Confession time - or how a well brought up child became a Eurogricer

It all started when I was about two years old, with the traditional train set and the (dare I mention it? will Britt be after me?) Th*m*s th* T*nk *ng*n* books. Then I was taken to Wolverhampton Low Level to meet various people from their trains and/or see them off. Things got worse. The train set expanded. The visits to Low Level were ever more exciting. At school there was talk of trainspotting (this was the 1950s, it was fashionable then). More visits to Low Level, where everything was clean and on time, and had a copper capped chimney. Well, the years cloud the memory you know. Visits to Stafford, where if you were lucky you got there in time for the up 'Ulster Express'. Visits to Tamworth, punctuated by shouts of 'Semi on the main'. Visits to Crewe Works, where if you were really lucky you saw a Main Line Diesel (and if you were even luckier, you didn't). Memorably, a visit to Stafford Road shed and a ride to Oxley on 4912 (thanks, Dad).

Then off to school dahn sahf where the best train of the day was the 1712 to Bournemouth with an Oxford 'Modified Hall', sure footed and noisy. Here the rot set in. I bought a set of timetables each year and not long before I left school I thought it would be interesting to mark the timetable map with the lines I had travelled on (by now it included Hayling Island - thanks to the late John Manisty -Ventnor, Bromyard, Ruabon to Barmouth, Gloucester to Hereford, ...). Of course, I soon noticed that there were one or two lines where the map showed a service but it was a bit difficult to find the trains in the timetable. For some bizarre reason I remember the first one I noticed - Maindee East Junction to Maindee North Junction. Unfortunately I hadn't seen the light yet and I carried on charging about on main/well known lines. Like the GC from Marylebone to Rugby, the Somerset & Dorset, the Waverley Route - well, perhaps a glimmer.

In 1967 I went to university in Manchester and there I fell into seriously bad company. Gricers. Gricers? People whose ambition was to travel over every possible metre of track. In those days one's horizons tended to end at the Channel and besides, I still hadn't done large swathes of the UK. The last nail in the coffin of sanity was sharpened by reading one of the H.W.Paar books about the Forest of Dean in the college library when I was supposed to be revising. In May 1969 the Branch Line Society advertised a railtour to Parkend, amongst other places, and that was it. Railtours filled the next 20 years, though towards the end they were thinning out and brake van trips were becoming a thing of the past. Llanharry, Newcastle Emlyn, Yarmouth Quay, Ardingly, Leiston, Sandside, the Blyth and Tyne, Fraserburgh, Crianlarich Lower, Burghead, Beckermet, Trafford Park, Pensnett, Radstock, Meledor Mill, you name it.

And then came (the rest of) Europe ...