Marking the 50th anniversary of the last years of steam on British Railways, comes the publication of a sumptuous four-volume book which tells the story of a group of photographers who went under the name of the Master Neverers Association. Chris Milner finds out more about the book and the group’s exploits.

THE November 2017 issue of The RM carried a letter from reader Phil Mathison asking for information about the Master Neverers Association (MNA).

A week or so later came a reply from MNA member Bob Clarke advising a book – Never Again: The Complete Works – covering the activities of MNA members was in production and due to be launched this autumn.

Not only does the book tell a previously untold story of the adventures and camaraderie of a group of photographers, the four volumes also tells the story of the decline of steam during its last five or so years of operation on BR, using some wonderful photography.

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Perhaps the definitive Beattock Bank location, near Greskine, where BR ‘Britannia’ No. 70038 Robin Hood is banked by Fairburn 2-6-4T No. 42693 with a heavy northbound express on August 1, 1964. DAVE GOULDTHORP

As well as being a social history, the publication covers the behind-the-scenes efforts by the MNA to obtain the elusive ‘mastershot’.

These activities included climbing trees, telegraph poles and HV pylons, repainting tunnel mouth insignia and nameboards, making wooden replica nameplates and numberplates, sleeping in p-way huts, barns, hay lofts, signalboxes, waiting rooms and empty coaching stock, before making arrangements with loco crews to get the required smoke effects.

Gresley ‘A4’ Pacific No. 60027 Merlin at Perth. The ‘A4s’ were used on the three-hour expresses, and those shedded at Aberdeen Ferryhill were kept in pretty good external condition, rather bucking the trend elsewhere. So to find Merlin in such a deplorable state on July 27, 1965, was unexpected. Paul Riley, Maurice Burns and Dave Hartas are hard at work, photographed by the shed foreman.

The group fostered strong friendships with signalling staff and footplate crews, who often offered them cab rides, including a 98mph run on City of Coventry up the Trent Valley weeks before the loco was withdrawn.

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So who were the Master Neverers?

They were a collection of photographers, many from the Midlands, with a number working for BR at the time. Led by the late Paul Riley, a ‘roadie’ for a folk group but, shall we politely say, better known for leading life to the full. The group would often travel overnight using a car owned by one of the photographers or a rented car.

There were a number of times the rented car didn’t get returned in quite the condition it started in, Paul Riley’s writing-off of a three-day-old Ford Escort near Ribblehead being fairly typical.

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Read more and view more images in the September issue of The RM – on sale now!

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