Heritage Railway

LIVING THE STEAM DREAM

It’s a damp, dreary afternoon in late January in the Berkshire countryside but the welcome inside David Buck’s home is decidedly warm. Greeting me with a smile and a handshake, he asks: “Can I get you a cup of tea? I don’t do coffee.”

There follows some friendly banter about how tea is the fuel of railwaymen.

It’s the first time we’ve met, but David quickly strikes me as the sort of person who is great company to catch up with over a pint or a brew. He’s friendly, approachable and chatty – he doesn’t ‘waffle’. It’s also all too apparent that both his feet are firmly on terra firma.

Background

Heritage Railway (HR): Tell us about your background. How did you become interested in railways? How did you get to where you are today?

David Buck: (DB): I’ve always had an interest in railways – steam in particular. Born in Ipswich, close to the East Suffolk Line, I could hear the LNER B17s chugging up the bank. I was fortunate that my father had an office right by the railway station, so during school holidays, it was convenient to get dropped off at the station in the morning. I spent a lot of the last days of steam at Ipswich station with B17s, B1s and Britannias – a wonderful place and time it was too.

My father also had a railway hobby background. He was the first secretary of the Hornby Railway Society in Ipswich. One of my prize possessions is the original certificate signed by Frank Hornby himself.

It was a time when Dick Hardy was shedmaster at Ipswich, a legendary figure. I then moved to London and started my working career as a television engineer with the BBC.

My training is in electronic engineering with mechanical engineering not far behind. I was in the TV business for a number of years, before moving across to the film industry. In 1975, I set up my own motion picture film processing business in Slough. The core business was making copies of films for cinema. It was a busy 24/7 operation. We were producing millions of feet of 35mm film – big rolls every week.

It was all about deadlines, quality and service. There was no question of it being late – people would be queuing outside to watch it. It was a very interesting business. I sold it in 2014 with the transition of 35mm film to digital. The business is still going strong but primarily in the digital area.

As a break from the business, my hobby was railways. That’s when I built the railways I have in the grounds of my home. It was a very time-consuming and absorbing hobby – but it was important to have something completely different to do from the day job.

After selling the business, I was able to concentrate on what really interested me – railways.

The one thing I always wanted, which until

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