The sub-title to my blog is Trains of thought, and who would have dreamed, in 1960, that a bunch of kids, mostly, would go on to create a network of heritage railways from Aviemore to Bodmin and Gwili to Sheringham, re-create a working, twin-track, main line railway, and run regular steam hauled services on the national network. And that 50 years on they would be a major part of the nation’s tourist infrastructure, as they undoubtedly are.
2018 is going to be a year of great ballyho for the 50th Anniversary of the ‘End of Steam’ and not a little personal reflection on the end of my own railway career too. The white heat of technology was going to bring us a bright new future and we should embrace it. We’ve swapped our Box Brownies for Digital SLR and Camcorders and exchanged the land line telephone for Google and the internet; and 50 years ago no one dreamed of those things either.
My very first footplate journey, whilst still a schoolboy, was on a Jinty, my last, as a steam fireman, was on a WD; in between was an eclectic mix of motive power, MPDs and routes worked. Being a fireman was a challenge, it was down to you to produce the steam. Opening the regulator of a steam locomotive is not the same as opening the controller on a diesel or electric locomotive where the available power is pre-determined; on a steam locomotive the skill of the fireman determines what level of power, up to the engines full capability, is available. The challenge is to keep as near as possible to maximum pressure without excessive blowing off and, with so many variables involved in doing so, it is a great deal more difficult than most people imagine, or should I say dream.
In the photograph No.47406 is drifting towards Loughborough, on the Great Central Railway, with a train of empty mineral wagons.
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: