I’ve been making heritage railway contributions for many years both financial and volunteering. During this time I’ve made a lot of very good friends. Involvement in both restoration and operations has seen me putting in a great deal of physical effort. I’ve been in the fortunate position to make some small financial contributions too. I am a shareholder on two railways and with a number of locomotives that interest me particularly. This includes a number of heritage diesel locomotives – the Baby Deltic Project, the Class 15 preservation project and the Co-Bo group. My number of friends is obviously small when compared to the many who volunteer. However, when I visit a heritage railway no-one knows what contributions I have made over the years. I will return to this aspect but in the meantime………
Baby Deltics etc
I’d like to share a moment in my youth when I used to see these locomotives. The Baby Deltics primarily worked engineers’ trains. The distant hum of the Deltic locomotive was a highlight for my friends and me standing by the East Coast Main Line in Stevenage. If we saw a haze of blue smoke in the distance, we knew that a Baby Deltic was approaching. On Sundays I would regularly walk with a friend from Stevenage to Hitchin when I went to visit my Nan. We would also to pay a brief visit to the diesel locomotive shed there. This was in the late 1960s to early 1970s.
Hitchin Shed would contain a few Class 31’s, or Brush 2’s as we used to call them, and invariably the last two Baby Deltics in revenue only service – D5905 and D5909. When these two locos were withdrawn they were stored prior to scrapping at Stratford Depot in London which was demolished a few years ago and is now the Olympic Park. It was here where I often saw the class 15 British Thompson Houston type 1’s. In early 1971 I saw quite a few of them lined up and another couple passing by on the main line. A return visit a week or so later yielded none at all. I couldn’t understand where they had gone. It was only later that I discovered that the remaining 30 or so members of the class were sadly withdrawn en-mass.
Many years later I discovered that the only remaining representative of the class 15’s was being restored to working order at the East Lancashire Railway at Bury. It was also exciting to discover that a Baby Deltic engine which had been in D5905 had been sourced from York museum by a group of engineers. Remarkably this group has built an 11th Baby Deltic. I felt I needed to donate some money to this great cause.
Sadly, I never saw a Co-Bo Locomotive running in traffic. All were withdrawn in 1968. However one of them, D5705, was retained by the research department in Derby. it was bought for preservation I think in the late 1970s. Given its uniqueness, the desire to finally see one of these locomotives operating prompted me to contribute. In all three cases, the restoration teams are doing a marvelous job. Restoration of the Baby Deltic is unparalleled as it has literally been produced from another locomotive by shortening it! Their Facebook page has some fantastic pictures of the superb work they are doing.
Over seventeen year period, I helped to restore a steam locomotive. I was part of a great team at the Great Central Railway and I still keep in touch with many of them. We restored a Barry wreck in the shape of British Railways standard 9F locomotive 92212. I also bought shares in the former LNER 61264, again another ex-resident of Barry scrapyard. New build hasn’t escaped my attention. My desire to see the wonderful A1 Pacific Tornado built meant that I needed to make a contribution there too. I continue to volunteer at the Somerset & Dorset Railway at Midsomer Norton.
Heritage Railway Contributions
You may ask why am I telling you all this? On some occasions when I visit a heritage railway, I may decide not to take a ride. I may use the buffet and photograph heritage traction either at stations or at the side of the line. However, I feel I’m classed as ‘just a photographer who never puts any effort into railway preservation’. Other people there don’t know me and don’t know what heritage railway contributions I have made over the years. I’m sure I’m not alone in this. Some heritage railways and locomotive operations support crews need to be very careful how they behave towards photographers. If they were to be in some way derogatory towards a photographer, this indiscriminate approach may be enough to completely hack them off. It might even stop them contributing further to a particular railway or locomotive.
Of course buying tickets at railways is a way of supporting them too is vitally important. Trains need passengers to run! However it is very likely that lineside photographers DO make a contribution in some unseen way. Indeed, by photographing the railway and locos and sharing the photos online or in the media, they are also making a non-financial contribution. They are publicising the heritage railway and the locomotives. The combination of paying passengers, volunteers and publicity all helps to keep the heritage railways going. In this way, the life that railway enthusiasts hold dear to our hearts will continue for many years and for future generations.