It all started before the last war when a small boy would go with his father on a Saturday afternoon to buy the latest issue of ‘Railway Wonders of the World’ (edited by Clarence Winchester) at 7d per issue and he still has those two red-bound volumes today! Then holiday visits to Granny in Nottinghamshire, by the Great Central from Marylebone naturally, and the top-hatted Station Master (proper title) saw off the Manchester express but not before the engine had been inspected. The sad return journey from Nottingham Victoria had a mystery – why was the Nottingham engine not the one we walked past at Marylebone? The ‘bump’ at Leicester explained all that and no doubt a “Wheere’s th’ bin?” by the relieving crew.
Then came boarding school and wartime journeys much relieved, north of Oxford, by playing fields bordering the OWW and LNW lines with the Woodstock Donkey and Super Ds wheezing up towards Bletchley. National Service (1949-1951) meant postings to Winchester, Eaton Hall in Cheshire, Buckinghamshire and, finally, Dorset, which widened the horizons.
The catalyst was probably the book ‘The Fascination of Railways’ by Canon Roger Lloyd of Winchester who wrote (1951) “I have never met a lover of railways who felt the slightest need to produce any moral justification for his pleasure. Why would he? If he did, his pleasure would at once be heavily qualified”. He goes on to show the frequent connection between railways and the Church and it was through church bellringing in my early twenties that I made a friend who introduced me to visiting branch lines, rail towns, and generally, as Canon Lloyd put it, “station sauntering”.
An inexpensive Kodak folding camera, itinerary, Thermos flask, sandwiches and note book and the foundation of a hobby going back over fifty years was well and truly laid.