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Discussion in 'Railway History & Nostalgia' started by Samuel88, 29 Nov 2017.
Well said Cowley. I'm pretty much like you.
I too was born just a few years after the end of steam, so I was never able to see it operating in regular service. I think my first experience of steam haulage was at Bo'ness and Kinneil, and apart from a visit to the Strathspey and a trip on the Jacobite behind (6)2005, that's it. I did get mildly excited when I was house-sitting for my father and the Great Britain tour stormed past with a Black 5 and a K4 double-heading, but steam doesn't really do it for me, I'm afraid.
I grew up with 26s, 27s, 37s and 47s and that's where my enthusiasm firmly lies. I go a bit wobbly (or is that wibbly? ) when I hear the original HSTs too. Each to their own, I suppose.
I was a child when taken to Leicester London Road Station and was going down the stairs, next to the steam engine, when the safety valve lifted - I was petrified....and hooked!
I saw the run down of BR steam and took myself off, about four times, to Nine Elms shed to see the SR Bullied Pacifics in 1966/67. I saw the closure of the GC line and joined the MLPG.
Now I still take myself off to see the big (and little) steam engines on the GC and really enjoy my trundle through the Leicestershire countryside with a breakfast and coffee in a Mk1, watching the steam curl through the trees and listening to the beat of the exhaust.
Nostalgia for a mythical better past where every man knew his place and the world was easy to understand. It wasn't of course, people just had less of a horizon and life was harder and shorter than it is now.
Don't get me wrong - I like a steam train as much as the next man but the world moved on, developed and improved.
Improved up until the 1990's anyway.
Surely this is contradictory "....better past......life was harder and shorter."...?
I like steam locomotives, I like travelling in Mk1 coaches. To get to the GC, I travel faster and more comfortably in a class 22 up the MML - which I also like. I also appreciate being in the first generation not to have been called up to fight in a major war and have been innoculated against horrible illnesses, been well educated and live in a basically fair, law abiding society. I, and many others, are very fortunate.
The railway today carries a lot more people , (but less freight) - and it less connected directly with the community. My researches show things like very early mail trains running on Xmas morning with the GPO staff sorting and doing Xmas day deliveries (but it was stressed they were all home for dinner !) , Santa would arrive by train in many a community - from Ammanford to Riccarton Junction. New Years Eve was always marked by works , colliery hooters , every engine in steam and ships sirens welcoming in the New Year.
In the background of a good number of oldish of the 1940's and 1950's , you get the evocative sound of shunting or passing steam trains "think "Saturday Night and Sunday Morning - or It Always Rains on Sundays" )
Today we get the automated bleep of a self service till and the distant rubberised roar of the motorway.
A sort of emblem of a simpler life I guess. People always look back as I said before.
I don't pine for steam, though, even though I remember them in service. Neither do I pine for double deck tramcars, which I can also (just!) remember: even as a young child I could see why they had to go from London's streets, much as I personally enjoyed being taken for a ride on them. I remain, though, an enthusiast for the tram in the right place, even though the vehicles themselves do nothing for me. With trains, they should all be electric imo. with steam confined to the preserved railways, diesel too should anyone be so minded. Not everything was better in the 1950s, even if you were relatively well off. My attitude to chocolate now, for instance, was I'm sure influenced both by its rationing and my lack of pocket money such that I hoard it on occasion: never seen a shrink, so probably will never know why!
Topic-drifting minutiae, rather; but I (an unashamed nostalgia-merchant, "whether it makes sense or not") greatly envy you for your remembered experience of first-generation British city trams. I was born in 1948, but never -- or only in brief glancing encounters which left no memory for me -- witnessed said urban conveyances in action, throughout the fourteen years between my birth, and their final disappearance (Glasgow 1962). Was never, during those years, in any of the right places at the right time.
I probably understated my regard for the tram above. In reality, I think I was a little scared of them, with all that clanking. Now my turn for envy - the photos and writing of Robert Jowitt made me envious of his experience of the trams of Glasgow, with that marvellous livery, and also of their single deck trolleybuses. Yes, I was lucky, my grandmother's flat in Eltham, SE London gave a view from the bay window of Eltham Church tram stop and (occasional) terminus. I'm the same age as you.
It's interesting regarding the age of steam. I would have loved to have had the option of all the branchlines to use, and Ioved the rolling stock (because thankfully most of it was still around where I lived into the noughties). But truthfully, I wouldn't have wanted to live in that era in other respects. From what my parents say, it sounds like a limited world in terms of social expectations, with limited horizons which I would have had difficulty fitting into (even though I have a lot of respect for my parents and grandparents generation who fought for, and rebuilt the country).
Of course, we should remember that that was the start of the era of free tertiary education, so in some ways, horizons weren't as limited as now.
I'm not a big drinker, and don't wholeheartedly agree with the huge expansion of licensing hours, but how ridiculous was it that as an 18/19 year old I couldn't get a drink after 11 p.m. (10.30 on Sundays) anywhere in or near the swathe of South London with a minimum population of 2 million: there were no night clubs either, since a shooting at Mr Smith's in Catford closed that and all others for years afterwards. There may have been illegal drinking dens, but I didn't have the contacts to gain entry! But, yes, university education was free, if you could get in, and many schools never sent anyone on to uni year after year.
I was never a fan of nightclubs, but the 11:00pm pub curfew was something that irritated me throughout my younger years (Nowadays, that's my bedtime !)
Thats the point of nostalgia, its an idealised view of the past. People tend to remember the good and forget the bad.
I quite liked a nightclub in Liverpool called Krazy House which was a metal club. Apart from that I wasn't a fan. These days I am a last bus or train home man and prefer pubs where I can have a chat.
There was one in Leeds called Bondi Beach that was alright. It had a revolving dance floor.
Ha ha, was that called Planet Earth at one point? Not far from the station? Went there once when at Uni in Bradford. I liked a metal club in Leeds called The Cockpit which was right by the station, in fact it was in the railway arches.
After enough drink, they've all got revolving dance floors!
Yes, this place did do some cheap cocktails!
Although I do believe trams are one of those anachronisms that should have remained on Britain's streets, may have prevented many of them from becoming the car choked hell holes they are now.
I don't think they could just have remained as they were, though. Blackpool is the exception that proves the rule, with that one long road hugging the coast from north to south, and reserved track (mostly). The tram had to go, and then be reinvented! I still don't think we do modern trams very well in the U.K.: much smaller places than the cities that have reintroduced trams should be able to sustain them if you look at other countries in Europe in particular. Unfortunately, the costs associated with tramway development here are much higher proportionately than in many countries, partly because relocation of services has to be borne by the tramway.
I think what helped a lot of places in mainland Europe (In a twisted way) was how comprehensively they got flattened in WW2. The UK got it bad but compared to some cities on the continent we got off light.
Ah yes, I went there once when was planet earth. If I remember correctly, there wasn't much of a choice booze before it became Bondi Beach.
Also done the Cockpit a couple of times. They did at east Newkie Brown !
In that case Coventry should by rights have had decades of trams rather than be talking about them now. Perhaps if Basil Spence had lent his expertise to tram design it might just have happened before. I'm not disagreeing with you, by the way, but Bristol and Plymouth both lost their tram systems during the war when their centres were fairly comprehensively flattened, particularly the latter, and the idea that we should follow the lead of the Germans in building new tramway infrastructure was probably unappealing on so many levels!
Ha ha. Yeah, that is true.
I always thought the demise of the tram was not that our cities weren't suited for them, more that we're more car-centric than the Europeans, whereas only in the past 25 years have we started to move away from this attitude, the Europeans have always been more careful around car ownership.
Not sure many Parisians or Romans would agree with you!
This country had decided in the 1930's that the tram was obsolete, motoring organisations antagonistic towards them, they stopped in the middle of the road and you had to wait while passengers boarded and alighted. Many, faced with the cost of replacing tracks, opted for the trolleybus which also fell from favour - in 1944 London Transport announced no more tram to trolleybus conversions and conversion in 1954, as an example. Postwar the trolleybus was found to have the same issues as the tram and were withdrawn almost as soon as the trams they were supposed to replace
Here's a small overview of all the first-generation trams still in operation in what I would consider Western European countries, i.e. excluding former socialist / communist countries, because they obviously have a very different story.
> Antwerpen (large parts now underground)
> Brussels (some parts replaced by metro)
> Charleroi (almost everything rebuild as partly underground light rail)
> Gent (many lines closed)
The Kusttram and the Charleroi tram are both the last remnants of the SNCV/NMVB system that once connected the whole country.
> Freiburg (Breisgau)
> Mannheim-Ludwigshafen (partly underground)
> Stuttgart (rebuild as partly underground light rail)
> Ulm (all but one line closed)
> München (Munich) (many lines closed for metro)
> Nürnberg (Nuremberg) (many lines closed, e.g. interurban to Fürth)
> Bremen (a few lines closed)
> Frankfurt am Main (some lines closed)
> Hannover (rebuild completely as partly underground light rail)
> Bielefeld (rebuild completely as partly underground light rail)
> Rhein-Ruhr area (many many lines closed, including systems of a whole city (Vestische, Wuppertal, Hagen), large parts rebuild as partly underground light rail)
> Köln (Cologne) (large parts rebuild as partly underground light rail)
> Bonn (large parts rebuild as partly underground light rail)
> Marseille (all but one line closed)
> Lille (all but two lines closed)
> Blackpool (one long line remained)
> Douglas, Isle of Man (does it count?)
> Milano (Milan)
> Napoli (Naples)
> Roma (Rome) (large parts closed)
> Den Haag
> Innsbruck (some parts closed)
> Wien (Vienna) (large parts closed)
> Lisboa (Lisbon)
> Stockholm (all but a few lines closed after switch to right-hand road traffic)
> Neuchâtel (all but one interurban line closed)
> Tenerife (light railway rebuild to light rail)
This seems to be a lot, but compared to a list of system that once existed, it shows that also in continental Europe, many many systems were closed or at least made much smaller.
Not being facetious here, but many members may never have experienced trolleybus operation; just pointing out that these didn't stop in the middle of the road.