In 2007, I had to take a business trip to London. And yes, my camera went with me! I did manage to set aside some time for photography after the work was done, and after spending some time sorting and editing, a look at railroading in the UK is now posted for your enjoyment.
I’d seen pictures of European trains before I went, and thought they looked “small” – at least after growing up with the Penn Central, Conrail, Bessemer & Lake Erie, Baltimore & Ohio and the Chessie System railroads.
Well, guess what? They are a lot smaller than what we’re used to here in the States. Their “small” size is due to an older infrastructure and urban clearances that we don’t have here. Their freight trains are shorter – but more frequent. Their passenger trains, well, there’s both frequency and variety there! It was strange to be there and see commuter, short-distance and long-distance passenger trains with a variety of equipment. It was also strange to be in a country where trains are an everyday part of life and movement. Quite unlike the US and Canada, where neither our politicians nor transportation policies are very functional. Canada used to be a dramatic contrast to the US, but their politicians have been slowly dismantling their passenger rail system (except for Montreal and Toronto) since 1989. We’ve got 18 years on them, but they are sadly catching up. Anyway… enough commentary on passenger rail – back to the UK!
One of the neat things about watching trains in England is this thing called “open access”. Here’s the short story: British Rail was privatized, and the tracks and infrastructure are owned by one entity. Operators of freight and passenger trains pay user fees to move over the tracks. If you’re a railfan (“trainspotter” in the UK), this is great – because you can sit in one place and see trains from many different operators without having to move to a different rail line. You’ll see that variety in the images from part of a day spent at Stratford, and a few minutes (really!) at Derby (which I learned is pronounced “Darby”).
If you want to learn more about the engines you see, as well as the EMUs (Electric Multiple Unit self-propelled passenger cars) and DMUs (Diesel Multiple Unit self-propelled passenger cars), Wikipedia is a great place to go. For example, if you want to learn about the Class 66 diesels, go to Wikipedia and type in Class 66 in the search bar. Researching these things is easy, as all locomotives, EMUs and DMUs are classified according to the British Rail Classification System – the first two or three digits are the class, and the last three digits are the individual unit numbers. You’ll see the Class 66 locomotives of several users in the Gallery – the only thing different is the paint and the last three numbers.
So, take a little trip to England and check out their trains. I’ve heard that the images make great gifts as mugs, water bottles, as well as framed on the wall…