by Robert Humm

Baldwin-Lima-Hamilton “shark-nose” 1,500hp Co-Co of type RF615E No 5037 at Buenos Aires, 2004. And Robert looking very sprauncy.

Over the years I have published a fair amount in periodicals both eminent and obscure. My very first article, published about 1966, was strangely enough in a long defunct magazine called Sporting Motorist, and we need not dwell on that overlong. It was written under a pseudonym and wasn’t very good, but we all have to start somewhere.

I started writing in earnest for the transport press in 2006. My main outlet has always been The Railway Magazine, and here is the reason. In 2004 I griped to the then editor, Nick Pigott, that the RM no longer carried the good historical articles it once did. “We don’t get them offered any more and I don’t have time to research and write them myself,” was his riposte. “If you want us to publish some history you had better get down to business.” I took Nick at his word. To date there have been two dozen features in RM, with more in the pipeline.

Other periodicals that have taken occasional pieces include Heritage Railway, Locomotives International, Steam Railway and Archive. I also do a certain amount for society periodicals such as The Railway & Canal Historical Society Journal, The Narrow Gauge, Stephenson Locomotive Society Journal, and the WW2 Railway Study Group Bulletin.

What do I write about? The short answer is anything that takes my fancy and where I have some worthwhile depth of knowledge. Subjects often arise from chance conversations with fellow aficionados, family, and customers. Clare has the knack of asking “simple” questions that call for plenty of research. The outcome is often “I feel another article coming on,” and inevitably the dining table* and floor are covered once more with reference books, papers and photographs.

All the same, most subjects seem fall into a few broad categories: British railway history, locomotive history, overseas railways, railway literature and bibliography, military railways, unusual railways, and what The Railway Magazine is pleased to call “Famous Names Of The Past.” Some of them seem well worth a second outing.

What else? Since 1961 I have written up notes of my amateur railway comings-and-goings in a series of volumes loosely titled Railway Travels & Observations, records that range from an hour’s train watching by the bridge at the bottom of the road to the more recent journeys towards the far south of Patagonia, and by the Rossiya from Moscow to Vladivostok. None of this has ever been published before. Then there the better pieces from the Old Luddite column and all sorts of miscellaneous items, reviews and fillers.

It is my intention to post a selection of these writings in the blog at approximately weekly intervals, subject to holidays and the usual human frailties. I hope you enjoy at least some of them. And remember, should you wish to meet the source of these disemboguements, I can usually be found behind the counter of the bookshop at 59 Scotgate, Stamford. You might even fancy buying a book or two.


The photo was taken at the Ferroclub headquarters at Remedios De Escalada, Buenos Aires, on 31st October 2004.
The locomotive is a Baldwin-Lima-Hamilton “shark-nose” 1,500hp Co-Co of type RF615E, built at the Eddystone plant near Philadelphia  The Argentine State Railways ordered  51, which were delivered between May 1953 and October 1954.  All were allocated to the General Roca Division (the former Buenos Aires Great Southern Railway) and used primarily as freight locomotives. They were Baldwin’s last big order prior to cessation of locomotive building in 1956.
Most lines in Argentina are single track and at that time were nearly all semaphore signalled.  The Whitaker Token Exchange apparatus can be seen next to the cab door.
Because the 5001s are single-ended they have to be turned on a turntable or wye like a steam locomotive.  We saw this happen with 5037 at Altamirano the previous day when we took her for a spin in the country. 5037 was newly restored and this was her first passenger trip.