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National Railway Museum

South of England Group
Vice Presidents: Richard Hardy; Sir William McAlpine Bt, FRSE, FCIT, FRSA




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Moved by Steam

Richard Inwood and Mike Smith

9 November 2009

Richard Inwood and Mike Smith based their illustrated talk on their book of the same title, recently published by Silverlink. Mike is a music teacher and Richard is currently the Bishop of Bedford. In his early ecclesiastical career he spent some time as Archdeacon of Halifax, but regrets that his photos don't achieve the heights of an earlier incumbent there, Eric Treacy. But, as we saw, this is a little self-demeaning!

Richard and Mike met at Burton on Trent grammar school in the 1950's. They first found out that they had a similar passion when, on 18th August 18 1959, they were both travelling to Leeds and Sheffield for trainspotting purposes.

The book took 7 years in preparation, involving reviewing over 4,500 photos, each being critiqued so that poorly focussed or framed photos were cast aside. Only 217 were chosen for publication. Thanks to Mike's notebooks, it has been possible to confirm the details of most of the photographs. Mike founded a locospotters club at the school, later taking over another club to organise coach trips - surprisingly most were to locosheds. Although the primary purpose was to collect numbers, they did possess a Brownie 127 camera, but it was useless for taking moving images. It was Christmas 1962 before they got their hands on a 35mm camera.

Starting at Burton on Trent we learnt that Jubilees were the "poshist" locos, 9Fs and 8Fs being far more common. Not surprisingly, it is the former which feature most in their photographs. Moor Street just south of Burton station, close to the signal box and little-used level crossing, was a favourite site. The local breweries provided workings to and from their independent rail networks, with a mixture of old main-line locos and private engines. There were many level crossing, so plenty of spots to observe movements. Clay Mills, north of Burton, was also a favourite spot. Here they could admire the passing "specials", such as troop-trains from Catterick Camp, double-headed 4Fs on route to Blackpool or Skegness, and Jubilee-hauled day trips to Alton Towers. Another favourite spot was the ex GN line from Burton to Nottingham. Unlike the earlier Midland line, the GN route had to take the more difficult path over the hills. As a result many of the photos on this line show engines working hard.

The Cromford & High Peak wasn't too far away. In June 1964, a RCTS special travelled along the line from Parsley Hay, with 5 brake vans plus about 10 open wagons packed with standing RCTS members. Richard showed a "before and after" shot, highlighting how 40 years of tree growth, and conversion to a linear path, has impacted on the views. Only four photos in the book have been "tweaked", one being to remove the image of their car wing mirror when they took a photo of the RCTS train. Not surprisingly, the RCTS members had to detrain and walk down the Middleton Incline! The previous Summer they had trips to Easleigh via Salisbury and the Exeter line to Yeovil Town, and an over-night trip to Scotland via the Settle & Carlisle. In Scotland they struggled round six sheds, inspecting many of the old locos then dumped out of use on the scrap lines. Coming back via Edinburgh they were welcomed by A1s and A3s. Interestingly one of the photographs taken from the carriage window of the train engine, shows the carriage in front of them was one of the then-new Mark 1s with special window frames, capable of being opened to take stretchers if the carriage was formed into an ambulance train.

In early 1964, the pair took a bike trip to see the Somerset & Dorset line. They stopped at Stroud, seeing some unusual wrong-line working due to engineering works. But shortly after they had to abandon the trip because of appalling weather. Despite this disappointment, they persevered with longer-distance trips, taking in Warwickshire, Gloucester and Hereford, and Rutland. Later in the year, a family holiday to Devon, provided the opportunity to visit local lines including, finally, the Somerset & Dorset.

The following year, the family holiday took them to Ilfracombe, involving an interesting trip via Birmingham New Street, Snow Hill, Bristol and Barnstaple. Unfortunately, they never got as far as Padstow and Tavistock, but did cover some of the little used lines in the area. Chapter 8 of the book is called "Uses of Education", and reflects the activities Mike got up to when he obtained a grant to allow him to take weekly music lessons in Birmingham. The travel money had no restriction on how he got from Burton to Birmingham. By using a "Midland Red Rover" he took in Gloucester, Litchfield, Wolverhampton and all points between! By Summer 1965, Richard was at Oxford University making trips around the area, and using his first colour film. He tried to get a shot of Winston Churchill's funeral train at Yarnton but at the critical time a gust of wind hid the engine with steam. At that time, you could get a 37 shilling all-Scotland rover ticket. This was too good to miss, and the pair took off via the West Coast line to Carlisle, returning via the Settle & Carlisle.

The final swansong came in July 1967, when the pair toured the North West, the final home of operating steam, taking in classic locations at Standedge tunnel, Shap and Ribblehead Viaduct. The final shot was of Jubilee 45720 on the scrap line at Lugton with its nameplate "Indomitable".

Copies of the book can be obtained from our stand at any of the Outreach events.