Michael Williams: It's wrong to think all rail fans are geeks

Historians trying to get to the heart of the early 1960s should inspect photographs of any major station in the land. Here the platform ends were thronged by adolescent boys adorned with enamel badges of their favourite locos, munching sandwiches and feverishly underlining numbers from their ABC guides. Then, express engines were sexier than anything on earth.

Now National Express wants to ban trainspotters, a move backed by Rail minister Lord Adonis, who is offering government money for "gating" to tackle fare evasion. In reality it is a sop to rail companies during the recession.

This will create enmity, as it is a mistake to assume all rail fans are geeks. Six weeks ago, thousands turned out to celebrate the maiden mainline journey of the first new steam express engine to be built in Britain for nearly 50 years. I was there with my children, thinking that these days it might be better to grow up a train driver than a banker after all.

Michael Williams' book 'On the Slow Line: a journey by train through the heart of Britain' is out soon