Wednesday 30 August 2023

Super Low Emission Zone

Wednesday morning, and it’s day two of the hugely controversial Super Low Emission Area Zone Enterprise aka SLEAZE set up by self serving Barry Bullhead from The Ministry Misery and his cronies. 

As Derek and Clive pass Mr Bullhead simply going about their daily work pushing wagons around in no particular order, Mr Bullhead shouts out “I want 12s 6d (approximately £12.50 in today’s money with inflation) from you for that not very old steam engine, it falls foul of my new emission standards!” To which Derek and Clive shout back in a no uncertain manner in almost total unison “Don't  pull that fast one you creep, you known we’re exempt, it doesn’t cover steam locomotives, you know that! Your real reason for SLEAZE is because your illegal moonshine business has a huge financial hole in it that needs filling!”

And with a shrill whistle, our champions put two fingers up (four combined) to Mr Bullhead and continue their daily work. 


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Monday 28 August 2023

Another Effing Bank Holiday Monday

Monochrome Monday again, and because the colour meter isn’t topped up until Tuesday morning, today as with most Mondays will be presented in black and white. 

Today here in Little England it’s a bank holiday for some random reason. I’ve often wondered if it instead should be moved to around the autumn clock change at the end of October. After all it’s miserable enough that time of year, and I’m sure many would relish the thought of going on a major bender the Sunday prior, the bank holiday Monday could be used for recovery. 

Here we have our loveable rogues doing their rounds dropping their illicit liquor off at a couple of pubs, for them a bank holiday is a loss of income. The Miners Arms, is named after a miner who had muscular arms that would put Popeye to shame. The pub is popular with underage drinkers, and of course miners, many of whom are rather vertically challenged, so are often mistaken for miners, the underaged ones, not those that spend 12 hours underground. Confused? I am after writing that load of old tosh. 

The lower photo is outside The Kettle Inn, a rough old joint and famous for wasp chewing competitions and it’s knuckle sandwiches. Fanciers of bad architecture will notice the chimney above the men’s toilet. It’s a real stinker, and rather than invest in bleach, it’s actually a tall vent in an attempt to purge pungent vile air hopefully above the heads of those passing by. It didn’t made the CAMRA Good Beer Guide this year, nothing to do with the stinking loo, but because the former beer pumps now only serve moonshine on draught. 


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Saturday 26 August 2023

In the Nick of Time

It’s Saturday down at the canal wharf, and as usual PC Rob Banks and Officer Crook are doing their twice daily walkabout to track down any nefarious activities, which invariably involve the production, sale and distribution of some kind of hooch. 

They start with Hubert the conversational Latin speaking horse. But Hubert is no snitch and just grunts in Latin which has the desired effect. 

Over the the right, local charmer, ‘businessman’ and smarmy ladies’ man Terry Tuttle-Thomas-Smythe accompanied by the utterly charmless self-serving Barry Bullhead from The Ministry of Misery prepare to dart off in Terry’s sporty red Triumph Roadster. The goods train conveniently placing a moving barrier between them and our hapless coppers to hide their depart just in time. 

Terry and Barry are feeling doubly smug, because the narrowboat and goods train are both carrying several barrels and jars of their latest batch of hooch which is currently being distributed from the large tank above the second wagon in the train. The boater is Waving Willy by the way, and half brother of Waving Wayne who some of you may recall from previous posts. 

Meanwhile, Bob Geeza Cat is more than a little concerned about the state of the mast on the old sailing barge. It looks like it could snap at any moment due to woodworm. 


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Friday 25 August 2023

Messing About With Vintage Lenses

 Friday evening at Brew Street, and it’s been a long day for the crew and their elderly ex Great Eastern Railway J15 which is standing in for the more usual ex Midland Railway 3F. 

In the late 1950s it’s not generally known, but two J15s were borrowed from the Eastern Region to trial in the former Somerset & Dorset Joint Railway Highbridge and Combwich branches. Their light axle loading making them ideal for lines that mostly floated on a huge bog. It wasn’t a success, for they were just as decrepit as the engines they were planned to replace. 

Above the engine, regular readers will spot the moonshine still, which after a few weeks travelling around the bog-lands on a Sentinel steam lorry has relocated to the roof of a cooperage. The set up feeds the raised tank to the right for storage, it masquerading as an innocent water tank. 

The reality, I quite like messing about with old lenses, this shot being taken on a Nikon Z5 mirrorless camera through a vintage 35mm Jupiter 12 wide angle lens made in the USSR in 1983. It adapts to the camera via an inexpensive 39mm screw thread to Nikon Z adapter. I bought this lens 30 or more years ago if I recall correctly. Being designed for a rangefinder camera like a Zorki, or if you’re posh a Leica, it only focuses down to 1 metre, I but discovered if I unscrew the lens to the verge of disengaging the adapter ring, it will focus to around 18 inches. The photo being the result. 


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Thursday 24 August 2023

WTF Thursday


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. 

Once Simon has learned how to use his wheels to run on his own rails, there will be no need for the pram wagon. Problem is that when toddler engines are so young, they need new track every other week as they need a wider and wider gauge. 

Having a growing up steam loco can be quite a financial outlay over the years, especially is they have aspirations of training to become a passenger express locomotive at Locomotive University. And then you have the occasional one that wants to become a diesel or even an electric loco, this can require quite advanced mechanical engineering, but with usually excellent results. 

And finally young Simon has learned that he’s only allowed to deposit water, oil and ash when at the locomotive depot, but he does struggle using a full sized adult ash pit. They grow up so quickly at this age…


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Wednesday 23 August 2023

Blown Head Gasket

Beryl’s recently supercharged Austin 7 has blown a head gasket, so it’s being taken by rail to the garage for repairs. It’s always blowing gaskets due to the excessively over-bored engine. But she’s happy with this irritation, for “it goes like shit off a shovel” - Beryl’s words, not mine. 

Back in the olden days, there were far more railway lines than roads, so broken down road vehicles were regularly taken by rail to be fixed. Most railway stations and yards had a mobile crane to assist with such duties. 

Because Beryl pays for a premium breakdown service, she’s been given a replacement vehicle for the duration her Austin 7 will be away. Much like today, replacement vehicles were ‘budget’, and in this instance she’s been loaned a 3-wheeled Heinkel Kabine, which is even smaller and definitely slower than her pimped up Austin 7. 

And finally, fans of Bob Geezer Cat will hopefully have spotted him lurking within this cameo. 


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Monday 21 August 2023

Brambles, Thorns and a TT Gauge Flying Scotsman

Monochrome Monday again, and because the colour meter isn’t topped up until Tuesday morning, today as with most Mondays will be presented in black and white. 

Here we are at Combwich on a damp, drizzly morning in late august. It’s hoped that the sun will break though shortly. Well that’s what the plumby sounding weather forecaster said on the BBC Light Programme a few minutes ago on the wireless. 

There are no little people to be seen, for they are either on the train, driving the engine, having breakfast or simply keeping dry. Though in all weathers Nasal Nigel tends to hide in the brambles in his sticky green flasher-mac fiddling with his TT gauge ‘Flying Scotsman’. It’s quite possible that he’s lurking in the brambles on the left just beyond the wooden barrels. I hope he’s watching out for the thorns, though to him that might be part of the pleasure. 


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Sunday 20 August 2023

Taking the Knee

Sunday down at the canal wharf and Barry Bullhead and his submissive minion Neil are out flogging their illicit wares. Neil kneels most of the time because he’s always proposing to someone of something, but his reason for kneeling today is because he was under his model railway yesterday trying to fix a faulty point motor and now can’t stand up.

Saturday 19 August 2023

Red Sky in the Morning….

Saturday morning at the colliery moments after sunrise, and the golden light is quite magnificent as we look across the railway yard observing today’s shunting locomotive. More frequently than not this is a diesel turn these days, with the locomotive starter key being mislaid as a ploy for extra overtime as the key is hunted down. 

But today former boxer Gaylord Grip and driver Peter Pecker with their trusty Peckett 0-4-0 saddle tank are ready to take charge. And by the look of it, the little loco is steaming away quite nicely. However that dawn red sky could signal inclement weather ahead, if the old biblical tale of ’Red sky at night, shepherd's delight. Red sky in the morning, shepherd's warning’ rings true.


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Friday 18 August 2023

City of Truro

 Front End Friday #FEF #frontendfriday

In 1957, preserved 3440 ‘City of Truro’ was dragged out of retirement back into regular service for a while. True! The engine came to fame after reputedly reaching a record breaking 100 mph back in 1904, though the finer details are contested - there’s plenty online for those with an inquisitive mind. 

Upon re entering service, the engine was mostly used on the Didcot Newbury and Southampton line, but also made regular appearances on enthusiast rail tours carrying socially challenged tweed-clad mother’s boys and men with hygiene issues. 

Here is the shiny beast, freshly buffed up on a SLS (Stephenson Locomotive Society) rail excursion arriving at Combwich in late August 1957. 


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Thursday 17 August 2023

Thundery Thursday

Thundery Thursday 

Under a thundery sky, Reginald peers across to the camera from the footplate of the wheezing old engine which has just arrived on the 6.03am Evercreech Junction to Highbridge goods. 

This train very rarely stops at Catcott these days, but today it’s collecting an empty coal wagon. But there is little coal needed here, for people tend to burn lumps of dried peat in their fires to boil the water, cook and keep warm. Though the crossing keeper has the relative luxury of being given a few lumps of locomotive coal in exchange for a little home produced cider. 

The tractor to the left is standing next to a shed owned by the local peat extraction company. You can’t quite see, but there is a narrow gauge railway which runs from the shed across to the moorland where the peat is extracted, though increasingly these days the peat comes by road behind the tractor. It also mostly departs by road rather than by rail. 

It’s hard to believe, but in less than 10 years from now, the railway will be long gone, for sadly nobody loves the railway anymore apart from the few enthusiasts who travel the line. 


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Sunday 13 August 2023

Is It All Over?

The moonshiner’s Sentinel steam lorry broke down whist on tour, so has been collected by the railway version of the Automotive Association to get it home and be fixed. They had to choose a route without low railway bridges and tunnels due to it being well out of gauge. 

Here we are back at HQ, but it appears that the police and customs and excise are waiting for them. How are our loveable inch high rogues going to get out of this one? Or it is all over? Suggestions in the comments below…

Saturday 12 August 2023

Freshly Squeezed

“Here we go again” I hear you mutter, “damn moonshine this, moonshine that, yada yada… zzzzz”

Deliberation Dave, the king of taking risks and trying out new things has decided to go into the apple juice business, unformented of course. The unadulterated juice is pressed from fresh apples grown in his extensive country garden on the nearby southwesterly facing hilly slopes of the Mendip ridge that extends just northeast of The Levels. 

Harry the Hammer and Doug are a little sceptical, but it’s looking likely that they might buy a bottle or 2, for after all they can alway pop a tot of moonshine in it if too sweet. 

To the right, Comical Ned, with the funny shaped head is trying to gauge what’s going on. And even Nasal Nigel has climbed out of the brambles after playing with his TT scale Flying Scotsman locomotive. Hopefully he’ll wash his hands before handling Dave’s bottles of freshly squeezed juice. 


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Friday 11 August 2023

Multipurpose Tools

The men of the track are out to perform a little tweak to the catch-point that serves the canal wharf siding. It frequently gets stuck open, but because the siding slopes down at 1 in 25 below the height of the mainline, nobody has ever been that worried. But ‘control’ are passing through on their inspection train later and won’t be too impressed if they spot a potential hazard like a jammed catch-point. 

On the left, Steve the Spanner holds up his huge adjustable spanner which can be adapted to any situation. It can even be used as a hammer, a door stop or crowbar, making it a most wonderful multi-purpose tool which can be used in both metric and imperial settings. Most extraordinary you must agree.

But much to everybody’s surprise, Percival Pickaxe jumps in with his multi-purpose tool which can be used for making holes in coconuts, moonshine stills and almost anything else that needs damaging beyond repair. However in this case, it will quite likely do a great job freeing up the stuck point/switch blade. 


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Thursday 10 August 2023


Not what it appears Thursday. 

To the uninformed, this is simply an auction for an ‘acquired’ tank of fuel - quite reasonable considering prices at the pump here in the UK have started to rise again. 

But it’s not what it appears, the tank is actually full of moonshine, carefully disguised to make it look like it’s carrying petrochemicals. And because the contained hooch it’s so popular, rather than mess about putting it into glass jars, bottles and wooden casks, bidders can buy a whole tank wagon of the stuff - for personal consumption of course. 

The only draw back is that it would make sense for successful bidders to have their own private railway siding, or tanker lorry to transfer the contents to, ideally one used for milk, water or wine, though I doubt some of the bidders will be too worried about such trivialities. 


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Wednesday 9 August 2023

An Age Thing

Wednesday 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. Harry the Hammer standing 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, he’ll 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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Tuesday 8 August 2023

Pint Sized Big Boy

It’s Tuesday morning at the colliery. And yet again the management are trying out new forms of motive power for the 2ft 3 inch narrow gauge part of the colliery. 

The builders based the design on a shrunk down ‘Big Boy’ 4-6-8-4-9-2-6-8-4-10-4-5-7-0-12 wheel arrangement locomotive from that there USA. But in their error forgot about allowing space for the loco crew which means that only hobbits are able drive and fire the locomotive. And small children of course. Whilst children are plentiful, they’re already employed underground at the coal face, and the few hobbits are gainfully employed hand scribing slate pages for the Model Railway Journal somewhere in deepest Wales. 

Hubert the conversational Latin speaking horse chuckles (or what ever horses do) - ‘they keep trying to replace me, and even if they find a locomotive crew, there’s no way that thing will be able to get around the tight curves on the line’. He’s such a clever horse, management should take more notice of Hubert, but alas very few, if any can speak or understand Latin - his thoughts above being translated for you my loyal readers. 

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Monday 7 August 2023

Monochrome Monday

It’s Monochrome Monday again, and because the colour meter isn’t topped up until Tuesday morning, today as with most Mondays, this post will be presented in black and white. 

Here we are a Combwich, and the 7.18am service from Bridgwater has just arrived under what looks like a potentially thunderous sky. The loco crew must be cranky today, for rather than run the train right up to the buffers to allow the more infirm passengers alight, they’ve stopped in the runaround loop to save the amount of shunting about required. There are no passengers anyway. 

The Nasal Nigels here will take great delight in pointing out the lack of loco lamp, but rest assured the crew removed the lamp rather hastily upon arrival. Time saved has allowed crew to prepare a fry up on the loco footplate using the coal shovel as a frying pan. The menu today is the usual sausage, bacon, eggs and black pudding cooked in lard with a dusting of finest Welsh steam coal for added roughage. For today’s muesli and sawdust breakfast fanatics, we must remember that in olden times such meals were deemed far more healthy than they are now, especially if accompanied with a pint of farmhouse cider and a Capstan Full Strength cigarette.  


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Sunday 6 August 2023

No Sunday Service

In the latter years of the railway to Combwich, there wasn’t a Sunday rail service. It was all part of a ploy to get people off the railways, much like the weekend rail replacement bus services of modern times. It was all part of a scheme to boost the motor industry, much like the present day to get people to lease electric cars which they’ll never own made in highly polluting factories in the Far East powered by dirty electricity. Own nothing be happy. I’d better stop, before I’m lynched by the finger pointing green stripe number plate brigade stuck on the hard shoulder of the M25 waiting for the AA to top their batteries up because they used the air conditioning. 

Liz and Teresa are waiting for a train to get them to Highbridge so they can get back to that there London. They might be there some time, as Barry Bullhead and Deliberation Dave eye them up and wonder if they’d like to join them in The Star when it opens in 5 minutes. Liz & Teresa are thinking the same thing, and anyway they’re desperate to meet some common people hoping they’ll be more fun than stuffy Tarquinius and Toby who they usually hang out with at the local hunt. Though with Dave and Barry, the ‘fun’ aspect will almost certainly be missing. 


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Saturday 5 August 2023

Canal Aged Brandy

Saturday down by the canal, Colin is trying out a cunning plan to replicate ‘sea ageing’ with the latest batch of illicitly produced ‘brandy’. The main problem is that they have a whole tank wagon of the stuff to ‘age’, the aforementioned wagon lurking behind the engine masquerading as a petrochemical tank. 

More wooden casks will be needed, and certainly more boats, or even a ship to carry out the task. As usual all our usual suspects gather around to dish out advice, but will no doubt soon come to the conclusion that they might as well pop a few casks on the veranda of a rough riding old brake van, the effect will be much the same. But with sulphurous sooty air creating its own unique character instead of the more traditional salty sea air. And anyway, the stillness of the water in the canal us unlikely to create enough motion for the ageing process. 

The Kettle Inn will open in just a few minutes, so it’s very likely that a planning meeting will hastily take place in the public bar to discuss where to source empty wooden casks from. They’ll also need to design a ramp to get the booze filled casks onto the brakevan without damage. 


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Friday 4 August 2023

LSWR Adams Radial

 #FEF #frontendfriday aka Front End Friday 

Friday frequently sees all sorts of random locos briefly passing through Brew Street. Double Denim Dancing Dando appears to be rather smitten with this one, so does a quick shimmy for the camera. It’s the sort of loco that with its graceful lines looks like it could be the star of the dancehall, not that locomotives do such very often. But I know nothing….  

He needs to be quick though, because in a minute or three, another engine will take its place posing before the camera, which could be anything from a Class 142 to an A4 Pacific or even a nuclear flask wagon - though he isn’t too keen on such because of the radiation, albeit super low, can make his false teeth rattle. 

In the distance, I see our moonshiners are parked up outside The Kettle Inn, though with such a noisy steamy beast, they really should take more care and not draw too much attention to themselves. They’re popped by to cheer the ladies with the the weekly wasp chewing competition, it being a popular event with the local ‘geeza birds’ off the local estate especially after a few shots of 180% proof hooch. 

Thw loco is a 4-4-2 Adams Radial by Oxford Rail.


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Thursday 3 August 2023

Copper Haired Coppers

Copper haired coppers, Cooper & Cropper (try saying that after 8 pints) usually patrol the canal side at the beginning of their shift. Cooper secretly fancies Cropper, and to display his love, he likes to talk about the history of the various wagons, flange bolts, sleeper types, fishplates, bullhead chairs and rail spikes. But Cropper is far more interested in Ed the engine driver in charge of the throbbing Diesel engine.

Wednesday 2 August 2023

BBC Documentary

Wednesday brings another familiar view of Catcott, as the mid morning Evercreech Junction to Highbridge slows for an empty platform. Average photographer Ivan Locksmith has his Rolleiflex loaded with Ektachrome to grab 43216 with the incorrect headcode. But in deepest, wildest most open Somerset nobody really cares (apart from Nasal Nigel), for control is a long way away. 

But little does he know, the BBC are on the train with poet laminate Johnny Bestfinger. They’re shooting a documentary about the railway, stopping at various spots along the line. Later in the day they’ll return to film Cindy Clapper the crossing keeper opening and closing her gates, something she always likes to do for an enthusiastic audience. She’s always wanted to meet poet Johhny Bestfinger, having borrowed many of his books from the library in Glastonbury a few miles down the road. And now she’ll be on film, destined for the Friday 6.30pm regional opt-out after the main news bulletin. 

The train departs, and Ivan Locksmith pops his camera back in its case, he being blissfully unaware of what he doesn’t see; but in 60 years time he’ll discover a bootleg copy of the film on YouTube, and think, gosh I photographed that train, let me scan that old 6x6cm slide for all to see.

Click to zoom in as always…

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