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|'All Gas and Flared Trousers': the Early 1970s Scene - Mark Evans|
|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 saw 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 Charing 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 Talyllyn, the Bluebell and KWVR being at the fore. Tyseley and Didcot were still being established and the Scottish Railway Preservation Society 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 trousers"!
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.