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Men From Small Towns and The Romanticism of The Railway

Men From Small Towns and The Romanticism of The Railway examines train enthusiasts within one area in rural Staffordshire, where the Churnet Valley line once ran through Macclesfield to Uttoxeter. The line is now owned by Churnet Valley Railway plc who preserve carriages, engines and other associated memorabilia. 

The area has a rich railway history. In the past railway networks linked local ironworks, coal mines and manufacturing plants to industrial centres across the midlands, to the markets of London, Manchester, and beyond. A nostalgia for the railway-infused past is what draws both visitors and volunteers to the centre. Theirs is a past where train companies, train models, and the history of the British railway system in the years before its managed decline still dominate.  


The memory of the railway’s history is kept alive by the men (and a small number of women) who feel passionate enough. The majority of those at the Churnet Valley site are volunteers, many have worked on British railways as train drivers, engineers and carpenters. At Churnet Valley they can rediscover their past lives, and take pride in the skills and craftsmanship beyond retirement. For many enthusiasts, they feel it is important to share stories and knowledge of the railway with their children, through weekends train-spotting and riding bikes along closed lines which are now cycle paths.


This project visits the contemporary history of the Churnet Valley line through portraiture, interiors and still life. It shows the idealised world of the enthusiast through the dioramas they create, it shows a forgotten age of railway travel through the design of railway carriages in Britain, and it shows the pride still felt in railways throughout generations.

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