Forty years on

My old grammar school has little in common with Harrow, apart from sharing the same school song Forty Years On, written by Messrs Owen and Farmer in 1872. Apparently it was intended to give boys an idea of how it would be like returning to their old school, and to remind old boys about school life. Mercifully we did not sing any such refrain at our recent 40th anniversary day, but many of the sentiments expressed in the song would have held true.

As it was, the day was a great success. We overcame early rain showers, mainly thanks to Frank’s handy awning, which provided shelter for the essential barbecue activity. This was masterminded with aplomb by David (quote: ‘you can’t beat a good Morrisons beef burger/sausage’). Indoors Tony assembled a range of tasty titbits for our delectation and a so-called modelling table performed its proper function as support for an impressive range of soft, medium and hard drinks. Ian activated Monsal Dale in the back room and it ran well all day, boding well for its exhibition performance in the future.

As the weather improved a decorated anniversary train, formed by units prepared by Derek, Frank and Richard, was marshalled on the external 16mm line, and flagged off with due ceremony and live steam propulsion. Initial qualms about the need for a rail-replacement service were firmly quashed, although the loop at the far end presented challenges which confirmed the need for a timely revamp. Jim’s Locomotion railbus was also successfully steamed. Not for the first time the armchair section of the club proved to be the dominant force, with both interior and exterior sub-sections well represented, to the extent that temporary seating had to be brought in to augment the standard provision.

About thirty members and partners attended, and most took part in the next stage of the celebrations, a tour of the town in a heritage bus provided by Merseyside Transport Trust. For the buzzers amongst you this was Leyland Atlantean BKC 236K, itself barely a year old when SMRS was brought into being. An open-top was initially the preferred option, but the morning rain had prompted a change to the more weatherproof variety. First stop was at the Lakeside Miniature Railway, where we disembarked for a return trip from Pleasureland to the Pier. Truth to tell this line has seen better days, but the essential elements remain, and an enjoyable trip was had by all. At the Pier terminus some delayed their return to sample the wares of the ice-cream shop, while others took the opportunity for a second return trip. The visit ended with a visit to the workshops, which amongst other items houses the A4 outline loco Duke of Edinburgh.

It was then time for our Official Progression around the town. Back on board the bus we were conveyed through the town and northwards along the coast road as far as Crossens, returning through Churchtown and as far south as Royal Birkdale Golf Club. Inexplicably there was no police escort or marching band to accompany us, and the lack of cheering crowds was particularly noticeable. However we were saved from all that tedious waving, so perhaps it was just as well. Back at the clubhouse we were released to rest and recover, in anticipation of the final event of the day, the celebratory dinner.

This was held at the Auberge Brasserie, just off Lord St. We had reserved the upstairs room and invited as guest speaker Paul Salveson, a self-confessed ‘railway crank’ with, as his website suggests, a fairly adventurous political railway life, somewhat left of dead centre. The menu paid scant regard to low-calorie diets but was otherwise both excellent and filling, even the vegetarian options. Afterwards Paul gave a presentation describing his younger self as a trainspotter in Bolton and environs. In those days schoolboys could not only have the freedom of their local engine shed but could also provide unpaid voluntary loco-cleaning services, without so much as a risk assessment or a hi-vis jacket to obstruct their youthful enthusiasm. There was some competition from both the downstairs clientele and the all-pervasive muzak, but Paul’s enthusiastic and professional style won the day. And so it came to an end, with a feeling that forty years is not so old, and the club is in fine fettle for the next decade at least. Whether all the members are is another matter.

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