Trainspotting …

… not so much Irvine Welsh, more Jonathan Meades.  As a child,  Meades made lists: “Why were people called Salmon, Pike, Gudgeon, Whiting, Chubb, Grayling, Roach, Haddock, Spratt, Bass? But not Tench, Minnow, Eel, Lamprey, Perch, Carp, Huss, Plaice … I was adjudged tiresome or frivolous or time-wasting. Thus adults masked their ignorance and, worse, their incuriosity.”

I made lists too but mine were numeric, all of them attributes of steam engines, the occasional diesel and electrics but never multiple units.  We made lists to bring order to a chaotic, disinterested and judgmental world.  Trainspotting might seem harmless enough but to those in authority we were at best a nuisance, at worst dangerous. Eviction from railway stations was an occupational hazard; men of a certain age and ex-military rank, imagined or otherwise, simply didn’t like us and we them.

Dylan filled my head with verse, Raymond Baxter talking over grainy 405 lines inspired a passion for fast machines and steam trains spawned an interest in industrial archaeology, the remains of a revolution. Abandoned mills, derelict canals and the traces of long-gone railway lines still intrigue.  There must be others of a certain age who take delight in spotting the abandoned sections of the Lancaster Canal from the M6.

It was therefore inevitable that having ‘collected’ one example of the very fine signal boxes along the Newcastle to Carlisle line, I would have to go and ‘bag’ the other two award winning examples.  On Monday morning I rode the Ducati up to Wylam, stood on the footbridge and captured the last.  As a boy I would have taken great delight in being enveloped in steam by a train passing underneath – along with Castrol R, engine steam is the best smell in the world – Givenchy should bottle it.

In order of capture: Hexham, Haltwhistle and Wylam (the last is an extra of the best – Haltwhistle, stately as a galleon):

Hexham Signal Box ...

Haltwhistle Signal Box ...

Wylam Signal Box ...

... stately as a galleon


  1. LaVagabonde · January 26, 2016

    Congrats on the captures! I can understand how they would intrigue a young person. I’m shocked to learn that you were such a hooligan as a child. 😉 Incuriosity is a horrible affliction.

    • northumbrianlight · January 26, 2016

      A tearaway of the first order, or so my mum kept telling me 🙂
      Meades is renowned for his vocabulary, acquired, no doubt, as a child – when listening to his broadcasts it is helpful to have a dictionary to hand 😉

    • northumbrianlight · January 26, 2016

      PS – this captures exactly what it was like at Manchester Victoria, including the hooligans in shorts 🙂

  2. fonzandcancer · January 26, 2016

    So where are you in the world? I am in southport but my family near Lancaster? I was a train spotter to, although I would never admit it… Lol

    • northumbrianlight · January 26, 2016

      Owning up to being an ex-trainspotter is not good for the street cred – your silence on such matters is very wise 😉 I live just north of Hexham but was brought up in Altrincham. Thanks for stopping by.

      • fonzandcancer · January 26, 2016

        I agree, my wife was brought up in stretford… Small world. Gonna google Hexham now…

      • fonzandcancer · January 26, 2016

        We drove through it on the way to Berwick last year. Nice part of the world

  3. Pit · January 26, 2016

    I love those old buildings: great shots. 🙂

    • northumbrianlight · January 26, 2016

      Thanks Pit – we are lucky have some well-preserved railways and canal architecture. Good to hear from you – hope all is well.

      • Pit · January 27, 2016

        I was lucky once to combine both, canals and railways, when, on a narrow boat tour, we stopped in Kidderminster and did the Severn Valley Railway.

      • northumbrianlight · January 27, 2016

        Great images Pit and love the Healey! I have been through Kidderminster on the canal but it was a long time back, 1988 I think. We were doing the Stourport Ring and got stuck in Worcester for two days waiting for the waters to subside on the Severn – nothing changes 🙂

  4. Cate Franklyn · January 26, 2016

    These are in such beautiful condition. There is an old decrepit one at the Ditmars trains station which has not been in use since I believe the 1940’s or more. Great shots, my friend.

    • northumbrianlight · January 26, 2016

      Many thanks Cate – I’d be interested to see the Ditmars box should you ever be passing with a camera 😉

  5. thrupnybit · January 27, 2016

    Came here from Blip. Excellent piece. I was a casual rural trainspotter, lone; I would occasionally buy a 3d. platform ticket at the next town down the line. Lovely set of signal boxes.

    • northumbrianlight · January 27, 2016

      Good to see you here John – always pleased by visits from Blip. I almost said in the post that we were evicted from stations despite having a valid platform ticket – I seem to remember the Manchester stations only charged 1d. Maybe I am that much older 😉

  6. socialbridge · January 27, 2016

    Footbridges set my heart on fire!
    Adore the photos, Robin.

  7. Leya · January 28, 2016

    Never did this…but wow the gorgeous shots you send us here. We do not have this railway architecture in our part of the world.

  8. restlessjo · January 29, 2016

    Can’t beat a good signal box, or better yet, a railway bridge, Robin 🙂

    • northumbrianlight · January 29, 2016

      Definitely not Jo 🙂 – but, preferably enveloped by swirling steam

      • restlessjo · January 29, 2016

        Cough! Cough! 🙂

  9. litadoolan · February 14, 2016

    Love the evocative images. The details on the signal boxes look to have been added with such care and pride.

  10. Pingback: Narrow-guage | northumbrian : light

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