Monday 27 February 2023

Monochrome Monday

Monochrome Monday - 

It’s unusual to find photographs of the front of Combwich station, but very occasionally they pop up. Historians of the Somerset & Dorset Joint Railway will notice the similarity to that of Glastonbury with the tall windows, entrance canopy and curly bargeboards. 

Of course nothing remains of this scene now, the building suddenly catching fire in the late 1970s, thus creating space for yet another unremarkable housing estate. In Little Britain, disused buildings, especially pubs, despite being disconnected from all utilities frequently catch fire. Apparently these days it’s down to planet warming, rather than careless children playing with matches and 2 gallons of petrol - for of course petrol is too expensive for parents to give to their offspring as something to mess about with at weekends. 

And finally, before all the usual wags say ‘oh that bus is very small and that telephone box is very big’, Google that famous Father Ted comedy sketch about the small cows, and all will be explained - it’s series 2, episode 1 by the way 


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Sunday 26 February 2023

Arthritic Arthur

It’s a lovely Sunday morning at Catcott Halt, and Arthritic Arthur who lives not too far away in Burtle, likes nothing better than to look at the forever changing waters of the former Glastonbury Canal. It’s rumoured that a prehistoric creature swims the waters from time to time, and tends to appear more frequently around Wassail time when slightly more cider than normal is imbibed. 

Arthur has seen it a few times over the passing years, of which he has many under his belt. Apparently you only over see the creature from the corner of the eye, and if you look at it directly it hisses before quickly vanishing back in to the watery soup. 

Arthur’s pose is that of a man for all his life has lived in a small remote cottage on The Levels with a maximum ceiling hight of just 4 foot 9 inches. Arthur is in fact 5 foot 8 inches tall, but over his meagre 86 years, his body has adapted to allow him to move about his bijou dwelling at great speed without banging his head, but he does still have to take care with doorways.

Behind Arthur, today the Templecombe to Highbridge service is in the hands of a British Railways Standard Class 3 tank engine, and I’m sure you’ll agree  looks most resplendent with its train after passing though a heavy summer downpour shortly after leaving Glastonbury. 


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Saturday 25 February 2023

Locomotive Swap

In little Britain at weekends, all trains are replaced with buses, it’s been the law since 1883. Here we are at Ankle Bend Crossing just outside Combwich as the Rail Replacement Bus Service trundles past. And as is always the case, it has several unscheduled stops at the various hostelries on route allowing time for a quick pint to be hastily enjoyed. For this reason, the rail replacement bus service normally carries more passengers than the rail service it’s replacing. 

Next to the crossing gates, our favourite bus spotter Nasal Nigel is chatting to his fellow bus spotter mate Adenoidal Andrew, and showing him his sticky Hornby Dublo streamlined A4 pacific locomotive which he carries with him at all times. Adenoidal Andrew, also has a sticky locomotive that he keeps in his own special pocket. With Andrew’s locomotive of choice being a streamlined LMS Coronation Class engine in shiny blue with go-faster stripes. 

Nigel and Andrew discuss swapping their engines for the forthcoming week to test them out after briefly observing each other’s cool streamlined diecast locomotive bodies. But they’ll both need to check with mother that it’s okay to go ahead with the week-long locomotive swap, for these model railway engines are quite expensive and easily damaged if accidentally dropped from tepid slippery fingers. 


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Friday 24 February 2023

Johnson 1P

 #FEF aka Front End Friday….

Yesterday evening after finishing my commercial photography work I completely reworked this 13 year old RAW file from the bottom up, or top down, depending on which way you look at it…..

The fiction..

Here we have the mid morning mixed train from Bridgwater arriving behind 58086 sometime in the mid-1950s. This particular engine had the honour of being the last Johnson 1P 0-4-4 engine running on British Railways. But sadly suffered its ultimate demise in 1959 after many years pottering about from nowhere to almost nowhere in this most remote and almost forgotten part of Somerset. I think it’s a real shame that none lasted into preservation, they’d be so useful, so much so, that if I was Elon Musk I’d commission a new build, but sadly I’m just a cynical photographer and model maker who is getting on a bit living in an unfashionable part of outer suburbia.

The reality…

I built the loco as a teenager in 1982 from a Craftsman etched brass kit. It was all assembled with superglue, despite at the time being told that it wouldn’t last 5 minutes. Of course they were right, soldering would be so much better, but it’s still in one piece to this day and runs beautifully. But I have to confess to having the chassis fully rebuilt by a professional in recent years. 

I’m not really a loco builder, despite being able to create miniature wonderlands to what I hope is to a reasonable standard. However I’m mechanically inept when it comes to things that have to move. But luckily these days I can buy stuff that needs to move off the shelf. That said, I’m very good at building track from individual components, just not engines. The carriage is from a Ratio kit depicting a Midland Railway suburban coach. I’m not sure they lasted in to BR days. But it looks the part, and I won’t tell if you won’t. And for the nasal finger pointers, it’s a milk tank wagon behind the coach, not fuel. Though it has been known to transport moonshine occasionally. 

The Photo…

It was taken on a Canon G9 using a long exposure - the exif data telling me that it was 5 seconds long at 80 ISO with an f8 aperture - the smallest on this particular camera model. I do wish they’d go down smaller, but I imagine the designers don’t really have model railway photography in mind, and of course diffraction might be an issue with such a tiny sensor. So to gain greater depth of field I focus stack - you can Google that if interested. 

I recall the lighting was a single domestic bulb in the ceiling, the single point light source giving a single crisp shadow rather like sunlight. I admit the sky is a cheat, for the backscene finishes just a few inches above the distant tree line, so the brick garage wall is covered by a genuine summer storm sky taken above the Somerset Levels near Glastonbury last summer. With this in mind my more recent layouts have far taller backscenes, but when I started building Combwich in 1980, I didn’t think I’d be pointing a camera at it years later. 


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Thursday 23 February 2023

Dawn of Digital

Over the last few days I’ve been revisiting some images from the dawn of the digital era. Here’s an image from around 20 years ago taken on a rather plasticy HP Photosmart 945, with for what was then quite a reasonable 5.3 million pixel sensor. The camera didn’t last very long, it making a somewhat scary terminal cracking sound and packing up after only a couple of years use. It’s most likely now 30 feet down in exported landfill in Turkey, for sadly I never could resurrect it in to any kind of working order. And anyway, I’d moved in to the world of the DSLR by then. 

20 years ago, digital stills cameras were rather like electric cars are now, expensive, not very good, and of course the following years model would always be a lot better and half the price. But I mustn’t be disrespectful to  smug elderly bungalow dwelling metallic beige Prius owners who’ve invested all their savings in their quest to save the planet. 

But, the one good good thing the camera did have, whilst it lasted, was the ability to capture images with a seriously huge depth of field, which of course is ideal for close up photography of miniature things like this. 

Here’s a scene on Combwich, my slice of the former Somerset & Dorset Joint Railway that never was. And unlike the camera, I still have everything here in my possession and fully working. 


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Wednesday 22 February 2023


It’s early October 1963 and the evenings are definitely drawing in as the 7pm service to Templecombe via Highbridge has been given the clear to depart from Combwich. 

A low mist has started to hang around, and any exposed surface is starting to be covered in moisture. The flatlands of Somerset are damp, and even in high summer there is dew most mornings. 

Ballast wagons in the distance suggest there is work on the track which will most likely continue over the weekend, this often happens when it’s likely that a railway will soon close. 

And finally, the old trucks in the foreground have been here for years on a disused narrow gauge line that used to carry clay from a nearby clay pit. But the local kids enjoy pushing them around when the station master isn’t looking, so they still see a little action from time to time. 


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Monday 20 February 2023

The 60

Sometime in the mid noughties, Class 60, no 60026 is caught ready to depart Cement Quay with freshly quarried cat litter for the not very well known ‘Kitty Fresh’ factory near Catford in Southeast London. Being lightweight, high sided wagons can be used like the ones here. 

Former dockland security guards (who before that were traffic wardens) Ben and Geraldine (formerly Jerry) are now employed by EWS to pose in photographs due to the location being popular with Class 60 spotters. Bob Geeza Cat, taught them everything they need to know, including always standing next to each other for greater compositional impact. It’s rumoured that Bachmann based their high vis orange glad little people on Ben and Geraldine, but in toy train land there are many rumours, so it’s probably complete nonsense much like this post. 

Class 60s are almost as popular as Class 37s, with many hobbyists collecting as many as they possibly can in miniature to place on their overcrowded TMD layouts. Enthusiasts like the Class 60, because like the Class 37, it’s a proper British built locomotive, unlike those pesky Canadian Class 66 interlopers which make silly ‘ying ying’ noises all the time. 


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Saturday 18 February 2023


Saturday morning down in the docklands. Terry Tuttle-Tuttle-Thomas has just arrived on the mobile moonshine production train to deliver a batch of 180% proof ‘gin’ to The Kettle Inn. To keep people at bay, an old van has been repainted to look like it’s carrying gunpowder, but those in the know, will be aware that G P V actually stands for Gin Production Vehicle. 

Working from left to right, Oh My Gawd Oliver looks on in horror, but he’s a simple soul and easily shocked. Ivan is puffing away on his pipe filled with something grown in his greenhouse. Rufus Hound appears to have adopted Ivan today, enjoying the fragrant aroma of Ivan’s pipe which smells a little like chicken curry. Deliberation Dave is looking at Terry, and is building up courage to tell him that his flies are undone. 

Neil is kneeling by the moonshine condenser waiting for the fresh liquor to appear, for he has a crate of empty mason jars waiting to be filled. Bob Geeza Cat is as usual posing for the photograph, and rather than being at the edge of the frame, has taken a more prime central position today. 

Up on the warehouse roof, we see Nasal Nigel who is enjoying a high vantage point which allows him takes in everything that’s going on. He is of course wearing his sticky green bus spotter’s flasher-mac with the ‘special pocket’. I know quite a few of you like to know what’s in his ‘special pocket’, well apparently he has a Hornby Dublo streamlined A4 Pacific today. Nigel enjoys the feel of the cool smooth diecast metal pressing up against his groin, preferring it to the roughness of his more usual TT gauge Flying Scotsman which he finds too chafing. 

And finally, PC Rob Banks is on hand to apprehend Nigel should he start waving his streamlined A4 Pacific about, completing what could  potentially be explosive scenario if things get out of hand (or sticky hand in Nigel’s case).


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Friday 17 February 2023

The Return of Rufus Hound

It’s a spectacular sunrise, and Rufus Hound has just arrived back from his carnivorous tour of that there Europe on the overnight ferry. For after my post a few days ago of him being apprehended by former traffic wardens Ben & Jerry, he finally managed to abscond on the train ferry to Zeebrugge on the later train. 

Whilst he didn’t get as far a Spain, he found the Northern European sausages extremely satisfying and the local hounds most generous and accommodating. Which from my experience as a dog owner most unusual, for our little Border Terrier won’t share anything, but he is almost Scottish, so I imagine naturally quite tight. 

I’ve found having a harmless poke increases my social media presence - I worked for Rupert Murdoch for years, so I’m really quite ruthless in this pursuit. Yesterday’s post did rather well, and I apologise if you’re a Highway Code abiding spandex clad cyclist. For today’s poke, if it helps, I’ll mention that I’m also quite tight, it’s my Scottish genes (mixed with Welsh, Irish and a smattering of French), but I never wear spandex, I’ll do many things but I won’t do that. 

I digress, for here we have Rufus being chased out of the docks, though with our favourite hound always being up for a sporting game, this might take some time. And of course, Bob Geeza Cat is posing on the left to balance and add interest to the composition here. Did I mention that Bob supposedly taught acclaimed artist Terrance Cuneo where to put his signature mouse in his wonderful railway paintings? 

And finally, Doug and Fred the Flag are betting between themselves as to whether Ben or Jerry will trip first as Rufus taunts them.  


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Thursday 16 February 2023

Milky Malcolm

It’s a lovely July morning at Ankle Bend level crossing just outside Combwich as the morning goods arrives from Highbridge. Little Eddie, part time ’Teddy Boy’ and weekend hell raiser is at the helm of one of Templecombe shed’s ex GWR pannier tank locomotives. 

Milky Malcolm patiently waits at the crossing for the gates to open. He’s performing his daily round delivering cheese, cream and of course milk to whoever requires such. He also sells moonshine in special opaque white milk bottles to disguise the clear boozy contents. The moonshine bottles have a green crimped foil top to differentiate them from the more familiar gold and silver topped milk bottles. 

Malcolm occasionally gets the milk and moonshine mixed up, for he is colour blind and unable to differentiate between green and gold. This isn’t helped if the customer isn’t paying attention, also colour blind or simply drunk. But nobody ever complains, apart from those specifically wanting the green topped bottles. He struggles with traffic lights as well, but luckily in this part of rural Somerset such devices are few and far between, and with so little traffic they’re usually ignored anyway - much like today’s righteous urban cyclists do. 

Due to one of Malcolm’s errors, a Women's Institute tea party last week was quite a riotous event by all accounts, with much jollity and cake throwing, as the normally straight-laced twin-set wearing social climbing ladies supped their laced Earl Grey tea. 


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Tuesday 14 February 2023

Eddie the Ted

When Eddie finishes work on Tuesdays, he grooms his duck’s arse, slips on suede brothel creepers, his slick draper jacket and swaggers in to town to hang out with the local Teddy Boys and Teddy Girls - who were often known as Judies, the girls that is, well most of them anyway apart from Betty. Ooh. 

Their favourite haunt is The Star down on the harbour, it being a rough old pub, you know, it’s the one that sells knuckle sandwiches and has the weekly ladies’ wasp chewing competition. The pub is also known for its boisterous Tuesday rock & roll nights featuring local rockabilly bands. And of course there is always a fight, that’s obligatory. And because of this, there is a see-through mesh barrier to protect the musicians from being pelted by beer bottles and cider jugs just like that well known scene in The Blues Brothers. It’s believed that the writer of the cult movie once visited The Star, and felt suitably inspired to copy the mesh screen. 

But come Wednesday morning, Eddie transforms back in to a kind and mellow railway employee who delights in helping anyone and everyone. Even his Tuesday swagger is replaced by his slightly mincing but never the less firm stride learned during his 18 month National Service. 


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Monday 13 February 2023

Misty Monday

Misty Monday.

It would appear that the ‘Coal Tank’ has yet to return to Shrewsbury shed after almost a month. The fog coming off the Bristol Channel has probably helped in this respect, making it less easy for ‘control’ to see what’s going on. Also Combwich shed have from a paperwork aspect recorded its presence as ’one of ours with cab side number too faded to make out’. This of course doesn’t raise any eyebrows, because most of rolling stock and locomotives used on this remote part of the former Somerset & Dorset Joint Railway network are due for withdrawal and scrapping anyway. 

Celebrated posh photographer Ivan Locksmith can be seen photographing Highbridge shed’s ‘Bulldog’ 43216 before it heads over to the yard for a spot of shunting. It’s rumoured that it will be replaced with a GWR Collett 2251 class loco shortly, due to the recent Western Region regional boundary change. Boo hiss. 

Cheerful Chaz and Deliberation Dave do their obligatory pose for this photograph before taking their little train off to Bridgwater with the 8am service. And on the track we see Harry who is near at the end of his shift irrespective of what time of day or night it is, for its always near the end of his shift. 

Fans of Bob Geeza Cat will be disappointed by his lack of presence, but fear not, he’s on the platform just out of view behind the ‘Coal Tank’ posing for Ivan’s camera adding interest to the lower right hand corner of his photograph. 


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Sunday 12 February 2023

Meaty Misdemeanour

Rufus Hound, the most friendly dog in the land of the inch high, has been wanting to go to that there mainland Europe for ages after hearing that the sausages are particularly plentiful, meaty and good. His chosen destination is Spain, it having the accolade of being the biggest European meat consumer along with Portugal in second place. And of course, they’re both very sunny, and anyway, Rufus has always fancied being a mad dog in the midday sun after years of enduring the wet cloudy climate of Little Britain. 

After noticing the appearance of shiny new ferry wagons around the docks in recent days, he thought that his opportunity had finally arisen. But sadly for Rufus he’s been spotted sitting in the doorway of a wagon destined for the train ferry between Dover and Dunkerque. Former traffic wardens, Ben & Jerry, employed because of their complete lack of humour by The Ministry of Misery under Barry Bullhead, are quick on the scene to evict poor Rufus from the wagon destined for meaty foreign climes. 

To the right, and as a matter of course with any security breach, PC Rob Banks has appeared on the scene. But he knows Rufus well, so isn’t too bothered, so he instead he’s playing air piano practicing his boogie woogie version of the popular Hound Dog rock & roll hit. Once the former traffic wardens have nasally mumbled Rufus a warning, PC Rob Banks will take Rufus home via the butcher’s shop to grab him a nice meaty bone to chew 🐾


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Saturday 11 February 2023

The Art of Posing

Saturday morning down at the docks….

Working from left to right and up and down a bit, over the platform we can see Dizzie Lizzie who we’ve not seen for a while in the land of the inch high. But here she is trying to make a comeback, but as we know, she’s not known for keeping any kind of job down for more than a week or two. 

In front of our Liz, local business and ladies’ man Terry Tuttle-Thomas-Smythe and Barry Bullhead from The Ministry of Misery are discussing how to expand their moonshine production. Liz looks like she wants to be involved, but she’ll almost certainly crash the business overnight with her wacky ideas. 

Bob Geeza Cat and Rufus Hound appear to be the best of buddies these days. Rufus loves company, even if it’s in the form of a cat, and today Bob is teaching Rufus the art of posing in the perfect spot to compliment any photographs taken. Bob even taught celebrated artist Terrence Cuneo where place to his signature mouse which appears in many of his paintings. Such a clever cat. 

Rumbling through is the morning goods hauled by what appears to be another borrowed engine, which today is an ex Great Eastern Railway J15 number 65356. Some time last week it went missing from 31B March shed in rural Cambridgeshire, but the Eastern Region of British Railways are keen to get rid of all steam, so it’s unlikely they’ll be looking for it. And indeed it does fit in so well here, even though the crews prefer an engine with an enclosed cab when running tender first. 

Deidre Dinkle, former darling of the butter blending department at Hemyock is now head of sales within Terry and Barry’s moonshine empire. She’s chatting to Douglas, who used to be known as Doug before he lost his shovel. Douglas’ body language suggests that he rather fancies Deidre, but as we know she’s very much spoken for these days, but she will use her charms to sell him plenty of moonshine. 

Meanwhile, Waving Wayne has just arrived with a fresh consignment of illicit hooch from the moonshine plant on the tiny island of Steep Holm in the middle of the Bristol Channel. Wayne as we know never stops waving, he even waves when sleeping by all accounts. 


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Thursday 9 February 2023

10 Years After

Polbrook Gurney Colliery, September 1983. Compared to the olden times when the inch high people were up to no good, here we see the colliery in its final year of operation. But the mine did have the honour of being the last of the Somerset collieries, it outliving Kilmersdon by 10 years at nearby Radstock.

The former canal basin in the foreground hasn’t been used for a good 20 years and is now silted up, it doesn’t take long for nature to take back control. The Pedant & Armchair hasn’t served a pint for a few years now, the owner retiring in 1979. The pub is just a private dwelling these days, but the signage remains. 

Rolling the clock forward 10 years from this photo, very little of this scene will be recognisable apart from the retaining wall hidden behind the wagons. The former pub will by then have lost its signs and floral displays and be boarded up, the owner having passed on. Living alone it took 6 months for the passing to be discovered, the flies exiting of the letterbox drawing attention to the owner’s lonely demise. 

By the mid 2000s, the whole area will be a new build housing estate of unimaginative identical brick boxes of the type with tiny high wooden fenced gardens all crammed in. At least 4 ‘dwellings’ occupy the pub site alone. 

Today the estate looks rather rundown, with cars parked everywhere only outnumbered by the many different coloured wheelie bins we all have to endure these days. And of course the recycling one is never big enough, so half filled black bin liner bags are perched on top to take the excess, with the local fox population having enjoyed the contents of any bags that have fallen to the ground overnight. Microwave chicken tikka masala packaging being a favourite of the many vermin. 


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Wednesday 8 February 2023

Rails to Stogursey

Until 1958, a light railway from just south of Combwich ran up to the Quantock Hills town of Stogursey serving various mineral deposits and agriculture on route. It was initially hoped that the winding steeply inclined railway would ultimately link with the GWR at Williton on the other side of the hills to gain access to the docks at Watchet

Like so many grand schemes, the connection was never made, but the line did become a bit of a Mecca for fanciers of the former LSWR 0298 Class, 2-4-0 ‘Beattie Well Tank’ engines more widely known for their use in Cornwall. The short wheel base and light axle loading being ideal for the lightly laid track and tight curves not dissimilar to that of the Cromford & High Peak line in Derbyshire. 

Bogie passenger carriages frequently struggled with the almost trainset like curves, so it became the last line on the national railway network to use 4 wheeled passenger carriages. The carriage on this train appearing to be of GWR origin and is thought to have recently come from one of the lines in the valleys of South Wales. I’m no expert, but I’m sure one or two of you here will be able to shed further light. And for keen railway modellers, I’m sure one of the 1/76 scale 4 wheeled GWR Ratio plastic kits would suffice for those who’d like to recreate this train. By the way, EFE have recently re-released the loco in various OO gauge guises I gather. 

And going back to the rare colour photograph, here’s our delightful little train forming to 5.30pm service to Stogursey on the final week of passenger operations in July 1955, with goods trains hanging on until 1958 when the line finally closed. 

There is little trace of the line now, but the occasional gap in a hedgerow and careful exploration of Lidar mapping can reveal traces of the route. The only station remains are part of the short platform at Cockwood residing in a paddock. Please ask the owner before poking about with a spade, for all allegedly he can be a little tetchy with local claims that his missing wife is buried in the locality, despite never being found after her odd disappearance 1996. 


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Tuesday 7 February 2023

Young Isambard

Tuesday morning in the small yard at Catcott. Today Pete and Dave are in charge of the daily pick up goods from Evercreech to Highbridge Wharf. Young Isambard, a western man from Taunton is learning the route, that’s him up there in the cab. Western Region men are treated with much suspicion, it’s something that’s being going on for decades with great rivalry between the S&DJR and GWR and now even more poignant due to the rumoured BR Western Region take over of much of the former Somerset & Dorset network. 

Pete and Dave appear to be planning some kind of prank, which could involve Isambard being sent off to ask the crossing keeper if he could borrow a chocolate tea pot, or fetch some extra steam for the engine on the coal shovel. 

Meanwhile in the distance over Mendip, it looks like it might storm shortly if the sky is anything to go by. It’s been a hot week, so a break in the heat will be welcomed, especially by the loco crews. But we didn’t complain as much in olden times, for we were tougher back then, with many men and women having directly experienced one or even two world wars. 


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Sunday 5 February 2023

Super Wide Angle Sunday

From the rear of The Pedant & Armchair pub, Ivan puffs away on his pipe. As usual he’s smoking something from his huge greenhouse. Being landed gentry, his greenhouse rivals that of Kew Gardens by all accounts. When he was younger touring the globe, he collected plants from threatened rain forests. Many of the plants were very rare indeed, with now quite often the only known surviving examples thriving in his greenhouse. 

Meanwhile a nicely polished BR Class 3 tank engine rumbles past heading towards Frome. This service is usually in the hands of a BR Class 2 or ex GWR Pannier tank, so it makes a pretty sight in the highly polluted sunny landscape. 

Barry Bullhead from The Ministry of Misery watches the passing train from the elevated safety of the signal box steps. Being from the time and motion department, he’s been visiting various signal boxes along the line to time how long it takes the signalman to pull levers, twist, press and wiggle their various knobs, some of which go ‘ping’ when pushed. But in reality, we know that Barry Bullhead’s real interest is his moonshine business, so he’s most likely checking out potential locations for distilling. And with few trains, signallers will be keen of help out, especially with a little financial incentive. 


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Saturday 4 February 2023

Weather Balloon

At first it looks just like any other normal day, but in the land of the inch high, we know that there is no such thing. 

Looking up to the roof on the left, Barry Bullhead oversees his merry band of moonshiners up on the roof of the cooperage. They’re testing out the new cooperage hot and cold water supply tanks apparently, so all is well there. They’ve have been back several times over the last few days to check that it’s all working correctly, such dedication. Highly recommended! 

The ex LNWR ’Webb Coal Tank’ still has yet to return to Shrewsbury engine shed, but it’s unlikely they’ll miss it too much, for as mentioned a week or so ago, 58926 is a bit of a roamer. 

Driver Reg is chatting to Deliberation Dave about things they could do on their rest days, but as we know, Dave hates a break from the norm. Rufus Hound appears to have adopted Dave for company today, for he’s a friendly hound, far too friendly in fact, for as we know he’s Deidre’s dog. 

Deidre and Farmer George (he being one of 2 identical brothers both named George) still appear to be an item, but she still hasn’t worked out that she’s dating identical twins who share the same name. She’s simply impressed with his amazing stamina and ability to keep going, which she simply puts down to his skills maintaining his throbbing farm tractor which keeps him fit. 

Twitchers Cider, the big mass factory cider producer of the area, are testing out their new ‘weather balloon’. It’s quite sophisticated by all accounts, it having the ability to change altitude quickly to take advantage of different wind patterns. Apparently its purpose is to help them to monitor the weather and plan where to plant new apple orchards and such. It even carries a big camera to help identify suitable locations. The smaller bespoke cider producers don’t consider it to be a threat, but they will keep an eye on it. 


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Friday 3 February 2023

Doom Bar and Ukuleles

Yesterday evening we had a rather delicious beef stew, but we had it a little too late, and despite having an early night I woke up at 3am completely ‘wired’, so got I up a feasted on the wormhole of YouTube for a couple of hours.  

The last time I felt like this was when I worked in TV for a well known megalomaniac on their news channel. I recall that same 3am adrenaline fuelled buzz trying to stay awake and not take the broadcast off air by hitting the wrong button on the mixing desk just as breaking news from The White House or such was announced. 

I finally got back to sleep around 5am, and had an odd dream. I found myself and a couple of my band members (I’m a weekend muso) in a rather dull chain pub in Southeast London trying to find something worthwhile to drink. You know then sort of pub that thinks that by having a pump selling stale Doom Bar Bitter, it will entice the Christmas-only pub goer to experience the delights of cask ale. And in their boiled-in-the-bag and deep-fried defence, it probably does. I had an ersatz mainstream lager by the way, for that was definitely the lesser of two evils, even though the gas cylinder adding fizz to the bland liquor was almost depleted. 

Just as we were about to leave to find a more worthwhile beer experience, several smiley souls, mostly in later life appeared with silly hats covered with badges and what looked like violin cases. Yep, it was a meeting of the local ukulele group. The demographic is rather like that of toy train nuts, certainly the age group and the need to wear matching monogrammed polo shirts displaying their allegiance to their chosen uke-troupe, which in this case was the Lewisham & Blackheath Ukulele Strummers (apologies to any ukuleleists if this is a real group). 

As I took our glasses back to the bar, a rather jovial jolly hockey sticks Women’s Institute type, probably one of the inner clique of the troupe, said to me “we have some ukuleles here if you’d like to join in”. My fellow muso friends thought why not, after all, a ukulele is just the top 4 strings of a guitar at capo 5 for those who give a toss. We rummaged through a rather battered collection of ukuleles, most of which had broken strings or missing tuning pegs and finally managed to put three together with a little cannibalisation. 

And then I woke up….


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Thursday 2 February 2023

Missed the Boat

At Combwich harbour Skinny Jim and Lanky Les have just missed the monthly boat to the tiny island of Flat Holm in the middle of the Bristol Channel. Which is a shame because they’ve just rolled 3 casks of oak aged cider 5 miles along the country lanes from their remote farm up in the hills. So it looks like the booze starved residents of the tiny island will again have to hope for another booze carrying ship to run aground in the style of the classic film, Whisky Galore. 

Jim & Les had planned to use the old Austin 7, bit really is too small to carry any kind of cargo, and anyway is extremely unreliable. The nearby island of Steep Holm (which is frequently confused with Flat Holm) specialises in moonshine production, so the islanders of Flat Holm should consider setting up something similar, after all, a little competition is always good. 

In the meantime the mid morning service from Templecombe via Highbridge arrives. It’s a longer train than usual, because it’s the annual West of England Woodlouse Chewing Extravaganza, which this year is being hosted at the nearby The Star Inn. This pub as we know has weekly ladies’ wasp chewing competitions, so running this prestigious event should be a doddle. Mmm, crunchy. 


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Wednesday 1 February 2023

Scrumpy & Western

Another demolition train arrives at Combwich in September 1967 a year and a half after closure, and as we can see track is starting to look rather overgrown, the last weed killing train running well over two years before. It doesn’t take long for nature to take over, as any not-so-keen gardeners like me will know all too well.  

In recent weeks, a private contractor has taken over much the the demolition work. Working back to the mainline, the rails are broken up in to short sections and loaded in to the old wagons, which in turn will also be scrapped. 

After the station was fully cleared by the following spring, the land lay vacant until the mid 1970s when a rather unimaginative council owned semi prefabricated pebbledash housing estate was built on the site. Allegedly in recent years, residents have been complaining of water ingress and resulting mould, but supposedly the local council, who still own some of the properties are slow at doing anything about it, but of course this is only local gossip. But we do all know all too well this is a nationwide issue in Little Britain, especially with regional media outlets on ‘quiet news days’ when they need to fill airtime or column space with stock library news written by ‘media studies’ students on work experience. 

But on a positive note, the ‘Planet’ diesel mechanical locomotive here lives on in preservation at the nearby highly regarded Avalon Railway and Cider Farm. The popular tourist attraction was set up a few years ago by a wealthy former member of ‘The Scumpyheads’ the well known 1970’s West Country ‘scrumpy and western’ folk rock band bought to fame by cider swilling drinking hits like ‘There’s a Dead Rat in my Cider’, ‘I’ve Got and Brand New Cider Press’ and the minor keyed traditional folk ballad ‘Wassail My Old Dear’. 

By the way, do check the farm out, the railway takes a picturesque 2 mile circular route around the apple orchards, and of course there is a cider bar and stage for regular live music events. Google for more details, but beware that when I checked their website earlier it appeared to be down for some reason.  

And finally, Ratio based their well known plastic kit on the yard crane seen to the right. Also, Roxey Mouldings do a cracking little white metal kit very similar to the locomotive here. 


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