Monday, 1 November 2010

When Railways Mattered?

The other day Thomas and I had popped out for the afternoon while Suzi was at work and I saw Traction Magazine’s new annual in WH Smith’s ‘reading room’ – for £5.95 it looked like pretty good value too with very few adverts in among the articles which is an added bonus. On the way back home I realised Thomas had fallen asleep in his seat in the back of the car so I found somewhere to stop – although he sleeps through, sleep during the day is rare for him so I didn’t want to wake him up if I didn’t have to. All this crawling really takes it out of him! We parked at Kiplingcoates station, which seemed a rather nice place to read to a railway book!

The editorial I found rather negative – as my title suggests, I don’t really agree with the leading headline of the annual. The rose tinted view of railways which was once the preserve of many the-world-ended-in-1968 steam enthusiasts seems to be spreading to diesel enthusiasts now. Having spoken to my dad, who, without giving his age away, was fortunate enough to witness a good few years of British Railways steam before it finished, it seems that the railway wasn’t something “most boys and men” took an interest in. He said with boys, it was a case of there wasn’t always much else to do!

But questioning the railway’s role in society is interesting – passenger levels are now at levels only previously achieved in the time immediately after the Second World War. But the network has changed greatly and many people, us included, rely on cars to provide our primary means of transport. The rolling stock has changed – many units have replaced loco hauled services as they’re much cheaper! But the loss of loco hauled services isn’t a reason to despair – the railway is still a fascinating place! It’s constantly changing and can still provide a great variety of stock in all sorts of liveries. I still find it a fascinating place!

But then I find articles which show all sorts of scenes from my childhood and adolescence fascinating too and this annual has plenty of articles like this. And it is amazing just how much has changed in the last twenty years. The railway has almost reinvented itself completely in parts. Scary in some ways just how much it's changed and how old it makes me feel!

Just one thing, however, which I really don't like about the annual - photos taken from positions clearly on railway property where the photographer admits to trespassing. With some of the recent examples of enthusiasts trespassing to take photos of railtours which have appear both in the railway press and the national media I feel this is a very irresponsible thing for Traction to publish.

But otherwise if you would like a bit of diesel fuelled nostalgia, at just short of six quid the Traction Annual is great value.


  1. It's interesting how much more trains are a part of everyday life in the UK when we go over there.

    We are fortunate in that Germany has never had a Beeching and local lines are funded locally so it's easier to use rail -to the extent that we don't need to bother with a car, thank goodness: trains mostly carry bikes (except ICE's, a constant bugbear for the German cycling club)and often at no extra cost.

    And regarding if railways 'mattter': I don't think we've seen anything yet: trains will become increasingly important over the next few years for passenger and freight.

  2. Personally speaking we much prefer steam - going for preserved lines (and not the real thing) so see trains go by. And at model railway exhibitions it's the steam layouts which commend our interest too.

    But the challenge for us was pre-dating our railway to before either of us was born so that it become also a matter or research and re-creating an historical scene for us.

    So I guess we might have more sympathy with that Editor's view than you do!