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Eric Dyckhoff Collection

Eric Dyckhoff became interested in the Library's railway collection when we staged our 'Rails of Manchester' exhibition in 1991. He visited the Library on several occasions to discuss the exhibition with us, and lend us some items for display. Following his death in 1998, his personal collection of handbills and correspondence was kindly donated to the John Rylands Library. His interest in railways was very much a 'pro-active' one; he spent much of his spare time over seventy years making suggestions to the rail companies regarding cheap fares and other matters.

On these pages we illustrate just a small selection of the collection which covers a century of railway history. Select a theme from the list to the left of the page: we will be adding further exhibits from this fascinating collection as time permits. Note: since the privatization of British railways the copyright situation regarding some of these exhibits is unclear: any organization wishing to claim copyright is invited to contact us.


The following biography of Mr Dyckhoff was written for us by his daughter, Liz Dyckhoff.

Eric Dyckhoff was born in Manchester in 1907, took a law degree at Cambridge and qualified as a solicitor in 1931. He worked for several legal practices in London and Manchester before founding his own practice in Cheadle, Cheshire, in 1940. Unfortunately this had to be put on hold when he was called up in 1942, and re-established after the war. He retired from full-time practice in his firm (by then Dyckhoff and Johnson, with six partners) at the age of 70, but worked part-time until he was 82.

For several decades, Eric worked tirelessly for local causes: the Cheadle and Gatley Ratepayers, the RNLI, the British Legion, Cheadle Parish Church, school governing boards, and especially the Cheadle Civic Society which he served as Secretary for about twenty years, until the age of 90. He was subsequently honoured by the award of a Rotary International certificate for service to the community.

In spite of all this, Eric found time for his hobby, the railways. His interests lay not in train-spotting but rather in organisational aspects: timetabling, cheap ticket arrangements, advertising and so on. He was an indefatigable letter-writer on such matters, and his correspondence extends from 1925-95. He must have been a thorn in the side, of the managers at Euston, HQ of the LMS in the old days! He was always urging the authorities to promote their wares better, particularly the availability of cheap excursions. His greatest success was in persuading HQ at Euston to introduce evening excursions.

On 10 October 1932, he wrote proposing an evening excursion from Manchester to view the illuminations at Blackpool; a refusal came by return, then a day or two later Euston agreed that it could and would be done - and the first of countless such excursions took place as soon as 19 October! Eric's papers include the handbill for this excursion and many others, including a few from the 19th century.

Eric was nothing if not persistent in his approaches to the railway authorities; perhaps he wore them down until they gave in! For example, after much correspondence to and fro, he secured the provision of a fast Sunday excursion train from Manchester to North Wales in the late 30s (it just happened that his future wife lived in Llandudno at that time!). Post-war, he was active in trying to persuade the authorities to restore the pre-war level of services, and he claims to have been responsible for a debate in the Commons on the subject of railway fares in 1949.

Eric's knowledge of the railway system was at one time prodigious, and he was regularly called upon by friends and relatives to advise on the best way from A to B. On such occasions he was not satisfied by advising the use of a regular route, but took pleasure in working out complicated and interesting routes, often involving split-second connections! He was still travelling by rail on his own well into his late-eighties, visiting his sister in Yorkshire (3 trains each way), and availing himself of day returns on scenic lines (his favourite was the Central Wales).

Eric died on 8 November1998 at the age of 91. Whatever he may or may not have achieved in railway matters, he derived an enormous degree of personal fulfilment from his lifelong hobby. His collection of papers and handbills, spanning seven decades, sheds a revealing light on changing times and social mores.