Small boys love trains. Especially steam engines.
I was born in 1963, when the steam age was fast drawing to a close. The year Flying Scotsman hauled its last scheduled train for British Railways. The diesels were taking over, and the state rail network lost all sense of pride as expresses were hauled by steam engines in filthy, rusty condition.
I never saw a steam train in public service: the nearest I came was a National Coal Board locomotive in the early 1970s. But my consolation was an amazing place called Barry scrapyard at Barry Island on the South Wales coast, where hundreds of old steam engines were rusting away in the salty sea air. Here I was able to clamber over engines ancient and modern. The youngest was just three years older than me - a BR 9F heavy freight engine that lasted just five years. What a scandalous waste of taxpayers' money. This photo taken at Barry shows me, aged 20, on the footplate of 92219, the penultimate steam engine built by BR. The engine was 23 years old at the time (1983). It was built in January 1960 but withdrawn in September 1965. You can see a photo of 92219 on a freight train the month before I was born here.
Barry scrapyard was the domain of Dai Woodham, who bought hundreds of steam engines from BR for scrap but gave most of them a stay of execution. Britain's preserved railways owe Dai Woodham a huge debt of gratitude because the engines he saved now provide most of their motive power. The scrapyard closed twenty years ago.
This is the earliest photo I have of me at Barry. It was taken by my father Bob Skinner in 1979 and shows me, aged 15, on the footplate of LMS 0-6-0 4F 44123, built in 1927 (so a year younger than Dad!) and withdrawn in June 1965. I understand this engine is awaiting restoration at the Avon Valley railway near Bristol.
UPDATE: I have posted a number of photos of locomotives at Barry scrapyard on Ertblog.
Visit the new Ertblog on Wordpress at robskinner.net!