Stations where spotters were not welcome

Matlock Man

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A friend of mine who is older than me and used to spot in the late 50s early 60s talks about 'the field' at Tamworth, and going there to spot. He speaks as if this field was leased / provided by BR for spotters in order to clear them off the station to a location where they may be less nuisance to other passengers or to stop crowds of kids building up (this may of course be his childhood assumption about it as he admits, you don't tend to wonder about such reasons too much when you are a child I guess). Of course it could simply be that there was a field with easy access and staff told people to use it, and whoever owned it had no issues.

I'm not sure if this was combined with any sort of unwelcoming attitude on the part of staff at Tamworth or not.

On passing through Tamworth on the train I've looked out to wonder which field this was. I'm guessing some people on this forum will be well familiar with it and can give me a clue / map reference?

The field is now a chalet site, in the south-east quadrant of the railway lines.
 
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Capybara

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Chesterfield in the early 70s was very unfriendly, on my first visit in 1971 there was a fenced off pen on platform 2 which you had to stay in but on subsequent visits we were thrown out within a few minutes and had to sit on a wall outside the south end of the station near the goods shed
Heh! As soon as I saw the thread title my reaction was "Chesterfield!" I don't remember a pen as such but we used to go at the back of the old bay platform so we could watch all the freight coming through round the back of the station. But after that we used to get thrown out and, as you say, we'd just go round to the wall. As I recall, it was always the same member of staff who would throw us out and we'd be OK if he wasn't working. I can hear him now: "We don't allow trainspotting at Chesterfield," he'd always shout.
 

ClagLover

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Post question have you ever been asked to leave?
No, never outright told to beggar off but advised to move for safety reasons. Which is fair enough I suppose. (I wasn’t on the edge of the platform or blocking peoples way though)
 

The_Train

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In 2016 (I think) I was at Liverpool Central with some friends, taking a few pictures whilst waiting for our train. A member of staff came along and told us we weren't allowed to take pictures, because it interfered with the signalling, or somesuch nonsense...
:lol: Just picturing the signals all changing from red to green or vice versa every time you hit the shutter :D
 

tommy2215

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You appear to be the exception. As a rule of thumb, they have general disdain for pretty much anyone using their station and only open the platform doors with minutes to spare. But to be fair, this has improved over recent years after the Geoff Marshal incident. Also the door thing doesn't seem to effect Avanti (probably because when Virgin ran it, they were told in no uncertain terms, were the doors to still be closed with x minutes to departure).
When I was there for most trains they let people board their train at least 10 minutes before the departure time. Only once during my two and a half hour stay were passengers only given a few minutes to board. So, if it was that bad before then it has drastically improved recently.
 

mp01

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Heh! As soon as I saw the thread title my reaction was "Chesterfield!" I don't remember a pen as such but we used to go at the back of the old bay platform so we could watch all the freight coming through round the back of the station. But after that we used to get thrown out and, as you say, we'd just go round to the wall. As I recall, it was always the same member of staff who would throw us out and we'd be OK if he wasn't working. I can hear him now: "We don't allow trainspotting at Chesterfield," he'd always shout.
Ha yes. The area near the old bay platform was a 'train spotters compound' during the early 80s at least, complete with white wooden barriers proclaiming as such. Iirc, there was just one member of staff who was particularly anti-spotter. I seem to recall I was banned for life a time or two, along with many others.
 

GarethW

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Heh! As soon as I saw the thread title my reaction was "Chesterfield!" I don't remember a pen as such but we used to go at the back of the old bay platform so we could watch all the freight coming through round the back of the station. But after that we used to get thrown out and, as you say, we'd just go round to the wall. As I recall, it was always the same member of staff who would throw us out and we'd be OK if he wasn't working. I can hear him now: "We don't allow trainspotting at Chesterfield," he'd always shout.

I did a lot of spotting in the Eighties and was based near Watford and then moved down to Bournemouth but Chesterfield had a national reputation back then for unfriendliness.

Only went there twice myself and had problems both times the second time the t**t actually tried to grab my camera case. And the little “pen” was still there.

Can’t honestly remember any issues elsewhere on BR.

At the time taking photos on the Tube was banned (even overground).

Never had any issues at the Met stations or most other places but they really didn’t like it at the Northern Line stations north of the centre where you often got shouted at.
 

gka472l

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Now, you try photographing buses! ! !

Obscene gestures, cursing, and numerous (false) claims of legal prohibitions . . .
Guess I've been lucky then, got the two finger salute off a First driver in Chester back in 2013 but that's it thankfully....
 

Bevan Price

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I was about to mention Wigan North Western, and then read Bevan Price’s entry: my experience exactly in the mid-1950s. We were also shooed away from Thatto Heath station sometimes, especially when there were up to seven of us on the steps down to the platform. My spotting visits nowadays, to stations, are mainly to Shrewsbury, my local. I remember someone relating his bad experience here, but on the contrary, my contacts with BTP personnel at Shrewsbury station have always been good (I am usually awaiting the appearance of a particular train, so am on my way after a few minutes).
Yes. I remember Thatto Heath. I was the one who took the collie dog for its walk for the trains around 6:30 pm. "Vint" (?) Brown a.k.a. "Curly Wee" (because of his hair style) was the one who did not like crowds of spotters in my time, but he could be O.K. if there were just one or two. I think he later became a signalman at Prescot. His father, Tom Brown, worked at Eccleston Park, but occasionally acted as relief at Thatto Heath, and was very friendly. Another occasional "relief", Bill (? Rigby) from St. Helens Shaw Street was reluctant to allow large numbers of spotters, but with good reason - he once told me he had seen a child fall in front of a train.
 

chorleyjeff

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Not all stations or railwaymen seemed to welcome spotters.

I remember in the mid seventies there was one inspector at Birmingham New St who seemed to hate spotters. On one occasion this official, having asked to see my ticket, told me in no uncertain terms to get my train home or he would get the BTP to kick me off the station, his rationale being "if you're not a passenger, you're trespassing on the railway and that's an offence. I hadn't been doing anything wrong, just going from one platform to another to see the action and take a few pics.

I was wondering whether anyone else had similar experiences either at New St or elsewhere?
Preston in the late 1950s, but ticket collector Sid would let us in at the South end of the then platform 6 for a few minutes. Used to get neighbour's granny to take us into the station but we had to stay with her to avoid getting thrown out.
 

silverfoxcc

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Twyford GW and Farnborough good PR on letting people know when Specials were due

Woking, on the other hand, was the only time i have been frogmarched of a platform waiting for an early Steam special,
 

Sm5

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Interesting timing this thread, Ive been photographing 40+ years, and in more than 50 countries, even some dodgy ones, and never had an issue.

However in the last 3 months Ive found a total step change around London..

first up Clapham Junction, last month, was the worst, and SES security guards saying photography is banned under terrorism laws… they actually got quite strong as several of them approached me all at once and surrounded us, it felt as if they were waiting to catch someone. My 10 year old daughter was with me and got quite distressed.

I have printed out Network Rail / Southern guidelines, but they count for nowt, the SES guys at Clapham took it off me and didnt give it back, and were asking me to delete my pictures (of the yard taken from the footbridge) and said they would take my phone if I didnt comply, I didn’t really have a lot of choice in that so I did… it was very intimidating. Ive since emailed both network rail to ask for clarity, but a month on ive no reply, and let it go.

But.. it repeated a second time last week with 35018 where SES came to clear the platform as the train was in sight, though this time it was just the 1 person, shouting to return up platform 5. However minutes earlier, another security guard shouted at me in the tunnel whilst walk/running between 15 and 5 to see 35018 that I had to put cameras away whilst walking through the tunnel as its forbidden (i was just carrying it on my shoulder moving between platforms).

The first encounter, the security guards for their side did say they were told every morning that under no circumstance are people to take pictures without any exceptions, saying they had been told it is a strict non-negotiable policy, referencing the Manchester Terrorist attacks.

those three events have convinced me Clapham junction is no longer welcoming. Security presence at Clapham Junction is quite large, 30+ people at least.. 1 at each set of stairs minimum, both footbridge and tunnel, plus usual platform staff.

second is Purley, photographing a 59, where again I was told photography isnt allowed without a permit. (i only had my iphone on this occasion, so thought it a bit discriminatory, just because I pointed it at a loco). Again I find it best not to argue, as generally the mindset wont change.

third is Harrow & Wealdstone 2 weeks ago, where after 45 mins or so a polite station officer approached and just asked me to stop taking pictures as its against tfl policy without written permission, all cordial. He said its because too many enthusiasts are putting pictures on youtube.

fourth, same day as Harrow, was Wembley Central, where I was told they close the platforms between trains, which given how narrow it was I suppose is fair enough.

Common thread was TFL managed stations ( I was told at the time), though Purley and Clapham are not.

finally, last week and 57310 on sleepers, I was at Langley (alone) at midnight, I was asked if I was a russian spy, but otherwise didn't care.

I‘m only carrying a Canon SLR camera, usually with my 10 year old little one, who finds being told she is a terrorist a little bit scary, she has an ipad, no tripod or other equipment.

Whilst highlighting the downs, Its worth mentioning the ups.. I turned up Tattenham corner at 1am to see the 73’s on a cold wet night, the station security guard was just pleased to see anyone at all, and we had a 15-20 minute chat about what the fuss was about, and think at the end of it he was a bit more excited about trains.
Similarly several stations have no issues allowing photographers in / out, London Victoria comes to mind, Basingstoke is another, Euston and Kings Cross have never been an issue. During recent engineering works last year the staff at South Croydon let me in to take pictures.

Glasgow Central asked me to sign in, but then went out of his way to radio the staff of my presence and some of the staff came around with me, very welcoming, and even gave me heads up of whats coming / where.

its all a very long way from Bialystok, where turning up at the depot, the foreman promptly gave me a guided tour using an SU45 diesel as our personal shed taxi to go around the place, or Israel, where the driver invited me up to the cab for photographs (where I really wasn't expecting anything like that ).


Either way its a very obvious change from what Ive seen before around London in the last 2-3 months.
 
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Ashley Hill

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It's a sad life on the modern railway when security goons like those described above feel they have to act this way. Would they carry on like this if they saw some granny taking a family photo before waving them goodbye? No. They seem to delight in persecuting enthusiasts as easy targets.Most of them would probably c**p themselves if they ever came across a real terrorist.
 

bramling

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Interesting timing this thread, Ive been photographing 40+ years, and in more than 50 countries, even some dodgy ones, and never had an issue.

However in the last 3 months Ive found a total step change around London..

first up Clapham Junction, last month, was the worst, and SES security guards saying photography is banned under terrorism laws… they actually got quite strong as several of them approached me all at once and surrounded us, it felt as if they were waiting to catch someone. My 10 year old daughter was with me and got quite distressed.

I have printed out Network Rail / Southern guidelines, but they count for nowt, the SES guys at Clapham took it off me and didnt give it back, and were asking me to delete my pictures (of the yard taken from the footbridge) and said they would take my phone if I didnt comply, I didn’t really have a lot of choice in that so I did… it was very intimidating. Ive since emailed both network rail to ask for clarity, but a month on ive no reply, and let it go.

But.. it repeated a second time last week with 35018 where SES came to clear the platform as the train was in sight, though this time it was just the 1 person, shouting to return up platform 5. However minutes earlier, another security guard shouted at me in the tunnel whilst walk/running between 15 and 5 to see 35018 that I had to put cameras away whilst walking through the tunnel as its forbidden (i was just carrying it on my shoulder moving between platforms).

The first encounter, the security guards for their side did say they were told every morning that under no circumstance are people to take pictures without any exceptions, saying they had been told it is a strict non-negotiable policy, referencing the Manchester Terrorist attacks.

those three events have convinced me Clapham junction is no longer welcoming.

second is Purley, photographing a 59, where again I was told photography isnt allowed without a permit. (i only had my iphone on this occasion, so thought it a bit discriminatory, just because I pointed it at a loco). Again I find it best not to argue, as generally the mindset wont change.

third is Harrow & Wealdstone 2 weeks ago, where after 45 mins or so a polite station officer approached and just asked me to stop taking pictures as its against tfl policy without written permission, all cordial. He said its because too many enthusiasts are putting pictures on youtube.

fourth, same day as Harrow, was Wembley Central, where I was told they close the platforms between trains, which given how narrow it was I suppose is fair enough.

Common thread was TFL managed stations ( I was told at the time), though Purley and Clapham are not.

finally, last week and 57310 on sleepers, I was at Langley (alone) at midnight, I was asked if I was a russian spy, but otherwise didn't care.

I‘m only carrying a Canon SLR camera, usually with my 10 year old little one, who finds being told she is a terrorist a little bit scary, she has an ipad, no tripod or other equipment.

Whilst highlighting the downs, Its worth mentioning the ups.. I turned up Tattenham corner at 1am to see the 73’s on a cold wet night, the station security guard was just pleased to see anyone at all, and we had a 15-20 minute chat about what the fuss was about, and think at the end of it he was a bit more excited about trains.
Similarly several stations have no issues allowing photographers in / out, London Victoria comes to mind, Basingstoke is another, Euston and Kings Cross have never been an issue.
Glasgow Central asked me to sign in, but then went out of his way to radio the staff of my presence and some of the staff came around with me, very welcoming, and even gave me heads up of whats coming / where.


Either way its a very obvious change from what Ive seen before around London in the last 2-3 months.

Respect your decision to let it go, however I really would have pursued the Clapham incident with the TOC. The behaviour described is disgraceful, and had they grabbed your phone they’d have been in serious hot water.
 

Sm5

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Respect your decision to let it go, however I really would have pursued the Clapham incident with the TOC. The behaviour described is disgraceful, and had they grabbed your phone they’d have been in serious hot water.
Yes but when youve got a 10 year old girl with you, would you want to progress an altercation with several guards ? She was getting stressed at these guys talking about terrorists taking photographs and thinking we were going to be arrested.

Separating her from them was more important for me.

They did say it was London Overground policy, to which I pointed out it was a Network Rail managed station, but these guys werent in a mood really for discussion.

Had I been alone I would have definitely kicked up more of fuss, I believe they carry cameras, and know the footbridge is full of them, so that evidence can be used to protect me as well as their behaviour. Hence I emailed Network Rail, but heard nothing in response.

As its a month ago i’m more for sharing the experience to others to be cautious of, as at the end of the day theres not much else to be gained, but agree had any of them tried to touch either of us, it would be very different words I’d be writing now. I do think it was more rhetoric on their side, but is it worth it.
 
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bramling

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Yes but when youve got a 10 year old girl with you, would you want to progress an altercation with several guards ?

Had I been alone I would have definitely kicked up more of fuss, I believe they carry cameras, so that evidence can be used to protect me as well as their behaviour.

Completely agree about kicking off at the time, however a complaint to the TOC in retrospect is most certainly in order. I’d be asking for a full investigation.
 

Sm5

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Completely agree about kicking off at the time, however a complaint to the TOC in retrospect is most certainly in order. I’d be asking for a full investigation.
I have emailed Network Rail, from their main website but got nothing.
if there is another route (that isnt going to eat loads of my time) i’d consider it… very least just to get clarification on policy, as I dont intend to stop visiting (I have been since before NSE existed), so I’m not keen to keep running into these situations if something has changed, I’d rather know… i’d piggy back a complaint on that (And I still have the pictures as I was able to recover them afterwards, so have time/date).
 
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XAM2175

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I have printed out Network Rail / Southern guidelines, but they count for nowt, the SES guys at Clapham took it off me and didnt give it back, and were asking me to delete my pictures (of the yard taken from the footbridge) and said they would take my phone if I didnt comply, I didn’t really have a lot of choice in that so I did… it was very intimidating.
For the avoidance of doubt, private security staff have no right to compel you to delete images and no right to seize your property - though I understand of course sometimes you're not in a position to make a fuss.
 

ABB125

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I spent 20 minutes or so at Clapham junction last month, and didn't have any problems, so I'm quite surprised by the security guards' actions posted above. Perhaps it depends on which part of the station you're in? I was mostly on the platform 13/14 island, at the south end.
 

Aictos

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Gatwick Airport is awful as they don't even know their own company policy, they're the Southern's counterpart of Blackpool North, truly a awful station.
 

Sm5

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I spent 20 minutes or so at Clapham junction last month, and didn't have any problems, so I'm quite surprised by the security guards' actions posted above. Perhaps it depends on which part of the station you're in? I was mostly on the platform 13/14 island, at the south end.
First occasion was the footbridge, taking pictures of the depot, later platform 9. We were accosted (followed then surrounded) as we wandered over towards the Reading lines to catch a train.

The second/third (same time) were in the tunnel between 15 going to 5 where I was hailed to put the camera away (it was stowed/lens cap on on my shoulder as I was rushing between platforms but he said it needs to be in a bag out of sight), and minutes later the london end of plat 4 as 35018 was coming through plat 5 By another.

It was SES security (blue vests) each time… the station is really crowded with SES security.. lots (i guess in region of 30 or so) more than Ive ever seen for a station at any point in the past, theybe been there a few months now. They do act in a “night club” style mentality.. in that they dont seem to be doing anything for anybody, chatting about, but then as a lone white middle aged guy with a camera I felt like I was a soft target for someone wanting to show some authority..I think if your a group of photographers, or just passengers on their phones I doubt you’d have any issue… its just as a lone enthusiast (+1 child) that you suddenly stand out to them.

I emailed, heard nothing, and If all I get is some standard reply its not going to change anything next time, other than to put me as a blip on their radar, which isnt going to help me longterm.

its not going to stop me going back to Clapham, but buyer beware. My hope is SES goes away, or things just normalize.

Question is how do you challenge that or just let it go ?
 
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bramling

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I have emailed Network Rail, from their main website but got nothing.
if there is another route (that isnt going to eat loads of my time) i’d consider it… very least just to get clarification on policy, as I dont intend to stop visiting (I have been since before NSE existed), so I’m not keen to keep running into these situations if something has changed, I’d rather know… i’d piggy back a complaint on that (And I still have the pictures as I was able to recover them afterwards, so have time/date).

Writing to the TOC you were travelling with might be better. The allegation that the staff threatened to commit robbery of your of your phone (as that’s essentially what was threatened) is extremely serious, and definitely merits a proper investigation. They have no power to take property off you, nor pressurise you to delete photos.
 

ABB125

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First occasion was the footbridge, taking pictures of the depot, later platform 9. We were accosted (followed then surrounded) as we wandered over towards the Reading lines to catch a train.

The second/third (same time) were in the tunnel between 15 going to 5 where I was hailed to put the camera away (it was stowed/lens cap on on my shoulder as I was rushing between platforms but he said it needs to be in a bag out of sight), and minutes later the london end of plat 4 as 35018 was coming through plat 5 By another.

It was SES security (blue vests) each time… the station is really crowded with SES security.. lots (i guess in region of 30 or so) more than Ive ever seen for a station at any point in the past, theybe been there a few months now. They do act in a “night club” style mentality.
I don't recall seeing any blue vests, but then I wasn't looking out for them! I was asked at one point, as I was filling up my water bottle at the water filling station, whether the bag on the floor next to me was mine, and that could well have been someone in a blue vest.
 

WesternLancer

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Question is how do you challenge that or just let it go ?
What you outline is well out of order in my view, but totally understand why you did what you did.

How to challenge it?

Write / e-mail to senior management / chief executive (it's less easy then for someone down the line who gets the letter and is asked to reply on their behalf by the CEO's PA to fob you off as they are then in practice fobbing you off in the name of the CEO, which does not look good if you post it on social media / tell your MP etc etc), send copy of that to other TOCs responsible for parts of the station where that applies and Network Rail.

Make you points reasonably (eg I was at the station, as a rail enthusiast, complying with the guidelines the industry publishes for enthusiasts, which I even carry with me, but found myself accosted by X security contractors who threatened to do X&Y, caused distress to my young child who was with me and seemed to be completely unaware of the industries agreed and published stance), and always end your message with a clear 'ask' of what you want (eg in this case you would want to ask them that they ensure their security company and all staff who work for them are fully aware of and understand the industry's policy on enthusiasts at stations.

You could also cut and paste your post in thread above and e-mail it etc to editors of any Railway press you read. Nigel Harris in Rail regularly 'calls out' this sort of thing in Rail, on his twitter feed etc etc. Other editors may do too, I just read Rail so see it there.
 

prod_pep

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Liverpool Central I also had a weird incident around 2016 where, having gone down to the platforms, took a photo of my train then boarded, a staff member chased me onto it and told me that was banned because I might be a terrorist (!)
This wasn't a chap with short dark hair and a foreign accent, by any chance? No xenophobia intended but his accent was a distinguishing feature. I had a 'run in' with him around 2016ish where he came out with the 'photography is banned on Merseyrail because you might be a terrorist' line. Complete rubbish and he ruined a video of an interesting 6 car combo I haven't seen since. It remains the only time I've ever had an issue taking photos on Merseyrail, whose staff are generally very good.

I've only had one issue in the London area and that was at Finsbury Park in late FCC days when a dispatcher claimed our photography was 'putting off the drivers'. Not wanting any confrontation, we agreed to stop and he was nice enough about it. Otherwise, no problems at all in the capital.
 

bramling

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This wasn't a chap with short dark hair and a foreign accent, by any chance? No xenophobia intended but his accent was a distinguishing feature. I had a 'run in' with him around 2016ish where he came out with the 'photography is banned on Merseyrail because you might be a terrorist' line. Complete rubbish and he ruined a video of an interesting 6 car combo I haven't seen since. It remains the only time I've ever had an issue taking photos on Merseyrail, whose staff are generally very good.

I've only had one issue in the London area and that was at Finsbury Park in late FCC days when a dispatcher claimed our photography was 'putting off the drivers'. Not wanting any confrontation, we agreed to stop and he was nice enough about it. Otherwise, no problems at all in the capital.

“Putting off drivers” is a bit of a lame one, unless it’s something that is actually interfering with the operating of the railway (eg blocking a monitor, obstructing signage, etc). If someone with a camera is enough to put a driver off, then they probably shouldn’t be in charge of a train, as they’re going to encounter significantly more “off putting” passenger behaviours over time, especially if DOO.
 

cin88

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I lost count of the amount of times I had arguments with SES staff about spotters and other enthusiasts when I was in station control at Piccadilly, amongst other issues they tend to cause with their thuggish attitudes. I wasn't alone in having issues with them. Suffice to say that regular railway staff don't like them either.

With that being said, being an enthusiast myself (although not a spotter), I don't mind the various types of enthusiast being around as they can be a useful extra pair of eyes. My policy has always been to leave enthusiasts alone as long as they're not trespassing, too close a platform edge or getting in the way of staff performing their regular duties. I don't like having to caution because of a spotter being a bit silly, it gives all of us a bad name.

Just don't get offended if I approach you looking slightly concerned, they hammer us with the anti suicide/terrorism training and i've had enough near suicides on my watch to last me a lifetime. I'll be damned if i'm ever going to let a suicide happen on my watch where just going over and saying hello might have been enough.
 

61653 HTAFC

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Yes. I remember Thatto Heath. I was the one who took the collie dog for its walk for the trains around 6:30 pm. "Vint" (?) Brown a.k.a. "Curly Wee" (because of his hair style) was the one who did not like crowds of spotters in my time, but he could be O.K. if there were just one or two. I think he later became a signalman at Prescot. His father, Tom Brown, worked at Eccleston Park, but occasionally acted as relief at Thatto Heath, and was very friendly. Another occasional "relief", Bill (? Rigby) from St. Helens Shaw Street was reluctant to allow large numbers of spotters, but with good reason - he once told me he had seen a child fall in front of a train.
Had to read that a couple of times, at first I thought you were saying that your collie became a signalman at Prescot! :lol:

I tend not to take photos at busy stations or undercover ones with poor lighting, but I did once get whistled at at the Northern line platforms of Liverpool Central for taking a photo of my then girlfriend. I think the staff member was worried I'd step backwards off the (empty) platform.

oddly a few months later I slipped on the escalator to the same platform, tumbled from about 1/3 of the way up, luckily suffering just a few bruises (my shopping bags cushioned my fall); and was completely ignored by the staff that saw the fall.
 

Falcon1200

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I've never had a problem at any station, although I'm not a photographer ! Railway policy is now for staff to speak to anyone behaving unusually, eg loitering at the end of a platform where trains do not stop, in the interests of suicide prevention, and that has already saved lives.

Regarding Chesterfield, IIRC in the early 80s there was a particularly zealous ticket inspector at the barrier who tried to ensure that every haulage enthusiast's ticket was clipped, even if they did not leave the station !
 

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