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Graham Howarth


    I along with other spotters spent countless hours on platform ends etc. trying to get all the numbers in British Rail capital stock.  This was and is impossible.  The Westerns, Hymeks and Warships never got to the north of England and shunters (Classes 01, 02, 03, 04, 05 , 06, 07, 08 and 09) were stabled at way out stabling points.  In the steam era there was even a stabling point called "Sheep’s Pasture”.  It was basically a grid reference.  Coalville and Westhouses did not have a railway service and please try and get to Meldon Quarry to get the shunter there without going by road – not possible.  In other words, to clear your locos, one needed road travel – coach or car.  NCTS filled this need.

How I started

   I started spotting in March 1970 along with a few other friends.  One of those friends met "Brush" Lewis in Preston in the summer of 1970, "Brush" mentioned the NCTS to him.  I then went on special train from Preston to Edinburgh for the Military Tattoo.  "Brush" Lewis also came on that trip – August 1970.  I joined NCTS in early 1973 after I had heard more about them from my friend who was also friends with "Brush".


   I remember my first NCTS trip like it was yesterday.  If I copped/griced a loco once per week I was happy.  I saw the advertised trips in the journal and one that caught my eye and my friends was a South Wales trip.  We got the train to Manchester Victoria and picked up the NCTS coach.  Then we headed over Woodhead to pick up the Sheffield crowd and the trip navigator said we are just quickly going to do Tinsley.  Well there you have 70 locos straight off and I griced a load.  Then we head off and hit Burry Port, Llanelli, Margam, Landore, Swansea Docks, Canton, Ebbw Jct, Severn Tunnel Jct, Bristol Bath Rd and many more stabling points etc.   Thinking this was wonderful we then head home up the M5 and the  navigator says we will just quickly do Bescot.  So I see around 400 or more locos in a single weekend and cop/grice 13/13 Class 37s on Llanelli alone.  However, it was more than that. NCTS were a friendly crowd with some drinking beer and others playing cards (nearly always 3 card brag).  All on board were like minded – we were all train spotters and almost family.  I was in heaven and hooked on NCTS trips though I was still at school so did not go on many trips until after A levels in July 1975.

Anecdotes from Northern Counties Transport Society trips

    On one occasion we stopped at a service station on the M1. There is a slight dispute over which one with John Wade thinking it was Trowell services and myself, Graham Howarth, thinking Leicester Forest East. A young guy on the coach, not paying attention, walked into a plate glass widow completely shattering it. Luckily, nobody was badly hurt.  It delayed us but we headed on our way. 


   Another favourite from 1977 or 1978 was on a London trip.  Alan Fawcett dressed in scout masters uniform bullshitted his way around Croxley Green about 1.00 am in the morning.  I have vague recollections of Allan going into the foreman's office offering him a cigarette.

   On another occasion driver Gerald had been driving since Barnoldswick and it was time to change drivers. This was done on the move doing 70 mph down the M1 heading south.  Gerald stood up with his hand on the steering wheel and foot on the accelerator while the new driver got himself sat comfortably in the driver’s seat and calmly took over, then Gerald went for a sleep.  Outrageous but what a lot of fun.


   On another trip, Dave Southern played Pink Floyd Wish you were here about 20 times over and over on an overnight.

 The Cameras

John Wade - big Mamiya fan – Tri-X 400 his favorite film.

Dave (Basil Brush) Lewis - Yashica.

Mike Rogers - Pentax.

Graham Howarth – early days used a Zorki 4 but later a Minolta fan – also used Tri-X400 but loved Kodachrome 64 Color Slides too.

Alan Howarth – Minolta fan

Alan Howells  -various- had a Praktica then a Minolta then switched to a Mamiya

The Three Magpies = a favourite pub with a fish and chip shop nearby where we would go before or after going around Tinsley after we had picked up the Sheffield crowd.


I have written a Wikipedia article heavily mentioning NCTS.  See Railway Enthuiast Societies in the United Kingdom


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