Spotter stories

We asked for some of your spotter stories and we were overwhelmed by your responses. Here is a selection of some of the best ones.


The lure of what might be in the sheds far outweighed the risks of entering them... it was quite extraordinary the lengths we would go to get in.
Read Roman's story
The porter at Fratton hated train-spotters and always chased us off the bridge if he saw us. I am afraid he got a fair amount of abuse in return.
Read Arthur's story
In the dark passage-way between the two station platforms was the W.H.Smith’s where I bought my first Ian Allan ABC spotters guide. The book was hugely important but also unsettling.
Read Henry's story
I was nine in 1959 when I was walking past the station in my home village of Barow on Soar and saw a train rush through pulled by a diesel engine. I was fascinated...
Read Liz's story
My fourteenth visit to Crewe Station obviously meant the same locomotives were cropping up with some regularity. Our response to this was total disdain.
Read Mike's story
Trainspotting for two or three years became almost as important to me as football. In fact, I was able to combine both interests.
Read Mel's story
In the summer of 1965 my friends and I took our places for the last time on the stone wall above the railyard. It was a meeting place where we would always congregate
Read Nigel's story
The adrenalin would start flowing, the tension would mount, the excitement intensify. Would it be one you hadn't seen before? Would it be a new sighting?
Read Glyn's story
Quickly one or two enthusiasts started cleaning the cabside to reveal the number. This led to the tender being cleaned with the shed foreman providing the rags and cotton waste.
Read Pete's story
We would spend the days watching trains pass in every direction. When we weren't, we would get up to mischief.
Read Alan's story
All 30 of us made it into the tiny shed. All the numbers pencilled in our notebooks, and ready to go, before half a dozen footplate staff waving shovels emerged from the smoky gloom.
Read Mike's story
Sometimes in summer we would be in class with the windows open and we could hear the distinctive sound of the Deltic in the distance.
Read Janet's story
I think I was six or seven years of age at the time and this was our first encounter with the police.
Read Richard's story
The inspiration for my gang's name, The Red Hand Gang, was obvious. Whenever I returned home after a days climbing all over the ranks of condemned locomotives, my palms were always covered in rust.
Read Roy's story
We were taken to the police station in the main station. Arm waving started and the Sergeant was called for.
Read Paul's story

Roman Schmidt

As soon as I started trainspotting I was hooked. Most weekends and school holidays were spent trainspotting in London at great stations such as Paddington and King's Cross and furtive visits to engine sheds with names that would cause any trainspotter's heart to skip a beat. Nine Elms and Stewarts Lane, King's Cross, Old Oak Common and Willesden Junction, these were the premier A-listers. The lure of what might be in the sheds far outweighed the risks of entering them.

Some sheds were quite easy to get round while others were much more difficult. It was quite extraordinary the lengths we would go to get in. At Stewarts Lane I would get down on all fours and creep below the windows of the main entrance gatehouse unseen, followed by a quick sprint to the relative safety of the shed. At Nine Elms I would climb up a small factory wall, walk along the top and then heave myself onto the adjacent shed wall and carefully lower myself down. At King's Cross, notoriously difficult to access to without a permit, my route would take me past the main entrance on Goods Way, up some coal chutes in a nearby coal yard, over the Regents Canal, over some railway land alongside the Midland main line then down some steps which led to the approach road leading to the shed. I'd then hide amongst the lines of goods wagons before venturing out across the shed yard and into the shed. And that was the easy bit!

During one regular Sunday visit to Old Oak Common I noted down all the engines in the shed. I then spent some time clambering over all the engines on the scrap line, which left me with very dirty hands. Walking back through the shed and ignoring the importance of not being seen by shed staff, I rather brazenly entered a small office and asked if there was somewhere I could wash my hands. A man wearing a blue coat stood up and told me to follow him and took me to an outside tap nearby. It was then I noticed just how large his hands were, about one and a half inches thick and about as smooth as a wooden sleeper. With a handful of abrasive cleaning material used to clean grime off engines and a bar of soap, which looked like a brick, he took hold of my hands and proceeded to vigorously scrub them. The ordeal lasted some minutes at the end of which which my hands looked as though they had been rubbed raw. I suppose this was his way of reacting to what he saw as my impudence in entering the shed without permission. I did grin and bear it and several days passed before my hands got their normal colour back and the stinging stopped.

Picture by John Skeldon

Arthur Moore

I have been interested in both model and real railways since a very young age. I remember going on a shunting engine at Warwick when I was four and received my first train set for Christmas later that year.

I often went train-spotting at the various stations in the Portsmouth area - particularly Fratton, Portsmouth and Southsea. The latter station was fine, but the porter at Fratton hated train spotters and always chased us off the bridge if he saw us. I am afraid he got a fair amount of abuse in return.

When I was older I used to organise school trips once a year to London to see the London engine sheds. I would go to the station office to get shed passes and buy a group travel ticket. This gave me one free ticket - a perk of organising the trip. Fifteen to twenty boys would turn up at each shed and present our pass to the shedmaster. We were usually told to watch out for any moving engines, but otherwise there was no supervision and we were trusted to behave ourselves. No teacher accompanied our groups. We just went on our own. I remember I always organised too many sheds to visit in one day so it was always a mad rush to see as many engines as possible. Often we would not get back until 9.30pm – usually unbelievably grubby after climbing on to one or two engines!

Picture by David Rice

Henry Finch

In the dark passage-way between the two station platforms was the WH Smith’s where I bought my first Ian Allan ABC spotters guide. The book was hugely important but also unsettling. It listed the individual number of every engine that I saw on those early visits, thus confirming each loco's importance and hence the significance of me seeing it. Yet it quickly became clear that there were many locos detailed and illustrated in the book that would never be seen in my home town of Bury.

So the ABC came with a challenge to see more engines, and that meant moving on from Bury's platforms. Cambridge and Ipswich were obvious destinations. I accompanied my mother while she shopped in Cambridge and unintentionally revealed to her, by having to get close to the locos to read the numbers, that I needed glasses. At Ipswich, I remember the Saturday afternoons on the platform when I could hear the crowd from the nearby football stadium. Worse was to have gone to the match and instead hear the rousing whistles of the invisible Britannias off in the distance.

Looking back now, the clearest and happiest memories come from my earliest experiences. At Bury station, periods of relative tranquillity were broken only by cooing pigeons on the station roof and the man filling in time by tapping the wheels of idle coaches parked on the through lines. Anticipation grew as passengers and parcels arrived on the platform, hidden bells rang, and signal arms were raised. I recall baskets of racing pigeons and other small livestock on trolleys waiting to be loaded, and often a mysterious smell of fish.

The stars of the show, to be seen fleetingly at Bury, were the B17 class, in green livery and with names of stately homes, football clubs and East Anglian regiments. They were all memorable but none finer than the recalled sight of Brancepeth Castle wheeling past Bury's humble shed which could not claim such magnificence of its own. Other gems soon followed: John o' Gaunt, so new that it was not even in my ABC, was seen from the top deck of the Bury to Ipswich bus; British Monarch, a name outclassing Cambridge's Royal Sovereign, was seen at Paddington Station in 1951, while Queen Berengaria was copped in Somerset, our holiday destination.

Ten years after my first introduction to the railway and having moved on to what seemed like more important matters, by chance I encountered an old and tired friend, Raby Castle, loitering in Bury station. In its final days I hardly recognised it, or indeed my earlier self.

Picture by David Buck

Liz Pearce

I was nine in 1959 when I was walking past the station in my home village of Barrow on Soar and saw a train rush through pulled by a diesel engine. I was fascinated - I had only ever seen steam trains before and this was so new and exciting. I really wanted to see another one so I started to go down to the station to watch trains. It didn't take me long to realise the error of my ways and learn that it was the steam engines that were the really interesting ones, but I was by now hooked on trainspotting.

I bought my Ian Allan spotters guide and over the next few years, as well as spotting at Barrow, I would bike over to the Great Central at Quorn to see the evening fish train. I also travelled to Rugby, Nuneaton and Crewe to see 'Semis' and 'Priggies', and to Peterborough to see 'Streaks'.

The trainspotting bug has never really gone away. I spent part of my first honeymoon in Finsbury Park Diesel Depot, and my second husband and I are both Friends of the Great Central Railway. We have made many forays into Europe by rail, and have visited railway museums in both Europe and the USA.

All that because of a chance glimpse of a train...

Picture by Trevor Ermal

Mike Priestly

My fourteenth visit to Crewe Station obviously meant the same locomotives were cropping up with some regularity. Our response to this was total disdain. We were not alone. When Crewe based engines arrived at the station they could be met with a cacophony of jeering, wolf whistling or booing. We would refer to them as "crates", "stinks" or "relics". This was quite the opposite to the reverential reception afforded, for example, to a Coronation Class engine, which might reasonably be expected at the head of the afternoon Glasgow to Birmingham express. This might be greeted with shrieks or yells of gratitude and appreciation, even waving, clapping and cheering. Quite what the train crews thought of this nonsense is anybody’s guess.

It was at Crewe that one of us recognised a Coronation Street actor, whose name I can't remember. He was waiting, not surprisingly under the circumstances, for the departure of the train to Manchester. We boarded the train and asked him for his autograph. He seemed less than pleased at being recognised. He told us to work hard at school and "don't go in for acting. Be scientists or something useful." Feeling rather bemused, we hopped off before we were inadvertently whisked away for a fun journey to Manchester in his company.

At the end of the same month, the lads went to Preston for the day. The approach to the station by rail was a long, straight section and it comprised at least a four track main line. From the platform end this meant it offered excellent opportunities to test your eye sight and your recognition skills of the different classes of engines as they approached from a distance.

The shape of their smoke deflectors was a give away for Brits, Semis and Scots. Telling Jubilees and Black Fives apart from a distance was trickier. I seem to remember that the Jubilee smoke box door looked a little smaller, presumably because its boiler was a bit more tapered than the one on a Black Five.

If class recognition depended largely on familiarity and practice, quality of eye sight certainly came into it when it came to reading the digits. There was an element of competition to be the first to read the plate. It was very disappointing to me when it soon became obvious that my friend Ian could read the numbers and shout them out when I could still only see a blur.

I have never cheated when recording train numbers. I would only have been cheating myself. However, there were occasions when the overall feeling was that some one or other was telling porkies. One local spotter, for example, claimed to have seen Coronation Class No. 46248 City of Leeds in New Brighton station. Firstly, I don’t even know if that was possible from a loading gauge point of view. What I do know is that we did not believe him. If anyone knows differently nearly fifty years later it will certainly settle an old argument and I may yet have to eat humble pie.

Picture by David Rice

Mel Bamford

Trainspotting found me without prior notice one lunchtime in 1961 when I was thirteen. I was playing football in the park when the game was abruptly adjourned as a Brit, I was told, was due to cross the bridge over the Birmingham Canal. I had no idea what the fuss was about, but, the match having been abandoned, I went along anyway. The Brit turned out to be William Shakespeare, the first train to be underlined when I subsequently bought, as all trainspotters did, the Ian Allan 'combined’ book of engines. I was sufficiently impressed to take up trainspotting as a hobby, and happy that my peers, all sons of tradesmen and factory workers, deemed it an equally acceptable pursuit. I would not have wanted to trade social acceptance for trainspotting, however much I enjoyed it.

Trainspotting for two or three years became almost as important to me as football. In fact, I was able to combine both interests. Travelling to Wolves away matches by train meant that I could turn to hitherto redundant sections of my Ian Allan. One trip to Ipswich enabled me to turn to page 103 and begin to underline engines that would never have turned up on my doorstep.

School holidays, Summer weekends and Saturdays when the school had no football fixtures were spent at our favoured spot between Wolverhampton High and Low Level stations, where both GWR and LMS engines could be seen. The bridge outside Stafford was also a desirable spot, not only for the Coronation class engines that went down the Trent Valley line but also, for the klondikes (flat, rounded chips) from the fish and chip shop a few yards down the road.

Looking now at my Ian Allan 'combined' edition from 1961, I realise that I was fortunate to have caught the last days of steam. Even in 1961 Ian Allan had 141 pages devoted to steam locomotives, while diesel listings occupied a further 92 pages. They were never more than pretenders to the railway inheritance, and as their numbers grew, my interest waned.

Picture by Stephen Brown

Nigel Clark

In the summer of 1965 my friends and I took our places for the last time on the stone wall above the railyard. It was a meeting place where we would always congregate. From here we could scan the world under a vast expansive sky above, looking out at the landscape of the city of Dundee which our village was joined to by the long thin Tay rail viaduct that stretched nearly two miles over the salt water expanse.

Perched on a cutting of rock above the local goods yard, overlooking the main line by the Tay railway bridge, we would watch from our wall the passing of the steam railway era of the early sixties as the Edinburgh to Dundee express trains whooshed past. Careworn freight locomotives would draw up in the passing loop below and were left to simmer whilst the wheels of their wagons were checked. Isolated good wagons would be loaded or unloaded in desultory fashion or coal was tipped into the sleepered-bays of the local collier. A wheel tapper would be dispatched to check the rake of wagons and the foreman would wander off in the direction of the signal box at the yard end beyond the water tower.

To our left, looking south, triggered by the lifting of the up signal, we would watch out expectantly for the glimpse of an express rounding the curve out of the cutting approaching at speed. Once, an express bound for Dundee pulled up directly below us at a signal check for the bridge. Pulled by a top-link engine, its name Spearmint was spelled out on the curved nameplate on the central wheelsplasher.

Later there would be the fast goods trains, bound for London's fish market. There was always squealing of the wheels on the rails on the tight curve. The locomotive, picking up speed off the bend, progressed relentlessly. The clatter of the endless closed wagons punched the air until the train past. Our heads turned and we followed its line as it diminished in the twilight, the blinking of the red light of the guard's van disappearing from view round the bend. It signalled the last rush of the day, and we would leave the wall to head off to play football, cycle up the bramble road, or skim stones off the pier at the boating club. Sometimes the branch signal would lift as we were turning away and a light engine would drift in to Wormit station. If it paused at the signal box, there was just a chance we could ask the driver to get up into the cab. If we were lucky he would give us a footplate ride the length of the platform.

Picture by John Billard

Glyn Sunman

We knew the times of the major trains by heart. They had names – Elizabethan, Aberdonian, Tyne Tees Pullman, Flying Scotsman – and they were all pulled by streaks.

The adrenalin would start flowing, the tension would mount, the excitement intensify. Would it be one you hadn't seen before? Would it be a new sighting? Or, in trainspotting jargon, would it be a 'cop'? Because that’s why you were there - to cop all the streaks.

In fact getting most of them was not difficult. There were 34 streaks and they all, with but few exceptions, worked the main line between King's Cross and Edinburgh. So if you spent enough time in the station you would soon see them all. Those exceptions worked north of Edinburgh and Glasgow up to Aberdeen and were scarcely seen in York. And the rarest of all was number 24 – Kingfisher.

No one had seen Kingfisher. Even the older lads who'd been at it for years didn't have Kingfisher. South Africa and India - yes. But not Kingfisher.

So imagine my excitement when, on arriving at school one morning, Charlie and John came charging up - "Kingfisher's in"
"Kingfisher!"
"Yeah – it came in yesterday. It's just sitting there in the yards"
"You've seen it?!"
"Yeah – we went last night"
"You didn't tell me!"
"Well you weren't around to tell"
"You sure?" – was this some kind of joke?
"No – honest – we copped it last night"

This was desperate. A whole day at school before I could go and see it.
"When's it going out?"
"Dunno – might be there a few days" – or it might not, it might be out today.

And so it was, after an interminable day in school, I found myself galloping off, past the sheds to the yards beyond, where, with any luck, my quarry lay.

No streak. I looked around desperately – but no streak. I clambered over the fence, walked to the shed doors and peered in. There were no streaks around the turntable.

"Oi you!" some workman shouted "Ger out of it!". I legged it. It wasn't worth getting caught on railway property.

I'd had it – it must have gone out. And it might be months before it's back again. Rats, rats, rats.

"Did you get it?" I was asked the next day.
"Yep" I said as casually as I could.
"Liar!"
"I did – it was just there where you said"
"Well you're lying – it went out yesterday lunch-time"
"It can't have done - I saw it"
"It did – Wreggie's dad's a driver – an' 'e said it went out at lunch-time"
"Well that's odd 'cos I saw it" I insisted, rather unconvincingly.

Well lying is one thing but dishonesty is another. I never did underline it in my Ian Allan spotter's book. That would be sacrilege.

Picture by Mick Bass

Pete Berry

On the 3 September 1967, one of the many 'scrap' trains was moving redundant steam locomotives from Salisbury Shed to South Wales, via Gloucester. These trains were not allowed through the Severn Tunnel due to the possibility of a hotbox failure whilst inside the tunnel.

This particular train consisted of 4 locomotives. Whilst heading northwards towards Standish Junction, it was discovered that one of the locos was running hot. The train was brought to a standstill at Coaley Junction, and sure enough 34002 Salisbury was found to have an overheated nearside centre driving wheel axle. This was a regular occurrence whilst moving these dead steam locos to the breaker's yard. For this reason the trains had strict speed restrictions.

It was decided to detach Salisbury and leave it on the old Dursley Branch at Coaley Junction. The other 3 locos continued on their way to Cashmores, Newport. Salisbury aroused great interest in the area from railway enthusiasts and the general public until its removal to Gloucester some two weeks later.

Upon arrival at Gloucester the loco was stored in a siding at the side of the main running shed, very close to the wheel drop building. Once again the very large community of railway enthusiasts who congregated at Tramway Junction crossing would visit the shed to see this strange streamlined locomotive. Back then, very few Southern Region locomotives made it to Gloucester.

The shed staff were clearly enjoying having a celebrity loco in their shed, and tolerated the never ending 'bunking' by spotters. Probably they turned a blind eye because the loco was well away from the running lines of the shed. Quickly one or two enthusiasts started cleaning the cabside to reveal the number. This led to the tender being cleaned with the shed foreman providing the rags and cotton waste.

The day before it was due to leave Gloucester shed we thought that the now gleaming loco should receive a final touch. Tins of paint were purchased and the name, crest and eventually the scroll were painted directly onto the streamlined casing. Also added was a smokebox number and shed code as well as other embellishments we had seen on locos in the railway press.

The day came, 24 September 1967 when we knew we would lose our 'centre of attention'. A class 47 diesel (or Brush Type 4, as they were originally labelled) arrived with three other locos in tow. They were stopped in the middle road at Gloucester Central Station, and the diesel was detached, ran back to the shed and dragged Salisbury out of the shed yard. There was just enough time for us to paint the West Country Class scroll below the name crest.

There were many sad faces when it left the shed, enthusiasts as well as shed personnel. In no time at all she was on her way to Cashmores scrapyard where, within two weeks was nowhere to be seen.

Little did we know it at the time that we would see many more scrap trains, but none would be as close to our hearts as Salisbury. At least we made certain that just this one went on her final trip with some dignity restored.

Picture by Pete Berry

Alan Salsbury

We would spend the days watching trains pass in every direction. When we weren't, we would get up to mischief. Putting old pennies or half-pennies on the line was a favourite as the train would flatten them. Scrumping in the local orchards was another.

By the age of 12 we were becoming more and more adventurous. We were allowed by our parents to take train journeys further afield and while there are many very interesting and exciting adventures that could be relayed this is possibly the best of the many.

Steam was in decline and increasingly the passenger trains were being pulled by diesel or diesel electric locomotives. Steam engines were disappearing rapidly and were increasingly only used for freight trains. The decline resulted in the scrapping of hundreds of steam locomotives. It was no secret that many ended up at Barry Island at Woodhams’ scrapyard. What better place to go and take the numbers of locomotives that would soon be gone forever? We left Yeovil early on a Saturday, by train of course, to Bristol Temple Meads. We then had an hour at Barrow Road shed – which we bunked in of course as we had no permits. We tried to get into Bath Road shed as well but that was much harder and we failed. Then we went back to Temple Meads for a train to Cardiff via the Severn Tunnel – an experience in itself.

When we got to Barry Island we had a ball. Almost all of the engines were without their number-plates so we looked for the chalked-on numbers that had been put on to identify them. We climbed on those of interest so that we could say that we had 'cabbed them'. I also removed a tap and valve gauge from a locomotive as a souvenir. We spent hours taking numbers and generally enjoying the day. I suspect (although my memory is not clear on this) that there was a sadness that these great locos were for the most part going to be cut up and turned into steel for bridges, cars, buildings or worse diesel engines.

Picture by David Dunn

Mike Reynolds

The friendly shed foreman welcomed our large group, a motor coach full of impatient spotters. Being a Sunday morning, there was no disappointment at the quantity of locos numbers to record.

After our visit, we all piled back into our coach very happy. I felt it was time for my favourite snack, the infamous Lyons individual fruit pie. A few mouthfuls later I wound the coach window down and launched my empty fruit pie box into orbit, boomerang style, out the open window. After a quick glance towards the coach rear window, shock horror came across me as I saw my pie box score a direct hit on the helmet of a cycling police constable. The constable began swerving from side to side while desperately trying to grab his whistle from his breast pocket.

My last view, as we sped away, with a broad smile breaking out, was of the constable, notebook and pencil in hand, no doubt recording the coach number. So I wasn't the only one that Sunday taking numbers.

Another Sunday saw us visit Langwith Junction shed. It was the only shed that day which we had no permit to visit. The leader of our group told us that we needed to creep past the shed foreman’s office by stooping below his view.

All 30 of us made it into the tiny shed. All the numbers pencilled in our notebooks, and ready to go, before half a dozen footplate staff waving shovels emerged from the smoky gloom. The chase was on. "Head for the coach", was the call in the confusion.

I headed towards the way out, only to find our coach speeding away, lads in chase. Half a mile later I climbed aboard. Gradually one by one we all made it back, the air full of foul verse against our leader for abandoning us to the peril of the footplate mob.

Picture by Trevor Ermel

Janet Farmer

I occasionally accompanied my brother Dennis on his trainspotting pursuits. When I went to Queen Anne Grammar School in the 1970s my friend Helen and I were excited to find that the main London line was at the bottom of the school's hockey pitch.

Every lunchtime we would run down to the end of the pitch and have our packed lunch whilst waiting for the trains to go past. We were particularly thrilled when we spotted a Deltic. They were so much more interesting as there were only a few of them and they had names rather than just numbers. A favourite was St Paddy. Sometimes in summer we would be in class with the windows open and we could hear the distinctive sound of the Deltic in the distance and Helen and I would give each other a knowing look.

Picture by DC Wilson

Richard Smith

One day as we were sitting behind a line-side advertising hoarding, we were accosted by a uniformed policeman who told us we were not to sit there. He told us that it was dangerous and we were technically trespassing on the railway. I think I was six or seven years of age at the time and this was our first encounter with the police.

Needless to say we never sat there again but instead transferred our attention to the platforms of the station. This change of venue allowed us to watch the main line passenger trains in addition to the freight traffic and any light engine movements.

The entrance to the station was off through a small booking office which had a large rack of wilting and dusty excursion leaflets. Wooden stairs gave access to the up and down platforms. The footbridge was glazed but the windows were never cleaned and the only way to see over the tracks was through the occasional missing pane. Our usual position was on the down side where we could sit on platform trolleys under the footbridge or if it was cold, in the porter's office, where there was always a roaring fire.

There had to come a time when we ventured further afield. Unbeknown to my mother we purchased return tickets, the fare being, as I recall three pence (which was cheaper than tuppence each way on the bus). We spent most of our time on City North and amongst many other trains, saw the Thames–Clyde express come in. I was much disconcerted to note that on the footplate was my next-door neighbour, Mr Lucas, as he was very likely to mention to my mother that he had seen me that day. Inevitably, he did which lead to another telling off.

One day, as I was standing at one of my regular spots, I noted the approach of a light engine. The fireman was gesticulating at me to change some hand points, which I duly did with some difficulty. As the loco pulled alongside, the crew indicated that I should get aboard. We went round the angles and finally parked up alongside the north side of the shed under the water tank. The crew then departed and asked me to “look after” the loco for them. After a short while I realised they were having me on and I beat a hasty retreat before the shed foreman put in an appearance.

Picture by John Griffith

Roy Lawrence

The inspiration for my gang’s name, The Red Hand Gang, was obvious. Whenever I returned home after a days climbing all over the ranks of condemned locomotives, my palms were always covered in rust.

Any visit to Barry scrap-yard meant trying to get along the rows of engines without ever touching the ground. Why I can't remember, unless this qualified as cabbing everything in the yard. Rusting handrails, warmed by the sun, allowed you to swing along the sides of engines for hours, stopping only for lunch and some sausage sandwiches, covered with red fingerprints. This ensured our age group never had any iron deficiencies.

Bunking sheds came with varied success. Aston shed was notorious for getting caught and being ejected from. Even ducking down under the booking-in window and making a dash for the lines of Brits and Scots usually ended in tears. That was until my Mum offered to take me there one Saturday when she persuaded the shed master to let me have a guided tour. I was famous at school and everyone wanted a Mum like mine.

My best mate at school and partner in crime was Smithy, who never left home without his Dad’s adjustable spanner and an endless supply of Rolos. Our first joint attempt to acquire a steam memento ended with one shed plate bolt and the adjustable spanner being jettisoned into the canal in case we were searched later. A later raid had him so determined to get a shed plate that he was literally hanging onto the boiler handles as the engine set off for work in the direction of Crewe. I just legged it and expected never to see him again.

Having honed our bunking skills on Tyseley, Stafford Road, Oxley and Saltley sheds, we were ready for Crewe Works. We turned up there without a permit, only to be swiftly turned away. A quick dodge down the side of someone’s house, over their garden fence and we were soon running along the side of the track heading for the works, hoping to tag onto the end of the official group of bona-fide visitors. Instead, we were marched back to the main office and the police were called, names and addresses were taken and we were escorted back to Crewe station and put on the next train back to Birmingham having promised never to return. We did of course, but always with permits.

Picture by DC Wilson

Paul Marine

We had the usual trainspotting adventures in the UK in the 1980s before moving on to Europe in the 1990s. One memorable moment was when five of us got arrested by Italian Railway Police for photographing locos. We were taken to the police station in the main station. Arm waving started and the Sergeant was called for.

It looked like a long job so I took off my jacket and the Sergeant immediately noticed my Liverpool football top. The atmosphere changed and we were immediately un-arrested. We were then escorted back to the end of the platform and invited to take many more pictures. As they say in Liverpool, You Never Trainspot Alone!

Picture by DC Wilson

Background: Notebook 1967, Trevor Ermel