Cemex liveried 66780 "The Cemex Express" is seen near Balshaw Lane and Euxton on 11th December 2021 · Image credit: John Sloane
Cemex liveried 66780 "The Cemex Express" is seen near Balshaw Lane and Euxton on 11th December 2021 · Image credit: John Sloane

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 28 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

The RCTS is a Charitable Incorporated Organisation, number 1169995.  Our VAT number is GB197343335. More about Governance of the Society.

Click the image to view a sample edition from January 2024


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

Donations appreciated.

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.

A PDF download

Membership rates for new joiners

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

Online RO £10.00
Printed RO UK £28.00
Printed RO Europe £52.00
Printed RO Rest of World £71.00

New joiners are benefiting from a "Welcome" discount of £10.  Sign up with Direct Debit and save a further £1. 


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

2023 Members’ Day and AGM

23 Apr 2023

Retiring Chairman Callum MacLeod (right) shaking hands with Chairman-elect James Milne (left), both flanking President Rev Canon Brian Arman. All are holding an unusual straight nameplate from GWR 6000 Class…

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Two new books

03 Apr 2023

This is a comprehensively illustrated history of the first generation DMUs explaining the background behind their introduction, their workings and later modifications. Coverage is by class and the pictures show…

Read More

Members’ Weekend 2022 report

12 Nov 2022

This year’s Members’ Weekend (and Officers’ Conference) was based at the Novotel in Reading, 21st-23rd October.  We’re pleased to present several visit reports and a selection of photographs taken by…

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Locomotives of the LNER relaunched

30 Sep 2022

The picture above shows the frontispiece from Part 6A – a magnificent, evocative image of an LNER Class J38 hard at work in Scotland.  The picture now graces the cover…

Read More

Barrow Hill 150+2 Gala

31 Aug 2022

Barrow Hill Roundhouse held its 150+2 Gala 26th-28th August 2022.  The 150th anniversary of the venerable roundhouse had been delayed by Covid, hence the “+2”. The RCTS was pleased to…

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Book launch – The Royal Scots

14 Jul 2022

The Society is pleased to announce the publication of the latest volume in its Locomotives of the LMS series. This book is a detailed history of the LMS Royal Scot…

Read More

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.  For National Meetings, there is no charge for members but donations would be appreciated to help defray the costs.  Some branches make a charge because venue hire costs still have to be covered.

A ticket is required.  Open the event to find the registration link, and the donations link.

For 2023-24 we have a 500-seat Zoom licence.

How to use Zoom

Image credit · Rodney Lissenden
Image credit · Rodney Lissenden

Virtual Events

On today

Please always use https://rcts.org.uk.  Users of https://www.rcts.org.uk cannot advance the month.

A fix will be applied at a quiet time for the website.

Society full calendar

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

Calendar of Events

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Who uses the railway?

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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 for 2024 [opens November 2023]

34092 "City of Wells" heads away from Bury with the 1340 Santa Special to Rawtenstall on Sunday 19th December 2021 · Image credit: Ian Pilkington
34092 "City of Wells" heads away from Bury with the 1340 Santa Special to Rawtenstall on Sunday 19th December 2021 · Image credit: Ian Pilkington


The Society has a national network of 28 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.


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

Mysteries and anomalies in the modification and disposal history of British Railways diesel locomotives.

Carriage Conundrums

Mysteries and anomalies in the modification and disposal history of British Railways locomotive hauled coaching stock.

Preserved Coaches

Additions, deletions, movements and modifications to lists of preserved railway rolling stock, regularly updated.

Haulage Highlights

Seasonal services, relief trains, special events and unusual routes, mostly with diesel traction.

Query Corner


Written queries and answers are published here and in The Railway Observer

“Our” Locos

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".

TOPS Reference Data

The Society maintains several datasets of TOPS data for Cl.01/5, Cl.89, Cl.97 and Cl.98 Locomotives, Depot Codes and Locomotive Pool Codes, all of which are regularly updated.

NEW - John Knight's Database of Railway Photography

John Knight is a picture researcher.  His database of southern and western England records details of 172,000 images published in 6,500 books.

This RCTS Feature initially opens on an interactive map. When you zoom in, each yellow dot represents a camera location. The background can be changed between contemporary maps, satellite images, and historical Ordnance Survey maps - including the detailed 1:10,560 Series.  The dot has a reference number for subsequent searches. Please allow a few seconds for the map to load fully.

There are several other tabs alongside the map.  One is the User Guide which explains what data is available and how to undertake searches.

Other tabs are lists of books, authors, photographers, railway companies, locomotive classes, and the like.  All are searchable.

NB. The database is an index only. For copyright reasons, the photographs are not reproduced, but there are live links to where each book is currently available to purchase.  Usually these are second-hand booksellers.

The RCTS Digital Archive


Over 57,000 images are available to purchase as prints or as digital downloads.

The archive also includes many thousands of non-RCTS copyright images.  They are available for people to view only online for their personal researches.  Users must register (i.e. obtain a Readers' Card) and sign in to gain access.


A complete collection of the Society's magazine The Railway Observer is available to read online and to purchase as PDF downloads. 1928-2011 is publicly available from the archive; 2012 onwards restricted via the Members' Area.

Many of the Society's publications are available on a similar basis, including definitive series such as Locomotives of the LNER, Locomotives of the GWR, and Locomotives of the Southern.  Also locomotive and coaching stock books.


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 £4 for UK addresses, or 40% 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


Locomotives of the LNER

The definitive series - originally published in 19 parts 1963-1994 - is now available again, in eight volumes.

  1. Book orders are fulfilled globally by Amazon.  The links below point to the Amazon UK shop.  In other countries, search Amazon using "Locomotives of the LNER".
  2. PDF downloads are fulfilled by a separate RCTS online shop at https://archive.rcts.org.uk/rcts-shop/
Volume 1

Cover: Hardback

Price:  £18

Volume 1

Cover: Softback

Price:  £12

Volume 2

Cover: Softback

Price:  £24

Volume 3

Cover: Softback

Price:  £21

Volume 4&5

Cover: Softback

Price:  £24

Volume 6

Cover: Softback

Price:  £24

Volume 7&8

Cover: Softback

Price:  £18

Volume 9

Cover: Softback

Price:  £18

Volume 10

Cover: Softback

Price:  £18