As a young lad I was surrounded by railways. Across the road from where we lived in Gloucester was the ex-Midland Railway line to Bristol and Birmingham, behind us was the branch line down to Gloucester Docks and the Gloucester Railway Carriage & Wagon Company’s Works and in the attic was an ‘O’ gauge clockwork railway built by my father. Boy’s books and magazines were awash with railway subjects and the weekly ‘Eagle’ comic with its centrefold cutaway, often a railway subject, was always eagerly awaited. Unlike today, railways then were still an important part of everyday life and the long and complicated journey to our holiday destination each year was pure joy.
I distinctly remember the first time I went trainspotting. Having just passed my 11-plus exam I went on to attend secondary school where many of my classmates, aided by a plethora of Ian Allan books and magazines, had already been bitten by the craze. I was determined that the next Saturday I would catch the bus down to Gloucester Central and Eastgate stations to investigate this phenomenon. I have still got my Sterling No. 3 notebook and a pencil from that portentous day in 1957 when I hung around the stations, taking in the smell of smoke, steam and oil – I was hooked! Penzance, Paddington, Newcastle, Wolverhampton Low Level, Birmingham Snow Hill, Manchester and Sheffield were among the distant and seemingly romantic destinations of the trains that I saw on that day. There was no stopping me and over the next ten years I travelled far and wide, usually in the company of likeminded friends, to nearly every far-flung corner of British Railways in search of that elusive locomotive number or to travel on a soon-to-be-closed line. Even the introduction of those dastardly diesels failed to dampen my enthusiasm!
On leaving school I trained as a graphic designer at the infamous Hornsey College of Art in the late 1960s and went on to work as a designer and art director at several well known London publishing companies. In more recent years I have contributed to many bestselling books on railways and have more recently written Amazing & Extraordinary Railway Facts (David & Charles, 2008), Discovering Britain’s Little Trains (AA Publishing, 2008), Great Railways of the World (AA Publishing, 2008), The Lost Joy of Railways (David & Charles, 2009), Discovering Scotland’s Lost Railways (Waverley Books, 2009), More Amazing & Extraordinary Railway Facts (David & Charles, 2010), Discovering Scotland’s Lost Local Lines (Waverley Books, 2010), The Lost Lines of Britain (AA Publishing, 2010), Steaming Across Britain (AA Publishing, 2011), Amazing & Extraordinary Facts: Trains & Railways (David & Charles, 2011), The Times: Mapping the Railways (co-written with David Spaven - Times Books, 2011), Railway Days Out (AA Publishing, 2012), Amazing & Extraordinary Facts: Steam Age (David & Charles, 2012), Britain's Scenic Railways (Times Books, 2012), Dr Beeching: 50 Years On (David & Charles, 2013), An A-Z of Famous Express Trains (David & Charles, 2013), Exploring Britain's Lost Railways (Times Books, 2013), Railway Day Trips (Collins, 2014), Great Railway Journeys of the World (Times Books, 2014), History of Britain's Railways (Times Books, 2015), Lost Railway Walks (Collins, 2016), Railway Day Trips 2nd edition (Collins, 2017).