Not a soul in sight

Those of us who worked the last main line steam turns are OAPs now. The youngest firemen in 68, were 16, that makes them circa 66, drivers will be at least 73, and most likely more than that. Some heritage crews have more years on the footplate than some of these men, me included. However, a heritage crew might do 80 to 100 turns a year, a regular footplateman would do 100 or more turns in 4 months. There are many other factors which make comparison difficult, if not impossible, speeds, loads, and distances travelled, hobby versus paid employment, even the condition of the locomotives themselves.

The rules and regulations for the safe operation of the railway are, if anything, more stringent and rigidly applied today than they were in the 60s. If we take just one aspect – tresspass, a way of life, almost, for many who later became the ‘preservationists’, bunking sheds and works, the luckier ones getting footplate trips. Today, increasingly, lineside access is via a permit, or, in some cases, prohibited altogether and as for ‘bunking’ the sheds – I don’t think so. The lineside permits are themselves being made more restrictive, by insisting that holders have undertaken a personal track safety course, at the line – PTS certificates at one line not being valid on another.

All of which begs the question, how did it get this way and why? One answer I’ve been given is insurance,  which, as one manager told me, was a major item in his railway’s budget, outweighing the cost of coal. Can this be the only reason, do some insurers demand that to have track access a PTS is essential and others don’t?  Maybe it’s simply that many people who now visit and enjoy the heritage railways don’t know how to conduct themseleves on or near the lines, thus creating a danger to themselves and others. I don’t know the answers but, I do believe that those whose hobby and enjoyment of the heritage railway is photography deserve something better than the current ad hoc, different system at almost every railway. Is there a case for something being organised through the HRA?

In the photograph, double-headed Manors No.7820 Dinmore Manor and No.7822 Foxcote Manor are hauling an ECS working through a deserted Berwyn Station on the Llangollen Railway.

If you have enjoyed my blogs – I have written a book about my 60 years involvement with railways, from trainspotter, via steam age footplateman, to railway author and photographer, this is a link to it:

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