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And Their 





Peter Handford 

Sound is a unique sense. Unlike photography, 
which can take either split-second pictures 
to record visually a moment in history or a 
succession of pictures to trick the brain into 
seeing moving pictures, sound can be sensed 
only as a continuous sequence which can 
begin and end. Nothing can transmit the 
impression of movement and power more 
than the sound of a steam locomotive hard 
at work. From his young days Peter Handford 
was fascinated by railway sounds and his 
working life as a professional film recordist 
not only gave him ample opportunity for 
mastering studio and location recording 
techniques but also strengthened his resolve 
to record railway sounds, despite the heavy, 
bulky equipment which was all that was 
available in the early 1950s. 

The success of his superb recordings of 
the steam age, which he obtained despite 
many disappointments and technical diffi- 
culties, can be gauged by the fact that more 
than forty-five mostly long-playing titles are 
available on disc in the Argo-Transacord list 
for posterity, to delight enthusiasts who 
never heard the great days of steam. This 
book tells the story behind the recordings, 
the problems, the tribulations, the ones that 
got away and the successes. 

IS8N 7153 7631 4 

y v?G 

of Railways 

and their recording 

Peter Handford 


Newton Abbot London North Pomfret (Vt) 

British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data 

Sounds of railways and their recording. 

1. Locomotive sounds - Recording ana reproducing 

I. Title 

621.389'32 TJ608 

ISBN 0-7153-7631^* 

e Peter [landlord 1980 

AH rights reserved. No part of this 
publication may be reproduced, stored 
in retrieval system, or transmitted, 
in any form or by any means, electronic, 
mechanical, photocopying, recording or 
otherwise, without the prior permission 
of David & Charles (Publishers) Limited 

Photosei by Northern Phot otypeset ting Co, Bolton 

and primed in Great Britain 

by Biddies Ltd, Guildford, Surrey 

for David & Charles (Publishers) Limited 

Brunei House, Newton Abbot, Devon 

Published in the United States of America 

by David & Charles Inc 

North Pomfret, Vermont 05053, USA 



1 The fascination of sound 

2 Sounds of war 

3 Transacord is born 

4 Steam sounds in Britain 

5 Progress with Argo 

6 Recording in Europe - and Asia 

7 The art of railway recording 













On a bitterly cold December night the late John Gale, author 
and Observer journalist, stood with me on a hillside above 
Hawick, listening to a train struggling up the steep gradient from 
the now abandoned station: 'I never realised before what vivid 
and varied sounds a train can make,' he said. 'I'll have to write 
this scene into a book.' Perhaps, had he lived, he might have 
written this book for me; certainly his enthusiasm for sounds 
which he had never bothered to listen to before was inspiring, 
and it is the similar enthusiasm of many other people who, 
during the past 25 years, have shown an appreciative interest in 
railway recordings, which has inspired the issue of so many 
records of the sounds of the steam age and eventually led to the 
writing of this book. 

Some people find it amusingly incomprehensible that 
anybody would want to listen to records of railway sounds. This 
book is not for such people; it is for those who find the world of 
railways, and particularly their sounds which convey so much of 
the atmosphere, interesting, exciting, or simply nostalgic. 
Railway sounds have always been all those things to me, since 
long before it became practical to record them, and it is the 
sounds of steam age railways during the past 45 years or so, in 
Britain and abroad, which form the main theme of this book. 

The viewpoint of a sound recordist is inevitably different from 
that of a photographer, as are many of the problems and 
experiences involved in making recordings; some of the 
experiences may interest railway enthusiasts and possibly others, 
and some of the problems may be of interest to those who have 
listened to records of railway sounds, or have made their own 

The power of sound is consistently overlooked and 
underrated. It is, for instance, a. strange fact that, though 
blindness is normally a subject for sympathy, deafness is all too 


often treated with inconsiderate amusement. To be sightless is 
certainly a tragedy, but to be deaf is surely an even greater 
deprivation because, whereas a sightless person still has the 
means to form varied mental images inspired by sounds, 
anybody deprived of their hearing is denied this, one of the most 
potent means of stimulating the imagination. 

So many people have been of inestimable help in making the 
railway records and in the writing of this book. Some are directly 
mentioned in the text; it might be invidious to mention others, 
but my thanks are due to them all - most of all to the many 
railwaymen of all grades and nationalities whose work has 
provided the material for the records and who have so often gone 
out of their way to be helpful. A great deal has been written and 
said about the sadness which enthusiasts experienced at the 
demise of the steam locomotive and the closure of numerous 
railways; far less has been heard of the reactions of those whose 
working life was spent on the railways, among steam 
locomotives, and if they would consider it as a compliment, it is 
to them and of course to my endlessly patient and long suffering 
family, that this book is dedicated. 

Peter Handford 
Hast Suffolk. Summer 1979 

Chapter 1 
The fascination of sound 

The sounds of railway operation, like the sounds of the sea, are 
so instantly evocative that, for many years, they have been 
widely used in film and radio productions, to influence the 
imagination of the audience. 

Since the earliest days of film production, directors have made 
frequent use of the enormous visual potential of railways and 
particularly the steam locomotive. Originally it was as a simple 
demonstration of the ability of the film camera to show 
movement, then to exploit the obvious dramatic potential of, for 
instance, a heroine tied to the railway lines during the final 
moments of a serial episode, or the frustration of a villain on 
horseback, thwarted by the superior speed of a train which, after 
a thrilling race, beat him to the level crossing. Later, as 
productions became more sophisticated, images such as 
thrusting piston rods, whirling wheels, the rise and fall of 
gleaming connecting rods and clouds of smoke and steam, were 
more and more widely used, often purely symbolically, to create 
or enhance a dramatic effect. 

The advent of recorded motion picture sound immediately 
brought a new realism to the visual image and as technique 
improved, provided a valuable means of enhancing the impact of 
the image by the imaginative use of sounds which were not 
necessarily directly connected with that image. 

The long, haunting whistles of American locomotives have 
been heard in countless Hollywood films, in many cases where no 
train is ever seen on the screen. The sounds of engines, whistles 
and clanging trucks in a shunting yard; the bustling sounds of a 
busy station; the shrieking whistle and clattering wheels of a 
passing express; the slow passage of a distant goods train; all 
these and many other railway sounds have been used time and 


again, more frequently than pictures of similar subjects, to set a 
scene or to create or sustain an atmosphere. Such wide and 
frequent use of railway sounds is evidence of the influence which 
they can have on an audience. 

The wonderful variety of sounds and rhythms associated with 
railways have fascinated and inspired many composers. Berlioz, 
Honneger and Villa Lobos, among others, composed music 
which had been inspired by railways. Railway rhythms can be 
found in some of the compositions of Dvorak, who is known to 
have been a keen railway enthusiast whose students were 
expected to share his enthusiasm and accompany him to the 
nearest railway station where, during his visits to America and 
no doubt in other countries, he spent much of his spare time, 
between rehearsals and performances, watching and listening to 

Johann Strauss junior and Eduard Strauss both composed 
polkas with railway titles, based on railway rhythms and many 
years later, in the late 1950s, some very different dance rhythms 
such as Skiffle were introduced on the BBC Television 
production Six Five Special by a signature tune of the same tide, 
clearly based on railway rhythms and given an added railway 
emphasis by the accompanying introductory film sequence, 
which included scenes on the footplate of a steam locomotive. 

Duke Ellington frequently worked on his compositions during 
train journeys, the sounds of which he found inspiring, and more 
recently such composers as Arthur Butterworth, Ron Grainer 
and Richard Rodney Bennett have written music which 
suggests, or is inspired by the sounds of railways. A modern 
ballet, devised by Jill Gale, was performed in London in 1977 
entirely to the rhythmical sounds of various steam locomotives 
and at a university in Australia, Tristram Gary is working on 
some compositions in which railway sounds are integrated with 
more conventional types of music. 

This considerable interest of musicians is not in the least 
surprising, because railway sounds themselves possess many of 
the attributes of music, the definite rhythms, some simple others 
more complex; the controlled power and a great range of 
contrasts in tempo and intensity are all there in railway sounds, 



just as in music and can be equally worth listening to for their 
own qualities. 

The sounds of a train climbing through the countryside, for 
instance, can be likened to a symphony in three movements, 
played without a break: first, pianissimo, the birdsong and a 
distant whistle emphasise the silence out of which the train is 
heard approaching, perhaps with a brief and abrupt change of 
tempo when the wheels slip; the train comes closer at a steady 
and now slower tempo, reaches a crescendo as it passes by, then 
climbs away into the distance, now pianissimo again, with maybe 
a long, lonely whistle as a coda. Sounds such as these are surely 
as evocative as a musical composition and can be equally 
emotive; certainly they are a most worthwhile subject for 
recording and for the production of a series of gramophone 

Records of railway sounds are sometimes referred to as Train 
Noises; this can be deliberately derisive but is more often simply 
thoughtless. No sound recordist will be pleased if his recordings 
are called noises, unless he is doing some work for the admirable 
Noise Abatement Society. The distinction between sound and 
noise is important, though sometimes hard to define; generally a 
sound which is unpleasant or objectionable to the listener is 
called a noise, therefore one person's sound can obviously be 
another person's noise. The merry toots of a car horn in a street, 
late at night, may be a cheery sound to a motorist leaving a pany, 
but it will be an intensely irritating, unnecessary and illegal noise 
to all those woken by it; the new motorbike, roaring up and down 
the road, delights the rider with its powerful sounds while the 
residents are infuriated by the noise; the extravagant Concorde 
may sound splendid to a jet set executive cossetted in a 
soundproofed cabin but it makes a painful and possibly 
damaging noise for those unfortunate to be anywhere near the 
flight path. 

Certain sound is always described as noise - the penetrating 
stab of pneumatic drills for instance. The noise of pneumatic 
drills, at work near Big Ben, was one of the sounds which 
delighted listeners to an early recording produced to 
demonstrate the wonders of stereophonic sound! Perhaps the 


noise of juggernaut lorries, so intensely irritating to unfortunate 
victims living alongside through roads and motorways, is a 
delightful sound to road transport interests. 

Noise is one of the most evil and intrusive pollutants of 
modern life and it is sad that it is given so little consideration by 
politicians and planners. Aircraft and heavy road vehicles are 
among the worst and most persistent polluters, by comparison 
with which the noise caused by any railway is insignificant. The 
publishers of this book occupy offices adjoining Newton Abbot 
railway station, on the West of England main line; in such a 
situation it might be thought that the noise of the railway would 
be most disturbing. However, although there obviously is noise 
from the railway at times, it is always of short duration and is 
much less intrusive than the endless and variously irritating 
noise from the roads. 

Even in times when railways carried much more traffic than 
they do now and steam trains on jointed track were noisier than 
those with electric or diesel traction on welded rails, the noise 
from a main line was only intermittent, of short duration and 
because of its different nature less excrutiating than that of 
aircraft or road vehicles. The making of recordings for railway 
records, at such remote locations as Barkston or Shap Wells, 
which was then far from a motorway, provided opportunities to 
compare the type and amount of noise created by road and rail 
traffic. The ceaseless grind of whining lorries on a main road, 
some miles away, often formed a continuous background to the 
silence of the lineside at such locations, particularly during the 
night; the railway, in contrast, was completely silent except 
during the brief passage of trains carrying many times the load of 
the intrusive road vehicles. 

Sometimes, if the wind blew from the direction of the road, 
recording at such locations became impossible and at other 
locations, such as the climb to Beat tock summit, it was virtually 
impossible at any time, because the incessant racket from the 
road drowned the sounds of the trains, even those with two hard 
working engines, except during the short time when the train 
passed by. 

The pollution of aircraft noise is even more intrusive than that 



from roads, spreading over a wider area to the remotest places. 
Aircraft noise is one of the worst problems which a sound 
recordist has to face, for it is quite unpredictable and no location 
can be considered safe from it since, in places over which 
commercial aircraft seldom fly, the armed forces, immune to 
most criticism, may ensure that silence is regularly and brutally 
shattered. Usually they choose the normally most peaceful and 
naturally most beautiful areas, such as Wales, Yorkshire, the 
Cotswolds and East Anglia, over which to make the most hideous 
noises at' the lowest possible altitude. 

Modern railways are most concerned about noise and its 
effects on passengers and the environment. ORE, an 
international test and research organisation of 43 European 
railways, with headquarters in Utrecht, is at present 
investigating ways of reducing noise. Unfortunately there is little 
evidence that any similar concern is shown by road or aircraft 
operators, unless, as in the case of initial Concorde landings in 
America, their operations are directly threatened by excessive 

It is impossible to think of a sound which will not become an 
irritating noise to somebody in some circumstances. Railway 
sound, like certain forms of music, will be merely noise to some 
people. They will almost certainly be irritating noises to those 
who have been subjected to a non-stop nightly performance of 
shunting sounds within a few yards of a bedroom window, but to 
any railway enthusiast the various sounds of the railways will be 
an interesting and evocative form of music. People other than 
railway enthusiasts usually react to records of railway sounds 
with, at worst, amused tolerance and rarely with hostility or 
indifference; even the indifferent can sometimes become 
interested, if they can be persuaded to read the record sleeve 
notes which set the scene and then listen attentively to a properly 
presented sequence of railway sounds. Never having paid much 
attention to such sounds before, they can be surprised at their 
reactions. They may find the rhythms interesting, even exciting, 
or possibly the sounds will recall some past experience; there 
have been cases of complete conversion from indifference to real 




One of the commonest reasons for interest and enjoyment in 
listening to railway records is that, because so many people have 
had experiences which are directly or indirectly linked with 
railways, listening to these sounds recalls nostalgic memories. 

Those who grew up between the wars had the advantage of 
knowing a country not then widely infested with lorries and 
aircraft ; the everyday sounds were then more distinct and less 
raucous and it was possible to hear them without being deafened. 

Railways were then the accepted way to move passengers or 
freight and railway journeys were often something of an 
occasion; the holiday train journey, or the day excursion, was a 
real adventure for children, so much more exciting than piling 
into the familiar family car and however long or late the train 
journey, surely less of a strain for parents than an overnight 
drive, ending in a traffic jam on a bypass or motorway exit. 

There were few places not within reach of railways, which had 
become an accepted, useful and seemingly permanent part of 
everyday life. Trails of steam across the countryside were a 
normal and natural pan of the landscape and in the same way 
the sounds of the railways were a normal and accepted part of 
the pattern of everyday sounds. 

It was strangely comforting to hear a distant train while lying 
in bed on a winter night and many countrymen made use of the 
sounds of the railway as an aid to local weather forecasting: 'the 
trains sound that close tonight, there'll surely be rain before 

To people who knew that period the appeal of railway records 
will be nostalgic, and for those of a later age the recordings have 
considerable value in their ability to convey, in sound, the nature 
of life in the railway age. 

Unfortunately the comprehensive recording of the sounds of 
the true railway age, in the same manner as that scene was so 
well captured by photographers and artists, was not possible; the 
tape recorder arrived too late and earlier methods of sound 
recording were delicate, complex, costly and generally too 
cumbersome to be used on location, other than for expensive 
specialised purposes, such as film or radio productions. 
Fortunately, however, the sound scene changed more slowly 


than the visual; the addition of a British Railways number and 
emblem made no difference to the sound of a pre-grouping 
engine and much of the atmosphere of the steam railway age 
remained in the sounds of railways in Britain in the 1950s and 
considerably later in some other countries. 

The world of railways has always had much to offer to those 
who work in it and to the interested observer. It is an 
individualistic world, somewhat detached and in some ways 
almost secretive, but the secrets are well worth looking for and 
railwaymen, who have an interest and pride in their work, can 
usually be persuaded to share at least some of the secrets with an 

Innumerable contrasts - drama, humour, peacefulness, 
excitement and an inexplicable sadness - all exist in the sights 
and sounds of the railways. There is the sense of occasion and 
excitement in the departure of a long distance express train; the 
peacefully unhurried charm of a rural branch line; the lonely life 
of the signalman; the enormous power under the control of the 
engine driver and dependent upon the expertise and physical 
efforts of the fireman; the drama of an engine struggling with a 
heavy load in adverse conditions; and the sense of humour of 
railwaymen, often most evident when things are at their worst. 
Such things are an inseparable part of railway working, a 
difficult, dedicated, demanding and sometimes dangerous way of 
life. The difficulties and demands were certainly at their peak 
during the steam age, but they can still be evident now in some 
unexpected crisis, such as the 1978 snowfalls. 

Sounds have always been important in railway operations. 
The bell codes in the signal box are an obvious example; engine 
whistles also use significant codes, to indicate a train destination 
when approaching a junction, or between one engine and 
another in the case of a train with banking or pilot engines. Some 
engines, on the GWR for example, were fitted with two whistles 
of different notes, one of which was intended for use only in an 
emergency. Certain drivers and firemen sometimes used the twin 
whistles for other than emergency purposes and crews at 
Aylesbury shed devised a signature tune which was played on the 
twin whistles of ex GWR engines with varying degrees of skill, 



and more frequently, used the two whistles to produce a 
creditable imitation of a lusty cuckoo; such cuckoo notes were 
often answered by a spirited rendering of the opening notes of On 
Ilkley Moor baai'ai when diesel multiple-units first appeared on 
services from Marylebone. 

The whistles of engines, guards, platform staff and shunters 
and the use of detonators as the ultimate warning of danger, all 
have their places as audible signals, even when nothing can be 
seen, and the siren and bell signals of the automatic warning 
system in the engine cab, a useful aid at any time, become 
invaluable in such conditions as fog or falling snow. 

Sounds are of particular importance to engine drivers, 
especially on steam locomotives; the sounds of a working 
locomotive give a useful indication of performance and the 
various sounds heard from the engine, from the track and 
reflected from the lineside, all provide an experienced driver with 
an indication of his whereabouts, particularly helpful at night or 
in bad weather when, even if he leans out from the cab, the 
driver's view of the line ahead can sometimes vary only from fair 
to appalling. 

Several drivers, including such well known characters of the 
steam age as Sam Gingell and Bill Hoole, listened to recordings 
made from, or near the footplate during various journeys; if they 
were told the starting point and then listened to the recordings 
i heir judgement of location, at any time, was practically 
infallible, even in some cases when the recording had been 
interrupted for a change of tape reels. This assessment of 
location by sounds was not confined to British drivers; a French 
driver and fireman listened to recordings of their streamlined 4- 
6-4 No 232 S 002 made during a journey between Paris Nord and 
Aulnoye and their judgement was equally accurate. 

The steam engine, said to be one of the very few inventions 
which have been used solely for the benefit of mankind, is 
certainly one of the most individual of machines; it possesses 
many human attributes and despite its size and strength, is 
internationally considered to be feminine in temperament. The 
relationship between a steam engine and driver can be very close, 
similar to that which existed between ploughman and horse. 



The steam locomotive must be one of the most widely written 
about, most frequently pictured and probably the best loved 
machine which has ever been produced and it is inevitable that 
steam locomotives should be the star artistes of railway records; 
they are by no means the only performers, however, for the large 
and varied supporting cast is also important. The rhythms of 
wheels over rail joints, points and crossings, the clang of buffers 
and couplings, the voices of railwaymen and station announcers, 
particularly when detailing services to stations now long since 
closed, the whistles of guards and shunters, the clatter of signal 
arms and the sounds of bells and levers in signal boxes; such 
sounds as these add atmosphere and character to the recordings 
of locomotives and trains. The sounds of nature set the scene in 
the countryside where railways, blending naturally with the 
landscape, have long offered a natural environment for wildlife, 
infinitely safer and more agreeable than the verges of a main 
road, with constant heavy traffic and attendant noise, fumes and 

Much of the variety has disappeared from railways in recent 
years, as have most of the steam locomotives and in this country 
far too many of the lines. Yet there is still much of interest in the 
sounds of modern railways, particularly in the differences 
between old and new, as illustrated in such records as Changing 
Trains, which contrasts the sounds of various steam and diesel 
locomotives during the transition years, and This is York, a 
record which contrasts the sounds of York Station in the steam 
age, in 1957, with those of the diesel age, in 1977, the centenary 
year of the present York Station. 

During the making of the 1977 recordings at York there were 
many contrasts; the greatly reduced traffic on the railway was 
depressingly obvious and the departure of Inter-City 125 No 254 
002 on a northbound crew training run, was smoothly 
impressive and produced some interesting sounds, but did not 
really create such a powerful impression as the departure of an 
A3 Pacific, slipping its heart out with a northbound train, on an 
equally wet day 20 years earlier. The roar of a diesel locomotive 
heading a southbound train through the station under the great 
roof was certainly powerful, but a good deal less graceful and 



rhythmical than an A4 Pacific doing the same thing in 1957. 

There were similarities between 1957 and 1977; Mrs Grace 
Robinson, the station announcer whose voice was frequently 
heard during the making of the 1957 recordings, was again on 
duty in 1977, though she no longer greeted arriving trains with 
the long-famous announcement 'This is York'. The familiar 
voice from the loudspeakers did something to create an 
atmosphere of stability and continuity at York Station, as did the 
friendly interest and helpfulness of the railwaymen, which was 
just as welcoming and welcome in 1977 as it had been in 1957. 

Given the use of imagination by the listener to the same extent 
as it should be used when listening to a radio drama, there is no 
doubt that more of the whole atmosphere of railways can be 
conveyed by sound recordings than by any other medium; even 
the sound film, its closest rival, is limited to that which can be 
seen by the camera and by the comparitively short lengths of 
time for which the camera can see a moving train. It is a common 
problem, when matching the sound and the picture of a filmed 
railway sequence, that the useful duration of the picture is 
invariably far less than that of the equivalent sound track. 

A still picture, however excellent, catches only an instant in 
time within the limited angle and focus of the lens, whereas a 
recording, made in reasonable conditions, can effectively 
capture the whole atmosphere of a location for a considerable 
time, even when the subject is hidden from view. The absolute 
angle and definitive focus of a lens does, however, give it a great 
advantage which is not shared to anything like the same degree 
by microphones, the ability to exclude completely unwanted 
objects from the picture. 

It was always an exciting and moving experience to spend a 
night by the lineside, near Ribblehead or Shap, for example, or 
on the Scottish border, beside the now closed and destroyed 
Waverley route. Such experiences could only be conveyed by 
words or sounds, or possibly paintings, since photography or 
filming would have been impossible without the aid of lights 
which, even if their use had been practical, would have 
completely ruined the whole atmosphere of the setting. 

Far away an approaching train came out of a silence 



emphasised by the bleat of a restless, unseen sheep, or the hoot of 
an owl; there was nothing to be seen until the train rounded a 
curve from behind a shoulder of a hill, then, from the frequently 
opened firebox door, there was a sudden glare, reflected from the 
billowing trail of steam and smoke and indicative of the endless 
physical efforts of an expert fireman, as the engine plodded up 
the steep, continuous gradient at the head of a heavy train. 
Minutes later the train came past, briefly outlined against the 
night sky, making steady progress until the driving wheels 
suddenly slipped on the dew dampened rails of a curve; the 
slipping was immediately brought under control by the driver, 
fully alert in the middle of the night, after some time already 
spent on a far from comfortable, noisily vibrating footplate. The 
engine settled down and climbed away into the distance, towards 
a signal light which, despite a shrilly protesting whistle, 
remained obstinately yellow, threatening the possibility of 
having to make a difficult start from the next signal, maybe even 
of stalling on the slippery rails of the continuing climb. 

On the Central Wales line, when freight trains worked 
through the night, an 8F class 2-8-0 banking engine assisted 
heavy westbound trains on the long 1 in 60 climb from 
Knighton, past Knucklas, to Llangunllo. The sounds of the two 
hard working engines filled the valley for minutes on end as they 
slogged up the single line towards the long, curving tunnel 
through which the line runs over the summit, and then down 
through a cutting to the tiny station and passing loop at 
Llangunllo, where the oil-lamp lit signal box was manned day 
and night. Streams of glowing cinders shot high into the air 
above the valley, and in the glare from the firebox the crew of the 
banking engine could sometimes be glimpsed, with scarves or 
handkerchiefs tied across nose and mouth to give some 
protection from the impossible atmosphere of the tunnel, filled 
with choking fumes from the leading engine. Some time after the 
train had disappeared into the tunnel the banking engine would 
reappear, now running tender first, and away it went, down the 
gradient towards Knighton, with clanking coupling rods and 
wheels making a gentler and totally different sound to the 
barking exhausts of the climb. 



The Central Wales line is still open now, but the freight trains 
have long since vanished; so much of the power and excitement 
of their working lay in the sounds, and only by recordings can 
such scenes be brought back to life. 

Equally exciting and in complete contrast, whether by day or 
night, are the sounds of an express passing at speed with a 
sudden crescendo, emphasised by the rapid tattoo of wheels over 
rail joints and points and perhaps by a whistle, changing its note 
as the engine roars past. This and many other things could be 
heard at a main line station, such as Hitchin, Bletchley, 
Templecombe, Basingstoke or Grantham, which, particularly 
between early afternoon and the early hours of the morning, 
provided an endless variety of sounds and sights. 

There were main line expresses, some tearing past, others 
stopping, perhaps to change engines, then starting out from the 
station, local trains, making main line connections, and the 
various freight yards, gradually coming to life during the 
afternoon and reaching peaks of frenzied activity as freight 
trains arrived to detach or pick up wagons, A sudden silence 
then, as everything seemed to finish at once and nothing much 
happened anywhere. Soon points moved, signals changed to 
green and the night mail roared past, lights blazing at the side of 
the mail vans, from which the mail pouch and net were extended 
for exchange at the nearby lineside post. A newspaper train 
followed, made a brief call and started vigorously away from the 
station, heading north as a southbound fitted freight train 
rattled past. A tank engine moved some vans towards the station, 
then the first heavy sleeping car expresses rushed by and away 
into the darkness out of which a loose-coupled freight train 
appeared, slowly clanking and squealing to a stop in the down 
yard, which now came back to life with a good deal of backchat 
between train crew and shunters. 

So much of all this drama, humour and excitement, which is 
inseparable from the day and night world of railways anywhere, 
can best and sometimes can only be conveyed by sound 
recordings, listened to with imagination. 


Chapter 2 
Sounds of war 

One of the few compensations for going back to school was that 
the journey was made by train; one of the even fewer 
compensations for staying there was the busy railway, from 
Horsham to Littlehampton and Shoreham, which ran through 
the grounds and was directly responsible for many dropped 
catches and missed kicks on the adjoining playing fields. The 
railway was within earshot of dormitories and classrooms, but 
not within sight, which was just as well for the academic progress 
of railway enthusiast pupils. 

Railways and steam engines fascinated me from the earliest 
age and their sounds were always a major pan of their 
attraction. This fascination with sounds and a later developing 
interest in films gave me the, then very bizarre, ambition to 
become a film sound recordist. Such a strange idea brought an 
immediate and strong reaction from the school authorities, who 
well-meaningly considered that they had more than the normal 
responsibility for my future, because my father, a country 
parson from whom I inherited enthusiasm for railways, had, 
after a long illness, died during my first term at school. In any 
case, sound recording for films was not one of the professions 
considered to be suitable for ex pupils. 

Strenuous efforts were made to dissuade me from such an 
unsuitable and impractical choice of career, but each such 
lecture merely increased the determination and eventually led to 
obstinate and open rebellion; such behaviour could obviously not 
be tolerated, so it was decided that something drastic must be 
done and arrangements were made for a course of treatment by a 
psychiatrist, who was most intrigued by the case of a stubborn 
boy with eccentric interests and curious ambitions. 

The visits to the psychiatrist were by no means a punishment, 



for his consulting room was in London and that meant extra 
train journeys, in school time, to the envy of railway enthusiast 
friends. The psychiatric sessions were totally ineffective and 
usually quite short, so that there was often time to spare for some 
illicit visits to one of the London termini, to see and listen to 
trains, or occasionally and even more illicitly, for a quick visit to 
a cinema, before train time; on the train to Horsham, usually 
hauled by one of the former LBSC Marsh Atlantics, there might 
be the additional luxury of afternoon tea in the third class 
Pullman car, if there was any pocket money to spare. 

Persistent letter writing eventually brought one or two 
interviews with film companies and finally, by a lucky chance, 
the offer of a job in the sound recording department of Alexander 
Korda's London Film Productions. In the spring of 1936 the 
school finally abandoned its efforts to encourage the choice of a 
more suitable career and, to the relief of all concerned, allowed 
me to leave. 

The job, at the then newly completed Denham Film Studios, 
involved making tea, loading and unloading film magazines for 
the use of the optical sound recording equipment and being 
generally useful. At the same time, I was trying to learn, in what 
was then the only possible way, by experience and example, the 
elements of the complex science and art of sound recording and 
the intricacies of the equipment and processes involved in 
recording and in its application to film production. 

Denham Studios had some advantages for a railway 
enthusiast; they were within sight and sound of an interesting 
and then very busy main line, labelled on all the noticeboards by 
its full title 'Great Western & Great Central Joint Committee'. 
Even the studio grounds had something to offer, for a railway, 
about a \ mile long, had been built there, complete with a station 
which was frequently revamped to suit the setting and period of a 
particular film, be it English, such as South Riding, or Russian, 
such as the Marlene Dietrich, Robert Donat film Knight 
Without Armour. The line was worked by an ex LNER J15 class 
0-6-0 which, like the station, was altered in appearance to suit 
the film; the shedmaster at Kings Lynn, where the engine had 
last been based, would never have recognised his J15 when it was 



credibly made up, in all respects except size and a change of 
gauge, as a Russian locomotive. 

I soon found local digs, as close as possible to the railway near 
Denham Golf Club Platform. During the 3| years I spent at 
Denham the GW&GC line was a constant source of interest, 
used by a variety of engines hauling heavy traffic by day and 
night. The erratic hours of work involved in film production 
gave me opportunities to see and hear the passing trains, even if 
only from a distance or during cycle rides to and from the 

Early one morning the inhabitants of Higher Denham were 
woken by a tremendous noise from the railway. Naturally this 
got me out of bed and I hurriedly dressed. In a field of cabbages, 
not far from Denham Golf Club Platform, a cloud of steam was 
rising above a GWR 2-8-0 which, while heading an up goods 
train on the down line during a period of single line working, had 
left the track at some crossover points; the driver and fireman 
had jumped clear while the engine pulled most of the train into 
the field and rolled over onto its side, where it now lay. 
Unfortunately it was time to go to work at the studios before all 
the interesting clearing up operations began and by the late 
evening everything, apart from a number of wagons, had been 
cleared away. 

The hours of work at Denham were long, often excessive, and 
there were few days off, apart from most Sundays. On Sundays 
there were many remarkably cheap excursion trains, from 
London to any number of destinations, even as far as Newcastle- 
upon-Tyne, with an overnight return, and I spent many free 
Sundays travelling by train, preferably over a previously 
untravelled route to the furthest destination that could be 
reached in a day; the destinations were not always particularly 
attractive, for there was not a great deal to do on a winter 
Sunday afternoon in Mansfield, Grimsby, Derby or Kings Lynn. 
It was often a relief to rejoin the train, but the journey was the 
main attraction and there was always the interesting variety of 
engines which hauled the trains or could be seen from them. The 
loads of these excursion trains were frequently heavy and delays 
from Sunday track work often added to the hard work and long 



hours of the engines and crews. 

Army call up papers arrived in the autumn of 1939 and soon 
after Christmas in that bitterly cold winter, the ill-equipped 
Royal Artillery battery to which I had been posted, sailed from 
Southampton on the LNER ship Amsterdam to join the British 
Expeditionary Force in France-. After some months of inactivity 
based at a village near Rheims, where we had been taken in a 
train including some of those '40 men or 8 horses' wagons, 
German attacks began. After numerous moves around North 
West France eventually we were ordered on to a coal boat and 
found ourselves at Southampton to learn for the first time of the 
evacuation from Dunkerque and of the armistice between 
France and Germany. 

In 1941 the powers that be decided that a film unit should be 
formed in the army and other services, with the object of making 
documentary films and photographic records of any future 
campaigns in any theatre of the war, for immediate propaganda 
use and future historical records. No doubt the decision was 
prompted by the fact that the German forces had such units from 
the very beginning of the war and from material which they 
supplied a large number of extremely effective propaganda films 
had been produced and were widely distributed in neutral 
countries, which were also well supplied with still photographs of 
German forces in victorious action. As soon as a decision was 
announced to form a film unit in the British Army, any and all 
personnel with professional experience in film production, or as 
photographers, were ordered to report immediately to their 
commanding officers; I need hardly add that I duly reported! 
Interviews followed at the War Office and all those selected were 
then transferred to AFPU, the Army Film & Photographic Unit, 
which had established its headquarters at Finewood Studios, 
which had been requisitioned earlier in the war and were now 
shared with the Crown Film Unit and the newly formed RAF 
Film Unit, 

After a year or so based at Pinewood, spent mainly in 
recording sound tracks for various films made up from material 
sent back by AFPU cameramen, many of whom were already 
actively engaged in the Western Desert and elsewhere, there 




came a demand for the training of additional cameramen, who 
would be required for future offensives, such as the much 
discussed Second Front. There followed, for all of us who 
volunteered, a period of training in the use of still and 35 mm cine 
cameras. Those who passed the preliminary tests were then put 
through various infantry training courses, battle schools and 
invasion exercises, armed with a revolver, a still camera (made in 
Germany and captured from intercepted cargo ships) and an 
American-made cine camera, with the object of learning how to 
make effective use of the cameras in battle conditions and to 
produce useful film footage and still photographs, without being 
a hindrance or becoming a liability to others involved in the 
operation. The setting up of specially posed or staged incidents, 
away from the battle area was, at all times, a severely punishable 

During the long period of preparation which led up to D-Day 
there were endless assignments to film invasion exercises and 
airborne landings, but then came an unexpectedly pleasant 
assignment to film the movement of equipment and supplies on 
the railways. This was a wonderful experience and making full 
use of such a heaven-sent official opportunity, I lost no time in 
making arrangements for my first properly authorised footplate 
trips. Footplate passes had to be obtained in the usual way, from 
the individual railway companies. There was, though, one 
occasional advantage over the issue of footplate passes in more 
normal times for it was not always possible to spare from more 
important duties a locomotive inspector to accompany me on the 

One memorable trip I had was on the footplate of LNER No 
8876, a Claud Hamilton 4-4-0, with a trainload of Sherman 
tanks from Newmarket. The train was so heavy that even after 
backing up to compress the buffers, the opening of the regulator 
produced hardly the slightest forward movement; assistance had 
to be called for and was provided by another Claud, hardly the 
most suitable engines for such a job, but together they managed 
it well. The pilot Claud had to be detached at Cambridge, 
leaving No 8876 to carry on alone. During the subsequent 
journey south the train had to be divided after a signal check, 



drawn forward in two separate sections to the next station, 
reassembled there, and not without effort started on a more 
favourable gradient; small wonder that wartime trains were 
subject to unforseen delays! 

Another interesting journey in East Anglia was on General 
Eisenhower's special train, made up entirely of impeccably 
varnished LNER Gresley stock; a footplate journey was also 
made on B12 4-6-0 No 2819, which hauled the train once. 

On the LMS main line there was a journey on the footplate of 
a Stanier Black Five 4-6-0 at the head of an army supply train 
from Willesden to Northampton. This trip produced a great deal 
of interesting film footage and many photographs of the engine 
and train and the scenes from it. Because of the incredible 
density of traffic, in both directions, this train, like others on the 
freight lines, worked block to block for much of the time and the 
journey of 60 miles from Willesden to Northampton Castle took 
no less than seven hours. 

Even the Shropshire & Montgomeryshire Railway, one of 
the Colonel Stephens lines was busy with ammunition trains 
operated by the Royal Engineers, based at Kinnerley where the 
strange little locomotive Gazelle, still carrying S&M lettering, 
stood on a short siding near the Royal Engineers* headquarters. 

This fascinating railway interlude came to an abrupt end on 
21 May 1944, when the AFPU detachment moved to Wentworth 
and from there to a pre D-Day concentration area near 
Southampton, for attachment to the 4th Royal Marine 
Commando, with whom we were to make the D-Day landings. 

This time there was no train journey after landing in France 
and apart from the rusty rails of a local fine which ran parallel to 
the beach, it was not until more than a month later, in Caen on 
17 July, that I saw French Railways once again. 

The destruction in Caen was appalling; the railway station, 
yards and locomotive sheds were a total shambles of twisted rails 
which spiked into the air, wrecked coaches, wagons and engines 
were up-ended, flung onto their sides, or precariously balanced 
on the edge of bomb and shell craters, filled with water after days 
of torrential rain. 

Eventually the weather improved, as did the military situation 



when a pincer movement closed the Falaise gap. On 14 August I 
was in a detachment of four AFPU cameramen ordered to move 
south through Vire, Fougeres, Laval and Le Mans to link up 
with American army units and then goon to Rambouillet, to join 
General Le Clerc's Free French Division and move forward with 
them to Paris, which we entered on Friday 25 August. 

The Parisian welcome was ecstatic and unforgettable, but 
some street fighting and sniping continued sporadically, 
culminating in an attack on the quite unshakeable General de 
Gaulle, from snipers high above the square outside Notre Dame, 
during a triumphal parade on 26 August. Below ground the 
Metro was running a service and with tickets freely given, like so 
much else in liberated Paris, it was on the Metro that we had our 
first train ride since leaving England. 

On 28 August we rejoined the British XXX Corps at Vernon 
and with them pushed on into Belgium, where we were met with 
another rapturous welcome in liberated Brussels, which we 
entered on Sunday 3 September. 

Trams ran everywhere in Brussels, and in other parts of 
Belgium there were some much more individualistic and 
interesting steam trams which hauled trains of four-wheeled 
coaches and a brake van, along the roadside tracks and along 
paved streets through towns and villages. There never was time 
or opportunity to ride on one of those trams which, though their 
sounds were not particularly interesting, were always a welcome 

Back in England it had been decided that sound recordings 
made on artillery ranges and during battle exercises were not 
adequate or authentic accompaniment for the sometimes all too 
realistic film which was being sent back from various fronts by 
AFPU cameramen. Many war actuality and commentary 
recordings had been and were being made by the BBC, using 
portable disc recorders developed by the MSS Company. The 
BBC engineers contrived to make many remarkably fine 
recordings on this equipment, but it could be temperamental in 
such rugged operating conditions, had certain limitations as to 
sound quality and most restricting drawback of all, the 
maximum recording time available was extremely limited. The 



German combat film units were believed to be recording on film, 
which gave superior sound quality with a continuous recording 
time of up to ten minutes, as against three or four on disc. 

The Western Electric Company in England offered AFPU the 
use of a complete set of optical sound film recording equipment 
which, by the standards of that time, was as transportable as it 
could be, consistent with good recording quality, and was driven 
by the minimum possible number of lead-acid batteries in 
transportable metal cases. All this equipment was despatched to 
Brussels in the charge of John Aldred, then an AFPU sergeant 
and subsequently responsible for the recording of many 
important British films. He was also the author of Manual of 
Sound Recording first published by Fountain Press in 1963. 
Together we installed the equipment in a suitable army utility 
vehicle and prepared to record the sounds of battle on 35mm 
optical film. The first recordings were made at night, with the 
53rd Division, during an attack across the Escaut Canal at 
Lommel, on the Dutch border. 

We later saw and recorded the Airborne troops passing 
overhead on their way to Nijmegen and Arnhem and made many 
other recordings during the strongly opposed advance along the 
narrow corridor to Nijmegen. The link up with the Airborne 
troops at Arnhem was never made; mist settled over the desolate, 
flat countryside, then came the rains and later snow and ice. 

Back at Eindhoven, where unit HQ had been established, a 
diminutive 0-6-0 tank engine, NS No 7743, shunted busily 
around the station yards, where it was later joined by two WD 2- 
8-0s fitted with air-brake pumps. Nobody saw any trains actually 
leave the yard to go anywhere, but the sights and sounds of 
shunting were a welcome change from those of battle. 

There were all too few opportunities to watch the shunting at 
Eindhoven during those winter months, in which we recorded 
the bitterly opposed advance to Venraij by the 3rd Division and 
the attack on S'Hertogenbosch by the 53rd Welsh Division. 
Artillery barrages from both directions, flame throwers, tank 
guns, street fighting and the petrifying sound of 'Moaning 
Minnies', the German multi-barrelled mortars, all combined to 
produce a fantastic pattern of sound which often continued for 



hours on end, day and night. It might then be followed by sudden 
silence, which was almost more unnerving; sometimes those 
silences were broken by the howl of a demented dog, or by cries 
and shouts. 

At times the equipment was set up in the basements of ruined 
buildings, or in dugouts, but this was done only if there was no 
sensible alternative, because of the obvious possibility of being 
overrun in such. an immobile situation. On another occasion, at 
the suggestion of and accompanied by the superbly intrepid BBC 
war correspondent Chester Wilmot, the equipment was set up in 
a Sherman tank of the 8th Armoured Division in order to make 
recordings during a tank battle. A locomotive footplate seemed 
quiet by comparison with that tank; unfortunately all the 
recordings were useless because there was considerable electrical 
interference, and little else could be heard but the tank. 

A week before Christmas 1944 German forces led by Field 
Marshall Von Rundstedt launched a surprise offensive against 
the American forces in the Ardennes. The British 53rd Division 
was moved south to support the Americans and we moved with 
it, to make recordings of the sounds of fierce fighting in the 
deeply snow covered and frozen country around Marche. As the 
infantry, perfectly camouflaged in hooded white suits, crawled 
and plodded through the snow, the sounds of shells and mortar 
bombs which burst among them, and of machine gun and rifle 
fire from all directions, echoed from the pine-covered hills. In 
such surroundings and weather conditions the recordings were 
totally different in character from those made earlier in the flat 
lands, towns and villages of Holland. 

The German offensive in the Ardennes was smashed and in 
the middle of January 1945 the British XXX Corps started an 
attack across the Roer in appalling weather conditions; then, 
when the 52nd Division, supported by the 8th Armoured 
Division, made a slow and difficult advance towards Heinsberg, 
we made the first recordings in Germany. 

Those recordings in Germany also turned out to be among the 
last, for it had been decided that the recording equipment had 
served its purpose in building up a reasonably comprehensive 
library of battle sound recordings. In February John Aldred 



returned to England with the equipment, somewhat scarred but 
more or less intact and I became a full-time cameraman again. 

Moving up through Xanten, we sat down and waited to cross 
the Rhine; the artillery came up behind us, the barrage began 
and the RAF came over to bomb Wesel out of existence. It was 
frustrating to be in the middle of this incredible barrage of sound 
without the means to record it; filming and photography were, 
though, possible by the practically continuous light from gun 
flashes, bursting shells and bombs, rockets and tracer bullets. On 
23 March, 161 days after D-Day, we crossed the Rhine near 
Wesel, with the 15 th Scottish Division. 

Once across the Rhine, although there was occasional fierce 
opposition, as at Bocholt, the German retreat became at times 
something of a rout and often we drove unopposed along roads 
down which straggling groups of German uniformed soldiers 
hopelessly wandered, waving improvised white flags and 
helplessly trying to give themselves up to the passing enemy. 

At Celle railway station the platforms and yard were littered 
with the contents of goods trains, which were being eagerly 
looted by civilians and slave workers, the displaced persons who 
came from all over Europe; many from Russia were labelled with 
the word 'Ost\ These bewildered people seldom had any clear 
idea where they were, or what was happening and when their 
masters had fled, they had simply picked up their few pitiful 
things and started walking, anywhere and everywhere. 

Near Celle there was Belsen concentration camp, to which all 
available AFPU cameramen were sent as soon as its existence 
was discovered. There is nothing that has not already been said 
about such places as Belsen and in any case, no words can 
adequately describe it; even films and photographs appeared to 
be so unbelievably unreal that they failed to capture the full 
horror and evil of the place and the people who had charge of it. 
Sound recordings, for once, would have contributed nothing to 
any attempts to convey the impressions that Belsen made on 
those who went there, for there was little to be heard. Few of 
those who were still alive, physically at least, spoke or made any 
sound; there was no point. 

Pushing on to Luneburg we passed shattered goods trains, 


some of which carried V2 rockets the length of a large truck. Just 
beyond Luneburg was the last major river barrier, the Elbe, but 
we did not cross that until later, by a bitterly contested 
bridgehead at Lauenburg south-east of Hamburg in the VIII 
Corps sector, today on the border between West and East 

After a brief dash back to Holland, to cover the final attack on 
Arnhem by the 49th Division, we returned to Germany in late 
April, to join the XXX Corps attack on Bremen. The German 
troops had a disconcerting habit of infiltrating back behind the 
British advance, but by the third day we had reached the 
outskirts of the city and cautiously occupied Bremen Neustadt 
railway station. The station was deserted though, strangely, not 
too heavily damaged. In the stationmaster's office was a list of 
railway dialling codes by the side of a telephone; I dialled the 
code for Bremen Hauptbahnhof, got an almost immediate reply, 
asked in English what time the next train left for Basingstoke 
and hung up! 

The way in which the German railways had managed to keep 
going in one way or another was, as we saw later on, quite 
extraordinary; maybe they were inspired by the exhortation that 
'Wheels must roll for the victory', which was so liberally 
stencilled on railway buildings and rolling stock. 

During the final days of the advance through North Germany, 
towards Kiel, we passed trains of all descriptions - troop trains, 
hospital trains, passenger trains and freight trains, some of 
which were protected by light anti-aircraft guns mounted on 
open trucks. Some of these trains were headed by still simmering 
engines, usually 2-10-0s, often in surprisingly good condition; in 
several cases the drivers and firemen were still on, or near their 

On 5 May at Kiel, several trains, which included coaches 
in which some of the windows were understandably devoid of 
glass, stood under the equally glassless roof of the badly- 
damaged main railway station, then made cautious exits over the 
frequently repaired and somewhat uneven track, hauled by such 
4-6-0s as 38-1765, or by one of the ubiquitous 2-10-0 Kriegsloks. 
The whole situation was extraordinarily confused during the 




closing days of the war in Germany; there were pockets of 
unexpectedly strong resistance, usually from isolated SS units, 
but in contrast there were incidents such as that at Ratzenburg, 
where five British soldiers in search of billets walked into a large 
building, which turned out to be full of armed German troops in 
hiding. The Germans meekly lined up outside, their weapons 
were collected and locked up and they remained, quite docile, 
under guard by two men until arrangements could be made to 
deal with them. 

On 3 May there were reports of much coming and going by 
German officers, seeking an armistice. Emboldened by these 
reports and by the general confusion, six of us in two jeeps made, 
on 4 May, what seems in retrospect an incredibly foolhardy and 
stupid expedition, to Eutin and Pldn, twelve miles behind the 
German lines, where we magnanimously accepted, filmed and 
photographed the surrender of the towns by the respective 
mayors, who were extremely relieved that we were, after all, 
British and not Russian. With the arrival of a German Panzer 
colonel and his impeccably uniformed attendant officers, all of 
whom also seemed anxious to surrender, it seemed wisest to 
retreat before they realised we were on our own and changed 
their minds. Back at HQ we learned that German radio had 
reported Eutin and Plon as captured by strong enemy forces, 
believed to be heading for Kiel! Such is propaganda; it seemed 
unnecessary and unwise to answer HQ's enquiries as to what 
possible grounds there could be for the German radio report and 
by the time the films and photographs told the true story, it was 
too late for any, fully justified, reprimands. 

At 08.00 hours on 5 May 1945 the 21st Army Group was 
ordered to cease fire; the subsequent silence was impressive, 
almost eerie. The relief of the cease fire for those who endured 
the infinitely more appalling ordeal of the first world war must 
have been far greater and one wondered how they had retained 
their sanity, while immovably incarcerated in muddy dug outs 
and water filled trenches, and bludgeoned by an endless barrage 
of lethal noise. 

On 7 May six of us were ordered to leave Kiel in two jeeps and 
drive north, through Schleswig and Flensburg, accompanied by 



a German liason officer as far as the Danish border. Having 
crossed into Denmark we drove on through Odense to Nyborg, 
from where the lj hour crossing to Korsor was made on board a 
DBS train ferry, accompanied by some rail wagons which had 
been shunted on board by a smart little 0-6-0 tank engine with an 
unusually large dome and tall chimney. On 8 May, the day of the 
armistice which ended the war with Germany, we entered 
Copenhagen and were given a tumultuous and prolonged 

During a stay of nearly three weeks in Copenhagen we filmed 
the arrival of General Montgomery for a parade on 12 May and 
the ceremonial handing over of German naval vessels, which 
included the pocket battleships Prim Eugen and Nurnberg; 
there was also time to see something of the neatly clean Danish 
railways and to enjoy a short ride on a train to Helsingor, from 
where a train ferry crossed to Helsingborg, clearly visible on the 
shore of neutral Sweden. That crossing was forbidden in 1945, 
but I made it many years later, during a train journey from Hook 
of Holland to Roros, in Norway. 

After returning to Germany, I spent some time in various 
parts of the country, photographing and filming such things as 
the repatriation of vast numbers of displaced persons of all 

Back in England, in the spring of 1946, the time for 
demobilisation came eventually after 6| years in the army and, 
having gone through the last rites at a discharge centre in 
Lancashire, I caught a train from Oldham, Clegg Street, to 
Manchester, London Road, carrying a demob suit and overcoat 
and armed with a free rail travel warrant. 


Chapter 3 
Transacord is born 

The final destination for the travel warrant, issued on discharge 
from the army, was left to the choice of the individual, and 
during those last free journeys friendly officials usually 
overlooked all but the most outrageous deviations from 
authorised routes or accepted pleas of innocent ignorance. 
Railway enthusiasts had a splendid opportunity to celebrate 
their freedom by choosing some unlikely destination, which 
involved the longest possible trip or offered the chance for a 
leisurely, but complicated exploration of some hitherto 
untravelled lines. An enthusiast friend, who lived at 
Twickenham, was not alone in selecting Wick as his destination, 
but having reached there, after several days and various 
diversions, he had to use part of his gratuity to get home. 

My own rather more conservative choice, which would allow 
an exploration of some previously unknown lines, was 
Carmarthen, reached after 2\ days of intermittent travelling 
from the demobilisation centre at Oldham, via Manchester, 
Chester, Oswestry, Moat Lane Junction and Builth Road Low 
Level; at that point there was time to spare to stay on the train to 
Three Cocks Junction and then return to Builth Road High 
Level, before continuing the journey over the Central Wales line 
to Llandilo, changing there for the final 40 minute, 14-^ mile 
journey on the LNW line to Carmarthen. 

During that first journey on the Central Wales line, looking at 
the superb scenery and listening to the Fowler 2-6-4 tank engine, 
bravely slogging up the gradients from Llanwrtyd Wells to Sugar 
Loaf tunnel, I wished, not for the first lime, that it was possible to 
make recordings as easily as one could take photographs, and for 
the same reasons, to prompt memories of such experiences which 
should never be forgotten. 



It would then have seemed a ridiculous dream to imagine that 
years later I would make recordings on the footplates of 5MT 
and 8F locomotives making that climb to Sugar Loaf tunnel with 
passenger and freight trains. Moreover it would have seemed 
incredibly unlikely that in May 1964 I would be making lineside 
recordings of some of the last workings of steam locomotives on 
the Central Wales line. All of those recordings can now bring the 
long vanished steam locomotives vividly back to life on that line. 
Army pay, such as it was, having ceased abruptly, the less 
ordered realities of civilian life now had to be faced and 
employment found. Not unusually the British film industry was 
in an uncertain state; Denham Studios had been taken over by 
Rank, and London Film Productions had decided to link up with 
MGM at Borehamwood, but soon changed that plan. However, 
the much respected Crown Film Unit was still, somewhat 
uneasily, at Pinewood and offered a job as sound recordist for 
documentary films, which I gladly took. 

Work for the Crown Film Unit provided much valuable 
experience, on many different locations in widely varying 
conditions. The range of subjects was equally varied and 
included an interview with Winston Churchill, testily impatient, 
and another with George Bernard Shaw, who chose to be filmed 
in the garden of his house at Ayot St Lawrence; once he had 
started talking he would not stop, even to allow film magazines 
to be changed every ten minutes, until a violent thunderstorm 
finally drowned the endless flow of words and the film unit. 
Other assignments varied from the recording of music composed 
and conducted by Benjamin Britten, to location filming at such 
diverse places as a science laboratory in Bristol, the Lord 
Mayor's show in London, a village school in Derbyshire, and the 
interior of a submarine, submerged off the Scottish coast. Sadly, 
none of the subjects was directly concerned with railways, 
though I recorded steam locomotives and pithead winding gear 
when filming at a Nottinghamshire colliery- 
Later in 1946 the future of the Crown Film Unit suddenly 
seemed most uncertain. Fortunately MGM had offered to me 
what then seemed a wonderful opportunity to be one of its sound 
recordists and I signed a contract to work at the almost 



completed MGM studios in Borehamwood, even though it would 
entail a long and, with petrol rationing, difficult daily journey 
from and to Princes Risborough where, as far as practicable 
from London, I had recently managed to buy a house within 
sight and sound of the soon to be nationalised Great Western & 
Great Central Joint line. 

Listening to the engines, starting away from Risborough — 
some working up the steep down line because of a landslip - 
brought more frustration at the lack of any means to make 
recordings of such dramatic sounds. This frustration was 
increased by the fact that I spent every day at Borehamwood 
studios, surrounded by new recording equipment which, because 
of the vacillations of MGM policy, was completely idle for 
months on end. 

Sometimes it was possible to escape from the strongly security 
guarded studio around lunchtime and spend an hour or so beside 
the LMS Midland main line near Elstree station, watching, 
listening to and sometimes photographing passing trains. The 
main event for a time was the appearance of the new LMS diesel 
locomotive No 10000 which, for a while, hauled an express from 
St Pancras which passed Elstree in the early afternoon. At that 
time it was a great novelty to see No 10000 hurrying past with 
seemingly little effort, making an unfamiliar sound. The sight 
and sound of the diesel was little more than a novelty, which did 
not compare with the excitement of a Jubilee or a Compound 
bursting out from Elstree tunnel j certainly none of us watching 
the new diesel thought of it as a threat to the supremacy of the 
familiar steam locomotive. 

The sterile and demoralising situation at Borehamwood 
suddenly and unexpectedly changed. One of the first of what was 
later to become a flood of American films made in Europe was 
being produced in Rome, where the unit was having serious 
problems with sound recording. To avoid the expense of sending 
in American technicians, MGM at Borehamwood was told to 
send two technicians to Rome to son out the difficulties, in 
whatever combination of languages that might be appropriate 
and available. Naturally I asked if it would be possible to go by 
train as flying is bad for the ears - mine anyway, but as usual we 



should have been there yesterday and had to fly. The flight, from 
Northolt to Rome, Ciampino, with a stop at Nice, took over eight 

In Rome the situation was anything but boring, indeed it was 
totally chaotic, especially so far as sound recording was 
concerned. The Western Electric equipment had been seriously 
mishandled by sundry people, who tried to communicate in 
various languages, and we had to send for new equipment from 
the nearest source of supply, Switzerland. The film concerned 
alleged events in the lives of Cagliostro, Mesmer and assorted 
European royalty, most of whom spoke with strong American 
accents. The director was nominally Gregory Ratoff, a most 
likeable but totally unpredictable Russian, much given to 
shedding tears of alternate joy and rage. The part of Cagliostro 
was played by Orson Welles, who had his own individual and 
unusual ideas about the way in which the film should be made. 

The originally intended short visit to Rome became a stay of 
many months, because we were asked to take over the recording 
until the completion of the film. There was little time to spare 
from work, not even for proper sleep at times, but Sundays were 
always free which I usually spent in making a journey on one of 
the railways out of Rome. Nearly all these lines were still 
suffering the aftermath of war, as indeed did life in the city. It 
was not possible to go far in one day, timekeeping was uncertain, 
and progress over sometimes dubious track was slow, in trains 
hauled either by UNRRA locomotives, or by one of an 
assortment of Italian engines, mostly in various states of 

By 1952 we had moved house to another in Princes 
Risborough, this time, though, backing on to the GW&GC main 
line near the London end of the station. It was beside the down 
line at the foot of the steep gradient from Saunderton, where the 
up line separates to run on easier grades on the climb into the 
Chilterns. At that time Princes Risborough was an excellent 
rural Buckinghamshire railway centre of great interest to any 
enthusiast. Apart from the Joint line itself, carrying a variety of 
through trains of both GW and GC origins between Paddington 
and Birmingham, and Marylebone, Sheffield and Manchester, 



there were the branches to Watlington, Oxford and Aylesbury. 
Highlight of the day was the passing of two down expresses 
within a few minutes in the early evening, the first being the 
6,10pm from Paddington and the second the 6.15pm from 
Marylebone. GC line drivers nearly always ran hard and 
occasionally the 6.15pm would get to the convergence at 
Northolt Junction first, where at least one of the signalmen, 
whose loyalties I fancy sometimes lay more towards his GC 
origins than his new Paddington Western Region masters, 
sometimes slipped the 6.15 down in front of the 6.10 from 
Paddington, against all the standing instructions. One night the 
pair of trains made national headlines next day when the 
Ashendon Junction signalman, where the GC line train turned 
off the Birmingham main line, misunderstood a message as to 
which one was first and promptly sent the Western's crack 
evening express for Birmingham towards Sheffield, which then 
stopped a mile or so beyond the junction and halted the entire 
service until it could all be sorted out. Then we had a slip coach 
off the 7.10pm from Paddington, all adding to the distinctive 
railway sounds which I managed to record in years to come. 
Soon after moving house we built a small wooden signalbox 
beside the line at the bottom of the garden, ostensibly for the 
amusement of my two daughters. The / Spy Signalbox, equipped 
with one small signal, was often manned to over capacity during 
school holidays and became well known to passing engine crews 
who often saluted any occupants with a superb variety of 
whistles. Those whistles were just some of the many railway 
sounds we could hear from that house and garden. There were 
opportunities for photography but, regrettably in retrospect, I 
seldom made use of them because there was little hope of 
approaching the superb results achieved by other, more expert 
photographers of the railway scene. In any case, even the most 
evocative photograph could not capture the sounds which, to me, 
convey so much of the atmosphere of the railway. When it 
eventually became possible not only to make railway recordings 
but also to issue them on records, Western Region Driver Stone 
bought one of the records, noted the address on the label and 
wrote: ' there is a small wooden signalbox at the bottom of 




a garden near Princes Risborough Station. It has a little distant 
signal which is nearly always off and I wonder if it has anything 
to do with Transacord. There can hardly be any drivers and 
firemen on that line who don't know of the I Spy Signalbox - in 
fact some firemen will call out to the driver "OK, the distant's 
off" as they approach the litde box.' We had been noticed! 

During film work on locations in Britain and abroad there 
were occasional opportunities for recording railway sounds, 
directly or indirectly linked with the production. The journeys to 
film locations were still usually by train and the excitingly 
different sounds heard during trips abroad increased my 
frustration, because of the impossibility of making personal 
recordings. I resolved to make such recordings if ever it became 
possible, but unfortunately by the time I was able to return with 
practical recording equipment, such things as the steam-hauled 
Mistral and Blue Train and the double-headed climb to Annecy, 
had all disappeared with electrification. 

On location in France, for the Herbert Wilcox film Odette, I 
made many interesting recordings of steam-hauled trains on the 
SNCF at Annecy, Cannes, Cassis and Marseilles, though not all 
were strictly necessary for the film. In England, for another 
Herbert Wilcox film, The Lady With the Lamp, the replica train 
of Liverpool & Manchester Railway coaches and 0-4-2 Lion 
were brought to Cole Green station, near Hertford, where 
various scenes involving the locomotive and train were filmed. It 
is sad that film recordings, unlike those made for the BBC, were 
seldom catalogued, much less preserved and many interesting 
recordings, such as those of Lion, have disappeared completely. 

Other opportunities for recording railway sounds could 
sometimes be contrived on location, or during the few days at the 
end of production when recordings were made of any sound 
effects which might usefully be incorporated in the final sound 
track. It became something of a joke that the sound effects for 
films on which I worked usually included a liberal number of 
railway recordings, not all of which were entirely relevant. It was 
less amusing when the producers of a film, set in a period well in 
advance of the invention of railways, demanded an explanation 
for the prolonged parking of the 5 ton sound truck beside the 



East Coast main line near Hadley Wood! The obvious answer 
that the A4s, A3s and V2s made a magnificent sound as they 
roared past and whistled into Hadley Wood South tunnel, would 
have been unwise, but the dubious excuse of recording birdsong 
among the trees I don't think was really believed. Returning to 
that remembered location some years later, specifically to record 
trains, was a disappointment; most of the Pacifies had been fitted 
with double chimneys, the trains were lighter and less frequent 
and there was an endless background of irritating noise from 
increased road traffic. 

The way in which railway subjects are treated by feature film 
producers and directors varies, from a crass and insensitive 
ignorance to an intelligent and sympathetic understanding 
which ensures a proper exploitation of the dramatic potential. 

Jean Renoir's pre-war film of Emile Zola's La Bite Humaine, 
in which Jean Gabin played the part of an engine driver on the 
Paris-Le Havre line who, by reason of an unhappy affair with a 
railwayman's wife, played by Simone Simon, becomes finally 
demented while driving an express, must rank as one of the best 
and most authentic films ever made of a fictional, specifically 
railway subject. The whole atmosphere of railway life and work, 
particularly on the footplate and around the engine sheds, is 
incredibly well conveyed in unfailingly accurate detail, and the 
sequences on the footplate, filmed in a most imaginative way, are 
from any point of view remarkable. Incidentally, the full version 
of the film includes shots of the engine taking water from troughs 
on the Paris-Le Havre line, the only line in Prance which had 
those facilities. The Czechoslovakian film Closely Observed 
Trains, a much later production, directed by Jiri Menzel, made 
full use of its rural railway setting and of the humour and pathos 
associated with railways. 

The American film The Train, produced in France, with some 
early scenes directed by Arthur Penn who was later replaced by 
John Frankenheimer, included some of the most realistic train 
crashes ever seen on the screen; they were achieved by crashing 
redundant locomotives and stock supplied by the SNCF and 
filming the destruction with a number of cameras. 

Some British films made good use of the potential of railways, 



either directly or indirectly. The Ealing film It Always Rains on 
Sundays included some most realistic and dramatic sequences in 
a shunting yard, and there are many other examples of films in 
which railways indirectly play an important part, for instance 
Brief Encounter, There were, however, two versions of Brief 
Encounter and the differences between the two versions 
perfectly illustrate the extremes in the ways in which railways 
can be regarded by film producers. The original 1946 film, 
directed by David Lean, with Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard 
has for long been widely considered as a classic. One of the main 
reasons for its success was the completely authentic atmosphere 
of the railway station sequences, filmed at Carnforth. The 
sandwiches and penny sponge cakes, under a glass dome in the 
refreshment room, the smoke, the steam, and sounds of the 
trains were all an inherent part of the pathos of the situation of 
the two leading characters. The whole of that atmosphere was 
essential to the story which was firmly of that period. The 
decision to remake the film and up-date the story to the 1970s 
would have seemed incredible, but for the fact that such 
unimaginitive insensitivity is not rare in the film industry. The 
resulting remake was a disaster from every point of view, from 
the casting of the delectable Italian Sophia Loren to play the 
part of the housewife, originally played by the essentially 
English and wholly believable Celia Johnson, to the choice of a 
new location, on the electrified Southern Region at Winchester. 
What possible atmosphere was supposed to be created, in sight or 
sound, by the occasional comings and goings of multiple-unit 
electric trains, at a plasticised and sunlit station, is impossible to 
understand. Anybody who saw the original film and then had the 
misfortune to see the modern version, must have been amazed 
that any producer could be so insensitive as not to realise that the 
steam age railway atmosphere was essential to the story. 

When steam locomotives began to disappear, the difficulties of 
making films which involved steam age railway sequences 
rapidly increased and by the time that the brilliant director 
Sidney Lumet started work on the film Murder on the Orient 
Express there were many serious problems to be overcome. 

The unimpressive and overhead electrified Sirkeci Station in 



Istanbul was completely unsuitable for fuming and it was almost 
impossible to arrange suitable locations and locomotives in 
Yugoslavia, so a period Istanbul station was reconstructed in 
SNCF carriage sheds outside Paris and all the exterior scenes of 
the train were shot in France, The only suitable steam 
locomotive of the period available in France was 4-6-0 No 
230G353, which consequently appeared to haul the Orient 
Express during the whole of the journey from Istanbul. A 
historical liberty had to be taken on the part of the journey which 
is supposedly in Yugoslavia, when a comparatively modern 14 1R 
class 2-8-2, the only other locomotive available at the time, 
arrives to assist the Orient Express when it becomes stuck in a 
snowdrift which, in an unusually snow-less winter, had to be 
augmented by a train load of imported snow! 

The authentically confined atmosphere of the interior of the 
Orient Express was maintained by filming inside actual coaches 
or compartments, or in accurate reproductions constructed from 
sections of original panelling. In contrast to the realistic interiors 
of the Orient Express, the studio interiors of the train in the film 
Cassandra Crossing were almost as ridiculous as most of the 
plot; the restaurant car appeared to have the dimensions of a 
baronial drawing room and was just as static, as were the 
Wagons Lits compartments, which resembled luxury apartments 
in a block of flats. 

The French locomotive 230G353 also appears in the film 
Julia, in a number of different locations and has featured in 
many other films, so that by now it is probably the most 
frequently filmed locomotive in Europe. Film producers in 
Britain are fortunate in having so many preserved locomotives 
and railways available for their use, many more than exist in 
other countries, although they do not always make best use of 

Film directors and railways often make uneasy partners; in 
fact there is only one uneasier combination and that is between 
film units, ships and the sea, where the possibilities of muddle, 
misunderstanding and final chaos are even more potentially 

Little understanding is shown by most film directors of the 



technicalities and problems of railway operation, as many 
professional railwaymen and the operating staff of the K.WVR 
during production of The Railway Children, found to their cost. 
It is, for instance, seldom appreciated that steam locomotives can 
only operate for a limited time without taking water and when, 
after repeated warnings that the water level is dangerously low, 
the engine is eventually uncoupled and moves off to take water, 
there is usually a hysterical outburst and frantic demands that 
the railway liason official must 'do something', even if only sack 
the driver for inefficiency. 

Even less do directors realise the difficulties of stopping a train 
on an exact spot, within inches, for each of many takes, or 
of making an instantaneous start followed by lightning 
acceleration without allowing steam and smoke to obscure the 
action. The many problems faced by railwaymen involved in film 
making are given scant regard by certain directors who, though 
occasionally praised by some esoteric critics, earn little respect 
from those who have to work with them; such directors hold the 
view that their film is the only thing that matters and the 
problems of anyone else involved are of absolutely no 
consequence. Such an attitude is summed up by the famous note 
on a progress report: 'Shooting then finished for the day because 
the sun had moved from the position selected for it by the 

Such single mindedness can have unfortunate consequences 
when filming at a railway station which is trying to operate a 
normal train service. Some years ago, when filming at 
Manchester Central, the film unit had, through chronic 
indecision, overrun the lime allowed for the use of its special 
train, which moved resolutely out of the station. A vital scene, in 
which a group of actors searched for seats before the train left, 
had not been shot, so, while the camera was set up on the 
platform, the actors were put into a coach of a handy express, 
even though it was about due to leave. The station inspector gave 
forcible and repeated warnings, all of which were recorded but 
otherwise ignored, that he was going to run the railway properly 
in spite of the film company and the express promptly left, taking 
all the actors on a non-stop run to Derby, from where they 



eventually returned much too late for any more filming that day. 
For the 1978 version of The Lady Vanishes exterior scenes 
were filmed in Austria with OBB 2-10-0 No 50.1171 and a train 
of six coaches. All the railwaymen involved were exceptionally 
helpful and the driver and firemen, who came with the 
locomotive from the Graz Kdflacher Bahn, calmly accepted even 
the most extraordinary demands and performed the most 
complicated and occasionally dangerous manoeuvres to 
perfection. One particularly hazardous operation, most unlikely 
to have been given high level management approval, took place 
at Feistritz im Rosental, a station on the single line between 
Klagenfurt and Rosenbach. It was necessary for the camera to be 
on a moving train and for another train to be seen passing in the 
opposite direction. The camera was set up inside a coach, hauled 
by a diesel locomotive which moved away on the single line to a 
position some distance from the station. The 2-10-0 moved the 
train of six coaches back to the points at the far end of the station 
loop line, then, with all the brakes hard on, the driver put the 
engine in full forward gear, opened the regulator wide, whistled 
and hoped for the best. The diesel and single coach accelerated 
down the single line towards the station and as the diesel 
approached the points at the rear end of the loop, the driver of 
the 2-10-0 at the far end released the brakes and with an 
almighty roar the engine took off, taking the train through the 
station on the loop line, at the end of which the points had been 
hurriedly changed as soon as the diesel had passed over them. 
This extraordinary operation was repeated three times, 
mercifully without any disaster! 

Any railway enthusiast cinemagoer must have seen examples 
of almost total ignorance and a general disregard for 
authenticity in railway matters. For instance, in a sequence 
involving a railway journey, it was not uncommon for a 
character to be seen joining a train of GWR coaches which, when 
it pulled out of the station had mysteriously become a train of 
LMS coaches, hauled by a Stanier Pacific, accompanied on the 
sound track by a three-cylinder exhaust beat and the sound of a 
Southern Railway whistle; during the supposedly continuous 
journey the train might become the Silver Jubilee, hauled by an 




A4 Pacific and it could well arrive at its Scottish destination 
behind a GWR King, accompanied on the sound track by an 
LMS whistle. When sound libraries are asked to provide sound 
tracks of trains it is rare for any details to be given, since it is a 
widely held opinion that, apart from the obvious differences 
between steam, diesel and electric, all engines and trains sound 
the same, even in different countries. 

There are occasions when there is an opportunity to spend 
considerable lime, trouble and care in building up an authentic 
and dramatic sound track for a film, only to have the result 
swamped by music in the final sound track. In far too many films 
music is considered to be all important, even though it may 
destroy a carefully created atmosphere by becoming deliberately 
obtrusive. It is strange and noticeable that among the visual arts, 
the cinema is now almost alone in clinging to the convention that 
music is essential to guide or heighten audience reaction. The 
theatre has long since abandoned the theory that music is an 
essential aid to drama, and intrusive background music is 
refreshingly absent from many of the best television productions. 

The work of sound recording for films can be intensely 
interesting, but it can be equally frustrating. Such frustrations 
gave strength to my determination to make recordings of such 
personally interesting and important things as the sounds of 
railways, as soon as it might be possible. Early in 1953 1 bought a 
small disc recorder and although its performance was somewhat 
limited, as expected from the experiences of BBC engineers 
who used similar equipment for location recording during the 
war, I made some railway recordings on the nationalised 
GW&GC line. Early results, though better than nothing, mainly 
increased my admiration for Ludwig Koch who, in seemingly 
impossible situations, had used disc recorders to make his 
remarkable birdsong recordings. Blank discs were expensive, the 
recording time was limited to a maximum of some 4^- minutes, at 
the then standard speed of 78rpm, and, since close attention had 
to be given to the cutting of a disc, it was hard to take in any 
details of passing trains. 

Although I had made a start with the disc recorder, tape would 
obviously be more practical and manageable and as soon as I 



could afford a tape deck with a reasonably high standard of 
performance I bought one and built a tape recorder. The results 
from thai first tape recorder seemed reasonable at the time and 
although the recordings could not be compared with those made 
on optical equipment then still used for film production, they 
were certainly better than disc recordings. The increased 
recording time available on tape was a great asset and it was, for 
a while, satisfying to be able to run cables into the garden and 
record the passing trains; such activities were restricted by the 
cost of tape, most of which was retained, and the results were 
uncertain because of the unreliable performance of the tape 
though that was improved quite soon. 

One of the most stringent limitations was that the tape 
recorder, itself large and heavy, was entirely dependent on a 
mains electricity supply. The only alternative to a mains supply 
was a converter, driven by a number of large batteries, such as 
those used for location filming, but available equipment of that 
kind was impossibly expensive and its total weight and the size of 
the converter would have made it impractical for personal use. 

Yet three tramway enthusiasts, Jack Law, of Decca, Geoffrey 
Ashwell, and Victor Jones, had meanwhile been more 
enterprisingly successful in solving the problems of making some 
personal recordings on location, without using mains. They 
succeeded in making recordings of London tramcars at various 
locations between 1950 and 1952. They used the earliest 
available domestic tape recorder, driven by a battery/mains 
converter, which they built themselves from government surplus 
supplies. The cumbersome equipment weighed almost one 
hundredweight and the tape recorder, running at its maximum 
speed of 7£ inches/second (ips), could only be operated for a 
maximum of five minutes at a time for a total of 30 minutes. 
Using that equipment they made priceless recordings of the last 
tramcars which ran over a number of routes around London and 
many of those recordings were later issued on the Argo LP record 
London's Last Trams. 

In 1953 there occurred one of the many crises which were all 
too familiar to everyone in the British film industry when, a few 
weeks before Christmas, the company for which I worked 



suddenly went out of business. There was little hope of any 
further work in film production, for some while at least, so I set 
up a company with the object of making use of my tape and disc 
recorder, for recording such things as amateur music festivals 
and competitions, where permission was usually given for the 
making of tape recordings of the various performers. From the 
tape recordings discs were made for any of the performers who 
could be persuaded to order them. These and similar events kept 
the recording equipment usefully employed and provided some 

Few, if any, of the railway recordings which I had made so far 
were of a sufficiently high standard of quality to be 
professionally satisfying, but then all had been made purely for 
personal interest and pleasure, and for some time to come I never 
even considered that the recordings would ever be issued on disc. 

The original sole purpose of the Transacord company was to 
transcribe tape recordings on to discs and by derivation from 
transcribe and record, we chose the name Transacord for the 
company, with no thought whatever of the obvious and later 
fortuitous connection that the name also had with recordings of 
trains and transport. 



Chapter 4 
Steam sounds in Britain 

The Transacord company was by 1954 more-or-less established 
as a going concern; it had provided a useful means of livelihood 
during a lengthy period of unemployment in the film industry, 
but had left no money or time to spare for such things as railway 
recordings. Film work would have to be done if and when it was 
available and meanwhile the company's other work could be 
kept going if and when time allowed, with occasional assistance 
from one or other several sound recordists who would welcome 
some spare time jobs. 

In the early summer of 1954 the opportunity came to work 
again for David Lean on the film Summer Madness, with 
Katherine Hepburn, which was to be made entirely on location 
in Venice. Sound equipment was to be supplied from France and 
for the first time in my experience, the sound track was to be 
recorded on 35 mm magnetic film. The script implied that a large 
number of important atmospheric sound tracks would be needed 
and to record those in such a place as Venice would obviously be 
a problem unless some unusually mobile equipment could be 
used. Eventually it was decided that all of the many non- 
synchronous sound effects would be recorded on ^ inch tape, 
using a transportable tape recorder driven by a rotary converter, 
powered by car batteries. 

This equipment, despite the weight and bulk of the converter 
and batteries, was wonderfully compact and portable compared 
with anything I had used previously. Admittedly it took some 
time to set up and the convener had to be carefully watched and 
controlled to avoid changes in the recorder's speed, but such 
disadvantages seemed minimal in comparison with the hitherto 
undreamed of flexibility which now made it possible to record 
non-synchronous sound effects in practically any location. 


The film involved several sequences at Venice, Santa Lucia 
railway station and on board a train leaving the station. The line 
was then entirely steam worked, except for an occasional diesel 
railcar; with permission to go anywhere, there was an ideal 
opportunity to make varied recordings with which to build up a 
sound picture of a busy, steam worked, international railway 
station. A favourite recording position, though not strictly 
connected with film requirements, was between the station and 
the causeway on which the line crosses the lagoon to Mestre on 
the mainland. The climb from the station is quite steep and the 
Italian drivers, inclined to be flamboyant in any case and well 
aware that there was a film unit about, produced some 
monumental wheel slips and similarly spectacular sounds on that 
climb, especially with heavy international trains like the 
Simplon-Orient Express, then still a train of some distinction, 
enviously watched as it left for Trieste, Belgrade, Sofia and 

An unfortunate incident severely disrupted filming and some 
railway operations at one time. A low platform had been built 
out from the side of the train, to carry the camera, but 
unfortunately the height of the platform had been misjudged and 
when the train moved out from the station a number of ground 
signals were demolished and the camera and crew nearly met the 
same fate before the train was stopped. 

Some nights later, when filming in St Mark's Square, one of 
the technicians tested the playback loudspeakers in the middle of 
the night, by reproducing the recordings made at the station; the 
sounds of trains apparently leaving the centre of Venice created 
considerable excitement among some astounded Venetians! 

Needless to say, many more railway recordings were made 
than could possibly be used in the film; the producer gave me 
permission to keep the original tapes, but disappointingly many 
of those early tapes deteriorated to such an extent that they 
became unplayable and some others were accidentally erased at 
the studios when the film was completed. 

Despite the later loss of so many irreplaceable recordings the 
experience of that film location was invaluable, because it proved 
how much could be done with a tape recorder independent of a 



mains supply. As soon as possible after returning to England, in 
the late autumn of 1954, I acquired a small converter, heavy 
duty batteries and a new tape recorder. Now, at last, there was 
the means to make railway recordings without relying on mains 
supplies, though there remained the problems of size and weight, 
now increased by the converter and batteries. It was one thing to 
use a mass of equipment on film locations, with assistants, quite 
another to manhandle it alone and that took up a lot of time. 
However, during the following months I made recordings with 
varying success at Aylesbury, Princes Risborough, Cheddington, 
Tring Cutting and Bletchley and on trains between Princes 
Risborough, Oxford and Banbury and on the Banbury - 
Bletchley line. Loading all the equipment on to a train and 
setting it up for recording was quite an undertaking, which relied 
heavily on the goodwill of railwaymen. Some lineside locations 
could not, of course, be reached by train and the whole heavy 
load was then taken in an uncomplaining 18 year old Ford to the 
nearest access ble point and carried to the lineside. 

It still seemed hardly credible that there was any serious threat 
to steam locomotives in general, though the older pre-grouping 
engines were obviously threatened. Apart from the prototype 
LMS and SR main line diesels, diesel shunters, GWR railcars 
and some new lightweight diesel trains in the West Riding, steam 
was supreme. Even the 1955 announcement by Sir Brian 
Robertson, Chairman of the British Transport Commission, in 
launching the 'far reaching plan to transform our railways, at a 
cost of over £1,200 million, into a thoroughly modern and first 
class service' did not at first seem to be a direct threat to steam 
power but when more details were published later in the year the 
intention was quite clear: 'the final abandonment of steam 
traction in favour of diesel and electric motive power'. 

Obviously the recording of steam locomotives had now 
become a matter of great urgency. Much money had already 
been spent and it was still necessary for me to earn a living. 
In the spring of 1955 I was with the crew which started work 
on a film involving a location in Spain. The film Kings Rhapsody 
was interesting as it was one of the last in which the flamboyant 
but likeable Errol Flynn appeared, with Anna Neagle. Even 


Top: An ex-LMS o-6-o, WD No 8182, with Royal Engineers crew, at 
Kinnerlcy, on the Shropshire & Montgomeryshire Railway in 1944. 

Below: Caen Railway Station in July 1944, destroyed by prolonged Allied 
bombardment during the Normandy campaign. 



'A l-tll 


Top: LMS Class 5 4-6-0 with train of empty tank wagons, heading north 
between Elstree Tunnel and Elstree Station in 1946. 

Belotv: The pioneer LMS diescl locomotive No 10000 approaches Elstree 
Station with a down express on the Midland main line in 1947. 






more interesting to me was the train journey to Spain and the 
steam locomotives, varying from antique to modern, to be seen 
and heard there on the 5ft 6in gauge lines of Spanish National 
Railways (RENFE). I spent every spare moment at the railway 
stations in Barcelona, where the sounds of the wild west whistles 
of engines, hauling trains which included wooden coaches of 
equally wild west appearance, were alone an incentive to make 
some recordings. Unfortunately the Ruritanian film script 
offered no opportunity to include railway sounds in the film and 
any railway recordings would have to be done on my days off 
with borrowed equipment. 

The camera operator, Austin Dempster, was also a railway 
enthusiast and wanted to take some photographs. Because the 
Barcelona stations were too enclosed and dark for photography, 
we decided to go elsewhere and on our first free Sunday we set off 
by train to Tarragona, with another enthusiast who helped with 
the recording equipment. At the junction station of Tarragona 
there was plenty of activity and the first sight of a huge RENFE 
Garratt locomotive. The railwaymen were delighted with our 
interest, fascinated by the tape recorder and generally friendly 
and helpful. The political police, on the other hand, took a very 
different attitude when, within a couple of hours, they arrived 
and made it only too obvious that they strongly disapproved of 
whatever it was that we were doing. The equipment was 
hurriedly dismantled and we were escorted to a compartment on 
the next available train and locked in, with our captors standing 
guard in the corridor on the journey back to Barcelona. In the 
police offices at the main station there followed a lengthy 
interrogation in a strange mixture of languages. Unfortunately 
the mood of the interrogation was not improved by an immediate 
understanding of the word Gibraltar which was facetiously 
offered in exchange for a quick release. We were detained for the 
night, during which our hotel rooms were searched and news of 
our detention consequently reached the film unit. Released the 
following morning, just in time for the day's shooting, we had a 
cool reception from the producer who had been told by a 
practical joker that we had been arrested for grossly indecent 
behaviour. After all, who would believe that anyone would want 



to record or photograph trains simply for the love of them, an 
activity which was to lead to several more arrests in the future, in 
various places and in circumstances which often seemed much 
less amusing, especially without the presence in the background 
of a film company which could intervene if need be. 

Back in Britain there was time and money to spare for some 
more railway recordings. So far, all the recordings had been 
made simply by asking permission from local officials, who were 
normally friendly and helpful but, quite naturally, were 
occasionally suspicious of such unfamiliar activities as the use of 
an impressive array of recording equipment. In any case there 
were obvious limits to what could be authorised at local level and 
the Spanish experience could not be disregarded. The next step 
was to ask for official approval of recording activities and 
permission to carry them out at more adventurous locations. 

At that time the railways were, not unusually, being subjected 
to attacks by the press and there was a natural suspicion at 
British Railways headquarters that people asking for unusual 
facilities might, for instance, be engaged in making recordings 
simply to provide ammunition for the anti-railway press lobby. 
For such reasons the initial approach for permission to make 
recordings of steam locomotives at work in various BR regions 
was met with some incredulity. Apart from anything else, tape 
recorders were then still a rarity and recording was a little 
known activity; the taking of photographs was acceptably 
understandable and long established, but making recordings was 
quite another matter, not least because of the amount of 
equipment involved in such bizarre activities. Because of this the 
hire of lookout men was, in certain circumstances, considered an 
essential safeguard. Eventually the purpose of the recordings 
was accepted as being prompted by genuine enthusiastic interest, 
and introductions were given to the public relations officers of 
the various regions, who dealt most sympathetically with 
requests for permits and facilities and gave generous assistance, 
which continued over many years, to this day. 

With official blessing I could now make a start on the most 
ambitious programme that was practical for recording the 
sounds of steam locomotives in the widest possible variety. There 



were endless disappointments, especially at first, because of the 
time taken in moving and setting up equipment and failures in 
the equipment or, more often, shortcomings in the recording 
tape then available; above all was the need for the right weather. 
Moreover my plans were also thwarted by the ASLEF strike, 
which not only directly upset train services, but had a long 
aftermath in which staff relations were not at their most cordial. 

Fortunately it was soon possible, by devious means, to purchase 
a batch of tape from the USA which was considerably superior in 
performance and reliability, though far more expensive, than 
most tapes which were obtainable in Britain. The American tape 
was kept for the most important recordings, but despite the use 
of such high quality materials there was still a slight, nagging 
worry for nobody at that time knew for certain how long 
recordings on tape would safely survive in storage. There were 
plenty of theories but none were backed by really long term 
experience of the extent to which recordings might deteriorate, 
or even completely fade away, if stored for many years. In 
practice the main cause of deterioration in stored tape recordings 
has proved to be due to mechanical shortcomings in some of the 
materials which were used as a base for the early tapes. 

Quite apart from other problems there were many 
disappointments from faults in technique. You learn from 
mistakes in recording, just as in photography, but however much 
is learned you can still make new and undreamed of mistakes. 
Each new location, item of equipment, or change of 
circumstances brings scope for more mistakes and they will 
inevitably be made, no matter how experienced you may 
consider yourself to be. 

All the railway recordings I had made so far were achieved 
with the same technique as that used for film recording and this 
proved to be a serious mistake. Recordings for films, with the 
exception of those intended to form a general background - for 
example street noises heard inside an office building — are made 
objectively to obtain the clearest possible sound track of a specific 
subject, such as an engine whistle. Background sounds are 
excluded from such recordings as much as possible by using 
directional microphones in a reasonably close position; if any 



sound, other than that of the object, becomes too intrusive the 
recording will be stopped. 

The reason for adopting such methods is that film sound 
tracks are frequently needed only to support specific picture 
sequences and a recording will be less adaptable if it includes 
background sounds which may be inappropriate to a picture. A 
recording of a passing train in which spring birdsong is heard in 
the background, for example, could not possibly be used as a 
sound track to accompany a midwinter or night sequence, and a 
recording of a train starting from a station where a specific 
announcement is heard in the background would be unsuitable 
for general use. When a number of suitable sound tracks have 
been selected, they are finally mixed together in whatever way 
may be needed to match a film sequence. 

For a while the sheer novelty of being able to record trains was 
enough and there was little time to spare to listen attentively to 
the results, which proved to be rather lifeless, even boring after a 
time. The recordings were too short and conveyed nothing of the 
background of the passing trains, none of the atmosphere of the 
railway. Many otherwise good recordings I had made had been 
cut too soon, simply because of another sound in the 
background, which might actually have given more reality to the 
recording. It was obvious thai the film technique was unsuitable 
for recordings intended solely for listening to, and unfortunately 
a number of interesting recordings were spoiled before that 
lesson was learned. 

When, later on, we issued recordings on records, the film 
method of mixing several tracks was too costly and time 
consuming to be used. Still later, when it was suggested that the 
records had a historical documentary value, the mixing of tracks 
could not be done because it would have called into question the 
authenticity of the recordings. In fact, although we do much 
editing for records, we do not normally mix sound tracks except 
occasionally when there has been an addition of background 
sounds, recorded at the same time and place as some of the mono 
recordings which have been processed to produce a stereo 

Before the film techniques of recording had been found to be 



unsatisfactory I spent a long and memorable day in the autumn 
of 1955 making recordings at old Huston station. All the 
equipment was mounted on a four-wheeled luggage trolley, 
which was manoeuvred around the far from spacious platforms 
and narrow passages of the old station by various friendly 
porters. 1 was at Euston for more than 14 hours on that 
Saturday, recording anything that seemed to be of interest and 
used miles of tape. Alas, most of it was quite meaningless when 
played back; it consisted mainly of a jumble of noises. I certainly 
felt I had learned much from that session. In particular I realised 
that large confined stations were far from ideal as recording 
locations; space was too restricted, the general level of sound was 
too high and at times the background noise made it impossible to 
pick out any interesting individual sounds, such as trains 
leaving, especially since the microphones could be placed only a 
short distance beyond the platform ends. However, a few of the 
recordings made that day were later issued on a 78rpm record 
and because of their possible historical interest, some of the 
recordings were later re-processed for stereo and issued on a 
World of Railways LP, LMS. 

At about the time when the Euston recordings were made, a 
friend in the USA sent me a record which he had thought might 
be doubly interesting to me, because it was said to be a superb 
recording and the subject was railway trains. The record, a 10 
inch LP entitled Rail Dynamics, had been recorded on rainy 
nights along the tracks of the New York Central Railroad, It was 
produced by Cook Laboratories of Stamford, Connecticut, 
manufacturers of disc recording equipment and producers of a 
series of records, Sounds of our times, which were described on 
the sleeve as: authentic originals of sounds which are off the 
beaten path of records, not studio productions, but made on 
location in their natural habitat. 

Rail Dynamics, produced in late 1952, was introduced on the 
sleeve by: For most of us - for those who live in a place where 
only the east wind sends the sounds of the railroad reaching out 
over a foggy night, this record will be a thing of nostalgia, 
moving within us the strange restlessness of wanderlust. 
Technically the transient content of steam, rails, trucks and 



couplings are a challenge to any reproducing system. The 
acoustic perspective of trains that rush on and into the distance is 
a new experience, for it is a rare record which brings you the 
dynamic sound of a dynamic moving object. 

The record itself certainly was a brilliant example of location 
recording, particularly for that time; it presented an abstract 
collection of railway sounds which left me wanting to hear more 
and with an envious admiration of the technical and artistic 
achievements which that record represented. 

Obviously Cook Laboratories only produced records for a 
specialised audience, but if they had found it worthwhile to issue 
a record of Rail Dynamics in the USA then, presumably, I 
thought, there must be a number of people interested in listening 
to such sounds and just possibly there might be people in Britain 
who would be interested in hearing some of the recordings 
which, so far, I had made for my personal interest and 
amusement. The only way to find out for certain was to issue a 
record and see what happened. 

The LP record was not yet as widely accepted in Britain as it 
was in America and in any case it would then have been 
technically difficult and too costly to consider issuing an LP. 
Even if arrangements could have been made for cutting the 
master and pressing LP records, there was at that time no hope 
of equalling the technical qualities of Rail Dynamics; 78rpm 
records, however, were a much more practical proposition. The 
master record could be cut on the disc recorder which 
Transacord still had and the record could be processed and 
pressed by British Homophone Ltd, the custom pressing 
company which had earlier produced small numbers of record 
pressings from previous recordings of amateur musicians. 

The master tapes were assembled and edited for two 10 inch 
78rpm records, with a playing time of about 3| minutes each 
side. The first two records were Birmingham — Leamington, a 
rather abstract selection of recordings made at Birmingham, 
Snow Hill, and Leamington and on board a train travelling 
between those two stations, and Freight Trains, made up from 
various recordings at the Hneside on the GW&GC line, mostly at 
Princes Risborough. 



The simple labels were printed by a local firm which 
specialised in printing such things as cake boxes, and the records 
were packed in plain brown cartridge paper sleeves into each of 
which was inserted a duplicated slip which gave brief details of 
the recordings, in sequence and included an apology for the lack 
of more precise information. The records were simply a selection 
of sounds, which I hoped might possibly interest other 
enthusiasts, chosen from recordings made in 1954 and 1955 
when I had never thought it necessary to make more than the 
briefest comments about what was recorded. Only 99 copies of 
each record were pressed, for the good reason that purchase tax - 
a considerable extra expense - was not charged unless 100 or 
more copies of a record were produced. The tax on the original 
99 copies would have to be paid if more copies were made later. 
When the records had been paid for and delivered from the 
factory I placed an advertisement in the classified columns of the 
Railway Magazine and Trains Illustrated in November 1955 
offering 'Gramophone Records of interest to railway 
enthusiasts, for sale by mail order at 10s 6d each, plus 2s postage 
and package' (62jp total). 

To my enormous surprise and delight orders for the records 
came in, some people ordered both and by the end of the year a 
large proportion of the total of 198 records had been sold, An 
invitation to give an opinion on the records was sent out with 
each order. By later standards those first records were somewhat 
crude and certainly lacked presentation, but a surprising 
number of people were kind enough to write back, often at 
length, with their opinions; they were generally encouraging and 
several requests were made for more records, for which a number 
of interesting subjects were suggested. 

This quite unexpectedly enthusiastic response made it seem 
possible that there might be justification for making more 
recordings than had been so far envisaged and for issuing some 
on records, instead of making recordings simply for personal 
interest, but there were problems. If the recordings were to be 
taken more seriously they would have to be made over a wider 
area and in greater quantity if they were to be at all 
comprehensive. That would take up a lot of my time and would 



be costly, for the recording equipment and materials had to be 
paid for and the costs of reaching distant locations had to be 
considered. Even by the most optimistic calculations it seemed 
unlikely that record sales could do more than cover production 
and manufacturing costs and considerable investment would be 
needed to cover the initial costs of producing records and 
purchasing stocks. 

Such a project could only be financed by earnings from film 
work, but that involved commitments to long and uncertain 
hours for weeks at a time and possible absences on location 
abroad. Without the financial support of film work the new 
project was untenable, yet more spare time would be needed for 
making recordings and producing new records, which would 
have to be issued from time to time at least, in order to gain the 
benefit of opinions from other enthusiasts as I wanted to know 
what they considered to be of interest and value. Moreover, 
' copies of records, like prints from photographs, would provide 
essential evidence to professional railwaymen — the 'artistes' -of 
my serious attempts to make as full a record of the sounds of the 
steam age as might be possible during the next few years. The 
production of records would, however, take yet more time, 
leaving even less for making new recordings. 

Altogether it was a dilemma which seemed to have no easy 
solution, it was tempting to abandon any ideas of making more 
records for sale and simply go back to making recordings of 
personal interest. Yet the possibilities of the larger project, 
however uncertain it might be, were so interesting and exciting 
that it seemed weak to abandon it without at least trying to find a 
workable compromise. 

It so happened that a contract with British Lion Studios was 
now coming up for renewal. The contract, although it gave some 
security on a yearly basis, was completely binding in a somewhat 
unilateral way and offered no freedom of choice as to how or 
where one worked. I made a necessarily quick decision not to 
renew the contract, but to trust to luck as a freelance, take 
whatever work might be available, preferably not abroad, and 
hope that it might be possible to compromise between the 
necessity of providing finance for Transacord and enough free 



time, between films and at weekends, for the making of new 
recordings and records. Some producers and other people in the 
film industry, whose offers of work, particularly if it involved 
going abroad, were turned down as gracefully as possible, told 
me forcefully that I was crazy to refuse such opportunities just 
for so eccentric a reason as recording steam engines - an echo 
of the school psychiatrist of earlier years. The film producers 
were not alone in their opinions which were shared by one of the 
original directors of Transacord, a solicitor who was by no 
means interested in railways. He announced that he had no wish 
to be associated with such nonsensical ideas and had to be bought 
out of the company. 

Such reactions had little effect because by now the idea of 
making railway recordings had become almost an obsession and 
would have become even more obsessive if I had then realised 
how quickly steam locomotives would disappear under BR's 
policy of rapid modernisation. It was interesting and from the 
point of view of the scope of the recordings, fortunate, that many 
other countries, such as France and Germany for example, 
managed a modern and efficient image although, presumably 
because it made good economic sense so to do they continued to 
make use of serviceable and well maintained steam locomotives 
for some time after BR abandoned them. 

1955 ended with a first recording session on the Lickey 
Incline, during which the weather conditions were appalling, 
with persistent freezing fog so thick that visibility was down to a 
few yards and I could see nothing of the hard working engines 
until they were directly opposite the recorder. Fortunately they 
passed sufficiently slowly to make identification just possible. At 
least the fog kept aircraft away and road traffic to a minimum, 
but as so often in cold conditions the recorder became 
temperamental and at times refused to function at all, only being 
persuaded to do so by drastic treatment such as over-running the 
recorder for minutes on end, to warm it up, then wrapping it in a 
duffel coat to retain the warmth as long as possible. There were 
many missed and ruined recordings during those two freezing 
days spent beside the Lickey Incline. On the first day only two of 
the several recordings made of 'Big Bertha', the unique 0-10-0 



banking engine, were anything like acceptable; on the second 
day 0-10-0 No 58 100 was away for a boiler washout and before it 
was possible for me to return to the Lickey Incline No 58100 had 
been withdrawn and had gone for ever. 

The leaflet sent out with the first two records stated: 'We have 
been recording sounds associated with steam locomotives 
which, though now familiar, may be rarely heard in years to 
come - provided that there is sufficient interest we shall issue 
new records from time to time. The records are 10 inch, double 
sided, pressed in filled Vinylke material and can be played on any 
type of reproducer at the standard speed of 78rpm.' 

The selection of recordings and their editing for new issues of 
records was carried on during any spare time, especially when 
the weather was too impossible for recording. Three new records 
were issued in late January 1956: 

The Class AS Pacific Locomotive. 'Recordings of A3s at work in 
various conditions: on board an express between Aylesbury and 
Marylebone and heard from the lineside at Aylesbury and in the 
Chiltern Hills.' 

From London (Euston). Described as: 'A sound picture of the 
departure platforms at Euston Station' and made up of some of 
the few satisfactory recordings made at Euston in the autumn of 

Venice - Mestre. This, the first of the foreign records, was made 
up of some of the surviving recordings made during the 1954 film 

Again only 99 copies of each of the new records were produced 
but, helped by reviews in the railway press, the first 99 copies sold 
encouragingly quickly, except for the unfamiliar 'foreign' record 
and I had to make a decision as to whether it was worthwhile 
ordering a further batch of pressings, which would mean that the 
small profit made on sales would almost disappear in payment of 
the luxury rate of purchase tax on the initial order and the cost of 
all further orders would be considerably increased. It was a 
gamble, especially since it was unthinkable to increase the price 
of the records at this stage; the A3 and Euston records were re- 
pressed and the others deleted when the last copies had been sold. 
Three new records: The Lickey Incline -passenger trains, The 



Lickey Incline - freight trains, and The King class locomotive 
were issued in March 1956. They attracted an increasing 
amount of interest, helped by further reviews, and their sales just 
about justified the decision to order additional pressings and pay 
purchase tax. 

No more records were issued for some time as there was so 
much recording to be done and in fact we abandoned 78rpm 
records for new issues since by then the 78rpm record was 
becoming obsolescent as LPs rapidly became more popular. 
Moreover 78rpm records were relatively expensive when 
compared with the greater playing time of an LP, which would, 
in any case, give scope for a more relaxed and effective 
presentation of the recordings. The factory was now able to 
process and press 10 inch LP records and although we had no 
equipment for cutting the master discs, it was possible to have 
that done elsewhere. Although, to judge from correspondence, it 
was problematical how many existing customers had LP record 
players it was decided that any future records would be LPs. The 
first two 10 inch records, issued in November 1956, were: The 
Bulleid Pacific locomotives, and The class A4 Pacific 
locomotives. The new records, which were sold at 22s 6d each, 
plus 2s 6d postage and packing (£1.25 total), needed something 
better than the cartridge paper sleeves in which they were sent 
from the factory, and the local printers, having already supplied 
improved record labels, produced some brown card sleeves 
printed in green with a railway motif at each corner, the title of 
the record, the name and address of Transacord Ltd, 
instructions concerning the care of the record and details of 
equipment on which it should be played. In spite of those 
instructions several records were returned in a distressed state, 
after attempts had been made to play them with 78rpm 
gramophone needles! 

The new LP sleeves included a detailed description of 
everything that was to be heard on the record; there were some 
suggestions that the records should include a commentary, or 
some detailed comments, but these I resisted. When, in 1960, the 
late Roger Wimbush first reviewed some of the records in the 
Gramophone he considered it a courageous decision not to 



include a commentary, but in fact it seems merely logical. There 
certainly is a place for commentaries in documentary films or 
radio programmes, which may need explanation because they 
will normally be seen or heard once only. A record hopefully will 
be heard more often and, if it is not, then it has failed and no 
amount of commentary would resurrect it. The record can only 
be successful if, simply from sounds, it can create an image in 
the mind of the listener. It is the job of the extensive sleeve notes 
to provide essential information and even more important, to set 
the scene for each recording. With the aid of the sleeve notes each 
listener can freely use his imagination to form his own mental 
image from the sounds and at each successive hearing he may fill 
in the picture in greater detail, Any spoken commentary would 
surely be an insult to the intelligence of the listener and would 
certainly become repetitively boring after the first hearing; a 
linking comment would simply repeat the information given on 
the record label and sleeve. Technically the introduction of a 
commentary would pose problems because the level of the 
objective sounds would have to be artificially adjusted to 
accommodate the commentary, producing the see-saw effect 
which is so familiar in some film documentaries, where the level 
of the sound effects, or background music, is abruptly reduced 
just before the commentator speaks and increased as soon as he 
has finished. 

Only two Transacord records have included the spoken word 
with railway sounds. The first was a children's record of Edward 
and Gordon and Edward's Day Out, two of the Reverend 
Awdry's railway stories. The author read the stories which were 
illustrated by the recorded 'voices' of the engines taking part. 
The record has long since been deleted, small scale production 
costs, royalties to the publishers and discounts to retailers having 
made it impossible to sell the record at a reasonable price. The 
second and later one was a recorded version of The Knotty, a 
musical documentary produced by Peter Cheeseman at the 
Victoria Theatre, Stoke on Trent, which, in words, songs and 
railway sounds, tells the story of the railways and specifically the 
North Staffordshire Railway, from the earliest days to the 1923 
grouping. The record, issued by Argo in 1970, was produced 



jointly with Kevin Daly, then a Decca engineer, who has since 
produced many interesting and historically important records 
and has given much valuable assistance to Transacord. 

In earlier years many other people well known in railway 
enthusiast circles helped Transacord by purchasing records and 
making suggestions for future recordings. Such support was 
invaluable, as was the information which was provided 
concerning locations which might be suitable for recording, and 
details of the workings of various locomotives. 

Looking back at diaries of the time, 1956 was a year of 
extraordinary activity as far as I was concerned. There was so 
much to be done and it was a problem to know in what order it 
should be attempted. Every spare moment was spent in making 
new recordings and when working on films, a total of three 
during the year, that spare time was limited to occasional 
evenings and most weekends, during which some of the more 
distant locations could only be reached by travelling overnight, 
after a day's filming on Friday and returning overnight on 
Saturday, so as to spend Sunday preparing material for new 
records and attending to record sales and correspondence. 

The weather in 1956 was abysmal in contrast to the brilliant 
summer of 1955, and many recordings were ruined by wind or 
rain, particularly disappointing after travelling to a distant 
location. The year began with frost, fog and snow, conditions 
were less severe in the south and I had permits available for 
Basingstoke and the line to Salisbury, on which there should be 
opportunities to record pre-group SR engines and Bulleid 
Pacifies, which were soon to be rebuilt so drastically that it 
seemed certain that the individualistic sounds of the original 
engines might disappear completely. The Bulleid Pacifies were 
not the only engines whose 'voices' might be changed: the A3 and 
A4 Pacifies, and the Kings and Castles were soon to be fitted with 
double chimneys which, as I found from previous experience, 
made a considerable difference to the sounds, so it was important 
to record such engines in their original condition while it was still 

There were occasional pleasant surprises close to home, such 
as the brief return of one of the stately and well-proportioned ex- 



GC 4-6-2 tank engines on Marylebone-Princes Risborough 
trains. On a beautiful spring evening, 50 years after Great Central 
passenger services first ran over the GW&GC line, I recorded 
Class A 5 No 69804 in near perfect conditions, leaving Princes 
Risborough with a train for Marylebone; as the A5 climbed 
away, an A3 Pacific, Prince of Wales, opened up after a signal 
check and roared through the station with the down Master 

More Great Central engines, such as the Director 4-4-0s, were 
soon recorded on the Manchester Central - Chester Northgate 
line of the CLC; LMS compound 4-4-0s were also recorded in the 
Manchester area and between Leeds and Shipley, and by a stroke 
of luck, an ex NE D20 class 4-4-0, No 62343, was recorded 
departing from Leeds City with a train for Selby. Hitchin was 
among my favourite locations for Gresley Pacifies at speed which 
I visited frequently, as was the north end of Stoke tunnel, where 
the Pacifies and other engines made a fine sound as they climbed 
up from Grantham and entered the tunnel, one after another, 
while in the background an occasional 2-8-0 climbed away on the 
single line towards Stainby, with iron ore empties from nearby 
High Dyke Sidings, The only trouble with Stoke summit was 
that it was plagued by aircraft noise, except at weekends and it 
was only worth going there on Saturdays when, during that 
summer, the wind always seemed to be blowing strongly across 
the track and seldom carried the sounds of the trains climbing up 
from Grantham. 

Grantham I visited many times, especially on summer 
Saturdays, for it was a splendid place and although traffic noise 
could be troublesome at the north end of the station, there was 
an excellent recording position to the south of the station just 
beyond the up platform. There, shielded by buildings at the rear, 
there was just space between the sidings to set up the recording 
equipment and settle down for the day - or part of the night - 
ideally placed to record the changing of engines and the 
departure of a procession of trains on the last lap of their journey 
to Kings Cross. Grantham too had a problem, in the person of a 
large, officious and no doubt efficient stationmaster who, for 
reasons of his own, did not seem well disposed to railway 



enthusiasts, still less to the use of mysterious recording 
equipment despite my permits, or for that matter engine crews. 
He customarily stood at the end of the up platform when 
supervising engine changing; one evening V2 No 60881 backed 
on to a train and coupled up, the stationmaster stood back as the 
whistles blew, 60881 started with a slip which even by V2 
standards was prodigious, and from a liberally priming chimney 
drenched the stationmaster with warm and greasily sooty water. 
It might have been accidental but for the fact that the grinning 
driver gave a thumbs up sign as the engine passed, and with 
no hint of a slip climbed away towards Stoke summit; 
unfortunately the whole performance was so diverting that the 
recording was completely ruined by inattention. 

Tape recording equipment invariably attracted attention and 
its presence was sometimes mystifying; at Peterborough a 
shunter in Nene Carriage Sidings was recorded explaining to his 
mate that the mysterious recording equipment was something 
used 'to make tests for this 'ere radio activity*. On one occasion, 
at Retford station, the driver of an A3 made an exceptionally 
vigorous and slippery start with a southbound express, which 
would have made an excellent recording but for the fact that a 
group of his mates stood round the microphone, loudly 
discussing his performance in terms which it would have been 
unwise to include on any record. 

Retford was a splendid place when, before the underpass was 
built, the GC Sheffield - Clarborough Junction line crossed the 
main line on the level at the south end of the station. It was 
incredible how the signalmen managed to fit in so much traffic, 
only rarely causing any delay to main line trains. There was 
considerable through traffic on the GC line and many light 
engine movements to and from the shed to the east of the station; 
such engines as GC 2-8-0s, with a surprising alacrity, clanked 
and clattered over the crossing in the wake of main line 
expresses, the engines of which usually whistled in a most 
satisfying way. To add to the variety trains from Sheffield, if 
calling at Retford, approached the station from the west round 
a sharp curve and squealed away round an equally sharp curve, 
to regain the GC line. The worst problem at Retford was a 



nearby RAF airfield from which at times an almost continuous 
procession of noisy aircraft made practice sorties over the 
railway. It was then pointless to attempt any recording, but 
fortunately the RAF took weekends off and on Saturdays the 
loudest sounds, apart from the trains, came from excited young 
train spotters. 

The best recording position was on a patch of waste ground 
opposite Retford Crossing signalbox; the only way to reach it 
was by humping heavy equipment across the running lines, this 
had to be done with extreme caution and took some time so once 
set up it was tempting to stay as long as possible, but it was 
usually rewarding. The sounds of an express on the East Coast 
main line, whistling at the approach to the crossing and not 
always it seemed within the permanent speed limit, clattering 
rhythmically over the near right angle crossing followed by a 
clanking 2-8-0 moving smartly across the main line would be 
unforgettable, even if they could not still be heard on records. 

Much further south the Somerset & Dorset line, which I 
visited briefly during the winter, was an obvious target for 
recording; on summer Saturdays there was the procession of 
through trains, out in the morning and back in the afternoon, 
and on weekdays the double-headed Pines Express and the goods 
trains hauled by the S&D 2-8-0s. I went to Templecombe first, 
because the then busy station offered opportunities for recording 
some of the older SR engines and the Bulleid Pacifies speeding 
through or leaving the station, on the climb towards Milborne 
Port, in addition to S&D trains. Unfortunately, before I could 
make recordings of SR workings I had to obtain an additional 
permit from Waterloo. The stationmaster was an SR man and 
proud of it; his was an SR station and a permit issued for the 
S&D line, even though it mentioned Templecombe, only covered 
the single platform used by S&D trains and did not permit access 
to any other part of the station or yard for the purpose of 
recording SR workings. The working of S&D trains at 
Templecombe was unusually interesting; the station was 
approached by a steep climb on a curve from the S&D main line 
proper which passed under the SR line to the east of the station. 
Trains from Bournemouth towards Bath stopped just beyond 


Top: On the Italian State Railways (FS) in [947, An American 2-8-0 at 
the head of an express for Rome takes water at Civitavecchia station. 

Belotn: Filming at Venice station in 1954. Director David Lean second on 
left, in profile. Author, with headphones and 'portable' recording equip- 
ment. Per Glow 

Top: Wrong line working at the bottom of the garden. An up express climbs 

out from Princes Risborough towards London on the 1 in 88 down line. 

The 'I Spy' signal box mentioned in the text is on the left. 

Centre: The author makes a test recording of a Birmingham-Paddington 
express on the GW&GC line at Princes Risborough, 'John Aldred 

Below: 0-4-2 tank engine and Thrush coach, approaching Princes Ris- 
borough with the final auto train from High Wycombe on 17 June 1962. 


Templecombe Junction, an engine from Templecombe S&D 
shed was then attached to the rear of the train and with the 
original train engine now running tender first, as banker, the 
train reversed and climbed round the curve into Templecombe 
station. After station work was complete the cavalcade returned 
to the junction where the Templecombe engine dropped off at 
the rear, and the train continued towards Bath, behind the 
original engine. 

The stationmaster at Evercreech Junction, in contrast to the 
iron-minded potentate of Templecombe, could not have been 
more interested and helpful. His was a charming station where 
the spotless waiting room always had a cheerful fire in winter or 
a vase of fresh flowers in the summer, standing on a highly 
polished table which also carried a good selection of magazines. 
It was a busy station where pilot engines, usually LMS or 
Midland 2P class 4-4-0s, were attached to heavy northbound 
expresses before they left on the long, steep climb through the 
Mendips. There was constant activity by 2-8-0s in the large yard 
and trains came and went on the Highbridge branch line, usually 
headed by 3F class 0-6-0s but occasionally by a Johnson 0-4-4 
tank engine, the first recording of which was ruined by wind and 
rain. Two further recordings were attempted, both involving a 
pre-dawn start; one was frustrated by an equipment fault, which 
developed after arrival at Evercreech, and the other by a message 
from the stationmaster, on a perfect summer morning, that the 
engine had been taken out of service at the last moment for 
urgent attention to the boiler tubes. Sadly, I never managed to 
record the Johnson tank on the Highbridge branch. Other visits 
to the S&D, particularly to Windsor Hill tunnel, always seemed 
to be plagued with bad weather. 

I spent several weeks during the summer of 1956 working in 
the crew filming Three Men in a Boat; we spent much of the lime 
huddled on or beside the Thames, waiting for the rain to stop or 
watching extras in boats spinning helplessly around on, or 
sometimes in, the river, in gale force winds. On a Saturday free 
from filming I went to Folkestone, with the intention of 
recording the boat trains, headed and banked by three or more 
Rl class 0-6-0 tank engines on the 1 in 30 climb from Folkestone 



Harbour to Folkestone Junction, The gales however had not 
abated and the violent winds which had blown up by mid- 
morning sent seas crashing over the breakwater and made 
recording quite impossible; any self-pity I might have had was 
reduced by watching the unfortunate passengers staggering off 
the cross channel ferries. Returning the following weekend in 
slightly better conditions it was possible, after finding a sheltered 
position, to make two recordings of the Rl tanks as they slogged 
up the gradient, raising echoes around the town. The speed of 
change around the BR system was only too apparent here since 
before it was possible for me to make another attempt in better 
weather the Rl tanks had been replaced by 0-6-0 pannier tanks 
from the WR, the sounds of which were of a different vintage 
from those of the ex SECR engines, though infinitely more 
interesting than the sounds of the multiple-unit electric boat 
trains which now whine effortlessly up the gradient. 

One of the many helpful suggestions for new recordings had 
given me some details of banana trains on the Ribble branch 
which ran from Preston Docks, through a short tunnel and on a 
final gradient of 1 in 29, under the gantry on which stood No 2A 
signalbox, entered the yard to the west of Preston station. The 
yardmaster helpfully suggested that it would be safer if he or 
one of his inspectors acted as guide and assistant. The Ribble 
branch trains were worked by LNW 0-8-0s which, starting from 
the docks, then charged across a level crossing, through the 
tunnel and a narrow cutting and emerged from beneath the 
signalbox, coughing and panting to a stop in the yard, usually 
almost completely winded by the climb. If loads were 
particularly heavy another 0-8-0 was provided as a banker, 
although I did not record a banked train. Apart from the banana 
trains Preston seemed a possible venue for recording various 
other engines, especially ex L&Y types, but because of the many 
limited clearances around Preston station it was impossible to 
find safe and satisfactory recording positions. Thanks to the 
yardmaster and his inspectors, I made some interesting 
recordings of L&Y saddle tank No 51423 and other engines, 
hard at work in Butler Street yard and those and the banana 
train recordings made the two days at Preston worthwhile. 


I ! 



I made many recordings on board trains hauled by a variety of 
engines, sometimes simply because there was a reasonable 
chance of making a successful recording of a vintage engine from 
a train when weather, or other conditions made it unlikely that a 
lineside recording would be satisfactory. An especially 
interesting recording was made one September Saturday in 
1956, at the suggestion of Richard Hardy, then Shedmaster at 
Stewarts Lane, who acted as assistant fireman, on the 11.50am 
train from Victoria to Ramsgate. The engine, El class 4-4-0 No 
31019, was in the charge of Sam Gingell, a remarkable driver 
whose exploits were well known at the time. With a 276 ton gross 
load and despite signal and permanent way checks, he managed 
to complete the 35-f- mile journey to Chatham in 9| minutes 
under schedule. The engine was worked on full regulator with a 
cut off varying from 60 per cent on the climb to Grosvenor 
Bridge, to 25 per cent at Farningham Road, passed at 80mph, 
and 35 per cent on the subsequent climb to Meopham, passed at 
60mph. The sounds of the engine, heard from the leading coach, 
were so loud that it was difficult to restrain the recording level, 
but, in general, the recording was most successful. 

It was occasionally possible to record pre-group engines in 
unlikely places, far removed from their original lines. Class G5 
ex NER 0-4-4 tank engines were recorded with push-pull 
trains on the Audley End - Saffron Walden - Bartlow line, J15 
ex GER 0-6-0s later appeared on Watlington branch goods 
trains, and one of my only successful recordings of an LBSC 
Atlantic was made when Trevose Head left Bourne End, heading 
a Sunday special train towards Maidenhead. I recorded one of 
the elegant Wainwright SECR Class D 4-4-0s on the Midland 
main line, when No 31577 left Harlington station with a special 
train, in the darkness of a calm Sunday evening in the autumn of 
1956 returning south with an excursion to the SR. I had 
previously recorded the Wainwright 4-4-0s on the Redhill - 
Guildford line near Gomshall but seldom successfully, as all 
were hurriedly made on rare occasions when it had been possible 
to borrow a recorder and take a considerably extended lunch 
hour from Shepperton studios. One such occasion had an 
unfortunate sequel as the time for a recording session was 




unexpectedly brought forward and a group of musicians sat 
waiting to be recorded at the studio while a 4-4-0 left Gomshall. 
The production manager seemed unlikely to be a railway 
enthusiast, so I had to devise a more plausible reason for the 

In some areas steam locomotives, especially the older types, 
were vanishing at an alarming rate; I had achieved a good deal, 
but time was now scarce and there had been many 
disappointments' and failures, as a result of which several 
locomotive types, or workings on certain lines, managed to evade 
a satisfactory recording as far as I was concerned, I never 
managed to record the LNER Garratt at work on the Lickey 
Incline, or anywhere else, and all my attempts to record LMS 
Garratts proved disappointing at best and more usually 
disastrous. During days and nights spent beside the line at 
Chinley, Saxby and in the Erewash Valley, there was almost 
endless variety in the things which went wrong; the weather 
would tum foul, the batteries would go flat, or the recorder 
would suddenly develop a fault. Sometimes an aircraft dived 
from nowhere or a train passed in the opposite direction, 
drowning all sounds of an approaching Garratt or when all other 
conditions were favourable, any Garratts which appeared were 
certain to be in deplorable condition, shrouded in steam and 
making most uncharacteristic noises. There seemed to be a jinx 
on Garratts and it was not until years later, in Spain, that I made 
any satisfactory recordings of those unusual engines; even then 
my attempts were dogged by unexpectedly appalling weather or 
sudden cancellations of scheduled services. Later intentions to 
record Garratts in South Africa were thwarted by local and 
national economic crises. 

Some other engines also seemed to be affected by malign 
influences, which dogged many attempts to record T9s, 
Princess Pacifies, the famous A4 Mallard, B17s, Q7s and various 
ex L&Y engines, among others. Often it was a case of what 
Derek Cross and Ivo Peters described as the 'You should have 
been here yesterday' factor, which will be familiar to any 
photographer, but there were innumerable other reasons. By no 
means all the earlier recordings were disappointing and some 



engines, such as the V2s could hardly do wrong; they were a 
recordist's dream and for sheer variety of sounds had no equal. 
Their rhythms varied from a steady .-. .-. of an engine in good 
condition to an uneven . — ... overlaid by hammer blow knocks 
from the motion of an engine overdue for attention; no two V2s 
sounded the same and even an individual engine could produce 
rhythms from the exhaust and the motion which were so varied 
and pronounced that at least one music teacher used recordings 
of V2s to illustrate rhythmical counterpoint. 

Experience with cumbersome equipment used for all the 
early recordings made it obvious that something more portable 
would be helpful and at times essential, so in 1956 I obtained 
one of the recently introduced EMI portable recorders, operated 
from internally fitted dry batteries. Although I treated it at first 
with considerable suspicion, because of its comparatively small 
size, it was a remarkable instrument for that time and proved 
capable of excellent results. There were disadvantages, one of 
which was that the maximum possible continuous recording time 
was little more than 10 minutes, even when using the then 
recently available LP tape, at the 15ips recording speed 
necessary for recordings of professional quality. Another 
drawback was that since the recorder had no erase head each reel 
of tape had to be erased and carefully checked before use; an 
assumption that brand new reels of tape could safely be used 
without checking was rudely shattered when I found new tape 
used to record a Schools 4-4-0 on the climb from Tonbridge to 
Tunbridge Wells to be useless, because intermittently 
superimposed on it were loud tones at various frequencies, which 
had been recorded by the manufacturers during tests on that 
batch of tape. 

Another problem which showed up in use was a sudden 
variation in tape speed and a microphonic noise from the valves, 
which often occurred if the recorder was moved abruptly during 
a recording. Despite such drawbacks the EMI portable had so 
many obvious advantages that, once it had proved itself, I relied 
upon it increasingly and only used the larger equipment for more 
accessible locations or whenever a longer continuous recording 
time was necessary. One problem which the EMI portable did 




not solve was temperamental behaviour, particularly at low 
temperatures in which it was even more liable than the larger 
recorders to function only intermittently, if at all. However, the 
reduced size and weight made it easier to coddle back to life in 
the warmth of a signalbox or shunters' cabin and then to wrap it 
up warmly before attempting another outdoor recording. It was 
not until the remarkable Swiss-made Nagra recorders came into 
use, some years later, that there was any certainty of results in 
cold conditions. In January 1966 a Nagra functioned perfectly 
when used to make lineside recordings in France, more than 
3000ft up in the Massif Central, in 3ft of snow, at a temperature 
of minus 25 degrees Centigrade. If such equipment had been 
available and affordable ten years earlier I might have saved a 
considerable number of spoiled and unrepeatable recordings. 

I visited many new locations in 1957 and repeated trips to 
several earlier locations. Despite difficulties caused by 
stringent petrol rationing brought on by the Suez crisis it was 
comparatively easy to reach most places by train, given time. 
The veteran GW 4-4-0 City of Truro had been returned to 
service and in March 1957 was recorded at Ruabon, with a 
Festiniog Railway Society special train. In May I recorded City 
of Truro again, running light across the elegant but spidery 
Crumlin Viaduct which was subject to a weight restriction, and 
then leaving Crumlin High Level station, piloting a 4300 class 
2-6-0 with the Ian Allan Daffodil Express. Later the same day, 
an attempt to record the Daffodil Express leaving Swansea High 
Street was thwarted by the inopportune appearance of a light 
engine, which stopped at a nearby signal and drowned all other 
sounds with an ear-piercing escape of steam from the safety 

I spent days beside the line at Dainton and Rattery, plagued 
by indifferent summer weather and technical difficulties, often 
caused by damp. Nearer home the Watlington branch line closed 
to passenger traffic and I had a busy day recording all the trains 
which ran on Saturday 29 June 1957, the last day of passenger 
services. I made a totally abortive trip to Shap, where, for three 
days and nights, high winds and heavy showers made any useful 
recording impossible, ruining attempted takes of such engines as 



LNW 0-8-0s and an unassisted 2P 4-4-0, which it was 
subsequently impossible to repeat. My first recordings were then 
made in Scotland where, after an overnight journey to Beattock, 
I lugged the equipment some miles up Beattock bank in a search 
for a suitable recording position. It was obvious during that first 
day that incessant noise from the nearby main road was liable to 
spoil any recording and the two following days I spent around 
Beattock Station, where recordings were made of various 
Caledonian, LMS and standard engines. The most memorable 
sounds were produced by an ex Caledonian 0-6-0 No 57583 
which, running on one cylinder at the head of a northbound 
freight train, limped into the yard. The driver's description of his 
engine's ailments had, though, to be censored. 

Back south again, I recorded the pannier tanks which, with 
warning bell clanging and attended by a shunter with a red flag, 
slowly progressed along the quayside at Weymouth with 
Channel Islands boat trains. Further west I managed to record 
Adams 4-4-2 tank No 30582, built in 1885, hard at work on the 
Axminster - Lyme Regis branch line soon to be replaced by more 
modern locomotives, not entirely successfully, before closure 

Whenever time could be spared from other activities, we 
published new records such as The Dukedogs at work on the 
Cambrian line, and Sam GingelPs rousing Victoria - Chatham 
journey; both were issued as 10 inch LPs during 1957. 

I had little time to spare for anything other than work of one 
sort or another, not even for my long suffering family, who were 
used to hearing trains in real life day and night at the bottom of 
the garden, and now became equally used to the sounds of trains 
inside the house at all hours. My wife not only put up with 
that, but also gave invaluable help with the book-keeping, 
correspondence and orders for records, which had to be 
inspected, packed and despatched by post; without her help the 
whole project would have become impossible. 

The records gradually became more sophisticated, as did the 
record sleeves which were now made from white glazed card and 
for the first time included a cover picture, many of which were 
the work of Colin Walker, the prolific photographer and author, 




who also assisted from time to time with the making of various 

The style of the original recordings also changed gradually; at 
first, when the main urgency was to record as many as possible of 
the older engines, recording locations were dictated mainly by 
the workings and whereabouts of such engines and in any case 
the earlier recordings had to be restricted to sounds of a 
reasonably high level, not too distant from the microphones, 
because of limitations imposed by the equipment. When vintage 
locomotives had been recorded, or withdrawn, and improved 
equipment and materials were available, it became possible to be 
more ambitious and to look for locations where, irrespective of 
locomotive types, the atmosphere of railways in the steam age 
might be conveyed by the various sounds of trains in a distinctive 
setting as was being done in the USA by Winston Link, whose 
records remain some of the finest ever produced of railway 

Vintage locomotives could occasionally be recorded in 
atmospheric settings, such as the Abergavenny - Merthyr line on 
which the SLS ran a special last train headed by two ex LNWR 
engines, a Webb 0-6-2 coal tank and an 0-8-0, on Sunday 5 
January 1958. The superb sounds echoing around the Clydach 
Valley as the train left Govilon were among those successfully 
recorded, and at the end of the day the sights and sounds of the 
two engines storming up the final 1 in 40 from Brecon Road to 
Abergavenny Junction, whistling shrilly and accompanied by a 
fusillade of detonators, remain quite unforgettable, though in 
the bitter cold of that winter night nothing could persuade the 
equipment to operate properly and the recording of that final 
arrival proved to be completely useless, when it was played back 
in an only slightly warmer bedroom at my hotel. 

A somewhat abortive trip to Scotland which coincided with 
deep snow on the West Highland line was brought to a 
premature end because a film company wanted me to go to 
Vienna immediately, to work on Anatole Litvak's production 
The Journey. That first trip to Vienna was for a few days only, 
during which it had to be decided whether the unfamiliar 
recording system used there would satisfy the requirements of an 


American production. The journey, on the Ostend - Vienna 
Express, was not uneventful. It started well, the train was warm 
and comfortable, in contrast to the ice and snow outside; a steam 
locomotive headed the train to Aachen and I saw many others on 
the earlier part of the journey. Steam became rare as the train 
ran on, under the wires in Germany, so there was a chance to 
catch up with much needed sleep. In the early hours of the 
morning, somewhere beyond Nuremberg, the Ostend-Vienna 
Express rocked and shuddered to a sudden noisy halt, followed 
by total silence soon broken by an agitated Wagons Liis 
attendant and the by now thoroughly awake passengers. One 
bogie of the electric locomotive had derailed, probably by snow 
and ice, but fortunately the alert driver had quickly halted the 
train; the locomotive stayed upright and not even the leading 
luggage van had been derailed. The train remained isolated in 
deep snow until, commendably quickly, a steam locomotive came 
to the rescue; the train was examined and minus the derailed 
electric locomotive, was hauled back to Nuremberg, from where 
it resumed its journey a while later, eventually reaching Vienna 
6\ hours late. 

After three weeks back in England I returned to Vienna, 
this time via Hook of Holland and Munich, to familiarise the 
Austrian sound recordists with new American equipment. A 
month in Austria enabled me to see something of the OBB steam 
locomotives at work on the long and spectacular climb from 
Gloggnitz to Semmering. Heavy international trains, sometimes 
double headed, were invariably assisted by one or more banking 
engines and a journey made on such a train made Lickey, Shap 
and Beattock seem tame by comparison. Yet it was noticeable, 
especially when it was possible for me to borrow some equipment 
and make a few lineside recordings, that the sounds of the 
Austrian engines were much less crisp and determined than those 
of British engines. Before returning to England, I was also able 
to see, but not record, narrow gauge and Czechoslovakian steam 
locomotives at Gmund, to which the journey from Vienna was 
made on the Vindobona, a pre-war Deutsche Reichsbahn vintage 
diesel express train, with restaurant service, which daily made 
the 12 hour journey from Vienna to Prague, Dresden and Berlin, 



I i 


with connections which offered a through service between Rome 
and Copenhagen, 

Back home again I had a letter from a BR fireman, R, 
Scanlon, who had been most helpful when recordings were made 
of Director class 4-4-0 Jutland on the CLC lines in 1956; he 
enquired if and when any of the recordings would be available on 
a record and also mentioned that he had been off work during 
the year following an accident. It emerged that he was the 
fireman on class 8F 2-8-0 No 48188 which was involved in the 
tragic collision at Chapel-en-le- Frith on 9 February 1957, in 
which his driver, John Axon GC and a guard were killed. 

No 48188 was at the head of the 1 1.05am Buxton to Arpley 
(Warrington) freight train of 650 tons. Near the summit of the 
steep climb to Bibbington's Sidings the steam brake valve joint 
blew out and the cab of No 48 188 was filled with scalding steam, 
despite which the crew partly managed to close the regulator. 
Driver Axon told Fireman Scanlon to jump off and apply as 
many as possible of the wagon hand brakes, but because of the 
speed of the train he could not drop more than six or seven brake 
handles and even then was not able to pin them down. Driver 
Axon could have saved his life by leaving the engine at the same 
lime, but he stayed on the footplate enveloped in steam and 
warned the signalman at Dove Holes by whistle signals that the 
train was out of control. At Chapel-en-le-Frith South the 
runaway train, travelling at about 55mph, collided with the back 
of a Rowsley - Edgeley (Stockport) freight train, travelling at 
20mph. Driver Axon and the guard of the Rowsley - Edgeley 
freight train were killed in the collision. Driver John Axon was 
posthumously awarded the George Cross in recognition of his 
outstanding devotion to duty, and Fireman R. Scanlon and 
Guard A. Ball of the Buxton - Arpley freight train were both 
commended for their part in attempting to stop the runaway 

The BBC later commissioned Ewan MacCoIl and Charles 
Parker to prepare a radio documentary programme on the life 
and death of John Axon GC, a most moving programme, The 
Ballad of John Axon, which opens and closes with the words: 



John Axon was a railwayman, to steam trains born and bred, 
He was an engine driver at Edgeley loco shed, 
For 40 years he travelled and served the iron way, 
He lost his life upon the track one February day. 

The Ballad of John Axon was subsequently issued on LP record 
No DA 39, by the Argo Record Company. 

Conditions on the footplate of the runaway 8F, with scalding 
steam filling the cab can hardly be imagined, though my 
imagination was helped by an incident in the cab of Britannia 
Pacific Sir John Moore, when I was making footplate recordings 
on the London - Norwich line in 1958. As the engine climbed 
away from Ipswich, in darkness on the up journey, one of the 
water gauge glasses blew out and the cab filled with swirling 
steam before the broken gauge could be shut off. 

I had made earlier recordings, in 1956, on the footplate of a 
Dukedog 4-4-0 in the yard at Aberystwyth (at the instigation of 
Pat Dal ton) and on the footplate of a B 12 4-6-0 on the Liverpool 
Street - Southend line, but the use of large equipment on the 
footplate was most impractical. The EMI portable recorder 
solved some of the problems but footplate recording was never 
easy; it was difficult to control the recorder, which had to be 
carried to safeguard it from excessive vibration, while at the 
same time the microphone had to be held in an optimum 
position, clear of wind and out of the way of the crew. In such 
circumstances it was usual, as in the case of the London — 
Norwich - London journey, for the largest proportion of some 
hours of recording to be rejected as meaningless. 

Shortly after I made the Britannia trips 1 did a recording on 
the footplate of single chimney A3 Pacific Tagalie with a 12 
coach, 422 ton express from Kings Cross to Leeds. The 
driver was Percy Heavens, well known at that time from 
advertisements as the man who relied on his Ingersoll watch to 
keep his train on time, which he certainly did on this occasion. I 
returned from Grantham on the footplate of single chimney A4 
Pacific Dominion of New Zealand which, manned by Driver 
Willers and Fireman Veevers, had left Newcastle at 9.55am with 
a 12 coach train of 430 tons and was due at Grantham at 1.3pm. 
The train arrived at Grantham 30 minutes late, with a tender 



full of poor coal which had made it a difficult journey and it 
remained so. Fireman Veevers slaved away to coax life into the 
fire while Driver Willers told his engine to 'come along old girl' 
and opened the regulator for a spirited climb to Stoke Tunnel, 
followed by a 90mph maximum down the bank in an effort to 
make up time. There was a rapid recovery after the severe 
Peterborough slowing, but by the end of the long climb past 
Hitchin the boiler pressure had dropped to 125 lb and the engine 
had to be nursed into Kings Cross, 20 minutes late, having 
regained 10 minutes of lost time on the 105£ mile journey from 
Grantham, thanks to a conscientious and hard working crew. 
Later I spent a whole day on the footplate of an N7 0-6-2 tank 
engine, No 69719, with trains on the Chingford and Enfield lines 
from Liverpool Street, an interesting contrast to main line work, 
but hard nevertheless for both engine and crew. 

On the footplate of a GWR King 4-6-0 King Edward VIII I 
travelled from Paddington on the nine coach, 325 ton, 9.00am 
express which had a 2hr lOmin schedule for the 110| mile non- 
stop journey to Birmingham, Snow Hill. Driver Stan Newton, 
under the enthusiastic eye of Inspector Jack Hancock, was 
determined to show what a King could do and pulled into Snow 
Hill eight minutes early, having made up six minutes lost by pw 
slowings at Gerrards Cross and Fenny Compton and signal 
checks at Brill and Snow Hill Tunnel. Unfortunately very little 
of the recording of that splendid run was satisfactory. The 
footplate of a King was less spacious and more exposed to wind 
than those of the LNER engines, or the Britannia; the riding was 
somewhat rough and it was hard enough, at speed, to maintain a 
foothold and hang on to the microphone and recorder, let alone 
control them. On the return journey with King Edward III on 
the 12 coach, 407 ton, 12.00 midday train which called at 
Leamington, Driver J.Jones gave an almost equally exhilarating 
performance, leaving Birmingham five minutes late and arriving 
at Paddington three minutes early. Unfortunately the recorder 
finally succumbed to the vibration and battering to which it had 
been subjected, and, since repairs were hardly possible in the 
circumstances, only intermittent recordings could be made of the 
latter part of the return journey. 



Stereo records of music were coming to the fore by 1958 and 
trains were ideal subjects for demonstrating the capabilities of 
stereophonic record players, so it was tempting to consider 
making stereo recordings. However, the available equipment 
was larger and more cumbersome than anything I had used so 
far. The cost seemed out of the question, particularly as the 
financing of Transacord's operations was a constant problem, 
despite the frequent assistance given by a bank manager who had 
a certain liking for steam engines, but work on Jack Clayton's 
film Room at the Top provided the ability to purchase in a 
transportable stereophonic tape recorder. It then only remained 
to find out how best to use it. Various films, such as those in 
Cinemascope, had been produced with multi-channel sound 
tracks, but knowledge of such techniques was not altogether 
helpful because they were not the same as those used for twin- 
track stereophonic recording. Stereo techniques at that time 
were by no means fully established and advice and experience on 
methods of recording, particularly on location, were hard to 
come by, confused and sometimes completely conflicting. The 
only possible solution was to experiment. Many of the early 
experiments were failures, but all were interesting, and when 
successful, were so impressively convincing that the making of 
stereo recordings immediately became my next aim. 

It was some time before a suitable independent power supply 
unit was available and even then it was a while before I had 
sufficient confidence in the new stereo equipment to rely on it for 
important recordings. Moreover the size and weight of the new 
equipment had moved everything even farther back than square 
one from a practical point of view, and the time required to set up 
the equipment was a further drawback. Even after I had made 
successful stereo recordings I still used mono equipment for 
some years at locations where accessibility was a problem, or ease 
and speed of movement essential, and for locations abroad or for 
recordings on the footplate, where the placing of such an amount 
of stereo equipment would have left little room for the engine 

At the end of April 1959 John Adams and Patrick Whitehouse, 
always helpful in many ways, mentioned that for one of their 



BBC Railway Roundabout films, the ex NBR 4-4-0s Glen 
Falloch and Glen Loy would double head the sleeping car trains, 
which then also included a restaurant car, over the West 
Highland line to and from Fort William on 8 and 9 May. This 
seemed an opportunity for stereo recording, not to be missed. 
The sights and sounds of the double headed train on the West 
Highland line alone made the journey worthwhile and I recorded 
it at Ardlui, Bridge of Orchy, Tyndrum and on the horseshoe 
curve between Bridge of Orchy and Tyndrum. The possibilities 
of stereo were amply demonstrated at Tyndrum when the sounds 
of a train at Tyndrum Upper station and another, more distant 
train at Tyndrum Lower station were recorded simultaneously. 
For various reasons not all the West Highland line recordings 
were successful in stereo and some were later issued in the West 
Highland Line LP, in mono only. 

The SLS had kindly offered me facilities for recording on 
board their Jubilee Special which, hauled by A4 Pacific Sir Nigel 
Gresley and driven by SLS member Bill Hoole, was to run 
between Kings Cross and Doncaster on 23 May 1959. 1 had not 
so far attempted stereo recording on a train and the advice of 
other experienced recordists was that the technical problems 
might be insoluble, and that the suggested microphone 
positioning was so unorthodox that it was bound to be wrong. 
The only thing to do I felt was to trust to luck and try placing the 
microphones on each side of the train. Even if it was technically 
incorrect it seemed the most likely way of producing a 
realistically exciting result. Early on 23 May the whole 
paraphernalia of stereo equipment was taken to Kings Cross and 
loaded into the front brake of the eight coach train, the gross 
weight of which was 295 tons. 

It was a memorable journey. On the down run a speed of 
82mph was attained on the climb to Stoke summit. Three times 
during the round trip to Doncaster speeds exceeded lOOmph. On 
the return journey the speed at Stoke summit, after a five mile, 1 
in 200 climb, was 75mph, followed by an average speed of 
110.8mph from Little Bytham to Essendine. A top speed of 
1 12mph was attained and since the engine was still accelerating 
when the cut off was brought back, 'there is little doubt' wrote 



Cecil J.Allen, 'that a higher speed might have been achieved if it 
had been permitted.' Almost all of the journey was recorded and 
the most interesting sections were issued on the stereo LP The 
Triumph of an A4 Pacific, a record described as 'both a 
recording triumph and a physical thrill* in The Gramophone 
magazine when it was one of their critics' choices for 1963. 
Reviewing the record for The Gramophone in July 1963 Roger 
Wimbush was kind enough to write: 

This must be one of the most thrilling records ever issued. Anybody 

who has ever reacted, however slightly, to the romance of railways 

and to the physical sensation of an express train travelling at high 

speeds will want this astonishing evocation. 

Bill Hook listened to the whole recording of his journey shortly 

before he retired and, in his tiny but supremely neat and legible 

handwriting, wrote for publication on the record sleeve: 

When I heard the recordings I was able to enjoy our journey again 

and it brought back many memories of other journeys on the line 

from Kings Cross .... when great satisfaction was derived from 

making up time lost from some unseemly delay .... All this 

develops into a wonderful symphony to my ears, which are so tuned 

to Gresley engines and A4s in particular. This adds to the pleasure 

of achievement from good team work of Fireman and Driver. 

From now on I made recordings in stereo whenever it was 

possible to overcome the practical problems involved. Old 

locations such as Hitchin, Bromsgrove, Basingstoke, Grantham, 

Shap and Ribblehead were revisited, but in many cases it was too 

late for the vintage sounds of steam. The LNER Pacifies and 

many GWR engines now had double chimneys and their sounds 

were altered. Diesels were increasingly numerous and frequently 

interfered with the sounds of steam. At Templecombe, things 

had certainly changed; a pannier tank fussed around in the yard, 

something at which the former 'This is a Southern Railway 

Station' stationmaster would certainly have winced. Nor would 

he have been pleased that S&D traffic, particularly freight, was 

all too apparently being deliberately run down. At Bromsgrove 

the banking engines were now 0-6-0 pannier tanks and a 9F 2- 

10-0, so the original Midland atmosphere had largely 


A chance to record a vintage Midland engine came when Vic 



Forster offered facilities for recording on board the RCTS East 
Midlander No 4 special train which, during much of a 
Nottingham - Eastleigh - Swindon - Banbury - Nottingham 
journey, was headed by the then recently restored Midland 
compound 4-4-0 No 1000. The sounds of No 1000, hard at work 
between Leicester and Oxford, were later included in the stereo 
LP Rhythms of Steam. Another Midland occasion a few weeks 
later turned out differently from what had been expected. 
Arrangements had been made for me to record on the 1.49pm 
Leeds - Carlisle train, the down Waverley, which was to be 
headed by a Jubilee 4-6-0 Newfoundland, fresh out of the works. 
Equipment was loaded into the front brake, a word with the crew 
promised a suitably vociferous run and by the time the train 
reached Skipton the equipment had been set up. After a brisk 
run from Skipton Newfoundland stormed away from Hellifield 
and, reassuringly loudly, climbed past Settle and on up the first 
pan of the long drag towards Horton in Ribblesdak; then speed 
fell alarmingly and when the exhaust grew weaker as the 
regulator was eased back, it was obvious that Newfoundland was 
in serious trouble. The winded engine eventually dragged the 
train through Ribblehead Station, over the viaduct and into the 
loop at Blea Moor, so short of steam that 20 minutes had to be 
spent there for a blow up, enlivened by a mostly unpublishable 
exchange of pleasantries between the crew of Newfoundland and 
the driver and fireman of an 8F 2-8-0 which was taking water 
nearby. A remarkably vigorous run between Blea Moor and 
Carlisle subsequently made up some of the time lost on the climb 
of the long drag, the recording of which was later issued on the 
LP Newfoundland heads the Waverley. 

By the end of the 1950s the records had become established, 
and in their extraordinarily efficient and perspicacious way the 
BBC Record Library had made a standing order for each new 
record that might be issued. It was as well that the BBC was 
familiar with the recordings because one enterprising gentleman 
copied extracts from a number of Transacord records, added his 
own linking comments adapted from the sleeve notes and offered 
the resulting tape to the BBC as an original programme of his 
own making. It was certainly an original idea which by chance 


an ARG0 TRANSACORD recording |EE 




The Power of Steam 

Top left: Transacord ioin LP record cover; No 4650 at Aston Rowan t with 
a Watlington-Princes Risborough train in June 1957. R - T - Coope 

Top right: Argo Transacord I2in LP record cover of 1965. Photographs by 

Colin Walker of the LMS Pacific; Paul Riley of the V2 2-6-2 and Derek 

Cross of the Crab 2-6-0 and Jubilee 4-6-0. 

Below: The xMidland Compound 4-4-0 No tooo with the RCTS East 
Midlander special train at Nottingham Victoria on 11 September i960. 

Colin Walker 


Top left: Author with stereo recorder, powered by a battery /ac converter, 
on board the northbound Aberdeen Flyer on 2 June 1962. Colin Walker 

Top right: David Frost (left) and Arthur Lilley, with Decca stereo equip- 
ment, recording the Aberdeen Flyer leaving Kings Cross on 2 June 1962. 

Hariey Usill 

Below: Driver Bill Hoole at work on the footplate of an A4 Pacific. Colin 



was frustrated when some of the recordings were recognised as 
having been taken from records of which the library had copies, 
after suspicions had been aroused by the indifferent way in 
which the records had been copied on to tape. The records had 
become more widely known as a result of reviews in the various 
railway journals including those of societies. 

An even wider public became aware of the records when Roger 
Wimbush reviewed four in The Gramophone magazine, in 
which he wrote: 

Many people believe that engineering has produced nothing more 
majestic - combining beauty of line with power - than the steam 
locomotive. Certainly there are few men who are asked every day to 
perform such feats of physical endurance as those who drive and fire 

them These are the men whose sheer sweat and guts have 

made an imperishable contribution to Britain's wealth, and who 
have added a curiously romantic aspect to industrial civilisation. 
Transacord is doing them proud and bequeathing to our national 
archives a valuable piece of history. Specialist records they may be, 
but no Englishman could hear them unmoved — and the Devil take 
the Ml. 

Shortly after that review was published the late and greatly 
missed journalist and author John Gale contacted me and asked 
if he could write something about the records. We spent some 
time together, mostly in bitter January weather at the lineside on 
the Carlisle - Edinburgh Waverley route, or riding in trains or 
on the footplate over that line. He found the experiences 
fascinating and wrote a feature article 'The Man the Engines 
Talk To' published in the Observer. That article and a 
subsequent interview, on location at the lineside near 
Saunderton, by Alan Whicker for the BBC Tonight programme 
created so much interest in Britain and abroad that the whole 
Transacord project was getting completely out of hand. 

We had by now issued more than 20 records, including three 
new 12in LPs, The West Highland Line, Shap, and The 
Somerset and Dorset. They had been produced, after a 
considerable amount of trouble, in a new pressing factory and 
were sold, complete with new and improved sleeves which 
carried a 7in x Sin cover picture, for 32s each (£ 1.60) plus 
postage and packing. The records were still sold by mail order 




because shops, with the notable exception of a helpful few, could 
not be bothered with specialised records, and if ever they passed 
on any orders, expected large discounts and extended credit 
which were impossible to allow. There were constant problems 
connected with record manufacture and increasing sums of 
money were tied up in stocks of records, labels, sleeves, 
catalogues and packing materials. Much of the money was for 
purchase tax at the luxury rate charged on records, which had to 
be paid in advance of actual sales because of the totally 
unimaginative and inflexible administrators. The inspectors 
who made frequent visits to ensure that tax was properly paid on 
everything, insisted that Transacord was merely selling records 
as a retailer and refused to recognise that the records were also 
produced, though not actually manufactured by Transacord. An 
appeal to an MP to be treated as producers and so allowed to pay 
tax only when records were finally sold had not the slightest 
effect, probably I suspect because like many MPs, he was more 
interested in roads than railways. 

So much time was now taken up in dealing with record 
manufacture and sales that I had less and less time to spare for 
making new recordings, producing new records or to work on 
films. Film work was still financially necessary to support the 
railway recordings, and was in any case interesting for its own 
sake because in the late 1950s and early 1960s, there was a 
welcome renaissance of British films, inspired by the work of 
such men as Jack Clayton, Tony Richardson and the Woodfall 
Company, Karel Reisz, Brian Forbes and Richard 
Attenborough, and John Schlesinger, all of whom, breaking 
away from studio traditions and the American influence, made a 
number of highly individual films which were interesting to work 
on and were internationally acclaimed. 

The running of Transacord had so far been interesting and 
enjoyable, but I had given little previous thought to how time 
consumingly complicated things might become when a number 
of records had been issued. The running of the company had now 
become a restrictive and worrying chore; there had never been 
any intention to develop it commercially and there was no 
inclination to do so now, and a well meaning offer of additional 


capital was rejected because to accept it, or to employ additional 
help, would have meant that records would have to be produced 
under commercial pressure, instead of from personal inclination 
as and when they seemed worth making. The fact that many of 
the recordings had proved to be pleasurably interesting to others 
was intensely satisfying, but it now had to be seriously 
considered whether the production and sale of records should be 
abandoned, as soon as possible. In fairness to the many people 
who had given enthusiastic support, by buying records and 
showing so much interest in them, adequate notice would have to 
be given of any cessation of production and the subsequent run 
down would have to be gradual. Fortunately, coincidentally with 
a decision to stop producing and selling railway records, a letter 
arrived from the managing director of the Argo Record 
Company, Harley Usill, who asked whether Transacord could 
supply some suitable recordings for the sounds of Toad's train, 
which was to be heard in the Argo record of The Wind in the 

Harley Usill, who had previously worked in the film industry, 
started the Argo Record Company in Bournemouth in 1951, two 
years before Transacord began and in exactly the same way by 
making private recordings and selling them on 78rpm records, in 
quantities of less than 100 copies to avoid the complications of 
purchase tax. In November 1951 Argo moved to George Street, 
London and became a limited company. Operating on a limited 
budget and with equally limited equipment and facilities, Harley 
Usill, by careful and intelligent selection of subjects and constant 
attention to recorded quality, gradually established Argo in a 
unique position with an unusual catalogue of specialised spoken 
word, music and documentary records. By 1957 the company 
was faced with a situation familiar to many small independent 
companies, that of being unable to carry on without expanding 
and needing capital yet being unable to expand without the 
danger of losing some independence. In November 1957 the Argo 
Record Company became part of the Decca Record Company, 
but retained a great deal of independence and from an office and 
studio in a Decca outpost in Fulham Road, continued to be 
responsible for repertoire and production, though relieved of the 



worries associated with record manufacture, distribution and 
sales, all of which were now dealt with by Decca. 

I had considered an approach to Argo for advice or assistance 
previously, but had not pursued the idea; the fortuitous arrival 
of the letter from Harley Usill now provided an opportunity for a 
meeting, at which, when the sounds of Toad's train had been 
satisfactorily dealt with, the problems of making railway records 
were discussed. Harley Usill was from his own experiences 
sympathetic and interested; he thought that there might be room 
in the Argo catalogue for a few railway records and promised to 
consider the possibilities. Early in 1961 an agreement was drawn 
up between Argo and Transacord, by which Transacord would 
cease to manufacture and sell records, the existing stocks would 
be gradually run down and any future records would be 
produced for a new Argo Transacord label. Argo, backed by the 
superb technical resources of Decca, would take over 
responsibility for the manufacture of records, the printing of 
labels and sleeves, and the distribution and sales of records. 
Transacord retained full responsibility for all the original 
recordings, the choice of subjects for records and the production 
of master tapes for the records and copy for the record sleeves. 

It was an ideal arrangement, which solved many hitherto 
intractable problems and enabled Transacord to swing into the 
plastic, internal-combustion free-for-all of the 1960s, with some 
hope that the sounds of the steam age might, after all, continue 
to be heard on records, even if they ceased to be a familiar part of 
everyday life. 


Chapter 5 
Progress with Argo 

In November 1961 four LPs and one EP were issued by Argo. 
Three of the LPs, The West Highland Line, Shop, and Somerset 
and Dorset, originally issued independently, were re-processed 
and pressed by Decca and had improved sleeves. The other LP 
West of Exeter and the EP Gresley Pacifies were newly produced 
for Argo. All other previously-issued Transacord records were 
withdrawn, but some of the contents were later reissued on EP or 
LP records in the new series. With the hallmark of respectability 
given by the Argo label and Decca distribution, Transacord 
records began to appear in some shops and even at enterprising 
bookstalls at one or two stations. All the earlier Argo Transacord 
records were issued in mono only; the first stereo LPs Trains in 
the Night and Newfoundland heads the Waverley were issued in 
September 1962, when Edward Greenfield, reviewing the 
records in The Gramophone, wrote: 'Wonderfully atmospheric 
as the Transacord mono recordings have always been, the added 
realism of stereo is a great asset.' Trains in the Night was 
subsequently issued in France, under licence by Erato, and in 
1964 was awarded the Grand Prix du Disque by the Academie 
Charles Cros. 

Now that Argo had taken over all the worrying commercial 
responsibilities, there was more time for recording and for 
occasional film work. Despite the ever increasing flood of diesels, 
creating new problems with their raucous noises, there were still 
many things worth recording. At Princes Risborough diesel 
multiple-units had taken over most Marylebone local services 
and on the line from Paddington the smart, but short lived, blue 
Birmingham Pullman glided past twice daily in each direction, 
except at weekends or when it broke down and was replaced by a 
more familiar train, headed by an engine such as Lyonshall 




Castle, revelling in the opportunity to maintain a diesel schedule. 
The Master Culler no longer roared down the gradient and away 
towards Ashendon Junction, a first sign of the political decision 
to starve the GC line of traffic and reduce it to its final sorry state 
as a prelude to closure. Kings and Castles, now mostly with 
double chimneys, still headed the Birmingham trains; until the 
sad summer Sunday in 1962, when the last push-and-pull train 
ran from High Wycombe, and a mournful procession of Kings 
and Castles passed at intervals, running light, into the twilight. 
The Birmingham expresses were taken over by the Western class 
diesels with sounds quite unique, which later developed their 
own personality and had a considerable following when, after a 
short life in locomotive terms, they in their turn were withdrawn. 

Before the diesels took over the Paddington - Birmingham 
line, I spent some days at Hatton, one of many places which 
looked perfect on the Ordnance map and the gradient profile but 
presented unforeseen problems in practice. The most appallingly 
inappropriate noises came from a metal merchant's yard near 
Hatton Station, but in a few quiet intervals it was possible to 
make some recordings of Kings and other engines tackling the 
climb from Warwick. 

I went back to Shap several times, but usually the weather was 
so bad for days and nights on end that many recordings, 
especially those in stereo, were completely ruined. Fun her north 
and as yet free from any diesels, there was the Waverley route 
from Carlisle to Edinburgh which was one of the finest lines in 
Britain for railway recording, despite the climate which vied 
with that of Shap or the Settle & Carlisle line for unpredictable 
beastliness. During my first visit to the Waverley route with John 
Gale in the winter of 1960, the weather was so appalling that 
very little recording was possible, but footplate trips over the line 
provided vivid experiences of engines and enginemen hard at 
work in the best traditions of the steam age. The Waverley route 
was largely a preserve of the V2s, which seemed to be worked 
harder there than anywhere else. They needed to be, because 
that fearsome curving climb from Newcastleton, past Steele 
Road and out across the moors to Riccarton Junction and 
Whitrope tunnel, so frequently hung with icicles in winter, was 

just one of several climbs on that line which made Shap, with its 
ubiquitous banking engines, seem comparatively easy. Riccarton 
Junction, with its own Co-op shop on the platform, was 
accessible only by rail or footpath; my efforts to reach it with 
heavy stereo equipment were eventually abandoned and when I 
went there by train, it turned out that Steele Road was a better 
recording location in any case. 

Steele Road was a strange, lonely place; the signalbox was 
only manned as required, and a porter/signalman roamed 
around the station with a shot gun, looking guilty when anyone 
approached unexpectedly. From time to time an old man walked 
into a field beside the line, uttering loud curses to any passing 
trains or to nobody in particular and feeding non-existent 
poultry from a battered and completely empty bucket. It was an 
eerie place at night when the station and signalbox were closed, 
and the wind sighed through the Larch trees in a nearby, owl- 
inhabited plantation, often making a sound like a distant train. I 
feel certain that the place, like many others where the rails were 
so ruthlessly torn up, is haunted now by the spirits of the V2s and 
other engines which, for so many years raised echoes from the 
surrounding hills as they and their crews passed that way. Even 
more eerie was Stobs, where the woods above the station were 
inhabited by legions of rooks, which made some most unnerving 
noises during the night. 

The engines most frequently seen were V2s, but K3s, Bis and 
J36s also appeared on freight workings and sometimes standard 
Class 2 2-6-0s or J 3 6s gave banking assistance to freight trains 
on the climb from Hawick to Whitrope. A3 and Al Pacifies 
worked the main passenger trains, including the sleeping car 
services to and from Edinburgh. There were the occasional A4 
Pacifies but unluckily they always passed when working 
downhill and the one exception, at Steele Road, provided a 
perfect example of the 'You should have been here yesterday' 
factor, mentioned earlier. Having recorded the dawn chorus of 
spring birdsong, which alone would have made the night's work 
worthwhile, I felt tired and hungry, packed up all the equipment, 
went off to Hawick in search of some breakfast and was away 
from Steele Road for some hours, during which time, so the 




signalman told me, an A4 had finally stalled just beyond the 
station with a northbound fitted freight. The signalbox was 
hastily manned and assistance was sent for; a J36 duly arrived 
and apparently very vociferously, banked the train on the 
remaining climb to Whitrope. Occasionally a D49 4-4-0 worked 
local passenger trains from Hawick and I eventually recorded No 
62711 Dumbartonshire one evening, leaving Steele Road with a 
Carlisle - Hawick train after a most fortunate unscheduled stop 
at the station; unluckily the recording was in mono only as the 
second track of the stereo recorder developed a fault at the vital 
moment. Luck, good or bad, affects the making of recordings to 
much the same extent as it influences the taking of photographs. 
In the introduction to his excellent book Last Steam 
Locomotives of Western Germany, Brian Stephenson wrote: 'I 
have always maintained that luck plays a far greater part in 
railway photography than many photographers are prepared to 
admit, particularly where steam locomotives are concerned.' 
Certainly the same applies to sound recording. 

One of the signalmen at Dent Station caused me a few 
problems; he was oblivious to the microphones and as trains 
approached he gave an intermittent commentary on the 
misdeeds of various drivers and their excessive speeds which, he 
alleged, had caused the derailment of a down fitted freight train 
between Settle and Stainforth sidings the previous evening. 
Recording at Ribblehead was a waste of time during the day, 
because of noise from the quarry and its traffic. On November 
evenings spent at Ribblehead Station a near gale force wind blew 
down from Blea Moor, masking the sounds of trains 
approaching up the long drag from Settle but carrying back the 
sounds of their climb across Batty Moss viaduct towards Blea 
Moor tunnel, so inaccessible that it was only practical to go there 
with a more portable mono recorder. An excellent recording 
position at the Blea Moor end of the viaduct could be reached by 
a rough track across the moor. One November evening the cold, 
calm weather was ideal for recording and having negotiated the 
rough track in the twilight, I set up the equipment and made a 
number of lengthy recordings. When the batteries needed 
charging it was time to go, but a previously unnoticed mist was 



rolling thickly up from the valley in the pitch darkness. To 
negotiate the narrow track in such conditions meant the 
probability of a broken spring, or getting bogged down, so there 
was no alternative to settling down for a long, cold and 
uncomfortable night on the moors, listening to unseen trains 
slogging up to Ribblehead and over the viaduct and unable to 
record anything because the batteries were too flat. 

Days and nights were spent beside the Central Wales line in all 
kinds of weather. My favourite locations were in the valley 
between Knucklas viaduct and Llangunllo tunnel, or between 
the tunnel and Llangunllo station. One night in the valley, just 
before midnight, police and farmers appeared from the 
surrounding darkness, loud with accusations of intended sheep 
stealing. Explanations about recording trains were not accepted 
until a previous recording was played back over the headphones; 
they then left, muttering about various sorts of madness. Later, 
in March 1964, accompanied by Inspector S. Holding, I made 
several interesting footplate recordings on the Central Wales line 
on 5MT and 8F locomotives with passenger and goods trains; it 
was a splendid experience watching and listening to the hard 
work entailed in running trains over that difficult route. One of 
the men involved was Trevor Curtis, an excellent and 
conscientious driver who had just returned to work after a period 
of suspension from all duties. His crime? He spent his off duty 
hours at Paddington, Cardiff and other stations, handing out 
leaflets to the travelling public, printed at his own expense, 
warning of the probable consequences of the activities of the 
anti-railway hatchet men who, by then, were firmly in command 
in the Marples Beeching years. 

One of the most outstanding joint recording operations 
needing precise organisation was set up to ensure the best 
possible coverage of a special train, The Aberdeen Flyer, run by 
the SLS and RCTS on 2 June 1962 when Argo and Decca joined 
Transacord. The special was to leave Kings Cross at 8.00am, 
hauled by A4 Pacific Mallard on a non-stop run to Edinburgh, 
where A4 William Whitelaw would take over for the rest of the 
journey to Aberdeen. Leaving Aberdeen at 11.00pm, with some 
sleeping cars added, LMS Pacific Princess Elizabeth was to head 



the special as far as Carlisle, where another LMS Pacific 
Princess Royal would take over for the journey to Euston. While 
Transacord, with assistance from Colin Walker and Andrew 
Raeburn, of Argo, set up two recorders in the train to record the 
entire journey, Harley Usill and Decca engineers Arthur Lilley, 
David Frost, and Mike Savage set up a large stereo recorder on 
the platform at Kings Cross to record the departure. Having 
done that, they flew in the Decca Navigator plane, plotted the 
progress of the Aberdeen Flyer, circled over it between 
Northallerton and Durham, landed at Aberdeen and set up their 
equipment at the station to record the arrival and later the 
departure of the train. Unfortunately, much of the result of all 
this combined effort proved disappointing. The jinx which 
dogged my recordings of Mallard certainly played its part; the 
recordings of the departure from Kings Cross, both on the train 
and from the platform, were largely drowned by the inopportune 
arrival on an adjacent track of a diesel locomotive with engines 
idling. As for the sounds of Mallard, during most of the run to 
Edinburgh they were extremely restrained, and bore no 
resemblance to the exuberant performance of Sir Nigel Gresley, 
in Bill Hoole's hands on the SLS Jubilee run three years earlier. 
On the outward journey the Aberdeen Flyer was slowed almost 
to a stop by a preceding goods train, lost 24 minutes and arrived 
late in Edinburgh. On the return journey there were endless 
problems: single line working, permanent way slowings, stops 
for water, and delays for electrification work all combined to 
make the arrival at Euston some hours late. Yet despite the 
disappointments it was certainly an interesting journey and by 
no means all the recordings were poor; William Whitelaw put in 
some hard work on the Edinburgh - Aberdeen run and Princess 
Elizabeth made some fine sounds climbing out from Aberdeen 
and, later, leaving Perth and climbing to Gleneagles as can be 
heard on the LMS LP record in the World of Railways series. 
Not long after the outing to Aberdeen, work started on Tony 
Richardson's film Tom Jones, which had nothing to do with 
railways but, during spare moments on location, gave me a 
chance to record some Prairie tank engines on the Minehead 
line. Tom Jones took many weeks to make and was followed, 



almost immediately, by another long film, John Schlesinger's 
Billy Liar. At the end of the bitter winter of 1963, the British 
railway scene seemed increasingly depressing, by contrast with 
earlier years. All over the country, steam locomotives were being 
displaced by diesels and lines were being starved of traffic and 
closed. We produced several new records but even that 
interesting job could be most depressing, because it brought the 
realisation that in the case of all too many lines and locomotives 
there would now never be another chance to do anything 
different or belter. There were, however, places still worth 
visiting, such as Gresford, a difficult location but best at night, 
Talerddig, the Isle of Wight, and the Leicester (West Bridge) - 
Glenfield line, opened in 1832 as pari of the Leicester & 
Swannington Railway, where goods trains were still worked by 
ex Midland 2F 0-6-0s in the summer of 1963. 

By 1964, the A4 Pacifies were enjoying a magnificent swan 
song on the Glasgow-Aberdeen line, and V2s with freight trains 
from Edinburgh, over the Forth and Tay Bridges, to Dundee, all 
of which I recorded from the footplate. During one V2 trip the 
large and cheerful fireman had finally had enough of a rather 
dour inspector and as we ran on to the Tay Bridge a tersely 
pointed conversation between inspector and fireman was 

recorded: 'We're on Tay Bridge now.' 'Aye.' 'Well jump 

off it will you.' Some sounds from those various tootplate 
journeys may still be heard on the LP Working on the Footplate, 
the cover of which is illustrated with a photograph by Derek 
Cross, whose acquaintance I made in 1964, after much previous 
correspondence. When we eventually met, it turned out that we 
had both been at the lineside between Tebay and Shap on August 
Bank Holiday Saturday in 1958, though neither of us had seen 
the other or anybody else there then. In any case, since we are 
both Englishmen and had not been properly introduced, we 
would almost certainly have ignored each other if we had met 

In subsequent years Derek Cross was enormously helpful with 
suggestions for, and assistance in the making of, numerous 
recordings in the last strongholds of steam in South West 
Scotland, as for example a Stanier Black Five 4-6-0 making 



incredibly slippery efforts to move a coal train from Bargany 
Sidings, many and various exploits of Ayr loco shed's 
indefatigable Crab 2-6-0s, the hard working tank engines on the 
NCB lines and of course, the double-headed boat trains on the 
fearsome gradients of the Stranraer line. One carefully planned 
session with the boat trains caused us to spend an unforgettable 
August night out on the moors, initially at Glenwhilly, where the 
first drops of rain fell just as the first of the double-headed trains 
approached from Stranraer, and then at Barrhill, where the 
trains to Stranraer, lashed by sheets of rain, climbed past almost 
unheard above the din of a pre-dawn gale. 

The Scarborough - Whitby and Whitby - Malum lines were 
closed in spite of fierce and well-reasoned opposition on 6 March 
1965. On that day the SLS ran The Whitby Moors special train 
over those lines, headed by K.4 2-6-0 The Great Marquess and 
Kl 2-6-0 No 62005 which, as can be heard on the LP Trains to 
Remember, made some memorable sounds, climbing towards 
Ravenscar in the morning, just before a snow shower swept in 
from the sea, and climbing past Goathland in the evening. 
Fortunately, thanks to the admirable efforts of the North 
Yorkshire Moors Railway, steam locomotives can still be seen 
and heard on the climb to Goathland. 

The centenary of the Highland Railway was celebrated in 
August 1965 by the running of a special train composed of the 
two preserved Caledonian coaches, headed by the vintage Jones 
Goods 4-6-0, HR No 103, some interesting recordings of which I 
made at Forres. HR 103 was heard again in the autumn of 1965, 
in company with GNoS 4-4-0 Gordon Highlander, working 
Branch Line Society special trains on the Dumfries - Lockerbie 
and Edinburgh - Carstairs lines. These and other beautifully 
restored engines were a fine sight, in great contrast to some 
others which were still at work on BR. 

Diesels now snarled past with most of the trains at the bottom 
of the Princes Risborough garden where the / Spy signalbox was 
no longer manned. It all seemed so demoralising. Run down 
Royal Scots appeared for a while with truncated parcels trains 
from the GC line, on which the pitiful remnant of traffic was 
handled by an assortment of filthy engines in various stages of 



neglect. The GWR engines which passed on freight trains or 
occasionally as substitutes or train heating aids for diesels, were 
increasingly uncared for and soon appeared without nameplates, 
then with numbers scrawled in chalk, in place of lost or stolen 
numberplates, even without such brass fittings as safety-valve 
covers. Yet as the 1960s progressed and steam declined on BR, it 
rose again, supreme and cared for on the blossoming private 
preservation ventures. As 'last runs' of different BR steam types 
gathered momentum so too did the following by vast crowds of 
enthusiasts on the lineside and at stations. Unfortunately it 
is not possible for microphones to exclude inappropriate and 
unwelcome surroundings or backgrounds to anything like the 
same extent as can a camera in expert hands and I did not try to 
record last rites trips. 

I had been extremely fortunate in knowing and having an 
opportunity to record railways in the time of steam while they 
were still a living, working entity rather than a matter of 
curiosity. Now, when the railway scene in Britain had changed 
so drastically and rapidly it seemed sensible, before it was too 
late, to pay more attention to railways in various countries 
abroad where steam locomotives were still working normally on 
many interesting lines. My final recording of everyday steam on 
BR in the 1960s was made in November 1967, in company with 
Inspector P.McHaffie, Driver S.Loveridge and Fireman A.Carr, 
on the footplate of one of the modern, but all too soon redundant, 
9F 2-10-0s, No 92055 with a Carlisle - Hellifield - Wigan freight 
train. Apart from a visit to Alan Bloom's working steam museum 
at Bressingham and a half-hearted attempt to record Flying 
Scotsman at Haughley in 1968, I made no more railway 
recordings in Britain until July 1969, when the Keighley & 
Worth Valley Railway preservationists suggested the first of 
many visits to their splendidly preserved line where, as on the 
other many and varied preserved railways which we are so 
fortunate to have in this country, it was and still is an intense 
pleasure to hear again the sounds of steam at work on a railway 
in Britain. 


Chapter 6 
Recording in Europe — and Asia 

As described in earlier chapters I had already made a few 
recordings on railways abroad on some pretext or other while 
working on various film locations. Those early efforts, especially 
the recordings made at Venice SL station, gave an added impetus 
to the first attempts to record the sounds of railways in Britain. 
My first foreign recordings to be attempted alone, and without 
assistance of some sort from a film company, were made in 
France in 1959. That expedition, suggested by Richard Hardy 
who was going to try his hand at firing SNCF locomotives during 
the pre-E aster weekend, was arranged too hurriedly. Largely 
because there had been no time to deal with customs formalities 
or apply for any official SNCF permits, it began fairly 
disastrously. On arrival at Calais a formidable lady customs 
official took grave exception to the attempted import of the EMI 
recorder, microphones, accessories and a large quantity of tape, 
all described as personal baggage; 1 managed to convince her 
eventually, but by then it was too late to catch any connecting 
trains. After a taxi ride to Boulogne the recorder and other 
baggage were deposited in a room at a small hotel opposite 
Tintelleries Station, to which I returned after supper to find the 
place in darkness and the door locked! No amount of hammering 
or shouting from an interested and helpful group of people had 
the slightest effect, so hopes of some late evening recordings were 
abandoned and I passed an uncomfortably naked night at an 
adjacent hotel, wondering whether I should ever see the recorder 
again. The following morning the proprietor of the first hotel 
explained with profuse apologies that he had gone to bed early, 
having completely forgotten about his solitary guest and as 
compensation he provided a free early breakfast, after which I 



caught the first available train to Caffiers, summit of the long 
climb from Calais. 

At Caffiers the stationmaster passionately insisted that any 
such extraordinary activities as the recording of trains on the 
SNCF were entirely forbidden without the support of official 
documents. The only available official railway document I had 
was a BR Eastern Region lineside permit, covering such places as 
Hitchin and Peterborough North and in desperation I produced 
it. The place names meant nothing to the stationmaster but the 
words British Railways acted like a charm and apparently 
convinced him that he was in the presence of a high official from 
BR; it seemed unnecessary for me to correct that impression and 
with the freedom of Caffiers station and full and friendly co- 
operation from all concerned, everything went much more 
smoothly from then on. I spent an enjoyable and successful day 
at Caffiers, recording the many boat trains, including the Blue 
Train headed by Pacific No 231E26 with Richard Hardy on the 
footplate. The station staff seemed flattered by any attention to 
their work and were at one time so interested in the recorder that 
they almost forgot to operate the level crossing barrier for an 
approaching train. 

Without any permits there was little more that I could do in 
the spring of 1959, apart from recording an interesting journey, 
which Richard Hardy kindly and hurriedly arranged, from Paris 
Nord to Aulnoye, on a Paris - Brussels express hauled by one of 
the streamlined 4-6-4s, No 232S002. It was some while before it 
was possible for me to return to France, in 1964 and 1965, by 
this time with the fullest possible co-operation and official 
permits for the Argentan - Granville and Paris - Rouen - Le 
Havre lines. 

One of the best locations on the Le Havre line proved to be the 
rural junction of Breaute - Beuzeville and I spent many days and 
nights there. The line was busy with heavy goods and passenger 
traffic and with the exception of autorails on branch line services 
and one or two diesel shunting engines in the yard, there was not 
a diesel to be heard or seen. I spent several more days at Rouen 
(Rive Droite), a station situated between two tunnels and very 
reminiscent of Nottingham Victoria. At Rouen the noisy work on 



the preparations for electrification occasionally caused some 
problems, but much more interesting sounds were made by the 
Pacifies starting from the station and entering the tunnels, with 
expresses and rapides to and from Paris, and by the many freight 
trains headed through the station by American and Canadian 
built 141 R 2-8-2s, The compound Pacifies were not easy engines 
to record as they had a very light exhaust beat, even when 
working hard on a rising gradient, but the 141 Rs were another 
matter and could be very vociferous when, as so often happened, 
they were worked really hard. The sounds of all those engines 
and the styles of driving were most individualistic and certainly 
could not be confused with anything heard in Britain. 

The magnificent Chapelon 24 IP 4-8-2s were still responsible 
for several express passenger trains on the Bourbonnais line to 
Nevers, Vichy and Clermont Ferrand, which climbs out from the 
Allier Valley to a summit and tunnel at Randan, where I spent 
several freezing days in January 1966. The Vichy end of the 
tunnel was hard to reach and even if a car had been available 
there would still have been a long and tortuous walk through 
the snow with heavy and cumbersome equipment. The 
stationmaster at Randan advised that, since there was ample 
time before the next express from Vichy, it would be much better 
to walk through the tunnel and lent me a torch. After walking 
some minutes into the long, straight tunnel it had become 
claustrophobically and interminably dark and the target circle of 
light at the far end seemed as small as ever. Suddenly that circle 
blacked out and was replaced by two small headlights 
accompanied by the noise of something fast approaching on the 
track beside which I was walking, now at a point indicated by 
rising and falling white guidelines as roughly midway between 
two refuges. It was needless and senseless to panic, but the torch 
tangled with the recorder strap, dropped and went out, so it 
seemed most sensible simply to lie down, just in time as a six- 
coach diesel express snarled past trailing a cloud of fumes and 
sooty dust. Luckily the torch had merely switched itself off, but 
once was enough so I stumbled back to the Randan end of the 
tunnel, and from high above its mouth made two recordings of 
24 IPs with Paris - Clermont and Clermont - Paris expresses. 


Top: ARENFE241F4-8-2 emerges from a tunnel near San Felices, with 
a Bilbao -Zaragoza train in May 1968. Brian Stephenson 

Below: SNCF Pacific No 231E5 passes Boulogne, Poste B, with the Calais 
Maritime -Paris Nord Fleche d'Or express in July 1964. Brian Stephenson 


Top: A4 Pacifies Lord Faringdon and Sir Nigel Gresley meet under the road 
bridge at Peterborough North in the late 1950s, Colin Walker 

Centre : Author, with battery operated stereo equipment, recording a DB 

Class 50 2-ro-o with a train from Hof, near Neuenmarkt Wirsberg in 

March 1972. Brian Stephenson 

Below: Filming The Lady Vanishes in Southern Austria in 1 978. Micro- 
phones on the moving engine arc linked by radio to recording equipment 
in foreground. Keith Hamshere 



Then I returned to Randan station where the stationmaster, 
having heard the reason for my filthy, dishevelled state, 
explained that he had not bothered to mention the Grenoble — 
Bordeaux diesel express because he knew that I was only 
interested in steam trains! The Paris - Clermont express 
certainly should have sounded better from the Vichy end of 
Randan Tunnel, but when it was possible to get there some days 
later, and by a non subterranean route, the wind was blowing 
hard from quite the wrong direction for carrying the sounds of 
trains approaching on the six mile, 1 in 90 climb from Vichy. 

I also recorded the 24 IPs at St Germain-des-Fosses where I 
spent several days in winter and summer. It was a busy junction 
station with endless activity by day and night, friendly interest 
from all concerned and with the usual exceptions, not a single 
diesel locomotive involved. True there was little variety in 
locomotive classes, but that was made up for by the wonderful 
variety of sounds produced by the individual engines. Opposite 
and overlooking the station there was an ideally situated little 
hotel which was incomparably better than some of the many so 
called hotels which I had used during travels round Britain. 

St Germain-des-Fosses was by no means alone in having 
excellent lodgings so conveniently placed for railway purposes. 
At Laqueuille, 3000ft up in the Massif Central, there was a small 
hotel conveniently attached to the station and run by the staff of 
the buffet, where excellent meals were served to visiting train 
crews, passengers in transit and the occasional hotel guest. 
Laqueuille is a junction on the Clermont Ferrand - Ussel line, 
which runs through beautiful country and abounds in steep 
gradients. Freight trains and through passenger trains, few in 
winter but more numerous in summer, were usually handled, 
sometimes double headed, by 141TA 2-8-2 tank engines, some of 
which were built in Britain. The 141E 2-8-2s worked between 
Ussel, Eygurandes-Merlines and Montlucon with freight trains 
and with the overnight passenger trains to and from Paris. The 
line between Eygurandes-Merlines and the branch line from 
Laqueuille to La Bourboule and Le Mont Dore had many 
excellent recording locations accessible by rail or on foot, and 
could hardly be faulted from thai point of view. Quite 



unforgettable are the sounds of the 141TAs working flat out on 
the unbroken 1 in 28| climb from La Bourboule with the Paris 
express on a freezing January night in thick snow, or with the 
Thermal Express and other trains on lazy summer days with cow 
bells tinkling in the background. Equally unforgettable are the 
sounds of a 141TA heading the Le Mont Dore portion of the 
overnight express to Paris up the long, steep gradient to the 
summit at Eygurande-Merlines station, where it was combined 
with the Ussel portion, headed by a 14 IE which took the train on 
to Montlucon, 

I made an interesting journey on the footplate of 141TA468 
with the 09.42 weekdays only mixed goods and passenger train 
from Ussel to Busseau-sur-Creuse, which conveniently waited at 
Aubusson from 14.33 to 15.05 while the crew left their engine, 
sat in the train to eat their lunch and then adjourned to the 
station bar for coffee and cognac. A splendid recording was made 
on the train for Paris which left Le Mont Dore at 21.00. On a 
calm full moonlit night the driver decided to work 141TA347 
even more flat out than usual up and down the fearsome 
gradients and round the numerous curves of the line to 
Laqueuille. The passengers were given rather a rough ride and 
one or two were apparently dislodged from their couchettes; on 
arriving at the junction at Laqueuille, where the train reversed, 
the driver prudently jumped down from the offside of his engine 
and took refuge in the bar with me, leaving the fireman to deal 
with the inevitable protests of outraged passengers. 

In February 1967, only just in time, I made several recordings 
on the metre gauge lines of the Reseau Breton, at Guingamp, 
Carhaix and Rosporden. In more recent years, thanks to the help 
of M.Rasserie and Dr Claude Bouchaud, I have made many 
other recordings in France, on preserved lines and of special 
trains hauled by 141R1187 and 230G353. 

The last steam locomotive in commercial service in France 
was 2-8-0 No 140C38, one of a group of engines built by the 
North British Locomotive Company in 1917 for service in the 
first world war. No 140C38 was recorded in July 1975, hard at 
work with cereal trains on the CFTA line between Chatillon-sur- 
Seine and Troyes. That engine and others at work in France can 



still be heard on the LP records Vive la Vapeur, and Vapeur en 
France, but another LP, Paris Express, is now only available in 
France, because it is one of a number of foreign records which 
have unfortunately had to be deleted, since so little interest was 
shown in them in Britain. 

In 1960 another film location in Spain gave me a chance for 
some more spare time exploration and recordings, this time 
without any arrests. I made several trips on the jolly little 
750mm gauge SFG line which ran from Gerona to San Feliii de 
Guixols; 0-6-2 tank engines, such as No 2, built by Krauss and 
Company in 1890, made leisurely progress with mixed trains, 
which included a daily Correo (mail train) and without allowing 
for the occasional derailment, the 40 kilometre journey took 
almost two hours. Louder sounds from larger engines, such as 
14 IF 2-8-2s, were heard at Gerona and on an overnight journey, 
double headed at times, from Barcelona to Madrid. 

In the winter of 1968 I went to Spain again, specifically to 
record some of the remaining steam workings, fully armed with 
official permits and in company with John Aldred and his 16mm 
cine camera. The sight and sounds of a freight train, double- 
headed by a 14 IF 2-8-2 and a 181 ton 4-6-2 + 2-6-4 Gamut, 
climbing towards Fuente la Higuera, or leaving La Parrilla, were 
certainly some of my most impressive memories of RENFE 
steam. Several days and nights were spent at La Parrilla, a small 
but important station because it had several running loops where 
freight trains, which often had to be divided because of their 
length, usually stopped before continuing the fierce climb to 
Fuente la Higuera and La Encina. The stationmaster spent 
much of his time between trains in his office, lit by an oil lamp 
where he filled in endless forms and ledgers, most of which 
appeared to be put straight into store in a small shed that also 
housed food for the chickens which ran around the station yard. 
The station staff, who were responsible for individually 
operating the points from levers by each switch, were friendly 
and helpful, and on one occasion, quite unasked, went out of 
their way to do something specially for us. When freight trains 
stopped in the loop it was usual, because of the climb from the 
station, for the fireman to spend some time sanding the rails 



ahead of the train with his shovel. Just out of sight, round a 
curve, two of the station staff were liberally spreading thick 
grease on the rails so that, as they later explained, 'the engines 
will make plenty of noise for you'! That they certainly did; a 
train double headed by a 462E Garratt and a 240F 4-8-0 made 
impressive enough sounds when climbing out from that station 
in any case, and when the piloting Garratt hit the grease the 
resulting uproar drowned everything that, to judge by the 
expressions on their faces, the engine crews seemed to be 
shouting. Sadly that recording and a number of others on that 
line were spoiled by an unpredictably fierce wind which blew 
down from the mountains. 

After seeking out the 282F 2-8-2 + 2-8-2 Garratts on the line 
from Lerida to Tarragona, which had greatly changed in the 17 
years since my first visit, we moved to Castejon de Ebro where 
the well-remembered political police pounced once more. This 
lime it was John Aldred who disappeared for a while, but he was 
soon released after the intervention of a friendly engine driver 
whose engine had been photographed, and with a thorough if 
completely uncomprehending scrutiny of the permits. There was 
much to be seen and heard at Castej6n where the station and 
yard were constantly busy with quite a variety of locomotives, all 
of them steam, on freight and passenger workings. The hugely 
magnificent, green, and well kept Confederation 4-8-4s headed 
the main express trains, some of which made lengthy journeys, 
such as the 1338 kilometres covered in 29| hours by train No 
5225/135, the express from Barcelona to La Coruna and Vigo; it 
was most impressive to see and record one of those 4-8-4s making 
a completely sure footed start and accelerating away into the 
darkness with that heavy train to La Coruna on a night of 
torrential rain at Castejon de Ebro. With experiences such as 
that in mind it must be admitted that although British 
locomotives were undoubtedly the most aesthetically satisfying 
in appearance, the sights and sounds of continental engines and 
railways were generally more impressively dramatic, possibly 
because the greater distances and the altogether larger scale of 
operations, particularly with international services, added extra 
romance to continental railway workings. 


The Orient Express was long considered to be one of the most 
romantic trains in the world and probably inspired more authors 
than any other train, especially between the years 1900 and 
1940. The world famous express first linked the Channel coast 
and the Bosphorus in 1883 and ran, under various titles and by a 
number of different routes, until May 1977 when the last 
through sleeping cars ran on the Direct Orient Express from 
Paris to Istanbul. Even during the train's final years, stripped of 
earlier glamorous luxury and most of the restaurant car 
facilities, it was still an interesting train for a railway enthusiast 
to travel on, though journalists who made the journey usually 
described the experience with a noticeable lack of enthusiasm. 

In 1954 I had travelled on the Simplon-Orient Express as far 
as Venice, but that was for a mere 1395 kilometres of the total 
3394 kilometres journey from Calais to Istanbul. In 1967 1 made 
the complete journey for the first time on the Direct Orient 
Express from Paris to Istanbul, and then on the Anatolia Express 
to Ankara, to work on the Woodfall film The Charge of the Light 

In 1965, thanks to an earlier Woodfall film, I had made the 
3569 kilometre journey from Calais to Athens on the Greek 
portion of the Direct Orient Express, which was divided from the 
Istanbul portion at Belgrade. During the long journey to and 
from Athens the train was steam hauled for a while by a 2-10-0 in 
Greece and by a 2-6-2 in Yugoslavia where several interesting 
steam locomotives were seen. Unfortunately the Yugoslavian 
authorities at Skopje, then still suffering the after effects of an 
earthquake, were not keen to have their engines recorded and 
insistently confiscated two reels of tape; unsettling experiences 
like that made the earlier photographic achievements of A. E. 
Durrani, seen in The Steam Locomotives of Eastern Europe 
(David & Charles 1966), seem even more remarkable. On the 
1967 journey to Istanbul the Direct Orient Express was steam 
hauled by a Yugoslavian Pacific through the wildly beautiful 
Dragoman Pass to Dimitrovgrad on the Bulgarian border and 
later by a smart Bulgarian 2-8-2 between Plovdiv and 
Svilengrad. I made some interesting recordings from the train 
but, apart from some surreptitious efforts at stations after dark, 




most of the many and varied engines I saw in Bulgaria had to go 

In the early hours of the morning the express was handed over 
to an Austrian built 0-10-0 of uncertain years, then wheezily 
proceeded through a corner of Greece at a bumpy jog trot on 
incredibly short rail lengths. As the first light of dawn took over 
from the green glow of the dancing fireflies, we eventually 
reached the Turkish border at Uzunkdpru. The Greeks and 
Turks were not speaking to each other at the time and the change 
of engines and attachment of a restaurant car were only 
accomplished after much whistling and buffer bashing. White 
cheese, rose petal jam, muddy coffee and lemon tea were served 
in the rather faded brass and mahogany splendour of the vintage 
restaurant car. Cinders rained on the roof and penetrated cracks 
round the windows, as an equally vintage 2-8-0 of French 
ancestry dragged the train up fearsome, curving gradients. 
Billowing clouds of black smoke indicated the efforts of two 
firemen, one of whom spent much of his time shovelling coal 
forward from the top of the swaying tender. The train climbed to 
a summit on a scorched and barren plateau, called at Cerkezkdy, 
where it was besieged by hordes of yelling children, beggars and 
merchants, then rattled on down to the Marmara shore at 
Halkali from where an electric locomotive took over for the last 
few miles of the journey to Istanbul. 

With the hopeful intention of making more recordings on the 
steam hauled route of the Orient Express and of trains in 
Turkey, I went again to Istanbul in December 1969, travelling 
from Hook of Holland to Vienna and then by the Istanbul 
Express from Vienna to Istanbul. On the outward journey, 
heavily delayed by ice, which solidly froze train doors, and heavy 
snowfalls in Austria, Yugoslavia and Bulgaria, the Istanbul 
Express eventually reached Uzunkopru lj days late. The 
scheduled restaurant car had not turned up during a seven hour 
wait at Zagreb, consequently no food was available on the train 
for three days, and news that a restaurant car should be attached 
at Uzunkopru was most welcome. The Turkish restaurant car 
was a luggage van, at one end of which there was an ancient 
kitchen range, fired from a heap of coal in the corner and 



presided over by a cheerful fellow in a flat cap and greasy striped 
apron. He did the cooking, served the dubious results to 
customers at insecure trestle tables, stacked dirty crockery in 
buckets, spat frequently and fairly accurately on to the coal 
heap, and collected the money. He was also a saviour to a 
number of hungry passengers. The heavy train lost more time on 
the journey to Halkali, and as no electric locomotives were 
available there an ancient 0-10-0 took over the Istanbul Express 
which finally groaned to a halt in Sirkeci station 41 hours and 
27 minutes late. 

From previous experiences in Turkey nothing that happened 
during the next two weeks should have surprised me, though this 
was the first time that I had direct contact with the often corrupt 
bureaucracy, which it is difficult to overcome. The Turkish 
railways would be hard to beat for monumental inefficiency and 
the news that in four weeks at the end of 1978 there were five 
serious accidents, including a spectacular head-on collision on 
the Istanbul - Ankara main line, was not at all surprising. 

Permits had been promised for collection at Istanbul, but at 
the end of another wasted day there seemed no hope of getting 
them so I accepted a letter of introduction with the assurance 
that it would be most influential and altogether better. 
Unfortunately that letter had little influence on local 
bureaucrats in distant places and even less on policemen who 
could not read, one of whom I encountered on Boxing Day, 
which meant nothing in Muslim Turkey, at a desolate and 
snowbound junction station at Ulukisla. The Istanbul - 
Baghdad Taurus Express had deposited me there, 4{ hours late 
after a 15 hour, 1121km journey; there were no other 
passengers, only a woman with no legs, covered in sacking and 
perched on a wooden trolley on which she propelled herself by 
her stumped arms alongside the train with loud demands for 
money. The station staff were surly, unhelpful and suspicious, 
but did nothing to prevent me setting up equipment to record an 
LMS class 8F 2-8-0, (a number of which arrived in this pan of 
the world by courtesy of the War Department) incongruously 
fitted with an air brake pump, which was waiting at the head of a 
freight train. Before the train left a fully armed military 




policeman appeared and unmistakeably indicated that whatever 
I was doing must cease immediately. He then summoned a 
dilapidated taxi, took me and the equipment to the local police 
station and pushed me inside, after I had paid the taxi driver. 
The letter of introduction was endlessly scrutinised and 
discussed, tea was served and there was much telephoning. 
'British' they said, many times as they inspected my passport; 
then a man in a flat cap came in; 'Speak English' he said, 
frowned over his dictionary and added: 'Tomorrow - most 
sorry'. Quite what would happen tomorrow was not clear but, 
whoever he was, he certainly had good reason to be most sorry 
about the cold, dirty and barely furnished room in which I spent 
a worried night. The next morning an army officer arrived; he 
explained in Americanised English that this was a military area, 
railways were military matters, I must not interfere with them 
and must go away at once, I could hardly wait and was delighted 
to pay for another taxi, with armed escort to the station where 
the escort made sure that I left on the mail train to Adana which 
soon arrived, apparently some hours early but in fact extremely 
late, because it should have arrived on the afternoon of the 
previous day! 

The journey over the 4800ft summit and down through the 
Taurus mountains was simply magnifcent and more than made 
up for the irritations of previous days. Progress behind a three 
cylinder 2-10-0 was slow, the train stopped at every station and 
sometimes between them, for totally inexplicable reasons which 
had nothing to do with signals of which there were none. 

At Adana nobody was interested in letters of introduction or 
much else; it's much more interesting further on they said and 
well it might have been, but I had already been warned not to go 
anywhere near the Syrian border and decided it would be wiser 
to go back to Yenice. There the stationmaster understood and 
spoke some German and was most helpful. His station was busy 
by Turkish standards; a Nohab 2-6-0 fussed up and down, 
sometimes just for my benefit and there were occasional 
passenger and mixed trains on the Mersin line headed by 4-8-0s, 
and on the main line, headed usually by three cylinder 2-10-0s of 
one type of another. Northbound freight trains took on another 

2-10-0 as pilot or banker for the long climb over the Taurus 
mountains which gleamed in the background. Around the 
station, wherever engines cleaned their fires old women picked 
among the cinders and filled their baskets with anything 
combustible. Inquisitive and acquisitive children swarmed 
across the tracks whenever there was something strange to see or 
possibly steal; they formed a staring circle round the 
microphones and recorder, giggling, coughing and spitting. 
Closely surrounded by such disconcerting noises it was difficult 
to record anything, except when the railwaymen succeeded in 
their endless fierce efforts to chase the children away. 

From Yenice I travelled up into the snow covered mountains 
on the morning mail train. During the journey the engine slipped 
to a standstill inside one of the several tunnels, ran out of steam 
and we had to wait a while for a blow up. The subsequent uproar 
among the suffocating passengers almost drowned the sounds of 
the engine as it struggled out of the tunnel and then climbed 
slowly towards Belemedik, an isolated, primitive village more 
than 4000ft up in the Taurus mountains and only accessible over 
rough tracks by donkey or by the railway, which here runs out 
from the last tunnel on the climb from Yenice and enters a wide 
valley surrounded by sheer mountain peaks. I spent two days and 
a night at Belemedik. 

When the time came to leave Turkey after that second visit, it 
seemed disappointing that after travelling so far to and around 
the country and spending so long there, I had made 
comparatively few recordings. Yet because the recorded sounds 
are so uniquely interesting and the whole experience is so vividly 
memorable, looking back it now seems well worthwhile. 

There were plenty of steam locomotives still at work in various 
Eastern European countries, but several photographers had run 
into trouble there, even though they had permits, and it seemed 
stupid to risk even worse problems than those met in Turkey by 
attempting to record in Communist countries without 
permission. Unfortunately the mere idea that anybody might 
have an innocent wish to record railway sounds was treated with 
even more incredulous suspicion than it had aroused elsewhere 
in the 1950s. Applications to the representatives of such 




countries as Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Russia 
were generally either ignored as facetious or were passed from 
one prevaricating official to another and finally refused. In some 
cases it would have been possible to go with an organised party 
and accept all the restrictions which that implied; alternatively 
some unobtrusive recordings might have been made with a small 
recorder and concealed microphones but, as I already knew, that 
was hard to do without looking suspiciously guilty and anyway 
such methods usually produced indifferent results, especially in 

A fanatically dedicated Yugoslavian enthusiast who had 
managed to get some Transacord records, wrote to Argo at the 
address on the record sleeves and suggested that recordings be 
made in Yugoslavia. He added that he would arrange for 
permission and act as an escort if I would meet him in Ljubljana 
in November 1970. Quite how he organised everything I never 
managed to discover, but he certainly prevented any unpleasant 
international incidents during my three-week stay in Yugoslavia. 
He mentioned places where we must not record and at times told 
me to keep quiet, look innocent and show no interest whatever in 
railways. The greatest problem was the weather, often so bad 
that for precious days and nights it was impossible to do 
anything other than try to get warm and dry, while feeling sorry 
for the Yugoslavian shunters and pointsmen, who were certainly 
neither as they wandered around under the incongruously 
inadequate protection of city type black umbrellas. 

A single line from Ljubljana climbs along the far side of a 
broad valley at Skofljica, swings round a wide horseshoe curve 
and climbs even more steeply along the near side of the valley, 
through a rock cutting and into a tunnel. That was a near perfect 
location for recording, especially in the twilight of a calm 
evening of sullen sky and freezing drizzle when, for nearly 15 
minutes, from a position near the tunnel mouth, we listened to 
and recorded a 1920s vintage, Austrian-built 2-8-0 slipping and 
struggling round the valley and into the tunnel at the head of a 
heavy freight train. 

In the Istrian Mountains we recorded a pair of Austrian-built 
0-lQ-Os, both more than 50 years old, fiercely attacking the long 


climb from Rakitovec to Zazid with a double headed freight 
train. Both engines were working flat out and their exhaust beats 
merged in a continuous roar at the start of the climb, then 
gradually slowed and separated as the two engines headed the 
train away across the barren mountains in the face of a howling 
gale. Later that evening, down at Rakitovec station, I was 
surprised to be spoken to in strongly Scottish accented English 
by a Yugoslavian railwayman; he had been conscripted into 
Mussolini's army, fought in the Western Desert, was taken 
prisoner and sent to a prisoner of war camp in Scotland. By the 
time he went home to Istria, which was Italian territory from 
1920 to 1947, it had become pan of Slovenian Yugoslavia. 

On a frosty evening in the Julian Alps a 53 year old Prussian- 
built three cylinder 2-10-0, at the head of a 750 tonne freight 
train, raised remarkable echoes from the 6000ft peaks of the 
surrounding mountains during the long, steep and slippery climb 
up the valley to Bojhinska Bistrica. Earlier we had spent two 
miserably inactive days at that normally delightful place in 
continuous torrential rain, as a result of which a deep and fast 
flowing river ran out of the mouth of the single line tunnel. In 
such conditions the continued running of trains through the 
tunnel seemed somewhat hazardous, but the stationmaster said 
that the flooding was quite usual and was no problem because 
the track was laid on specially large and heavy ballast! He did 
admit though, that there were problems when the water level 
was high enough to reach the engine ash pans. A journey 
through that flooded tunnel on the evening passenger train, 
headed by a 52 year old Hungarian built 2-6-2 tank engine, was 
most interesting. From the open platform of the leading coach 
we could see the considerable wash created by the engine as it 
plunged ahead at a slow walking pace through deep water, with 
the firemen leaning far out to keep an eye on the water level, then 
gradually accelerated through shallower water at the approach 
to the summit. The recording I made on that amphibious train 
sounds nothing like a railway journey, more like a trip through a 
fairground tunnel of love on some weird little steamship! 

The eminent Austrian locomotive engineer Doctor Adolph 
Giesl-Gieslingen, an enthusiastic listener to Transacord records, 




lold me in 1969 that there were many interesting steam 
locomotives still at work in Romania, including some impressive 
2-8-4s for which he played a considerable part in the design. 
When 2-8-4s of the same type were first built, as the 214 series in 
Austria, they were the most powerful locomotives in Europe, In 
1963 the class was chosen for the working of heavy express 
passenger trains on mountain lines in Romania and 79 engines of 
the class were built there between 1937 and 1940. 

The first approach to the Romanians in 1969 met the response 
I expected from previous dealings with Communist countries - 
suspicion, prevarication and eventual silence. Early in 1971 
Doctor Giesl-Gieslingen asked if there had been any progress 
with the Romanians and when told of the impasse, kindly wrote 
yet another letter to the CFR in Bucharest. In the summer, after 
months of continued and absolute silence, a three page telegram 
arrived from the Romanian Transport Ministry which gave the 
conditions on which a three week visit would be permitted. The 
main condition was that £400 in Sterling must be paid in 
Bucharest for such facilities as the services of a French speaking 
railway official who would act as an escort; his living expenses 
would have to be paid in addition, but basic rail transport was 
covered by the facilities payment. By 1971 currency standards 
£400 was a lot of money to gamble on a project which seemed 
nebulous, mainly because specific questions about what would be 
permitted had been completely ignored. Because of the 
uncertainty about permits, Paul Wilson, a railway enthusiast 
and well-known film cameraman who was keen to go with me to 
photograph and film steam engines anywhere, rightly decided 
not to go to Romania; his decision proved wise because the 
restrictions on filming were so numerous and severe that his visit 
would have been wasted. 

Many more telegrams and letters came and went before, in 
October 1971, I left Paris on the Orient Express for Bucharest. 
At Hegyeshalom on the Hungarian border and at Curtici on the 
Romanian border the various customs officials were sternly 
unimpressed by letters in English from the Romanian Transport 
Ministry and conferred over essays which they wrote in my 
passport before, reluctantly, allowing me to travel on to 



Bucharest with a considerable amount of stereo recording 
equipment. From Bucharest North station two officials escorted 
me to various ministries where, after handing over £400, 1 was 
photographed passport fashion by a lady with an ancient plate 
camera and endlessly interrogated to find out, yet again, what I 
wished to do and why. My escort, who appeared the next day, 
was a French speaking locomotive engineer aptly named 
Gabriel. He was most knowledgeable on railway matters and 
though no doubt a reliable Party member, had a considerable 
sense of humour. One idiosyncracy, most evident in the sleeping 
car compartments and primitive accommodation which we 
shared, was that he never brought a change of socks, even when 
away for a week or more. 

After two days of investigation, documentation and waiting 
around we left Bucharest on the overnight train to Subcetate, 
then travelled by a mixed train headed by an immaculate, 
Austrian-built, 2-8-2 rack and adhesion tank engine, which later 
made some most unusual sounds when it propelled the train on 
the rack section that takes the line over the 3000ft summit at 
Portile de Fier on the northern slopes of the Transylvanian Alps. 

The magnificent 2-8-4s, which had an extraordinarily 
staccato exhaust beat, had few remaining duties but were suc- 
cessfully recorded when heading express trains near Oradea 
a busy junction where many interesting locomotive workings 
were seen and heard. Two of the few remaining, once famous, 
Maffei Pacifies were later recorded at Medgidia and Badadag on 
the line to Tulcea, a strange place on the estuary of the Danube, 
opposite Russia. One of the Pacifies worked the morning 
Persoane (stopping) passenger train, calling at all stations on the 
4| hour, 179km journey to Tulcea and then, after a 2^ hour stop 
over, worked a similar train back to Constanta; 144km of the 
journey was over a steeply undulating single line on which some 
hard work was called for from the engine and crew. The same 
crew worked the outward and return journeys, leaving 
Constanta at 08.00 and arriving back there at 19.45. Such long 
hours appeared to be normal for engine and train crews; freight 
train guards must have found the hours endless, especially on a 
winter night, for they rode on the end of the last wagon in a small 




unhealed cabin something like an upright coffin with portholes 
and not much larger. One bitterly cold day I asked the guard of a 
waiting freight train how he coped with the bumpy discomfort: 
'It can be very hard', he said, interpreted by Gabriel, 'but it is 
part of railway life and I am a railwayman'. 

One of several minor Balkan dramas took place at Alba Iulia, 
where I recorded narrow gauge locomotives with splendid 
whistles at work on the line to Zlatna. We arrived on a main line 
train in the morning and met the stationmaster. At first he 
seemed suspicious but then charmingly suggested that, as we 
intended to walk some way down the narrow gauge line, 
anything not needed could be left in his office. When we returned 
to the station in the afternoon there were some police and 
soldiers there; two of each were in the office where my luggage 
had been searched and it was evident that at the suggestion of the 
stationmaster we were to be taken away. Tension eased after 
several lengthy phone calls presumably to Bucharest, and after 
some grudging apologies we left on an evening train to Teius. My 
escorting angel Gabriel seemed unsurprised by the incident and 
cheerfully explained: 'In Romania we have very many important 
officials, such as stationmasters and some of them like to be 
much more important than they really are'. That humorously 
cynical attitude to Marxist officialdom was often evident; 
sometimes, bored with standing around at the lineside, he would 
wander off for an hour or so after giving me his black leather 
coat. 'Wear that, say nothing to anybody and look grim', he said, 
'then everybody will think you are one of the secret police and 
leave you completely alone*. It certainly worked, but that was 
not the only identity I assumed under his guardianship. 

When we arrived at Teius it seemed odd that we walked away 
from the station and stumbled along the track in the dark with 
heavy baggage, but all questions went unanswered. We reached 
a barrack like building and stopped outside. 'Don't speak to me 
and if anyone speaks to you don't answer', whispered Gabriel. 
Inside he wrote something in a book, collected keys from a 
caretaker, took me upstairs and opened the door of a cell-like but 
clean room, furnished with wash basin, chair and duvet covered 
bed, under which was a pair of brown felt bedroom slippers. He 


told me to lock the door and left me puzzled and slightly worried. 
A short while later he quietly called me outside and we walked 
down to the town to have an excellent supper in a drably 
furnished people's restaurant, where we were entertained by a 
state employed trio of an accordion player, pianist and violinist, 
who played to a strictly observed state musician's union 
timetable, but seemed to enjoy their work. During the evening 
Gabriel explained the earlier mysteries. We were staying in a 
railway staff transit hostel into which he had booked me as a 
locomotive inspector from Timisoara under the name of Petra 
Toma, the Romanian version of my Christian names. 'They 
make a good Romanian name', he said, 'but if somebody heard 
us speaking French they might be suspicious and that could be 
quite bad, especially for me.' I remained prudently mute until we 
were on the train to Cluj next morning. 

Back in Bucharest I was taken to lunch at a large hotel where, 
in one corner of the dining room, a group of smartly dressed 
people seemed to get unusually attentive service. I asked if they 
were tourists and was told by one of my hosts that they were all 
Romanian but were important members of the Communist 
party. In the hotel lobby I was taken aside by another of my 
hosts, an important railway officer, who asked me to buy him 
some American cigarettes from the tourist shop which only 
accepted foreign currency. 'Our country is now a worker's 
republic', he said, 'so such things are not for us.' 

The undercurrent of suspicion, repression and fear in 
Romania and other Eastern bloc countries was depressingly 
similar to that I experienced towards the end of the war in 
Germany and must be inseparable from any totalitarian regime, 
whether it be Fascist or Communist. It is surprising that so much 
individuality was allowed among engine drivers in some 
Communist countries; maybe it had something to do with the 
elite mystique which used to go with the job. In Romania, where 
the one-engine/one-driver principle was still widely applied, such 
individuality was evidenced by engines with connecting rods, 
wheel spokes, number plates and the like painted in assorted 
bright colours; even the engine whistles were often changed over 
to suit the personal preferences of a driver. My main regret was 




that my visit could not be made earlier, but nevertheless my 
railway tour of Romania was certainly worthwhile. Despite the 
influx of diesels and the progress of electrification it was 
exceptional to see a steam locomotive which was not carefully 
cleaned and well maintained. A variety of steam locomotives was 
still hard at work in several parts of the country, much of which 
is unusually beautiful, and it was interesting to see things which 
tourists do not see and to be so closely involved with Romanian 
railways and railwaymen. Those railwaymen, working in the 
type of society advocated by left wing militants in Western 
Europe, certainly do not have the freedom to disrupt public 
services whenever they have a grievance. 

West Germany was much too efficient a country to provide 
any untoward excitements and the only Balkan type incident 
there occurred one January evening on the East German border, 
at Honebach, where the West German border patrol appeared in 
the twilight to enquire why I was apparently operating a 
clandestine radio transmitter. They were most polite but 
obviously found it hard to understand why, on a freezing 
evening, a lone Englishman should be waiting beside the snow 
covered line to record the sounds of an East German Pacific 
locomotive, climbing from Gerstungen with a heavy express 
train, heading it over the all too obvious border and whistling 
mournfully away into the distant tunnel. 

The many visits I made to West Germany, whenever there was 
time to spare in the years between 1969 and 1973, were a much 
needed tonic. The lack of excitement in the country was 
compensated for by the sounds and sights of powerful steam 
locomotives working heavy trains in normal service in widely 
varied locations. It was not easy to find good recording locations 
and military aircraft were a widespread problem. Brian 
Stephenson was endlessly helpful with accurate and detailed 
information concerning locomotives and their whereabouts. In 
1972 we eventually managed to visit the Schwabisch Hall and 
Neuenmarkt Wirsberg areas together, an interesting trip which 
produced some worthwhile results, one of which can be heard on 
the LP Steam in all Directions. Like several other LPs, this is 
illustrated by one of Brian Stephenson's excellent pictures. 



I made more recordings in West Germany than in any other 
country, except Britain, and some are particularly memorable, 
such as the vintage 38 class 4-6-0s at work in the beautiful 
forested country around Horb and Sigmaringen, the 03 Pacifies 
on the Ulm - Friedrichshafen line, East German Pacifies on the 
line from Bebra, the 01 Pacifies on the 8km, 1 in 40 climb of the 
Schiefe Ebene, and the three-cylinder 012 Pacifies and the 2-8- 
2s, sometimes in tandem, on the Rheine - Emden line. At 
Hirzenhain, where a gradient board indicated 1 in 17, the 
powerful 94 class 0-10-0 tank engines climbed steadily towards 
the summit with passenger trains from Dillenburg. In the vine- 
covered Moselle Valley an endless procession of equally endless 
freight trains climbed out from Bullay, day and night, headed by 
three-cylinder or two-cylinder 2-10-0s, usually assisted by a 
diesel banker, and at Altenbeken some exceptionally hard 
working 2-10-Os filled the wide valley with their sounds for many 
minutes on end as they climbed towards the splendid viaduct 
with heavy freight trains. All too soon steam working declined in 
West Germany and finally ceased, but sounds such as the 
haunting low pitched whistles echoing across a valley will not be 

In the autumn of 1973 there were still steam locomotives at 
work on some regular services in Italy. There, in the Dolomites, 
the curious looking Crosti boilered 2-8-0s made some equally 
curious but impressively energetic sounds as they fiercely 
attacked the steep gradients on the Fortezza - San Candido line 
with freight and passenger trains. Sometimes some heavy 
passenger trains to and from Germany were banked or double 
headed, or both, by two or three 2-8-0s, but so far as I was 
concerned such trains only ran possibile domani and never 
actually appeared. The Crosti 2-8-0s also worked freight trains 
on the Alessandria - Alba line; at one station on that line, Santa 
Stefano Belbo, the crew of a 2-8-0 were so delighted to have their 
engine recorded that despite the exhortations of the 
stationmaster, they refused to move their train on until they had 
heard the recording and been photographed with the train crew 
and station staff all grouped around their engine. The more 
conventional and elegant 640 class 2-6-0s were recorded at work 



with passenger trains in various places on the Alessandria - Alba 
line and in the Po Valley. A 2-6-0 of the same class sometimes 
assisted freight trains on the long, steep climb out of Trento on 
the line to Primolano. At Villazzano, high above Trento, there 
was a likely looking recording location near a seldom used level 
crossing; unfortunately, as soon as the crossing closed, a local 
lady hung her large carpet over the lowered barrier and then 
beat it so loudly that the noise completely ruined the recording of 
a banked freight train climbing out from Trento. 

Through Primolano and Bassano del Grappa I travelled to 
Venice at the end of the line. There, in 1973, electric locomotives 
glided efficiently, but impersonally, out from the station and 
away over the causeway to Mestre. It was all very different to the 
well-remembered scene in 1954 when, in a way, Transacord 
records began here with the inspiration given by the recordings 
made on a tape recorder which, cumbersome though it was, did 
not depend on a mains electricity supply. Some of those 1954 
recordings were issued on one of the earliest 78rpm records. 
Since then I had travelled many thousands of miles around 
Europe and into Asia, mostly by train, in search of the remaining 
sounds of the steam age. I used more than 400 miles of tape to 
record those sounds and produced 138 records of various types. 
A few of those records were never issued and many more have 
been deleted, but, at the time of writing in 1 979, 49 Transacord 
records remain in the Argo catalogue. 

All the earlier recordings were made purely for personal 
interest and that personal interest remained, even when the issue 
and sale of records provided an excuse to increase the number 
and scope of the recordings to an extent undreamed of originally. 
Certainly it is most satisfying that so many people have enjoyed 
and still enjoy listening to records of railway sounds. Even if no 
records had ever been issued, the whole project would have been 
worthwhile for its own sake, mainly because the recordings made 
it possible to see so much of the world of railways and involved 
many vividly memorable experiences for which 1 shall always be 


Chapter 7 
The art of railway recording 

Since the 1950s, when the first Transacord railway recordings 
were made on tape and issued on 78rpm discs, both the railways 
and the equipment used for sound recording have completely 
changed. The enormous changes on the railways, such as the 
indecently rapid disappearance of steam locomotives and the 
destruction of all too many once busy and useful lines, have been 
of little benefit to railway enthusiasts, or to prospective 
passengers whose railway or station no longer exists. In contrast, 
the changes in recording equipment have been wholly beneficial 
to sound recordists, both amateur and professional, although the 
ever increasing rate of change sometimes makes it alarmingly 
difficult to keep up with the latest developments, such as the 
revolutionary method of digital recording. 

Some of the changes which have occurred during the past 25 
years are exemplified by the variety of equipment which has been 
used for making the Transacord railway recordings. Mono 
recorders were: Excel, made by Excel Sound Services of 
Bradford, Ferrograph, Vortexion, EMI TR50, and EMI TR51, 
all of which required an AC mains supply, and EMI L2 and 
Nagra portable recorders, operating from internal dry batteries. 
Borrowed Levers Rich mono recorders were also used 
occasionally. Stereo recorders were: Ferrograph, EMI TR52, 
EMI TR90, and Revox, all of which required an AC mains 
supply, and a transportable recorder, custom-built by Stage 
Sound Ltd, using an EMI tape transport, operated by self 
contained rechargeable batteries. In recent years I have used 
exclusively the Nagra IV/S portable recorders, powered by dry 

All the recorders were designed, or modified, to record full 
track mono or two track stereo at a tape speed of 15ips. Any 



recorders designed for mains operation had to be supplied from a 
battery/mains converter, driven by heavy duty lead/acid 
batteries. The rotary converter, used originally, was superseded 
by a heavy duty synchronous vibrator unit, specifically designed 
to drive the 50Hz motors of cine cameras, which operated 
satisfactorily for some years until it was finally replaced by a 
transistorised inverter. 

I have used a wide variety of microphones, including Western 
Electric and STC, RCA, Reslo, AKG, Beyer, Electrovoice, and 
Sennheiser. I have generally preferred dynamic microphones, of 
various types and characteristics, for railway location 
recordings, because they are more rugged and less liable to be 
affected by climatic conditions than the more delicate condenser 
microphones which, although their frequency response and 
sensitivity is often superior, have the additional disadvantage of 
needing an external power supply, except in the case of electret 
types. Condenser microphones of various types are, however, 
widely used for film production recording since their superior 
sensitivity can then be a great advantage. 

Now that comparatively simple and inexpensive portable 
recorders are so widely used, much of the mystique of sound 
recording has disappeared, just as it vanished from photography, 
years earlier, when roll film cameras were introduced and 
photographers ceased hiding under a black cloth. It is no longer 
necessary for a sound recordist to burden himself with masses of 
heavy and cumbersome equipment and a move to a new location, 
which would have occupied endless precious time in earlier 
years, is now almost as quick and simple for a recordist as it is for 
a photographer. 

Although the equipment has changed greatly the basic 
principles and technique remain much the same. Recording, like 
photography, is a combination of art and science; the science can 
be readily learnt but much of the art is intuitive, not easily 
taught and best learnt by experiment and experience. Results, of 
a sort, may quite easily be achieved with a camera or a recorder, 
but the making of good recordings demands just as much care, 
attention and imagination as the taking of good photographs. 

Anybody who is seriously interested in recording, but lacks 



background knowledge, will find it interesting and helpful to 
read one of the standard works on the subject. One of the best 
and most comprehensive is The Manual of Sound Recording, by 
John Aldred, published by Fountain Press. The book starts from 
basic sound and electronic principles and covers every aspect of 
mono, stereo and multi-track recording, on tape, disc and film; it 
also includes practical advice on technique, such as the selection 
and positioning of microphones and descriptions of many types 
of equipment. 

Recording is a more esoteric and indeterminable art than 
photography; there is equal scope for individualistic approach 
and no two sound recordists will interpret a subject in exactly the 
same way. A professional recordist usually sets out to produce a 
result which is personally pleasing and satisfying, but if that 
result does not satisfy the customer it will be necessary to make 
such modifications, however vague, as may be demanded. The 
scientific element of any method of recording imposes 
limitations, but the scientific approach should never overrule the 
artistic, and professional recordists may sometimes consciously 
ignore some of the rules in an attempt to achieve a certain result. 
The rules must, however, be learnt before they are broken, since 
to ignore them without being aware of the possible consequences 
can easily lead to total disaster. 

The best way to learn what can and cannot be done is to 
experiment, but such opportunities are often denied to 
professionals since experiments can take time and cost money, 
expenditure of which customers often begrudge. The amateur 
has an enormous advantage as having no customer to worry 
about he can experiment at will until he achieves a personally 
satisfying result. 

Documentary recording on location is inherently more 
demanding than work in a studio where, within the limitations of 
a set-up, conditions can be controlled and there is usually an 
opportunity for rehearsal and even the possibility of a retake if 
something goes wrong. On location the situation is usually quite 
different; both the location and the subject may be totally 
unfamiliar and conditions may be impossible to control, except, 
to a limited extent, by a reasoned selection of microphone types 



and positions. Such decisions may have to be made quickly, 
without benefit of any rehearsal and if the final results are 
satisfactory it is often more by luck than judgement. 

Railway locomotives and trains are by no means easy subjects 
to record under any circumstances, as anybody who has 
attempted it will know. The sounds of railway trains have an 
extremely wide frequency and dynamic range, which can be 
greater than those of a full symphony orchestra, and it is usually 
impossible to know quite what to expect from a locomotive. For 
example a sudden shrill whistle, an unexpected hiss of steam or a 
startling crescendo of slipping wheels can so easily ruin an 
otherwise perfect recording, either by overload distortion, or by 
masking or iniermodulating other sounds. 

In order to accommodate such a wide range of sound levels it is 
essential carefully to limit, or boost, the recording level, 
sometimes to a greater extent than that which may be considered 
theoretically desirable. Apart from the need to control recording 
levels it may, less obviously, sometimes be helpful to control the 
frequency range during recording. For example, the sounds 
heard on a moving train, or on the footplate of a locomotive, 
include a considerable amount of extremely low frequencies, the 
level of which can be usefully reduced by the use of a microphone 
of limited bass response, or by a bass cut filter, or a combination 
of both. There is little point in recording a high level of low 
frequency sounds, since they are unlikely to be effectively 
reproduced on an average reproducing system, and in any case 
contribute little to the information and atmosphere conveyed by 
a recording. The optimum amount of bass cut can ultimately 
only be determined by experience and it is dangerous to rely on a 
decision based only on the quality of sound when monitoring on 
headphones, since they are notoriously unreliable for judging 
low frequency balance. If in doubt it is safest to cut bass 
sparingly, since excessive reduction may produce an 
unpleasantly thin and gutless result and it is easier to cut bass 
later on than to attempt to restore it. 

The cutting of high frequencies during recording is not 
usually desirable, but may occasionally be helpful in certain 
extreme cases, such as hissing steam or the squealing of wheels 



on a curve, where an excess of very high frequencies may restrict 
the permissible overall recording level to a considerable extent. 
The judicious use of appropriate filters can also be most helpful 
in reducing unwanted extraneous background noise, but it is 
generally better to experiment with various treatments later on 
than to attempt it when making the original recording. 

The choice of recorders suitable for railway location 
recordings is now extremely wide and the final choice can only be 
made from personal preference and with consideration for the 
results required. For anybody intending to start recording with 
no previous experience it seems unwise to choose anything too 
complex at first and certainly it is always unwise to rely on the 
claims of some advertisements which, by using vague references 
and juggling figures, can imply that an inexpensive domestic 
recorder is capable of a performance equal to, or better than 
costly professional equipment. It is primarily essential to choose 
a recorder capable of producing results which sound satisfyingly 
good when played back on whatever equipment is to be used for 
final listening. To judge from the experience of listening to many 
recordings submitted to record companies it seems obvious that 
many of them have, previously, only been heard on the recorder 
on which the recording was made, or on equipment of limited 
quality. Under such conditions the recording quality may seem 
acceptable, but when played on equipment of a higher standard 
all manner of faults become apparent; examples include 
incorrect azimuth adjustment, uneven tape transit, poor 
frequency response, overload distortion, hum pick up, motor 
noise and tape defects. It is a reasonable generalisation that a 
good recording, made on high quality equipment will sound good 
when played back on any equipment, but a recording made on 
inferior equipment, which may sound acceptable when played 
back overequipment of the same standard, may well sound much 
less acceptable when played back on higher quality equipment. 
Therefore, if there is a likelihood that recordings may be listened 
to on high quality equipment it is worthwhile using a recorder of 
a reasonably high standard, otherwise the results may seem 

The main choice of types is between reel to reel and cassette 



recorders. The performance of modern cassette recorders, 
especially the best of them, is something which would have been 
considered quite impossible not so many years ago; since such 
high quality recordings are now possible on cassette, the small 
size and weight and consequent portability and convenience may 
seem to make a cassette recorder the obvious choice for the 
amateur recordist, but there are some disadvantages. The 
smaller area of the sound track and the slow speed of recording 
make a cassette recording more liable to suffer from 'drop outs' 
due to tape defects or dirt, or to variations in track alignment 
caused by faulty tape transit. Moreover, cassettes are more liable 
than tape reels to suffer from mechanical troubles which, like the 
other faults, always seem to occur at the most vitally 
inconvenient moments. 

Another disadvantage of cassettes is that they are difficult to 
edit; the slow recording speed makes it hard to locate an accurate 
cutting point and the small size of the tape makes it difficult to 
handle. Obviously neither a reel to reel nor cassette tape can be 
edited if the full width of the tape has been used for recording in 
both directions, and for that reason and to improve the signal to 
noise ratio, professional recorders use the full width of the tape 
for recording in one direction only, whether the recording is 
mono, two track stereo or multi-track. Editing may, at first 
thought, seem unimportant, but in fact it is usually most 
desirable to edit a location recording, otherwise it may soon 
become boring after the first one or two hearings, especially to 
anybody other than the recordist. For example, when recording 
a train starting from a station it is usual to have the recorder on 
for some time before the train is due to start, in order to ensure 
that the first whistle and such interesting background sounds as 
a signal arm changing position are all recorded. However, 
between such interesting sounds, and in other instances like 
shunting operations, there may be some unwanted noises, or 
long silences which, if not removed, will make the recording seem 
so interminable that the listener will soon be bored and cease to 
concentrate. Rough editing is, of course, quite possible on 
cassettes, and cassette recordings can be transferred to £ inch 
tape for editing. The larger dimensions of | inch tape make it 



simpler to handle and at higher recording speeds it is easier to 
locate and mark exact editing points. 

Tape editing, quite apart from its most obvious uses, can be a 
fascinatingly rewarding exercise; the editing of recordings for 
commercial records and for film sound tracks has become a 
specialised and somewhat exclusive fine art and it is interesting 
to discover for yourself just how much can be achieved by 

The choice of microphones is now so wide that decisions on 
which to use can be difficult; the claims of certain advertisements 
should, like those for recorders, be treated with some caution 
and, like the selection of headphones or loudspeakers, the final 
choice will be largely influenced by personal preferences. The 
first consideration, obviously, is that the microphone must be 
entirely compatible with the recorder and it is useless to select for 
example, a low impedance microphone for use with a recorder 
designed to accept only high impedance microphones. It is not 
necessary to choose the most sensitive types of microphones for 
the making of railway recordings; in fact such a choice can at 
times be quite wrong. An over sensitive microphone may easily 
be severely overloaded by a close, loud sound which will result in 
horrible and incurable distortion. A less sensitive and, 
incidentally, less expensive, microphone used in the same 
conditions might have been able to cope with the loudest sounds 
without distortion. 

A keen photographer is unlikely to restrict himself to the use 
of a single type of lens and a recordist would be unwise to rely on 
only one type of microphone, since each type has characteristic 
advantages, and the final choice will be dictated by various 
conditions for each recording. It is often preferable to use omni- 
directional microphones to give wide coverage of an open 
location at the lineside, but at a large and busy station it is an 
advantage to use directional microphones, such as cardioid 
types, which can usefully reduce the recorded level of unwanted 
background noise. It must be realised, however, that such 
microphones are generally less directional to sounds of lower 
frequencies. When directional microphones are used they must, 
obviously, be panned to follow a moving object and this cannot 



always be done easily when working single handed. 

The positioning of microphones is of the utmost importance 
for successful recording, and although useful general guidance is 
given in text books, there are no absolutely definite rules. A great 
many factors including the surroundings, the weather 
conditions, possible sources of unwanted background noise, and 
the speed at which the train is likely to be travelling, must all be 
carefully considered, and ultimately a personal decision must be 
made, based largely on previous experience and modified by the 
prevailing conditions. If previous experience is lacking a great 
deal can be gained by experimenting with different types of 
microphone, used in various positions, in the widest possible 
variety of locations. 

Avoid, if possible, placing microphones too close to the track 
when recording passing trains; a more distant position will 
generally give a smoother and more satisfying result, because the 
recording level will not have to be so sharply reduced to 
accommodate the sudden peak of sound from the passing train. 
Another disadvantage of close positioning is that the sounds of 
the locomotive will probably be completely obscured for some 
time by the sounds of the rolling stock. 

When recording from a train it is usually advantageous to use 
directional microphones, the optimum position for which is just 
inside an open window at a point where, according to 
aerodynamic laws, the air currents are minimal and a 
microphone can pick up outside sounds without being buffeted 
by wind. Try to choose a window which is likely to be on the lee 
side of the train during the journey because, apart from the 
reduced possibility of wind noise, the sounds of the locomotive 
are carried by wind to a surprising extent and will be heard best 
from the lee side of the train. Sometimes it is possible to achieve 
good results from microphones placed right outside the train, but 
even with the most efficient wind shields, which are obviously 
necessary, there is a risk that the microphone diaphragm may be 
at least partially paralysed by wind in extreme conditions. A 
further disadvantage of completely exterior positioning is that 
the results may be somewhat unrealistic from the point of view of 
a passenger who might expect to hear a more familiar balance of 



sounds. All too often, though, there is a lot of unwanted 
background noise on a train and if it is impossible to find a 
suitable and uncrowded window, there may be no alternative to 
using an exterior microphone position. It will certainly be better 
than nothing and for some parts of the journey at least, the 
results may well be perfectly satisfying. 

Weather conditions are of enormous importance in exterior 
locations; wind strength and direction are totally unpredictable 
problems and it is always essential to be prepared for the worst. It 
is foolhardy to attempt any exterior recording, even on the 
calmest day, without the insurance of at least a light windshield 
on the microphone, A light breeze, blowing up unexpectedly at a 
vital moment, or the turbulence set up by a passing train, may 
ruin an otherwise perfect recording if the microphone is 
unprotected. Windshields of varying design and efficiency are 
supplied by most microphone manufacturers. The fabric covered 
types are generally the most efficient, but are usually large, can 
be costly and are not available for all types and makes of 
microphone; the cheaper windshields, which are moulded from a 
special plastic foam of known acoustic properties, are widely 
available, easily fitted and give adequate protection in average 
situations. The indiscriminate swathing of microphones in layers 
of ordinary foam of unknown acoustic properties is certainly not 
recommended, but an effective windshield can be quite easily 
made at little cost. The essential principle is a cage which must 
completely surround the microphone and be separated from it; 
the whole cage is then covered in a fine meshed, silky material, 
such as ladies' tights. Ideally two separated layers of material 
should be used and to a certain extent the efficiency is increased 
by enlarging the size of the cage, within practical limits. 
Windshields constructed from various sizes of soup strainers, 
covered with separated layers of nylon stocking material, were 
used with various types of microphones for many years, both for 
film location and railway recordings and invariably proved 
effective in some of the most adverse conditions in exposed 

If a windshield is not giving adequate protection in 
exceptionally windy conditions it may be helpful to change to a 



different type of microphone; for instance, sensitive condenser 
microphones are notoriously affected by wind noise to a far 
greater extent than dynamic types. The shape and size of a 
microphone can also be a significant factor; a smaller 
microphone will usually be less physically affected by wind and it 
may also be inherently less susceptible to wind noise because 
some small microphones have a poor bass response. In extreme 
conditions the only solution may be to use such a microphone 
and although the quality of the resulting recording may be 
somewhat thin, it will be preferable to a fuller quality recording 
overlaid by heavy bouts of wind noise and certainly much better 
than no recording at all. Buildings, walls and even hedges may 
provide useful shelter for microphones, but such objects also set 
up echoes which may be troublesome or helpful and must always 
be considered. An obvious disadvantage of sheltering 
microphones in such a way is that they may also be screened 
from wanted wind borne sounds and consequently a recording 
made in such circumstances can be all too brief, though better 
than nothing. It is quite useless sheltering microphones near 
trees because the noise of the wind in the trees, which is always 
more apparent to any microphone than to the optimistically 
selective human ear, will probably ruin the recording anyway. In 
extreme conditions it can be worth experimenting with 
microphones in a low position, a few inches from the ground, but 
remember that wind blowing through heather, shrubs, or long 
grass can produce an astonishing amount of hiss, which will be 
unfailingly recorded at an irritatingly high level if the 
microphone is closely surrounded by such herbage. It is also 
possible that some strange and unpredictable changes in sound 
quality may occur when microphones are used in 
unconventionally low positions. It is always worth 
experimenting while waiting for conditions to improve, for some 
surprisingly interesting results can be achieved in seemingly 
impossible conditions. 

Rain is one of the worst problems, quite apart from the 
discomfort which it causes and the well known incompatibility of 
electronic equipment and damp. A steady drizzle or light rain is 
merely uncomfortable, so long as the equipment can be kept dry 



and provided that the microphone windshield does not become 
saturated. Heavy rain will cause excessively loud plops and thuds 
if it falls on a windshield of any type and in such conditions the 
microphone must be protected by a rain shield, made from some 
heavy material such as felt or thick foam and secured as far as 
possible above the microphone, consistent with protection. 
Ordinary umbrellas are worse than useless as microphone rain 
shields because the patter of rain falling on the taut surface will 
be clearly heard. 

For stereophonic recordings there are a number of different 
conventions concerning the relationship between the 
microphones, and a decision on which to adopt must be a matter 
of personal choice, based on experience and on the prevailing 
conditions. Provided that the important principles of stereo 
recording are always considered there is no need to stick to rigid 
rules. The placing of the microphones for the stereo recording of 
The Triumph of an A4 Pacific was highly unconventional, 
especially at the time, but, nevertheless, produced results which 
critics and others considered realistic. 

The correct positioning of microphones for stereo recordings 
on exterior locations is not a simple matter, particularly where 
trains moving over a wide stretch of varying surroundings are 
concerned. In such circumstances it is almost inevitable that, no 
matter where or how the microphones are placed, some phase 
differences will occur at one or more points during the recording, 
because as the train moves across the landscape its sounds will 
be variously reflected from the surroundings. The major fault of 
a 'hole in the middle' effect as the train goes past at the nearest 
point can, however, be avoided by choice of suitable 
microphones and by carefully positioning them with regard to 
nearby objects, such as buildings or woods, which may throw 
back echoes that can cause complete or partial cancellation of 
sounds at various frequencies, leading to some very strange 

Stereo recordings are invariably best made with the 
microphones on a stand or a boom arm in a fixed position; some 
extraordinary and unwelcome results can occur if stereo 
microphones are moved during a recording and it is more 



satisfactory to let the subject do the moving than to pan the 

When recording for film production there is a constant 
problem of compromise between placing microphones in an 
optimum position for recording, and concealing them from the 
camera, so a number of microphones are set up in various 
positions and used through a mixer, individually or in 
combinations of two or more, as appropriate. A similar 
technique has been used for railway recordings from time to 
time, particularly when equipment used to be so cumbersome 
that it could not easily or quickly be moved, but the multi- 
microphone method is inherently cumbersome and the 
possibility of technical problems obviously increases if additional 
equipment is used. It is always an anxious moment when a 
remote microphone is faded in and this anxiety is considerably 
increased when working on film productions, for which it is now 
common practice to use a number of radio microphones which 
are notoriously prone to develop sudden strange faults. If a 
suitably static set-up can be arranged for railway recordings it is 
sometimes possible to achieve most interesting results by using a 
number of microphones with a mixer, always provided that the 
result can be monitored on headphones, but if such monitoring 
facilities are not available it is obviously pointless to attempt to 
use a mixer. Generally it is preferable to take advantage of the 
mobility of modern equipment and to change positions whenever 
it may seem necessary, rather than be burdened with a mixer and 
numerous microphones with cables, so inconveniently liable to 
tangle, running in all directions. 

The choice of lineside locations, so obviously important, is 
often far from easy. Maps, such as the Ordnance Survey, are 
most helpful, but they cannot give all the essential information, 
and, before making an important 'one chance only' recording, a 
location reconnaissance is well worthwhile, if at all possible, to 
select in advance the positions most likely to be the most 
satisfactory for various conditions of weather and wind 
direction. Careful and intelligent choice of locations greatly 
increase the chances of success, but all too often there are last 
minute problems with noise from such unpredictable sources as 



aircraft, road traffic, not heard until the wind changes direction, 
or a tractor, which appears over a hill and starts working ever 
closer backwards and forwards across an enormous field; 
perhaps most inappropriate of all are noisy spectators and 
transistor radios. Sometimes such things as bridges, walls, 
cutting sides and embankments can be surprisingly effective as 
baffles between the microphone and unwanted noises; it may be 
helpful to use directional microphones, but the intrusive sound is 
often reflected from an object in front of the microphone, partly 
nullifying its directional advantages. Although highly 
directional microphones can reduce background noise, they may 
also produce an exceptionally dead and clinically unrealistic 
recording which is uninspiring and possibly boring to hear more 
than once. 

Lineside telegraph wires are often troublesome for they may 
be completely silent for hours, then suddenly start humming at a 
most inopportune moment. If the microphone is anywhere near 
the wires it will unfailingly pick up any humming which, 
although probably unnoticed while a train goes past, can sound 
unpleasantly like a serious equipment fault when the sounds of 
the train diminish as it goes away into the distance. High voltage 
overhead power lines must always be treated with suspicion and 
given a reasonably wide berth, because they are usually 
surrounded by a strong electrical field which, by induction in 
microphones, cables or the recorder, can create a most 
unpleasant hum, loud enough to ruin any recording. 

Many background sounds will contribute to the atmosphere 
and reality of railway recordings. The inclusion of such sounds 
as signal arms, points, whistles and station announcements will, 
if properly balanced in relation to the sounds of locomotives and 
trains, greatly increase the interest of a recording. In the country 
the sounds of animals and birds provide a perfect natural setting 
for passing trains and are often sufficiently and strongly 
individualistic to identify a setting in broad terms; for instance 
on the Settle & Carlisle line, the background sounds in summer 
or winter, will be quite different from those likely to be heard 
beside a line in Southern England. Natural sounds are, however, 
not always helpful; it was, for example, never possible for me to 



find entirely suitable recording positions anywhere beside the 
Brecon & Merthyr line on the famous seven mile, 925fl climb 
between Talybont on Usk and Torpantau. To judge from maps it 
appeared to be a superbly suitable, remote location, but in fact 
was plagued by aircraft, swooping up and down the valley which 
was filled with rushing streams and waterfalls. They could be 
heard for considerable distances and created a continuous 
background noise, normally pleasant, but in these circumstances 
most unwelcome, because the sounds of the trains themselves 
were masked, or interfered with, to such an extent that the 
majority of recordings made in the area had to be rejected. When 
judging the amount and type of background noise which may be 
acceptable in a recording, it must always be remembered that 
ears are selective but microphones are not. A background of 
noise which may seem acceptable to the ear will consequently 
often turn out to be totally unacceptable in a recording, 
particularly if it is listened to some time later, without the 
support of a visual image. 

Sound recording as a profession has much to commend it; 
each new problem keeps interest alive in a search for a 
solution and there is, even now, a certain mystery attached to the 
making of recordings. It still tends to be a somewhat secretive 
process, perhaps because a recordist spends so much time 
wearing headphones which isolate him from the outside world 
and by so doing may, all too easily, induce a possibly dangerously 
introspective outlook. Sound recording as a pastime can be 
immensely rewarding and can even be a therapeutic antidote to 
various stresses in much the same way as can fishing, other than 
match angling. Location recording has some similarities to 
fishing, with long periods of preparation and waiting, during 
which there is ample opportunity to observe and enjoy the 
surroundings, followed by the possible disappointment of a 
missed opportunity or the excitement of the catch of a successful 
and satisfying recording. 

There are still plenty of opportunities for interesting 
recordings of railway sounds, particularly in Britain with so 
many preserved lines and steam-hauled special trains. Other 
countries too have preserved lines and run steam-hauled specials 



while, further afield, it is possible to find steam locomotives still 
in commercial service. Even diesel locomotives are not without 
interest, now that so many individual types are disappearing 
much sooner than had been expected. It is doubtful whether any 
diesel locomotive can ever have the same individuality and 
personality as a steam locomotive and they most certainly cannot 
produce anything like the same variety of fascinating sounds. 
Nevertheless many of the withdrawn or threatened diesel 
locomotive classes do already have strong supporters' clubs. 

Changes on the railways and elsewhere take place at a 
seemingly ever increasing rate and if there are any sounds now 
which interest or inspire you it is surely worthwhile recording 
them before they disappear. It is a thoroughly unpleasant 
thought but, considering the nature and rate of recent changes, 
it is by no means impossible that even some of those railways 
which are still with us now could, all too easily and all too soon, 
become nothing more than a memory. 



Serial numbers were allocated to several records which, for 
various reasons, were either not completed or were never issued, 
therefore there are some breaks in the sequence of the 10 inch 
Transacord records. 

The Argo Transacord record catalogue numbers are shared 
with other Argo records and consequently catalogue numbers of 
records produced by Transacord for Argo do not necessarily 
follow in sequence. 

Records issued independently by Transacord Limited, between 
November 1955 and November 1961 and sold only by direct mail 
order. All deleted by December 1961, 
10 inch 78rpm records 









10 inch 33-^rpm LP records 







5036-7 THE LNW 0-8-0 



5042-3 CASTLES 

5044-5 KINGS 

5046-7 A3 PACIFtCS 






7 inch 33-jrpm records 


Railway stories, narrated by the author, the Reverend 
Awdry, with sound effects. Produced for and issued by 
Chiltern Records Ltd, 

1002-3 LICKEY 1955 


12 inch 33-jrpm LP records. Originally issued independently by 
Transacord; re-cut, re-pressed and re-issued by Argo, with new 
and improved sleeves, in November 1961. 


6002-3 SHAP 


Transacord 7 inch extended play 45rpm records issued by Argo but 
now deleted and no longer available. Argo catalogue numbers and 

(Some of these recordings have been, or will be, electronically re- 
processed and re -issued on LP records in the Argo SPA 'World of 
Railways' series.) 























































































































Argo Transacted recordings 
Sounds of the Steam Age 

(For details of record sizes and speeds etc see code at end}. 


Steam locomotives of the former NBR, LNER and LMS, at work at various 

locations on the West Highland line, during winter and spring, in the 


TR 102 SHAP 

Ex LMS and other steam locomotives, heard from the lineside, at various 

locations between Tebay and Shap Summit, between 1958 and 1960. 


Steam locomotives of various types, at work on the S&D line, at different 

locations between Evercreech Junction and Masbury in 1956 and a 




































































journey on the double headed Pines Express, between Bath and 
Evercreech Junction. 


Ex GWR steam locomotives, of various classes, heard from the lineside at 
Dainton and Exeter and from inside the signal boxes at Tigley and Exeter, 
in 1957 and 1958. 


Steam hauled trains in the night, in winter and summer, in 1959, 1961 
and 1 962, at Bromsgrove, on the GW&GC line, on the Central Wales line 
and on the Carlisle-Edinburgh line. 

A journey on the Waverley Express, hauled by Jubilee 4-6-0 
Newfoundland, between Hellifield and Blea Moor and lineside recordings 
at Dent and Ribblehead, in 1960, 


Steam locomotives of various ex Great Eastern classes, at work on Great 

Eastern lines in the 1950s. 


A journey on the SLS special train, headed by Sir Nigel Gresley driven by 
Bill Hoole, on the record breaking run between Kings Cross and Doncaster 
and Kings Cross, in May 1959, 


Steam locomotives of the London Midland and Western regions, heard 

from the lineside at Shap, Blea Moor. Abergavenny and on the Lickey 



Steam locomotives, of various types, heard from the lineside, at Tyndrum, 

Tyne Dock, Hitchin. Templecombe, Montrose, and Barkston Junction. A 

journey on a special train, hauled by the Midland Compound 4-4-0, No 



Journeys on the footplate of four steam locomotives. An A4 Pacific with 
Aberdeen-Glasgow express, a V2 2-6-2 with an Edinburgh-Dundee 
freight train, a Class 5 4-6-0 with a Swansea-Shrewsbury passenger train 
and an 8F 2-8-0 with a Shrewsbury-Swansea freight train. 


Steam locomotives of various types, heard from the lineside at Ardlui, 
Scout Green, Basingstoke, Minnavey Colliery, Bargany, on the Lickey 
Incline and on the Carlisle-Edinburgh line. 





Various classes of ex Great Western steam locomotives, heard from the 

lirveside at Hatton, Abergavenny, Chalford, Princes Risborough and 


Steam hauled trains remembered. During a night at Grantham Station, on 
the Scarborough-Whitby-Pickering line, on the Central Wales line, on the 
Lickey Incline, on the Stranraer-Ayr line and at Talerddig Station. 


Steam locomotives at work during an evening, night and morning at 
Gresford. At Montrose, Okehampton and on the Carlisle-Edinburgh line. 
Inside the signal box at Meldon Junction. 


Various ex GWR steam locomotives at work at Talerddig, Basingstoke, 

Llanvihangel. Princes Risborough, Gresford and Evershot Tunnel. 


SNCF steam locomotives of various types at Breaute, Beuzeville, 
Argentan, St Germain des Fosses and Eygurande. A steam hauled journey 
on a steeply graded line in Auvergne. 


A musical documentary which, in words, songs and sounds, tells the story 

of early railway days, from the stage coach to the amalgamation. Adapted 

from Peter Cheeseman's production at the Victoria Theatre. Stoke on 



Steam locomotives of various ex LNER types, at work on the steeply 
graded Carlisle-Edinburgh line, the Waverley route, between 
Newcastleton and Hawick, in the spring of 1961. 


Steam locomotives of various types, working goods and passenger trains 

on the Lickey Incline, between Bromsgrove and Blackwell, in 1959. 


Steam locomotives of various types, working goods and passenger trains 

at many different locations on the DB, in West Germany in 1970. 


A steam hauled journey on the Orient Express through the Balkans to 
Istanbul. Steam locomotives of Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey 
heard from the train and from the lineside, en route. 




Steam locomotives at work on BR, in the closing years of the 1950s. At 

Hitchin, Durham, Abergavenny, Beattock, Basingstoke and Llangunllo. 


A variety of ex LNER steam locomotives, at work in the 1950s and in 
1961. At Kings Cross, Hitchin, Peterborough, Stoke Tunnel, Retford, 
Edinburgh and Whitrope. 


East German and West German Pacific locomotives and various other 
steam locomotive types, at work on the DB in West Germany. A 
companion record to ZTR 1 29 Engines on the Bundesbahn. 


Steam locomotives of a variety of ex LMS types, at work at many different 

locations on British Railways, during the years between 1 955 and 1 965. 


Steam locomotives at work on British Railways, by day and night, at 

Gresford, Templecombe, Ribblehead, Barkston Junction and Scout 

Green. A footplate journey, on a Britannia Pacific, on the Ayr-Stranraer 



Steam locomotives of many different types, at work on railways in 

England, Scotland. Wales, Germany. Italy, Romania and Yugoslavia. 


Steam locomotives at work in the spring, summer, autumn and winter. On 
British Railways at Barkston Junction, Llanvihangel, Princes Risborough, 
Bromsgrove, Knucklas and on the climb to Whitrope Summit. One of the 
famous Maffei Pacifies in Romania, a 2-8-0 in the Dolomites and a 2- 1 0-0 
in Germany. 


LNER, LMS, SR and BR Pacifies at work on British Railways. 


Five steam locomotives at work on the narrow gauge Tatyllyn Railway in 



Four of the FR steam locomotives at work on the narrow gauge Festiniog 

Railway, in Wales, with passenger and goods trains. 

The World of Railways' records 

Steam locomotives at work on railways in Britain, at Templecombe, on the 
Paddington-Birmingham line, at Bromsgrove, on the Waverley route and 
at Shap Summit. On railways abroad, In Spain, Germany and Turkey. 




Steam locomotives at work on railways in Britain, at Basingstoke, near 
Montrose and at Biea Moor. On railways abroad, in Romania, Yugoslavia, 
France and Germany. 


Steam Traction Engines and a Fairground Roundabout Organ, of the 
Victorian era. On board a Paddle Steamer in Switzerland. Steam 
locomotives on railways in Italy, Germany and England. 


Steam and Diesel locomotives, of various types, at work at different 
locations on 8R between 1 957 and 1 966. A journey in the cab of the High 
Speed Train, during a 125mph test run, in February 1975. 

SPA 439 STEAM LOCOMOTION - Rail 150 «KCSP 439 
The Locomotion replica and a variety of other steam locomotives, the 
majority of which either took part in the Rail 1 50 Anniversary Cavalcade, 
or are representative of types exhibited at Shildon, during the 150th 
Anniversary celebrations. 

SPA 440 GWR •KCSP 440 

Steam locomotives of various ex GWR classes, at work on BR between 
1955 and 1963 at Abergavenny, Dainton, Tigley, Ruabon, Saunderton, 
Cm mlin, Aberystwyth, Talerddig, Princes Risboroughand Hattonandona 
journey between Totnes and Plymouth. 


Steam locomotives of the former GCR and LNER lines at work on former 

Great Central and other lines on British Railways, during the 1950s. 


Steam locomotives of many ex Southern Railway classes at work at 

various locations on BR with goods and passenger trains, in the 1950s, 

SPA 463 LMS «KCSP 463 

Steam locomotives of the former LMS at work on BR at Euston Station in 
1 955. At Blea Moor, Ribblehead. Marsden and Bromsgrove. On the climb 
to Shap Summit. On the Abergavenny-Merthyr line and between Perth 
and Gleneagles. 


Steam locomotives of various classes, at work on the SNCF and other 

lines, in Northern, Central and Southern France, between 1959 and 1975. 

SPA 506 LNER #KCSP 506 

Steam locomotives of the London & North Eastern Railway, at work on 
British Railways between 1956 and 1961 at Grantham, Peterborough 
Whitrope Summit and Hitchin. 




The sounds of a great station: York during the steam age, in 1957 and 
with diesel traction, including Inter City 125 in 1977, the centenary year 
of the present station. 

Steam locomotives, with passenger and goods trains, mostly double 
headed, at many different locations on British Railways, between 1956 
and 1 966, The GNR Atlantic Henry Oakley with double headed trains on 
the KWVR in 1977. 


GWR Castle class and King class 4-6-0 locomotives at work on British 
Railways between 1956 and 1967 at Hatton, Bristol Temple Meads, 
Datnton Tunnel, Coton Hill, Sapperton, in the Chiltern Hills, at Exeter St 
Davids, and on the footplate of King Edward VIII. 


LNER, LMS, SR and BR Pacifies at work on BR between 1 956 and 1 976; 
including most of the recordings previously issued on the EP ZFA 77, with 
other recordings not previously issued. SNCF, DB, and DR Pacifies at work 
in France and in Germany. 


Steam locomotives in various kinds of difficulties, with passenger and 

goods trains, on British Railways and in Austria and Yugoslavia. 


Steam locomotives of the Midland, London & North Western and LMS 

railways at work at various locations on BR between 1955 and 1975. 

TR = 12 inch LP Mono recording 

ZTR - 12 inch LP Stereo recording 

ZFA - 7 inch EP Stereo recording 

SPA - 12 inch LP Stereo or electronically re-processed stereo recordings 

•KZTC and KCSP - stereo cassettes, these are available for all records 

indicated by the addition of •cassette numbers. 




'A 1 ' Pacific locomotive, 93 
'A3' Pacific locomotive, 15, 38, 

63, 65, 79,93 
4 A4' Pacific locomotive, 16, 38, 

63, 72, 79, 82, 93-7 
'A5' 4-6-2 T locomotive, 63, 64 
Aberdeen Flyer, The, 95, 96 
Abergavenny-Merthyr line, 76 
Adams 4-4-2 T locomotive, 75 
AFPU (Army FUm & Photo Unit) 

22-6, 28, 30 
Aldred, John, 26, 28, 108, 125 
Allen, Cecil J., 82 
American railway records, 55, 56, 

Argo Record Company, 44, 79, 

Atlantic 4-4-2 locomotive, 20, 7 1 
Austria, 42, 76, 77, 110, 116 
Austrian locomotives, 42, 77, 

110, 114-17 
Awdry, The Rcvd W. (railway 

stories), 62 
Axon, John G. C. (driver), 78, 79 
Axon, The Ballad of John Axon 

(LP record), 78, 79 

'B 1 ' locomotive, 93 
'B12' locomotive, 24, 79 
'B17* locomotive, 72 
Barkston June, 10 
Basingstoke, 18, 29, 63, 83 
BBC, 25,27,43, 78,81,84, 87 
BDZ, see Bulgaria 
Beattock, 10, 75,77 
Beeching, Doctor, 95 
Belgium, 25-7, 76 
Belsen concentration camp, 28 
'Black Five 1 5 MT 4-6-0 
locomotive, 24, 33, 97 

Bletchley, 18, 48 
Boreham wood, .see Elstree 
British Railways Regions, see pre- 

nationalisation ownership of 

lines concerned 
'Britannia' Pacific locomotive, 79 
Bulgaria, 109, 110 
Bulleid Pacific locomotive, 63, 66 

Caledonian 0-6-0 locomotive, 75 
Carlisle- Ed in burgh line, see 

Waverley route 
'Castle' 4-6-0 locomotive, 63, 91, 

Central Wales line, 17, 18, 32, 33, 

CFR, see Romania 
Changing Trains 'World of 

Railways' LP record, 15 
Cinema, see films 
City of Truro 4-4-0 locomotive, 

Class '2' 2-6-0 locomotive, 93 
'Claud Hamilton' 4-4-0 

locomotive, 23 
CLC (Cheshire Lines Committee), 

Compound 4-4-0 locomotive, 34, 

64, 84 
Cook Laboratories USA, 55, 56 
'Crab' 2-6-0 locomotive, 98 
Cross, Derek, 72, 97, 98 
Crown Film Unit, 22, 33 

'D' 4-4-0 locomotive, 71 
'D20' 4-4-0 locomotive, 64 
'D49' 4-4-0 locomotive, 94 
Dainton and Rattery, 74 
Daly, Kevin, 62 
Danish 0-6-OT locomotive, 31 



DB and DR, see Germany 

DBS, see Denmark 

D Day, 23, 24 

Decca Record Company, 44, 62, 

demobilisation, from army, 31 
Denham, 20, 33 
Denmark, 3 1 
diesel motive power, 15, 34, 48, 

'Director* 4-4-0 locomotive, 64, 

disc recording equipment, 25, 

43-5, 56 
'Dukedog' 4-4-0 locomotive, 79 
Dutch 0-6-QT locomotive, 26 

'El' 4-4-0 locomotive, 71 
Eastern Region BR, see LNER 
Edinburgh-Carlisle line, see 

Waverley route 
editing of recordings, 1 28, 1 29 
'8F" 2-8-0 locomotive, 17, 33, 78, 

79, 84, 1 1 1 
Eisenhower, General Eisenhower's 

special train, 24 
Elstree, 33, 34 

end of steam on BR, 48, 59, 99 
Euston Stn, 55 
Evcrcreech June, 67 

films and railways, 7, 16, 37-42, 

film sound tracks, 7, 16, 19, 22, 

25-7, 35, 37-43, 46, 53, 54, 

76,77,81,88,96,97, 134 
'5MT* 4-6-0 locomotive, 24, 33, 

Folkestone, 69, 70 
footplate journeys, 23, 24, 79, 80, 

92,97, 104 
Forth Bridge, 97 
"4300' class 2-6-0 locomotive, 74 
Fowler 2-6-4T locomotive, 32 
France, 14, 22, 24, 25, 37, 38, 40, 

74, 100-4 
French locomotives, 14, 40, 

101-4, 110 

frequency response, 126, 127 
FS, tee Italy 

'G5' 0-4-4T locomotive, 71 

Gale, John, 87, 92 

Garratt locomotive, 51, 72, 107, 

Gazelle S & MR locomotive, 24 
GCR 2-8-0 locomotive, 65, 66 
Germany, 27-31, 77, 120, 121 
Giesl-Gieslingen, Doctor A., 116 
Gingell, Sam (driver), 14, 71, 75 
'Glen' 4-4-0 locomotive, 8 1 , 82 
Glen field, 97 
Gordon Highlander 4-4-0 

locomotive, 98 
Gramophone, The, 83, 87, 91 
Grantham, 18,64,79,83 
Greece, 109, 110 
Greenfield, Edward, 91 
Gresford, 97 

Gresley Pacifies, EP record, 91 
GW & GC (Great Western & Great 
Central joint line), 20, 21, 34-6, 
GWR and BR Western Region, 1 3, 
79,80,83,91,92,96-9, 136 
GWR 2-8-0 locomotive, 21 

Hardy, Richard, 71, 100, 101 

Hatton, 92 

Hitchin, 18,64, 83, 101 

Holland, 26, 27, 29 

Hoole, Bill (driver), 14, 82, 83, 96 

HR 4-6-0 locomotive No 103, 98 

Isle of Wight, 97 
Italy, 35, 47, 121, 122 

'J 15" 0-6-0 locomotive, 20, 71 
'J36* 0-6-0 locomotive, 93, 94 
Johnson 0-4-4T locomotive, 67 
Jones Goods 4-6-0 locomotive, 98 
'Jubilee' 4-6-0 locomotive, 34, 84 
17., see Yugoslavia 

'K3' 2-6-0 locomotive, 93 


•K4' 2-6-0 locomotive, 98 
'King' 4-6-0 locomotive, 63, 80, 

(Cord a, Sir Alexander, 20 
Knotty, The Knotty LP record, 

Koch, Ludwig, 43 
KWVR (Worth Valley Railway), 


The Lady Vanishes (film), 42 
LBSC Atlantic locomotive, 20, 71 
Lean, David, 39, 46 
Leicester, West Bridge, 97 
Lickey Incline, 59, 60, 72, 77, 83 
Lickey Banker 0-10-0 locomotive, 

Link, Winston, 76 
Lion, The, L & MR 0-4-2 

locomotive, 37 
LMS and BR London Midland and 
Scottish Regions, 24, 32-4, 42, 
43, 48, 55, 64, 70, 74-6, 83, 
84, 95-8 
LMS diesel locomotive No 10,000, 

LMS 'World of Rail ways' LP 

record, 55, 96 
LNER and BR Eastern, North 
Eastern and Scottish Regions, 
20, 22-4, 38, 64-6, 76, 79-83, 
LNWR locomotives, 70, 74, 76 
locations for recording, choice of, 


British locomotives: BR, 79, 
83,93, 99; CR, 75: GCR, 
63-6, 78; GER, 23,24, 71,79; 
GNoSR, 98; GWR, 21,63, 70, 
99; HR, 98 ,Lion, 37; LMS R, 
67, 70, 72, 74-6, 78, 79, 83, 
84,95-8, lll;LNER, 15, 16, 
78-83, 92-8; LNWR, 70, 74, 
76;L&YR,70;MR, 59, 60, 

67, 83, 84, 97"; N BR, 81, 93, 
94;NER, 64, 71,72; S&DJR, 
66, 67;SE&CR, 71 ; S & MR, 
24; SR, 20,63,66, 69-73, 75; 
WD, 26; 

Continental locomotives: 
Austrian, 42, 77, 110, 114-17; 
Belgian, 25; Bulgarian, 109; 
Danish, 31 ; Dutch, 26, French, 
38,40, 101-4, 110; German, 
29, 117, 120, 121; Italian, 35, 
47, 121, 122; Romanian, 116, 
117, 1 19; Turkish, 110-13; 
UNRRA, 35; Yugoslavian, 109, 
114, 115 
(British and some foreign, 
locomotives are also indexed 
individually, as referred to in the 
text by class, name or type: eg, 
Garratt; Pacific; 'Jubilee'; Pannier 
Tank; D49; 9 (Nine) F, etc) 
London Film Productions, 20, 33 
London's Last Trams LP record, 

London Midland Region BR, see 

L& YR 0-6-0ST locomotive, 70 

magnetic recording, see tape 
Marples, Ernest, 95 
MGM, 33, 34 
microphones, choice of, 1 24, 

Midland Compound 4-4-0 

locomotive, 84 
mixers, need for and use of, 1 34 
Murder on the Orient Lx press, 

film, 39, 40 
Music and films, 43 
music and railways, 8,9, 1 26 

Newfoundland Heads the 
Waverley LP record, 84, 91 

•9F' 2-10-0 locomotive, 83, 99 

Noise Abatement Society, the, 9 

noise pollution, 9-1 1 

North Eastern Region BR, see 




North Staffordshire Railway, 62 
North Yorkshire Moors Railway, 

NS, see Holland 
*N7* 0-6-2T locomotive, 80 

OBB, see Austria 

Observer, 87 

optical sound recording system, 

20, 26, 34, 35, 44 
'Orient Express", 39, 40, 47, 

109-11, 116 
Orient Express LP record, 142 

'Pacific' locomotives: 'AT, 93; 

'A3', 15,38,63, 65,79,93; 

'A4', 16,38,63,72,79,82, 

83, 93-7; Bulleid, 63, 66; 

'Britannia', 79; DB and DR 

(German), 121;LMS, 72, 95, 

96;Maffei(CFR), I17;SNCF 

(France), 101, 102 
pannier tank locomotive, 70, 75, 

Paris Express LP record, 1 07 
Paris, liberation of, 25 
Peterborough, 65, 101 
photography, 12, 16, 23-5, 28-31, 

34,36,52, 124, 125, 129, see 

also A FPU 
Pinewood Studios, 22 
prairie tank locomotive, 96 
preserved railways, 41, 98, 99, 

Preston, 70 
Princes Risborough, 34-6, 48, 9 1 , 

92, 98, 99 

"Q7' 0-8-0 locomotive, 72 

Railway Children, The, (film), 41 
Railway Magazine, 57 
Rattery and Dainton, 74 
RCTS (Railway Correspondence 

& Travel Society), 83, 95, 96 
recording equipment, see disc, 

optical, tape, microphones, 


recording equipment, choice of, 

127, 128 
recording for films, see film sound 

tracks, films and railways 
records, early 78 rpm and LP 

issues, 56, 60, 6 1 
records, American railway records, 

55, 56, 76 
record reviews, see The 

RENFE, see Spain 
Renoir, Jean, 38 
Reseau Breton, 104 
Retford, 65,66 
Rhine, crossing of the, 28 
Ribblehead, 16, 83, 84, 94, 95 
Romania, 1 16-20 
'Royal Scot' 4-6-0 locomotive, 98 

'Schools' 4-4-0 locomotive, 73 
Scotland, 75, 76,81,82,92-8 
Scottish Region BR, see LMS and 

S & DJR 2-8-0 locomotive, 66, 67 
S & DJR, Somerset & Dorset line, 

66, 67, 83 
Settle & Carlisle line, 16, 83, 84, 

94,95,99, 13S 
Shap, 10, 16,74,77,83,92 
Shop LP record, 87, 91 
signal box and signal, sounds of, 

13, 15, 128 
SLS (Stephenson Locomotive 

Society), 76, 82, 95,96, 98 
S & MR (Shropshire &. 

Montgomeryshire Railway), 24 
SNCF, see France 
Somerset and Dorset, LP record, 

Southern Region BR, see SR 
Spain, 48, 51, 107, 108 
SR and BR Southern Region, 19, 


steam, end of on BR, see end of 

Steele Road, 92-4 
Stephens, Colonel, 24 



Stephenson, Brian, 94, 120, 121 
stereo, early recordings, 80-3, 91 
stereo recording technique, 133 

Talerddig, 97 

tape-recording equipment, 43-8, 


79-82, 100, 122, 123 
Tay Bridge, 97 
TCDD.jee Turkey 
Templecombe, 18, 66, 67, 83 
This is York 'World of Railways' 

LP record, I 5 
'3F' 0-6-0 locomotive, 67 
'T9' 4-4-0 locomotive, 72 
Tra in s It lustra ted, 57 
Trains in the Night LP record, 9 1 
Trains to Remember LP record, 

trams, 25, 44 
Triumph of an A 4 Pacific, LP 

record, 82, 133 
Turkey, 39, 40, 109-13 
'2F' 0-6-0 locomotive, 97 
'2P' 4-4-0 locomotive, 67, 74 

UNRRA locomotives, 35 
Usill, Harley, 89, 90, 96 

'V2' 2-6-2 locomotive, 38, 65, 72, 

73, 92, 93, 97 
Vapeur en France 'World of 

Railways' LP record, 107 
Vive la Vapeur LP record, 1 07 

Wainwright 'D' 4-4-0 locomotive, 

Wales, 17, 18, 32, 33, 74, 76, 79, 

95,97, 136 
Walker, Colin, 75, 96 
Watlington branch line, 36, 74 
Waverley route, 16, 92-4 
'WD' 2-8-0 locomotive, 26 
Western Region BR, see GWR 
West Highland line, 76, 8 1 , 82 
West Highland Line, LP record, 

West of Exeter, LP record, 91 
Wilcox, Herbert, 37 
Wilmot, Chester, 27 
Wimbush, Roger, 61, 83 
Wind in the Willows, The, LP 

record, 89 
Working on the Footplate, LP 

record, 97 

York Station, 15, 16 
Yugoslavia, 40, 109, 110, 114, 



In their day these forgotten railways were 
important links in the economic and social 
life of their region. This series recalls the 
heyday of such railways, the battles 
surrounding their genesis, the lovable eccen- 
tricities of their operation, the places where 
enough still lingers to recapture the 
atmosphere of earlier years. 


R Davies and M D Grant 


R S Joby 


P Howard Anderson 

K Hoole 


Rex Christiansen 


John Thomas 


H P White 


James Page 

Printed in the UK 

S Nock 

The King Arthur class locomotives appeared in the midst of the Southern's 
publicity campaign of the mid-1920s as a development of an LSWR design of 
1918. In their early years they failed to live up to expectations but modi- 
fications produced solid reliable engines capable of tackling the best in top 
line express duties on Kent and South West main lines. Mr Nock describes in 
his popular manner the development of the original design, the problems and 
how they were overcome, maintenance, and performance in service of this 
well-liked type and the H15 and S15 freight counterparts included in the 
family. His text is well illustrated with tables, diagrams, and photographs. 
Locomotive Monographs series 
248 x 171mm Illustrated 


(New revised edition) 
O S Nock 

Now published in a single lavishly illustrated volume dealing with some of the 
best-loved locomotives ever to run on rails, Mr Nock tells, with a wealth of 
technical detail, of the factors that led to the establishment of the broad prin- 
ciples, and to the superb detail of the original design developed to its maximum 
extent in the King class. He draws upon many official and unofficial sources 
in describing 60 years of GW locomotive progress. 
247 x 184mm Illustrated 


O S Nock 

The Royal Scot 4-6-0s were born out of the interdepartmental strife that beset 
the LMS in the 1920s, yet despite their speedy design and construction they 
went straight into express service. For a decade they were the principal loco- 
motives of the LMS tackling the heaviest and fastest traiffs ftn the system. Even 
with the advent of the Pacifies the Scots, later much rebuilt, continued on 
top line work until the end of steam. O S Nock tells the*stqry of this famous 
class, and their smaller sisters the Patriots, known also as the Baby Scots. 
224 x 171mm Illustrated 


C H a R L I $