As long as I have been on the railway and I am sure long before that there has always been the ongoing saga of Steam v Diesel.
It can be quite amusing and it’s not unknown for people to come to a diesel gala weekend and still expect to see steam running as well.
The comment on a diesel weekend that we are a steam railway has often been pointed out to me by visitors, I always respond that we are not a steam railway we are a heritage railway and that all forms of traction are important in the history and development of railways. There then either follows a snort by the visitors or a quiet agreement.
It is I think, important to realise that the steam and diesel fans fall into two definite separate camps, with of course a group in between that like both forms of traction.
So who are these two groups and what are the differences between them. Now please bear in mind that the following are my own personal observations which you may either agree or disagree with.
Let us start with steam. The average steam enthusiast in my experience likes to take lots of pictures, sniff the steam and smoke and other than purchasing a ticket spends very little money. They carry a flask and sandwich box, with the obligatory bag of either ready salted or salt and vinegar crisps.
However, they do have one great redeeming quality and that is they love to chat about their love of steam to anybody in range. Should there be time to do so they can be really enjoyable to chat to. I just wish they would get into the fine upstanding habit of spending more money, but that is maybe just me being picky!
Then we have the diesel enthusiast. The big difference between the two groups is that diesel fans generally like to travel on the trains. They will sit on the platform with the timetable and work out how to travel on every service even if it’s just between two stations. To most of them it’s down to mileage.
They will pop into stations for drinks and snacks at a steady rate through the day. The one thing that makes a true diesel enthusiast stand out is that they always carry their money in little plastic cash bags. They huddle in groups and travel in packs, cameras at the ready for that special unique shot that twenty other people are also taking. Again like the steam enthusiast’s they love to chat about the locomotives.
So all in all which are then better visitors? The answer to that is it’s a dead heat. Both bring much needed revenue to the railway and with very few exceptions are really nice to chat to. They say please and thank you, gala and special weekends are always enjoyable if only because a busy weekend goes quicker than a quiet one.
Now no doubt you are itching to know which of the two camps I fall into? The answer is neither, I am not a great fan of trains, my interest lies in the local social history of the railway and how it affects the local area.
One thing I do recommend to those asking about visiting is that they might like to come on a quieter weekend if they have children for example. You have not lived until you have met a group of gala visitors coming down the platform anxious to get a picture of the service coming the other way from the end of the platform.
With the present problems there will be no big gala weekends and that’s a pity, and who knows when if ever there will be any more. We shall just have to wait and see.