12:00pm Monday 18th March 2013
By John Chipperfield
OXFORD was a trainspotters’ paradise in the 1950s and early 1960s, with steam locomotives from four railway regions bringing trains to the city.
So it was no surprise that Oxford should have its own trainspotters’ society.
Ian Allan, who worked for the Southern Railway at Waterloo station, had begun the trainspotting craze when he started publishing booklets listing the numbers of 20,000 steam locomotives in 1942.
The Oxford City Locomotive Club was formed one Sunday afternoon in October 1953 after a chance meeting at the Port Meadow gate, just north of Oxford station, between the Rev L A Garrard, principal of Manchester College, and Michael Crew, a pupil at Oxford High School for Boys.
The Port Meadow gate was an ideal spot for enthusiasts to see steam engines and mark them in their Ian Allan books.
The club, which started with about 12 members, with Mr Garrard as leader and Mr Crew as secretary, was initially called the 1st Oxford group of the Ian Allan Locospotters’ Club, but changed its name to the Oxford City Locomotive Club in December 1955.
It had many interesting speakers over the years, including James Miller, the Oxford stationmaster, and published the ‘County of Oxford’ magazine, listing club activities and including local and national railway news.
As membership increased, the club ran coach trips to Swindon railway works and other steam depots throughout the country.
A regular feature was the annual party, with the Oxford Mail reporting in 1955 that “35 members enjoyed an orgy of jelly and trifle” and on another occasion, “Oxford locospotters make merry after a busy year at the stations”.
Our sister paper, The Oxford Times, published an article in 1957 on the opening of the club’s new model railway section, which helped increase membership numbers to 80.
John Cook took over as secretary when Michael Crew left the area, and the club continued its success to the end of the decade.
However, with the rundown of steam traction in the early 1960s and with membership dwindling, it was decided to merge with the newly-formed Thames Valley branch of the Railway Correspondence and Travel Society, which celebrated its 50th anniversary last year.
The Oxford club was formed 60 years ago this year and rail enthusiast Laurence Waters, of Hurst Rise Road, Oxford, has fond memories of those early days.
He writes: “In many respects, the old Oxford City Locomotive Club lives on.
“The January 1957 Oxford Times’ article on the club was headlined ‘This Can Become a Lifetime Passion’. For some of us, how true that has proved to be.”
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