Monday, 15 August 2022

Monochrome Monday

Monochrome Monday. Templecombe shed’s former GWR Collett No. 3206 temporarily blocks the crossing at Catcott, as it trundles past with the 7.05am Evercreech Junction to Highbridge goods. That’s the photographer’s Standard Flying 12 in the foreground. The crumbling concrete bridge over the rhyne is very much a feature of this part of boggy Somerset. 

Sunday, 14 August 2022

Summer Holiday

Much like this summer, the summer of 1959 was also ‘scorchio’. But unlike these days, we just called it ‘glorious weather’, with summer carrying on right in to October. In this photograph of Combwich station, no one appears to be out and about, but the arrival of the train here will no doubt change that. 

In a few seconds, the only passengers, a family group of 7 on their annual holiday from Upper Thong, Yorkshire will alight. Though quite why they’ve travelled all the way to an unremarkable small town in North Somerset when they could have gone to Whitby or Bridlington I have no idea. 

Although we cannot see them, the family are all ‘properly dressed’, despite the temperature being in the mid 80s Fahrenheit. The men and boys are wearing heavy tweed jackets, shirt, tie, and trousers made from horsehair, or shorts for those under 21. The fairer sex are trussed up in tight fitting dresses, hats and a thick hand me down cardigan “if it were good enough for yer nan, it’s good enough for you”. 

They still have a few warm and rather dry corned beef sandwiches left and a large jar of uncle Frank’s pickled eggs. Father bought some rancid home brew, but that’s only for the men an older boys, the small children and women will have to drink warm and slightly sour milk. But that’s okay, we didn’t complain in those days, especially if from the Grim North where just experiencing daylight was considered a right royal treat. 

Tonight they’re staying at Mrs Miggins’ Boarding House, with all the extended family sharing the same bed on a strict shift rotation. Mrs Miggins doesn’t want any nonsense though, everyone has to be back at the guesthouse by 8pm, and they’re only allowed to run one bath to share during their week long stay. Ah, the good old days…

You can buy the men a warm beer or the ladies a sweet sherry here 

Saturday, 13 August 2022

Don’t Be Like Barry

Saturday morning at the colliery. After several months of searching for Beryl’s ancient Austin Seven, it’s finally been tracked down behind The Pedant & Armchair pub. It was under a tarpaulin covered in garden rubbish. When she sold it, she was never paid, the cheque bouncing. Suspicions are that Barry Bullhead from the Ministry of Misery was involved, he’s been trying the get the car off the road for many years. This is no surprise, for we all know that those in power abuse their positions. 

However Barry has gone a step too far this time; Comical Ned (with the funny shaped head), 1954/55/56 West of England Gravedigger of the Year Champion Doug, Ronny ‘knuckles’ Grubscrew and ‘Oh my gawd’ Oliver, twin half brother of Ned are out to get him. Though chances are Barry will be taken out by a train any minute, thus saving them the job. 

So kids, remember, if you’re out to lynch somebody (maybe for pinching your Triang Hornby Type 3, or using code 100 flexi track when you wanted code 75) do not play on the railway, it’s a dangerous place. Don’t be like Barry. 

Ps, Beryl is going to get her Austin properly serviced and back on the road shortly.

You can help Beryl get her car serviced here

Friday, 12 August 2022

Airfix 4F

It’s front end Friday again. Here’s my ancient rebuilt Airfix Midland 4F trundling across cement quay. I bought this engine back in 1982, and in more recent years it’s received a Comet chassis for loco and tender. The original tender drive being replaced. It’s a most incredible runner, with extraordinary pulling power. I put that down to the compensated chassis which means the wheels stick to the track like a limpet. 

Thursday, 11 August 2022

Milk & Coal

It’s Thursday morning, and a fresh wagon load finest Welsh steam coal is just about to be propelled in to the dairy. In the 1950s powdered coal used to be mixed in with milk, cream, butter and cheese for nutritional purposes. This is why we were tougher back then. It also ensured we were regular, but firm of bowel with the added bonus of reduced bad breath due to the carbon which would absorb the pungent odour caused by rotten teeth and smoking un tipped cigarettes. Another true tale from the land of the little people of Little Britain in those rose tinted days of yore. 

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Wednesday, 10 August 2022

Locked Out. Again!

Wednesday morning at Moorewood Colliery. Doug has accidentally locked himself out of the engine winding house again. It never used to be locked, but since moonshine is stored in there, management decided to put a lock on the door and one of those slow operating spring loaded lever arm things. Doug forget to put the wooden wedge under the door to stop it from closing. 

Meanwhile to the right, Hubert the conversational Latin speaking horse is giving Barry Bullhead and Clive one of their daily Latin lessons before collecting the latest tranche of coal. Such a clever horse.

You can support these posts here.

Tuesday, 9 August 2022

Flying Visit

This time last week I had a flying visit to North Yorkshire on a photography assignment. But found time to pop in to Pickering Station on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway for a few minutes. I believe trains are diesel assisted currently so the engines don’t have to work as hard, so as to reduce the quite real risk of lineside fire. Of course I might be talking rubbish, regulars to this page will know that I’m an expert at writing nonsense, so I’m happy to be corrected. 

Monday, 8 August 2022

Monochrome Monday and Music

Monochrome Monday, high up on Mendip, possibly near Chilcompton an ex LMS ‘Jinty’ tank loco poses for the photographer next to the loading hopper.

And in other news, I need to escape toy train land from time to time, not many know it’s my day job which involves around commercial photography for Model Rail mag, model railway retailers and other customers. Model making commission work fills the holes in between.

So at the weekend I try gig or busk with my band Los Doritos, performing music mostly from the era of the long haired bank clerk, brown suits with huge lapels, Tupperware, Watneys Red Barrel and of course British Leyland. On Sunday we played at Godalming Staycation, a super event with lots of music and of course a beer stand or two! 

Saturday, 6 August 2022

Radioactive Milk

It’s the first day of oil replacing coal at the Hemyock creamery used to heat the pasteurisation gubbins thingamajig machinery. Barry Bullhead and Clive ponder on the bridge playing Poohsticks, observing the now empty fuel tank go back across the road. By the way, Barry always wins at Poohsticks, his floating twig always beating Clive’s to the other side of the bridge. 

That’s Clive’s Landrover behind, the trailer is carrying a fresh consignment of moonshine. This one being an unusual batch, for Clive used lactose in the initial fermentation. I’m sure most of us know that lactose sugar comes from milk - us being deep in Devon - the county of cream and of course custard. Once the gates reopen, Clive will drop off a few jars of moonshine in exchange for some short dated gold top milk for the next batch of nudge nudge, wink wink. 

To the right, Doug is stood on what is now the last of the coal, he’s a bit confused because he was expecting a full wagon load of fresh coal. Shovelling oil might be messy he thinks. And by the way, that’s our Liz stood next to the small truck, she’s having a few days away from The Palace, incognito of course, so to mix with the common people. 

In the far distance to the right, the men in white coats from The Ministry of Nuclear Misinformation are inspecting the latest batch of radioactive milk destined for the mid-morning school milk break. This new early 1960s initiative being part of a new government scheme to make children’s teeth whiter. Another advantage of this ground breaking venture is that their teeth will glow in the dark, making them easier to find if stuck up a chimney or locked in the cellar at 3am. 

And for my readers from afar, 60 or so years ago, most children in Little Britain smoked a pipe, swept chimneys and lived in cellars. Posh children usually went to an expensive boarding school, which is much the same thing, but had the addition of ex-military youth-hating tweed-clad Latin mumbling psychopathic teachers with a well oiled cane and the ability to hit a child between the eyes with a blackboard rubber from 20 yards. Howzat! 

You can buy me a radioactive beer here.


Friday, 5 August 2022

Honky Tonk Woman

An August Friday in 1969, the overnight mist and light rain is starting to clear, for the weather forecast is for another scorching day. 

Somewhere on the west of England mainline, sees a tatty Mk1 hauled by an equally tatty Class 22 heading east. The carriage was only painted BR blue and grey in the latter half of 1966, but it must have been a Friday job. However it will be heading for fresh paint job in September, hopefully the preparation will be less rushed this time. 

Our intrepid photographer, is officially here on assignment for the British Rail publicity department with his trusty Mamiya C33 and a few rolls of Ektachrome - this being the view through the lens. Coming towards us, a light engine Class 33 is heading to an unknown destination, it having escaped from the Southern Region most likely at Reading

And finally with the weekend just around the corner, The Rolling Stones are top of the UK Hit Parade with Honky Tonk Woman. Oh for that time machine.

Time machine research fund


Thursday, 4 August 2022

Great British Model Railways 2022

People often ask me why I don’t do a book. Well, here’s the next best thing, 12 fabulous layouts by some great modellers all photographed by me and printed on higher quality paper than the regular magazine - we call it a ‘bookazine’. Very much a keeper and far too good for the cat litter tray after enjoying (you can always buy an extra copy for the cat though). The wonderful layouts within, many chosen by me, are are exclusive to this publication and have not been featured in the monthly magazine - click on the link above for your copy.

Stocks are limited, so don’t delay!

Monday, 1 August 2022

Stinking Bog

Monday, and the toilet immediately behind the signal cabin is particularly smelly on this muggy August morning. It only ever sees bleach and a mop once a year. To avoid the pungent pong, Harold tends to not be inside the cabin much on days like today. Over the weekend he painted the rather splendid fire buckets, they’ve been painted 23 times already this summer. 

Bleach fund 

Saturday, 30 July 2022

The Milk Train

Saturday morning, and Paddy & Shamus are waiting for the train to Tiverton Junction and then on to Exeter for a day out exploring the pubs. But they  should have checked the timetable, for the passenger service ended last year. But hopefully cider loving Colin is guard and will get the short milk train stopped so they can travel in the brakevan in exchange for some takeaway cider or beer upon their return.

This is the latest section in recreating the Hemyock branch line (it’s part of a much bigger layout). Unlike Hemyock, which is mostly scratch built, this cameo is using some wonderful secondhand buildings. Sadly the stone work (scribed plaster I think) on the delightful buildings to the left was literally crumbling away with age, but a good application of diluted PVA has stopped the deterioration. 

Next, Culmstock….. the baseboards have arrived… 

Friday, 29 July 2022

Taco Oven

It’s #frontendfriday again. Old trusty 58086 sporting a then new design of supersized black rubber loco lamp, poses in the brewery yard next to the brewery’s new ‘mechanical horse’ resplendent in red and cream. 

58086 after withdrawal in 1959 after many years on the Highbridge Branch, spent its final months next to the water softening plant on Bath Shed. Many think the loco was scrapped in 1960, but in fact it was bought by the brewery for use as a shunting loco. In the late 1960s, the loco was shipped to Latin America for use at a little known treacle mine, and so the tale should have ended. 

But, bringing things up to date, purely by chance, the engine was recently discovered by celebrity chef and loco fanatic (who wishes to remain anonymous, because he was trying to find a brothel at the time) lurking in the back of a seedy restaurant being used as a taco oven. Plans are underway to bring it back to the UK for restoration.

Thursday, 28 July 2022

Gnat’s Todger

With all the recent small fabulous loco releases we forget the good old Hornby ‘Pug’. This an eBay find from 15 or so years ago, since repainted and numbered to represent one that was at Radstock for a short while back in the 1950s. The motor protrudes in to the cab, so some canvas side screens were fabricated from some black wrapping tissue (bought for wrapping presents for the mother in law). I found that widening the wheel back to backs by a gnat’s todger improved running - less waddle and slightly better pickup as it hugs the rails better. 

The 3 contractor’s side tipping spoil wagons are from the excellent white metal kits by RT Models. Here is the delightful consist creeping up the grade over the colliery weighbridge on my Polbrook Gurney Colliery layout.

These little scenes take quite a bit of time to create and photograph  - if you have a moment you can support me here 🍻

Wednesday, 27 July 2022

Hubert Returns

I know a few of you were worried about the disappearance of Hubert the conversational Latin speaking horse. Especially because he was last seen near a pet food factory. Whilst that turned out to be true, it was a vegan pet food factory where only vegans are used, not horse meat. Phew. And since that scare, Hubert has been with Shamus on the island of Ireland island teaching Shamus Latin whilst seeking out the best pints of Guinness stout. 

On the left, it looks like Nasal Nigel is back sporting his very latest sticky green bus spotter flasher-mac, the old one being destroyed by the MOD due to it being a public health hazard. Our Nigel is a little upset, because Mother bought him a replacement one without that ‘special pocket’ incorporated which allows him to fiddle with his Triang Hornby Type 3 diesel loco unnoticed in public.

These little scenes take quite a bit of time to create and photograph  - if you have a moment you can support me here 🍻

Tuesday, 26 July 2022

Plan C

Tuesday morning at Brew Street. The management have hired in a shiny rail car for the occasional passenger service. Pete & Dud are trying to locate the coal bunker whilst Eddie thinks he might know where the water filler cap is. The first train might be some time. Plan B - forget all that messing about and simply tow it with the Peckett. Plan C - go by narrowboat. Sorted. 

Monday, 25 July 2022

End of the Line

Monochrome Monday. A hot sunny Monday in late July 1967 sees the first of many demolition trains at Combwich, the line having closed in March 1966. A private contractor was used for much of the work, they also providing the little ‘Planet’ diesel loco. Not only could this loco run of diesel, but it also had a clockwork mechanism. Okay, ignore that last bit.

Sunday, 24 July 2022

High Summer - Camping Tips

High summer out on The Levels, there is little if any wind with temperatures already up in the mid 80s. Not great if camping, but the trick is to go to bed early and get up early. As soon as the sun hits the canvas, it gets rather hot and stifling inside the tent, and really not great if having over indulged the night before on the local cider. But clouds are forming up over there on Mendip, so there’s hope of a nice breeze building up from the Bristol Channel a few miles west of here. This will mean another day is possible cycling around seeking out hard to find cider farms and remote pubs out on the confusing network of lanes and droves. And of course, one can always have a cooling dip in one of the algae infested rhynes that crisscross this unique landscape.

These little scenes take quite a bit of time to create and photograph  - if you have a moment you can support me here 🍻

Saturday, 23 July 2022

Mobile Telephone

The inch high people of Little England are back from their holiday. They thought it good to get away before the ankle biters break up for their summer holidays and the prices double. 

Today they’re celebrating the launch of a new mobile telephone service. The telephone box can be operated from anywhere on the UK rail network, it being mounted on a flat wagon coupled to a brake van. The brake van contains batteries and a radio transmitter to link to the GPO exchange. 

Of course many of our usual characters are here…. From left to right, not so celebrated photographer Ivan Locksmith (he took this photo using a self timer delay) casually poses puffing on his pipe smoking something from his greenhouse. 

Retired boxer and wrestler Gaylord Grip props himself up on the brake van, his new job being ‘technical brute force’ to assist the back room boys in the brakevan technical area. Of course Royalty Liz & Margo are here to make to first telephone call (probably to call the pub to see when it opens). No event would be complete without our professional gin testers. 

Up on the tank, Neil and Neal are having a staring competition, they’re a couple of odd lads, you’ve probably met them at railway shows doing DCC demonstrations. 

Of course no event would be complete without smooth talking local bounder, cad and ladies’ man, Terry Tuttle-Thomas-Smythe, and definitely not a ladies’ man, straight talking Barry Bullhead from The Ministry of Misery. They’re almost certainly involved, though something tells me the concept of a railway mounted ‘mobile telephone’ needs somewhat refining. But we must never get in the way of ingenuity, however flawed it might at first appear. 

Pete & Dud are operating the engine, and will nip back in to the cab in a moment. Pete has spotted something on TTTS’ hat, it’s possibly something to do with a seagull that flew over a short while ago. Bill from the Old Bill also has his eyes on TTTS, that is nothing new to be honest. 

And finally to the right, part time tap-dancing railway guard duo, service station and cafe owners Messrs Leigh & Delamere are performing one of their signature synchronised tap-dancing and mime acts in celebration for the camera. 

These little scenes take quite a bit of time to create and photograph  - if you have a moment you can support me here 🍻

Thursday, 14 July 2022

Up in the 80s

Apologies for lack of posts this week, I’ve been rather busy with location photography supported by borderline 2G cell cover and ‘hotel wifi’, which we all know is useless for anything other than sending a text. 

Anyway, here we go; it’s Thursday morning deep in The Forest at Fountain Colliery. It’s a cloudless sky, and later on temperatures are due to hover around the mid 80s Fahrenheit, which means it will be more than a little hot in the tiny loco cab. But they’re tough at the colliery, so a wet knotted handkerchief over the head will suffice along with several cups of piping hot tea. 

And later on, there is the pub over there in the distance where pints of warm cider or beer can be imbibed at shift end. This is Britain of the 1950s, ice is only something experienced outdoors (and inside for many) in the winter, and certainly something never enjoyed in drinks, unless you’re from the USA or very very posh and have one of those there new fangled refrigerator things. 

These little scenes take quite a bit of time to create and photograph  - cheers 🍻

Monday, 11 July 2022

Monochrome Monday

Monochrome Monday, the daily pick up goods from Radstock trundles past Polbrook Gurney Colliery Halt with a short train which today unusually includes a grain hopper. Notice the colliery shunting engines up over there to the right. The colliery lines to the right were laid on an old canal, the ancient bridge now going over a railway instead of water. 

Sunday, 10 July 2022

40 Years On…. Falklands Conflict

40 years ago, 11th July 1982, I bicycled over the shore at Woolston, Southampton and photographed the Canberra returning from the Falkland Island conflict. Everyone was out to enjoy the spectacle, the weather being very similar to now - hot, sunny and still. Photographically, those witnessing the event are probably more interesting than the subject, and very much a snapshot of the English on a day off. The youngest in these images will now be well in to their middle age. Photography all my copyright. 


Evening Sun

Only the weeks around midsummer does the sun penetrate my railway room, Fountain Colliery being ideally positioned to capture the rays of evening light shortly before sunset.