The Steam Railway East Scotland. Images from the W A C Smith collection

The Steam Railway East Scotland. Images from the W A C Smith collection


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by Brian J Dickson

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W A C ‘Bill’ Smith was a prolific photographer of steam locomotives, Clyde Steamers and trams. He travelled extensively throughout Scotland during the 1950s and 1960s recording the changes as the older pre-grouping steam classes disappeared to be replaced by the new Standard types and the even more modern diesel power. He also photographed much of the infrastructure dating back to the pre-group Scottish railways, which was similarly being demolished or replaced at the time. His other claim to fame was as the organiser of many rail tours which covered Scotland in the same period.

Bill was Secretary of the Scottish Branch of the Stephenson Locomotive Society during the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, and with great enthusiasm organised many rail tours covering most of the rail routes in Scotland. Two of the largest and most heavily booked were those that took place in June 1960 and June 1962 organised jointly with the Railway Correspondence and Travel Society. The 1960 tour saw the use of the four preserved steam locomotives – ex-GNoSR No. 49 Gordon Highlander, ex-HR 4-6-0 No. 103, the ex-CR ‘Single’ No 123 and ex-NBR No. 256 Glen Douglas together with seven service locomotives. The tour commenced at Edinburgh Waverley on 12th June, took in Aberdeen, Macduff, Alford, Keith, Burghead, Inverness, Fortrose, Perth, Comrie, Forfar, Montrose, Inverbervie, Dundee, Newburgh, Dunfermline, Denny and ended at Glasgow Central six days later on 17th June. 

The marathon ten-day long 1962 tour took place between 14th and 23rd June and it ventured to nearly all parts of the Scottish system except for the West Highland line, Aberdeen and Buchan and the Borders Area. Commencing at Perth it took in nearly all the rest of the Scottish system from Wick and Thurso in the north, Kyle of Lochalsh in the west, Forfar in the east and Stranraer and Dumfries in the south ending at Carlisle. In addition to the four preserved Scottish locomotives a total of seventeen service locomotives were also utilised. 

One of Bill’s colleagues at British Railways would relate how Bill would be summoned from time to time to the office of James Ness, the General Manager of the Scottish Region who would impress on him that he wanted to see greater use being made of the four preserved locomotives that he had restored to running order. Bill was clearly only too happy to oblige.

With the end of steam traction in the UK his enthusiasm for photographing the subject waned but later he found foreign railways an attraction with visits to Poland, Germany, Turkey and South Africa to witness working steam in those countries. 

Bill took early retirement from British Railways in 1982 and after joining the Scottish Steam Railtour Group was able to assist with organising many more rail tours using many of the preserved locomotives available. All the profits from these tours were donated to railway preservation causes. 

In the late 1990s Bill had asked the Transport Treasury to manage his massive collection of photographs which contains in addition to those taken in Scotland, England and Wales, examples of steam from Ireland and the Isle of Man. Bill’s interests extended to the Scottish tram networks and contains photographs of those in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dundee. The collection also contains a large number of photographs of the many steamers that worked on the Clyde which were owned and operated by the Caledonian Steam Packet Company. Following Bill’s death in 2009 the collection was bequeathed to the Transport Treasury. 

Bill’s images encompass much variety, from the graceful Great North of Scotland 4-4-0s usually in beautifully clean condition to the work stained North British 0-6-0s many of which, with long working lives, ended their days carrying out the same duties they were originally designed for – hauling trains of coal around Fife. Former Caledonian Railway locomotives are also seen with the ubiquitous 0-4-4 tanks on branch lines and many 0-6-0s moving goods traffic. The workhorses of passenger traffic, LNER B1s, V2s and LMS Black 5s as well as examples of express power are also portrayed.

The photographs chosen for this book, cover the East Scotland area in rough terms from Forres and Elgin in Moray to Aberdeen, Forfar, Perth, Dundee (all three stations) the ‘East Neuk’ of Fife, Edinburgh, the Borders and just over the River Tweed to Tweedmouth. It brings together some of the best of the photographers work portraying locomotives, normal service trains and some of the special tours he organised.

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Additional information

Weight 540 g
Dimensions 273 × 215 cm









273 x 215 mm




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