grandfather used to (and we still do) take me on trips around East Anglia using Anglia Plus Day Rovers, with occasional trips to Portsmouth, Liverpool and Nenta traintours.

It went from there really - as I have become older and thus more independent I have been to many more places, my first solo trips were in/around the East Midlands a few years ago, followed by a few Devon Rangers that summer and a solo London trip in September of that year. Now I think nothing to just doing a rover on a spare Saturday, although when asked I spend my weekends/spare days doing ''nothing much''. Similarly I've become more interested in the operational and historical aspects to railways over the years, probably as I've become older and realised the train hobby isn't just about taking photos/jotting numbers but covers a far wider sphere, a realisation partly arising from browsing this forum.
 

Scouseinmanc

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8 years old; taking the train with my Dad from Liverpool Lime Street down to Euston, then on the tube to Liverpool Street (before the early nineties reconstruction - what an amazing place, with all the cast iron bridges & walkways!) & out to White Hart Lane, to watch Spurs play. What great times they were.

Then I picked up 2 small books in my secondary school library: An Illustrated Survey of Liverpool Railway Stations & the other; An Illustrated Survey of Railway Stations between Liverpool & Southport. Now that's what really started my interest in UK railways (both open & more so, closed).
 

507021

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I've always been interested in railways as long as I remember, but it really started for me when I lived on the Isle of Man for a few years when a friend got me involved at a miniature railway he volunteered at. It was the same friend who really boosted my enthusiasm for the railways on the Isle of Man and in the UK, and I haven't looked back since. Each year I was living on the island, I always made sure to photograph at least one day of the Rush Hour and Heritage Festival special events, as well as taking at least one return trip a year on the IMR. I do really miss the railways on the island, but on the flip side I wouldn't have visited so many places on the UK's railway network if I hadn't moved back to Liverpool. There's too many highlights of the UK network for me to choose from, but the Cumbrian Coast Line behind a Class 37 and Settle-Carlisle Line are two of my favourites. I have to say though, the IMR's Port Erin line is my all time favourite railway line without any shadow of a doubt.

One particular fond memory of the IMR I have is in late 2011 there was a bus drivers' strike, and although there was a limited bus service it didn't go all the way to where I worked, so I took the very unique opportunity to catch the steam train to and from work. I even had a whole Open Saloon to myself which was nice!

So basically, I owe my interest in the railways to a very good friend of mine. Unfortunately we don't talk or see each other as much as we used to, but we're still good friends and know we're there for each other if needed. One thing I do have to remember our very enjoyable times on the IMR and the miniature railway we volunteered at by is my trusty Panasonic Lumix camera, which he very kindly gave to me (despite me being more than prepared to pay for it) when he upgraded to a newer camera. Despite that, I've no doubt my friend and I will be back travelling on the IMR again in the future.
 

lordbusiness

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School topic on railways in the last year of primary school including a trip to the newly opened NRM behind RSG from Peterborough started it.
On to secondary school located next to the ECML (Huntingdon ) with Deltics,47s and 31s plus a smattering of 25s, 40s and 46s. Weekend trips to PBO and CBG to hop over to March to bash the depot and trips to London when finances allowed.
Girls and punk intervened for a while but ended up going in the RAF at 18. Next flirted when living in Oakham 84-87 where the variety of stuff was amazing. Literally, when the barriers went down and a BNS- NRW wasn't due you really had no idea what would appear.
Kept an interest all through, retired from the RAF after 30 years.

Started a second career on the railway 2 years ago and lovin' it!
 

LowLevel

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My parents never having been motorists meant we used public transport an awful lot; to get anywhere outside our village basically. I never had much love for buses (though I will admit to being at the least very sad when the last WM Metrobuses came out of service, them being a constant in my life from going to town with the family before I started pre school to commuting on them when I started my first full time work, over a full couple of decades or so, with many happy memories, both mundane like travelling to the football and things like special excursions to Drayton Manor Park).

Trains were another matter. My earliest memory of all is being in my pushchair with my mum going to the local library and seeing the local service pulling in at the station (just about a slam door DMU still) and begging to go for a ride on it, being conveyed in the guard's van with some mail and several friendly BR staff. We then arrived at the mainline station and the men in their red boxes at the platform exits took our tickets. My local station was Codsall on the Shrewsbury line and we often travelled to Wolverhampton, Birmingham and Telford.

My mum being a regular on the trains, and with an unusually large number of kids to shift on her own (I was one of 6, often with a friend or two to boot), with my dad working away, had gotten to know the local railwaymen pretty well. There was Stan from the station preservation group (who I fear has almost certainly passed away by now, as he was very old 20 years ago) before community rail partnerships were cool, Rob the ticket inspector from Telford, Dave from Regional Railways/Central Trains at Shrewsbury who used to come down every now and then to tidy up the place and several others - even the legendary desperate Mr Granville.

They really planted the spark in me, letting me issue tickets on their machines, open and close the doors on the DMUs, have the odd ride in the back cab and generally being very friendly and indulging to a train mad little boy.

I went on holiday by train, went through my teenage years and beyond as a regular user and commuter and finally got a job on the railway spending time as a dispatcher before moving on to being a guard.

It was a very proud day for me when I went back to visit my folks and was able to show one of the old hand guards who had looked after me as a child (and still recognised me!) my ID card and that I was now a Senior Conductor myself.

I love the railway with all my heart and I sincerely hope that never alters with the changes that are to come.
 

ChiefPlanner

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I blame it all on a GWT 2-8-0 tank engine at the age of 3 or 4 , where I got a cab ride in the goods yard at Ammanford. Was dragged off protesting as a young one does , the driver assuring me they were non stop to Scotland.

I was allowed to sit on the wooden seat and reached up for the whistle chain and was shown the firebox.
 

BanburyBlue

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Interesting thread idea - from an historical perspective, when do we starting writing train numbers down?

Are we unique - are there rail enthusiasts the world over?
 

AJM580

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Norwich
To quote Michael Palin - “Is it just us who are like this? The British, I mean. Are there any trainspotters in Sicily? Do Belgians go misty-eyed with the thought of seeing the 12:16 to Antwerp? Do Swedes save up all year for a Hasselblad to photograph a Stockholm to Gothenburg coal train cresting a 1-in-57 gradient?”. (Great Railway Journeys 1980)

While there are preserved lines in Europe and North America, it does seem to be in the UK that it started. Possibly with Ian Allan in the 1940s, but I remember reading in the Railway Magazine that there were people recording train numbers round about the time of the first A4s in the 30s
 

Harbornite

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To quote Michael Palin - “Is it just us who are like this? The British, I mean. Are there any trainspotters in Sicily? Do Belgians go misty-eyed with the thought of seeing the 12:16 to Antwerp? Do Swedes save up all year for a Hasselblad to photograph a Stockholm to Gothenburg coal train cresting a 1-in-57 gradient?”. (Great Railway Journeys 1980)

While there are preserved lines in Europe and North America, it does seem to be in the UK that it started. Possibly with Ian Allan in the 1940s, but I remember reading in the Railway Magazine that there were people recording train numbers round about the time of the first A4s in the 30s

Back in the 1850's, there was a girl who collected the numbers of GWR broad gauge engines. The hobby seems to be popular on the continent, judging by the number of pictures and vids on Flickr and youtube.
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We then arrived at the mainline station and the men in their red boxes at the platform exits took our tickets. My local station was Codsall on the Shrewsbury line and we often travelled to Wolverhampton, Birmingham and Telford.

When did you live in Codsall?
 

Calthrop

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To quote Michael Palin - “Is it just us who are like this? The British, I mean. Are there any trainspotters in Sicily? Do Belgians go misty-eyed with the thought of seeing the 12:16 to Antwerp? Do Swedes save up all year for a Hasselblad to photograph a Stockholm to Gothenburg coal train cresting a 1-in-57 gradient?”. (Great Railway Journeys 1980)

While there are preserved lines in Europe and North America, it does seem to be in the UK that it started. Possibly with Ian Allan in the 1940s, but I remember reading in the Railway Magazine that there were people recording train numbers round about the time of the first A4s in the 30s

Back in the 1850's, there was a girl who collected the numbers of GWR broad gauge engines. The hobby seems to be popular on the continent, judging by the number of pictures and vids on Flickr and youtube.

As regards Michael Palin’s questions: nowadays, the answer to all would be without a shadow of a doubt, “yes” – though likely not a huge number of folk, of some of those nationalities. And though I can’t give much in the way of evidence, I’m sure that in “First World” countries at any rate, people all over, have been getting this bug virtually as long as there have been railways. I have read that the Czech composer Dvořák (1841 – 1904) loved trains and railways, and spent a good deal of time frequenting big city stations, observing the comings and goings there.

It would seem that railway enthusiasm probably took off big-time more, and earlier, and Britain and North America, than elsewhere (though it has also, I gather, long been prominent in Germany); and as regards club-type organisations and information-sharing, other countries subsequently “caught the infection” from us English-speakers; but I would be willing to bet that there have been individual railfans in many parts of the world, pretty well from the outset.

I get the impression that there seem to be relatively few railway enthusiasts in predominantly Catholic countries. The following may be rubbish on my part, about a religion to which I don’t belong: but I get the picture that while the Catholic Church tolerates hobbies – so long as they don’t involve directly engaging in the seven deadly sins – it doesn’t particularly encourage them; it considers rather that aside from their purely religious duties, the faithful should in this life preferably be strongly social beings, interacting much with their fellow-humans and caring for and about them.
 

Harbornite

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As regards Michael Palin’s questions: nowadays, the answer to all would be without a shadow of a doubt, “yes” – though likely not a huge number of folk, of some of those nationalities. And though I can’t give much in the way of evidence, I’m sure that in “First World” countries at any rate, people all over, have been getting this bug virtually as long as there have been railways. I have read that the Czech composer Dvořák (1841 – 1904) loved trains and railways, and spent a good deal of time frequenting big city stations, observing the comings and goings there.

It would seem that railway enthusiasm probably took off big-time more, and earlier, and Britain and North America, than elsewhere (though it has also, I gather, long been prominent in Germany); and as regards club-type organisations and information-sharing, other countries subsequently “caught the infection” from us English-speakers; but I would be willing to bet that there have been individual railfans in many parts of the world, pretty well from the outset.

I get the impression that there seem to be relatively few railway enthusiasts in predominantly Catholic countries. The following may be rubbish on my part, about a religion to which I don’t belong: but I get the picture that while the Catholic Church tolerates hobbies – so long as they don’t involve directly engaging in the seven deadly sins – it doesn’t particularly encourage them; it considers rather that aside from their purely religious duties, the faithful should in this life preferably be strongly social beings, interacting much with their fellow-humans and caring for and about them.

France seems to have its fair share of spotters/photters, as does Spain. I find it unlikely that religion would have an influence on the number of trainspotters in this day and age
 

Calthrop

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France seems to have its fair share of spotters/photters, as does Spain. I find it unlikely that religion would have an influence on the number of trainspotters in this day and age

Point taken; but cultural ways, largely shaped by religion, are liable to continue in times and places where the majority of the population has abandoned the religious belief and practice concerned.

I recall seeing a plaque on a station near Barcelona, commemorating -- if my understanding of Spanish was correct -- the foundation of the Barcelona Railway Enthusiasts' Club in 1944. An ugly time for that part of the world, even in a situation of supposed WWII neutrality: but there'll always be a few stalwart gricers who surface, no matter how unpropitious circumstances may be ! (Franco's Spain was by most accounts, a fairly unpleasant totalitarian place; but from everything I've heard, it never had much of a problem with railway enthusiasts / photographers -- they could usually do their stuff unmolested.)
 

Joe19B

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Sheffield
My Dad did forty-seven years on the LMS and BR so it was sort of bred into me.

My interest has waxed and waned over the years but never completely gone away. I've never been a Train Spotter though.
 

Crewe Exile

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4 Jan 2016
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Growing up with Crewe 5 mins down the road interest in railways started early on. The railway was genuinely interesting back then (early 80s), all sorts of different locos, freight workings, just a completely different world from today. Perhaps it was because Crewe was a railway hub loads of people had some sort of interest in the railways back then.
I pretty much gave up with the railway scene as such mid 90s. I still visit a few preserved lines now and again and try to travel by train if possible when on business etc, but the days of 5am alarm calls for a jaunt out to catch a required 20 or 31 are long gone!.
 

Peacock X

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Hamilton
I can just remember steam and lived near a line. Also helping to open the gates to allow the engine to cross the road into the gas works with wagons of coke.
 

Harbornite

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Trains were another matter. My earliest memory of all is being in my pushchair with my mum going to the local library and seeing the local service pulling in at the station (just about a slam door DMU still) and begging to go for a ride on it, being conveyed in the guard's van with some mail and several friendly BR staff. We then arrived at the mainline station and the men in their red boxes at the platform exits took our tickets. My local station was Codsall on the Shrewsbury line and we often travelled to Wolverhampton, Birmingham and Telford.

Codsall is a nice village, I've got quite a few relatives living there and I still occasionally pop by at the railway station.
 
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