The April 1971 edition of Railway Magazine contained an article informing us that there were still seven classes of steam locomotive operating in Malaysia. They had certainly all gone by 1985 when Maxine and I took a train from Kuala Lumpur.
But the best article was one by PJC Hitchcock, reproduced from the “Llanfair Railway Journal”.
It had to happen eventually. Their stream withdrawal symptoms proving too much to bear, the gricer population has braved the obstacle of the British Rail, Crossville and W&L timetables and has started to arrive at Llanfair to the amusement or annoyance of members. Notebooks at the ready to mark down anything from works numbers to laundry marks, and tape recorders recording all that’s going on, including carpentry work and hand trolleys being moved, various desiccated characters wearing equally desiccated gabardine raincoats now wander around the yard in febrile attempt to find things to photograph. Complete with duffle bag and National Health Glasses, the Greater British Gricer is on the grice.
With remarkable tenacity, the gricer ferrets around for works numbers and other useless information to put in his little red book. The fact that it is all in the “Guidebook” is immaterial, as part of his philosophy is never to spend a penny he doesn’t have to – even on fares – the other part never to get his hands dirty in any way. Having said that, he can go to extraordinary lengths to find things to put in his little book. On a number of occasions, people working beyond Castle have been surprised by weird characters seeking the number on the works train stock. As one member said, “If you think we are potty, just look at some of our visitors!”
Apart from the classical gricer, there are numerous sub-divisions, the most common being the junior or apprentice type. The ‘pretices mostly come in pairs – one holding the camera (usually one between two) – and the other the knowledge (invariably wrong!) Monarch has them guessing: they have never seen anything like her before. And as they never buy a “Guidebook”, all sorts of things go into the little red books about her. For those who discover Nutty, there is a complete bewilderment followed by a furtive and hasty retreat.
Perhaps fortunately, because of its geographical position, Llanfair is never going to become a gricer’s haven as Longmoor was on Open Days when one could see six or seven of them clambering up a swaying signal mast and hundreds milling over the running lines. But they have discovered us and we had better be prepared.
The article contains this definition: Gricer: railway enthusiast of the non-practical type, best compared to a football supporter; a sort of railway voyeur; has easily recognisable features of dress and attitude. Etymology of word uncertain.