Alan Gilbert was a Mancunian through-and-through and a lifelong railway enthusiast. A member of the Manchester Locomotive Society since 1945 he became their Treasurer in 1955, a job he carried out for the next fifty-one years. Alan joined the newly formed Granada Television in the late fifties and progressed to a position of Chief Accountant from which he retired in 1988. He was President of the MLS at the time of his death in 2014, having been instrumental in guiding the organisation in so many ways over many years.
He put his filming skills to great use in pursuing his hobby of recording the railways of his home city and many other parts of the British Railways system in the mid 1950s when change was afoot and much-loved parts of the system and their associated locomotives and rolling stock were under threat. The two programmes that have now been released using this footage provide an important visual and historical archive of our railways at that time of change.
Often in the company of his friends W A “Cam” Camwell and Neville Knight, Alan Gilbert shot all his footage on 16mm film, between 1955 and 1958 and these two programmes show a great variety of trains and stations around Manchester as well as selected views across the country. Manchester London Road provides the dividing line between the two volumes, lines which head, roughly, south and west of this line form Volume 1 and those lines to the north and east thereof the second volume. Each takes a geographical tour around the country, starting at Manchester London Road.
Volume Two – Steam north and east of Manchester
Setting off from Manchester London Road this programme takes us onto the mainly Great Central lines which run into the south-eastern suburbs of the city, where the charismatic “Atlantic” and “Pacific” tanks were still in use in the mid-1950s. We visit Reddish, Marple, Hayfield and go over to Glossop and many other places seeing steam and electric traction on the line to Woodhead before witnessing some Midland diversions via Teviot Dale. On “real” Midland metals we follow the main line out through Hazel Grove, New Mills and Chinley and then visit the Millers Dale to Buxton line with Johnson and Stanier 0-4-4 tanks. We briefly go to Hartington and Parsley Hay before taking the LNWR line back into Manchester via Dove Holes, Chapel-en-le-Frith and Whaley Bridge, seeing a Super D and plenty of 8Fs on heavy freights – and one extremely short one!
Crossing to the northern suburbs we traverse the Bury to Rawtenstall line (today’s East Lancashire Railway) from the terminus at Bacup to Ramsbottom. Staying with the original East Lancashire Railway we go to Liverpool via Ormskirk to see the famous Liverpool Overhead Railway – on Grand National Day! From there we cross the waters to the Isle of Man where trains still ran to Peel. Returning to the mainland and Bury we follow the line through Heywood and down to Miles Platting, reversing there and taking the Oldham Loop. A short ride on a WD hauled freight to Facit precedes a visit to the Delph line and then we see a special at Diggle. Quick visits to Grassington and Keighley as well as Ingrow West allow us to climb over the hills towards Bradford at Great Horton and Great Northern lines around Wakefield before we go right across country to the Hull area where we visit Market Weighton, Hornsea and Withernsea with plenty of North Eastern infrastructure in evidence.
Staying in North Eastern territory we go to Saltburn and Hartlepool before crossing the Tyne to visit Blythe and district. Alternative ways into Scotland are explored at Carlisle and Stranraer but we enter by way of Reedsmouth Junction, Kelso and St Boswells before taking the low road (or is it the high road) up through Tyndrum to the twin lines to Oban and Fort William in the West Highlands, ending our tour at The Mound on the Far North line.