• Sun. Dec 3rd, 2023

North East Connected

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Railwayman’s tales at Head of Steam

A railwayman’s tales have been captured for future generations in two new books which are now on sale at Head of Steam – Darlington Railway Museum.

Stephen Shields fulfilled his boyhood dream when he joined the railways as a temporary goods porter in 1969.

He then spent the next 40 years and more working on the region’s railways as a goods train guard, signalman and signal inspector and was part of the team that oversaw the electrification of the East Coast Main Line in the 1980s.

Now semi-retired, Stephen, 64, still indulges his passion for the railways working part time with West Coast Railways, a private charter company which runs steam train experiences on various routes.

“As a boy, growing up in New Penshaw, I’d spend hours with my mates watching the trains go by on the railways,” says Stephen, who now lives in Saltburn with his wife Julie.

“My first job was as a butcher’s assistant but I always want to work on the railways. In my books I’ve tried to capture what life on the railways was like, first for the goods train guards and then the signalmen.

“Not many people know what the guards did and my first book – As Safe As Yesterday – focusses on my time as a guard. We worked all over the north east, working coal trains, iron ore and Consett steel. It’s all gone now, as have most of the guys I worked with, and I wanted to try to record it while I could still remember it all.

“The second book – Aspects of a Signalling Journey – follows my time in the signal boxes at Consett and the old Leamside Line, and working as a signal inspector, through electrification and then privatisation, which I and a lot of others felt was wrong. As Signalling Manager Teesside for Railtrack, and latterly Network Rail, I saw at first and the change that took place after privatisation.”

Sarah Gouldsbrough, acting museum manager at the Head of Steam said:

“The stories of those who worked on the railways are always very popular with our visitors and we’re delighted to be able to sell Stephen’s books in the shop. They’re an interesting and informative read and would make a great gift or keepsake of a visit to the museum.”

Copies of the new books, priced at £10 each, are now on sale in the museum shop. For more information about Head of Steam visit www.head-of-steam.co.uk or call 01325 405060.