Having spent more than 60 years trainspotting, railway author John Stretton’s book about his first 30 years in the hobby has been well received. With memories galore, we present an abridged version of his exploits that also encompass his interests in music, sport and, of course, girls.

IT’S 1950 and for my seventh birthday I was given a copy of THE PERMANENT WAY: Britain’s Railroads in the Making by Messrs Greenleaf and Tyers, a 196-page A4 hardback book. Looking at it now, after 60-plus years, it is still a predominantly technical publication and, certainly, not one for a seven-year old.

A Mecca for enthusiasts to the end was Crewe South where on September 3, 1967, No. 70024 (Vulcan) sits alongside ‘8F’ No. 48729. ALL PICTURES BY AUTHOR OR AUTHOR’S COLLECTION.

At the time, I had no interest in railways and, to my knowledge, neither did any of my family; the reason behind the gift is still a mystery. I still retain the book and its relevance was to be enhanced four years later.

In September 1954, I started at Loughborough College School (LCS) and my daily travel there, from Thurmaston where I lived, was largely by rail, between Syston and Loughborough Midland stations. Over time I observed the trains and the fact that many of my peers were scribbling strange numbers in their exercise books and occasionally becoming excited at something they had seen. I enquired and learned about some mystical hobby called ‘trainspotting’!

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From the beginning of my second year, in September 1955, I started collecting these numbers. They were neatly placed into a spare exercise book, but the collection soon became random and without form. I needed to know more and it was explained that I needed ‘an ABC’ and, preferably, one dedicated to the ‘Midland Region’; BUT…. “No! You cannot have an Ian Allan spotter’s book”!

This was my father’s reaction to my request for a Midland Region ABC early in 1956. To be fair to him, I was, apparently, (although I had not noticed the trend), prone to pick up a new hobby, pester for all the gear to go with it and then three months or so later move on to something new. This was still in the post-war austerity era. Rationing had only been finally abolished some 18 months earlier – and dad was not exactly bringing in a fortune each week. He decided that he had to put his foot down at some stage and he chose my recent interest in trainspotting, but his timing was not good. Sixty years later I am still at it!

Read more in the April issue of The RM – on sale now!

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