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  • Working on the Victorian Railway by Anthony Dawson

    A mid-Victorian photograph of an LNWR locomotive crew, giving a good impression of the clothing and working conditions of early loco crews. (Working on the Victorian Railway, Amberley Publishing)

    Driving and firing, locomotives like Planet or Lion on the Liverpool & Manchester Railway was not too dissimilar from a BR ‘Standard’ or even Flying Scotsman. In fact, ever since Richard Trevithick had invented the first self-propelled steam engine on rails in 1803 the basics haven’t changed.

    Firstly, the fireman is responsible for the safe management of the boiler: he has to make sure there is sufficient water in the boiler, and that there is always enough steam. Early locomotives were remarkable efficient, Planet only requiring 18lbs (about 8kg) of coke per mile; Lion uses about double the amount. Unlike Flying Scotsman which has something called an injector (invented by the Frenchman Henri Giffard in 1851) to put water back in the boiler, Planet and Lion had to rely on pumps which only worked when the engine was moving. This made it particularly important that the boiler was re-filled towards the end of the working day as there was no means of getting water back into the boiler when the engine had stopped working. As an aside, there is absolutely no primary evidence whatsoever that these early engines were run up to a buffer-stop, oil liberally poured over the rails and the engine set running in order to get the pumps to work. Whilst Lion still has two pumps, the 1992-built replica of Planet has both a pump and an injector. In order to ascertain how much water is in the boiler, a thick glass tube called a gauge class is fixed to the back of the firebox, straddling the water line. Valves at the top and bottom control admission of steam (top) and water (bottom) and there is also a drain so that the gauge might be ‘blown through’ to get rid of any blockages which could cause a dangerous false reading.

    Cross-section of a typical 1840s locomotive. (Working on the Victorian Railway, Amberley Publishing)

    The boiler had to be kept full in order to keep the top of the firebox covered with water; early fireboxes were usually made from iron but from the mid-1830s onwards they were made from copper. Copper melts at about 1,000ºC, whilst the fire in the firebox can be as much as 1,500! The firebox must be surrounded with water – and free from any scale which acts as a good insulator – in order to stop it from overheating and melting. If it does overheat, the fusible plug (a bronze bush with a lead core screwed into the top of the firebox) melts: the lead running out, jetting hot water and steam into the firebox as an early warning system to tell the crew to put the pumps on (and take the fire out if safe to do so).

    The foorplate and controls of Planet. (Working on the Victorian Railway, Amberley Publishing)

    In order to drive Planet, there are a pair of polished steel levers on the left hand side of the footplate. These drive the valves which admit or exhaust steam from the cylinders. Because these handles are directly connected to the valves, it means the engine can be driven ‘on the levers’ with the driver setting the valve timing by hand to get the locomotive moving. But this would be very tiring for a thirty-mile trip to Liverpool. So to get the locomotive to run on its own, the valves are worked via an eccentric on the driving axle. An eccentric works like a crank, turning rotary motion (round and round) into reciprocating motion (backwards and forwards). On Planet, the eccentrics were sandwiched between a pair of collars and are free to move laterally (side to side) between a pair of ‘driving dogs’ clamped to the crank axle. These ‘driving dogs’ are set 90º apart, providing fore- and back-gear. Each dog corresponds with a slot in the collar, into which it engages as appropriate. A pedal on the footplate shifts the eccentrics to the left or right so that the driver can select the direction of travel. Fastened to the eccentrics are ‘eccentric rods’. These pass to the front of the engine and work a rocking shaft. The eccentric rods end in a drop-hook called a ‘gab’ which can be locked or unlocked from the rocking shat. With the hooks unlocked, the valves can be worked by hand; with them locked in place, the valves are worked by the eccentrics. It all sounds very complicated, but it is in fact quite simple – when you know how!

    A id-Victorian photograph of a Furness Railway Bury-type locomotive of the 1840s. (Working on the Victorian Railway, Amberley Publishing)

    If starting, and getting the engine moving was one problem, then stopping it was quite another. For a start, there were no brakes on the engine, merely a hand-brake on the tender (the parking brake) which could be used in emergencies. Guards, sitting on the roofs of the carriages each controlled a hand brake, and if the driver wanted the train brakes putting on, he blew his whistle three times in quick succession. If he wanted them off, three times in longer beats. In order to slow down and stop the engine, it has to be put into reverse.  This often conjures up images of Casey Jones, throwing his engine into reverse, the wheels spinning round backwards, sparks flying. But nothing could be further from reality – it’s really quite gentle. The driver closes the regulator, shutting off steam to the pistons and the locomotive slows down, still moving forward under its own momentum. At about 5mph he can release his foot pedal, shifting the eccentrics over, putting the engine into reverse. After a revolution of the wheel (so the ‘driving dog’ engages into its slot on the eccentric cheek) reverse is engaged and the regulator slowly opened, putting steam back into the cylinders, but in reverse. So instead of pushing the engine forward, the pressure of the steam in the cylinders – because the engine is still going forward – cushions the piston, acting as a brake, bringing the engine slowly to a halt, and, with practice and skill, can be used to keep the engine stationary. Even though the replica Planet is fitted with a modern air-brake system, many drivers prefer to stop her 1830s style.

    Planet with a mixed train (first- and second-class) standing in front of the 1830 Railway Warehouse at Liverpool Road Station, now part of the Museum of Science and Industry, Manchester. (Photo: Matthew Jackson, Working on the Victorian Railway, Amberley Publishing)

    Enginemen of the 1830s were a hardy lot: neither Planet nor Lion have cabs, and only an ornamental railing to stop you falling over the side. On a bright summer’s day, chuffing along at about 20mph can be very pleasant indeed, but in the cold, wet, or wind it can be a harrowing experience.  Nor were the crews allowed to sit down to take a breather (at least officially); they were to stand up at all times and keep a sharp look-out. A billy can of hot tea could be kept warm by standing it close to the firebox and food kept in one of the lockers on the tender. Relief of another kind was a different matter entirely: there were no toilets at any of the stations so many enginemen must have, in emergencies relieved themselves onto their coal or over the side – in fact the Leeds & Selby Railway passed an order preventing enginemen ‘making water over the side of their engines’. They couldn’t even sit down and have a sandwich at the station: the Lancashire & Yorkshire prohibited loco crews from using any public bench or seat or refreshment room – presumably because they didn’t want dirty footprints all over.

    Drawing from practical experience of operating the replica Planet locomotive, Working on the Victorian Railway explores how drivers and firemen of the 1830s and 1840s were trained – or not! – their pay, working conditions and responsibilities and shows how there is very little difference between the first mainline express steam locomotive, Planet of 1830 and the most recent, Tornado (2008).

    Anthony Dawson's new book Working on the Victorian Railway is available for purchase now.

  • Operation Lena and Hitler's Plots to Blow Up Britain by Bernard O'Connor

    Most people have no idea that in the 1930s and early-1940s there was what has been called a ‘spy-psychosis’ or ‘Fifth Column neurosis’ in Britain. Many of the most popular films were spy thrillers. The Thirty-Nine Steps (1935), The Lady Vanishes (1938), Foreign Correspondent (1940) and Night Train to Munich (1940) were all box-office hits.

    Films released in 1939 included Spy for a Day, The Spy in Black, Spies of the Air and Traitor Spy. Beloved familiar characters of the time such as Inspector Hornleigh got in on the act by capturing spies on an express train in Inspector Hornleigh Goes to It (1940). Cottage to Let (1941) included fifth columnists and secret inventions. In low-budget comedies, Arthur Askey and George Formby would foil the plots of swarms of German spies as well as unmask quislings and traitors, and everything would turn out nice again. All these films reinforced the Government-endorsed message that not only did careless talk cost lives; anyone could be a spy and a traitor.(1)

    Camp 020, Latchmere House near Richmond, where 480 enemy personnel were interrogated during the war, including most of the saboteurs sent to Britain. (Operation Lena and Hitler's Plots to Blow Up Britain, Amberley Publishing)

    There were rumours of Nazi agents disguised as nuns operating from a disused London Underground station. The population was encouraged to report any suspicious activity, especially by foreigners, to the police. Lt General Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of the Boy Scouts and the Girl Guides, claimed to be able to identify German agents from the way they walked, but only from behind. General Sir Walter Kirke, Head of the Home Forces, claimed that ‘the gentlemen who are the best behaved and the most sleek are the stinkers who are doing the work and we cannot be too sure of anybody.’(2) There was a fear that enemy agents were using carrier pigeons to send their messages.

    In January 1939, the Irish Republican Army (IRA) issued an ultimatum to the British government to withdraw all their troops from Ireland or they would launch a sabotage campaign against Britain. When their ultimatum was ignored, the IRA started attacking targets in London and other major British cities.

    What was not realised at the time was that the Nazis were providing financial and technical support to the IRA, promising them independence for Ireland in return for helping their plans for a British invasion. German saboteurs were involved in the campaign with their bomb attacks being attributed to the IRA. These attacks continued throughout 1939 and after war broke out in September, the Security Forces started finding evidence of Nazi involvement. The British Government began to be seriously worried that the Nazis were supporting the IRA and planning to sabotage important military, industrial and communication targets before invading Britain.

    Waterpiplines leading to HEP station at Fort William. Target for James Walsh, Irish agent. (Courtesy of Martin Briscoe, Operation Lena and Hitler's Plots to Blow Up Britain, Amberley Publishing)

    The Government initiated a widespread counter-sabotage programme. You may well have read books or watched films about the sabotage attacks undertaken by British or British-trained agents in enemy-occupied Europe; how they destroyed aeroplanes, trucks and trains with plastic explosives; how they blew up canal lock gates, railway lines, electricity power stations, bridges, viaducts, aqueducts and tunnels; how they sank ships with limpet bombs and halted production at mines, engineering works and factories; how they brought down pylons, telegraph poles and cut cables with strategically placed and often cleverly camouflaged explosive devices. But where are the stories of the IRA’s sabotage attacks? Where are the stories of the German-trained agents infiltrated into Britain to attack important targets? Where are the documentaries? Where are the films?

    I researched Station 17, Brickendonbury Manor, the requisitioned country house outside Hertford, Hertfordshire, where overseas ‘students’ were trained as secret agents for my book Churchill’s School for Saboteurs. Later the house was used to provide agents with specialist courses in industrial sabotage before being infiltrated to undertake attacks on targets across Europe. Before researching sabotage in Poland and Italy, I got waylaid by writing an account of the women involved in deception schemes during the war.

    I spent several years poring over and transcribing secret agents’ personnel files and mission papers from the National Archives in Kew, downloading files from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)’s website, trawling the Internet for details, reading biographies, autobiographies, newspapers, history books and journals, and writing numerous accounts of top-secret sabotage operations during the Second World War. I discovered that the IRA and the Nazis made numerous attempts to sabotage targets in Britain and that the British Intelligence Services made concerted efforts to stop them. This book provides a detailed account of their successes and failures.

    Ronnie Reed, ZIGZAG's case officer in front of the transformer house at de Havilland Factory, camouflaged to look as if it has been sabotaged. (TNA KV 2/458, Operation Lena and Hitler's Plots to Blow Up Britain, Amberley Publishing)

    I have to acknowledge the research done by Rupert Allason, Mary Berbier, John Bowyer-Bell, Giles Colchester, Terry Crowdy, T. Ryle Dwyer, Bryce Evans, Lalislas Farago, Thomas Hennessey, Mark Hull, John Humphries, Tommy Jonason, David Johnson, Ben Macintyre, John Masterman, David O’Donoghue, Eunan O’Haplin, Simon Olsson, Terence O’Reilly, Adrian O’Sullivan, Frank Owen, Günther Peis, Lee Richards, Mike Scoble, Adrian Searle, Claire Thomas, Des Turner and Charles Wighton.

    The staff at the National Archives in Kew and the CIA online archives need especial thanks for generating a searchable catalogue and allowing many of the documents I found to be downloaded. The staff of the Lancashire Archives also helped provide access to their files. Steven Kippax, Phil Tomaselli, Stephen Tyas and fellow members of the Special Operations Executive Yahoo user group have been particularly helpful in providing files and answering my many queries.

    Martin Briscoe kindly provided photographs of the Fort Willliam hydroelectric power station, Mal Durbin the photograph of Cray Reservoir and David Howard the photograph of 35 Crespigny Road. I acknowledge with gratitude a number of websites on which I found other illustrations.

    Trying to provide a detailed account of what were considered at the time to be top secret activities over a six-year period has been a challenge, based as it is on often redacted transcripts of interviews, memoranda and correspondence. There may be gaps; there may be errors, but this book is more the work of an archaeologist than a historian. It is an attempt to piece together bits of information so that they tell a human story, one which I hope will not only give you fascinating details about little-known aspects of British wartime history but also an insight into the mind-set of the people involved in the British and German Intelligence Services, the saboteurs and the counter-saboteurs.

    Bernard O'Connor's new book Operation Lena and Hitler's Plots to Blow Up Britain is available for purchase now.


    1. http://h2g2.com/edited_entry/A87786102
    2. TNA INF 1/264-8
  • Scottish Traction by Colin J. Howat

    Class 37403 (ED) “Isle Of Mull” at Oban ready to depart with a service to Glasgow Queen Street. Taken April 1985 (Author's collection)

    Moving on from my earlier books, Ayrshire and Strathclyde Traction, I have now delved deeper and further into my archives. Scottish Traction as the title suggests covers Scotland from Thurso in the far north to Gretna Junction in the south. I have also included a couple of shots of trains just south of Gretna.

    A lot has changed with the Scottish Traction scene since these days. At one time there was an extensive internal sleeper service within Scotland out with the main Anglo-Scottish services. I can remember travelling overnight from Glasgow Queen Street to Inverness and back and also travelling from Ayr to Carlisle. I even remember turning out at Ayr station at 4:30 in the morning to capture the last Stranraer bound sleeper working from London Euston (May 1991). However, disaster struck as my 35MM Chinon camera jammed and I lost the shot – every photographers’ nightmare. I did however, capture the last south bound working. The advent of low cost budget airlines and other developments put an end to these trains and most were withdrawn by the early 1990s.

    47610 (ED) arrives at Edinburgh with a service from Birmingham. Taken May 1982 (Author's collection)

    Scotland has a diverse range of scenery from the rolling flat countryside of the Nith Valley north of Dumfries, through the fantastic West Highlands to the remote fields of the Far North line north of Inverness,  all offering their own unique characteristics. I have included 3 images for this blog that are not included in the book but hopefully will give a taste of the main ingredients contained within it.

    As time has passed, the Traction has also changed. The old class 303 electric units long associated with the Glasgow area are now gone. However their successors, Class 314s, are almost 40 years old and are also expected to be withdrawn by 2019. Class 318 and 320s along with Class 334 and 380 units now cover the electric scene. DMUs are long gone but again their replacements, Class 156 and 158 units are almost 30 years of age as well.

    Class 47 crosses the River Tay just outside Perth station on the single line to Barnhill with a London Euston to Aberdeen service. Taken August 1981 (Author's collection)

    With the impending electrification of the Glasgow Queen Street to Edinburgh via Falkirk High route expected to start at the end of 2017, this will trigger another cascade of traction with more Class 170 DMUs expected to be diagrammed onto the new Border Railway. The new electric Class 385 Hitachi units are expected to dominate the Central area for the next 30 plus years but are still to be tested out. Freight unfortunately has fallen to an all time low. Coal traffic is only a shadow of the past and container traffic looks like the future as in England it is increasing gradually. I would expect further lines around the Central belt to be electrified as the government wishes to cut emissions. As the old saying states “Nothing stays still” and I expect the changing rail scene to continue on.

    Colin J. Howat's new book Scottish Traction is available for purchase now.

  • Secret Greenwich by David Ramzan

    The Enderby's of Greenwich Marsh

    Whaler Samuel Enderby by William John Huggins (1781-1845), after engraver C. Rosenberg. (Author collection)

    Having produced several books for Amberley Publishing over a period of many years, a majority concentrating on the history and heritage of my place of birth Greenwich, in Southeast London, I was asked to compose a blog for the Amberley website. Not sure of what type of subject to write about, I took a look through other posted blogs, all of which made fascinating reading, describing how to photograph models, a writer’s passion for public parks and another documenting the history of Brunel’s steamship the Great Western, an account which gave me an idea for my own blog.

    The Great Western was the sister ship of the Great Eastern, constructed opposite Greenwich on the north shore of the River Thames at Millwall. It was the largest steamship ever built up to that time. The vessel later became the first to successfully lay telegraph cable, which was made at the subsea cable works in Greenwich, from Britain to America. However my interest is not in the ‘Great Babe’, the name Brunel affectionately gave his ship, but at the works at Enderby Wharf Greenwich where the subsea telegraph cable was fabricated and manufactured. The site, developed commercially by a family of whalers, sealers and Atlantic explorers, was acquired by Samuel Enderby II in the early 1800s. His sons, Samuel, Charles and George, expanded their business interests through the manufacturing of rope and canvas to supply the family’s fleet of whalers operating in the subantarctic and Antarctic, several berthed on the Thames off Greenwich Marsh. At its peak the company owned or leased sixty-eight ships, one of which, the Amelia, sailed west around Cape Horn in 1789 to become the first whaler to carry out whaling in the Southern Ocean. The Enderby’s built a house on the river’s edge during the mid 19th century, which had an unusual octagonal room with a glass ceiling and a large bay window giving a panoramic eastwards view of vessels sailing up and down the Thames.

    Enderby House, centre right, from Enderby Wharf, with the cable winding gear to the right of the image, prior to demolition of the site buildings to the rear. (Author collection)

    Although commercial whaling is now a subject of intense ethical and moral debate, between the early 17th and mid-20th century, the hunting of whales for their oil, meat and bone was a respected and highly profitable industry. The Enderby’s became London’s largest whaling company, funding several pioneering expeditions into the Southern Ocean which led to the discovery of the Bellany Islands and the establishment of the Enderby Settlement at Port Ross in the north-east of the Auckland Islands. At one time only whalers and sealers ventured as far south as Antarctica, only the men of those ships ever having set foot on its vast and desolate ice sheets, and no one had ever seen the Antarctic mainland up until as late as 1820.

    So well noted were the Enderby’s that the company and one of its whalers, the Samuel Enderby, feature in the novel Moby Dick, written by American author Herman Melville. The whaler Amelia is also mentioned in a chapter of the contemporary publication The Far Side of the World by Patrick O’Brian, set during the Napoleonic Wars, where the ship is taken as a prize by the American ship USS Norfolk.

    The Enderby family originated from Bermondsey, South London, trading in leather tanning, and were supporters of Oliver Cromwell during the English Civil War. Their patronage of Cromwell and funding of his new model army earned them huge favour with the Parliamentarians, resulting in the family being granted forfeited lands in Ireland, which the Enderby’s later sold to finance an oil trading business with Russia and in founding their whaling and sealing enterprises. After many years of successful trading, the money invested in the unproductive Enderby Settlement in the South Atlantic eventually brought about the company’s financial ruin, and the family business was liquidated in 1854.

    Painting of Enderby House and Enderby Wharf mid 1800s by David C Ramzan. (Author collection)

    The site at Greenwich, along with Enderby House, was sold on to submarine cable makers Glass, Elliott & Co, supplying telegraph communication cables laid down below various stretches of water in the North Sea and Mediterranean. Glass, Elliott & Co later merged with the Telegraph Construction and Maintenance Company, to become known as Telcon, the manufacturers of that first transatlantic telegraph cable successfully laid by the Great Eastern.

    Enderby House, which retained the name of the whaling family, continued to be used as company offices up until the early 2000s, when much of Greenwich Marsh came under redevelopment and regeneration. The northern stretch of the site, including the Grade II listed Enderby House and Enderby Wharf, then owned by Alcatel-Lucent, was sold off to developers. While negotiations continued over the redevelopment of the works and wharf, where a proposed cruise liner terminal and hotel were planned to be built, Enderby House, where Major General Gordon, son of Elizabeth Gordon, nee Enderby, daughter of Samuel Enderby junior, was entertained the day before leaving for the Sudan, soon fell into a state of disrepair. Local campaigners fighting to save the celebrated property, which has important links to the historic industries and technological innovations associated with Greenwich Marsh, made various proposals to ensure the iconic house has a sustainable and productive future, initiatives which include use as a visitor centre, museum, cafe and bar. As large areas of Greenwich Marsh, now known as Greenwich Peninsular, come under redevelopment and regeneration, apartments, offices and hotels replacing industrial buildings and wharfs of the industrialised landscape, very few original properties have survived from a period of advancements in technological manufacturing and engineering during the late 18th to late 20th century. Enderby House, one of the most important historic structures still standing, although in a perilous condition, alongside Enderby Wharf, are the only surviving reminder of the important role Greenwich Marsh played in not only the development of global telecommunications but also in the early years of Britain’s whaling industry.

    Artistic impression of Enderby House during the mid 1800s. (Author collection)

    Incidentally, in 2010, the bones of a huge North Atlantic right whale were uncovered in the mud off the Greenwich foreshore, believed to have either beached itself or having been caught and brought to shore from the Thames estuary. The remains we said to be the size of the white whale as described in Moby Dick, its bones dating to the early 19th century, a period when half of the Britain’s whalers gathered on the Thames off Greenwich, including many Enderby company ships.

    David Ramzan's new book Secret Greenwich is available for purchase now.

  • Lancashire in Photographs by Jon Sparks

    Summit of Clougha Pike (Lancashire in Photographs, Amberley Publishing)

    It’s often said that modern cameras have made photography easier. I can’t deny that the odds of consistently getting an image that’s in focus and correctly exposed are very much better than they were when I began my own photographic journey, before ‘digital imaging’ was even thought of. But ‘in focus and correctly exposed’ is not enough; it is not, and never has been, the be-all and end-all of photography. Landscape photography, for example, is not merely about making a record of a place but capturing how the photographer felt about that place.

    In fact, whether you’re shooting idyllic landscapes or hard-hitting news images, all the skill and all the equipment in the world count for very little unless you’re in the right place at the right time. And, yes, that’s another cliché, but it’s still true, and I hope the images in Lancashire in Photos show that I’ve managed to live up to it.

    Of course there’s an advantage for me in photographing Lancashire. I’ve lived here most of my life, and I’ve explored it in many different ways. When this book came on the horizon, I already had an extensive stock of images covering most of Lancashire, and I also had a pretty clear idea of places I wanted to visit, or revisit, for new pictures.

    Train and Arnside Tower from Silerdale Moss (Lancashire in Photographs, Amberley Publishing)

    However, I haven’t always had the advantage of playing at home. Other assignments have taken me to places I’m far less familiar with, and with strictly limited time to work in too. In those circumstances, there’s always a temptation to head straight for standard views and locations that you’ve already seen in other photographers’ work. Commercially, that’s sometimes a necessity, but from a personal perspective I tend to wonder what the point is. Photography for me is about capturing my own view of places, not reproducing someone else’s. And the ideal way to find my own view is to explore on my own, at a slow pace, and with a willingness to take a random turn because it looks interesting.

    In my view, landscape photography means being part of the landscape. It means engaging with it in some way, whether it’s walking, rock-climbing or cycling (on road- or mountain-bike). All of these have the great advantage of being slow; you move through the landscape at a pace that lets you take in details and allows all the senses to engage. Photography may be a visual medium, but it’s still underpinned by what you hear and feel and smell and taste.

    Working in my own backyard also means I’ve visited certain locations many times. I’ve trodden the summit of Clougha Pike at least three hundred times, and apart from the very early days I’ve always carried a camera, even if photography hasn't always been the first thing on my mind. When it comes to being in the right place at the right time, familiarity with the place certainly helps you figure out what might be the right time.

    Fireworks and train, Lancaster (Lancashire in Photographs, Amberley Publishing)

    Sometimes this means that I can head out with a pretty clear idea in my head of image(s) I hope will materialise. The image of a train and Arnside Tower had been in my mind for some time, and this hazy evening with the sun sinking behind and creating a semi-silhouette effect was just what I’d been looking for (maybe a steam train would be even more picturesque, but it would be a lot less typical).

    But you always have to be open to other possibilities too; while waiting for a train to appear, I noticed the backlighting on the moss crowning the wall right in front of me, which became the very next image in the book. The two were taken almost exactly five minutes apart.

    A train figures in my next example too, though this time it was a bonus, rather than central to my original plan. Shooting fireworks displays like this one over Lancaster Castle definitely requires preparation (and a good tripod), and because each exposure lasts a minute or more you can only shoot a limited number during the 15 or 20 minutes of the average show. I’d scouted the location beforehand, so I knew the railway line ran through the middle distance, but I couldn’t guarantee that there’d be a Pendolino pulling out of Lancaster station during the display. Once I saw it start to move, however, I had to keep the shutter open until its headlights had travelled right through the frame; fortunately this meshed perfectly with a 60-second exposure.

    War Memorial, Slaidburn (Lancashire in Photographs, Amberley Publishing)

    Then there are the shots that weren’t planned at all, like the image of the war memorial in Slaidburn. I was heading for a walk over the hills to Clitheroe but as the bus passed through the village I noticed the light making an already poignant memorial even more so. Fortunately, the bus-stop was only around the corner, and the first thing I did after disembarking was to jog back up the street to get the shot.

    Planning and spontaneity have to coexist, then, as they did with the image of Lytham that graces the cover of the book. I’d gone expecting to shoot images of the windmill and the old lifeboat station from almost exactly the opposite direction, bathed in late-autumn evening sunlight. However, you can plan for many things but clouds will always do their own thing – and even as they were threatening to frustrate my original intentions I saw the potential for a completely different shot. The first requirement for a landscape photographer – any photographer – is keeping your eyes open.

    Jon Sparks new book Lancashire in Photographs is available for purchase now.

  • David Brown Tractors by Jonathan Whitlam

    Arriving in 1945, the VAK1A replaced the original model and featured a modified front axle arrangement as well as quicker engine starting. (David Brown Tractors, Amberley Publishing)

    While writing the book David Brown Tractors it became apparent that 2017 was a good year to produce a book dedicated to the David Brown tractor line. Why was this I hear you ask? Well 2017 marks no less than 70 years since the David Brown Cropmaster tractor was first introduced. A tractor that did nothing less than put the David Brown tractor on the map and was also responsible for several firsts.

    Otherwise known as the VAK1/C, the Cropmaster was the first David Brown machine to feature a model name and this no doubt helped to catch the imagination of the farming public of 1947 when it was launched. David Brown had first brought out a tractor on their own back in 1939, known as the VAK1, followed by the VAK1/A in 1945. The Cropmaster was very much an evolution of that design with an improved engine and a longer build incorporating a hydraulic lift system. The whole engine and gearbox of the Cropmaster was also offset slightly towards the nearside, giving the driver a better forwards view. The company also claimed it improved traction on the nearside rear wheel when ploughing with the other wheel in the furrow bottom as the weight distribution was where it was needed.

    One of the reasons the Cropmaster was so successful was the fact that many items, such as pneumatic tyres, electric starting, lights and hydraulic lift, were included as standard features rather than extras as was the norm with the competition. Although a four speed transmission was standard, a six speed version was also offered as an option, this being the first tractor to offer such a huge range of gears. Another feature was a turnbuckle top link, which was an industry first and used by every tractor manufacture today.

    A David Brown Cropmaster working with a binder at a show in the south of England. (Photo: Kim Parks, David Brown Tractors, Amberley Publishing)

    In 1949 a diesel version of the Cropmaster became available, built by David Brown and making the Cropmaster the first British tractor to feature a direct injection diesel engine. This only further enhanced the popularity of the tractor.

    As time passed the Cropmaster inevitably evolved and in 1950 the more powerful Super Cropmaster appeared, followed by the Prairie Cropmaster in 1951 and a narrow version in 1952 for orchard and vineyard work.

    But all good things must come to an end and so in 1953 Cropmaster production ceased in favour of the new 25, 25D, 30C and 30D models which continued the evolution of the David Brown tractor but saw the end of the familiar Cropmaster name.

    70 years is a long time, and tractors have changed a great deal since then. But the Cropmaster was a landmark model and one that would set the pattern not only for future David Brown tractor features but also tractors industry wide. Not a bad feat for a tractor produced in a small factory at Meltham Mills, near Huddersfield in Yorkshire!

    David Brown Tractors tells the whole overview of tractors produced by the David Brown company from the Ferguson Type A of 1939 through to the very last Case IH 94 Series that left the factory in 1988.

    Jonathan Whitlam's new book David Brown Tractors is available for purchase now.

  • The Brass Eagle Lecterns of England by Marcus van der Meulen

    An early Tudor lectern, typical for the period. (The Brass Eagle Lecterns of England, Amberley Publishing)

    When I started researching the brass eagle lecterns of England, to my surprise there was no book about this fixture that is so omnipresent in the Anglican High church. There are books and publications about memorials, monumental brasses, organs and of course many about the English cathedrals. But about the lecterns that adorn so many these cathedrals, or college chapels in Oxford and Cambridge, there was nothing.

    Churches have been a passion for as long as I can remember. Growing up in the UK, my parents would take me to cathedrals and village churches. But it didn’t take long before the roles were reversed and I planned the trips and excursions.  A young lad using his parents as personal chauffeurs, to explore the churches of the Peak district and the Yorkshire moors. During summer holidays, my Batsford Books were my companion as I traveled the country ticking off the English Cathedrals.

    The early sixteenth-century eagle lactern once in Pugin's Cathedral of St Chad, Birmingham. (The Brass Eagle Lecterns of England, Amberley Publishing)

    A few years ago I was asked by Julian Litten FSA to give a talk at a symposium about brass. The passion for churches I had as a kid has matured and I have grown to become an expert of the ecclesiastical interior. Professionally I study the adaptation of underused or disused churches for reactivation, to put it simply: adaptive reuse. A special concern is how the interiors of these buildings can be saved when no longer in use as a house of worship. In the spare time I have been researching the pre-Reformation church interior, or perhaps more correctly the pre-counterreformation church interior in modern day Belgium. So I was asked to give a talk about the brass eagle lecterns in medieval Belgium.

    When giving a talk, it is most interesting to connect your topic to the location where you give the presentation, in this case King’s Lynn. As it happens, there are two brass eagle lecterns of the pre-Reformation period in this medieval port. Reading about these lecterns revealed some interesting facts and stimulated me to do some more research. There are the articles by Charles C. Oman, a remarkable man, but re-reading his first article – Medieval Brass Lecterns in England, Archaeological Journal, 1930 - I soon realized recent research had progressed on several points. First, there is the material, brass. The industrial revolution had changed the production of objects such as the lectern on a scale hardly imaginable today. Not only an industrial production in masses, also in ways producing the material itself. The production of brass had changed only marginally from the twelfth-century onwards, until the process of production was completely transformed in the early nineteenth-century. So I thought about looking at all pre-industrial brass eagle lecterns in England, as Oman had done before, and work from there.

    In Christian iconography a bird picking its breast is called a pelican and is a symbol for Christ's sacrifice. (The Brass Eagle Lecterns of England, Amberley Publishing)

    I started drawing a map, cataloging the locations, and drafting a chronological list. That helped revealing some interesting understandings of the lectern. First, the clear division between pre- and post-Reformation. Only a dozen were made after the English Reformation, mostly in the years before and after the Commonwealth, and predominantly for college chapels and cathedrals. Both at Canterbury and Lincoln, the lectern was quite literally a restoration; the replacement for the brass eagle lectern destroyed during the Civil War. These lecterns were all made in England, either in London or in the English capital of brass, Bristol.

    For the pre-Reformation lecterns, the list revealed a very different stance. These were mostly, but not exclusively, located in the eastern counties, in parish churches in towns and even villages. Often these lecterns were engraved, in Latin, revealing the names of benefactors. Especially the large number of early modern lecterns, those made between 1470 and 1540, were remarkable. Hardly surprising Charles Oman had devoted an article to this group of lecterns, which he argues were made in England. His arguments, however, can no longer be supported. Combining insights I developed a thesis about the origin of these brass eagle lecterns, possibly over-identifying with these beautiful objects.

    The Brass Eagle Lecterns of England is the result of these researches. With this book I hope to interest people for their religious heritage, the stories behind fixtures and fittings that can reveal so much of the history of our community.

    Marcus van der Meulen's new book The Brass Eagle Lecterns of England is available for purchase now.

  • Woking in 50 Buildings by Marion Field

    Tante Marie Resturant. (Woking in 50 Buildings, Amberley Publishing)

    Over the twentieth-century Woking has been ‘redeveloped’ several times. This trend has continued into the twenty-first century so writing a book with the above title was not an easy task. However, it is hoped that most of the buildings featured are still standing although there may have been some changes since the book was written.

    The Tante Marie Restaurant, which served delicious meals with waitresses and waiters trained by the Academy next door is now closed as it was competing with so many new eating places.

    Newark Priory today. (Woking in 50 Buildings, Amberley Publishing)

    Old Woking is featured in the Domesday Book. A Saxon church probably stood on the site of St Peter’s Church built in the eleventh-century. This still has a flourishing congregation with services and activities held throughout the week. A few miles away in Pyrford the ruins of Newark Priory are a reminder of Henry VII’s desecration of the monasteries. The monks from the Priory may sometimes have worshipped in St Peter’s Church.

    Another ruin near the church is Woking Palace. Originally a medieval manor house, it was transformed into a luxurious palace by Henry VIII’s grandmother, Margaret Beaufort. Here, she entertained her grandson and possibly his current wife. When James I sold the Palace to Sir Edward Zouche, the new owner left it to decay and eventually used the bricks to build himself a new mansion on the site of the Hoe Bridge School.

    The Shah Jehan Mosque. (Woking in 50 Buildings, Amberley Publishing)

    Most of the area around Old Woking was common land at this time and it was not until the nineteenth-century that the railway was built through it and ‘New’ Woking developed. When a cholera epidemic erupted in London, a new cemetery was required outside the city and Brookwood Cemetery was created from 400 acres of common land. Trains on the new railway line carried the coffined dead to their final resting place.

    Dr Gottleib also found the railway line of use when he decided to open a school of Oriental Studies in 1883. In the grounds he built a Mosque for his Muslim students to worship. Sadly, Dr Gottleib died at the end of the nineteenth-century and the school and the Mosque were no longer used. The Mosque, however, was resurrected a few years later and is still in use by the large Pakistani community who came to Woking after the Second World War.

    The Lightbox. (Woking in 50 Buildings, Amberley Publishing)

    ‘New’ Woking continued to develop in the nineteenth-century with shops, churches, pubs and schools being established. Culture was not forgotten. Visitors to the Lightbox can hear about the history of the area and enjoy one of the many temporary exhibitions. In April 2017 the venue also hosted Woking’s first ‘Literary Festival. The 120 photographs in the book show the variety of buildings that the town contains.

    Marion Field's new book Woking in 50 Buildings is available for purchase now.

  • Bournemouth Airport Through Time by Mike Phipp

    Before the end of World War Two BOAC established a base at Bournemouth. Services included the route to Australia with Lancastrians, which were converted Lancaster bombers. (Author collection)

    Researching Bournemouth Airport Through Time I discovered that the development of an airport can often be a torturous affair. Many UK cities and towns have ended up with one, whilst others, seemingly deserving, have not. During 1929/30 many locations were visited by aviation pioneer Sir Alan Cobham as part of his Municipal Airport Campaign. He considered that air travel was the way ahead and that Municipal Airports would be required all over the country. His reports were forwarded to the Air Ministry who would occasionally publish details of what progress was being made. They also pointed out that to become an airport the site had to provide customs facilities. Despite suitable locations having been established, many cities and towns were unable to finance the development of their own airport. However forty had been established around the county by the end of the 1930s.

    Sir Alan Cobham was a prominent figure in the aviation world. In the 1930s he was heavily involved in the establishment of airports around the country. (Author collection)

    In the early 1930s Bournemouth made use of the airport at nearby Christchurch. In 1930 Sir Alan Cobham had recommended a number of more suitable sites. However these were ignored by the Council who decided to enter into a partnership in 1935 with adjacent Poole to establish an airport there. Finance proved the downfall of this plan, with Poole pulling out of the project in 1938. Sir Alan had also visited the county town of Dorchester in 1929 in the search for a site. Although a field was selected and a few services operated in 1934, there turned out to be insufficient demand. Weymouth had a site which was also visited by Sir Alan (which he referred to as Weymouth Aerodrome) but it failed to be developed into an airport for the town. I compared this situation to Southampton which opened its Municipal Airport in 1932, although situated in the neighbouring town of Eastleigh. In the other direction Exeter in adjacent Devon developed a successful airport which opened in 1937.

    Aircraft of BOACs successor - the present day British Airways - are still seen at Bournemouth. This Airbus A319 has been diverted from Gatwick. (Author collection)

    Back in Bournemouth I found that Sir Alan Cobham has been seeking other sites in 1938/39 as the existing Christchurch Airport was proving too small. As normal he passed on his recommendations to the Air Ministry but nothing had happen prior to the outbreak of World War Two. It was wartime needs that saw the Air Ministry requisition land at Hurn Village for the establishment of a fighter base. This was one of the sites recently surveyed by Sir Alan. RAF Hurn opened on 1 August 1941 and proved to be a valuable military airfield. Its operational use came to an end three years later and, as with most wartime airfields, it could have returned to farmland. However, anticipating the return to peace, the Air Ministry selected Hurn as a new base for BOAC. It was also the UKs initial post-war international airport pending the completion of Heathrow. Even when Heathrow opened BOAC retained a base at Hurn/Bournemouth due to the lack of space at Heathrow. When they moved out further uses were found for their hangars and Bournemouth Airport slowly developed. It has seen ups and downs in traffic over the years, but remains important due to the amount of businesses – both aviation and non-aviation – situated around the airport. Having visited all my life I still find Bournemouth Airport a fascinating place.

    Mike Phipp's new book Bournemouth Airport Through Time is available for purchase now.

  • Bond Vehicle Collectibles by Paul Brent Adams

    A pair of Corgi Aston Martin DB5 models, with working ejector seats. Over the years this model has been produced in both gold and silver. (Bond Vehicle Collectibles, Amberley Publishing)

    The Bond films have always been great fun - especially all the super-spy gadgets and exotic cars. Many of these cars are available as diecast models, and you can own as many Aston Martins, Ferraris, and Rolls-Royces as you want, even on a very modest budget. I began collecting film and television related models over twenty years ago, but never set out to specialise in Bond. It is just that there are so many Bond models - literally hundreds - which anyone with an interest in film and TV models is going to end up with at least a few examples. I now have close to two hundred, which is actually rather a modest total, and the collection is still being added to. With each new film there are new releases, and an occasional new model of a vehicle from one of the older films. When I wrote my first book, Film and Television Star Cars - Collecting the Diecast Models, I had intended to include a chapter on Bond models, but the subject was simply too vast. Mr Bond needed a whole book all to himself. Actually there was a previous book on Bond models, The James Bond Diecasts of Corgi, by Dave Worrall, published in 1996. This was the first diecast book I ever bought, as a novice collector. It is very detailed, but only covers Corgi, and appeared just before Corgi and others unleashed a flood of new models.

    In his first film, Dr No (1962), Bond drove a Sunbeam Alpine. The James Bond Car Collection model is set in a detailed diorama, with a printed backdrop. (Bond Vehicle Collectibles, Amberley Publishing)

    Diecast models based on the vehicles used in films and television shows have been produced in large numbers since the 1960s, although the first examples appeared as long ago as the 1930s. They are known as Star Cars, or Character Cars. The most popular single character has been James Bond - there have been diecasts, plastic toys, plastic kits, slot cars, and remote controlled models made. The first James Bond diecast appeared in 1965: the classic, gadget-packed Aston Martin DB5 from the film Goldfinger. This was released by the British firm Corgi, and apart from a brief break in the 1980s, they have been producing Bond models ever since. Corgi would eventually produce several versions of the DB5 in various sizes, most with an array of spy gadgets - including a working ejector seat - which must have been tremendous fun for any small boy or girl (it is still tremendous fun for all ages). Corgi, and others, have produced models for all the twenty-four films made by Eon Productions, and the cartoon series James Bond Jr, but not the two non-Eon films (the 1967 version of Casino Royale with David Niven; and Never Say Never Again with Sean Connery).

    A classic villain car, the Rolls-Royce Phantom III driven by Oddjob in Goldfinger (1964). This is another model from the James Bond Car Collection. (Bond Vehicle Collectibles, Amberley Publishing)

    Most of these models tend to be of the 'glamour cars' such as the various Aston Martins, the Lotus Esprit submarine car, and the BMWs from the Pierce Brosnan era. There have been fewer models of the less exotic types, but you can still find a couple of trucks, several taxis, an electric milk float, and even the double-decker bus Bond drove in Live and Let Die. There are also a few boats and planes. By far the best source for the less common types was the James Bond Car Collection, a fortnightly partwork published by Eaglemoss that ran for over a hundred issues. Each model came in a clear plastic display case, and was set in a small diorama, depicting a scene from the film it appeared in. Most came with figures, which really helped to bring the models alive. The accompanying magazine also provided a great deal of useful information on the more obscure Bond vehicles.

    From the Real Toy Action City series: the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, seen at the beginning of Moonraker (1979). The real SCA uses an early version of the Boeing 747, but the model is based on a later production aircraft. (Bond Vehicle Collectibles, Amberley Publishing)

    Apart from the many vehicles driven by Bond himself, or his allies, there are also a number of 'villain cars' - vehicles used by Spectre and other unfriendly types. Again, these range from the exotic to the mundane. Numerous types were included in the James Bond Car Collection, while Corgi, Hot Wheels, and others have also produced several examples. There have been a number of multi-vehicle sets - some are general Bond sets with a selection of vehicles from various films, others focus on just one film. Corgi were especially fond of these sets; as was the American firm Johnny Lightning, which at one time produced a range of small scale models. Apart from all the regular models there have been a number of special issues: anniversary models in special boxes; Limited Editions of which only a fixed number are produced; and gold-plated models - actually gold chrome - although these are certainly not how the vehicles appeared on screen.

    Corgi Aston Martin V12 Vanquish from Die Another Day (2002), in gold chrome. The black plastic interior has also been detailed with gold paint. This anniversary model is a Limited Edition, only 12,000 of this version were produced. (Bond Vehicle Collectibles, Amberley Publishing)

    In some cases there are no official Bond models available of a particular vehicle, boat or plane. In order to fill these gaps in a collection it may be necessary to use a non-Bond model, which may not be in exactly the right colours or markings to depict the film vehicle. You will either have to live with this, or leave the gap unfilled until someone does produce an official Bond version. Some collectors even modify an existing model so that it matches the screen version. Plastic kits are another way of filling gaps. Some types have been modelled several times, often in different scales, while others have been modelled only once. This makes it impossible to build up a full collection of Bond vehicles to a single scale - the model you want may only have been produced to the 'wrong' scale for your collection. Again, you will either have to live with this or leave some annoying gaps in your collection. I would rather have the model.

    Paul Brent Adams' new book Bond Vehicle Collectibles is available for purchase now.

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