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.

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. 

You can help support the creation of these regular posts here 

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 LMS 2P, No. 40564 of Templecombe shed is in its last summer of service, the loco sadly being withdrawn the following February of 1962 after a mere 34 years in service.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 But like so much steam in the 1960s, this loco was withdrawn at the tender age of just 19 in September 1964 after far too few years in service.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.

You can help support the creation of these regular posts here

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. 

You can help support the creation of these regular posts here 

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. 

You can help support the creation of these regular posts here 

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.

You can help support the creation of these regular posts here

Tuesday 23 August 2022


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. 

You can help support the creation of these regular posts here


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. 

You can help support the creation of these regular posts here

Friday 19 August 2022


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. 

You can supports these almost daily posts here

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. 

Please help support these posts 

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