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´╗┐Gateway to world of steam

One of my best pals from Chadd even today has his leg pulled when we all get back together at Derby's superb summer beer festival he was born in Hamburg after the war as his father was one of the many British troops based there in the aftermath of the conflict. He has always possessed a liking for sauerkraut and sausage and a deep admiration for Franz Beckenbauer.

For two glorious weeks in beautiful weather, my pal John and I roamed around Bavaria in that summer of 1972, sampling all it had to offer.

My mate went one better and became a director for audit and compliance further south in one of the new UK rail companies, ironically presently owned by Germans. Before he took his pension, I bet he never admitted to his new paymasters that, in contrast to protecting their revenue, he had once denuded it.

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Although steam locos had been phased out in Britain, they were still plentiful on the continent and in many other parts of the globe.

When I moved to Derbyshire at the start of my teens, Spondon railway station was less than a mile away from my home in Cherry Tree Hill. In those far off days of the mid 1960s, it had a far more comprehensive service than today and was complete with a friendly, squeaky voiced porter and railman.

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I left the railways many years later in the more elevated position of a public affairs manager but never declared my past sin when meeting delegates from the newly united German rail system.

of my best pals on the railway was, like myself, a bit of a train and rail enthusiast.

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Neil Johnson , a former public affairs manager at Derby's Rail Tech Centre who now lives in Scotland, recalls a trainspotting trip to Germany in the 1970s.

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I now live in southern Scotland and reside far nearer Ireland than England. Although western Galloway is a truly lovely area, it is far away from central transport links.

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At the close of our German trip, my mate and I were exhausted and penniless after two weeks of chasing trains and frauleins, quaffing lager and scoffing wiener schnitzel.

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It was a splendid starting point for journeys being made in all directions, including Borrowash, until Dr Beeching came along.

granted, or perhaps never even consider, is just how lucky they are at being so centrally based in the UK when it comes to travel.

As he did so, he had a stroke of luck and the malfunctioning luggage holder returned his coin. As I laughed at his good fortune, I leant on an adjoining locker and witnessed a similar clunk and gift of a shiny coin.

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When I had joined the rail industry in Derby in my late adolescence, I was determined to use my free home and overseas travel vouchers for hops both near and far.

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I had been given a taster of central Europe a few years earlier when, as a fifth form pupil at Spondon House, we had visited Switzerland and the rail museum at Lucerne. It had truly whetted my appetite.

Whenever we meet these days, I still chide him about our past misdemeanour. We were then young, lowly graded Adidas Grey Sports Bra rail clerks at the beginning of our careers in the industry.

Even at this point, Germany was still recovering from the war but, unlike us in the UK, they seemed focused on building a strong economy and looking forward rather than back to the past.

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A few years after this trip, I was on another of my many excursions across the Channel using my rail vouchers and, while travelling from Athens to Salzburg on return from the Greek isles, met some German students returning from a field trip.

On our last evening, we stood on the concourse of Heidelberg station and John never being one to carry excess luggage declared: "I'm sick of carrying this bag around, I'm spending my last mark to put it in the left luggage for a few hours."

The additional bonus for me was the opportunity to meet the German people, who I found both friendly and pragmatic.

For those of us who had been brought up in our youth with the magnificent locos of Gresley, Stanier and Riddles, they were a marvellous sight, and all captured on second hand German Voigtlander camera bought from a mate's dad in Littleover.

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35 years in Derbyshire and my love of the county.

Additionally, they were planning their railway in a far more logical way. Steam traction was being phased out gradually rather than in a mad ideological dash.

Three hundred plus boxes lightly banged in the right place furnished us with enough for a slap up meal, chilled Moselle wine and cigars before we boarded the night train back to Paris and, ultimately, Spondon again.

More than 40 years ago, in the early 1970s, it became the starting point for an eventful 16 day tour to what was then West Germany.

Some years later into my extended stay in the East Midlands, I ventured even further. Spondon station was often my starting point for sojourns quite far afield, even beyond the shores of our little isle.

We decided to plan an itinerary to capture the sight of as many of Europe's puffers as we could and, at the same time, experience a little of the culture and history on offer, as well as the odd jug of Bavarian beer.

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We both looked at each other, grinned and simultaneously said, "You start one end, I'll start the other".

On many of the routes to the west of their country and beside their then isolated cousins in the east, the Germans still boasted massive Pacific class engines at the head of many trains.

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