About Us

A Brief History

The Society was founded in Cheltenham in 1928 at a time when there was little official information published about locomotive stock, their allocations or regular duties. The Society set about rectifying this by members writing to each other, the publishing of a magazine and some meetings organised around the country. The growth of the Society was such that it ran the first enthusiasts railtour in the 1930s but the war years effective stifled both the flow of information and the growth of the Society.

Ian Allan inspired a generation of post war youngsters to take up train spotting and many of those that stuck with it through maturity joined a railway society to gain first hand information on what was going on and to visit sheds in organised groups. The RCTS prospered running frequent shed visits, publishing its magazine The Railway Observer each month, running railtours and substantially expanding its branch network. Membership reached a peak however long after the end of BR steam.

Move on to the present day and the Society is still going strong with 3000 members- see below for what we can offer you.

The RCTS today

Members enjoy the following:-

Our monthly magazine, The Railway Observer, usually contains about 80 pages (it is also available in digital format) of news, articles and high quality photographs. The news covers details of train workings, infrastructure changes and general industry information as well as full details of stock and livery changes. The heritage scene and world railways also have their own sections.

There is a photographic portfolio group who circulate pictures amongst their members and critique them to improve the quality of images.

Our branches hold meetings at least monthly in the season at over thirty centres and in the course of a year host over 200 presentations on a vast range of railway subjects covering the modern scene as well as history and nostalgia subjects.

Branches also organise out door visits to both railway centres and locations not normally open to the public, such as maintenance facilities and signalling centres, and there is also the annual members weekend which includes a number of outdoor visits and also talks, the venue for which is moved around the UK.

The Society has an extensive library located at Leatherhead railway station providing excellent research facilities as well as postal loans of books and working timetables. The facility to buy back copies of The Railway Observer and other information in digital format is being developed.

If your interest is in railway photographs then there are many thousand available to purchases on line as prints or downloads from the society archive which continues to expand.

The RCTS has been noted for many years for the quality and detail of its publications and members are entitled to discounts on many of these titles. In addition we have negotiated discounts for books purchased from third parties, travel on some heritage railways and reduced prices for a range of photographic services amongst other things.

Finally there is the website which has much information on specialist topics such as liveries and ‘diesel dilemmas’.

Last updated: 9th February