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Front cover of Backtrack Magazine, May 2018 Issue
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Backtrack Magazine, May 2018 Issue

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Contents Listing - Articles & Features in this issue
On and Off the East Coast Route
Round the Bend
Improvement Schemes on Selected Provincial Stations 1925-1935
South Pacific
Pilots, Parcelsand Empty Stock
Tackling the Gradient - Part Three
No.10000
To Hemyock with Time to Linger
Two Dukes and a Lord
Taunton before the Signals Changed
Down in the Vale - Part One
Jumping and Falling from Trains
Coal at Tyne Yard
Brewood's Lost Chances
The Durham Bankers
Readers'Forum
Book Reviews
 
Cover - SR rebuilt 'West Country' Pacific No.34031 Torrington hurries a Waterloo-Plymouth train along near Worting on 2nd September 1962. 
Article Snippets
Article Snippets
The colour of the railway:
This month we have a guest editorial from ALISTAIR F. NISBET, well known as a frequent contributor to Backtrack. A recent spell of enforced inactivity after a few days as an 'in-patient' gave me more time than usual to think deep (?) thoughts and one occasion found me musing on the colours into which railway companies paint their trains and, to a lesser extent, their infrastructure. All through the history of our railway system different companies have applied varying coats of many colours to almost anything which moved although less often to those objects which stayed static - nevertheless London Underground has in recent years applied a particularly light shade of blue to some of its girder bridges on the Metropolitan Line. Quite unlike anything on the traditional railway...

In these days of frequently changing franchisees it seems that as soon as a new operator is appointed at least one of its train sets appears in a new, and often quite garish, colour scheme on the first day of operation. Even when the incumbent retains a franchise a new colour scheme seems to be called for. Do the passengers really notice the difference and think 'new colours mean a new train' ? Except perhaps in the case of Virgin Trains most are fairly unmemorable or at best easily forgotten. I wonderthough whether it was ever very different. Apart from we railway enthusiasts who can truly say they remember what colour the LNER painted its engines post-World War II? Or the Southern Railway with its olive green or BuHeid's malachite version? Or even further back, some of the pre-grouping colour schemes such as the Great Eastern. The Great Western, of course, did not need to change anything at the grouping nor even after nationalisation - apart from the letters and crest becoming the 'cycling lion'. A lack of cleaners in later BR days inevitably produced many instances of the famous grey tinged with oil and grease.

What about the naming of engines? Much has been written elsewhere, and occasionally in Backtrack, about the policies of the major companies and the themes they adopted - the Great Western was, of course, well known for its tradition of names of, sometimes rather obscure, buildings with the main exceptions being past male English monarchs and administrative areas. The London, Brighton & South Coast Railway applied names to most of its engines at one time, these being painted in large capitals on the side tanks or driving wheel splashers but it was often said to be a cause of confusion for travellers, especially those who were not frequent users of the company's services. Why was this, you may ask? - because the names chosen were often those oftowns and villages, or occasionally stately homes, served by the Brighton - not, of course, the destination of the train it was attached to. Thinking back over the many newspaper reports I have read about the opening of new stretches of railway or of unfortunate incidents, I am struck that in almost none of them has there been a mention of the colourofthe rolling stock, nor of the engine forthat matter. I think, however, that some description of this sort was reported on the advent of the 'Coronation Scot' on the London Midland & Scottish and Sir Nigel Gresley's streamliners on the London & North Eastern Railway. Every time a new colour scheme is decided upon it must involve a considerable expense whether the change is implemented by repainting or, in more recent times, by wrapping the vehicle in vinyl.

But what was the traditional colour for railway infrastructure ? During the 1950s and '60s BR's Regions seem to have had a penchant for applying different colour schemes to some of their station buildings and in some cases these coincided with the colour of the sausageshaped nameboards which graced the premises. I doubt, though, that the erstwhile North Eastern Region ever used tangerine on any stations or other buildings. Could I have seen chocolate and cream on the wooden buildings at Royal Oak just outside Paddington or a peeling version of maroon and cream at Willesden Junction? Maybe 'A Reader' can say yea or nay. One scheme I do recall was to be found on a number of Scottish Region stations where a large area of woodwork might be painted a light cream above waist level and chocolate brown below there and on door frames. Who knows how that came about? The Southern Region also liked cream but in this case a deeper shade allied with a darkish green for window and frames and doors. This too looked very attractive when new although when applied straight on top of the dirt it was supposed to hide, such as I once saw at Wimbledon station in the early 1960s, it was less so.

So my closing thought is did/do the companies old and new need to distinguish themselves with so many different liveries? Perhaps it was easier and simpler when engines were painted black with the owning company's crest/logo/symbol applied on top. But then how dull it would be, especially forthose of us who photograph railways in all their aspects. Should we all go back to monochrome only? Perhaps there is no real answer or, perish the thought, there is no real problem?
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