Those WERE the Days is a personal trip down memory lane of Barrie C. Woods, an avid 1960’s trainspotter, between 1959 and 1968.
Here at Visit Poulton we’ve been ‘talking’ to Barrie by email since about 2013. He’s very kindly sent us photos and information about all kinds of interesting things, mainly to do with steam engines and trains. For example, it’s thanks to him that we’ve seen some excellent photos of the Steam Rally on Blackpool Prom. He also provided a brilliant write up about Marsh Mill windmill.
The Days of an Avid Trainspotter
Having a particular interest in local transport matters, the railways and the trams in particular, Barrie has recently written a new book, which we thought you might be interested in. He tells us:
“The railways have been my ‘lifeblood’ ever since I was 12 years old in 1959, at which time I was an avid Trainspotter. (Anorak’s and all that!)
“But in those pre-computer and non-mobile phone days, trainspotting was one of the most popular hobbies in the country for young boys (girls rarely got involved). Most of us from that age eventually lost our records of the locos we saw.
“However, I fortunately retained mine, put pen to paper and produced a book detailing my activities between 1959 and 1968 when steam finished on British Railways.
Those WERE the Days by Barrie C Woods
“During that time I travelled extensively covering the majority of the British Isles. In doing so I recorded over 21,000 steam engine numbers, and visited over 600 locomotive depots and railway works.
“My travels were by Mini-bus, coach, bicycle, motorbike, train and hitchhiking! Even a couple of ferries were used to visit some outlying depots.
“As you can imagine, with all this travel came many amusing/odd stories, which are all included in the book. Such things as sleeping under a table tennis table in Princes Park, Edinburgh. Hitching a lift in Lord Mountbattons private car. Having a contretemps with 53 Bullocks. Our coach catching fire on the M1. The ‘foam’ incident at Castleford and many more.
“It’s a way of life that’s long forgotten and would be impossible to replicate these days. So it does make very interesting reading.”
About the Book
The book is A4 in size, printed in full colour with card covers. Inside are 185 pages with over 100 black and white photos to illustrate the trips.
It retails for £19.50 including delivery, and can be ordered direct from Barrie here in Poulton.
Barrie C Woods, 54 Holts Lane, Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancs. FY6 8HW
Tel: 01253-895377 or 07967-251090
Payment by: Cash, Cheques, Paypal or BACS
Contact Barrie and he will despatch direct to you and invoice accordingly
A Passion for Steam
We first met Barrie almost exactly two years ago to the day, when we learnt about his passion for steam!
Read further down this page to find out about Barrie’s interesting life and his travels in the pursuit of large steam engines, but first find out about his new book.
Traction Engine Museum Guide – edition three
Two previous editions of his Traction Engine Museum Guide, published in 2010 and 2012 both sold out, and Barrie is hoping that his brand new third edition will do the same.
A number of local museums feature in the Guide, Farmer Parrs, Ribble Steam Railway and British Commercial Vehicle Museum at Leyland.
This third fully revised and updated book is dedicated to the traction engine enthusiast and offers the chance to view, photograph and study traction engines in museums and other locations across the UK.
Often these engines are permanent fixtures in their relevant location and cannot therefore be seen elsewhere. Others certainly do travel to rallies and the like.
It has taken 18 months of research to include all the nearly 600 engines within these covers, many engines have changed hands since the first edition came out in 2010 and a number of additional engines and locations have been tracked down. No doubt there are still others to ‘find’ but then that is half the enjoyment of this hobby.
All types of steam road engines are included including rollers, wagons, showman’s, general purpose engines, portables, fire engines and a few oddities such as a few Aveling & Porter rail locos and a couple of steam lawn-mowers! Which do not fit into any of those categories, but are included for added interest.
It is an easy book to navigate through with a list of museums across the country suitably indexed of course. A main listing showing all the relevant details of any of the 164 locations, such as address, post code, full directions to reach it, as well as web-site, e.mail and phone number where permissible. Opening times and admission charges are included, as well as a short piece advising what other aspects of interest are at each location. ( Ideal for when taking the family.) Following the main directory is a cross-reference section listing all the engines alphabetically by manufacturer and a ‘Museum by County’ list which may also be of use when planning a trip away.
Don’t miss out on this new publication which definitely fills a niche in the Traction engine market.
Size: A5, Covers: Full colour card, Pages; 128
Photographs: 31; 7 Vintage B & W and 24 colour
Retail Price £8.75 (Post Free)
Author: Barrie C. Woods.
The Guide can be Purchased direct from: Barrie C. Woods
54 Holts Lane, Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancs. FY6 8HW
Tel: 01253-895377 or 07967-251090
Payment by: Cash, Cheques, Paypal or BACS
Contact Barrie by e.mail or phone and he will despatch direct to you and invoice accordingly
More about Barrie…
My roots are in Hertfordshire, being born in Hitchin, and lived in nearby Letchworth Garden City for many years – the First Garden City in the World incidentally.
But I have moved around a fair bit, living in such locations as Guildford, Barnet, Shrewsbury and Bolton-le-Sands to name but a few. But always there was the yearning to return to my roots. Unfortunately leading such a peripatetic life my family became dispersed, with parents still in Hertfordshire and my daughter and her family now in Blackpool.
Just after Christmas each year there is a Road-Run near Letchworth organised by the Saunders Family who own around 25 Traction Engines. Here with my my best mate Brian Sharp, then Chairman of the Bedford Steam Engine Club, and life long friend, who sadly died 12 months ago, we pose for the local reporter with our silly bowlers on.
My last return to Letchworth in 1996 was in essence to ensure I could be near my then aging parents. Both now deceased for some years. Thus I had no remaining family in that area, so with my own advancing years I considered wrenching myself away from the comfort zone of Letchworth, and with it all my friends, to move nearer to my daughter. On the premise that when my own time comes to go, in whatever form it may take, it will be far easier for her to attend to me, without massive disruption to her own family life.
So it was that on the 14th December 2012 after a traumatic 5 months of trying to move, I gained the keys of my current home here in Poulton-le-Fylde. Certainly I miss Letchworth greatly and have already been back for a few days, but I have to admit that Poulton is growing on me and there are some delightful factors to keep me entertained in this area. Apart from the obvious matter of being near my daughter and her family, the Poulton pubs are excellent and the beer is a lot cheaper up here!
Lorna , my Daughter with her Partner Alan, plus children – Harry who is 9 and Lucy who is now 2.
I’ve always been a ‘hobby’ person from those early childhood days of the 1950s, collecting Brook Bond tea cards, stamps on approval, Matchbox labels, cigarette cards and what were then the new Matchbox model cars and lorries. (I’ve still got some of them!).
According to my mother I was apparently scared stiff of steam trains when very young, but by the time I was 12 (in 1959) I had overcome my fear and was hooked on them. Three miles from my home, the Kings Cross to Edinburgh Main line ran through Hitchin, where some chalk cliffs gave a wonderful vantage point of the Main line, Hitchin station and loco shed. My then friends (we still have reunions by the way to this day!) and I would sit at the top of these cliffs day after day train-spotting with our regulation pencils and notepads.
This is Mike Watts Marshall Traction Engine named ‘Punch’ and we’ve just driven it 40 miles towing a Chaff cutter and a little pick up van to a Rally near Wendover, Buckinghamshire on 6th July 2011. Hence the dreadful state of yours truly, it takes several repeat showers to shift all the oil and grime, but it’s worth it!
Since those impressionable days and the inevitable demise of steam on the British railways on August 4th 1968 my interests spread to steam road vehicles and I first began visiting traction engine rallies and graduated to steering and driving traction engines in the early 1970s. My mentor was a veteran over 80 years old by the name of ‘Punch’ Lawrence. This continued for some years. On the road we would usually be driving a 12 ton steam roller which would in turn be hauling a living van, a mobile fish & chip van and a water cart! So the whole entourage was some length, almost 30 metres in total. Until my recent move north I still enjoyed the odd drive with ‘Punch’ Lawrence’s grandson Mike Watts, who owns a 1902 built Marshall traction engine which is appropriately named ‘Punch’ after the venerable guy. My last drive was just over 40 miles which took 6 hours!
Work and family inevitably caused adjustments to be made to my activities for some years but the yen for steam never diminished, indeed it continued to dominate my life as it does to this day. From 1973 my involvement with the Battle of Britain Locomotive Society ensured a life-time of restoration work and fund-raising to get a 145 ton Southern Region Pacific Bulleid steam locomotive No.34081, named ’92 SQUADRON’ back into steam. I’m still involved with that as a Trustee. Having steamed the engine for 10 years, it is currently half way through its second rebuild at the Nene Valley Railway, Peterborough.
Our Group at Delhi Cantt Station on 4th April 2009, with the ‘Fairy Queen’, the oldest steamable engine in the world! built in 1855. I’m in the Maroon polo shirt and white hat just to the left of the headboard: ‘Fairy Queen Express’.
At Chalsa in West Bengal, north-east Indai our special train stopped and the local school children had been given time out to visit the station to meet us. The train is behind me with our 200 ton steam locomotive named ‘Doors Queen’. Having been pre-advised I took with me a packet of about 50 balloons and am in the process of blowing up yet another one for the children, who of course had never seen such things and were absolutely thrilled with them. They delighted in chasing them around the station as I let them go, then trying to blow them up themselves.
In later years, I set about travelling the world to capture the last remnants of ‘real steam’ rather than the UK preserved and main line activities which although very laudable, were not the same as the real thing. Countries such as China, Cuba, Ukraine, South Africa, Zimbabwe, India and Colorado in the USA were all visited as well as nearer to home locations such as Germany, Switzerland and Poland, the latter to drive steam engines on the main line up to 60 mph with fare paying commuters on their way to work – if only they knew whose hand was on the regulator!
Taken on 18th August 2011 in Lezno, Poland, this shot is of me alongside the 160 ton Pacific locomotive PM 36 -2 named ‘Beautiful Helena’ Which I’d just driven from Wolsztyn some 50 miles away. On some trains we would have up to 200 commuters on their way to work!
China was the most amazing experience of my life, I travelled there a couple of times to see 200 ton steam engines powering up to 3,500 ton freights through the mountainous Jing Peng line which is over 600 miles long! Rising up to 1000 metres in places and photographing the action in temperatures which on some days dropped to minus 30 Centigrade. When you are out all day in those temperatures everything freezes – and I mean everything! even the cameras on some occasions. Frostbite is a serious factor to be aware of in those conditions, and many have succumbed to that, but luckily I didn’t.
Up near the Russian border there is a open cast coal mine 6 kilometres long and a kilometre wide, plus about 2-300 meters deep. Where a 24 hour operation goes on in those incredibly low temperatures, digging out coal from the pit sides with huge mechanical shovels and loading it into railway trucks. Inside this pit on one occasion there were no less than 18, 200 ton steam locomotives operating with their 600 ton loads of coal ziz-zagging their way up to the top of the pit to go the washery for onward journey to feed China’s insatiable appetite for the stuff. The clouds of steam and smoke issuing from the locos storming along the steep inclines had to be seen to be believed. Often the steam would freeze instantly and fall all over us as fine snow.
Mention of work brings me to that aspect of my life. After Grammar School I became a Commis Chef, training for some three years, before moving on to various positions gradually bettering myself into being a Head Chef during which time I met Sue who was eventually to become my wife.
After another three years ‘Cheffing’ I decided to change direction and took up driving Dustcarts! I worked for a company called Shelvoke & Drewry in Letchworth, the largest manufacturer of those wagons in the UK at the time. During that time I would deliver brand new refuse vehicles to councils all over the UK, on other occasions I would take one of the company vehicles to demonstrate it to a council, often for a whole week, in the hope it would impress and they would order some.
After three years of that I progressed on to sales and to other products including the Multilift demountable systems. These are the vehicles which load and off-load the containers that we all see at the recycling depots such as in Jameson Road, Fleetwood and Bristol Avenue, Blackpool. Staying with Multilft I then took over my own division marketing Tail-lifts and Tipping gears for vehicles. I eventually became Marketing and Exports Manager which entailed my travelling to various parts of the world to market and research new locations for our products, such places as Hong Kong, India and Nigeria for instance.
In 1988 my wife and I decided to buy a restaurant, we’d both been in the trade as I mentioned earlier. After looking around the whole of the UK from Grimsby to Wincanton we decided on a little 40 cover restaurant in Bolton-le-Sands. We called it “The Deerstalker”. We ran that for eight years at the end of which, in 1996, Sue and I decided to go our own ways – amicably – I should add. At which point we sold the restaurant and I returned to Letchworth as I also mentioned above. Our daughter Lorna was at college in Carlisle at the time, Sue moved to Morecambe and then to Blackpool where she still lives. We have remained friends throughout the past 16 years. The restaurant is still in business as a Chinese called ‘Trungs’.
Due to my experience with refuse vehicles in 1996 I was asked by a publisher to write the history of such vehicles. It took about 18 months but we had a thousand copies printed and they all sold. I then went on to write the history of the Battle of Britain locomotive mentioned above that also sold out after a similar print run, raising much needed funds for the restoration project. Latterly I continue to write articles for the national monthly magazine “Old Glory” which covers all manner of historical vehicles types: steam rollers. steam wagons, fire engines, shipping and internal combustion vehicles.
I’ve also written two Traction Engine Museum Guides in the past three years covering museums where steam road vehicles are located such as Farmer Parrs, Levens Hall, Muncaster Castle and the British Commercial Vehicle Museum at Leyland, to name a few in this area. Within the covers are some 600 engines at about 160 museums all around the UK. In addition I also edit a 40 page monthly magazine for another railway club I’m a member of: The Stevenage Locomotive Society.
A further aspect of my Traction Engine activities over the past 5-6 years has been commentating at Rallies. It’s great fun – making a fool of oneself in front of several thousand people! Having taken over 50,000 photos during my life I also get called upon to make evening presentations to local clubs, usually on some aspect of railways or traction engines, I also have a presentation on the history of refuse vehicles, which as you may guess is an off-shoot from my book on the subject – that makes an amusing evening!
As to the future who knows? I have recently joined the Poulton & Wyre Railway Society, and am hoping to do likewise with the Fylde Countrylife Society. I do like Poulton and find the people up here very friendly even though I’m a ‘Southern import’! If all the above is not enough I have a considerable interest in buses (I used to drive a preserved London Double Decker) so am looking forward to ‘Tram Sunday’ and the various other ‘Bus’ events that this area is known for.
I like to cycle every day if possible, so you may see me pottering about on my old racing bike which I’ve had since I was 13 years old. As for steam and photography, there isn’t so much of it about these days but we do enjoy a number of steam specials around this area each year. I’m off to Germany with few friends in a couple of weeks for a ‘Plandampf’ (Steam Festival).
Eritrea is on the list of ‘To Dos’ with a steam railway over there that heads up into the clouds at over 7,000 feet! I’m also hoping to go to the USA later this year. A return trip to India I trust will come to fruition in 2014. Locally there are several preservation lines up here such as The Ribble Steam Railway, The East Lancs Railway and the Keighley & Worth Valley, so all those will become targets for me. On the traction engine side a number of rallies take place as well, so again I hope to attend as many as possible.
There is steam still around it just takes a little more patience these days to find! But while it’s out there I’ll be after it armed with my camera!
Barrie C. Woods 24th March 2013
A 2010 shot of Barrie at home in his Bedford Steam Engine Preservation Society shirt, another group he’s a member of. It holds an annual traction engine rally in September near Biggleswade, with around 140 engines attending.