LUPTS history: retrospective 

It’s easy to get all serious about LUPTS.   It was, at the end of the day, a student society - it just happened to be one which bought trams and ran rail and bus tours.   It was important from a social point of view and most people who were actively involved in LUPTS made lifelong friends from their fellow members.  

The ‘real’ student side of life can be gleaned from the minutes books.   An example is the entry for meeting 348 which took place on 17 February 1977:


“At this point the meeting was interrupted by four “heavies” wearing wellies and smoking clay pipes, who then proceeded to smear a plate of shaving foam over the Chairman’s [Jonathan Cadwallader] face.   Despite members expressing the opinion that this was a great improvement to the Chairman, he left the meeting for a few minutes to clean himself up.”  


The fact that it was Panto week and that money could be raised for charity by putting out a contract for someone to be ‘hit’ was not coincidental.    

An entry in the occasionally used trip diary for a two day trip to the North East of England describes events when the party stopped at a pub adjacent to Theakston’s brewery on the way back to Liverpool:


“The Secretary, despite being warned of its strength, partook of a pint of Theakston’s cider ... The conduct of the Secretary was remarkable to say the least after this refreshment ... [He] eventually behaved more quietly, but not before leaning out of a window to yell ‘Get out and milk it!’ to some cyclists.”


One further alcoholic reference.   The University of Liverpool Archives contains a Skol beermat.   The significance of this item is that written on the reverse is a letter of resignation from the elected Treasurer for the 1977/78 session, who was unable to take up his post due to a disagreement with the Board of Examiners. 

In spite of all this, LUPTS generally gave a respectable image to the outside world through its preservation, tour running and meeting activities.   Significant numbers of Graduates used their membership of LUPTS to help them on with their future careers and many are now in allegedly respectable jobs within the transport industry. 

It is difficult to be absolutely sure why LUPTS folded but a number of suggestions have been made over the years.   LUPTS had never been a ‘trainspotting’ organisation but the hobby always had its detractors, as evidenced by the “What do you do - apart from the obvious?” comment mentioned in the Introduction.   Perhaps transport enthusiasm is not for the ‘sophisticated’ student of the 1990s. 

LUPTS’ demise was perhaps part of a more general decline.   Within the University, many long established societies had preceded, or followed, LUPTS into oblivion.   These included the long established Scout and Guide Club and, as mentioned in the final AGM, “... of late, only the environmental groups and LGB [Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual] Society had seen a growth in membership”. 

Outside the University, many transport societies have suffered drops in membership and are finding it difficult to justify holding meetings.   A sign of the times is that ex LUPTS Old Fogeys can go to many of these meetings and still be the youngest there by 20 years or so.   The April 1998 edition of Railway Magazine reported the demise at the end of the 1996/97 academic year of the Oxford University Railway Society as its membership had dwindled to “a mere half dozen”. 

Perhaps transport enthusiasm is not the social activity it used to be.   Until the mid 1970s there was relatively little by way of up to date published information so you had to talk to others to find out what was going on.   A multiplicity of books, magazines and higher tech forms of communication removes this need.   Why invite someone to bring his films along when you can buy them on video to watch over and over again? 

Perhaps it’s simply that transport isn’t as interesting to the enthusiast as it was in the past.   Back in 1958 there were trams, trolleybuses and steam trains running in everyday service; now you can only see them in sanitised form in museums.   Is there the same degree of interest in the buses and diesel trains which replaced them?    

Whatever the reason, LUPTS is no more but those who actively participated in it over the years are left with many memories.   Its achievements were many and its first Chairman, Martin Jenkins, referring to a planned reunion in May 1998 of those involved with the 1960 tram tour and purchase of 869, writes that this is:


“... a fitting tribute to the Society’s early endeavours in the field of preservation as well as a part of the Society’s lasting legacy.”


Back to LUPTS history index

Next section

Last updated: 14 April 2002

© Charles Roberts/LUPTS 2001/2002

Page hosted by