Stunning images from the golden age of railways

Here we go: Youngsters at Preston station in 1964 waiting to catch the train to Wembley for the 1964 FA Cup Final. A Blue Pullman train is in the background   Picture: D BILLINGTON

Here we go: Youngsters at Preston station in 1964 waiting to catch the train to Wembley for the 1964 FA Cup Final. A Blue Pullman train is in the background Picture: D BILLINGTON

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Faces filled with hope and expectation, these youngsters are a poignant reminder of simpler times.

Waiting on the platform at Preston Station, ready for their long journey to London for the 1964 FA Cup Final, they are part of what many consider a golden age of rail travel.

In the background is the rarest of sites.

For aside from the thrill of PNE being involved in the FA Cup Final, the train in the photo was also a novelty. It is a Blue Pullman train, a forerunner of the Intercity 125 HST trains, with streamlined driving cars at each end of the train. It is one of the only known pictures of such a train in the city.

This stunning collection of pictures is just a tiny fraction of the huge archive featured on the website, called Preston Station - Past and Present, which contains a huge archive of steam and post-steam era images of the city’s trains and images from across the country.

It was set up by Lancashire rail enthusiasts so fellow enthusiasts could share pictures, stories and memories.

A spokesman for the site said: “Since about 2006, it has grown as more and more people offered their photos and memories for the website.

“The historical aspect of Preston’s Railways featured strongly from the beginning, because I quickly found that photographs from the 1960s were easier to find than those from the 1970s and 80s.

“Many enthusiasts and photographers had hung up their cameras in disgust when steam power ended on Britain’s railways in 1968. In fact, the North West, had the final three steam sheds in the country, with Rose Grove, Carnforth and finally Lostock Hall bringing the curtain down in August of that year, so became a bit of a Mecca for steam enthusiasts in those final months.

“The website now caters for those with fond memories of the railways in Preston, from any decade, but it also covers the present, with a news column and a list of rare or interesting trains which are due to visit in the coming weeks. It now attracts well over a thousand hits every week, with more than 500 people visiting on a weekly basis.”

He added: “In the late 70s and early 80s, train-spotting was still considered a healthy activity for a teenage lad, as it had been since the earliest days of railways.

“The unfortunate stereotype which prevails today, had yet to be fully formed.

“Of course, in my ‘era’, steam was already long-gone and diesels and electrics ruled the rails.

“I travelled all over the country for my hobby, which must have been more healthy than sitting in front of a computer or hanging around on street corners.

“Eventually, the usual late-teen distractions of beer, cars and girls (not necessarily in that order) took hold and railways were forgotten for me until, in my 30s, the nostalgic element drew me back.

“It was a source of regret that on my travels in the early 1980s, I rarely if ever took a camera with me.

“The result was that I had no photos of Preston as it had been back then and thought it would be interesting to search the internet for photographs to replace the ones I never took.

“I made a few purchases on Ebay and made contact with a few people who already had relevant photos.

“The next question of course, is what should I do with those photos?

“Keep them in a photo album and on a computer, or share them with anybody else that might be interested?

“My Preston Station - Past and Present website was the result.”

Of course, things on the rail have changed in the present day, especially with the Government’s announcement last week that high speed rail is to get the go-ahead, cutting journey times from Preston to London to well under two hours.

“The modern railway is very different from the one I remember in the 1980s,’’ added the spokesman.

“Back then, with road transport favoured by successive Governments, the nationalised system was stagnating.

“Today, things are very different. From the passenger’s point of view, things have improved in many ways, with cleaner, faster trains and stations with better facilities. Many enthusiasts complain that modern trains are ‘characterless’ and uninteresting - that may well be true, but railways aren’t run for the benefit of the enthusiast. However, there is still plenty to keep us interested.”