I made my first railway journey at the age of 2 weeks. After being born at Adlington Hall, near Macclesfield, seat of the Leigh family, but during the war a maternity hospital for army officer wives where 997 babies were born, my mother took me to live in Ivy Cottage, Park Village, Featherstone, near Haltwhistle, Northumerland. I speculate that the calming rhythm of the wheels on the rail joint, together with my mother’s enforced attention to me during the journey, laid the basis for a life-long love of railways, and particularly of steam engines.
In my teens and twenties I spent a great deal of time travelling all the railways I could, walking along old railway lines and taking photographs of steam trains. I recorded all of this in four railways notebooks (see below). And though this feverish activity died down somewhat when I turned my interest to girls, it has never died. When Christine & I travel to Germany we do so by train, and I spend the journey perusing the map, watching for branch lines and generally taking an interest in the route rather than just thinking of it as a way of getting from ‘a’ to ‘b’.
I even started an abortive career with British Railways at Gorton Locomotive Works, Manchester, colloquially known at Gorton Tank. Though I only stayed there for 6 months, it was an unforgettable time, if only because the place had changed rather little since it was built by the Manchester, Sheffied and Lincolnshire Railway in 1848. Admittedly the lathes and other machines were by my time run by electric motors instead of by steam driven belts, but the layout was essentially unchanged, so that you had the feeling of working in a ‘dark satanic mill’.
Click on the links here to see a selection of pages from the four Railways Note Books I compiled in my teens and early twenties. The file names indicate the Railway Note Book (1, 2, 3 or 4) and the page numbers. RNB1 1-2 Contents & Note, RNB1 3-4 Title Page, RNB2 1-3 Contents & Note, RNB2 4-6 Wrexham-Ellesmere and RNB2 61 CKP Photos. See also Old Railway Walks and Gorton Tank.