About Roger Ford.

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Contact Roger Ford at roger@alycidon.com


I trained as a mechanical engineer with English Electric at Rugby and on qualification joined the Company's Traction Division as general dogsbody to the Divisional General Manager in London. Determined that the Company's investment in five years' training would not be wasted, English Electric sent me out to gain experience at two Motive Power Depots where diesel locomotives ordered under the British Railways Modernisation Plan were entering service.

At Stratford Depot I worked on Class 37 and Class 40 locos, but it was at Finsbury Park Depot that I first laid a spanner on the locomotives with which I am now irrevocably associated - the 3,300hp Deltics.

During my time at Finsbury Park, the English Electric prototype diesel locomotive DP2 arrived for running trials on the East Coast Main Line. During the factory training periods at Rugby I had been a development apprentice on the 16 cylinder engine which powered DP2.

One of my general dogsbody duties was liaising with the press office, which poached me from Traction Division. This kick-started a new career in technical publicity. This saw me become Publicity Manager, first for a large engineering group and then, briefly, for a construction company.

But, having risen to managerial level, I found that I was increasingly employing people to do what I enjoyed doing most - technical writing. My father had trained as a teacher but become a freelance writer so I started looking around to see how I could follow his example.

At English Electric, my Press Office responsibilities had included Traction Division. This resulted in regular contact with the then recently launched Modern Railways magazine and its Editor Geoffrey Freeman Allen.

When, in 1966, GFA heard that I was moving on from English Electric, he organised a farewell lunch and over coffee uttered the fated words 'would you like to write for Modern Railways'?

Go to Modern Railways.com

For a couple of years, until increasing responsibilities at work and a growing family took up all my time, I contributed news stories and feature articles to the magazine under a pen name.

So, in 1975, when I started to explore opportunities for freelance writing I wrote to GFA to see if there was any work going on Modern Railways. By chance the News Editor had just left. The offer of two days a week on the magazine editing home and international news was just the base-load needed to provide an income while the freelance work built up.

In 1976 Modern Railways was at a low ebb. An attempt to make it a technically oriented magazine attractive to advertisers had failed to bring in the advertising and driven away regular readers. Circulation was below 20,000. With Charles Long as Editor we drove up circulation to over 45,000, essentially by returning to the basic formula established by GFA when he launched magazine in 1962. That was, of course, before other contemporary railway and modern traction magazines entered the market such as Modern Railways' then sister publication Motive Power Monthly.

During this period, the main development was the introduction of Informed Sources in January 1983. I was also Editing the quarterly journal of the Railway Division of the Institution of mechanical Engineers and, as a consultant to the Railway Industry Association writing its magazine ‘Railpower' promoting Britain's railway industry abroad.

Into this settled existence came privatisation. Almost overnight independent technical and commercial railway experience became valuable.

Before privatisation when someone at a business function asked me what I did and I replied 'write about railways' you could see their eyes roll upwards, a message behind the eyes flash 'anorak alert' and they would make an excuse that they had just seen their chairman on the other side of the room.

After privatisation, the same answer resulted in eyes narrowing, pound signs flashing behind those eyes and the chairman was asked over to meet me. Suddenly all the experience gained in nearly two decades of writing about railways was at a premium. Among the organisations who used me as a consultant were the Office of Passenger Rail Franchising, international leasing groups and City finance houses. My main claim to fame was that I advised two uinsuccessful attempts to buy a Rolling Stock Company (ROSCO). But several traction and rolling stock deals did go through.

Modern Railways too found what it had lacked under a monolithic BR - a railway market where advertising was essential - and as the long established authoritative voice of the industry, the magazine has finally fulfilled GFA's vision and come of successful age.

Meanwhile it had become clear that there was an untapped demand for more immediate news than a monthly magazine could provide. In March 1995 I became the founding editor of a fortnightly subscription newsletter Rail Privatisation News (RPN) published by Railway Gazette International.

With BR being broken up into 100 or so companies and sold off, RPN was created to provide potential buyers and their financial and legal advisors, with inside information on the privatisation process. With many companies new to railways entering the industry through privatisation RPN also provided informed comment and analysis – bringing the novices up to speed.

For all of us on the RPN team, it represented a demanding fortnightly work cycle on top of existing writng and editing commitments. We all saw it as a short term project, aimed at making money from our unique expertise. But when BR was sold we would wind the newsletter up and go back to our former lives.

But early in 1997 when we looked to see how many subscriptions would have to be returned we found that circulation was still rising. So we buckled down for another year.

A year later, new subscriptions were still coming in and the decision was taken to change the title to Rail Business Intelligence and see how it went. And it has kept on going. In March 2004 we completed 10 years of publication with RBI 240, click to read the first and last pages (or click on the icon first if you don't already have Adobe Acrobat ).

My writing cycle is two issues of RBI a month, plus Informed Sources, plus feature articles for Modern Railways and Railway Gazette.- a minimum of 150,000 words a year.

Along the way there has been the odd accolade. In 1994 I was the Chartered Institute of Transport's Journalist of the Year and in 2004, the successor organisation, the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport, repeated the honour, making me the only double winner.

You will also find my name on one side of Class 90 electric locomotive No 90 006. 2001 was my silver anniversary on the Modern Railways team. Our publishers organised a celebratory party.

That year, Virgin Trains was naming locomotives after railway publications, so before the party I was asked to unveil the Modern Railways nameplate on No 90 006. All unaware, I pulled back the curtains to see my own name.

Officially, this was a temporary measure to mark my 25 years with the magazine, but it seems to have become permanent and in December 2004, when 90 006 was transferred to One Railway, National Express agreed to keep the nameplates.

Keeping the nameplate shiny on 90 006 with (right) Chris Green of virgin Trains and David Franks of National Express.


Keeping the nameplate shiny on 90 006 with (right) Chris Green of virgin Trains and David Franks of National Express.





On top of the writing I have presented technical papers to a number of learned societies, from the Institutions of Mechanical Engineers and the Railway Signal Engineers (of which I am an Associate) to safety bodies and even the Transport Economists Group.

So much for the professional life. In 2002 we celebrated our ruby wedding anniversary. My wife is an artist and ceramicist who keeps me busy mounting prints and firing the raku pottery kiln which I also built.

We have two sons and a granddaughter. One son is the webmaster for this site: the other is a budding travel writer.

Once an engineer, always an engineer, so for occupational therapy I run a 1970 Reliant Scimitar GTE which was rescued from a garden in St Albans and has been completely rebuilt and resprayed.

Scimitar Se5


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