Sitting in a classroom staring out of the window and steam age daydreaming. Lunch time, reading the latest Locomotive Practice and Performance log in Railway Magazine. Holidays by the West Coast Main Line, trespassing round engine sheds at anytime, sat on a porter’s barrow on many a draughty platform – you get the picture.
For 7 years a main line footplateman at several MPDs including; Farnley Jct, Holbeck, Wakefield, and Nine Elms, where my own exploits, shovel in hand, ended up in locomotive practice and performance logs, in magazines and books. ‘Surplus to requirements’, when steam ended – ‘all change’
Back to that classroom, Uni, this time and a BA in Philosophy & History of Science – one part staring out the window and the other studying what happens when creative folk do some staring into space. Some research at the NRM and sitting, watching the wheels go round, on an engine I’d worked on many a time. Now she was ‘sectioned’, all cut away so you could see the insides, a corpse laid open by dissection, a museum exhibit.
Sadly the whole tableaux failed to mention that, without the crew, it wouldn’t, actually, do anything. Possibly, worse was that the most famous engine driver of them all, Joe Duddington, and his fireman Tommy Bray, were not mentioned anywhere on No.4468 Mallard, the engine they drove to 126mph, setting a world record in doing so.
Why do I mention this well, I began a campaign, which ended, after some critical press, in Joe Duddington and Tommy Bray being given the recognition their efforts and bravery deserved. Their names were put in the cab, on the displays around the engine and ‘explainers’ tell their story, there’s even a mention in the Visitor Guide book / brochure.
Now I take photographs and write stuff, much as I have since 1989 when I self-published the first ‘Wilson’s Preserved Steam Railway Timetable’, a timetable and guide to the Heritage Railways of Britain. I have a few other books: How Steam Locomotives Work, Racing Trains, Forward! The Revolution in the lives of the Footplatemen 1962 – 1996, and my ebook Gricing; The Real Railway Children’s story. Articles and photos, too many to list have appeared in Steam Days, Heritage Railway, and many other railway publications. And now there’s this website.