Dayrover days in the early Eighties


Before the de-industrialisation of the North, and the unit-isation of the railways, the youth cult of bashing was in full swing. Bashing being the art of accumulating haulage behind railway locomotives – either by type, or by distance, or by both.

At that time the railways were still stocked with rolling stock from the ‘modernisation’ era that preceeded and paralled the Beeching era. The diesel locos that had replaced steam were still powering many of the types of workings that those steam engines had – including loose coupled freights and summer Saturday specials to seaside resorts.

The Miners strike was still to come. Rail privatisation was difficult to imagine. Thatcherism hadn’t become a fully fledged ‘ism’ – didn’t stop the riots though. There was still long shadows hanging over the railways – strikes, lack of investment, a total lack of enthusiasm for rail from the Conservatives (coupled with long standing antagonism from the civil service). When the railways ground to a halt on strike days it felt like the last days were upon us.

Bashers were not train spotters. They had no time for ‘kettles’ (steam engines). They were in thrall to the oldest, noisiest and most battered locomotives. Mostly consigned to freight and working out of depots in the deepest recesses of industrial England – Thornaby, Gateshead, Tinsley, Healey Mills. On Summer Saturdays, they would emerge on holiday trains to Blackpool, Skegness, Aberystwyth and Llandudno.

Long trains of compartment stock would draw in behind their monstrous traction – the racket swirling round the station. The front carriages invaded by the bashers – toting their addidas and head bags. Then away, to much flailing and bellowing out of the windows in tribute, triumph, adrenalin and identification

They didn’t turn out to be the last days in the way it looked like at the time. Since then rail’s time has come with passenger numbers soaring. Everything the stolid defenders of rail were arguing at the time – that rail was the right way to go – has come to pass. But at the same time the rail network has descended into some kind of plasticky, modular blandness.

Bashers were worshiping machine and speed like some mutated anglo Saxon strain of futurism. Looking to let loose, to find camaraderie. To mainline nostalgia. To order and catalogue a world that was always slipping away. To subvert the purpose and conventions of rail travel, whilst respecting every aspect of the mode more than any ‘normal’

To mark the last great flourish of locomotive manufacturing in the country that invented it. Wave after wave of orders from Vulcan Foundry, Robert Stephenson and Hawthorns, Brush foundry. As Britain’s late start on replacing steam turned into a stampede. Britain’s locomotive manufacturing industry kept going for a few years more turning out heavy duty industrial design for rail modernisation. Designs heroic in their solidity.

Thrash – ‘the noise made by classic diesel locomotives’
Clag – ‘A term describing the often spectacular (especially blackened, as in Class 37 or whitesmoked, as in Class 55) exhaust emissions of many older British diesel locomotives, especially Classes 52 and 55′
Dreadful: ‘Exclamation denoting enthusiastic approval’

From the summer of 1982 the volume of rateable workings was still high but beginning its long but exponential decline.

A West Yorkshire day rover would give access to the fun and games to a relative bashing lightweight and impoverished sixth former. And sometimes further afield.

Saturday 26th June 1982

40 058 Leeds to Manchester Victoria (class 31 hauled portion attached by 08 at Huddersfield) for haulage
40 069 through freight at Man Vic
40 012 ‘Aureol’ through parcels at Man Vic
47 135 + 47 210 double headed Trans-Pennine running over an hour later
47 002 Manchester Victoria to Huddersfield for haulage in the rain
46 010 Huddersfield to Bradford Interchange (Weymouth to Bradford) for haulage
25 224 Shipley to Leeds

Saturday 11th September 1982


47 305 Bradford – Huddersfield
47 286 Huddersfield – Dewsbury
47 526 Dewsbury – Leeds
40 183 Leeds – Huddersfield
40 056 Huddersfield – Leeds
45 009 Leeds – Huddersfield
40 197 Huddersfield to Leeds
31 295 Keighley to Leeds
40 004 Leeds to Huddersfield
47 095 Huddersfield to Leeds

Rosebay Willow herb seeds drift and eddy
A signal stop
The carriage creaks in the heat

An hour and a half at Wakefield Kirkgate 24th November 1982

37 131 HM loose fitted coal
56 106 TI MGR
47 373 HM empty MGR
40 172 SP Tankers
56 030 HM empty MGR
40 162 KD
31 168 IM
37 023 MR mixed unfitted
47 291 cartec
56 093 HM full MGR
56 106 TI MGR
37 040 HM
37 123 HM brakevan

A stolen afternoon from School
Succession of freight trains


4 thoughts on “Dayrover days in the early Eighties

  1. That’s great to see a piece on the internet about Class 40 bashing, especially around Leeds & West Yorkshire on those famous Day Riders! All my mispent youth was devoted to chasing the Whistlers before they got withdrawn. You jogged some fantastic memories there, well written indeed.
    Thanks for sharing.

    I see you’ve blogged about my Leeds tram relics story earlier. Glad you liked it 🙂

    I’ve just penned one of my memories about 40 bashing around Leeds here

    And the Class 40 photo gallery (Just short of 2000 pics) is here

    Class 40 40199, Retford - 24 Mar 1981

    Hope there’s something there you for you to enjoy.


  2. Remember those days well with others from Leeds area. I was from Crossgates area with likes of Wilderbeast and remember knocking around with Dilly, Psycho, Split box from Bradford using the day rovers often finishing a day with Hull Mail.

    Great days! Oily

    1. Oily, now that’s a name from the past. I’m just trying to match a face to the name. I too remember and knocked about with the guys you have mentioned
      You remember Phill….Camputch and Dilly’s mate? The green army jacket and burgandy sta press trousers? I see Dilly, Splitbox and Geordie Col now and again. Give me a shout if you like.

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