Fringe Box



New Book Is Full Of Retired Railwaymen’s Ramblings And Great Pictures

Published on: 24 Oct, 2012
Updated on: 25 Oct, 2012

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It’s a well known fact that railwaymen love talking about the old days – especially steam engines. Take their memories and their stories, add a superb selection of atmospheric photos of locomotives and the result is something that’s both full of nostalgia and modern history.

And that is just what Geoff Burch from Worplesdon has done in compiling and self publishing his second railway book, Further Ramblings of Railwaymen. It follows on closely from his first title last year, Ramblings of a Railwayman, in which he described his time working on steam locomotives at Guildford’s motive power depot in the 1960s.

That first book, with plenty of stunning and some never before seen photos, has sold well and Geoff was soon being asked about a follow up. So this time he has gathered stories from a number of former colleagues – plus even more fantastic photos from the days when those much-loved steam engines were being withdrawn and scrapped as British Railways went about its much-needed modernisation plan.

In the book’s introduction Geoff writes: “Some of these men worked with me at Guildford but to give an idea what other depots were like, I’ve included some ‘ramblings’ from men that worked at Fratton, Eastleigh, Salisbury, Weymouth and the Isle of Wight.”

If you are a steam loco fan (and particularly one of BR’s Southern Region), you will be more than eager to get you hands on this book!

Pat Kinsella continued to drive steam locos and is seen here at Alton with 7P6F Class 70000 ‘Britannia’ after completing a run from London Waterloo on May 8, 1994.

Among those who give their “ramblings” is Pat Kinsella, who Geoff first met in 1961. Pat started work as an engine cleaner at Guildford shed in 1957, when he was 15. In his own words he describes how he then moved up the ranks to fireman and then to engine driver.

He recounts many stories that railway fans will love – including the tale of the runaway electric train on an unforgettable snowy day.

On the footplate again! After 39 years after his first firing turn, Alex McClymont with M7 Class 30053 at Woking in 1995.

Another railwayman whom Geoff met at Guilford was Alex McClymont. He too recounts his life on the footplate. And back then in the 1960s  he was taking his own photos of steam locos and the railway scene. Geoff’s new book features a truly superb selection of these – in both black and white and in colour.

Dave Salmon has been taking photos in and around Guildford for many years, not just the railway scene. He’s quite a character and you may have seen this fairly tall dark-haired chap walking around the town with camera in hand.

Dave Salmon worked on the railways and has been a train buff for years – taking many superb photos.

Before he did his national service he worked briefly on the railways and because he served in the RAF for three years, found that when he returned to his previous job, found he had to start at the bottom of the ladder again! He gives his memories, plus the book features plenty of his rarely seen colour photos taken as a steam train enthusiast.

Ashes and clinker mount up beside BR Standard Class 5MT 73093 at Guildford coal stage on May 21, 1967. Picture by Dave Salmon.

Others who contribute are Brian Davey (Guildford), Tim Crowley (Nine Elms and Woking), Roger Hope (Guildford), Eric Hern (Guildford), Jim Wattleworth (Isle of Wight, Nine Elms, Fratton and Guildford), Bob ‘Ben’ Cartwright (Eastleigh), Fred Johnson (Salisbury), and Dennis Turner (Weymouth).

The book is A4 hardback and weighs in at 236 pages. Taking into account all the ramblings, it paints a very full picture of what life was like on the railways in southern England at that time. Such are the details as told by Bob Cartwright, for example, of working on the footplate of steam-hauled express passenger trains, you really can image what it was like – hard work and long hours, but satisfying nonetheless.

Battle of Britain Class 34057 ‘Biggin Hill’ makes a spectacular exit from platform 4 at Woking on Saturday, September 10, 1966. Picture by Dave Salmon.

And the same goes for Fred Johnson, the writing is all spot on: “Down through Templecombe, up through Gillingham and up the bank to Semley, Ted [the fireman on this occasion] had the locomotive ‘spot on’ all the way and all the firing over the half-door. From Semley it was downhill all the way to Salisbury, more or less, and Ted had a bucket of hot water from the pet pipe ready to wash his hands as we went through Wilton South.

“We ran the train into platform 2 at Salisbury, arriving one minute early, and Ted took over the driving as I unhooked the locomotive from the train. I washed up as we went over the points at Salisbury East and back towards Salisbury West via the down road, into the depot and screwed the locomotive down on the Pit Road at 4.15am.”

Eric Hern when he was a porter at Petersfield.

The “ramblings” are not all by the men on the footplate. Eric Hern started as a porter at Petersfield and recalls those days in the book. He then became a guard on goods trains. He remembers signing on at Guildford at 4am for shifts – not much fun in winter having to seach for some coal and then trying to light a fire in the guard’s van’s stove. He says he never really got warm until the train reached Petersfield!

Hot off the press, this lavish book is extremely good value at £25. There’s hours of reading and the perusal of the photos – all beautifully reproduced! Copies can be ordered through Geoff  by emailing him to

Copies are also in stock at Ben’s Collector’s Records in Tunsgate, Guildford. Click here for the shop’s website and click here for our feature about the shop.

Geoff is having an official launch of the book at Guildford Museum on Friday, November 16, between 11am and 4pm. He will be signing copies of the book and light refreshments will be provided. Most, if not all, of the railwaymen featured in the book will be dropping in – and will no doubt be more than happy to chat about the “old days”.

To read our review of Geoff’s first book, click here.

Another recent story on this website featured Geoff firing a steam loco for the first time since 1967. Click here.

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