All Gas and Flared Trousers
20 April 2009
Despite the BR Modern Image which was introduced in
1965, the influence had not filtered down to many parts of the network
by the early 1970's — the period of Mark's talk. Gas lighting, full
station staffing and manual signal boxed still prevailed. Yes, there
were blue Class 47s, but green class 40s were still an everyday sight.
Track modernisation was, however, beginning to have an effect, with
removal of redundant sidings. Mark took us on a tour of the period,
using his extensive contemporary photographic collection.
We started at Colwyn Bay, where his grandparents lived and Hull,
where he was at university. DMUs predominated, including the
transpennine stock, still running on the line they were designed for
over a decade earlier. At Hull's Corporation Pier, we also one of BR's
shipping services — MV Lincoln castle on the Hull to New Holland service
— now long since replaced by the Humber Bridge. Moving inland to Selby,
the ECML still was routed over the swing bridge, with Deltics in
command. Further up the ECML, Newcastle still had its diamond crossings,
making the prominent centre-piece of a shot from the castle. At South
Shields, it was clear that not just railways have changed in the
intervening 40 years — dock workers in cloth caps, and housewives in
scarfs, mingled with girls in mini-skirts and long-haired students — yes
— in flared trousers; all waiting for the local service.
Further south, modernisation was starting to have an effect.
Stevenage was having its Old Town station replaced by a new one next to
the new town, but DMUs and two-tone class 47s were still providing the
services as electrification was still several years off. In London,
Broad Street, Acton South and Felixstowe Town were still open, although
some attempts, all too late, at rationalisation was evident, in the form
of pay-trains with their conductor/guards. On the western region in
1973, at Paddington, they were still holding on to their independence,
with Western hydraulics, and the last of the Western Pullman diesel
trains. Windsor & Eton station showed that it was not just railways
in transition — the local bus company had just been taken over by the
National Bus Company.
In the south, Waterloo was still its old bustling self, but the
staff sported corporate-style uniforms. Meanwhile at Charring Cross and
Cannon Street, the passengers could still enjoy the sunshine while
waiting for their trains. The Winchester to Alton branch was still
operational — just — limping on with Hampshire units, but stations such
as Ropley were fading away in gradual decline and still had to wait a
few years before the preservationists rescued them.
In the Midlands, Mike's tour took in Loughborough and the Bush
works, where Lion was in a siding having just undergone servicing,
having only 18 months UK service left. Class 20's were on trip workings
from the ironstone quarries to Corby — and Rutland had just (temporarily
for 20 years!) lost its identity.
Mark then turned to the situation on light rail, starting back in
London on the Underground. While Earls Court is still recognisably the
same today, the same cannot be said for Barbican and the East London
Line. "New" 1972 stock was beginning to penetrate the Northern Line ,
Epping was still serviced by silver 1962 stock, and Ongar still had a
service! Elsewhere, in England the only light rail was in Blackpool,
where a "make-do-and-mend" approach kept the trams running — just!
The results of the previous decade's Beeching cuts was still all
around. Abandoned lines at Buntingford, the Waverley route, Holderness
and the Oxford-Cambridge line, all now sorely missed. However, BR still
ran steam engines in the form of the Vale of Rhydol line which, apart
from a change of livery, hasn't changed much. Elsewhere, there were
still pockets of industrial steam, for example at Gascoigne Wood
colliery, and many hulks still resided at Barry scrap yards awaiting
their purchase and subsequent restoration.
Mark finished with a look at the preservation scene, starting with
the old York Museum, the "stuffed & mounted" Derwent and "Locomotion
No 1" on Darlington Station, and the Clapham museum just before its
collection was dispersed. Birmingham and Glasgow also still had their
first-generation transport museums. Flying Scotsman had come back from
its US sojourn and was running on the main line. Meanwhile, the
preservation movement was getting up to speed with Tallyllyn, the
Bluebell and KWVR being at the fore. Tysley and Didcot were still being
established and the Scottish Railway Preservation was still using
temporary facilities at Falkirk and Glasgow shipyards. Tenterden and
Loughborough were just seeds from which their routes would grow, while
Goathland still had to gain fame from starring in television - but the
passengers waiting for the NYMR service were sporting some "great flared
Some new image was in evidence — Class 86 and 87 locos at Euston and
Birmingham New Street, and the prototype HST 252001 at Melton Mowbray
having just broken the world diesel speed record. And at Dover BR was
even operating its own cross-channel Hovercraft service.