730 002 at Bromsgrove Image credit: P Chancellor
730 002 at Bromsgrove Image credit: P Chancellor

About the Society

The RCTS is Britain’s leading organisation for people interested in all aspects of railways past, present and future and is highly regarded by both professional railway people and enthusiasts, a position it has held since its formation in 1928.

A network of 29 local branches across Great Britain

National events and special interest meetings online

The Railway Observer - A high quality monthly magazine

Library and Archive (at Leatherhead station)

RCTS books, online publications, and clothing items available to purchase

Photographic, digital, and paper archives

Discounts from book publishers, magazine subscriptions, heritage railway travel, and other membership benefits

Click the image to view a sample edition

The Railway Observer

All members receive the Society's magazine online, and a print edition (usually 72 pages) is posted to those choosing a "Printed" membership category.

The magazine covers the current railway scene, including extensive coverage of significant and interesting movements, plus an infrastructure and events update. Urban, Irish and International news is included, together with the latest news from Heritage lines.

Society activities, branch meetings, outdoor visits and rail tours are well represented, as are reviews of the latest publications.

Membership rates for new joiners

Printed RO Membership includes posting of the print edition of The Railway Observer

Online RO £9.50
Printed RO UK £16.50
Printed RO Europe £26.00
Printed RO Rest of World £31.00


New joiners are benefiting from a "Welcome" discount of 50%.


Try out the Society as a guest.  Most of the meetings and events are open to visitors.

Donations appreciated.


The Society is run entirely by volunteers, at branch level and nationally.  If you have some spare time, and maybe some specialist skills, there are many ways you can help

  • Publishing
  • Image preparation
  • Archiving
  • Speaking
  • Managing events
  • Software development
  • Administration
  • Research
  • Authorship
  • Librarianship


Website relaunched

17 Nov 2021

The Society has had a website for about 16 years. It has grown from being a simple advertisement to being the main way for many members to interact with the…

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COP26 and the RCTS

16 Nov 2021

RCTS member David Cross was involved with a three-day event at Mossend, timed to coincide with COP26 in nearby Glasgow. The event was showcasing alternative lower-carbon locomotive fuels, and was…

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National meeting 30 Sep 21

23 Sep 2021

Presenter: Derek Huntriss One of the legendary “Master Neverers“, who produced outstanding photographs of British Railways Steam in its last decade, Derek Huntriss is an excellent photographer with many years’…

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RCTS News 21 Sep 21

21 Sep 2021

A monthly newsletter is sent to all members (that supply an email address) to coincide with publication online of the Railway Observer. The September 2021 edition can be viewed here. …

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New pictorial album published

16 Sep 2021

Michael Mensing was one of the most prolific railway photographers from the mid-1950s onwards. He had several books published and his photographs appeared widely in magazines. Following his death in…

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Upcoming events

Virtual events coming up...

There is programme of National events held online, typically monthly.  Some branches run them too. Members from any branch may attend and guests are very welcome.  There is no charge but donations would be appreciated to help defray the costs.

Pre-registration (on Zoom) is required.  Open the event to find the registration link, and the donations link.

Meeting attendances are normally limited to 100.

How to use Zoom

Image credit · Rodney Lissenden
Image credit · Rodney Lissenden

Virtual Events

Society full calendar

Visit the branch pages to discover upcoming events in your specific area.

Calendar of Events

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Members' area

The latest edition of The Railway Observer, plus back copies from 2012

Details of benefits available to RCTS members

The directory of Society officers

Officers' administration tools

RCTS-branded clothing sales

Membership renewals

350112 Berkhamsted 18th May 2021 · Image credit: James Milne
350112 Berkhamsted 18th May 2021 · Image credit: James Milne


The Society has a national network of 29 branches.  Each branch has its own committee and operates its own programme of events.  Members are assigned to a home branch but are welcome to take part in other branches' activities.

Guests are always welcome.


Some branches have more than one regular meeting venue.  Click any of the dots on the map to visit the branch page which contains details of contacts, venues, and events.

The map is interactive. You can pan and zoom to see more.  Press the green Reset button to start again.


The Society has several online information services maintained by our dedicated and knowledgeable members.  The various features are regularly updated, and we welcome contributions from members and non-members alike.

Each feature has a editor.  Click the images to explore.


Diesel Dilemmas

The past thirty-five or so years have seen numerous books published detailing the disposals of former British Rail diesel locomotives, none though by the RCTS. Although all are in agreement about the disposal of the majority of the locomotives that they list, there are several where entries differ. Initially it was the intention to highlight the differences here and attempt to get to the truth, whilst at the same time airing queries surrounding the accepted agreed disposal of a few other locomotives. It has though become apparent, as a result of work carried out by the What Really Happened to Steam project (WRHTS), that possibly as many as 200 listed disposals may have been fabricated. Thus, at present only a few of the more baffling anomalies are covered here, others will be added in due course. A full list of those resolved by the WRHTS can be found here. Allied to this, the whereabouts of certain locomotives whilst still in BR ownership, or subsequent ownerships, is not always clear. Thus, it is also the intention, to highlight certain of these locomotives and appeal for sightings of those to be submitted, in order to build up a clearer picture of their movements and activities.


Carriage Conundrums

The principal purpose of carriage conundrums is to try and solve mysteries concerning the history and disposal of locomotive hauled coaching stock after it was either taken out of normal service or condemned. Some of what is included has appeared in print previously but has to the best of our knowledge never been combined with what is not known. Generally, although not entirely, the focus is on vehicles that existed in the 1970s and subsequently.


The Society's Locomotives

A number of locomotives have proudly carried The Railway Observer nameplate or been associated with the Society.  No, we don't own these locomotives, but they are thought of as "ours".


Preserved Coaches

The book “Preserved Coaching Stock of British Railways” by Peter Hall and Peter Fox was originally published in 1994 in two parts, both are now out of print. Since then newsletter/amendment sheets recording changes to former British Railways and Grouping Company Design Locomotive Hauled Coaching stock which has now been preserved have been produced. They are prepared by Peter Hall, to whom the society is grateful for allowing them to be included here.


Haulage Highlights

This feature primarily gives details of locomotive hauled passenger trains that were of particular interest to enthusiasts because of their use of ‘out of the ordinary’ Diesel and Electric locomotives. The majority of these trains are/were of a seasonal nature or referred to as reliefs, but not all.


Query Corner

Written queries and answers should be sent to the Query Corner editor, Mike Gayton

Please include your membership number if applicable

An ex-Army 1963 Ruston & Hornsby 0-6-0 diesel-hydraulic locomotive in service with Chiltern Railways, numbered 01509 in TOPS.  
<br>Image credit · Geoff Sheppard

Reference data

Members of the Society maintain several datasets as a reference data service.  Some are historical records, others are subject to regular updates.


East Coast Main Line

This feature primarily covers out of the ordinary use of locomotives on East Coast Main Line passenger trains.

The sections are: Class 90 hauled/propelled passenger trains; Class Fifties on ECML passenger trains; Drags; Seaside Deltics; Yorkshire Class 153s – final months

Photographic archive

Over 50,000 images are available to purchase as prints or as digital downloads.

Purchases are managed by our service provider, Zenfolio.


The items listed below are currently available to purchase, some at sale prices.  Click on the product images to read full details of each item.

RCTS members are advised to use the Shop pages in the Member's Area to gain access to exclusive products and special discounts.

Shipping is charged on the whole order. There is a flat rate of £3 for UK addresses, a percentage of the order value for non-UK address, calculated as the basket is added to.

Payment can be made by credit/debit card into the Society's Paypal account. You do not need your own Paypal account to use this service.

Second-hand books are sold by the Library. The list of books available is updated regularly, and is not limited to RCTS publications.

RCTS Publications

RCTS has been a renowned publisher of definitive books on locomotives and other railway subjects since 1935. The books are available online and trade enquiries are welcome.  Many are now out of print but you can find a bibliography of all books by following More about RCTS Publications below.

Become an author? Click the button to find out more.

New printing technology means that it has become economic to republish some of the back catalogue, a process that is underway.  If you cannot wait, copies are available to view at the Society's library at Leatherhead and second-hand copies may be available to purchase from there.

Featured publications