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  • Planet Locomotive - A Fireman’s Life for me by Anthony Dawson

    Planet Locomotive 1 The 1992-built replica Planet coupled to the original ‘Manchester & Birmingham’ first-class coach, 5 January 2016. (c. The Liverpool & Manchester Railway, Amberley Publishing)

    The life and day-to-day tasks of a locomotive fireman has not changed since Richard Trevithick invented his self-propelled kettle in 1803. As a Railway Volunteer at the Museum of Science & Industry, Manchester – on part of the site of the Liverpool Road terminus of the Liverpool & Manchester Railway, opened in 1830 –  I have the privilege to work with the replica Planet locomotive. The replica was built by the Friends of the Museum between 1986 and 1992. The original Planet, built by Robert Stephenson & Co. in Newcastle was delivered only thirteen months after Stephenson and Booth’s prize-winning Rainhill Trials entry, Rocket. Planet incorporates all the features of a ‘mature’ steam locomotive, features which would not really change for the next 140 years: a multi-tubular boiler (adopted by Henry Booth from a French design by Marc Séguin) with a smokebox at one end containing the blast pipe (invention of Mr Trevithick) with a separate firebox within the boiler shell at the opposite end. Over forty Planet locomotives – or the 0-4-0 Samson derivatives – were built by Stephenson & Co for use at home and abroad: the first locomotives to run in Germany and Austria were Planets. The titular member of the class was the first locomotive to run between Liverpool and Manchester in an hour and also hauled the first load of American cotton into ‘Cottonopolis.’

    In order to prepare Planet, driver and fireman will probably have been up since 06.00 and get to the Museum in order to sign in at 08.00. They don’t leave until around 17.00. Before the fire is lit, the most important task is to ensure the boiler is full. The gauge glasses are de-isolated by moving the top and bottom levers to a vertical position and the water level should rise in the glass. If it doesn’t there’s a blockage. The drain is briefly opened to wash out any detritus. Satisfied that the boiler is full, with ¾ of a glass showing, any leaks have to be checked. The fireman has to check if wash-out plugs and mud-hole doors are leaking; then inspects the interior of the firebox to make sure that the tubes (which run the length of the boiler and carry the hot gasses) are not leaking, and nor are the stays which support the inner firebox or any of the seams. The firebars should be clean and free from clinker. Satisfied that it is safe to light up, welsh steam coal (the original Planets burned coke in the 1830s) is scattered across the grate. Next broken pieces of dry timber are built up on top of this bed, and finally a bucket of oily rags is doused with diesel; a handful of rags is placed on the shovel and set alight - matches or a cigarette lighter  (or tinder box and flint in the 1830s) are essential tools of the trade for a fireman. Young visitors to the Museum are often confused about coal and also because to them, a fireman is someone who puts a fire out rather than being a travelling pyromaniac with a shovel who starts the fire.

    Planet Locomotive 2 Old meets new: the 1992-built replica of Planet side by side with the sole surviving original Liverpool & Manchester Railway locomotive, Lion of 1838. They are photographed near Water Street Bridge. (Paul Dore, The Liverpool & Manchester Railway, Amberley Publishing)

    Planet can now be shunted over the inspection pit, so that the driver (the only person trusted to do so) can inspect the motion underneath and lubricate it. Whilst this is going on, the fireman sporadically checks his fire, and when the wood is starting to burn through, rounds of coal can be put on. Whilst steam is being raised – full pressure usually takes two and a half hours – the engine is cleaned. When sufficient pressure is raised, the fireman can test the injector –a vital piece of equipment, which injects water back into the boiler to replace that which as been boiled into steam. It was invented in 1852 by a Frenchman, Hénri Giffard, for his steam-powered Zeppelin. Before the invention of the injector, water could only be pumped into the boiler when the engine was moving using an axle-driven force pump. Satisfied that everything is OK, one by one the train crew take it in shifts to wash and brush up and put on their ‘whites.’ We are frequently asked by the public ‘Would they have worn white then?’ or ‘I bet that’s hard to keep clean.’ The answer is ‘yes’, the enginemen of the 1830s did wear white, or at least unbleached, un-dyed cloth. Why? Because it was cheap and easily boil-washed.

    Before Planet can pull her first service train, a test run is made to ensure that the locomotive and train are in full working order. Throughout the day the fireman has one essential job: the safe management of the boiler. He has to regularly check that there is sufficient water in the boiler, so that the tubes and the top of the firebox (called the crown) are to kept covered with water. If the crown is uncovered, then the firebox might start to collapse. A special lead plug called a ‘fusible plug’ will melt (lead has a lower melting point than the steel firebox) and this lets steam and water into the firebox, alerting the crew to the dangerously low water level. Putting coal on the fire is done ‘little and often’ to keep the steam pressure just below ‘blowing off point’ so that the safety valves do not lift. ‘Blowing off’ can waste two to three gallons of water a minute, yet back in the 1830s a fireman was thought not to be doing his job properly if the engine wasn’t blowing off all the time! The fireman has to check the colour of the smoke from the chimney to make sure there is enough air for the coal to burn properly. No smoke suggests there is too much air; black not enough; light grey just enough. Planet has no cab or any protection whatsoever from the elements: on a nice summer’s day it can be very pleasant indeed, but when it’s cold, or wet, it can be a truly horrible, miserable experience.

    Planet Locomotive 3 Robert Stephenson’s patent locomotive of 1834; the carrying-wheels behind the firebox made the locomotive more stable at high speed (around 30 mph) than the Planet type. (Author’s Collection, The Liverpool & Manchester Railway, Amberley Publishing)

    At the end of the day, the fire is allowed to gradually burn down, but not too much as there needs to be sufficient boiler pressure to go forward to disposal and to operate the injectors to refill the boiler until the injector knocks off. In the 1830s there had to be enough pressure to shunt the engine up down, working the axle-driven water pump to get water into the boiler. At disposal, the fireman and trainee rake out the fire: one in the cab, using the fire irons to riddle the fire through the firebars into the ash-pan, whilst the other rakes out the ash pan on the ballast. Engines in the 1830 had no ash pan, which was often the cause of line-side fires. A hose pipe is used to dampen down the hot ashes and to reduce the dust. With the fire out and boiler full,  Planet can be shunted back into the shed ready for her next turn of duty. It’s probably around 16.30. Now its time to complete the running log, note any faults, get washed, do any washing up, sign out and head to the pub.

    9781445661889

    Anthony Dawson's book The Liverpool & Manchester Railway is available for purchase now.

  • The Hooligans Are Still Among Us by Michael Layton

    The Hooligans Are Still Among Us 1 British Transport Police officers, outside Arsenal tube station, 1980s. (Tony Thompson, The Hooligans Are Still Among Us, Amberley Publishing)

    The scourge of football-related violence has been with us since the 1960s, and came to the fore during the 70s and 80s, before the use of CCTV and other pro-active measures started the fight back by police and the authorities. The so-called ‘beautiful game’ has served to enrich the way of life for many generations in the UK and abroad, but for a relatively small, but significant, mindless minority football provides a platform for organised acts of mindless violence at its extreme, whilst spontaneous incidents of disorder, often fuelled by alcohol, remain a reality.

    ‘The Hooligans Are Still Among Us’ was released on the 15 May 2017, co-written with Bill Rogerson. It seeks to provide readers with a resume of those early years, using recollections from retired police officers, before examining in some detail the risks that such violent individuals pose whilst travelling on the rail networks, and at, and around stadiums in the UK during the 2015/2016 season.

    The authors draw on material, much of it ‘open source’, which clearly indicates that, whilst we have not returned fully to the ‘bad old days’ of the 80s, the problem of football hooliganism still exists to this day. As police tactics have been honed over the years through better use of intelligence, legislation and technology so too have the tactics of determined hooligans. One has only to look at ‘social media’ to see how readily material of an anti-social nature can be found.

    This latest book also explores problems in the sport relating to sectarianism and racial abuse in the UK, as well as the impact that ‘travelling’ English supporters have at international ‘away’ games. Sometimes, ‘more sinned against’ than being ‘sinners’ themselves, the historical reputation of English supporters often goes before them, sometimes leading to violence and confrontation, as groups vie for supremacy.

    The Hooligans Are Still Among Us 2 Monitoring football traffic at Wembley Park Station in 2014. (British Transport Police Media Centre, The Hooligans Are Still Among Us, Amberley Publishing)

    This behaviour is vividly described in accounts of violence by eye-witnesses at the European Championships in France in June 2016, and, in particular, at the Old Port in Marseilles on the 11 June 2016. It is clear that, to the ‘combatants’, status is everything, and reinforcing their position in the ‘hooligans hierarchy’, all important.

    After a review of the history of some of the UK’s better-known hooligan ‘firms’, the book moves on to look at some of the latest measures that the police are taking, and also takes an academic view on one of the ways forward, where such issues as ‘fan engagement’ are highlighted.

    There is no doubt that history plays a huge part in the mind-set of hooligans and ‘local derbies’, and high-profile tournaments always feature highly in their planning.

    As some of the older hooligan elements have taken a ‘back-seat’, there are some indications that ‘youth groups’ are filling that vacuum, particularly at non-league football games, where there are normally no police in attendance, or there is a lack of effective stewarding and CCTV.

    As former police officers, Bill and I have no desire whatsoever to vilify the many thousands of decent football supporters who travel to games each week, or indeed to glorify the actions of those who seek attention from the media through their perverse actions.

    Without doubt however, this is a problem that remains in our society, so much so in fact that less than two years ago the British Transport Police put tackling football hooliganism at the very heart of their operational priorities – indeed it was second only to tackling terrorism.

    The irony of this directive will not be lost on many, as we witness the recent terrorist attacks in the UK, and without doubt, as the police seek to balance finite resources, the challenges to tackle football related violence will become even more demanding.

    To some extent, ‘The Hooligans Are Still Among Us’ acts as a sequel to ‘Tracking The Hooligans’, which was also published by Amberley in 2016. Whilst it is specific by way of its reference to football violence on the UK rail network, nevertheless, the principles of research remain the same.

    I refer to a statement made by the BTP Chief Constable Mr Gay in 1972, which remains with me to this day: “On an average Saturday, some thirty trains carried police escorts of between two to eight officers. They sometimes reached their destination with their uniforms spoiled with spittle, and other filth, burnt with cigarette ends, or slashed….”

    This is how it was, and often still is, for the very thin blue line of officers who have to deal with such issues week in, week out, whether on transport networks, or in city centres and stadiums.

    This is the sort of behaviour that innocent members of the public still have to endure on a regular basis – in short, ‘The Hooligans Are Still Among Us’.

     

    9781445665887

    Michael Layton and Bill Rogerson's new book The Hooligans Are Still Among Us is available for purchase now.

  • The Kitchen Garden by Caroline Ikin

    OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Fruit trees were trained up the kitchen garden walls in espaliered shapes, allowing for even ripening and ease of picking. (The Kitchen Garden, Amberley Publishing).

    When visiting historic gardens I’m always drawn to the walls.  A high brick wall – too high to look over, and with no openings to peer through – offers a tantalising clue to what lies beyond: the kitchen garden. What was once the bustling hub of the working garden is now often left derelict, grassed over, converted to a private swimming pool, or used as a car park.  But the walls remain, sometimes with the skeleton of a glasshouse clinging to them, or an ancient fruit tree still struggling up their bricks. These walls were built to last, their brick faces absorbing the light of the sun to ripen the fruit trained upon them in espaliered shapes, their stone copings sheltering delicate blossoms from rain, their solidity offering protection from wind and frost, and from predators - both animal and human.

    The gardeners who worked within the walls would have worked their way up over the years, from garden boy to positions of greater responsibility, developing specialisms in the cultivation of glasshouse fruit, growing cut flowers for the house, forcing rhubarb and chicory, creating hot beds and cold frames, sowing, germinating, watering, pruning, harvesting, and keeping pests and diseases at bay. Kitchen gardening was a job that afforded little time off. The garden bell rang at 6am, and until 6pm, the workers would be kept busy under the watchful eye of the head gardener.  But the plants did not stop growing at the end of the working day, and the glasshouse boilers had to be kept stoked, and the vents adjusted to maintain the exact temperature required for the peaches, grapes, or figs to flourish.  Pests - whether aphids attacking the vines, wasps gorging on the plums, slugs grazing on lettuce, or mice penetrating the apple store - were active at all hours, and gardeners had to keep a steady vigil. The bothy was often built into the garden walls, positioned behind the glasshouse range on the north-facing side, not taking up valuable growing space, but benefitting from the heat penetrating through the wall. Here, the unmarried gardeners would sleep, wash, and eat their meals; what little spare time they had was taken up with reading garden books and journals for those ambitious to scale the career ladder.  A head gardener could marry, and was given a house and garden of his own.

    The Kitchen Garden 2 Pineapples were notoriously difficult to grow, which made them all the more valued at the table in an age of horticultural one-upmanship. (The Kitchen Garden, Amberley Publishing).

    The kitchen garden was also the perfect showcase for innovation, particularly in the nineteenth century, when industrialisation had revealed the possibilities of mechanisation, and spurred invention to new levels. The growing consumer culture rewarded novelty and ostentation, both of which could be amply satisfied through fruit and veg. The production of cast iron and cylinder glass allowed hothouses to reach new dimensions, and these horticultural havens housed exotic orchids, as well as tropical nectarines.  The favourable growing conditions created under glass, with reliable boilers providing controllable heating systems, gave gardeners the means to cultivate out-of-season fruit, and impress with unusual cultivars from exotic climes. The dinner table would be graced with a centrepiece of fruit and flowers, all produced by the skill and patience of the kitchen gardener, at which guests would express their admiration, and conceal their envy.  The ultimate prize was the home-grown pineapple - a fruit notoriously difficult to cultivate, and requiring specific conditions at each stage of its growth. This special fruit was tended personally by the head gardener, and if his expertise was not up to the task, enterprising businesses offered pineapples for hire by the day.

    The Kitchen Garden 4 The Victorians invented many labour-saving gadgets for use in the garden, not all of which have stood the test of time.

    The Victorian confidence in scientific understanding was also on show in the kitchen garden.  Now that processes, such as photosynthesis and soil nutrition had been explained, gardeners were able to apply the knowledge of modern science to their growing methods, adapting their green-fingered traditions to incorporate artificial fertilisers and chemical pesticides, producing bumper crops of perfect fruit, vegetables, and flowers.  There was a tool for every job, with new-fangled, labour-saving gadgets stored in the tool shed alongside the spades, rakes and hoes, whose utilitarian design has lasted unbettered through the centuries.

    So, next time you follow the ivy up to the top of the garden wall, let your imagination fill with the sights, sounds, and smells of what went on beyond the protection of the bricks and mortar.  Taste the delicate peaches, hear the rumbling of the wheelbarrow, and watch the garden boy as he wipes his boots before entering the glasshouse with his watering can. The walls of the kitchen garden enclose an astonishing story.

    9781445668840

    Caroline Ikin's new book The Kitchen Garden is available for purchase now.

  • Space Oddities by S. D. Tucker

    THE ICEMAN COMETH

    In an extract from his new book Space Oddities: Our Strange Attempts to Explain the Universe, author SD Tucker remembers the life of Hans Hörbiger - the forgotten Austrian astronomer who claimed that stars didn’t exist, and spied giant ice-cubes floating in space.

    The next time you cast your eyes up towards the Milky Way some clear and cloudless night, take a moment to stop and ask yourself what precisely it is you are seeing. The standard answer is that you are observing a twirling, milky band of light, which stretches out across the heavens in a series of spiral arms, caused by the illumination given out by the innumerable distant suns of our galaxy. In short, you are looking at the stars. The renegade Austrian astronomer Hanns Hörbiger (1860–1931), however, didn’t believe in stars, and in an influential 1913 book, made the rather startling assertion that, far from being the result of starlight, the Milky Way was in fact made entirely out of ice. According to Hörbiger, a series of massive, planet-sized ice-blocks was floating around up there in space, encircling our entire solar-system in an impenetrable white ring. Light from a few actual suns lurking beyond the ice-ring then shone through this frozen barrier, reflecting off its massed ice-crystals, and giving observers on Earth the mere illusion of billions of stars twinkling down at us from the inky blackness. Various other astronomers might well object to this proposal, admitted the Austrian, and even attempt to show off photographs of the Milky Way’s alleged ‘stars’ to prove their case, but he had an easy answer ready to these arguments – all such images were simply fakes. As to any tedious mathematical objections which sceptical astronomers might have made to his proposal, Hörbiger had an even more emphatic response in store: ‘Mathematics,’ he once pronounced, ‘is nothing but lies!’

    Hörbiger could justify this bombastic assertion by pointing back to his successful career as an engineer, during which, one of his most appropriate achievements was to have helped develop new cold-compressors for use in manufacturing artificial ice. In 1894, he had also invented a special kind of low-friction, automatically opening and closing steel disk-valve for use in blast-furnaces - a genuinely helpful invention, without which, various industrial processes, and methods of gas-exchange would simply not have been possible. However, Hörbiger’s invention of this valve was not something he had worked out laboriously at a desk in his workshop, through calculations and technical drawings; instead, it had simply ‘come to him’ whilst on the job. As such, for a qualified engineer, he had little time for mathematics. ‘Instead of trusting me you trust equations!’ he would harangue those who tried to point out to him the various reasons why his ice-ring theory could not be true. ‘How long will you need to learn that mathematics is valueless and deceptive?’

    Hörbiger’s full, entirely maths-less, theory was termed the Welteislehre, or ‘World Ice Theory’ (‘WEL’ for short). Basically, it held that at some distant point in our galaxy’s past there had been a gigantic super-sun, millions of times the size of our own, next to which had orbited a massive planet, many times larger than Jupiter, covered by layers of ice hundreds of miles thick. Eventually, this ice-planet fell into the super-sun, melted, and transformed into jets of super-charged steam, which blew the sun apart, spewing out lumps of rock and fire, which ultimately settled down to become our own current solar-system. Vast clouds of oxygen were also released from the explosion, and reacted with thin layers of hydrogen gases already swirling through space, creating masses of space-water which -space being cold - soon froze into the gigantic ring of interstellar ice-bergs, which now encircled us all. Sometimes, said Hörbiger, one of these ice-blocks breaks away, and floats into the pull of our sun’s gravitational field, falling into it, and creating sun-spots, which are really colossal melting ice-cubes. Occasionally, the Earth happens to be orbiting in the path of one of these falling space-bergs, causing severe hailstorms, before it finally drops into the sun. Our moon is less lucky; being higher up and thus exposed to more ice, it is continually accumulating more and more frozen layers of water on its surface. Eventually, it will get so heavy that it simply falls down to Earth and kills us, claimed Hörbiger. Apparently, such a catastrophe had already happened several times in the past; the Earth used to have other smaller moons, which became so heavy with cosmic ice that they crashed down onto our planet thousands of years ago, destroying Atlantis and making Noah feel glad he had built that Ark. If you thought that the giant ice-berg crashing into the Titanic had been a disaster, implied Hörbiger, then just wait until the giant moon-berg finally collided with SS Planet Earth.

    That’s quite a bold theory, and in order to support it, Hörbiger had to have amassed a huge amount of evidence, didn’t he? No. Much of Hörbiger’s ‘proof’ for his premise amounted to the fact that he had had a few strange dreams or visions which had revealed the ‘truth’ about our frozen universe to him. Just as he had created his Hörbiger-Valve entirely through intuition, so he had created his infamous WEL. As a small child, Hörbiger had owned a telescope. Through this, he liked to look at the moon. He thought its surface looked cold; and, all of a sudden, realised that this simply must be because it was covered with ice. That was Hörbiger’s first revelation. His second came when he had a strange dream in which the Earth became transformed into a giant pendulum, swaying on a luminous string. This apparently revealed to him the secrets of gravitation, showing how ice-bergs in space could be attracted towards the sun. Thirdly, whilst working as an engineer one day in 1894, he witnessed some molten iron falling onto a pile of snow, causing bits of soil beneath to explode under the pressure of the jets of steam, which had been released by the snow suddenly melting. This caused Hörbiger to immediately understand that an ice-planet had once dropped into a super-sun, thus giving birth to our solar-system. Coincidentally (or not), the basic principles of World Ice Theory coincided perfectly with the physical laws relating to water, gas, freezing, and pressure, which Hörbiger had studied and made use of throughout his entire professional life. At last, the WEL was all falling into place; all that now remained was for Hörbiger to write his 1913 book – all 790 pages of it – telling the world about his discovery. Surprisingly, the book had many fans; including, as readers of my own new book can find out, a certain Mr Adolf Hitler …

    9781445662626

    S. D. Tucker's new book Space Oddities: Our Strange Attempts to Explain the Universe is available to purchase now.

  • The Early Railways of Manchester by Anthony Dawson

    The Early Railways of Manchester 1 Map of Manchester's railways c.1855 (Andy Mason, The Early Railways of Manchester, Amberley Publishing)

    The construction of the controversial Ordsall Chord in Manchester, enabling through-running between Piccadilly Station and Victoria, is the result of how the first railways came to Manchester in the 1830s and 1840s. It is rather ironic that, whilst the Liverpool & Manchester Railway was the world’s first inter-city passenger railway, its taciturn reluctance to work with other companies left Manchester with several isolated mainline stations.

    Manchester’s first mainline passenger station was built at Liverpool Road (now the home of the Museum of Science & Industry) by the Liverpool & Manchester Railway Company. In fact it was Manchester’s only railway station until 1838, when, what is now Salford Central (for the Manchester, Bolton & Bury Railway), and the now defunct Oldham Road station (Manchester & Leeds Railway) were opened. But none of these stations were connected by rail: they were built by fiercely independent railway companies, who viewed any form of connection or through-running as a challenge to their traffic, revenue, and status.

    The Early Railways of Manchester 3 Victoria Station c.1890; the original 1844 building on the left. The other ranges date from the 1860s expansion (Author's collection, The Early Railways of Manchester, Amberley Publishing)

    Next on the scene was the Sheffield, Ashton-under-Lyne & Manchester, and the Manchester & Birmingham companies, who opened a joint station, which today is Manchester Piccadilly – one of the busiest railway stations in Britain, with trains arriving or departing every eight seconds. The Sheffield company, as early as 1836, had wanted to form a junction with the Liverpool & Manchester, enabling trains to run all the way from Liverpool to Sheffield via Manchester, and vice versa. A logical move, but the Liverpool & Manchester Company was opposed, fearing lost revenue, and blocked the move. The Liverpool & Manchester Company was also opposed to the building of a junction and line from Ordsall Lane (on the Liverpool & Manchester) to Manchester Victoria Station. The Manchester & Leeds Railway had found their Oldham Road station too out of the way, and in a far from salubrious area, and so built a new station at Hunt’s Bank, close to Manchester Cathedral, and Chetham’s College. Naturally, the Church Authorities were not happy with this new interloper. Victoria was to be approached by an inclined plane, and trains were to be worked in and out via winding engines at the Summit at Miles Platting, where locomotives were coupled on to continue their journey to Leeds. The Manchester & Leeds had already raised the question of a junction with the Liverpool & Manchester in 1835, which had been flatly refused. Three years later, the idea resurfaced, to enable trains to work through from Liverpool to Leeds, and an Act of Parliament was obtained in 1839. But then the Liverpool & Manchester got ‘cold feet’, and instead promoted a rival line, running along Whitworth Street, to join with the Sheffield people at London Road. This would become the Manchester South Junction & Altrincham Railway, opened in 1848. Meanwhile, the northern link to Victoria had stalled. The Liverpool & Manchester refused to act, fearing loss of traffic. The Manchester & Leeds replied by threatening to build a rival line all the way to Liverpool, and a canal and warehouses to enable transhipment of goods from the quays, and wharfs on New Quay Street (near to Liverpool Road Station) to their new station at Victoria. Even the Manchester public were losing patience with the petty territorialism of the Liverpool & Manchester Company, its dilatoriness over the link to Victoria generating much bad publicity. Victoria station opened in May 1844, but the linking line from the Liverpool & Manchester mainline was not finally complete until several months later. There was, in the words of the Manchester Guardian, now ‘one continuous line of Railway Communication across the country from Hull to Liverpool, and the Irish Channel.’ Once the Manchester South Junction line opened, there was the possibility of trains – or at least traffic – being able to run from Liverpool to Sheffield, Liverpool to Leeds, and via the Grand Junction (which joined the Liverpool & Manchester at Newton) to Birmingham, and thence London, all via Manchester, linking the great industrial centres to the major ports.

    The Early Railways of Manchester 2 Galloway's unsuccessful locomotive Manchester - 'the first built in Manchester'. (Author's collection, The Early Railways of Manchester, Amberley Publishing)

    By the middle of the 1840s, Manchester’s railway scene had developed from a single, isolated station at London Road, to one that is recognisable today, centred on London Road/Piccadilly, Victoria, Salford Central. What there wasn’t was any connection between the two principal stations at London Road and Victoria; whilst the two were rail connected via the junction at Ordsall Lane, trains had to reverse to enter either station.  This problem was partially overcome with the opening of the ‘Windsor Link’ in the 1980s, but the lack of through-running from Piccadilly to Victoria, a product of the fierce rivalry between these early railway companies from over 170 years ago, will only be finally solved in December 2017.

    9781445665184

    Anthony Dawson's new book The Early Railways of Manchester is available for purchase now.

  • Doctor Who Memorabilia by Paul Berry

    Doctor Who is not only one of Britain's most famous television programmes, it has also spawned more collectables than any other British TV character. For over 50 years the BBC have been licensing products based on the series, and my new book: Doctor Who Memorabilia takes you through the history of Doctor Who merchandising.

    Doctor Who Memorabilia 1 Authors collection

    I have been collecting Doctor Who Memorabilia myself for around 30 years. I remember first watching the series in the latter days of Tom Baker, and vividly recall sitting through what seemed like endless Saturday afternoon football results waiting for the programme to start. I never actually hid behind the sofa - I couldn't because it was jammed firmly against the wall - but I remember the sense of atmosphere and jeopardy the series excelled at. In these early days I wasn’t obsessed with Doctor Who - there were too many other distractions for a child of the eighties - but I would buy the occasional piece of merchandise, and as our yearly holiday often took us to Blackpool, a trip to the Doctor Who exhibition would be a given.

    I continued watching Doctor Who regularly throughout the eighties, missing the odd episode due to bothersome commitments like cub scouts, or the injustice of another family member wanting to watch The A-Team. Then Doctor Who got temporarily suspended in 1985, and went off the air for a bit. It was during this period when virtually everyone else was tired and jaded about the programme that I started getting seriously interested. I started buying the magazine regularly, and religiously buying the Target books adaptations.  When Doctor Who came back on the air with The Trial of a Time Lord, I was ready to swear fidelity to the series, and other interests such as Star Wars, Marvel comics, and Masters of the Universe quickly fell by the wayside. I would literally buy anything and everything to do with Doctor Who, and in those early days my collection was pretty unfocused; if I saw it, and my pocket money would stretch to it, I would buy it.

    Doctor Who Memorabilia 3 The Amazing World of Doctor Who poster and cards (Typhoo, 1976, Doctor Who Memorabilia, Amberley Publishing)

    My collection grew quickly, and even though the series went off the air in 1989, I had no intention of stopping. There was no realisation at the time that the series would be taking such a long break; a lot of fans assumed there was a new series or movie just waiting on the horizon.

    As we hit the mid-nineties I was still collecting avidly, but found myself starting to drag my heels a bit, no longer buying every video or book the minute it came out. But for a brief period in 1996 my interest in Doctor Who was reenergised, when a TV movie starring Paul Mcgann was broadcast. Sadly, it quickly became apparent that there wasn’t going to be a series, and for the first time many fans, including myself, started to come to the realisation that the series was possibly gone forever. Those latter days of the nineties were my dark period as a collector; I never completely threw in the towel, but got further and further behind with the merchandise, usually waiting for sales, or getting items second-hand. My interest hit the lowest it had ever been, and had there been financial pressures, I think there may have been a temptation to just jump ship and get rid. Thankfully, I never did, and would advise anyone thinking of getting rid of a collection to think hard about it. As a collector you will go through varying levels of excitement and disillusionment over the years. One day you may look at an item and feel tired of it, but you never know when that enthusiasm will be reignited. Better if you can to just put it away ready for the day it will be cherished again. Don’t be one of those collectors - whom I have known a few of over the years - that go through the pointless cycle of selling and rebuying the same item several times.

     

     

    Doctor Who Memorabilia 2 Talking figures (Product Enterprise, Doctor Who Memorabilia, Amberley Publishing)

    My interest in Doctor Who had begun to pick up again in the early noughties, mainly driven by nostalgia, and then, to the surprise of many, it returned to TV in 2005. I was braced, ready for my levels of enthusiasm to hit new heights, and I planned to collect everything. But then I saw the programme and my heart sank. The truth is it took me several years to fully realise it, but it slowly dawned on me that this wasn't my Doctor Who. The series had moved on, and was being made for a totally different audience. Initially I collected the new stuff out of habit, but one day when my disillusionment with the series was so intense, I turned it off. I had to ask myself what was the point. Why was I collecting stuff I didn’t like?

    This is perhaps another lesson of collecting - to have some focus and not just collect for the sake of it. I realised, that while I didn’t like the new version of Doctor Who, I would always have that affection for the old, so the choice became simple - just stick to the collectables from the classic run.

    Doctor Who Memorabilia 4 Doctor Who Doctors bust set (Fine Art Castings, 1985, Doctor Who Memorabilia, Amberley Publishing)

    My book, surprisingly, only covers this classic period, not just out of sour grapes, but because the amount of post-2005 product is so overwhelming, there would barely have been a chance to pay it lip service. As much of the new stuff can still be found on car boot sales, bargain bins, etc, I felt it best to focus on the stuff most fans have nostalgia for, which tends to be the 60's, 70's and 80's, although the book does touch on the nineties and early noughties.

    My book doesn’t cover everything from that period, it is more of a snapshot of its vast merchandising history, but for anyone interested in Doctor Who collectables, I am sure you will find the book a pleasing trip down memory lane.

    9781445665528

    Paul Berry's new book Doctor Who Memorabilia: An Unofficial Guide to Doctor Who Collectables is available for purchase now.

  • Corvette: The Rise of a Sports Car by Mark Eaton

    For many people, a car is just a tool to get them around which is a pity because not only is it a very expensive tool [most people would probably rate their car as the second most expensive thing they own after a house], but this very complicated piece of, quite frankly, amazing engineering gives them the potential of freedom [despite today’s traffic volumes] that nothing else can, both of which seems to be lost on them.

    Kevin Warrington asks, in his excellent Amberley blog entry on the Triumph 2000, “Is a simple form of transport a reflection of one’s personality?” I would contest the “simple” notation but agree that it often is a reflection of one’s personality although in some cases, it may be a partly hidden personality too. Perhaps a reflection of what one might not be able, or want, to display most of the time?

    Corvette 1969 C3 Coupe TH The muscular and aggressive 1969 Stingray. This concours coupe has a 427-ci/7.0-litre engine, tri-power carburettors and factory side pipes, giving 435 hp. (Corvette, Amberley Publishing)

    Many of the owners of America’s sports car, the Chevrolet Corvette, that I know are quite quiet and unassuming people although, in the main, the cars are anything but! One friend of mine is a model of English civility, but in his garage lurks, quite simply, a monster of a car; a 1969 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray with a seven litre engine, triple twin-choke carburettors and drainpipe sized exhausts that exit the engine bay behind the front wheels, travel along the outside of the car under the doors and open, with very little silencing, in front of the rear wheels. The overall effect is a car that can do a very good impression of a low flying Second World War fighter plane in the noise stakes when it wants to. The fact that, when it was manufactured, it was one of the fastest accelerating cars in the world and can still severely embarrass much more modern machinery only adds to the mystique. Averaging around 9mpg is much more of the Sixties than of 2017 but there is a cost to everything, nostalgia included. Why does such a man own such a car? Because he loves it – purely and simply! It fires his imagination and his senses and a simple trip becomes an occasion.

    Interest in classic cars has never been higher.  Unfortunately, some people see them as nothing more that investments or, perhaps more fairly, works of art that have huge investment potential. Witness the sale of a 1962 Ferrari 250GTO in November last year for $56.4m [£47m]. A lovely car, but come on…. Meanwhile, back in the real world, classics [i.e. those over 30 years old officially] and newer versions of a marque that dates back before that can spark both interest and memories. Also perhaps, it stimulates a desire, sometimes a very strong desire, to own something similar.

    The Corvette has a sixty-four year history to date and, with a very few exceptions, will not command seven figure price tags. They do, however, provide a lot of character, charisma and, indeed, car for the money whatever age and whichever of the seven generations you might like or want to own. In the UK, they are very rare [there are about three times as many Ferraris and twice as many Lamborghinis registered in the UK as Corvettes], yet running them is relatively inexpensive compared to many of the grand marques.

    So, perhaps something that looks and often sounds outrageous? Something so out of the ordinary. An opportunity, if not to slip the surly bonds of Earth, then to at least open the throttles once in a while and head for the horizon in a car that just makes you feel good.

    Corvette C5 Wide Body convertible Corvettes have been modified by some owners since the marque began. This C5 convertible is quite an extreme example with wide body panels. (Corvette, Amberley Publishing)

    In Corvette: The Rise of a Sports Car, I summarise the long history of the car and ask “what is a sports car?” Why would anyone want to own such a thing; a car that is low not only physically but in what many see as the main point of a car – practicality – and why did a small group of Americans working for the world’s then largest corporation in a country that had nothing like it after the Second World War, think they should try to persuade the “powers that be” to build one? The trials and tribulations of corporate “issues” [something many of us are familiar with], the highs and lows, the successes and the problems, indeed the pain and the passion are all there.

    “It’s just a car” is a phrase I have heard many times in general life, despairing as I do so. It is NOT something you would have heard [or will hear] amongst the men and women at Chevrolet who have designed, engineered, manufactured and kept this particular dream alive for so long. Nor amongst the people who own them around the world.

    Imagine if you can, the sound of the large and powerful V8 engine burbling beautifully at idle, growling in the mid-range and roaring with revs, the smell of hot oil, the feel of the wheel in your hands, the acceleration pushing you into your seat, the roadholding allowing you to safely corner at exhilarating speeds and the strong brakes reining in the power when necessary. Perhaps with your most favourite person in the world sitting alongside, both with huge smiles on your faces! Often many of the people you drive by will be smiling too – not something you can usually say of sports cars these days.

    If any vehicle can stir the emotions, it is this most charismatic of cars in one or more of its seven generations to date. Are you truthfully able to entirely resist that?

    9781445664453

    Mark Eaton's new book Corvette: The Rise of a Sports Car is available for purchase now.

  • Brighton From Old Photographs by Christopher Horlock

    Brighton From Old Photographs The Royal Pavilion 1846 one of the earliest photographs taken in Brighton The Royal Pavilion 1846 one of the earliest photographs taken in Brighton (c. Phillipe Garner, Brighton From Old Photographs, Amberley Publishing)

    Another book of old Brighton photographs? There have been so many over recent years (and I’ve written seven of them!) it might seem there really isn’t the need for another.

    What’s different about this new book is it contains a large number of really old photographs of the town, some dating to the 1840s. I doubt if any other seaside resort has pictures from this decade. Even the nation’s capital, London, doesn’t have a significant number of views from this period.

    To put the earliest photograph in the book into context, Brighton’s most famous resident and patron, George IV, died in 1830. Just sixteen years later, we get our first photograph of Brighton – taken in 1846 - and it’s fitting that it’s a view of the Royal Pavilion, George’s seaside residence in the town. He was succeeded by his brother, William IV, another monarch to take a liking to Brighton, whose reign ended in 1837. Queen Victoria, William’s niece, then became monarch, but she found Brighton people repellent, and the cost of maintaining the Pavilion a real burden, and so sold the building off, in 1850, to the town’s Commissioners - the group responsible for administering local government then. The price was £53000, but this didn’t include any of the furniture, fixtures, and fittings, which she had removed. Over 140 van-loads of items were taken away, leaving the place a shell. One observer said the place, ‘looked like it had been plundered by Cossacks.’ Even tiny items, like plant pots and gardening tools were sold off. The job of restoring the Pavilion to its former glory took many decades.

    Brighton From Old Photographs The seafront 1863 This animated 1863 view looks east before the West Pier was built, with plenty of period fashions to be seen. (Brighton From Old Photographs, Amberley Publishing)

    The Pavilion estate, with its stabling (now Brighton’s Dome concert hall), and riding school (the Corn Exchange) form the first section of the book. There follow sections everyone will be expecting, featuring views of the beaches and promenade area, the piers (three of them), plus the main seafront roads and their hotels. I was pleased to put in a section on theatres and early cinemas, which often get neglected, and there are sections on the Old Town area (including the famous Brighton Lanes), the oldest streets - East Street, West Street and North Street – and also a large section on trade and industry. This last one will surprise some readers, as Brighton is not really known as an industrial town. Yet its North Laine area contained many factories, foundries and workshops, while at Brighton Station, a huge area became one of Britain’s major locomotive building centres, employing, in Victorian times, some 2000 people, making railway engines from scratch, turning out one a month. The book ends at the period of the First World War, with views of the Royal Pavilion being used a military hospital, so goes full circle.

    I’m always being asked where all the old photographs I have come from. It’s a long story! In 1968, my brother bought a ‘proper’ 35mm camera, and, loaded with film (36 pictures worth), we went out early one summer evening to try it out. We walked around central Brighton, taking photographs of things we noticed had changed recently, or had just been built. Why we chose to do this, I’ve never worked out. I’m not sure we really knew what we were doing. We took the old Hippodrome variety theatre, recently converted into a bingo hall, the new Brighton Square in the Lanes, plus views of the Palace Pier, and seafront. We took others, over succeeding years, including the huge American Express complex going up, one street down from where we lived. In 1972, the book ‘Victorian and Edwardian Brighton from Old Photographs’ came out, which really was the first collection of old photographs to be published. I found it a total revelation. I contacted the author, James Gray, and visited him many times over a twenty-year period, at first just to buy photographs off him, to go with all those modern day views we had been taking. I bought other photographs at collector’s fairs and other places, copied some out of old magazines, guidebooks, etc. etc. In time, as my own collection built up, I would swap pictures with Jim, having had copies made for him, he’d give me spares he had, and I would take any modern day views he needed, of buildings about to be demolished in Brighton.

    Brighton From Old Photographs Brighton's Chain Pier opened in 1823 destroyed by storm in 1896 Chain Pier opened in 1823 destroyed by storm in 1896. (Brighton From Old Photographs, Amberley Publishing)

    Surprisingly, our collections were, and are, very different. Jim’s was mainly topographical - streets, housing, buildings, etc., with Hove, Portslade, Falmer, Woodingdean, Rottingdean, plus all of ‘Greater Brighton’ included, entirely in photographic form, no old drawings, engravings or prints. Mine would be exclusively Brighton, nowhere else, and included drawings and prints, interiors too, which Jim wasn’t keen on, plus ephemera, tickets, letters, advertising material, and theatre programmes.

    Jim put me in touch with other historians and collectors, including Antony Dale, founder of the Regency Society of Brighton and Hove ( I supplied all the pictures for his last book), and Philippe Garner, a photographic expert of Sotheby’s, London, who has a really unique collection of original Brighton photographs - no copies or postcard views - dating from the 1840s. Some of his pictures appear in the book. Other views come from postcard collectors I know, notably Robert Jeeves, who has the best set of Brighton cards there is, and Peter Booth, who has a very fine collection too, with many unusual views.

    That’s only part of the story. I don’t know really how many I have now, but it must be getting on for 20000. At present, about half that number has been digitalized and ‘photoshopped,’ if faded or damaged - an ongoing situation at the moment.

    As my collection spans all periods of Brighton’s history, right up to the present day (I still take photographs of what’s changing), there could easily be a follow-up book, with more photographs continuing from the First World War, through the 1920s and 1930s (when Brighton reached the peak of its appeal), ending with the start of the Second World War. We’ll see!

    9781445669403

    Christopher Horlock's new book Brighton From Old Photographs is available for purchase now.

  • A look at "Jack the Ripper" Newspaper Reports by Tony Woolway

    Whilst researching my book Cardiff in the Headlines, I came across many references to the unsolved and gruesome “Jack the Ripper” murders, and the fear that the perpetrator of the horrific crimes in the Whitechapel District of London in 1888 had planned to visit or had been spotted in the town.

    No doubt there have been serial killers before, and after, but the killings were so abominable and shocking in their intensity that newspaper coverage was at a level unprecedented.

    In Cardiff, where victim Mary Kelly lived for some time before heading to London, there was also what some believed sightings of “Jack the Ripper” that spread panic to City and populations further afield.

    Ripper letter Western Mail Oct 11On October 11, 1888, what was described as “a brutal missive” purporting to be written by “Jack the Ripper” and bearing a London postmark, a letter was received at the Cardiff offices of the Western Mail. The writer threatens to visit Cardiff the following Friday in what was described as written in a diabolical style characteristic of these communications.

    The letter addressed to the editor, Western Mail, said:

    Dear Old Boss, - What do you think of my little games here – ha! Ha! Next Saturday I am going to give the St Mary St girls a turn. I shall be fairly on their track, you bet. Keep this back until I have done some work. Ha! Ha! Shall down Friday.

    Yours

    JACK THE RIPPER

    (Trade mark)

    In Roath, a district of Cardiff, some excitement was created in a hairdresser's shop by a stranger, carrying a black bag and declaring that he could easily “cut a woman's throat without any blood getting upon his clothes”. The man had suddenly left the shop, and a rumour gained ground that he was “Jack the Ripper.”

    PICTURE SHOWS: JACK THE RIPPER.     COPYRIGHT: NO NAME.  DATE: 2, APRIL, 1988.It wasn't only in Cardiff that the threat of a visit by “Jack the Ripper” was causing some considerable concern. Another letter signed in his name was received by a Llanelli woman, in which it stated that he planned to “do a murder in William Street on Monday or Saturday” that week. In the left-hand corner was roughly drawn, with the words, “This heart of a woman.”

    On a Swansea barque Picton Castle, dock labourers at Middlesbrough made a discovery believed to have been the work of “Jack the Ripper.”

    Arriving in the Tees from London a woman's hand was found plus a bag, the contents of which emitted a putrid odour. It was found to contain human remains in the state of advanced decomposition.

    The Western Mail, October 9 1888 reported a story of a man, Alfred Pearson, who was charged at Brierly Hill with stopping a man and his sweetheart in a dark lane and threatening them with a long knife and proclaiming himself as “Jack the Ripper.” The lady was driven into hysterics, and Pearson bound over to keep the peace. At Goven, Glasgow on the same day, a man who described himself as “Jack the Ripper the second” was fined three guineas for knocking over a married woman and brandishing a knife.

    In Yeovil, in January 1889, it was reported that a local “atrocious murder” was the work of “Jack the Ripper,” and that he was on some “murderous tour.”

    PICTURE SHOWS: JACK THE RIPPER.     COPYRIGHT: NO NAME.  DATE: 2, APRIL, 1988.All over world sightings or copycats littered the press. On December 5 1888 it was reported, again in the Western Mail, of the sensational discovery of an American “Jack the Ripper.” who hides in dark corners and darts out at women with a knife and muttering threats, whilst, in Brussels, a newspaper reported it had received postcards, letters, even telegrams, all signed “Jack the Ripper,” and announcing the writer's intention of visiting the city to murder women in a manner similar to his London prototype.

    In Corunna, Spain, the disappearance of two girls was attributed to “The Ripper” who it was thought had recently reached the town and had been “prowling about the place after dark.”  Young women and girls no longer went out at night, and even had their doors barricaded, to keep out the “mysterious assassin.” It was also reported that the “Whitechapel ruffian” had written one of his customary cold-blooded epistles to the authorities, telling them that he means to disembowel several “ladies” before he leaves Corunna.

    February 9, 1889, brought more reports, which this time, “Jack the Ripper” was in Jamaica. Fearful stories of crimes and mutilations similar to that of Whitechapel which the Western Mail noted that, in the reporter's mind unquestionably indicates that “Jack the Ripper” had gone from England to Jamaica committing a series of “diabolical and mysterious murders.”

    A woman had been found early in the morning lying by the roadside, her throat cut from ear to ear, her cheeks, nose and forehead slashed in a manner that would indicate it to be the work of a master butcher. The body mutilated exactly as had been done in London cases and the first of three and on the body by the blade of a small penknife was a card the bore the inscription, JACK THE RIPPER, fourteen more, then quit.

    The above was just the tip of the iceberg. Whilst the reports can be easily written off as the work of a copycat killer or just a mad frenzy whipped by a new and sensationalist media. There's no doubting that the unsolved Whitechapel murders were a template for the reporting that was to following in the wake of these unspeakable crimes.

    9781445648880

    Tony Woolway's book Cardiff in the Headlines is available for purchase now.

  • Sailing Ships of the Bristol Channel by Viv Head

    I was not a young man when I came to sailing with a first cruise on a yacht from Southampton to Weymouth aboard a 38 foot Sigma. A fine boat sailed in company with an experienced crew. At the end of four days I recall saying – Well I enjoyed that but I don't think it's going to change my life. Rarely have I made a more ridiculous statement.

    I have owned a yacht of some sort for twenty years now and for most of that time I have been a member of the OGA, the Association for Gaff Rig Sailing. The gaff rig has a four-sided mainsail and was used for centuries by working boats. It is the way sailing used to be and, increasingly, the way it is becoming once again.

    Sailing Ships of the Bristol Channel 2 Nutmeg in the Bristol Channel, passing Flat Holm showing the lighthouse under repair and the WW2 gun emplacement

    I grew up in Cardiff and am back living there now with the remarkable Cardiff Bay and the challenging Bristol Channel right here on my doorstep. Sailing the gaff-rigged 19 foot Shrimper Nutmeg, nothing pleases more than the satisfaction of being on a beam reach with a sailor’s wind, sails tight and a hand on the tiller, the boat lifting and dipping to the rhythm of the sea. In the Bristol Channel you do have to keep a weather eye on the horizon and the tides which are notoriously strong.

    From any point of the compass, the Bristol Channel has played its part in maritime heritage right around the world. It has a fascinating history and researching it for Sailing Ships of the Bristol Channel was a satisfying journey in itself. In Denmark I visited the Viking Museum at Roskilde, running my fingers along timbers from Viking ships more than a thousand years old, knowing that one of them was built in Dublin in the year 1042 and had every chance of having ventured up the Bristol Channel. Not just that, but having the opportunity to put to sea in a replica of a Viking ship, pulling on the oars in tune with fellow crew mates and raising the single flax sail knowing that the Viking ships of old had voyaged from these waters.

    The other place that caused me to pause and reflect on events of long ago was the graveyard of ships at Purton. With the banks of the Sharpness to Gloucester canal in serious danger of being breached by the searing tides of the Severn estuary, local men came up with a scheme to save the day. In 1909 they began running derelicts aground on the river bank so that they would catch the silt that is a feature of the rushing tides and cause it to build up. Over half a century more than 80 ships were deliberately abandoned here – schooners, trows, barges and lighters were all pressed into final service. And it worked, the bank has grown and the canal is safe now without the need for any major embankment construction. Most of these old working boats are buried deep in the silt and long out of sight but the old sailors certainly knew what they were doing. You may feel safe standing on the bank today amongst the scattering of maritime skeletons, yet a few feet away, the swirls and rush of the muddy brown water of a filling tide has a threatening menace about it.

    Sailing Ships of the Bristol Channel 1 Replica Viking ship under oars at Roskilde, Denmark

    There are many mysteries that lie beneath the waves that have long been forgotten and cannot now be re-discovered. Brave deeds, returning heroes, ships lost and sailors drowned. So it’s all the more reason to celebrate what we do know about this fascinating coastline over 300 miles long. In Sailing Ships of the Bristol Channel I set to capture some the stories of the famous ships, working ships and lost ships that have sailed these waters. The Bristol Channel has an incredibly rich maritime history, not just locally – many of its ships have made an impact on the affairs of the world. Some were built along its shores – the legendary Bristol Channel pilot cutters have a global reputation. Eighteen original vessels still exist and modern ones are still being built. John Cabot set out from Bristol in the Matthew and discovered America. The Newport Ship, built circa 1450 is the most complete fifteenth century vessel anywhere in the world. Four famous Antarctic exploration ships loaded Welsh coal before heading south. Scott’s Terra Nova is well known while the Antarctic pioneer Scotia was later wrecked and burnt out on Sully Island.

    More recently, around-the-world racing yachts and many more modest working boats and pleasure yachts were built, raced, traded or simply spent their lives earning their keep in a notorious stretch of water. In Sailing Ships of the Bristol Channel I set out to bring the story of this heritage, courage and endeavour into one readable volume with many fascinating photos and stories of more than sixty vessels.

    9781445664002

    Viv Head's new book Sailing Ships of the Bristol Channel is available for purchase now.

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