Although born in Essex, Leslie Freeman lived all his life in south-west London. First, in Barnes and, when married, in East Sheen. Barnes and Mortlake were his local stations and so he was first and foremost a LSWR man.
Educated at Sheen Grammar School, he developed an interest in railway photography in the dying days of the Big Four. National Service was in the Royal Air Force at RAF Benson, Oxfordshire, served by the Cholsey to Wallingford branch-line.
In addition to railways, Leslie’s other interest was local history and for several years he was chairman and archivist of the Barnes and Mortlake History Society. In the early 1950s the writer became acquainted with Leslie through church activities in Barnes particularly campanology and a mutual interest in railways.
A first joint branch-line visit took place on Saturday 26 January 1957 to the Epping to Ongar line. Many such trips followed and a firm friendship was established (best man at each other’s weddings) leading to week-long holidays in 1960 (West Country), 1961 (Wales) and the SLS/RCTS Grand Tour of Scotland (10 days in 1962). In 1963 the writer moved to Leicester and then to Edinburgh but whenever the opportunity arose the familiar “trips” were enjoyed again.
Tragically, in 1999, Leslie was diagnosed with Motorneurone Disease and one Saturday in June the two friends and Pamela, Leslie’s wife, took a trip on the Wallingford branch. It was Leslie’s 100th, and final, trip on that line.
To the end of his life, Leslie maintained a lively interest in railways and it is through the willing and happy agreement of his widow that his archive of over 9000 negatives and his 32 closely-written notebooks have come to The Transport Treasury.
James Harrold, Dirleton