Know Your Dealer
As you can tell from the photograph above there was no escaping for me. The railway hobby was in the genes and I was dragged around many a steam shed with my father and brother in the late 50‘s early 60‘s.
My earliest recollection is of standing at Seaton Junction aged about eight crying my eyes out as my notebook slipped down under the wheels of 34065 Hurricane waiting to depart!
In those early days the family lived at Bletchley where the garden backed onto the end of the flyover and holidays were as far removed from the beach as possible. Many times my mother was left with her knitting, in some seedy, grimy backstreet while the rest of the family had disappeared through a gate in the wall and into the smoke induced gloom, breathing in the elixir of life!
After 1968 it was onto the industrial scene in which father was quite an enthusiast anyway. Those ’through the night drives‘, no motorways then, to reach the north-east industry early in the morning. My headmaster knew my fathers standard letter well - ’Stewart would be out of school for educational purposes‘. And so I was. In 1967 a day trip to France ensured a life long interest in overseas railways - and more particularly in Indian railways.
Meanwhile, back at home, I was witness to the birth of the Dean Forest Railway and involved fleetingly before joining the team saving 7812 Erlestoke Manor from Woodhams at Barry. The focus was entirely upon raising money and so my introduction into the world of dealing in anything to do with railways, began.
From my early days I had always had a love of black & white photography. Starting, like so many, with a box camera, I progressed through the ranks via a Ross Ensign folding camera and onto 35mm with Contax and Yashica cameras which I still use today. I supplemented this with colour slide photography up until the death of Kodachrome 25 from which I have never recovered.
Following in fathers footsteps I have been a lover of tape recording over the years, progressing from reel to reel to cassette. I have kept many a footplate crew amused setting up my microphones with elastic bands and paper clips but the results are something I regularly return to.
After a number of years raising money for the Erlestoke Manor Fund I branched out on my own and the business has grown ever since - with several new projects yet to get underway. I am a regular stall-holder on the specialist railway scene at many of the well-established fairs, auctions, open days and galas.
While I still travel overseas regularly, for railways, back home, my interest has turned to infrastructure - or whats left of it. Having virtually completed a project to photograph every signal box in the country attention has turned to old lines, digging up remains and the ghosts of yesteryear.