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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Friday, 2 September 2022

Amazon Delivery

 

Front End Friday…. Somewhere in the grim north, 43017 chuffs up the grade with an Amazon delivery of pickled whelks, potted shrimp, pickled eggs, tinned winkles in brine and jellied eels from that there London destined for some remote damp dwelling in the hills.

Wednesday, 31 August 2022

Telescopic Loco


 Wibble Wednesday. 

Guildford shed’s No.33019, an Oliver Bulleid designed Q1 class loco rumbles past the camera with what appears to be a Redhill to Reading service. Though the head code might suggest otherwise. 

As we all know, these ‘austerity’ locos were designed during WW2. To take up less space in storage or a ship’s hold, the various section of the boiler collapse in upon themselves until almost flat, apart from the tender to a fraction of its normal length. There were plans to build a collapsing tender, but that never manifested due to wartime budget restrictions.

To open it up after disuse, steam pressure build up slowly extends the loco back to its operational length.

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Tuesday, 30 August 2022

Waving Wayne

Old ’Sad Eyes’ No.13 stops by the ground frame to uncouple from its train before pulling forward and setting back in to the siding to collect a freshly filled grain hopper. Deliberation Dave waits on the right before popping in to the ground frame hut to flick the point. The hut also doubles as a moonshine store for those in the know. 

Waving Wayne (who’s been waving nonstop since 1953) waves at the arriving train. Even after the train has departed he’ll continue to wave at everything around him. It’s rumoured he even waves in his sleep. When drinking tea or drinking a pint of fermity he has to use his left hand. And should anyone ask, he’s banned from the local auctioneers. 

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Monday, 29 August 2022

Templecombe’s Finest

Monochrome Monday finds another old photo taken at Combwich. LMS 2P, No. 40564 of Templecombe shed is in its last summer of service, the loco sadly being withdrawn the following February of 1962 after a mere 34 years in service. 

These elegant 4-4-0s were usually used on the mainline to Bath, but were occasionally rostered on to the Highbridge and Combwich services. The service here is most likely the mid morning Templecombe to Combwich via Highbridge train. 

Keen loco-spotting types will notice the GWR interloper No. 4691 also of Templecombe shed next to the water tower. By the early 1960s they were regulars on the branch. But like so much steam in the 1960s, this loco was withdrawn at the tender age of just 19 in September 1964 after far too few years in service. 

Sunday, 28 August 2022

Hot Fuzz


Liz & Margo for the last week or so have been causing mayhem blasting around the Somerset Levels in their new bubble car. Anyone who knows the area, will know that the bouncy surface and random dog leg-bends (often for no apparent reason) will understand the hazard of going at any speed. All this isn’t helped by cattle being moved between fields along with other farming activities and lost hippies wandering the narrow lanes searching for signs of King Arthur. 

This morning, the local ‘hot fuzz’ have blocked the road in anticipation. Much to their surprise, posh Liz and not quite to posh Margo extract themselves the bubble car. They were expecting a couple of urchins who’d hot wired the 3 wheeler. 

This could create a difficult situation, for the local chief constable is rumoured to go hunting, shooting and fishing with royalty, and will look down severely at any activity tarnishing the aristocracy. And by pure chance that’s him walking his loyal hound Rodney. Oh. 

After a few mutterings that sound like “My office Monday morning at 9”, the incident is soon wrapped up and brushed under the carpet - or in this case kicked in to the rhyne. 

Regulars will note the similarity between the chief constable and not so celebrated photographer Ivan Locksmith, there is no connection other than that they frequent the same country sports outfitters in that there Bath over the hills.

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Saturday, 27 August 2022

Barrel Tossing & Wasp Chewing Competition


Saturday morning at the engine shed. As usual little actual work is going on, but Doug knows that he needs pull his thumb out and coal up the loco and then transfer fresh coal on to the stage from the wagon behind the loco. 

Colin is flying his new drone, he took this photo on his new toy hovering 6 feet off the ground. Not many know that drones existed in the 1950s, but there is so much we’ve forgotten. Okay, I’m making that bit up - in reality Colin’s on his new notebook, calculating the alcohol by volume of his latest batch of cider. 


Arthritic Arthur has spent the last 15 minutes trying to sit down. Old age isn’t much fun. But Arthur hasn’t helped himself, for last night there was the annual beer cask chucking and wasp chewing competition at the local pub - some of those wooden ale casks can be rather heavy, especially the hogshead sized ones which are huge. 


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Friday, 26 August 2022

Of Its Time

Going through a suitable photo for today I came across this shot of Combwich grabbed on my then new Canon G9 back in 2008. 


The signal box I built around 1982, probably from some plans at my local railway club (Southampton MRS) or something in a magazine. Magazines at that time, especially the ones produced on slate would regularly feature plans. It’s the usual plasticard construction with embossed sheet with fine card slates. Over the years to roof has warped, but the real thing is often seen sagging. The mix of BR Western and BR Southern colours was very much a thing with the former SDJR in the 50s due to regional boundary changes. WR in this case not wanting to splash out on a brown enamelled sign. 


The engine, a Johnson 1P 0-4-4 is the one and only brass loco kit I’ve ever built, I’m more of the scenery and building modeller. A Craftman kit, It was assembled with mostly superglue. At the time I was told it would fall apart, but 40 years on it’s still in one piece, though I did have the chassis professionally rebuilt recently. It’s a wonderful runner. 


Track is copper clad soldered construction, very much of its time and quite acceptable 40 or so years ago. It’s completely bullet proof, but if I was to build Combwich now, I’d either use C&L components or the new (ish) excellent PECO bullhead range. I won’t be relaying or or replacing any of this should anyone ask. Life is too short, and I’ve plenty of other stuff to be working on.  


Whilst Combwich is 40+ years old, the scenery has been upgraded regularly to keep it fresh with new scenic materials as they arrive. The layout is also covered when not in use. Dust (mostly dead skin) really ages a layout, turning it slowly grey. I’ve found that black refuse bags, cut down either side are a good an inexpensive source of plastic sheet. The budget ones being super thin, and ideal for resting over delicate scenery etc. 


And finally, the loco ash and clinker in the foreground, well, nothing beats the real thing. The loco ash here coming from the Severn Valley Railway sometime in the early 1980s, best keep that quiet, but I’m sure they’re not missing it. 


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Thursday, 25 August 2022

Flangeway Modeller Monthly

Local dirty rotten scoundrel, Terry Tuttle-Thomas-Smythe was known for a his pranks. The more dirty minded of you, might think TTTS is calling over to railwayman Sid Grumbefudge to shout “look no hands”. But no, of course not, this is a family page! He’s carrying a pile of model railway magazines, one of which is Flangeway Modeller Monthly - a very sought after publication still produced on finest Welsh slate. 

This month’s issue features a saucy double page spread of an exact 1/76th scale working model of a double slip carefully engraved on to beautiful 3/16th thickness lovingly oiled dark mauve slate by tweed clad hobbits. Definitely a keeper, with the added bonus of being wipe clean.


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Tuesday, 23 August 2022

Simon

Daddy (Mendip) Sentinel is taking Junior (Simon) Sentinel for a trip around the brewery sidings. One day he’ll have a red nameplate just like his father, so he won’t forget his name when living out his autumn days on a preserved railway - aka nursing home for old engines, wagons and coaches.

Monday, 22 August 2022

Such a Clever Horse

Monochrome Monday down on the docks. Arthritic Arthur really should stop jumping off the engine with his poorly back. Still he won’t be be told what to do, being an independent forthright soul. After jumping off the engine, he has no idea why, it’s an age thing I’m sure, and something I know I can relate to. Mine is usually going in to the garage or upstairs and not knowing quite why. Still, I digress, for poor Arthur now has to get back up on to the loco, an ex Midland Railway Class 3 from nearby Highbridge shed. Eric, stood in the four foot will be over to help Arthur in a second or two, and with a bit of luck Arthur won’t jump off the engine again for no apparent reason. 

Hubert the conversational Latin speaking horse’s day job is that of a shunting horse, and once the loco has moved out of the way, will take over the job of pottering about with the occasional wagon. The docks aren’t too busy these days, with Hubert expecting redundancy at any time. But being such a clever horse, he’s been building up his Latin teaching customer base on rest days in anticipation, so he’s not too worried, and anyway he hates the early shift. 

On the right, Shamus is waiting for the works train which runs on the docks light railway, it will be along once all the antics here are out of the way. Shamus as usual, is carrying a lunch box with a bottle of stout and raw onion sandwiches which he dips in raw egg. A hearty snack he’s become quite partial to since wartime food rationing ending a few years ago. Shamus has been after a girlfriend for some time, the occasional date he has, doesn’t appear last for more than a few hours, but hopefully he’ll find a local lass who is also keen on a diet of raw onions. 

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Saturday, 20 August 2022

Running the ‘shine


At a little known location somewhere on the edge of the Mendip Hills, the usual Saturday morning moonshine bargaining is going on. In recent weeks they’ve been moving about quite a bit more than usual to avoid creating too much of a pattern. 

Over there in the right, Humphrey Littletown, local cheese maker, dairy owner, euphonium player and jazz fancier is now running the goods for local bounder and cad Terry Tuttle-Thomas-Smythe on the left. In Humphrey’s van, the stash of freshly filled mason jars filled with illicit booze are hidden behind huge truckles of cheddar cheese. 


Bidding has been harsh, but now it’s between Deliberation Dave, Barry Bullhead (from The Ministry of Misery) and ‘Oh dear boy don’t you know’ photographer Ivan Locksmith and his loyal hound Reginald. And and usual, Clive looks on from the loco cab wishing it was cider, he’s not really a spirit man. 


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Friday, 19 August 2022

Overcombe


In the late 70s, early 80s I was a member of the Southampton MRS. A fabulous group of modellers. They taught me so much in my formative years of railway modelling, things like how to build track from components and proper scenics. The club is still going strong, with many of those members from 40 or so years ago still very active, albeit a little greyer! 

Here are a few of scenes on Overcombe, one of the various layouts the club had at the time. On a sunny day in June 1985 we took the layout outside to photograph it for The Model Railway Constructor. I was a keen photography student at the time, so was given the job to snoop about with a few rolls of Ilford FP4, whilst several club members moved the layout around to suit the sun whilst holding up a large sheet of pale blue painted hardboard to block out the background. 

After 37 years, the negatives from the shoot are back in my possession having been stored by a club member far better than I ever could have over half a lifetime. I’m now slowly scanning the negatives to super high res so they can be enjoyed in this digital era by a global audience. 

Sadly the narrow gauge section of the layout no longer exists, but the station and river boards do - they having been in storage for over 3 decades. But moving to the present day, I had the delight of a revisit earlier in the week to photograph the layout again for the popular press. 

The layout, now in private ownership still runs beautifully, despite decades of disuse, that’s surely a tribute to the quality of the original build. The buildings, many of which I gather were made in the 1960s still look great, they being of their time from cardboard, a medium which if done properly appears to have great longevity





Thursday, 18 August 2022

Fear & Dread

Here in the UK, after  several weeks of glorious summer weather (on Brit TV it’s called ‘severe weather Armageddon of dread, fear and doom’), the inevitable storm follows (the media calling that ‘severe weather we’re all going to drown in 1mm rain alert’). 

Fresh from travelling through a downpour (nobody drowned btw) the 10.05am Templecombe to Combwich arrives at its destination, the wet train glinting in the soft sunshine trying to break through the dramatic cloudscape. 

If you have been affected by this post, turn off the TV, pour yourself something nice and find a good railway book or go and play with your trainset. 

Wednesday, 17 August 2022

My First Cover Shoot

My first magazine cover. It is a scene on the then Southampton MRS’ Overcombe layout. Recently I was delighted to find that it still exists, now in private ownership. A revisit with lights and camera has been booked. 

Back then, UK railway magazines were mostly b&w apart from the cover. I used Kodachrome I recall for this shot, and Kodak Plus X for the feature inside. I’ve discovered my original negs, so it will be fun to scan them off and compare them to the forthcoming new set of images.

Tuesday, 16 August 2022

Missing at Assembly


Tuesday morning at the brewery, and time for the daily loco count at assembly. It appears that Peckett is missing, or most likely just late. “It will be detention for Peckett if and when he can be bothered to turn up” shouts the Fat Controller. 

Nearest to the camera, Mendip is always a bit of a creep, he’s always at the front of the line, tooting incessantly “peep peep peep” - btw that’s loco language for “me sir, me sir, me sir”. I note that quite a few of you have a locomotive as a profile avatar, so I’m sure are are already pretty fluent in conversational ‘loco’ so will not have required my explanation. 

Toot toot for now. 

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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…


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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.


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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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