Lost – another committee member

Looks like a nasty attack of pots and kettles!

After all my missing Chairman gags, where’s Wally the Secretary?

Positive sighting in the rice fields of Java….

And on the South Devon Railway….

This week look out for him in Singapore….

I really do intend to be at the June Wednesday ESNG meeting.

As you realise, life is a bit hectic at the moment.  So, after nearly four years and an apocalyptic 666 posts, I’m going to take a month or so off from blogging.  I’ve thoroughly enjoyed writing, getting read, and making friends through this blog, but I’m running out of ideas and need a break.

I will keep reporting on ESNG meetings, though, and perhaps on any other highlights from the month.  (And if my mojo starts working again, who knows what will happen!)

I indeed hope to be back sometime in July, with some new ideas and fresh enthusiasm.

Keep modelling, folks!

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An alternative grouping

‘Proto-freelancing’ is far more popular in the USA than in the UK.  Perhaps this is due to the use of the same locomotive designs, with detail differences, across many railroads – for example the iconic F3 and F7 diesels.  Bu

This web page discusses how the 1923 grouping of railway companies should have been carried out:

So here is my idea of how the 1923 Grouping should have been done. I have actually grouped the pre-1923 companies into five different groups. My Grouping has the advantage that the five companies are more equal in size. It also maximizes competition. I guess if I had my way Nationalization and Denationalization would also have looked pretty much like this. So in my ideal world, these would be the regional railways operating in Britain today. And there would be no Railtrack. There might be some franchising, but that would be up to the five regional companies to decide for themselves.

Most noticeable are the grouping of the GWR and the Great Central (who worked closely together, anyway) and the separation of the arch-enemies of the Midland Railway and the London & North Western Railway into new groups.  These would make interesting models, retaining (but evolving) their distinctive liveries, and developing locomotive designs for them.  The LNER and the Southern Railway remain much as they really were.

An interesting challenge for someone?

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Book review – ‘Locomotives worth modelling’

Our visit to the South Devon Railway did, of course, include a visit to the second-hand book shop.  (It has to be said, too, that we visited the bookshop at Buckfast Abbey and came out with a purchase.)  I couldn’t resist this gem.  I think I have a copy in rather better condition somewhere in the house, but for £3, it was a bargain and it would have been rude not to purchase it.

This book was an inspiration in my teens.  I think the Beckenham and West Wickham MRC library copy was almost permanently lent out to me.  I even spent some time building one of the locomotives described, a Holden 2-2-2 single.  I recall that it had a tender drive (probably K’s, and Hambling’s drivers, as they were the only people doing a 7′ driver in those days.  Even so, I had to remove the crank pin and tidy up the spokes, as this GER single had inside cylinders.)  The model went to the tip some time back.

A review on Amazon sums the whole thing up rather well:

For those of us who love older steam locomotives, this book is a delight. Mr Hambleton’s wonderful drawings, his descriptions of small details and his personal reminiscences of an era long gone, all combine to make this an enchanting read!

What I love about the book is Hambleton’s enthusiasm for the subject, and the variety of late-19th and early-20th century locomotives illustrated.  He does have a soft spots for singles.  As an example, here are three examples from the LSWR chapter.  Three of William Adam’s 4-4-0’s, all predating Drummond’s better known T9, and their tender.  All are beautiful, well-proportioned locomotives.  All just about made it into Southern Railway days in 1923, and a T3 (the third and most modern of the classes illustrated here) has been preserved as part of the national collection.

They would all make wonderful models – though it would be a challenge in ‘N’ to fit a motor in the tender and the drivers in the splashers.  The splashers would perhaps be easier in 2mm fine scale.

Another one to add to my list of potential retirement fails???  But the book is unreservedly recommended – there are copies to be found on Amazon, and probably in many other railway bookshops.

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South Devon Railway – 2

Buckfastleigh station is very well kept, and has some good branchline touches, like the trolley for the luggage and the milk churns awaiting collection.

1930’s carriages sit next to the preserved line’s staple piece of rolling stock – the BR Mk1 carriage.  The different shades of early BR livery are interesting.

And every preserved line needs an O3 shunter.  The SDR does run heritage diesel services as well as its historic steam trains.

At the back of the yard was this Hall class 4-6-0, in need of some TLC.  I have always liked these medium sized GWR 4-6-0’s better than the large Castles and Kings.  The cylinders situated at the mid-point of the bogie, with a straight steam pipe feeding them looks much neater than having the cylinders behind the bogie.

Also at the back of the yard were a coupe of diesels, a single railcar, and some wagons.  The original line to Ashburton would have been through the crossing gate in the background.

Back at Totnes, this Hawksworth brake composite was on the end of our train.  Handsome carriages, with their curved roof profile, and minimal tumblehome on the bodies.

Also in Totnes was this BR Southern Region ferry van, for services into Europe on the cross-Channel train ferry.

And a GWR ‘Monster’ – like a very large, flush-sided, Siphon.  I’ve always wanted a model of one of these.

Another regular on preserved railways – the standard BR brake van.

And a line of wagons, including a pipe wagon.

Back at Buckfastleigh, we waited for the next train to leave.

And we then drove a mile or so to visit Buckfast Abbey.  Founded in 1018, but ruined during the dissolution of the monasteries, it was rebuilt between 1907 and 1938.  The abbey is an attractive building, with its light stone interior making it an ‘airy’ place.

And it’s a bit of a contrast to the little Methodist chapel, that overlooks the abbey.  It predates the rebuilding, so there’s no sense of competition here – just two very different but equally attractive places of worship.

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South Devon Railway – 1

A week’s holiday in the south-west started with a company reunion meal in the RNLI at Poole, Dorset.  Wonderful views of the harbour and the lifeboats parked moored outside the headquarters building.  We also had a tour of the training college, and a chance to have a go on the lifeboat simulator – a full bridge simulator with 3D projection through all the cabin windows – allowing you to navigate a lifeboat out of Dover Harbour and rescue people from a sinking ship.  It became more interesting when they wound the waves up – it was so realistic that you swayed from side to side to keep your sea legs even though the simulator itself wasn’t moving.

Weekend in Poole, then on to Brunel Manor in Torquay – for more reunions, this time from the church I attended for 20 years (on-and-off) in Hong Kong.  Brunel Manor was never occupied by Brunel, but he bought the land for his retirement home, then died before enjoying it.  The grand house was built after his death.

He would have had a good sea view, especially as most of these trees wouldn’t have been there 100 years ago.

We had a difficult choice.  Should we visit the Paignton to Kingswear railway and have a ride across to Dartmouth on the ferry?  Or visit the smaller South Devon Railway (formerly the Dart Valley line)?  The South Devon Railway won, partly from nostalgia – I had visited it in its early days about 45 years ago with my parents – and partly from convenience, as there is a large free car park at Buckfastleigh, and we didn’t have to park in Paignton.

We thought we had missed the train we were aiming for, but this GWR small Prairie tank was still in the station due to a signalling problem, so we had plenty of time to get aboard.

The station yard had more diesels than steam on show.  No doubt the steam locos were tucked safely away in the engine shed.

The half-hour trip to Totnes was in a 1930’s Collett carriage, and we enjoyed the views of the River Dart – the railway and river run very closely parallel for much of the way.

Pausing at Staverton, the one intermediate station, we were soon under way again.

And arrived at Totnes.  The branch station is just outside the main line station, as it dates from the period when British Rail wouldn’t allow preserved lines to share a station.  So short sighted.

High speed trains were passing on the main line behind, but not when I was looking at it!

The locomotive then ran around its train and took on water.  It’s operations like this that make steam branchlines interesting!

And we then returned to Buckfastleigh.  I’ll post some more photographs next time.

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1971 – December – you can’t please everyone

Our last look at the 1971 Railway Magazine.  From the always reliable letters page, an outbreak of outrage, but from Dawlish, not Tunbridge Wells….


SIR – The photograph facing page 577 of the November issue of The Railway Magazine must be the ultimate in absurdity, caused by the fooling about by photographers with their telescopic lenses.  The locomotive looks twice as high as it is long, the signals on the gantry seem to be wider than the track, and the curves of the lines are ridiculous.  Television, of course, is also ruined by this sort of thing.

Well, here’s the photograph.  Looks like a standard, and rather attractive, telephoto lens shot to me.  Obviously, such things as perspective hadn’t reached the rural seaside of Dawlish yet..


And finally, a more whimsical exchange, that typified some exchanges through the year – such as the design of Scottish mileposts, and whether the Adams LSWR 4-4-2 radial tanks had been loaned to work to Kyle of Lochalsh in the west of Scotland (consensus was they did.)  This is on station names.  It was started in November by….

Piccadilly “H” line

SIR – When the Piccadilly Line extension to Heathrow Airport is complete, there will be five consecutive stations all beginning with the same letter – Hounslow East, Hounslow Central, Hounslow West, Hatton Cross and Heathrow Central.  Is this unique?

Then in December came the replies…

Southern alliteration

SIR – With reference to the letter (November) concerning consecutive stations with the same initial letter, I would point out that until 1961 there were six stations on the Waterloo-Portsmouth line, all with the initial letter “W”.  These were Walton-on-Thames, Weybridge, West Weybridge, West Byfleet, Woking and Worplsedon.  The sequence was broken when West Weybridge was renamed Byfleet and New Haw.

SIR – Four stations on the “Cuckoo Line” consecutively began with “H”.  They were Heathfield, Horam, Hellingly and Hailsham.  Although Mr Beauvais mentions five stations on the Piccadilly Line, three of them begin with “Hounslow”, whereas the “Cuckoo” stations are all different.  Hampden Park would have made a fifth on the way to Eastbourne, but Polegate intervenes.  Horam was called “Waldron and Horam” before the 1939 war, but in later years it was simply “Horam”.

SIR – Although the Rother Valley Line has only four consecutive stations beginning with “H”, it also has three consecutive stations ending in “field” – Rotherfield, Mayfield, Heathfield!

SIR – The letter headed “Piccadilly ‘H’ Line” reminds me of the staff man, deputising some fifteen years ago for the customary female announcer at Leeds City one afternoon, who spoke of “… the 5:42 to ‘Arrogate, calling at ‘Olbeck, ‘Eadingly, ‘Orsforth, ‘Arthington….”  ‘Onest.

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1971 – September – the Victoria line opens

September 1971 edition of the Railway Magazine included an article on the opening of the final section of the London Underground Victoria line on July 23 1971.

Public opening of the 3.5 mile southward extension to the Victoria Line of London Transport, from Victoria to Brixton, took place at 15:00 on Friday, July 23, following a formal ceremony in the morning when Princess Alexandra pressed a button to start one of the Brixton escalators, rode in the cab of an automatically-driven train to Pimlico, and then transferred across the platform for a southbound train to return to Brixton.

My memory must be playing up on the opening of the line.  I recall it being open in 1976, when I moved to Kennington after university.  However, in 1973, when I was working on the Albert Embankment, near Vauxhall, before university, I recall getting off a southbound train that was terminating at Victoria.  I was with some work colleagues, and one of them got back on the train to pick up a discarded newspaper – and the doors shut and the train disappeared into the tunnel.  He reappeared about 10 minutes later, when the train returned into the other platform, for a trip north.  Some trains still terminate at Victoria, but we must have wanted a walk back to the office, rather than wait for a Brixton train.  The editorial had a good comment.

Look, no hands!

Automatic operation of trains on the Victoria Line – now fully open to Brixton – has demonstrated its worth, and provision for one-man crew is incorporated in the design of other stock being ordered by London Transport.  What are the possibilities of completely driverless trains, at least for urban rapid-transport?  Research is going forward with this in view, but for operation through single deep-bore tunnels it normally will be necessary to carry a qualified member of the staff to deal with any emergency which arises and to supervisee detrainments of passengers if necessary.  For accessible sections where it might be practicable, the travelling public would have to be assured on safety.  Resistance should not be insuperable.  Economic pressures have long since produced automatic lifts, including leviathans to and from underground platforms.  Admittedly these are restricted to “one engine in steam” shuttle service on each track; however, if the shaft is imagined horizontal, with stations instead of floors, the principle is not so different!

Reading these old articles, I have been amazed at just how many headlines could apply to today’s railways!

The 60’s and 70’s were a time of change on the railways, and not just the passing of steam.  This is well captured in a second short article.

Last LB&SC signal removed

The early hours of Sunday, May 2, saw the demise of another pre-grouping feature from BR lines – the LBSCR “standard” type wooden-arm lower-quadrant signal mounted on a wooden post.  The signal concerned was the Up Main (from East Grinstead) Home signal at Hurst Green Junction on the Oxted line, which was a fine example of the type.  It has been replaced by a three-aspect colour-light signal.

The Bluebell Railway Company had the purchase of the signal reserved for some years and several members of its preservation society turned up at the site to ensure that their acquisition did not get damaged during dismantling.

An interesting feature was that it was one of that select group of home signals that passenger trains are specially authorised to approach under the Warning Arrangement (Block Telegraph Regulation 5).  This was because the service required trains to leave Lingfield (the previous signalbox) before the preceding Up Branch train had passed the junction at Hurst Green, a short distance ahead of the signal, often for connection or attachment at Oxted.

Although this type of signal has now disappeared from BR, fortunately it is not extinct, for several other examples already are in working use on the Bluebell Railway.

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