Big Issue vendors have a wide variety of skills and experience, so we bring you the best of their knowledge each week. This week, Weston-super-Mare vendor Robin Price, a keen model train enthusiast and trainspotter who has been interested in the railways from a young age, explains what makes the pastime so special.
When I was a kid, running down to the footbridge and watching a train was actually kind of like my fix.
The first time I went out on my own I’d have been about seven or eight and I already knew the difference between a Class 31 and a 47. It was quite a fix, I’ve got to be honest with you. I saw an HST flying through Weston Milton station – the Weston-London service. He didn’t stop and it was fast, it was loud and it was screaming. I was so excited I shook.
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It was just the sheer power, the noise and the speed. You’d go somewhere in between Didcot and Swindon and you used to watch the HSTs flying down there at 125mph – you blinked and you missed it. Then there was the smell of the diesel, the smell of the brake blocks as they were burning – imagine how hot they would have got. It was all just a part of it, even down to the smell of the buffet car through the air conditioning.
My dad used to work at the depot so we were always brought up around trains, dad had a model railway as well and taught us the difference between the engines. On a Saturday when dad wasn’t working we used to go out with him and do a bit of spotting ourselves.
“If I owned land and somebody wanted to build a railway, I’d say you can have all the land you want as long as you build me a viewing gallery.”
At the moment the services are still going, but they’re cutting them back quite a lot. You’ve still got your freight, obviously. That’s quite nice to see, a Class 59 train carrying stone from the Mendips. I just think they’re awesome trains. My favourite all-time engine if I ever had the money to buy it and preserve it would be the 59005. It’s the open engine and was the last to be built. It’s got a different name to all its sisters, the others are named Yeoman Challenger, Yeoman Endeavour and so on. This one was simply named Kenneth J Painter.
As a passenger my favourite route is between Reading and Taunton. It’s operated by Great Western and it’s got the 59s running up and down because the quarries are actually connected to that line. In between Frome and Castle Cary there’s a line that goes deep into the Mendips. That’s the reason I like it – nowadays the HSTs have gone, we’ve got these new hi-tech things and they don’t really make the noise they used to.
I’m excited about HS2, I’ve got to be honest. My view on that is if they were building a road nobody would be worried about it. And one 4,000-tonne Foster Yeoman train takes 200 lorries off the road. If I owned land and somebody said they wanted to build a railway, I’d say you can have all the land you want as long as you build me a viewing gallery. With a shelter in case it rains. And I could just sit there all my days and just watch those trains go past.
Robin was speaking to Sarah Reid.