Saturday, 1 October 2022

Speed Awareness Course

Local bounder and smooth talking ladies’ man Terry Tuttle-Thomas-Smythe and celebrated photographer ‘don’t you know dear boy’ Ivan Locksmith have been out speeding across the moors again. As is often the case, the local hot fuzz have apprehended them at one of the many railway crossings in the area for a ticking off. 

Today is different though, for Terry and Ivan are being directed in to the railway yard for a driver speeding awareness course. But unlike in today’s risk averse world, they’re going to be taught how to drive at even greater speeds around the narrow country lanes. 

On the platform we can see Beryl, remember her? Well back in the day she was a racing driver, with her speeding skills being much admired - especially in the era when women were expected to know their limits cooking, cleaning and scrubbing the pavement outside their 2 up 2 down. But why has she arrived by train you ask? Well, yesterday she blew up the engine on her race prepared supercharged Austin 7 whilst racing against other petrol headed super-grannies on the beach at nearby Burnham on Sea. 

As we can see, Beryl despite being well in to her 80s, has no plans to slow down, even though she’s become quite partial to support stocking beige as her ‘go to’ colour. Ignoring the beige thing much favoured by bungalow dwellers and Toyota Prius owners, her reason for being here today is to oversee this new speed awareness initiative. On the 6 hour course, she’ll be giving one to one tips on how to go around bends faster, how to tune up those SU carburettors and tweak timing for optimum speed performance. What a girl!

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Friday, 30 September 2022

Airfix Engine Shed

The mixed weather in Little Little Britain continues, as the autumn firmly makes its mark. The last portion of the goods train which originated at Poole, passes Combwich shed, some of it being a consignment of empty French made mason jars for the local thriving moonshine industry and empty tins to be filled with the much sought after Combwich crab. 

Meanwhile Standard Class 3 tank engine number 5 sits on shed between duties, with the crew most likely having a cider or two in the nearby Royal Oak. You can just make out the pub roofline in the distance, it being just to the right of 53809’s chimney. 

Airfix kit aficionados will notice the similarity between the engine shed and the well loved kit. Allegedly the plastic kit was based on Combwich engine shed, with its distinctive ventilation fan being an old ship propeller salvaged from the sunken Good Ship Mermaid. I’m sure there’s a sea shanty in there somewhere. 

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Thursday, 29 September 2022

End of the Rainbow

Thursday morning at Combwich, and much like the weather today in Little Little Britain, it’s a mixed bag of sunshine and showers as the 11.35am service departs through a brief downpour heading for the evasive end of the rainbow. 

Carriage fans will notice that passengers have the relative luxury of a post-war Swindon built ‘brake composite’ carriage, with this incarnation having first, third class and a guard’s compartment for moonshine and bicycles. Second class hadn’t existed since Victorian times (apart from the GWR who kept it until 1910), for in olden times, if you weren’t posh travelling on the cushions in first, you needed to be made to feel as much like a pleb as possible. 

Moving to the present day, it’s rumoured that in Little Little Britain, it’s looking increasingly possible that second class (aka ‘standard class’ since 1988) will soon be ‘rebranded’ as third class in the government’s ongoing quest to bring back the good old days of Victorian extreme poverty, wealth and misery. 

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Wednesday, 28 September 2022

Ron the Wrench

Wednesday morning down on the docks, Deliberation Dave and Ron the Wrench are checking out the new prototype point switchblade latching mechanism. In years to come, well known model railway track manufacturer PECO will base their OO gauge point latching mechanism in it. 

Meanwhile, Colin on the left, has no interest in such matters, for he has a basket of moonshine spiked cider and is rather preoccupied trying to work out what he can use as a bottle opener. Ron the Wrench might provide the answer, but it will come at a price. 

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Tuesday, 27 September 2022

Geek Gossip


On Tuesday a shortage of locos for the Combwich service meant that Bath shed had to dispatch one of its ‘Black Five’ Stanier 4-6-0 engines for use on the branch. And here we have 45440 departing the terminus heading for Templecombe with as usual just 2 almost empty coaches - because to be honest no one has any need to travel from nowhere to almost nowhere via nowhere in particular. 

Later today, word of this unusual motive power for such a backwater of a line will get out to the enthusiast fraternity via the little known skill of ‘Geek Gossip’…..

Geek Gossip, now largely forgotten due to the internet, was/is incredibly fast, with it being able to travel at several hundred miles per hour. On one occasion it got from Leeds Holbeck shed to Swindon Works in just 12 minutes - I’m sure there were plenty of other similar records, but sadly unrecorded. 

It works using a code of high pitched adenoidal squeals passed on from one enthusiast to the next. The squeals for an accomplished geek can travel up to 10 miles weather permitting before being passed on to the next enthusiast. Rules allow for a homing pigeon or telegram to be used if the enthusiast network fails due to mother banning squeals at homework or potty training time or deafness due to age.

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Sunday, 25 September 2022

Roger Sprocket

Sunday morning on Combwich shed, and Roger Sprocket has been out polishing number 5 with his snotty and now greasy rag overnight. Roger is a very particular man and can think of nothing better than polishing things with his rag. That’s his Morris Minor, and as we can see it is in beautiful condition, Roger most treasuring the wipe-clean leather seats and curved green dashboard. The central large speedometer dial receiving the most attention because he can wipe his rag round and round in a circular motion for hours on end whilst making all sorts of steam engine noises to himself. Huff, puff, chuffetty chuff he goes…

Roger’s day job is working for the Ministry of Defence Film Unit, where he counts the sprocket holes along either side of 35mm motion picture film. He also checks the size and shape of the holes to be sure that they match the cameras used. He also checks the number of sprocket holes on the high speed 16mm film used for covert surveillance work, with the 400 foot rolls bringing him the most joy and pleasure. All this of course has to done in total darkness to avoid fogging the film, but Roger is an expert feeling things in the dark, he being brought up a locked cellar between the age of 4 and 21. Despite this, he still loves ‘mother’, she now living in the cellar instead of him. 

When he's not polishing engines or counting sprocket holes, he regularly meets up with Nasal Nigel to hang about at bus stations taking numbers. And as if this isn’t enough joy, next weekend Nigel will be taking Roger along to the local outfitters to help him choose a new mackintosh, you know, the one with the special pocket. 

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Saturday, 24 September 2022

Tax Haven


Saturday morning, and the first wagon of grain has arrived for Barry Bullhead’s now global moonshine production plant. With Somerset recently becoming an independent country with ultra low tax and zero tax on booze it’s the perfect place to be. A border with no obvious boundaries, and no way to police them makes export a doddle for the brave entrepreneur.

Friday, 23 September 2022

Autumn Equinox

It’s the Autumn Equinox, and the beginning of the day when the night is as long as the day and the day is as long as the night. Former ballet dancers, now turned geezer railway blokes Bob & Vic are surveying the colliery sidings to see what needs moving from here to there and there to here (and sometimes in the reverse order). 

In the distance, at The Miners Arms, breakfast is being served to the overnight guests. Landlady Edna ‘Knuckles’ Landscapeartistoftheyear-Smith always serves a good spread of anything that can be fried. Apart from the full English, which includes knuckles from whatever roadkill she’s managed to find during the course of the week, she also does fried porridge in lard for her vegetarian guests. 

And finally, Driver Colin up on the footplate, takes in the damp and cool morning air to help clear his head after excesses of local cider last night after celebrating his wife’s win at the monthly wasp chewing competition down the local Legion Club.

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Thursday, 22 September 2022

Old Sad Eyes


It’s a bright September morning at Hemyock, and Bruce and Barry look at ‘old sad eyes’ which has recently taken over from steam. This loco, a North British Type 2 Diesel Hydraulic does have a certain understated charm, but of course we Brits always like an underdog, unless it’s a Deltic or Western, then we get very excited and have to remember to carry a clean handkerchief when in the vicinity of such beasts. Or if a Class 37, a full box of Kleenex and ear plugs to protect the hearing from all the high pitched nasal squeals and flying phlegm. 

Like many diesel loco designs of the 1950/60s, some only had a very short life, and quite often less than a decade. This being due to flawed design combined with a rapidly changing railway where the engine would have no role to play. ‘Old sad eyes’ would be seen living out its final days on remote secondary lines and demolition trains cleaning up for Dr Beeching. Or in this case, milk trains. 

None of these locos sadly survived the cutter’s torch, but I gather one was put aside for preservation, but was accidentally cut up to be turned in to sardine cans. You my loyal reader will probably know more I’m sure.

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Tuesday, 20 September 2022

Tree Surgery

Tuesday morning at Windmill Sidings, and tree surgeon ‘oh my gawd’ Oliver is horrified that the tree has been allowed to grow up around the disused windmill. The mill was last used in 1846, should any Nasal Nigel’s out there comment that there’d never be a windmill so close to the railway. These days  it’s mostly used as a moonshine store and shag-pad by the local Teds grinding their oats.

Meanwhile on the left, deliberation Dave is trying to work out how the three link coupling got placed over the hook the wrong way, but puts it down to the bumpy track. However in reality, Gulliver the local giant a few minutes beforehand had picked up the engine and turned it upside down to check the wheels and didn’t notice before pressing the shutter button. 

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Sunday, 18 September 2022

Ballcocks & Grease Nipples

Arthritic Arthur likes to perform all sorts of stunts, he’s quite a trooper. This morning he’s going to climb up the water tower to release a stuck ballcock. Other members of the loco crew have offered, but he won’t have it. “Look you youngsters, I’ve been releasing lofty ballcocks for 58 years, I’m not about to stop now. Stand back and I’ll show you how it’s done, not that I’m going to let you have a go at releasing this ballcock”. Arthur simply has to be humoured, but being decent men, they will all gather around the base of the water tower to catch him should he fall after releasing and greasing the ballcock grease nipple. That’s presuming he makes it to the top that is. 

Control again have been having fun rostering unusual engines to shunt the sidings. Today it’s an ex LNWR 0-8-0 ‘Super D’ arriving with the works train. Much like Arthur, this short train is usually a random mix of carriages and wagons that should have been retired years ago - In fact they probably have been, but here in this remote network of wharves and sidings, things tend to get lost and forgotten. I’m sure years to come it will be a treasure trove of old railway paraphernalia that was thought to have been recycled in to Ford Cortinas and pilchard tins decades ago.

And finally to the left, Comical Ned (with the funny shaped head) looks on in awe, he’s always wanted a grease gun to play with, thinking it’s something the ladies would enjoy. But todays he’s discovered that it’s a workshop tool, not an adult toy. Though I’m sure with a little imagination it could be used as such. Anyway, enough of this saucy banter, for this is a family post, enjoyed by grown-ups - many of who have a Thomas the Tank Engine character as their social media avatar. 

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Friday, 16 September 2022

Missing Sheep

Comical Ned (with the funny shaped head) is trying to entice Farmer George and Hubert (the conversational Latin speaking horse) over for a lunchtime pint at the Jolly Farmer in the distance. But George is a busy man, as are all farmers and is not sure he has the time, for he needs to find a possible broken fence after some of his sheep were found propping up the bar in The Railway Hotel in Culmstock last night. 

Driver Arthritic Arthur cries from the passing train to say that local creamery worker Deidre Dinkle, the flirty darling of the butter blending department is in the pub playing toad in the hole (quite how Arthur knows what the conversation is, I have no idea, but Arthur knows everybody and everything). 

George has had a crush on Deidre for ages, and this might be a chance for him to finally ask her out for a ride on his brand new combine harvester. He might also find a couple more of his missing sheep, which means he can justify it as work whilst also satisfying his inner lust for love.

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Thursday, 15 September 2022

Taking the Biscuit

Driver Gary Baldy & fireman Brian Bourbon, a couple of jammy dodgers, are in charge of the banking engine today. The 1 in 29 here is one of the of the steepest banks in Little Britain, with most trains, apart from the very shortest requiring a push up the rear. 

If Bob Hobnob, the miserable old guard riding in the brakevan doesn’t like the loco crew in the engine at the front or rear of the train (or occasionally both, which to be honest most of the time), he very gently applies the brakes ever so slightly. But the crews are aware of this, and at the beginning of his shift put laxative in his tea and offer him several fig rolls as revenge whilst taking the biscuit out of his misdemeanours as desperate Bob tries the water the track surreptitiously from his bouncy brakevan. Bob falls for the trick every time. Don’t be like Bob. 

The photographer’s new telephoto lens does a wonderful job showing off the gradient as the train nears the crest of the incline, giving the impression that the already steep gradient is steeper than it really is. 

The Roger Spockets here will notice the wagons with their faded former private owner liveries still showing, but of course with British Railways lettering (the wagon number beginning with a ‘P’ to indicate such). In the 1950s, this was not that uncommon, for in early post war Britain there was little money around for repainting old wagons, other than re-numbering. And for the modeller, this adds a little more interesting variety and a chance to have some fun weathering up and renumbering former pre war private owner trucks. 

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Wednesday, 14 September 2022

Wordless Wednesday (almost)

 

A lovely September Wednesday back in the olden days. Templecombe shed’s No.4691 takes its single coach away from Combwich on its way to Bridgwater.

Monday, 12 September 2022

Red Light

Monochrome Monday (almost). After her shift, Ursula the old brakevan likes nothing better that to take in the setting sun and reflect on her long day of hanging off the back of goods trains. 

But by innocently displaying her red lamp, she occasionally attracts the wrong types. Soon to be retired wheezing geezer engine, ‘Super D’ Douglas, with his uneven beat, plods over to Ursula and jokingly asks her what she charges for a pull on his coupling. 

She soon sends him on his way, for her regular guard is best mates with his fireman who can cause him untold misery with a poker in his firebox. Luckily she’s used to these flirty old boys, knowing it’s only harmless banter and that their rusty old boilers are about to expire and that they’ll soon be replaced by a good looking fit and shiny new diesel electric supermodel. 

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Sunday, 11 September 2022

Flying Pig


Many of our usual suspects are out and about this morning as Bath shed’s ’Flying Pig’ No.43017 rumbles through with an Evercreech bound goods. There the train will be split up for Highbridge and Poole. 

To the left, Doug and Barry Bullhead are actually discussing bird watching for a change, no not stiletto heeled ones you saucy types, but the feathered variety. The colliery attracts sorts birds, including what was believed to be an eagle a couple of years ago, but it’s usually just pigeons. And of course there is our Beryl who loves a ‘man who can’ to help here fix her rundown ivy clad country pyre, the colliery employs many ‘men who can’. 


Ladies’ man, Terry Tuttle-Thomas-Smythe and ‘oh dear boy don’t you know’ Ivan Locksmith and his loyal hound Rodney (pronounced ‘Wodney’) are as usual working out a deal for a crate of local hooch. That’s nothing new there. 


Over to the right, for a few carrots, Hubert the conversational Latin speaking horse is teaching Cyril a few useful Latin phrases should he ever get his time machine working and visit a Roman pub. The pub will be open shortly, so Cyril will be able to test his new language skills on Albertus Titling the only Latin speaking landlord in the whole of Somerset. 


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Saturday, 10 September 2022

Rolleicord


Saturday morning at the terminus, and Dud is pointing his new Rolleicord camera at his engine. It has a viewfinder that you look down into, with Dud striking a pose not dissimilar to that of today’s smartphone generation as he frames up his arty shot of the screw coupling. These wonderful cameras take a bit of getting used to, because not only do you look down, but the image is reversed as well. The resulting square negative or transparency makes it ideal for Instagram, but sadly that’s yet to be invented. 

The single milk tank wagon is from the dairy in the distance, milk wagons usually being attached to the passenger service. On busy days there can be half a dozen of more milk tanks, with the single passenger coach bringing up the rear. 


Sadly, apart from railway enthusiasts, passengers are few and far these days, and there are rumours that the line will soon lose its passenger service.  But for now at least we and the little people can enjoy this miniature rose-tinted view of Little Britain. Oh yes, and Philbert the fixer on the platform has what looks like a crate of cider for later - so all is good. 


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Me, many moons ago with my Rolleicord 


Thursday, 8 September 2022

Pork Scratching & Pickled Onion Omelette

Thursday morning down at the canal basin looks a little busier than normal. Philbert The Fixer is asking boatman Colin The Coal why he has such a long tall tiller. Should anyone care, the reason is because the original owner of the boat was 7ft6 tall. But Colin isn’t going to tell Philbert that until he’s offered one of the bottles of spiked cider lurking in the crate. 

In the distance, regulars Pete & Dud watch the arrival of the mid morning Chilcompton to Frome service, whilst discussing whether jarred winkles are better in brine or vinegar. They’re also talking about the new pork scratching and pickled onion omelette served in the pub as one of its ‘new season meals’ aimed at lonely single late middle-aged men with hygiene issues. 

Meanwhile, Barry Bullhead, from The Ministry of Misery is signing up Milky Malcolm to do a bit of moonshine running using hollowed out truckles of cheddar to hide jars of illicit booze. All in all, just another day in the land of the inch high mischievous people of Little Britain. 

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Wednesday, 7 September 2022

Farmer George

Young George, most days drives his tractor over to the edge of the brook so his can watch the arrival of the lunchtime service from Tiverton Junction. His excuse is to check that no sheep have fallen in to the water. 

He wishes he was an engine driver, but being the son of a farmer, there is no way that can ever happen, for he is expected the carry on the farming business that’s been in the family for hundreds of years. But at least, time allowing, he can observe the trains from this wonderful vantage point. 

Like most farmers, George works 7 days a week, but tomorrow he’s having a rare morning off, so he intends to ride on the small train as a special treat to the junction and back. There he’s hoping that he’ll bump into local creamery worker Deidre Dinkle, the flirty darling of the butter blending department. When on the mid shift, she gets the train seen here, and George’s clever plan is to ride the cushions back from the junction with her. And if successful, he’ll take her for a ride on his chugging green tractor after she finishes her shift. 

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Tuesday, 6 September 2022

Lizzie’s New Job


Somewhere in the middle of nowhere in the centre of nothing (not Central Bedfordshire should anyone ask, that would be tragic), young Lizzie waits for her train in to town to start her new job working for The Ministry of Misery. She’s suitably dressed in uniform for her new role as Assistant Chief Traffic Warden Dress Code Training Officer reporting to the Chief Traffic Warden Dress Code Training Officer. 


She’s very much looking forward to starting in her new position, having been a fan of dressing up for vicars & tarts, and doctors & nurses fancy dress events for many a year. But dressing as a traffic warden is a whole new thing, and she’s curious to know where it could lead. I’m no authority on such things, but some of you, my loyal readers might have some thoughts? 


As we can see, it’s a lovely September day, the slowly changing landscape from summer to autumn looking quite splendid in the warm morning sunshine. It’s been a dry summer, so a truly colourful autumn is expected this year. 


Climbing the 1 in 40 bank, this train is usually hauled by an ex GWR pannier tank, or Ivatt 2 mixed traffic tank loco, but today it’s hauled by one of Stanier’s powerful class 4 tank locomotives - which I hope you agree makes a fine sight and one that won’t involve a late arrival (as long as the driver remembers to stop). For we don’t want Lizzie to be late on her first day. 


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Monday, 5 September 2022

Peat Levels Narrow Gauge Light Railway Preservation Society Club of Somerset, the Southwest & Great Britain


Monochrome Monday. The newly formed ‘Peat Levels Narrow Gauge Light Railway Preservation Society Club of Somerset, the Southwest & Great Britain’  (a snappy name that runs off the tongue beautifully I’m sure you’ll agree) are testing out their new loco. 

The tiny engine was recently rescued from a waterworks somewhere near ‘that there London’. It’s to be used on enthusiast trains at the weekend on a former narrow gauge peat extraction railway that served Catcott Halt until recently. 

The line is rather spongy due to it running across the bog that makes up much a the Somerset Levels, so the former peat tramway trucks, now repurposed at open passenger trucks, have signs telling over-excited enthusiasts not to rock the train. They’re also given a safety briefing, should the train derail and they fall in to the bog and potentially get sucked under. Instructions are simple, ‘spread arms and legs wide, stop shouting ‘mother’, cut the gibberish about your loco spotting finds at Bristol Temple Meads last weekend, and finally keep still, because it’s unlikely anyone will be along to rescue you’. 

We were tougher back then. 

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Sunday, 4 September 2022

Trip to Portishead


Sunday morning at the colliery and old sad eyes arrives with empties from Portishead Power Station. Nasal Nigel, who we’ve not seen for a while is there to witness the event and to point out to the loco crew that they’re doing everything wrong in his squeaky irritating adenoidal tone “you don’t what to do that, you want to do this”. 

After swapping the empties for full wagons, Nasal Nigel will get a free trip to Portishead buried up to his neck in coal riding fresco in one of the trucks. But Mother won’t be happy to have to wash his green bus-spotter flasher-mac when he eventually gets home in 4 days time dazed and confused. But at least he has his scale model of a GWR Flying Banana railcar in his ‘special pocket’ which comes with every bus-spotter flasher-mac to keep him company. 


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Saturday, 3 September 2022

‘Somersexit’

After many years, and by a narrow margin, Somerset has finally become an independent country. Here, the newly enforced border runs along the railway line for a short distance, with the level crossing gates providing that perfect ‘Checkpoint Charlie’. It’s believed the highly acclaimed Ealing Comedy ‘Passport to Pimlico’ was the catalyst, with the Isle of Wight, Canvey Island, Eel Pie Island, the Principality of Sealand and Rutland taking the lead a year of two before 

In recent days, angry farmers with land either side of the border have tried to ram the gates, so a loco now sits at the crossing. Although now cleaned up, the last week or so has seen several yogurt fights between those for and those against. Now things have mostly settled down (due to a shortage of yoghurts) and all goods are checked going in and out, with a complete ban of cider and cheddar cheese, apples, pears, milk, cream and strawberries from other counties being rigorously enforced. 

Barry Bullhead from the newly formed Somersetshire Ministry of Misery and one of the campaigners of ‘Somersexit’ has made an appearance, for it appears that a stash of Cornish clotted cream is being smuggled, it being hidden inside a wooden crate of tinned Portuguese sardines. However for a fee of an unmarked thickly filled brown envelope of the type much favoured by town planners and members of parliament, Barry Bullhead will let the load through, the gates opening and the locomotive moving as if by magic. 

How Somersexit will pan out, we have little idea, but lack or any real physical boundaries between Devon, Dorset, Wiltshire and Gloucestershire are going to make it a bootlegger’s paradise, so expect further exciting adventures of ongoing nonsense from the land of the little people. 

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