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So .... what is "Hellfire" all about?

To put matters straight, it has nothing to do with the occult. The word "Hellfire" is bashing jargon which was often used an as expression of delight when things are going well in the Haulage Bashing world.

This then raises the obvious question.... "What is (or was) "Haulage Bashing"?

As with many non-mainstream hobbies, it is simple to explain the basics, but almost impossible to put into words the emotional (not to say financial) investment made by many people in pursuit of their passion for this hobby.

One good place to start is with Gary Carter's definition of Haulage Bashing on his (now defunct) website,

Some things bashing is not:-

  • Trainspotting!
  • Anything to do with physical violence

Some things that bashing is, or to be accurate was:-

  • Unpredictable
  • Difficult!
  • Satisfying when things were going well
  • Frustrating when things were not going so well
  • A world totally cut off from most other members of society, almost like a secret club

Most people understand what trainspotting is. This is the perfectly harmless pastime of standing around watching trains and taking down their numbers. The objective being to see as many different trains as possible, and this is recorded via marking in a book that contains all the numbers. This hobby can be enhanced through taking pictures etc.

Bashing evolved from trainspotting and is the upmarket "bells and whistles" version of it. Bashers all started as trainspotters but quickly realized that simply seeing engines was in fact rather easy. So the objective moved from simply seeing engines to travelling behind them. This is very much more difficult as you will see......

Most passengers pay little attention to their train other than whether it is on time or under the current British system of train operating whether it turns up at all (that is another story).

This site is concerned with the period before rationalisation, sectorisation and finally privatisation did away with variety.

And variety is what we had in terms of locomotives on passenger trains.

  • Some types of engine worked passenger trains regularly, some worked occasionally, and some worked almost never.
  • Some types of engine were in the process of being withdrawn.
  • Some types of engine made a wonderful noise.. others just sounded like tractors...
  • Some types of engine were reliable and others weren't

There were three basic motivations for bashing:-

  1. As stated before an upmarket version of trainspotting where the objective was to travel behind as many different locomotives as possible - marking them in a book as this was achieved. These bashers were known as "line in the book merchants".
  2. Travelling behind a particularly favourite type of engine e.g.: Westerns, Class 40, Deltics etc with the objective of covering as much mileage as possible with these engines. These bashers were known as "mileage men".
  3. As per 2 but with emphasis more on different routes behind a particular type of engine.
  4. A mixture of the above.

What Made Bashing Special?

Firstly, bashers got to know as much about the inner workings of the railway as the people that ran it (and in some cases rather more).

Secondly, bashers got to go all over the country, and between us we can name a decent pub and somewhere to get something to eat for under a fiver in virtually every town in Britain (bit out of date now mind).

Thirdly, bashing inevitably was very dynamic - the most interesting engines and routes involved summer Saturday only trains, excursions, charters, mail trains, overnight sleepers etc. None of these services run on the current rail system, so not only have the engines gone but so have the services too.

Finally, the satisfaction was entirely personal. Bashing was for fun, private, and no one was keeping any score except for the individual.

Whilst the above scratches the surface of the world of Haulage Bashing, nothing can convey to others the experiences of those now far off days back in the 1970s and early 1980s. For example:

  • The rush down the stairs at some unearthly hour on a Summer Saturday morning to answer the phone (no mobile phones or Internet in those days). On the other end of the line was one of your "roadshow" mates, an individual whose real name you probably didn't even know, and almost never used whilst bashing.
  • The (for me anyway) bleary-eyed bike ride down to the station in time for the first train to anywhere that would get you "in position" for the day's predicted workings.
  • Almost never ending up where you thought you would, as the predicted workings fail to materialize, dud gen throws you off the scent, last minute failures leave your plans in tatters (or results in an unexpected monster producing)..... there - I'm resorting to bashing jargon again.....

"Hellfire" hopes to (re)kindle some of those long-gone events back in those heady days of British Rail, when we were passengers (not customers), who rode in Second (not Standard) Class, and knew more about the internal workings of the railway than many BR employees. We carried whole sections of the Timetable around in our heads, could quote headcodes and locomotive details on a whim, and spoke to each other in a dialect that was completely incomprehensible to the non-bashing world.

Whilst a mere computer game (I'd rather call it a simulation) can never fully recreate the events of those years, I do attract some weird glances from others as I bellow at the screen when 40152 turns up unexpectedly on the Newcastle - Blackpool! You really can't explain it!