The Railway Magazine

70 YEARS BEHIND THE LENS

THE name Dr L A Nixon first came to my attention 54 years ago. I’d just had my first contribution printed in the RM and was showing it to my parents when they noticed their young son’s name was in the list of credits next to that of a doctor.

As a result of their surprise, a name that might otherwise have passed me by became indelibly printed on my mind, and it was thus with a strange feeling that I found myself sitting in judgement on the doctor’s own contributions when I entered railway journalism a quarter of a century later.

Les Nixon began photographing trains in 1949, and to mark his 70 years behind the lens, I travelled to his Derbyshire home to chat about his life and immerse myself in the wonderful images that inspired so many enthusiasts in the 1950s and 60s.

Born in the Yorkshire mining town of Barnsley on July 4, 1936, Les recalls being taken as a child to the town centre level crossing at Exchange station – a wonderful location as it was almost within touching distance of engines stabled in the shed yard. There, he would badger his mum to be allowed to spend a few minutes soaking up the atmosphere and watching passenger and goods trains rumbling past Jumble Lane signalbox, and when it was time to go home, he would “bawl his head off”!

The reason for his interest at such a young age is because steam is in his blood… on both sides of his family. His father and paternal grandfather were both footplatemen, his mother worked for the LNER’s clerical staff, and two uncles were employed at Stratford Works.

Knocker-up

“Despite that and the fact that dad enjoyed his job, he did his absolute utmost to dissuade me from joining the railway when I was a boy,” Les told me. “He knew I was keen to become a driver and I suppose he thought I’d got it into my head that I’d be ambling down pretty branch lines on sunny days, stopping to pick blackberries on the way.

“So he’d say to me: ‘If thou

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from The Railway Magazine

The Railway Magazine2 min read
Virgin Pursues Open Access Bid
VIRGIN Trains (VT) has surprised the rail industry by announcing it will make a bid to become an open access operator. This follows the shock announcement VT and its partner Stagecoach had been disqualified from bidding for the West Coast Partnersh
The Railway Magazine2 min read
Merseyrail Top Of Punctuality Charts
MERSEYRAIL was the UK’s most punctual passenger train operator in 2018/19 with an average of 95.51% of trains running on time – well above the national average of 86.3%. Overall national punctuality during March was steady at 89%, but Merseyrail to
The Railway Magazine2 min read
Renewed Backing For High-speed Rail In The North And Midlands
POLITICIANS and business leaders in the North of England and the Midlands have reiterated their support for high-speed rail as an essential tool to improve transport links within and across their regions. The support came in response to comments fr