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By John McGoldrick on

A warning to trainspotters (part 2)

What was Nine Elms Motive Power Depot like after steam-hauled trains stopped running to Waterloo?

Just a quick follow-up to my post of a couple of weeks ago on the trainspotters warning sign from Nine Elms locomotive depot. I have since managed to track down a series of photographs showing the state of the depot just before it closed in 1967.

Nine Elms was the main Motive Power Depot for Waterloo Station, but with the end of steam-hauled trains travelling to and from the terminus, the sheds rapidly became obsolete and were demolished soon after closure. The album of official British Rail photographs shows Nine Elms in a fairly dilapidated state. Unfortunately, there isn’t a photograph showing the sign in question – but the image above, showing one of the main entrances, does feature similar examples of the everyday, hand painted, made-on-site signs which adorned the depot.

To date, we have had one confession from a trainspotter who was apprehended by a British Transport Police constable in the late 1950s, whilst carrying out some covert copping. Let’s hear your reminiscences of spotting at Nine Elms shed!  Any information will of course be treated in the strictest confidence.

17 comments on “A warning to trainspotters (part 2)

  1. Can I post photos taken 1963-4 at 9 Elms?
    I was never “apprehended” – in fact I got the impression that one was welcome – or was it because I was openly carrying a camera?

    P.S. If you want pictures, please e-mail me direct, and I’ll see what I can do.

    1. Greg, many thanks for posting the link to your Nine Elms loco photographs. Glad to hear that you were never apprehended – you were obviously very responsible! I’ll check with one of the curators who looks after the photographic collection on whether they are something that we would be interested in.

  2. i have great memories of nine elms shed from the age of twelve,myself and five friends used to cycle from nw10 to stewarts lane then onto nine elms,in the mid 50s all the locos shone and
    looked great,we never got into the shed from from the main gates so we were shown another way
    in by one of the boys older brother,you had to turn sideways and shuffel between these two huge buildingsand you came out in the yard halfway down the shed.two of us went there every weekend
    from 1964 to the weekend before steam finished taking photos,on the last day my wanted to go out
    so i missed it,most of my pictures got lost when we moved house but i still have those wonderful i never got apprehended there but i did when i bunked into stratford works and
    was doing well until this huge hand clamped onto the collar of my coat and fog marched me back
    to the tunnel entrance at stratford station,the only problem was that i had left my bike on the otherside of the works where i had come in so i had to walk all the way back to it.i am now in my 70s but back in the 1980s i joined the mid-hants railway and worked on the team that re-built
    west country swanage and am doing the same at quainton railway society one day a week
    regards bix curtis.

  3. Bix,
    Your memories of Nine Elms are clearly very vivid and it’s nice to see that the ‘no trainspotters’ sign helped to rekindle them, and it’s definitely within the time period you visited the shed. It’s also interesting to hear of some of the ways in which enthusiasts got round efforts to keep them out. Many thanks for sharing with us.

  4. many thanks for the reply john ,over the years i have chatted to lots of ex railway men and i find
    the stories that they tell of the comradeship and the pranks that some of them got up to great
    the brother-in-law of the girl i married was a fireman at 34e later 14d neasden shed in the 1950s
    in the 1970s my neighbour had his old father in law come to live with him,he was a top link driver
    at salisbury shed and always carried a photograph of him next to his b of b at the station,a
    railway man from a young boy to retirement and very proud of it.
    nine elms shed blog is a great site well done keep it going
    regards bix curtis.

  5. Bix,
    We try to capture as many of these railway stories as possible. You are probably aware of some of the many publications on this theme out there, such as ‘Shed bashing with the Beatles: A Trainspotter in the Swinging Sixties by Phil Mathieson’ (ISBN 0954693736).

  6. john ,i have read phil mathiesons book,there are so manybooks out on railways dating from the 1940s,at this moment my library totals 1010 books of all sizes,so it surprised me when i was
    doing some research on the kings lynn to wells railway i found that i only had one book on the
    great eastern railway.there is an interesting book trainspotting days will adams with a foreword
    by brian blessed isbn 1857942671 it seems to cover everything.As gregg says in the 60s as long
    as you didnt act like an idiot the staff seemed to accept you,even in the 50s we found that if you
    went to the formans office and asked permission 9 times out of ten he would get a worker to show
    you around.The most agressive man i ever met was the foreman at southall shed on the 24/6/65
    a friend and myself went there in our uniforms mine a bus his a postman we reached his office and
    knocked on the door and went in to be greeted by the longest streem of f/b/c/ words that you have ever heard we were a bit shocked and so was the man standing next to him whose eyes were
    wide open in dismay,so we back tracked and took our photos on the way out,i said to my friend
    maybe he is not to happy because his shed is to close in two months children we did not
    see any danger in things in these places but when you look back you were trespasing and these
    sheds and yards were pretty lethal with pitts/grease/rails and moving locos and these days you
    wouldnt even dream of even going near them.will chat again in the future.
    regards bix.

  7. I frequently bunked Nine Elms in the 1950s. I still have my notebooks. I cycled down from Mill Hill NW7 to spot at Stewarts Lane on the footbridge into the shed. I never bunked Stewarts Lane shed, but we popped round to Nine Elms all the time and climbed in near the flats by the turntable. Most the time it was no problem, but once I was caught with my cousin Andrew by the railway police and we were being marched to the foreman’s office when I said “run for it” and we did, leaping over the pits. We were rally scared and shot back to Stewarts Lane. I revisited in the 1960s quite a bit to cine film there, especially the Great Marquis amd Sir Nigel Gresley specials. Much of my extensive cine has been used commercially now.

    1. Hello Jon, would you by any chance have any records in your notebooks of S15 30847 at Nine Elms in the 50s/60s (up to late 1963) or on other Central/ Western section sheds, such as New Cross/Redhill or Feltham/Salisbury/Eastleigh/Fratton etc. I would be most gratefulI if you could spare the time to search your records. Many thanks,

      1. Dear Mike,

        Sorry, somehow I messed your email message. Anyway, I have checked my books, but I never saw that S15 30487. I may have seen it after the spotting stage, but that will meen checking my 35mm negs. I will do that.

        1. Hello Jon, Thank you very much for taking the trouble to check your notes. If you are happy to look through your negs then you don’t need to check beyond June 1964 as the engine was then sent to Woodhams in Barry. Many thanks again, Mike.

        2. Hello Jon,

          I wonder whether you managed to get round to checking your negs for any images of S15 30847 you might have taken.

          Perhaps you could let me know either way.

          Many thanks,

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