Monthly Archives: Nov 2020

Advent Sunday 2020

Mark 13: 24-37 – 29th November 2020

It is over 30 years since the fall of many of the Soviet states in Europe.

31 years since the Berlin Wall was torn down!

My brothers-in-law travelled there at the end of 1989 and picked up a souvenir piece of the wall. Pieces of the Berlin wall are still on sale today.

Over the New Year Holiday, the Berlin Wall was being dismantled. … The end of the Berlin Wall was the end of probably the most potent symbol of oppression in Europe in the 20th Century.

It’s disturbing to realise that it all happened over 30 years ago now. Maybe, at that time, you shared my sense of unbelief – ‘Is this really happening?’ It was hard to believe that the world order that I had grown up in – that of a Cold War, stand-off between two superpowers – was seemingly coming to an end. Something that even just months before those amazing events at the end of 1989 seemed impossible.

This same seeming impossibility surrounded the Jewish people in the centuries before Christ. They had been longing for a Messiah – someone who would change the course of history for ever. They were so often disappointed, different men came promising what they could not deliver. No doubt Israel felt the mocking eyes of others as they clung onto this seemingly vain hope of a glorious Messiah. Someone who would bring in Israel’s golden age. Everything pointed against it. Israel was a pawn, a minor league nation caught in the ebb and flow of the politics of the real powers.

In Advent, as Christians, we do at least two things – firstly, we remember, we enter into something of the feelings of the people of Israel as they waited for the coming of their Messiah. We wait with them. … They had to wait 500 years from the first promises made to them. We allow ourselves the month of December – but we wait for the coming of the Christ-child. Unlike them we know for sure that he will come – for we’ve read the story before.

But we are in other ways just like them. For we impose our expectations on him – we know what the Christmas story is all about – we’ve got the story neatly packaged. … We need the story to be constant, unchanging because life is too busy, too pressurised at this time of year. ‘Let’s stick to the routine,’ we say, ‘enjoy the celebrations, and hopefully have time to relax in January!’ Although what those Christmas celebrations will be like in 2020 is still a matter of uncertainty.

If we are not careful – if we don’t make the time to reflect, to listen, to wait – we’ll miss the Christ-child. We’ll not see the miracle of God in human form. Just as most of Israel missed its Messiah, so God’s grace will pass us by. Advent is our time to centre ourselves before Christmas, to focus on the true meaning of the Christmas story, to grasp that God’s Son, the Christ, God incarnate, Emmanuel, God with us – Jesus, is coming and he is coming for us, for me.

But we also wait in other ways … for many of us, life is not the way we want it to be and we pray for God’s intervention. It feels at times as though nothing is happening. Times like this are hard. We wait for God to come, and he seems absent. We are a little like the people of Israel awaiting their Messiah.

Advent is not just preparing for Christmas, but about looking forward to Christ’s Second Coming. Jesus spoke about this our Gospel reading. A difficult passage, because this Second Coming seems for Jesus to be so immediate. And so we, the Church, have our questions – raised at different times with different intensity. Why has it been so long? Has God forgotten us? Is Jesus never coming back? Were we intended to take it literally? Was Jesus mistaken? Is it important to believe in the Second Coming?

And these questions are often mirrored in our experience of daily life as at times God seems to be absent. And our experience of waiting in some way matches that of those nations waiting year after year under the tyranny of Communism. Seemingly without hope – yet in 1989 there was that dramatic change. What was unbelievable, happened. The wall came down, Communist regimes toppled.

Similar but different.

In our daily lives, we hold onto a promise – a promise to be taken on trust. Jesus’ promise to be there for us in the midst of all that life brings our way – Christ will come again.

But, as Christians, we also have something of the reality on deposit. In the meal of Holy Communion we look back to the realities of Christ=s first coming – his death and resurrection. And we also look forward to that heavenly banquet in which we will all share – a meal that Jesus promised to eat with us in his Kingdom.

We can believe that God is with us in our suffering. We can believe that Christ will return. Things that people dream about, do happen, God’s, presence with us is real, and Christ Second Coming is no more impossible than the collapse of the Berlin Wall felt to a divided Europe, a divided Germany. The seemingly impossible is possible with God.

Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.

Railways in Iran – Part 11 – Anglo-Persian Oil Company Ltd.

The Anglo-Persian Oil Company (APOC) was founded in 1908 after the discovery of a large oil field in the South of what is now Iran. [2] Masjid-i-Sulaiman was the location where oil was first discovered in the Middle East. [3]

At the beginning of the 20th century, Khuzestan was one of the most impoverished and least urbanized areas of Iran, itself a desperately poor country. “In 1900 Iran was a fairly primitive, almost isolated state, barely distinguishable as an economic entity. About one fifth of the population lived in small towns; another quarter consisted of nomadic tribes, while the rest eked out an existence in poor villages” [9][11]. “Historical cities of Shushtar, Dezful, Ramhormoz, Hoveyzeh, and Behbahan, had small populations ranging between 7 and 25 thousand. Ahvaz (the provincial capital to the North of Abadan) was initially a large village, but it had been turning into a fast growing market town following the opening of Karun in 1880s to steamship commerce and the construction of the mule transport “Lynch Road” from there through Zagros to Esfahan.” [9].

William Knox D’Arcy, under contract to Ali-Qoli Khan Bakhtiari, obtained permission to explore for oil in Iran, he discovered oil near Masjid-i-Sulaiman in 1908. [3][4][5] This was the first time that oil  had been discovered in the Middle East, changing the history of the region and resulting in wealth beyond what country leaders could ever have hoped for or imagined. The oil discovery led to a petrochemical industry and the establishment of industries that strongly depended on oil.

Masjid-i-Sulaiman, is situated among the foothills of the Iranian plateau, about 130 miles inland from the Persian Gulf. The reserves are very significant and resulted in the construction of a pipeline to link Majid-i-Sulaiman, and another oilfield at Haft Kel, with the Persian Gulf, an oil depot, and what became a large refinery at Abadan.

An early view of the Oilfield at Masjid-i-Sulaiman. [16]

Near Masjid-i-Sulaiman, the pipe line is carried on a suspension bridge. In this illustration men are seen assembling the lengths of pipe line after the completion of the bridge. [17]

Construction of the refinery commenced in 1910 and the contraction was completed in 1912. Its capacity was 2500 barrels/day and it was the first oil refinery in the Middle East. [18]

The island at the junction of the Euphrates and Tigris. The depot of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company. Oil fuel was of utmost necessity for the Mesopotamian river traffic in the advance on Baghdad in the First World War. This image is a a view of Abadan from the river at the junction of the Euphrates and Tigris, seen at night. There is a dhow with sails down in the foreground, and the lights and outlines of an oil depot in the background. Date: (First World War). [12]

In 1914, the British government purchased a 51% stake in the oil company, [6] and during the First World War, Abadan refinery was expanded to provide fuel for warships. [18]

The development of Abadan oil refinery accelerated in 1932 and in 1935, APOC was renamed the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC) when Reza Shah Pahlavi asked foreign countries to refer to Persia as Iran. An institute of technology was established at Abadan in 1939. [18]

In World War II, after the Allies lost the Burmese oil and refinery, more attention was paid to the expansion of Abadan refinery and it became the largest refinery in the world. It supplied 25,000 barrels/day of aircraft gasoline during the war with the amount of 25,000 barrels per day and, as a result, contributed significantly to the Allied victory in WWII. [18]

Embed from Getty Images

An aerial view of barges in a dock at Abadan, Iran, 12th January 1947. (Photo by Pictorial Parade/Archive Photos/Getty Images) Parts of the 3ft gauge rail network are visible in this image. One track runs alongside the road to the left of the image. Two lines run parallel to each other to the left of the dock wall. They run between the legs of the rail mounted cranes. Wagons can be made out on these lines. This image is embedded from the Getty Images website with their kind permission. [14]

Later the government of Mohammad Mosaddegh nationalized the company’s local infrastructure assets and gave the new company the name National Iranian Oil Company. Mohammed Mosaddegh was Prime Minster of Iran from 1951 until 1953, when his government was overthrown in a coup d’état which was orchestrated by the CIA and MI6. [7]

An aerial view of Abadan in 1951, when the Iranian government nationalized the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. Source: The Illustrated London News, London, 8th September 1951, (Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial 4.0 International) [13].

In 1954, after the coup, the Company was renamed again to the British Petroleum Company (BP). [2] The products of Abadan refinery were once again sent to international markets at a rate of up to 300,000 barrels/day. By 1977, the capacity of the refinery had increased to 600,000 barrels/day. With that expansion, Abadan refinery regained its status as the largest refinery in the world. However, in 1980, the Iran/Iraq war brought all production to an end. [18] 

Recovery and further development has been slow and has been significantly affected by the international blockade.

The Railway Network in and around Abadan

The Anglo-Persian Oil Company had its own railway network at their Abadan Oil Depot and had a series of other lines which accessed the oil fields. The Wonders of World Engineering Magazine which was published from Spring 1937 to Spring 1938, [16][17] has two articles about the Iranian oilfields. The adjacent sketch map  is included in the second of those articles. [17] The dark lines represent oil pipelines which were already transporting oil in 1937/1938. Of interest for this article are the two railway lines shown. One is the Trans-Iranian Railway which heads North from the port of Bandar Shahpur. Eariier articles in this short series about the railways of Iran cover that line. Towards the top of the map is a short line running from Dar-i-Khazineh to the oilfield at Masjid-i-Suleiman.

Also, it is interesting to read a military report which was written in 1940. Iain Logie, an online acquaintance through the Continental Railway Circle (CRC) and author of an article about the Dar-i-Khazineh Fields Railway in The Narrow Gauge magazine [32], pointed me to this document which is available on the Qatar National Library website. [19] That document focuses on possible supply routes from the Persian Gulf to the North of Iran and so is not particularly interested in the pipeline supplying oil to Abadan.

It is probably very appropriate to note at this point that Iain Logie’s scholarly article in The Narrow Gauge magazine [32] is a comprehensive and detailed look at the Dar-i-Khazineh Fields Railway. I only received a copy of the article after having written this present article based around the 1940 Military Report. I have reviewed the text below in the light of receiving Iain Logie’s article and corrected some things which were incorrect.

The landscape between Abadan and Ahwaz. The River Karun was used for transporting oil/good to and from Masjid-i-Suleiman. (Google Maps)

I find the content, of what was a very long military report fascinating, but for our present purposes, we need to focus on the route to the oilfields. The report tells us that in July 1940: “From Basra, Mohammerah (Khorramshahr) or Abadan the recognised and only reliable all-weather route to the oilfields is by river craft. At Ahwaz transshipment is necessary owing to the rapids.” [19: p13]  The river used was the River Karun. Details regarding transshipment are given later in the military document. I have unearthed some footage from the early 20th century which is shown below. Transshipment took place by means of a tramway at Ahvaz. Sadly I cannot translate the Persian subtitles which appear from time to time.

The Military Report from the 1940s has a plan showing the new railway link to the Trans-Iranian Railway in the centre of Ahvaz. The transshipment tramway is marked on that plan and is highlighted by a light red line on an extract from that plan below. [19: Map 3] By the time the report was written the tramway was no longer in use.

Central Ahvaz in the late 1930s. [19: Map 3]

The short film above and the author of the military report confirm that, “Dar-i-Khazineh is the riverhead, and a light railway (via Tembi) and metalled road to the oil-field (Masjid-i-Suleiman) area start from there.” [19: p13]

The Dar-i-Khazineh Fields Railway

Dar-i-Khazineh is North-northeast from Ahvaz on the River Karun. The location is shown on the satellite image immediately below. The transshipment wharf was at the riverside. The railway only had a few access sidings at that location. A little further to the Northeast were a series of holding sidings.

Dar-i-Khazineh in the 21st century. (Google Maps)

The plan below was included with the 1940 military report, it is from a survey undertaken in the late 1930s and shows the Dar-i-Khazineh site. It is followed by two enlarged extracts. A key to the numbered buildings has also been enlarged below. The railway layout is clear on these plans.

Alongside these sidings you can see the locomotive shed which was the oil-supply point for the locomotives ((10) on the plans). (7)(8) and (9) were the stores, offices and railway workshop. (5) and (6) were living accommodation. (3) was a goods shed and (4) was a store house. (2) was an explosives store. (12) was guest accommodation and (13) was the superintendent’s house. (14) was the site water tank and (15) was the water pump-house.

At Dar-i-Khazineh, the wharf was 150 to 200 feet long and could accept 5-ton axle loads. Access to the wharf was by good metalled roads and the light railway. The wharf was occasionally submerged during periods of floods – around once in 5 years. Two cranes served the barges. One 15-ton Scotch derrick and one 10-ton travelling crane. [19: Appendix X, p91]

Dar-i-Khazineh transshipment point between river and rail. [19: Map 4] If the numbers can be made out in the image then the key below will be useful!Dar-i-Khazineh, riverside. [19: Map 4]Dar-i-Khazineh, sidings. [19: Map 4]

Key to the maps above. [19: Map 4]

The Light Railway from Dar-i-Khazineh to Masjid-i-Suleiman was a single line 2ft 6 in gauge railway of 36 miles in length, (increasing to 40 miles if sidings are included). The Rails on the earliest section of the railway were 30 lbs. secured to steel sleepers by steel keys. The track was ballasted with sandstone and river shingle. The notes go on to say that the railway had:

“Curves 5° to 45°. Maximum grade 3.2%. There are 3 main bridge[s of] Hopkins Truss type of spans 105, 120 and 120 feet. The line follows the metalled road from Dar-i-Khazineh towards Masjid-i-Suleiman to Abgah after which it turns south-east following the Tembi River to Tembi Power Station and thence runs to Masjid-i-Suleiman and Chashm-i-Ali. There are stations at D.i.K., Abgah (12 miles) Batwand (16 miles) Tembi (27 miles) M.i.S. (32 miles) Chashm-i-Ali (36 miles). The average time taken from D.i.K. to Chashm-i-Ali is 4.5 hours.” [19: p19]

The old railway followed the metalled road between Dar-i-Khazineh and Abgah, (Google Maps). The route f the line has been imposed on the satellite image as a faint red line hugging the South side of the road.The narrow gauge railway followed the road from Abgah to Batvand. It’s approximate route is shown by a faint red line imposed on the satellite image. Close to Batvand the line left the metalled road and followed the course of the River Tembi. 

As a point of clarification, the old railway probably dictated the route of the metalled road at least as far as Abgah. [32] Iain Logie includes a superb picture of the bridge which carried the railway over the River Tembi close to Batvand. [32] His article also includes the map below.

Iain Logie produced this plan of the route in 2017 and included it in his article about the railway [32] Used by kind permission.

I have not been able to find any sign of the route of the railway on Google Earth close to the River Tembi. Nor can I find any modern reference to Tembi Power Station on the internet. For the military report to refer to it, it must have been a reasonably significant structure. All we know from that military report is that between Batvand Railway Station (the location of which I have failed to ascertain) and Tembi Railway Station close to the Power Station was a distance of around 11 miles (18 kilometres).

There was apparently a short branchline from the main line to Masjid-i-Suleiman which was built to serve the construction work on the power station. [32]

The river approaches Masjid-i-Suleiman from the Southwest, that was the direction from which the narrow gauge railway approached the town. Iain Logie has an excellent map of the route of the line and some additional pictures which come from the BP archive.

Masjid-i-Suleiman Station Yard. [20]

I have been able to find one relatively grainy image of the station yard at Masjid-i-Suleiman on wikiwand. It shows what appears to be a saddle tank (possibly an ALCO 0-6-0ST which would have been supplied from Egypt) in steam and a range of goods wagons. [20]

Further searching on the internet identified one Iranian website which covers the story of the construction of the line and provides some other interesting pictures. [21]

That site tells the story like this (translated using Google Translate): “In 1921 AD, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company started the construction of a railway line from the River Karun to Masjed Soleiman and completed it in 1923 AD. The length of this railway was 57 km and the track-gauge was 76 cm. In fact, a railway of this length had never been built in Iran until then. Previously, the only railway linked the city of Rey with Tehran. The national railway of Iran was not inaugurated until 15 years later.” [21]

Stations were established along the way which included Abgah, Haji Abad, Tembi, Malkarim, Masjid-i-Suleiman and Chashm-i-Ali, and finally a Food Depot and Gunpowder Depot. The train stopped at these stations to supply the coal and water it needed, or to pick up and drop off passengers. At Tembi station, the sulfur for transport to Abadan or abroad was loaded. At Malkarim a passing loop was provided and alongside the line a Gypsum Factory produced gypsum for delivery by goods train to various places for use. At Chashm-i-Ali there was a goods warehouse and locomotive maintenance depot.

The railway had eight locomotives, initially it commenced operation with light locomotives that  had been received from the Army Delegation and Sales Board at Kantara railway station in Egypt. (These locomotives were used in World War I). In 1925, two 2-6-0 tank locomotives made by Kerr Stuart and 25 wagons from Britain were transferred to this line. And in later years newer locomotives were added to the line. The fuel for these locomotives was initially coal, but soon changed to oil. [21]

There were several small and large bridges along the railway, some of which still remain. There were four large bridges, three of which were at the intersection of the Tembi River, which were made of metal, and another with crescent-shaped openings on the Behlool River (Batvand), where only traces of concrete or stone pillars are visible. In general, the route has disappeared.” [21]

At the peak of its activity, the railway moved about 9800 tons of goods per month. During its 27-year life, the railway transported more than one million tons of goods and during the first years of its operation also transported passengers. It played a very important role for the oil industry and the development of Masjed-e-Soliman. [21]

The 1940 Military Report continues:

“From D.i.K. to Abgah and from Tembi to M.i.S. the maximum useful lift per train is 45 tons; between Abgah and Tembi, 85 tons.

At present, the A.I.O.C. run an average of one train per day. moving 60 tons from end to end. The maximum ever moved by them in one month is 3,600 tons, or 120 tons average per day.” [19: p19]

The military report then goes on to estimate how much greater use could be made of the line and notes, in 1940, that the locomotives in use burned oil fuel. 

Locomotives and Rolling Stock

The military report [19] has an Appendix which covers the available motive power and wagons in 1940. [19: Appendix XI, 19: p92-93] There were 3 No. Peckett Locos and 3 No. Kerr-Stuart Locos on the line at that time. In addition a Drewry Railcar was available as an inspection vehicle. This does not tell the full story of what motive power was available at different times on the line. But we consider the 6 oil-fired steam locomotives mentioned in the military report, first.

Peckett and Sons Locomotives

It is known that at least two locomotives were supplied to the railway by Peckett and Sons of Bristol. A detailed description of one of these locos is provided in a paper in the Industrial Railway Record (IRR). [8] The paper was a reproduction of an article first published in ‘The Locomotive Magazine and Railway Carriage & Wagon Review’ on 14th March 1931.

0-6-2 tank locomotive, 2 ft. 6 in gauge, for the Anglo-Persian Oil Co., built by Peckett and Sons, Bristol. This locomotive is No.1750, ‘D.I.K 1928’, of February 1928, a Peckett Type M5. [8]

These locomotives were oil-fired. When fully loaded they carried 520 gallons of water and 200 gallons of fuel oil. [8]

That same article explains that there were around 40 miles of track “linking up the different oil wells at Masjid-i-Sulaiman and providing means of transport for stores and supplies between that district and the depot at Abadan, which is also the port of shipment for the oil.” [8]

Martyn Bane also provides a copy of the paper in the IRR [8] He goes on to say that the “Anglo-Persian Oil Co. must have been happy with their locomotives as “Peckett’s later supplied two more machines: Locomotive No.1816 of October 1930, named ‘D.I.K. 1930’ came first and was followed by No.1909, ‘D.I.K. 1936’ in October 1936.” [1] It was Martyn Bane’s article that first alerted me to the 2ft 6in network at Abadan.

No.1909, ‘D.I.K. 1936’ of October 1936. It is possible that this photograph may be a re-touched version of the photograph above showing No.1750. [1]

Wikipedia lists these locomotives as below:

4 No. Peckett Locomotives used at Abadan. [15] It seems that, at the time of the military inspection only three of these were available. [19: p92] Since first publishing this article. I have been informed that No. 1751 was not built. The M5 classification is also strictly incorrect as these locomotives were a variant, an M5 special. The M5 locos were 0-4-0T locomotives.

Kerr Stuart Locomotives

The following Kerr Stuart Locomotives were purchased by Anglo Persia Oil Co. for their 2ft 6in gauge line running from the River Karun to Masjid-i-Suleiman:

Kerr Stuart No. 4189 – May 1923 (Huxley Boiler).
Kerr Stuart No. 4190 – May 1923 (Huxley Boiler).
Kerr Stuart No. 4191 – May 1923 (Huxley Boiler).

They were from a series of 21 No. 104 H.P. 0-6-2T locomotives to a design first built in 1912. Kerr Stuart christened the class, “Matary”. The design was suitable for gauges between 2ft and 4ft 8 ½ inches and rails of between 25-30 lbs per yard. The metre gauge locomotives had inside frames and locomotives with narrower gauges had outside frames. [23]

Further details of the class can also be found on the Fourdees website. [24]

These are noted as being available in the 1940 military report. [19: p92]

Other Motive Power

W.G. Bagnall Locomotives

Internet searches show that Fourdees also make a model which is based on the Bagnall version of the “Matary.”. They say that two of these Bagnall 0-6-2T locos were supplied to the Dar-i-Khazineh line in 1941. [25] There is a series of historical railway photographs from Iran on on ‘flickriver’ [26] among which are the front [27] and reverse [28] of an order card from Bagnall’s works showing one of these locomotives.

A letter to ‘The Narrow Gauge Magazine suggests that these two 0-6-2T oil-fired Bagnall Locomotives were actually ordered in 1944 and delivered in 1945/6. [29] Iain Logie agrees with these dates. [32]

Before the line was settled enough to order new locomotives 8 steam and petrol locomotives were in use on the line, all ex-ROD locomotives. Iain Logie has full details of these in a table of the motive power used on the line.[32]

ALCO Locomotives

The 8 steam locomotives were all ALCO locomotives which were manufactured during the Great War and supplied to the Egyptian Expeditionary Force. British  manufacturers were unable to meet the delivery requirements of the Army and so an American supplier was used. Iain Logie says that the locos were first required  for a 2ft 6in gauge light railway which served an elaborate system of defences along the Suez Canal. [32] He continues: “The ALCOs  proved to be rather limited in power and they were soon confined to shunting and local freight trips, rather than being used on the mainline where they were replaced by newer more powerful locomotives.” [32] Iain Logie has one picture of a loco of this class at work in one of the station yards. [32]

It appears that 24 of these locomotives were bought by the ROD in 1916 for use in Egypt. [33]

Hawthorn Leslie Petrol Locomotives

Iain Logie syas that two Hawthorn Leslie petrol locos (Army No 67 and 75) were purchased by APOC in 1922 and were used as shunting locos at Chashmeh-i-Ali and were operated by the stores staff rather than railway staff. [32]

Drewry Railcar

In 1940, one Drewry Railcar was available in the line. It was a 25 hp vehicle. [19: p92] It is likely that this vehicle was the one shown earlier in this article. The photo is repeated here.

In an article in The Narrow Gauge Magazine, [29] Rodney Weaver writes of a series of 19 No. Drewry Railcars were supplied during the 1st World War to 2ft 6in gauge as ambulances for Mesopotamia. The order was designated ‘Mesrail 14’. it was placed on “20th November 1916 and confirmed on 22nd December.
The first nine cars were handed over on 29th March 1917 and delivery was completed on 1st June, Like all Drewry cars between 1911 and 1930 they were actually built by Baguley Cars Ltd. (later Baguley (Engineers) Ltd.) of Burton-upon-Trent.” [29: p19]

Weaver goes on to say: “The cars were built on standard B-type chassis as used for hundreds of more orthodox (and a few more unorthodox) railcars over the years, The frame length was 16ft and the wheelbase 7ft, the light cast wheels being 24″ diameter. Power was provided by a Baguley petrol engine, a four-cylinder unit of 90mm bore x 130mm stroke rated at 20 hp. There was a three-speed gearbox, and a reverse box, one axle only being driven by a roller chain from the latter.” [29: p19]

Weaver describes the railcar like this: “The body comprised two driving platforms with a stretcher compartment between them. Two stretchers could be carried on either side of the car, one resting on top of a folded canvas seat that formed the floor and the other
carried on an upper platform that could be swung out and down on a form of parallel motion. Alternatively both stretchers and the upper platform could be removed and the canvas seat erected, when six walking cases could be accommodated. Between the stretchers was a corridor and seat for the attendant, access to which was gained by a door at one end of the car. The car could thus carry four stretcher cases, two stretcher and six walking cases or twelve walking cases as required.” [29: p19]

He continues: “In service the sides of the cars were normally covered by canvas screens bearing the Red Cross insignia, the rest of the vehicle being painted khaki.” [29: p20]

It seems that APOC must have seen these Railcars in action and decided to purchase two direct from Bauley in 1924. Iain Logie comments that these were intended to provide a passenger service on the line. At the same time as their purchase one trailer was also bought. [32]

The passenger service on the line was short-lived and abandoned in 1930. It seems as though the construction of the metalled road meant that a much quicker journey from Dar-i-Khazineh to Masjid-i-Suleiman was available. Iain Logie also comments that one of the ex-Army bogie vans was converted to provide better passenger facilities. The wartime use of the Drewry vehicle is illustrated below. [29: p22]

Drewry Railcar ambulance for Mesopotamia. [29: p22]

Baguley/Drewry Inspection Trolleys

APOC purchased a number of inspection trolleys, one of which is shown earlier in this article. These are listed by Iain Logie as well. [32]


Iain Logie’s article goes on to survey the goods wagons available on the line before highlighting the rapide decline of the railway after the Second World War. By the end of the War the military construction of roads had dramatically improved road links. The “road distance from Abadan to Masjid-i-Suleiman was 262 kilometres (163 miles) and that journey could be completed in 8 hours, whereas using the existing river and rail route, the distance was 382, kilometres and the journey would take 4 days, or longer.” [32] The railway closed in 1948 and its track was lifted in 1949.

Abandon Oil-Depot, Port and Refinery

There were railways at the port of Abadan as the image earlier in this article shows. The Abadan Depot and Refinery lines were set at 3ft gauge. More of them can be seen on the photographs below.

An Aerial view of Abadan from sometime in the 1920s or 1930s [10] This image appears to show rail tracks just above the T-junction on the bottom right of the photograph and again at the extreme bottom right with one line apparently running across the image on the near side of the road.Ships unloading at the Abadan waterfront in 1942. The rail lines and some wagons are in evidence. [30]Ships unloading at the Abadan waterfront in 1942. The rail lines and some wagons are in evidence. [30]Another postcard image of the wharf at Abadan. The rails providing access to the wharf are visible near the centre of the card image. [31]

The layout of the refinery railway is shown on the next two images which are taken from the 1940 Military Report. [19] The majority of the network is illustrated on the two extracts.

A two-part plan of Abadan Refinery in the late 1930s contained in the 1940 Military Report. The Railway network is visible although the resolution is not that good. [19: Map 2]

Oil production rose from a capacity of 2,500 barrels per day in the early 1910s to 650,000 barrels per day in the late 1970s. [36: APOC Abadan Refinery Railway]

Notes kept in the Narrow Gauge Railway Society library  say that the railway network at the refinery was 65 miles in length. They say that there were 405 points, that as the refinery expanded around 3 miles of track were laid each month.  Maintenance work saw around 2 miles of track lifted and reconditioned each month with around 5 miles of track ballasted each month! [34]

Iain Logie kindly sent me a distillation from the 1940 Military Report Map above which is held in the Narrow Gauge Railway Society Library. It is much easier to read than the original map. [35]

A map of Abadan as it was in the 1930s. [35] The railways can more eaily be [picked out on this plan.

The Narrow Gauge Railway Society Library holds a set of notes which incorporate the best of the sources about locomotives into one document. [36: APOC Abadan Refinery Railway]

The first railway at the refinery and port was a 2ft gauge railway purchased from a War disposal auction after the Great War. The Company were less than content with the 2ft gauge and despite there being a great deal of 2ft-gauge stock available in the post war years, decided that a 3ft-gauge railway would be meet the needs of the refinery. [36: APOC Abadan Refinery Railway]

The locomotive list for the site in quite long! It included Petrol (4No.), ‘Light’ Diesel (8 No.), ‘Heavy’ Diesel (16 No.) and Fireless (15 No.) Locomotives. [36: APOC Abadan Refinery Railway][37]

Iain Logie very kindly sent me the next two images which show a Hunslet 0-6-0 Diesel Mechanical locomotive as supplied to APOC/AIOC in the late 1930s and during WW2, and Hudswell Clarke Fireless Locomotive Works No. 1646 which was supplied to Abadan in June 1931.




  1., accessed on 26th March 2020 and 18th November 2020.
  2., accessed on 23rd July 2020.
  3., accessed on 23rd July 2020.
  4. M.S. Vassiliou; Historical Dictionary of the Petroleum Industry; Lanham; Scarecrow, Maryland, 2009.
  5. Peter Frankopan; The Silk Roads: A New History of the World; Alfred A. Knopf;New York, 2016, p. 319
  6. Daniel Yergin;  The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money, and Power; New York: Simon & Schuster, 1991; p138–147, 158.
  7., accessed on 16th November 2020.
  8. The Industrial Railway Record, Volume 53, April 1974, p202-203;, accessed on 18th November 2020.
  9., accessed on 18th November 2020.
  10., accessed on 18th November 2020.
  11. Julian Bharier, Economic Development in Iran 1900-1970; Oxford University Press, London, 1971, p19.
  12., accessed on 19th November 2020.  This image was created and released by the Imperial War Museum on the IWM Non Commercial Licence. Photographs taken, or artworks created, by a member of the forces during their active service duties are covered by Crown Copyright provisions. Faithful reproductions may be reused under that licence, which is considered expired 50 years after their creation.
  13. Carola Hein; Oil Spaces: The Global Petroleumscape in the Rotterdam/The Hague Area; Journal of Urban History. Volume No. 44, 2018, p1-43; accessed on 19th November 2020.
  14., accessed on 19th November 2020.
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  18., accessed on 19th November 2020.
  19., accessed on 20th November 2020, full details are in Appendix 1, the document can be accessed using this link which is repeated in the Appendix.
  20., accessed on 22nd November 2020.
  21.احداث-خط-آهنی, accessed on 22nd November 2020.
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  29., accessed on 23rd November 2020.
  30., accessed on 24th November 2020.
  31., accessed on 24th November 2020.
  32. Iain Logie; The Dar-i-Khazineh Fields Railway: A British Narrow Gauge Railway in Persia; in The Narrow Gauge Magazine No. 252, January 2019.
  33., accessed on 26th November 2020.
  34. Iain Logie provided access to the notes about the refinery railway at Abadan. They come from the BP Archive – File: ARC 44257. Iain Logie advises caution in reading these notes as they provide some detailed information which is different from other sources. This is particularly true in the details provided about motive power and rolling stock. [36]
  35. The Narrow Gauge Railway Society Library.
  36. A series of notes provided by the NGRS covering the railways of Iran, of which the NGRS says the following: ‘These research notes are intended to provide users of the Narrow Gauge Railway Society’s library with an introduction to the narrow gauge railways of Iran as a starting point for personal research projects. Additional, more specific sources for further research are noted in the text for each railway.’ 
  37. A.C. Baker & T.D. Civil; Fireless Locomotives; Oakwood Press, 1976.

Appendix 1

Military Report on The Anglo-Iranian Oil Company’s (South Iranian) Oilfield Area

Reference IOR/L/MIL/17/15/24
Date(s) 1940 (CE, Gregorian)
Written in English
Extent and Format 1 volume (69 folios)
Holding Institution British Library: India Office Records and Private Papers

A copy of this document is available via the Qatar National Library and can be accessed freely under an Open Government Licence. Full details of the licence can be found on the link below.

Rather than printing this document in full as part of this post, it can be viewed on the following link:                 

Clergy and Railways!?!

I was asked to give a talk in 2020 to a clergy discussion group on the subject ‘Clergy and Trains’. This group had decided to have its annual outing on The East Lancs Railway and I was to be the after dinner ‘entertainment’! It did not work out, for obvious reasons in 2020, as the Covid-19 pandemic altered everyone’s plans!

However, as a result of the request,  I began to study what was available online and in the press on this subject and the place it takes in the wide range of interests available to the clergy. … Whether my research counts as original research, I very much doubt. However, you might find what follows of interest!

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that the clergy love trains.”  So started an article by Ed Beavan in the Church Times on 15th June 2011, entitled ‘All Steamed Up About Trains’. [1] On the centenary of the birth of the Revd W. V. Awdry, creator of Thomas the Tank Engine, Ed Beavan asked, in his article in the Church Times, why so many clergy are railway buffs.

The statement, ‘so many clergy are railway buffs’, seems to me to be the kind of statement which becomes more and more true as time goes by. Once we begin to believe that it is true, we then begin to validate our own understanding and our own take on reality.

I know of no independently accredited study of clergy interests which proves that there is a greater preponderance of railway interest among the clergy when compared with other professions. Although there will probably be someone out there to correct me. Nor, I think is there a similar study which compares the range of different  interests held by the clergy and determines the most prevalent.

Model railways (and even railways themselves) are a relative latecomer in the various fields open to clergy to pursue. There are a number of good examples of clergy in previous generations who had interests beyond their own parish, church or flock.

Clergy with interests in Science

In Palaeontology, most early fossil workers were gentleman scientists and members of the clergy, who self‐funded their studies in this new and exciting field. [2]

Wikipedia lists Catholic Clergy who have made significant contributions to Science, [3] and there are many from other denominations too. Examples from across the spectrum of Clergy allegiance to denominations, include:

Roger Bacon – a medieval English philosopher and Franciscan friar who placed considerable emphasis on the study of nature through empiricism. [7]

Nicolaus Copernicus – a Renaissance-era mathematician, astronomer, and Catholic clergyman who formulated a model of the universe that placed the Sun rather than Earth at its centre. [4]

Gregor Mendel – a scientist, Augustinian friar and abbot of St. Thomas’ Abbey in Brno, Margraviate of Moravia. He gained posthumous recognition as the founder of the modern science of genetics. [5]

Georges Lemaître – a Belgian Catholic priest, mathematician, astronomer, and professor of physics at the Catholic University of Louvain. He was the first to identify that the recession of nearby galaxies can be explained by a theory of an expanding universe. [6]

John Michell – an English natural philosopher and clergyman provided pioneering insights iin astronomy, geology, optics, and gravitation. He was the first person known to: propose the existence of black holes; suggest that earthquakes traveled in (seismic) waves; explain how to manufacture an artificial magnet; and, recognise that double stars were a product of mutual gravitation …. [9]

The extensive Wikipedia list is merely a snapshot of a longer list which extends down to the present day. There have been many people who have combined their scientific eminence with a role as a member of the clergy. A prime example is Revd. John Polkinghorne, [10] Other in the contemporary age include Revd. Arthur Peacocke, the first director of the Ian Ramsey Centre for Science and Religion and the first director of the Ian Ramsey Centre for Science and Religion. [16] Others include: Canon Eric Jenkins, [17]; Revd. John Chalmers, moderator of the Church of Scotland and who has been involved with Church of Scotland projects such as Society Religion and Technology, [18] and Grasping the Nettle. [19]

There is also today, a society for priest-scientists. The Society of Ordained Scientists is a society within the Anglican Communion.  The organisation was founded at the University of Oxford by  Arthur Peacocke following the establishment of several other similar societies in the 1970s, in order to advance the field of religion and science. [11][15]

Other interests are also shared by clergy and the religious.

One particularly engaging study of clergy interests and proclivities was produced recently by Revd Fergus Butler-Gallie, “A Field Guide to the English Clergy: A Compendium of Diverse Eccentrics, Pirates, Prelates and Adventurers; All Anglican, Some Even Practising.” [12]

Waterstones comment: “Judge not, lest ye be judged. This timeless wisdom has guided the Anglican Church for hundreds of years, fostering a certain tolerance of eccentricity among its members. Good thing, too!” [13] Given my interests in blogging, railways and model railways, I have no alternative but to echo the sentiment. … “Yes, it is a good thing too!”

Butler-Gallie regales us with “eye-popping tales of lunacy, debauchery and depravity … he has done a splendid job presenting a smorgasbord of most peculiar parsons.” [14]

Among many other things, he tells us of a variety of different eccentrics who somehow found themselves within the ranks of the clergy. Examples include Revd Robert Hawker, Vicar of Morwenstow who was the first to institute a church Harvest Festival, but who at one time also used to dress as a mermaid. There was also an erstwhile Rector of Carrington whose fear of photography meant that he led services from behind a screen and who during a very long ministry built the largest folly ever constructed within these shores. Butler-Gallie goes on the describe a pantheon of eccentrics, nutty professors, bon viveurs, prodigal sons and rogues, all of whom appear to have somehow ended up either with their own parish or in the position of senior clergy. [12]

My current curate, while definitely not being an eccentric, has been an avid player of computer games, he plays regularly in a variety of different local bands, and he has taken up roller-blading. One Franciscan friar, Brother Gabriel, spends his spare time at a Bloomington, Indiana, Skate Park several times a week after participating in evening Mass and prayers. [8] 

This article is, in no way, a formal survey of clergy interests, and all these examples are, of course, very obviously anecdotal.

So, are there any grounds for believing that an interest in railways is more typical of the clergy than these other things?

I suspect not.

Nevertheless, there do seem to be a good number of clergy who are interested in both full-scale and model railways.

Clergy with an interest in Railways.

Font to Footplate – Teddy Boston’s autobiography completed while he was in hospital just before he died at the age of 61. [48]

Butler-Gallie directs our attention to one Revd. Teddy Boston. [12: p19-22] who was for 26 years Rector of Cadeby and Vicar of Sutton Cheney, in Leicestershire, (1960 – 1986). He built a light railway in the grounds of the Rectory at Cadeby. It was U-shaped, with a total length of 110 yards. He opened the line to passengers in 1963 [20] and named the line, “Cadeby Light Railway.”

Wikipedia tells us that Boston, “was a close friend of the Rev. W. V. Awdry OBE, creator of Thomas the Tank Engine, a kindred spirit with whom he shared many railway holidays. In Small Railway Engines (1967), Awdry relies on a trip the two made together to the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway, and they appear in the book as ‘the Fat Clergyman’ (Boston) and ‘the Thin Clergyman’ (Awdry). [21]

The Rev Wilbert Awdry “controlling” Thomas on the Ffarquhar Branch in Railway Modeller, December 1959. [21]

Wilbert Awdry is perhaps the best know clergy railway fanatic across the world. The ‘Thomas’ franchise is still very popular on the 2020s and Covid-permitting brings in significant revenue for Heritage Railway organisations each year. Awdry himself wrote 26 books in “the Railway Series”. His son Christopher went on to publish a further 16 books between 1983 and 2011. The series has also spawned a number of related books and a significant number of TV/Video/DVD programmes in English. [22] and in many other languages. [23]

Another star in this firmament was Revd. Peter Denny who for many years was a regular feature in the Model Railway Press. [24] He was known alongside others for being at the forefront of the development of the hobby after the Second World War. He was known for modelling which exceeded the expectation of the times for realism. He innovated in the management of his model railway and the timetabling of train movements. His layout Buckingham went through a number of incarnations as it developed in size. There are a variety of books written about his modelling achievements [25] and he is still feted online as well. [26] His layout is described by Tony Wright as, “one of the most important layouts in the hobby’s history since WW2.” [27]

Rt. Revd Eric Treacy MBE was an English railway photographer and Anglican bishop. He was Suffragan Bishop of Pontefract and then Bishop of Wakefield (1968-1976). his passion outside of office was railway photography. The Treacy Collection of 12,000 photographs forms part of the National Railway Museum’s archive of over 1.4 million images. His published works were almost entirely railway photograph albums. [28] 

After a major, 11-year, £600,000 overhaul by volunteers on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, which was completed in 2010, you would have found 70 clergy in the carriages behind the newly named locomotive, ‘Eric Treacy’ on it inaugural run. The then Bishop of Wakefield, the Rt. Revd. Stephen Platten, held a re-dedication service for the train at Pickering Station on 27th August 2010. He was joined by Rt. Revd. Dr David Hope, former Archbishop of York, and Stephen Sorby, of the National Railway Chaplaincy. [32]

Revd Richard Patten, in the late 1960s, bought his own full-size steam locomotive, 73050, and so began the restoration of the Nene Valley Railway near Peterborough. [35]

An interest in railways is something that a number of clergy own up to when talking about themselves. For example:

The Revd. Timothy L’Estrange, MA, DipMin, FRSA, Vicar of North Acton and Surrogate: Spent his spare time as a first aider with the St John Ambulance Brigade, and pursuing a life-long interest in railways, especially the narrow gauge. His parish Reader also expresses an interest in dabbling ‘in the ancient art of railway modelling’. [33]

The Restless Rector, who is not keen to divulge his identity, wrote in his blog of his love of trains. In 2009, he said: “My own theory is that railways are all about order and communication. For some clergy the stress of parish life, and the number of awkward people that one sometimes has to deal with, can be forgotten about in the ordered environment of a model railway. Here you are in complete control, with no-one to answer back or contradict. Yes, trains sometimes get derailed, but no-one gets hurt. Some model railway enthusiasts run their trains to a strict timetable – another layer of order and control. But running a railway can be a very social activity. In real life trains are passed from the control of one signalbox to another with great care. Nowadays this is all computerised, but it used to be by a series of bell codes and telephones.” [34]

He goes on to ask: “Is there anything theological or biblical in all of this? I’m not sure, but maybe building and running a model railway reflects something of the creativeness of God, and his fatherly care.” [34] … In addition, he suggests that because railways are about communication – travel to a destination, the news and the post – then interest in railways may be found more often in the evangelical wing of the church where, “a high priority is put on taking the good news to new places.” [34]

His final comment is perhaps quite Anglican. Talking of his interest in railways, he says: “it’s just something I’ve grown up with and embraced for myself – rather like my faith I suppose.” [34]

In my own experience, interest in railways is relatively evenly spread between clergy colleagues and a particular churchpersonship does not seem to increase the likelihood of that interest. The ecumenical nature of railway interests is illustrated by two clerics invovled with the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland. …

Fr. Eddie Creamer (RPSI). [39]

Revd. Canon John McKegney (RPSI) [39]

Fr. Eddie Creamer, a part-time prison chaplain, aged 77, talked in 2017, when he had already been a member of the RPSI for nearly 40 years, of his fascination with trains from his childhood. He goes on to explain that, “When [he] was working in the Philippines [he] joined the RPSI just to get their magazine sent to [him], but when [he] returned to Ireland [he] came to Whitehead to take a few photographs of the trains. I asked if they needed anyone to help them and they haven’t let me go. And now I’m here once a week. I find it very relaxing.” [39]

In 2017, the Chair of the RPSI was Revd. Canon John McKegney, a retired Church of Ireland rector. In 2017, he had been involved with the RPSI for over half-a-century. [39]

Railways and Religion

The interaction between the church and the railways goes right back to the very early days of what was then a new mode of transport. Revd. Michael Ainsworth points out that “the coming of the railways in the 19th century excited deep passions among churchmen, as many novels of the time illustrate. … For some the speed, the smoke, the ‘blot on the landscape’, were unnatural and diabolical – particularly when Sunday trains broke the sabbath commandment. The vast church of St Bartholomew, Brighton was built on a commanding site, and allegedly on the dimensions of Noah’s Ark, as a witness to those travelling down for ‘dirty weekends’.” [29]

He goes on to say: “Clergy joined with landowners in resisting encroachment. (They had limited success – note, for example, how the line curves round Sacred Trinity Church in Salford.)But others hailed railways as a godsend and a sign of divinely-blessed progress (despite blighting the urban landscape). … By the latter part of the century, they had certainly revolutionised episcopal ministry. The late 19th-century renewal of enthusiasm for confirmation would not have been possible without the railways. For example, of James Fraser, Bishop of Manchester 1870-85, it was written he spent the week travelling through his diocese, so that there were few days in which he was not somewhere on the railways.” [29]

So, why are a number of clergy interested in railways?

Revd. Michael Ainsworth again: “It has often been said that the reason why some clergy – probably male rather than female – and others, including church musicians, are keen on railways is because they are reassuringly ‘closed systems’, and Awdry’s setting of his railways on the Isle of Sodor confirms this. Lines and boundaries are set, detailed timetables can be pored over, structures are clear: a joy for those who run model railways in their attics for their own pleasure, or larger versions in their gardens to raise funds. … This joy is less pronounced now that the real railways have been franchised and fragmented. Responsibility for trains, track, signalling, stations and all else is dispersed among many bodies – providing more benefit to lawyers than to passengers …‘customers’.” [29]

The Rt Revd Michael Bourke comments about 19th Century Clergy in the Church Times Letters page in July 2011, that, “Many feared the pace of change, and some religious conservatives denounced the new world, including trains, as the work of the devil. In that context, clerical railway fever (across churchmanship divides) signified an affirmation of modernity. Both railwaymen and churchmen (mostly men in both cases) were re-engineering the nation with their networks of new lines and junctions, new parishes, church schools, and forms of spirituality.” [30]

He goes on to say: “For broad churchmen, the railways spelled enlightened progress; for Evangelicals, the new emphasis on punctuality embodied the Protestant work ethic; and for Catholics, the shared wisdom and co-operation of engineers, locomotive crews, and signalmen represented the mystery of a dedicated priesthood. No wonder the great stations were compared with cathedrals! … Clergy’s instinctive sympathy with this world led to support for the people who ran it, in what amounted to early forms of industrial mission.” [30]

He continues, in his letter, to draw parallels with “a similar clerical enthusiasm for the brave new world of computers.” [30]

It seems that, in the early days of the railways, at least, a clergyperson’s attitude to the newfangled railways said something significant, and provided one uniting factor in the midst of clerical division. However, this is not enough to justify a modern clergy interest in the railways.

Rev Clifford Owen was longing eagerly for his retirement at the age of 70. He was delighted to be surprised by his retirement gift from his last parish in Brugge and Oostende in Belgium: a 5 year membership of the Nene Valley Railway. He describes his joy at the gift and goes on to describe some of the pleasures of being involved with the life of that heritage line near Peterborough and particularly the connection he discovered with his grandfather through undertaking a job that his grandfather would have undertaken 70 years previously. [31]

Revd Preb Mike Kneen.

Revd. Alan Newman. [41]

Revd. Preb. Mike Kneen who retired as Rector of Leominster in September 2020 has had a lifelong interest in steam locomotives. His farewell statement on the Leominster Priory Website says nothing of this interest but it is accompanied by a picture of him as an Engine Driver on the Severn Valley Railway – a pastime which he enjoyed throughout his ministry.

The former vicar of Christchurch, Bradford on Avon, Revd. Alan Newman was another significant railway photographer who became part of the photographic triumvirate of himself, Ivo Peters and Norman Lockett, and he was friendly with two other notable railway clerics that we have already encountered above: the Rev. W Awdry and the Rev Teddy Boston. His story is told by Colin Maggs in a book published by Amberley Press. [40]

Newman was born and brought up in Bath near to the Great Western Railway, which sparked a lifelong interest in steam trains in particular. He took extensive trips throughout the country, hoping to see a train of every class in Britain, recording his finds as detailed notes supported by photographs. [41]

David Self in the Church Times in January 2008 asked the same question as this article: ‘What draws clerics to railways?’ [35] It is worth quoting parts of that piece here.

Self says: “In the 1950s, most enthusiasts were merely trainspotters. Folklore suggests that a few clerics could always then be found on the ends of platforms at Crewe, York, and (for some mysterious reason) Worcester Shrub Hill.” [35]

He continues: “There was nothing comic in the ’50s about being interested in trains. Boys wanted to become engine-drivers. In the 1952 Ealing comedy The Titfield Thunderbolt, it was perfectly natural that the leading light in the village’s attempts to preserve its branch line should be the parson, the Revd Samuel Weech. Over the next ten years, however, the railway enthusiast became a figure of fun: a gormless, spotty loner, obsessed by numbers and timetables, and always clutching Biro and notebook.” [35]

In research reported in ‘Trends in Cognitive Sciences’ in June 2002, [42] there was an attempt to define trainspotters as people with a form of Asperger syndrome, as they had a strong desire to order the world. In 2001, the National Autistic Society conducted research among children with autism to explore their frequent attraction to Thomas the Tank Engine. “Among the survey’s findings was the way that many children with autism regard Thomas much as others cherish a comfort blanket. They seem to appreciate the clear plot lines of the stories, the predictability of the characterisation, and the fact that, if something goes wrong, it will be put right by the conclusion. They also seem[ed] fascinated by the engines’ faces.” [35]

David Self says that, “this is not to draw cheap parallels or to make bad jokes about clerics and those with autism or Asperger syndrome. Even so, it is possible to see both ecclesiastical and psychological reasons why watching trains should appeal especially to those in ministry.” [35]

To the cognoscenti … railways are predictable. For every delay, there is a cause. It is a world of facts and realities, a world where (with luck) it is possible to see all — even if it is only every locomotive of a given type. It is the perfect antidote to the often more nebulous realm of theology.” [35]

Similarly, for the clerical railway modeller, the layout in the loft presents an opportunity to create a parallel world, where everything runs to order, and at times and in ways you dictate — unlike normal parish life.” [35]

It was David Self’s article that pointed me to an American website ( that revels something of the breadth of interest among Roman Catholic priests, Protestant ministers, and Rabbis in ‘playing trains’. [36] On that website, as well as seeing something of the scope of his hobby, we are introduced by Fr. Fanelli to his interest in live steam modelling. His interest in railway modelling developed throughout his ministry from first, N scale, through to large scale, live steam models. [37] 

David Self reminds us that the former Chancellor Dennis Healey once stressed the importance of a politician’s hinterland — an interest in areas other than politics. Winston Churchhill had his painting, Ted Heath had his sailing and music, and John Major his cricket, and Gordon Brown, an interest in soccer. Lord Healey enjoyed photography and literature. Self says that, “Such interests are not just a means of escape or relaxation, important as these may be. They are evidence of a rounded personality.” [35]

That idea of a ‘hinterland’ to describe interests outside of ‘work’ is useful when thinking of clergy interests. David Self suggests that a ‘hinterland’ of interests outside of the theological and ecclesiastical is essential for clergy, “not just for their own sanity, but to help them relate more easily to the world outside the Church. It can also contribute to developing an inner calm. For some, their hinterland will be their family. For others, it will be cricket — a world where, for a few hours, you are isolated on the pitch and unable to be got at. Many have found a similar escape at the end of a station platform.” [35]

There is more to an interest in railways than trainspotting but I think that Self’s conclusion to his article is apposite to all interest in railways: “Why mock such happiness? Trainspotting must be one of the most harmless and inexpensive hobbies. It can be pursued alone or with friends, and is surprisingly democratic. Your profession (or lack of one) is irrelevant: it is the trains that matter.” [35]

Although Nicholas Whittaker‘s book, “Platform Souls” is purportedly about trainspotting, it acknowledges a wider interest in the realm of railways and, unsurprisingly, within its pages we also encounter the clergy.

He describes an open day at a railway depot. “Hauling myself up into the cab of E3003 . . . I bump into my first clergyman. He is semi-disguised in trainers and jeans, but his tweedy jacket and dog collar are a dead giveaway. Perched in the driver’s seat, he . . . whistles high-speed fantasies through his teeth.” [38: p221-222]

Whittaker manages to capture some of the factors that seem inexorably to draw some individuals to the railway. “Trainspotting: here was a real boy’s hobby with its own gaberdine camaraderie. It was dirty and mechanical, proudly masculine and solid, yet at the same time … romantic and educational.” [38: p19]

He talks of a time when as a young boy he first managed to slip unnoticed through a small door in the side of one of Burton-on-Trent MPD’s two roundhouses: “In that moment, you slipped from a fresh-smalling open-air into a strange sepulchral atmosphere, silent but for the his of escaping steam. This was the first time I’d been so close to a railway engine and, without a station platform to bring me level, I stood feeling small and awed by the scale of it.” [38: p23]

One ‘interesting’ footnote is the range of society stars that could be seen while standing at the end of a station platform but of even greater significance to a young Nicholas Whittaker, was the possibility that you might encounter one of the dignitaries of the railway interest establishment such as Cecil J. Allen or C. Hamilton-Ellis. In the light of the purpose of this article, it is worth recording that Whittaker goes on to say: “The one we all wanted to meet was… Eric Treacy, Bishop of Wakefield. We knew that, for some reason, railways attracted the clergy, but a bishop was something special!” [38: p43]

My own interest in railways and railway modelling stems, I believe, from a childhood fascination with trains and from a pre-ordination career in civil engineering. My interest in railways is pretty eclectic, but I accept that for many people it will be perceived as a niche interest.

If you were to read my blog you would find that I have a particular interest in Secondary French railways and tramways, many of which fell into disuse soon after the Second World War but whose routes can still be followed through the French countryside by car and bicycle. Jo and I have done just that in a variety of contexts in Southern France on regular Autumn visits. [45][46]

You will find that I have developed a childhood interest in the 3ft Gauge railways of Ireland into a series of narratives following the routes of those old lines which disappeared in the early second-half of the 20th Century. [44]

You will see that one seminal moment for me was travelling on the ‘Lunatic Express’ in East Africa, and you can, if you wish, follow a full journey along the line from Mombasa to Kampala and beyond. [43]

You will, I hope, be delighted to follow the story of the building of an N-Gauge model railway in the vicarage loft. [47] At times these interests have been all-consuming, they certainly have allowed me to escape from times when ministry has been particularly stressful.

A few pictures of my own layout in the vicarage loft bring the main narrative of this article to a close. The layout focuses on the railways in and around the city of Hereford. Sadly, the ‘day job’ has meant little progress on the layout in the past few years. as retirement beckons there will be a significant effort involved in deconstructing what has been built  …Building the Baseboards!Laying the track!Hand-made, card Coaling Stage – Hereford MPDHereford, Barrscourt Station Footbridge under construction.Hereford, Barrscourt Railway Station in its location on the layout.The station approach, showing the footbridge in position.One of Hereford Station’s two signal boxes also of a card construction. Beyond are the two large goods sheds which framed the station approach from the North – these are also of card constriction. The view from the station yard across the allotments to Aylestone Hill.The view across the station yard to Aylestone Hill and bridge.Aylestone Hill Signal Box and carriage sidings.


It seems that whether a cleric’s interest in railways comes from a past outside the church, or is borne in the midst of theological formation, it has some significant things going for it. In particular, like many other interests, it forms an alternative world to the world of work.

I’m not sure that, ultimately, any further justification is required.


  1. Ed Bevan; All Steamed Up About Trains; Church Times, 15th June 2011;, accessed on 9th February 2020.
  2. Russell J. Garwood, Imran A. Rahman, Mark D. Sutton; From Clergy to Computers; Geology Today, Volume 26, Issue 3, 2010; p96-100;, accessed on 5th November 2020.
  3., accessed on 5th November 2020.
  4., accessed on 5th November 2020.
  5., accessed on 5th November 2020.
  6.ître, accessed on 5th November 2020.
  7., accessed on 5th November 2020.
  8., accessed on 5th November 2020.
  9., accessed on 5th November 2020.
  10., accessed on 5th November 2020.
  11., accessed on 6th November 2020.
  12. Revd Fergus Butler-Gallie; A Field Guide to the English Clergy: A Compendium of Diverse Eccentrics, Pirates, Prelates and Adventurers; All Anglican, Some Even Practising; Oneworld Publications, London, 2018.
  13., accessed on 6th November 2020.
  14. Sebastian Shakespeare; The Daily Mail, 2018.
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  24. For example: Peter Denny; The Railway Modeller Magazine July and August 1958.
  25. For example: Peter Denny; Peter Denny’s Buckingham Branch Lines: 1945-1967 Pt. 1; Peter Denny’s Buckingham Branch Lines: 1967-1993 Pt. 2; Wild Swan, Oxfordshire; 1993, 1994
  26. For example:, accessed on 7th November 2020.
  27. Tony Wright ––part-1, accessed on 7th November 2020.
  28., accessed on 7th November 2020.
  29. Revd. Michael Ainsworth; Thoughts on railways, clergy, religion and the law; in Law & Religion UK, 17 April 2015;, accessed on 7th November 2020.
  30. Rt. Revd. Michael Bourke;, accessed on 7th November 2020.
  31. Rev Clifford Owen; Retired Clergy Don’t Run Out Of Steam; Diocese of Europe;, accessed on 7th November 2020.
  32. Clergy carrying train tribute to former railway fan vicar; The Northern Echo, 2010;, accessed on 7th November 2020.
  33., accessed on 7th November 2020.
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  35. David Self; What draws clerics to railways?; Church Times , 30th January 2008;, accessed on 8th November 2020.
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  38. Nicholas Whittaker; Platform Souls; Orion, London, 1995 (Revised Edition, 2015).
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  42. Simon Baron-Cohen; The extreme male brain theory of autism; in Trends in Cognitive Sciences, Volume 6, Issue 6, 1st June 2002, p248-254.
  48. Revd. E. R. Boston & P.D. Nicholson; Font to Footplate; Line One Publications, 1986.

Remembrance Sunday 2020

Remembrance Sunday

On Sunday 8th November, Remembrance Sunday, all our churches would usually have been full of people remembering, along with millions around our world, the many women and men who have given their lives in the different conflicts of the past 110 and more years.  People who either by choice, or through compulsion, risked their lives in the pursuit of peace and justice.  We owe our freedom to many such people who have stood up against tyranny and oppression – to people who risked everything, laying themselves on the line.

Things are very different this year! We enter another national lockdown because of Coronavirus on Thursday 5th November and our churches will now only be open for private prayer for the next few weeks.

But we will all remember. …. Some will be able to attend church on 8th November, others will want to remain at home. We have sent out Remembrance Sunday prayer cards to people who usually attend our churches or who receive mailings. The prayers included here are specifically for Remembrance Sunday and Armistice Day. As you use them, you might want to have a poppy to hand.

As I said in our Parish magazine this month:

Our remembering will … include the memories of those who have served on the battlefield or in conflict zones around our world will no doubt justifiably tell and re-tell stories of valour and bravery. For those who served, >remembering= will also bring to the front of the mind stories of those who did not return. Remembering brings to the surface the naked fear of conflict, the pain of loss and a real sense of comradeship.

 But remembering is so very important to us all, not just on Remembrance Sunday or Armistice Day, but in all areas of our lives. Remembering leads to us telling our stories. Both as individuals and communities. And as we tell our story, we reaffirm our roots, and we define who we are. We put our own lives in context. For today=s world, where we define ourselves not so much by where we come from as by our networks of friends and acquaintances can so easily become a rootless place where we do not know who we really are.

Our shared memories are our key to understanding ourselves. And our collective memory needs to be sustained by hearing the stories of our past. By hearing from those who went out from us here to serve in different arenas in our world. These stories, these people are so much a part of who we are here … today. They contribute to our history, they strengthen our community spirit.

Our stories are important. Remembering is vital. Nowhere is this more true than in relation to the conflicts with which we have been involved as a nation. Failure to engage with and learn from our past is the height of modern arrogance. We have to hear again the stories of conflict, of bravery, of pain and loss. And we need to allow those stories, … that remembering, to change us now. It must inform our thinking about the future, it must be allowed to change our wills and our actions.

 For in today’s world, we are all called to take new & different risks. To act for justice, for peace in society, in the world around us. To work for racial justice, to fight discrimination, to engage with injustice in whatever form it might arise.”

We have the promise of God in Christ: “Work,” says Jesus, “for the coming of God’s kingdom and I will be with you always.” God does not leave us alone to face new challenges, to risk our lives in the cause of his Kingdom. He promises always to be with us. So let us covenant again, as people of different races, ages, interests, appearances, and with different views, choose to live together in harmony, to work within our own communities, groups and congregations, for peace, justice and understanding.


A prayer of commemoration for the fallen

Father of all, remember your holy promise, and look with love on all your people, living and departed.

On this day we especially ask that you would hold forever all who have suffered during war, those who returned scarred by warfare, those who waited anxiously at home, and those who returned wounded, and disillusioned; those who mourned, and those communities that were diminished and suffered loss.

Remember too those who acted with kindly compassion, those who bravely risked their own lives for their comrades, and those who in the aftermath of war, worked tirelessly for a more peaceful world.

And as you remember them, remember us, O Lord; grant us peace in our time and a longing for the day when people of every language, race, and nation will be brought into the unity of Christ’s kingdom. This we ask in the name of the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

A prayer for World peace
O God of the nations,
as we look to that day when you will gather people
from north and south, east and west,
into the unity of your peaceable Kingdom,
guide with your just and gentle wisdom all who take counsel
for the nations of the world,
that all your people may spend their days in security, freedom, and peace, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Prayers with poppies – suitable for children, as well as adults!

All you need for this simple prayer is a poppy.

Look at your poppy. Poppies are bright and cheerful flowers: give thanks to God for the lives of those who have died in war, remembering all the joy they brought to families and friends, and all the good things they did for their home and their country.

Then look at the red petals: red reminds us of danger and harm. Ask God to be close to those who are still facing danger each day, to give courage to the armed forces, and compassion to all who help others.

Place your whole hand over the poppy: poppies are also fragile and need to be handled gently. God cares for those who are hurting and those who are sad. Ask God to comfort all who are grieving the loss of someone they love.

Finally place a finger on the centre of the poppy: ask God to help you play your part in working for peace in the world.


Colonel Stephens and Tonbridge, Kent

A very short article in “The Colonel”, the quarterly journal of the Colonel Stephens Society reminded me of something that I have known for a time but about which I had not really made the connection with my family history. The short article by Tom Burnham was really little more than a note to go with scanned images from the Sevenoaks Chronicle and Kentish Advertiser of Friday 6th April 1928. [1]The Sevenoaks Chronicle and Kentish Advertiser – Friday 6th April 1928 – source British Newspaper Archive. [2]

My grandparent’s house in 2020, very little different from what I remember it back in 1970, (Google Streetview).

My maternal grandparents, Arthur and Ivy Norton, had their first and last homes in Tonbridge, and only a short distance from Salford Terrace. I remember visiting my maternal grandmother as a child and on one occasions staying with her when my father changed his employment from Hull, East Yorkshire to Chelmsford, Essex and we had to give up our house in Hull 6 weeks or so before our new house in Braintree, Essex was completed and ready for us to live in. For one summer, Mum and the 4 of us who were children lived on 22, Meadow Road in Tonbridge.

The area immediately South of Tonbridge Railway Station was developed in the late 19th Century. With housing to the East of the A21/A26 and Waterloo Road following in the first quarter of the 20th Century. The first OS Map below shows the area at the end of the 19th Century (the mapping dates from 1895). The second OS Map was published in 1960 with mapping dating from 1958.

Tonbridge Railway Station and Tonbridge’s Southern quarter in 1895. [3]

Salford Terrace and Meadow Road – mapping dating from 1958. [4]

The location of Ashby House, 1, Priory Road in 2019, (Google Streetview).

Salford Terrace in 2019, (Google Streetview)

Stephens’ Offices in 2008 (c) Tony Mortlock. [5]

Colonel Stephens rented rooms for both his home and his office at Ashby House, 1, Priory Road in Tonbridge, close to Quarry Hill Road. As his business developed, he took out a lease on an office on the opposite side of Quarry Hill Road at 23, Salford Terrace, in 1900. The rooms in Ashby House and the offices in Salford Terrace were his permanent base throughout his life. [5] The premises in Salford Terrace are still in use, they were towards the South end of the Terrace. Ashby House is long-gone.

The property where his offices were based in Salford Terrace is one of the few premises that have not been extended towards the street. Little has changed in the outward appearance of Salford Terrace since Colonel Stephens’ day. Little more than the change of shop names and their name panels.

Stephen’s offices in 2019! (Google Streetview).


  1. Tom Burnham; The Colonel; published by the Colonel Stephens Society, Volume 140, p18.
  2. The Sevenoaks Chronicle and Kentish Advertiser – Friday 6th April 1928 – source British Newspaper Archive, accessed on 28th August 2020.
  3., accessed on 28th August 2020.
  4., accessed on 28th August 2020.
  5., accessed on 12th September 2020.