Last of the great trainspotters

Where Michael was happiest, taking photographs from Goldsmith Avenue overlooking Fratton stations west end.
Where Michael was happiest, taking photographs from Goldsmith Avenue overlooking Fratton stations west end.
Graeme Clark of Wet Wet Wet

Popped in, Souled Out and going strong 30 years on

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To anyone who was a trainspotter in the 1960s, the name Michael G Harvey, who died last week aged 75, will be synonymous wi th that hobby.

Not only was Michael a lover of trains, but also most forms of transport. He was also a published author and his books sold in their thousands.

Michael (left) in later life with pal Frank Allen at Stratford-upon-Avon and still trainspotting.

Michael (left) in later life with pal Frank Allen at Stratford-upon-Avon and still trainspotting.

His first book, Forget The Anorak, was published by The History Press in 2004 and was reprinted several times.

Michael’s first venture into trainspotting was on St Mary’s Road railway bridge at Milton, Portsmouth. He used to live in nearby Fifth Street and it was just a matter of walking a short distance to the bridge where he could see all the comings and goings of trains into and out of Portsmouth.

In the mid-1950s his parents moved the family to 75, Penhale Road, Fratton, which was a dream come true for him.

This allowed him to access the footbridge over the tracks via a narrow side entrance in the densely-populated area of Byerley and Walmer Roads. The bridge was also adjacent to Fratton East signal box, nicknamed Sooty Footbridge by local railwaymen for obvious reasons.

Michael's first book published by the History Press in 2004  Forget the Anorak.

Michael's first book published by the History Press in 2004 Forget the Anorak.

The bridge also overlooked the entrance into Fratton’s locomotive depot and goods yard. The bridge was demolished in the early 1960s, followed a few years later by the signal box.

This meant a move for trainspotters to the Milton Lane footbridge which crosses the line farther east.

Michael was born in a nursing home on the corner of Victoria Road South and Elm Grove in 1941 to George and Edith (Cis) Harvey.

In 1956 Michael left Kingston Modern School for Boys in Olinda Street.

Michael still fit playing local football aged 37.

Michael still fit playing local football aged 37.

After failing to get a railway job because of eyesight problems, he began work as an apprentice hot metal compositor for Grosvenor Press in Blackfriars Road, a 15-minute walk from his home. He worked for the company for 37 years until he was made redundant in August 1993.

Over the years Michael, who lived at Cosham, met many other lads on the platforms of Portsmouth’s three railway stations.

In later life he and his pals travelled the length and breadth of the British Isles visiting locomotive depots, sometimes legally and other times illegally. He took thousands of photographs.

When the Mid Hants Preservation Railway Society came into being, he became the local secretary, raising thousands for the society by giving film and slide shows.

He not only gave his talks locally but also all over the country, never taking a penny for himself and with all the money going towards the Mid Hants Railway.

In the final years of his life Michael suffered from Parkinson’s disease. He was in great pain although he never mentioned it.

Michael married Ann in 1970 and they had two sons, Adrian and Simon, and a grandson Noah.

Michael will be greatly missed by all local railway enthusiasts. He was always willing to assist with information and photographs.

An oil painting of a locomotive which hangs in his lounge has been left to the Whistle Stop Cafe outside Cosham railway station, where the staff always treated Michael so well.

His funeral service is to be held on Monday, March 7, at 10.30am at Portchester Crematorium.