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Steam Porfolio

Leslie Nixon


It is only natural I suppose that I have been keenly interested in railways from a very early age, since both my father and grandfather were footplatemen serving at Barnsley, Mexborough, Stratford and Wath depots and sharing some 65 years' service. My earliest memories are of being taken to Barnsley Exchange station to see the selection of former Great Central Railway engines on shed. Later in life spare time alternated between visits to Crewe, Doncaster, Manchester, etc, and, when we had spent up, nearby Worsborough Bank. Worsborough was indeed a schoolboy's paradise in the early 1950s for although it lacked the glamour of express trains it was in those days remarkably easy to get footplate rides up and down the bank. I spent many happy summer days on the footplate of a J11, 04 or the Garratt. A sight (and sound!) never to be forgotten was a heavy coal train plodding up the 1 in 40 in the hands of a pair of 2-8-0s in the lead and the 2-8-8-2 in the rear.

Several years of study enforced a reduced interest in the railway scene until, in common with many, I realised in the early 1960s that time was indeed getting very short and not a moment was to be lost if I was to obtain a personal record of the steam era. A considerable portion of my savings was invested in a pair of Exakta Varex Ila bodies with a selection of interchangeable lenses. Armed with reels of FP3 (developed in Acutol) and Kodachrome II film, I have since spent many happy hours by the lineside in shirt sleeves or overcoat and gumboots at locations as varied as Perth and Pancorbo.

My favourite haunts are undoubtedly those superb scenic locations on the Settle & Carlisle or Waverley routes. How I wish we could turn the clock back some 15 years or so when local passenger and pick up freight trains were working on such exciting lines as Hexham to Riccarton Junction and Hawes to Northallerton.

August 5, 1968 was a sad day indeed but several bright spots remain; at least we shall have steam in Europe for a number of years yet, while nearer home there are the preserved lines, and a large but fast dwindling assortment of industrial steam locomotives.

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