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Phil Gillam: On the right track to railway memories

Phil Gillam | Published:

I was only a youngster when my granddad passed away, and I can’t honestly say I knew him very well.

A British Railways tank engine hauls a single coach past Drawwell Street in Belle Vue, Shrewsbury

He’d always been fond of gardening, and he occasionally entered horticultural competitions at the Shrewsbury Flower Show.

I knew he had served in the First World War, and I knew that he had been an engine driver on the Great Western Railway.

This last fact intrigued me the most as, when I was 13, 14, 15, me and my mates were trainspotters and (I suppose) embryonic railway enthusiasts.

For a while I was mad about trains, asking mum and dad for Ian Allan railway annuals for Christmas, loving the history of our network, loving the stations and the locomotive sheds and the signals and tracks as much as the trains themselves.

I was enchanted (and still am) by the sights and sounds and smells of the railway. Even today, I stop and watch trains go under the bridge.

Imagine how thrilled I was then, when I inherited from my granddad a bunch of extremely well-looked after Great Western Railway magazines from the 1920s.

Although the content was mostly of a technical, engineering nature, and clearly aimed at GWR staff, they shone a light on a long-gone era, and fed my interest in the golden age of steam.

On Sunday, my childhood/early teenage passion for the railways was reawakened when I received from a pal a copy of the 2018 calendar from the Shrewsbury Railway Heritage Trust.

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For those unfamiliar with the Trust, these are the good people who look after the little Abbey Foregate railway station visitor centre. They’re a splendid bunch of enthusiasts who do much to archive, preserve and explain the strong links between Shrewsbury and the railways. (Find out more by visiting their website shrewsburyrailwayheritage.com).

By the way, these guys also produce a truly excellent newsletter called Abbey Lines.

The new calendar features some cracking images from around Shropshire including Crewe Bank, Shrewsbury, on a snowy winter’s day, steam on the last remnants of the old Potts railway at Nantmawr, Shropshire, and inside the signal box at Bridgnorth on the Severn Valley Railway.

There’s also a lovely image of a Crewe-Swansea train with snow-covered hills in the background.

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I have to say, though, that one of my favourite pictures in the new calendar is of a British Railways tank engine hauling a single coach past Drawwell Street in Belle Vue, Shrewsbury. Drawwell Street is just a short walk from where we live. It’s also a stone’s throw from where my nan and granddad used to live.

This particular image is not only very charming, but also reminds me powerfully of my granddad who would have been the engine driver on this, the Aberystwyth line, many times during his career with the GWR.

If, like me, you find railways beautiful and romantic, this calendar would make a great stocking-filler for you this Christmas.

David Morris, Board Director of the Shrewsbury Railway Heritage Trust said: “It really is a must-have item. The images were provided courtesy of Shropshire Railway Society, with some valuable assistance by Geoff Cryer. Many people are supporters of Shropshire railways and their rich history, and this year we have printed additional copies as we realise the calendar will prove popular, with our previous edition a sellout. Images are by Rob Smout; John Parker; Geoff Cryer; Steve Price, and Berwyn Stevens.

"The calendar is on sale priced £5, or by mail order priced £7.50. Cheques payable to Shrewsbury Railway Heritage Trust (this includes the £2.50 postage and packing) to: SRHT Calendar Dept, Abbey Station, 192A Abbey Foregate, Shrewsbury SY2 6 AH. Please include a return address.

"The calendar is a valuable way of providing funds for our charitable trust, so I welcome people to treat themselves or a friend to what I believe is a really attractive calendar that will appeal to all”.

No doubt, my dear old granddad would have approved. That’s for sure.

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