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Things I Have Learned

The Damned's Captain Sensible On Why He Likes Trains
Luke Turner , November 10th, 2009 06:46

Punk hero Captain Sensible tells Luke Turner why he fell in love with diesel, the train that takes his name, and why Thatcher is to blame for the decline of the railways

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I'm not the biggest fan of steam

I had a very bad experience when I was eight years old coming back from Glasgow with my dad. Me dad took took me up to Glasgow to visit the Gorbals, which was a really impoverished area of town. He took me up there to see where he was born and raised before they, well, actually razed it to the ground. It was 1966. On the way back, I can't remember which train it actually was, but it was either the Royal Scot or the Flying Scotsman. I was so excited to get on a train pulled my a massive, wonderful steam locomotive, but unfortunately it was snowing and freezing cold, and the bloody thing broke down just outside Carlisle, in the middle of bloody nowhere. The train was packed and the heating had gone down, and I remember we were on that train for six hours waiting to be rescued.

I had a Damascene moment behind a diesel locomotive

The sound that I heard will always be music to my ears nowadays, whenever I hear a diesel's horn, because it was a diesel that came and rescued us and took us back down to Euston. I've loved diesels ever since, so much so that I called my record label Deltic Records, after the Deltic loco.

A French water company owning a railway company in Britain is stupid

When privatisation happened with the railways, I thought it was the biggest tragedy in the world and I still do - if you go on my mySpace, you'll see a few banners saying 'Re-nationalize The Railways', which is what's going to happen but they won't do it by name. It'll be taken back in to public ownership, and quite right as well. It was insanity.

47810 is a special number

It's the number of my Class 47 diesel locomotive. One of these independent companies, Cotswold Rail, the owner is a punk fan. He called one of his locos Joe Strummer, another one called John Peel, and then there's mine. They invited me along on the unveiling of the name plaque, and we did it on an excursion from Gloucester to Brighton, where I live.

The naming ceremony of Captain Sensible united trainspotters and punks

We started out at 7.30 in the morning, and it was a really mixed bag of people on the train - it was absolutely full, and half were train enthusiasts who didn't know who the fuck Captain Sensible was, and the other half were punk fans. The punk fans, and my good self of course, were cracking open cans of beer at 7.30 in the morning and the train people were raising their eyes to the heavens. I spent the whole trip - they gave me a first class compartment and that - but I spent the whole trip walking up and down talking to everyone, gratefully accepting even more cans of beer. It was a brilliant day.

The Damned use touring to pursue our train obsessions

We do as many steam preserved lines as possible when we're out on the road. They let me drive a steam loco the other day. Isn't that fantastic? You're sitting on top of a bloody great kettle shovelling coal in. Quite a bit of heat comes out of that thing. Can you believe they used to run steam trains on the London Underground?

I'm a greasy punk and not much gets me...

But driving the steam train is pretty scary. It didn't have any doors on the bloody thing, so every time it rocked about I nearly went flying, so you had to hang on. You realise the immesne power of the beast, all the smoke and steam belching out.

Dawlish, where the railway runs along the sea well, is the best spot for trainspotting

I was on the way to Plymouth one day, and I got off the train to explore. There's the most fantastic walk, most of which you can walk along the railway track on the sea wall. The town is fantastic, no McDonald's, really unspoiled. There's talk of closing that stretch of line, but it's Brunel's wonderful railway, how dare they touch it!

There's room for preserved lines in the main rail network

You've started seeing things like that, in the same way that old tram lines have come back into operation. Light rail, trams, all that sort of thing is brilliant. I think we'll see more of it, especially with environmental issues coming to the forefront of the agenda.

Fuck cars

That was Thatcher's whole thing wasn't it? The car economy. She never travelled in a train when she was Prime Minister. Another reason to dance on her grave when she goes - her hating trains, and that's apart from all the other stuff like making the miners unemployed. We're reaping the benefits of her Premiership now aren't we, because just when we need people making stuff in Britain we don't make anything at all. We're importing everything from South America and China. It's sickening that we don't make engines in Crewe, Didcot and Swindon any more. All those technical skills have gone.

The Damned are currently on a UK tour. For all dates, please visit The Damned website