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Tag Archives: Cornwall

  • Cornish Traction by Stephen Heginbotham

    Number 45059 (formerly D88) Royal Engineer stands at the blocks at Platform 2 in Penzance station after arrival with the Down Cornishman on Monday 21 February 1977. Penzance Station has changed little in the intervening years since this iconic picture was taken. But the type of traction regularly in use throughout Cornwall certainly has changed. (Cornish Traction, Amberley Publishing)

    Well, after nearly forty years of getting up at 04:50, or sometimes earlier, and arriving home at any time around midnight off a late shift or being called out in the middle of the night, I thought retirement might bring some rest and leisurely days, but alas dear reader, that appears to not be the case.  Compiling and writing a book of any size or layout, whether it be fiction or non-fiction, is not something that throws itself together overnight.

    However, when the subject is close to my heart and beliefs, the task at hand becomes so much easier.

    I have a lifelong interest in all things transport, including many years studying railway accidents and incidents that have led to the signalling systems and rules we use today.

    I have also been very fortunate to work in an industry which is both my hobby and my career, and for the most part it has been an absolute pleasure to go to work every day, even though that meant thirty-eight years of unsociable shifts, early starts and late finishes, though a quarter century of working in Cornwall and Devon as both Signalman and Supervisor was a privilege.

    I do feel though that changes in recent years within the industry have fragmented the ‘big family’ that was once BR.

    Born in an age of steam, I well remember the transition from steam to diesel and electric and was fortunate enough to see steam to its demise in August 1968, Stockport Edgeley (9B) being one of the very last steam sheds.  As a child I watched named trains, with named locos, thunder past my school, and at weekends or school holidays I watched the Woodhead Electrics at Reddish, the trolleybuses in Manchester, or Pacific’s on the West Coast or Crewe, making the journey there by either steam train or pre-war bus.

    Ironically, travel seemed easier in those distant days from our past, several decades ago. Aside from there being more trains to more locations, the lack of restriction of travelling alone in one’s younger days did not impinge on the more adventurous of us that struck out to locations that could only be dreamed of now by anyone of a similar age. I say ironically, because unlike today, with our modern communications, when one left home for an adventure in the 1960s, even as a twelve or thirteen-year-old, you had little chance of contacting your parents unless you used a public phone box, and assuming home actually possessed a telephone.

    An HST power car from set 253001 is connected up to the mains in Ponsandane Yard at Penzance during the HST crew training period in Cornwall. Friday 3 November 1978. Ironically, this livery has been reprised recently in a nostalgic nod to a train that helped save both BR and express services to and from the West Country. (Cornish Traction, Amberley Publishing)

    This collection of photographs depicts many of the traction types that were seen in their daily duties around the West Country during the 1970s and 1980s. Of course, at the time, they were common traction types and not thought of as anything unusual, but, like all things in everyday life, complacency creeps in and one just never thinks that this status quo of things is one day not going to be there. I can recall the same feelings about seeing Black-Fives, 8Fs, and WD locos in the 1960s, and just sitting waiting for a Jubilee, or Royal Scot, or Patriot, or Britannia, to name but a few. To be fair, when the ‘Peaks’ arrived along with the English Electrics (class 40) and names started to appear on some of them, they became nearly as exciting to ‘cop’ as a steamer. Of course, in those days, the names were as interesting as the locomotives, and the management of the time put a great deal of thought into the naming process. This generally still applied in the 1980s and it was only when privatisation got a grip did we start to see names that were both dubious and uninteresting, much like the monotonous and boring liveries that assault our senses daily.

    Whilst I accept that modernisation was desperately needed throughout the network, it has not happened everywhere and it is very much a post-code lottery of investment in technology and innovation, and many routes are still in the pre-BR era of rolling stock, signalling and infrastructure. At least the era covered by this book shows some variety of livery as opposed to BR corporate blue and the yet to come liveries of the private sector, but it is more about remembering the variety of traction still around in in the West Country during that period, and with it sometimes the audible cacophony accompaniment.

    People used to vilify BR, for its service, but having worked for BR, I can tell you that the service delivery shortfalls of BR pales into insignificance when compared to the abysmal service of the shambolic British railway we have today. In my day working as a Signalman and later as a Signalling Inspector and MOM, I can assure you that cancelling a train was a very last resort.  In general, the duty of all railway staff in those BR days was that the service will run if at all possible. It was considered a disservice to the public not to run a service and if a service was run late. Drivers and Signalmen in particular took pride in trying to get services back on time where possible.

    The photos in this book are not arranged in any particular order, so dates and locations are randomly arranged to try and keep the reader interested. David in particular, being a Cornishman, spent many days, weeks, months and years photographing trains within the Duchy.

    So, having said all that, here is my third book on Cornwall’s Railways.  After much tapping of keys, extensive research, photo preparation and hundreds of hours writing and compiling the book, I hope you find it enjoyable, and that there aren’t too many mistakes.

    Stephen Heginbotham's new book Cornish Traction is available for purchase now.

  • Cornwall in Photographs by Gabriel Fuchs

    Cornwall in Photographs - Golitha Falls Golitha Falls on Bodmin Moor. (Cornwall in Photographs, Amberley Publishing)

    So what’s so special about Cornwall? Few places in Europe are as awe-inspiring. It is an ancient Celtic land and as such has inspired tales and legends ever since. It has a dramatic nature with treacherous cliffs, sandy beaches, and mysterious moors. It was a gateway to the rest of the world when the English ruled the waves, and a mining centre during the Industrial Revolution, which very much lay the foundation of what we now call western modernity. Today it is the sum of its history, with a foot left in what it used to be.

    Cornwall is indeed a peculiar place on the far south-western fringes of Great Britain. It has a relatively small population of around 550,000 and it has only one officially designated city, Truro. Yet, Cornwall has the largest collection of plant species in the British Isles and its coasts boast more varieties of fish than anywhere else in the UK.

    Cornwall in Photographs - Polperro Polperro. (Cornwall in Photographs, Amberley Publishing)

    Cornwall is also one of only two royal duchies in England. The Duchy of Cornwall was created in 1337 and its purpose is to provide an income to the heir apparent to the throne. As such, Cornwall can be regarded as the mother of all trust funds.

    Considered to be one of the six Celtic nations, Cornwall offers a culture that remains somewhat different from the rest of England. Being out in a corner of Great Britain and with a distinct geography, Cornwall possesses a combination of a rough coastline, barren moors, and plenty of gardens in between. All of these factors make Cornwall distinctly different not only from the rest of the UK, but from the rest of the world.

    Cornwall in Photographs - Porthcothan Sunset at Porthcothan. (Cornwall in Photographs, Amberley Publishing)

    Furthermore, the weather is changeable even by British standards and it is perfectly possible to have pouring rain, clear blue sky, and then pouring rain again, all within an hour. This means that forecasting the weather is actually not much of a problem; just look out the window. A Cornish weather forecast is rarely more precise than what you see with your own eyes.

    No matter what the weather, having the longest coastline in Great Britain, Cornwall tends to be windy. As the wind usually comes from the Atlantic in the west, it is striking to see how trees are leaning to the east, being pushed by these winds. If one gets lost in Cornwall it is possible to navigate just by looking at the trees.

    Cornwal in Photographs - Lands End Land's End. (Cornwall in Photographs, Amberley Publishing)

    Given its harsh and unique nature, Cornwall remains an inspiration for painters and writers alike. Many tales and legends have taken place in Cornwall, including the mystical King Arthur and the sunken country of Lyonesse from where Tristan came. There are also a great deal of crime stories in Cornwall, which is ironic given that there are no prisons – the last one closed in 1922.

    The combination of a splendidly desolate landscape, a rich fauna, some magnificent beaches, and trees leaning to the east – this prohibiting anyone from getting really lost – attracts tourists of all kinds. There are the families, the hikers, the sea-sport enthusiasts, the birdwatchers, the photographers, the artists and the writers. All are kept at an even pace, thanks to the narrow and winding roads that rarely allow anyone to get anywhere too quickly.

    The photos in this book represent a bit of everything that Cornwall has to offer in terms of nature, activities, and beauty. Not all photos are sunny and with a blue sky because it does rain in Cornwall too. However, few things can be as moody and impressive as a good rainstorm when the waves come crushing in on desolate rocks. This combination of sun, rain, and wind is, to many, what really makes Cornwall stand out. And stand out it does!

    9781445671246

    Gabriel Fuchs' new book Cornwall in Photographs is available for purchase now.

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