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  • Midland Railway Stations by Allen Jackson

    The Midland Railway was a latecomer to London, so some statement as to power and wealth had to be made. November 2017. (Midland Railway Stations, Amberley Publishing)

    A Journey - Episode 1

    The starting point of the journey is the iconic and recently restored and extended St. Pancras station which sits cheek by jowl with the understated Kings Cross in an area of London that had a reputation for ‘ladies of the night’ in the nineteenth century but which has now expanded its late night seediness to include the peddling of class A drugs. London main line termini have usually attracted negative comment and Waterloo is often held up as a centre for the homeless and rough sleepers.

    St. Pancras though has a new sophistication with a champagne bar that seems a world away from the Burton’s brewery trains that used to enter Midland Railway St. Pancras underground as if the worker’s tipple should be not only not seen but not heard.

    Of course beer was not the only import from the Midlands and the bricks from which the station was built were brought there by train for the first time.

    The Eurostar terminal underlines this new up-market image and ordinary travellers are segregated from the supposed international elite by a glass security fence. This simply seems to echo the past in the 19th century provision of 1st, 2nd and 3rd class waiting rooms except that in modern times the concern is more to do with international terrorism than the class war.

    Leicester, Rutland, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire, Bedfordshire and London. (Midland Railway Stations, Amberley Publishing)

    We start our journey on the poorer side of the tracks and soon head north through the London borough of Campden and the restored Roundhouse theatre which had been the Midland Railway’s Campden engine sheds bustling with Royal Scot and Jubilee locomotives to haul the crack steam expresses.

    Kentish Town with its large Irish population, founded from the people who built the Midland Railway into the capital also had a steam era engine shed mainly for freight locos. The area has acquired a new gentrification although described as ‘edgy’.

    Cricklewood is the next slice of the metropolis and there were the MR marshalling yards and engine sheds for the freight trains that kept part of London supplied with fuel in the shape of coal and pollution in the shape of smog. The coal trains ran day and night and seemingly ever larger engines would be produced to haul them from the LMS Beyer Garratt to the British Railways 9F 2-10-0 and the windcutter trains of the 1950s.

    Out past Hendon and Edgware and further north and into Hertfordshire now, but still in commuter land, the station of Elstree and Borehamwood is convenient for the film and television studios, a sort of Home Counties Hollywood. It has seen the likes of the original Stars Wars film and the current BBC TV success Strictly Come Dancing.

    North of Radlett station the line is crossed by the M25 motorway and this was the site of Radlett aerodrome and the Handley Page aircraft company who manufactured Cold War nuclear bombers in the shape of the crescent winged Victor of the V force.

    The city of St. Albans had connections with the rival London and North Western Railway, on the West Coast Main Line, it even named one of its Duchess Class Pacific locomotives after the place.

    But the city was also home to the MR at its City station where the former goods yard, where an LMS 4F freight engine shunting coal wagons could be found is now the station’s car park. The station is now part of the Thameslink network.

    To be continued next week via our Amberley Facebook page…..]

    Allen Jackson's new book Midland Railway Stations is available for purchase now.

  • 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.

  • New Holland Tractors by Jonathan Whitlam

    Built at the factory in Basildon, the Series 60/M Series also used new engines built in he same facility. In the 8360 model the PowerStar 7.5 litre engine was rated at 135 hp. (New Holland Tractors, Amberley Publishing)

    New Holland tractors have only existed since around 1996 – that’s just 22 years! So perhaps it seems strange to have written a book about these machines when they are still such a new kid on the block so to speak?

    Of course, the history of the New Holland name in connection to farm machinery goes back a lot, lot further but they never built tractors. The firm had its roots in 1895 in Pennsylvania in the USA with farm machinery becoming the main product from 1940. That all changed when the Ford Motor Company bought the New Holland firm off its then parent Sperry Rand in the middle of the 1980s and the business then merged with the Ford tractor operations to form Ford New Holland. Now with an integrated range of tractors, combine harvesters and other farm implements, the new firm could take on the giants such as John Deere on a more level playing field than previously.

    The T7.290 is the other Heavy Duty member of the T7 range with 290 hp available in the same chassis as the bigger 315 model. (New Holland Tractors, Amberley Publishing)

    However, Ford were only really interested in making their tractor division more attractive to a potential buyer as they continued retrenching their global operations. This resulted in Ford New Holland being sold to Fiat in 1991 and eventually to the creation of CNH in 1999 following Fiat also purchasing Case IH. The New Holland name began to appear on tractors as well as machinery in 1996 and eventually both the Ford and Fiat brands would be replaced by New Holland. At the same time the DNA of both tractor ranges were absorbed into one and the tractors still bearing the New Holland name and blue colour scheme today are directly descended from that union, as well as benefiting from Case IH, Versatile, Steiger and Steyr input along the way!

    New Holland tractors are extremely popular and used by farmers around the world and are built in several key factories including those in France, Italy, Britain and the USA. Their story is one of consolidation and evolution as well as invention and progression. It is only fitting that this new tractor brand is celebrated in the same way as the other big names in tractor building, and at the end of the day, the Ford and Fiat lineage of the brand can be traced back over a hundred years, so perhaps New Holland is not quite the new kid on the block as it may seem!

    Jonathan Whitlam's new book New Holland Tractors is available for purchase now.

  • Road Rollers by Anthony Coulls

    The classic shape of an Aveling & Porter steam roller evolved in the 1870s; here’s an advert for one from the Land Agents’ Record of March 1896. (Road Rollers, Amberley Publishing)

    It takes a certain kind of madness to preserve a road roller, either steam, diesel or petrol powered. All are heavy and awkward and the amount of time, effort and money expended upon restoration or repairs is not reflected in the value of the machine at the end of the work. Yet it’s still fun, and the roller folk are a particularly sociable type. In recent years, road making demonstrations have taken off and become popular, with all manner of supporting equipment from living vans to tar boilers, lamps and road repair signs. Working demonstrations such as these are immensely popular and as good as any working museum when done well.

    There can be no better depiction of the variety of Aveling rollers over the decades in terms of size and appearance than this picture of a quartet of rollers on the National Traction Engine Trust’s sixtieth anniversary road run from September 2014, led by Dick Blenkinsop’s Aveling-Barford of 1937. (Road Rollers, Amberley Publishing)

    Restoring a road roller is my blood. In 1966, my father and his friends Trevor Daw, Doug Kempton and Gus Palmer all clubbed together to buy a derelict Ruston & Hornsby steam roller which had worked for Herefordshire County Council. They paid £100 for the compound engine which was lying at the Bransford Bear public house in Worcestershire. It had been bought as a plaything but the idea came to nothing and so it was moved on to the four friends, who called themselves the Arden Steam Group. The Group had connections with the Hockley Heath Steam Association and the Warwickshire Steam Engine Society, so the plan was made to take it home to their county – under its own steam. Over a period of 12 months, the roller was retubed with no power tools and fettled to make it roadworthy to travel to Hockley Heath and in March 1967, the Ruston set sail under its own steam. The journey was filmed by the BBC, sadly the footage no longer exists. The Arden Steam Group continued to work on the engine and painted it grey, probably because that was the cheapest paint that Dad could come by from his employers at the time! Unfortunately as time progressed, the lives of the Group changed too, and so in 1971, three of the partners sold out their shares to Trevor Daw, who then went on to own Ruston 114059 for another 40 years, carrying out a heavy overhaul throughout the 1970s and then rallying it extensively throughout the 1980s and 1990s. The roller is now cared for by the Vickery family in Hertfordshire, joining the other Ruston steam roller in their collection. A regular on the steam rally scene, it will always have a special place in the heart of our family.

    The Advance was the successful later roller made by Wallis & Steevens with a twin cylinder engine for quick reversing. The picture shows the very first of its type at the Onslow Park Rally near Shrewsbury in August 2007. (Road Rollers, Amberley Publishing)

    It was therefore inevitable that I would get involved with rollers, despite there not having been on in the family in my lifetime. The first one came in 1996 when a 1944 Wallis & Steevens diesel roller was rescued from Victoria Park in Leamington Spa, my home town. There had also been an Aveling steam roller in the playground there, but this had been sold in 1993 whilst I was at university. I found a home for the Wallis with a school friend’s farmer father in South Warwickshire, and after a number of days work with my friend Ken Milns, we got it going again over the Easter weekend in 1998. Around ten years later, the roller was borrowed by Trevor Daw, our family friend from the 1960s and he completely rebuilt it in his workshop. The finished article now lives on loan at Beamish Museum in County Durham, but not before we took it back to the park in Leamington in 2013. We had a lot of work to get it going again and also had to apply via the DVLA to get the roller’s original registration number back, a process helped very much by the Road Roller Association. Likewise, drawings, manuals and archives were also sourced via the RRA and the Museum of English Rural Life at Reading University where the Wallis and Steevens records are kept.

    Isaac Ball of Wharles ran a fleet of steam rollers, all equipped with the full-length roof as seen here, and mostly made by Burrells. They also built their own living vans, such as the one behind the roller. The road train, including the water cart, was part of the Ball reunion event held in June 2017. (Road Rollers, Amberley Publishing)

    The diesel and experience gained from its rehabilitation led to a steam roller, and the 15 ton Aveling roller 3315 of 1894 joined the fleet in the summer of 2003. Firstly being stored in West Yorkshire and then finding its way to County Durham where we had made our home. Having stood idle since being taken out of service in the 1950s, it had lost a number of parts, but the boiler was in essence good, and friends assured us that the rest of the machine could be repaired or replaced where fittings were missing – and thus the die was set for a ten year rebuild – or recommissioning as I liked to call it. Skills were learned such as riveting, welding, gas cutting and tubing the boiler. New friends were made in the process and much research undertaken on the engine and others like it as we looked for new parts, spares or information on how it might all fit together. As with any restoration, there were set backs and side roads followed, but with steady fundraising, progress was made. In 2012, the roller lived again, taking its first moves at a party to celebrate the restoration and support given by so many. That said, in 2013, further defects were found in the roller’s transmission and gears. At the time of writing, further long and expensive repairs are being undertaken on the roller with a view to it continuing in steam on the road well past its 125th birthday in 2019. The whole family love it however and the fun and friendship it has brought to us all.

    My Road Rollers book examines the background to these wonderful machines during their working lives and then goes further into the popular appeal and how to get involved. Who knows, you may get smitten as I was?!

    Anthony Coulls's new book Road Rollers as part of our Britain's Heritage Series is available for purchase now.

  • British Railway Accidents and Incidents in Maps and Pictures by Jonathan Mountfort

    The Midland train heading south towards Hitchin from Bedford. Note the chimneys on the maltings in the background, which enable us to locate this view on the map. (British Railway Accidents and Incidents in Maps and Pictures, Amberley Publishing)

    I became immediately hooked on the study of railway accidents when, at the age of ten, I borrowed J A B Hamilton’s British Railway Accidents of the 20th Century from my local public library – I think I read it five times in the next couple of weeks. But I can’t really explain why that should be – I’m not obsessed with death or killing people and I don’t read books on wars or battles, nor do I play shoot-em-up video games. I think it must come down to the power and majesty of a train rumbling along the tracks and then suddenly, for almost any trivial reason one can imagine, succumbing to a tearing crunching disaster – splintered carriages and wheels of steel littered around the scene, and bent and ripped up rails to be swiftly replaced by the permanent way gang, usually within 24 hours of the incident occurring.

    So, over the many years since then, I have read most of the books on the subject, including of course Tom Rolt’s “bible” on the subject: Red for Danger. But for me, there was always something missing. I could read about what happened, the names of the railway staff involved, what went wrong, and what the accident inspector recommended… but none of these books gave me any context, especially maps, so I could see where they happened and how the track fitted into the landscape. Well, I have a motto (which I’m sure is not just mine) which is: “write the book you would like to buy”. So when Amberley asked me if I had any suggestions for new titles, I straight away suggested British Railway Accidents and Incidents in Maps and Pictures. The reason for the “incidents” part is that I didn’t want to be restricted to just writing about serious mishaps, and indeed I wanted to be able to include events which were not mishaps at all. But I wanted it to have all the context that was available from contemporary maps and postcard images.

    Ordnance Survey 25-inch map c. 1900 showing the probable location of the train and flood shown in the picture postcard dated 30 April 1908. (British Railway Accidents and Incidents in Maps and Pictures, Amberley Publishing)

    Which brings me onto my next subject: postcards. Local photographers were usually on the scene of an accident within minutes, getting pictures for the local newspaper, or even the nationals if the event was serious. They also published their work as postcards, and the public of those days, with no TV or horror films, were eager to lap up the images and send accompanying notes to their friends and loved ones. We see Victorian and Edwardian society as much more macabre and ghoulish than we are today, but actually, this was the  only excitement they got in their mainly humdrum lives, while we now have, as I said, TV programmes and films. But what do we watch? Murder and mayhem and we lap it up – so actually human nature has not changed at all and we are just as obsessed with death and destruction now as ever we were – just look at the success of Game of Thrones!

    As I mentioned, people bought the postcards and sent them to their friends, often with the usual tedious postcard message on the back saying, “I hope mother is well… we’ll come and visit soon… isn’t the weather foul/lovely, etc”. But some of the backs of accident postcards have wonderful commentary on the event shown on the front – and in this book I have included the ones I own which give this insight into the event portrayed. Now to me, this is fascinating: here you have, in your hand, a unique (and I use the word correctly and not in its usual muddled sense) contemporary record in ink or pencil of what the person writing, usually around 100 years ago, saw and thought about what had happened, often giving invaluable information which no other research into accident and newspaper reports could ever reveal – I shall call this “research through serendipity”, because it really can be nothing else!

    The message on the back of the postcard reads: ‘This is a photo of the accident just outside Salop station it was on a viaduct higher than the house tops there is twenty killed and one have died since I went to see the wreck it was awful they had got most of the dead away they were smashed out of all recognition. I expect you will see it in print’ and at the top of the card: ‘where I put the cross is a carriage reared right on top of another one side smashed clean off’. (British Railway Accidents and Incidents in Maps and Pictures, Amberley Publishing)

    Unfortunately, this means I have exhausted my own supply of on-the-spot personal commentary, but if anyone out there has a postcard with a relevant message written on the back, then if we can gather enough together we can use them in a sequel – you never know.

    Anyway, I hope you like the book, and of course, there will be a few errors in it which I am sure you will soon let me know about, but that is just inevitable when putting together detailed work of this kind. And at this point, I shall flag up an error which I made and which I failed to spot in time before publication: I therefore apologise here for spelling Courtney Atkin’s name wrong – he is the author of the fabulous book A Significant Accident which he wrote about the Connington South derailment of 1967.

    So, I’ll just conclude by saying what this book is not:

    It is not a book about the history of British railway accidents – there are many, many of those already out there.

    It is not a book about the Railway Inspectorate and the Royal Engineers and their work to make the railways of Britain safer.

    It is not a book about the changes which were made to effect these improvements – all of these subject are covered in detail in Tom Rolt’s book and others.

    So thank you for listening.

    Jonathan Mountfort's new book British Railway Accidents and Incidents in Maps and Pictures is available for purchase now.

  • Bulleid Pacifics by Nigel Kendall

    My favourite Merchant Navy, No. 35008 Orient Line, rockets past the New Milton goods yard with the eastbound 'Bournemouth Belle' on 13 May 1966. I was travelling behind No. 35008 when it broke the record for fastest run between Southampton and Waterloo without exceeding the 85 mph speed limit. (Bulleid Pacifics, Amberley Publishing)

    Before my introduction to Bulleid Pacifics in 1960 my memory of an early growing interest in railways was when as a boy in New Zealand I would travel to school by train. I lived on the slopes of the Waitakere Hills, west of Auckland, and so the process of getting to my destination near the centre of the city tended to be a complicated affair.

    My daily commute started on a rickety old bike, which carried me the three miles downhill to New Lynn Station on an awful unsurfaced road, coasting practically all the way. Then, throwing the unfortunate machine onto the pile of other bikes in the station yard, I would dash onto the station platform and join my school mates as a big oil-burning ‘Ja’ 4-8-2 rolled into the station with the 8am school train.

    The homebound trip entailed a similar routine, except that my bike ride was an uphill slog that I always hated.

    So eight years later, having moved to England, the weekly journeying between southwest Hampshire and Waterloo behind Bulleid Pacifics seemed a natural progression from my daily travels behind NZ steam. But the biggest difference, of course, was that within the intervening years my interest in railways had turned into a strong passion for all steam locomotives, and it’s a passion that lives with me to this day.

    I was so lucky that my new home in New Milton, Hampshire, was just 5 minutes’ walk from the station, which served the Waterloo to Weymouth main line, mainly with its large stud of Bulleid Pacifics. Apart from being able to nip down to the station whenever I had a spare 15 minutes, it also meant I got to know the station staff very well. Bob and Len, the signalmen, were particularly useful when I started to use my camera, and gave me the freedom of the lineside within their vision provided I never ventured onto the actual track.

    Driver Alf Boston of Bournemouth waits for the guard's green flag at New Milton on 27 December 1964. Battle of Britain No. 34085 501 Squadron was a Bournemouth 'good'un' during the 1960s. It was frequently seen hauling the 'Pines Express' following re-routing in 1963. The loco was introduced in November 1948 and rebuilt in June 1960. It was withdrawn in September 1965. (Bulleid Pacifics, Amberley Publishing)

    On my frequent London trips I would often catch a local train from New Milton to Southampton and connect with the 7.30am from Bournemouth Central. It was a well-patronized service headed by the usual Merchant Navy and loaded to 12 coaches including a restaurant car. Apart from a stop at Winchester it was non-stop to Waterloo, timed to arrive at the tail end of the rush hour – not an easy task for the crew.

    With all this railway travelling to London it wasn’t long before I got quite familiar with the Merchant Navies, West Countries, and Battle of Britain’s shedded at either Eastleigh, Bournemouth or Weymouth. Names that spring to mind are ‘Orient Line’, ‘New Zealand Line’, ‘Royal Mail’, ‘Swanage’, ‘Lapford’, ‘Combe Martin’, ‘Ottery St Mary’, ‘Dorchester’, and ‘501 Squadron’ or ‘Fighter Command’ with its Giesl Ejector. I travelled behind most of these locos, and more.

    Bulleid didn’t worry too much about coal consumption – he just wanted locomotives that would do all that was asked of it, and more when necessary. This philosophy brought about arguably the finest locomotive boilers ever produced in Britain. The fact that in the final months of Southern steam theoretically run-down Pacifics were achieving some of the finest performances of their careers was ample testimony to the concepts Oliver Bulleid laid down at the start of his reign as the Southern CME during the Second World War.

    It therefore goes without saying that I arranged my 1967 summer holiday to coincide with the end of Southern Steam on 9 July. In the last fortnight l travelled on as many Bulleid Pacific-hauled trains as I could – the cost was enormous! But I would not have missed it for the world.

    Within a week of the withdrawal of Southern Steam I logged two of the best runs I have ever experienced. It has to be said that a degree of irresponsibility was displayed in the quest for a 'ton' in those final days, however, who am I to stand in the judgement on the passing of an era.

    Nigel Kendall's new book Bulleid Pacifics is available for purchase now.

  • Policing South Wales Docks by Viv Head

    Bute Dock Police Naval Style Cutlass. (Policing South Wales Docks, Amberley Publishing)

    During the Nineteenth Century, South Wales exploded into industrial activity; previously peaceful valleys were turned on their head. Iron masters built their furnaces, coal owners sank their pits, the railways arrived and great docks were built all along the coast; at Newport, Cardiff, Penarth, Barry, Port Talbot and Swansea. South Wales became the crucible of the Industrial Revolution.

    Men arrived from all over the country, eager to be part of these great mechanical workings. Seamen of every nationality came on ships ready to carry these fruits of industrial labour to all corners of the world. The docks became a land of opportunity; peaceful coastal communities were turned into overcrowded towns and cities. Disease, prostitution, violence and dishonesty were everywhere.

    Alexandra Railway & Dock Police in 1921. (Policing South Wales Docks, Amberley Publishing)

    Into this mix of blood, sweat and coal dust came the dock police, charged with keeping a lid on rough communities bent on self-intent. Crime and murderous violence were rife; it took a breed of hard men to step in and take control. The docks were a dark and treacherous place; PC John Foulkes served at Swansea Docks during the latter part of 1890.  One morning when he had not returned to the police station at the end of his night duty, a search was made and his body was found in the water by a fellow officer. There were no witnesses and no evidence of foul play. Cause of death was found to be drowning. So at some point in the night, he had stumbled and lost his footing, or perhaps simply lost his way, or perhaps had challenged someone and ended up in the water. Nobody knows – he was simply doing his job when, alone and in the dark, he had been overtaken by death. Neither was John Foulkes the only one, at least three other officers drowned on duty. The docks could be a fearsome lonely place sometimes.

    Each of the ports employed their own police forces. Over time they amalgamated to join into a single force, the British Transport Police. Then in the mid-1980s came privatisation and containerisation; it was perceived that the police had done their job and were no longer needed. So, in 1985, the last dock policeman switched off the light, locked the police station door, got into his car and drove away. Men, and they were almost entirely men, who had sort to preserve the peace 24 hours a day, seven days a week for almost 130 years. Men dedicated to looking after the lives of others, who occasionally gave their own lives to the cause; men who worked twelve hours a day without a single day off throughout the years of the Great War. Men who did the dirty work that others turned away from.

    Policing South Wales Docks provides an illustrated insight into some of the darker and lighter moments of the dock coppers’ working lives. They weren’t always angels themselves but they do deserve to be remembered. In the 1970s I was privileged to serve at Cardiff Docks for seven years before my police career took me elsewhere. It was an experience unlike any other and I recall it often.

    Viv Head's new book Policing South Wales Docks is available for purchase now.

  • The North British Locomotive Company by Colin Alexander

    Urie's London & South Western Railway Class N15 express 4-6-0 was perpetuated by the Southern Railway after the Grouping. (Author's collection, The North British Locomotive Company, Amberley Publishing)

    In July 1980, aged 16, during a family holiday in the Cotswolds I made the pilgrimage to South Wales and the legendary Woodham’s scrapyard on Barry Island. As well as wishing to photograph the rusting hulks of over a hundred ex-British Railways steam locomotives which had languished there since the 1960s, there were two other items of interest that I was keen to see. They were the last two remaining ex-BR main line diesel locomotives built at the North British Locomotive Company in Glasgow.

    One was D601, once the pride of BR Western Region, and previously carrying the name ARK ROYAL. She was one of five 2000hp ‘Warship’ class diesel-hydraulics ordered as part of BR’s Pilot Scheme. Delivered in 1958 she and her sisters would last in service only until 1967, when withdrawn due to their non-standard status. They had never been the most reliable locomotives and after initial use on glamorous services like the ‘Cornish Riviera Express’ they were quickly demoted to secondary duties. Upon withdrawal, D602-D604, named BULLDOG, CONQUEST and COSSACK respectively, were quietly cut up at Cashmore’s scrapyard in Newport. D600 ACTIVE and D601 however made it to Barry.

    Of almost 300 BR locomotives consigned to the legendary Dai Woodham's scrapyard at Barry in South Wales, only one was an ex-LNER engine. Thompson Class BI 4-6-0 No. 61264 arrived there after departmental service and was fortunate enough to be one of the 213 locomotives to be rescued from Barry for preservation. (Author's collection, The North British Locomotive Company, Amberley Publishing)

    Dai Woodham famously tried to avoid cutting up locomotives, as he knew that the preservation movement would salvage most of them for posterity so as much as possible his workers concentrated on cutting up redundant mineral wagons and the like. Indeed all but two of the steam locomotives I saw that July 1980 day would escape to preservation, and many have since steamed.

    ACTIVE, proudly wearing the new BR Blue livery she wore in service for a few short months was dispatched after a few years in the open air of Barry Island but ARK ROYAL hung on until 1980.

    Meanwhile back in the 1950s, North British had also built a much more numerous class of fifty-eight diesel-electric locomotives numbered D6100 and D6157. They were of 1100hp and found work on the Eastern and Scottish Regions, although before long all were concentrated north of the border.

    They were just as unreliable as their illustrious named Warship cousins and despite twenty of them being re-engined to extend their lives, all were gone by 1972. All that is except for D6122. Following withdrawal in Scotland she found herself dumped at Hither Green in Kent and there she suffered the indignity of being used for re-railing practice. She ended up at Barry with D600 and D601 and like ARK ROYAL she lasted there until 1980.

    A rare NBL diesel success came with the 3 ft 6 in. gauge diesel-hydraulic 0-8-0 for East African Railways & Harbours. (Author's collection, The North British Locomotive Company, Amberley Publishing)

    Unfortunately for me, when I got there, the cutters had beaten me to it and all I could find was one solitary rusty NBL/MAN diesel engine on the ground. It could have been D6122’s or it could have been one of the pair of identical units from D601. I will never know. I had missed them by a matter of weeks. There ended the story of BR’s NBL main line diesels.

    NBL was formed in 1903 by the merger of three established Victorian Scottish locomotive manufacturers, and it became the largest such concern outside of the USA. It gained an excellent reputation through the export of countless dependable locomotives all over the world and for many domestic railway companies. That reputation was shattered when NBL’s BR diesels began to fail and the company closed down due to the cost of repairing its errant products under warranty.

    Many North British steam locomotives survive globally as a living testimony to the company’s success and influence, but the burgeoning diesel preservation movement in the UK came too late to save D601 and D6122, just as I arrived too late to take their photographs.

    Read more about the North British Locomotive Company story in my new book The North British Locomotive Company, published in May 2018. You can still purchase a copy of my other book The British Railways Pilot Scheme Diesel Locomotives. Proceeds from sales of this title contribute directly to two related heritage diesel projects. They are the restoration of a true diesel ‘dinosaur’, the unique surviving Metropolitan Vickers Co-Bo D5705 at the East Lancashire Railway; and the recreation of another extinct class, a Napier Deltic engined English Electric Type 2, being built by the Baby Deltic Project at Barrow Hill Roundhouse.

    Colin Alexander's new book The North British Locomotive Company is available for purchase now.

  • Merseyside Traction by Doug Birmingham

    On 15 March 2017, at a rarely photographed location, Rail Operations Group, Class 47, No 47815 arrives at Edge Hill Wapping with 5V67 12.17hrs Allerton Depot to Long Marston empty coach stock move. The train consisted of two Class 319 EMU’s No’s 319218 and 219 which were being returned to storage pending possible further use. This image was originally considered for the front cover of the book before the present cover was selected. (Merseyside Traction, Amberley Publishing)

    I think most people during their lives have wishes, some would call it a bucket list but more often than not they remain just dreams. Occasionally some dreams do happen which fortunately for me some on my bucket list have actually come true, mainly by good fortune rather than preplanned. One of my wishes, has been to publish a book with a selection of my railway images, but approaching any publisher with such a proposal has always been put on the back burner. Consequently, as the years go by, it has remained just a dream. By sheer coincidence and out of the blue on my birthday in 2017, Connor Stait on behalf of Amberley Publishing emailed me asking would I be interested in compiling a book, entitled ‘Merseyside Traction’. At first, I thought this may be a little wind up but in reality it was not, as Connor had viewed my 8A Rail Flickr photographic site and thought I would be the ideal person to compile such a book.

    Connor had agreed that it was up to myself what the contents would be as long it was related to Merseyside. In due course, the formalities were agreed upon, along with providing two previous published book examples to give myself an idea what the layout and format of the book should look like. On viewing these book examples, I knew that I could complete the project given a little time with the brief of a maximum of 180 images and 10,000 words, along with the front and back cover images too. I also had to consider that other authors had published books on a variety of rail related subjects linked to Merseyside, some whose knowledge and experience I would acknowledge well beyond my own.

    Now the hard work began with a completion date set for December 2017. I had to choose the images first and foremost. That was not an easy task, as I have been photographing trains in Merseyside since 1980 with a total of images taken running into five figures! This figure did not include other images I have taken around the UK, let alone the thousands I have taken of preserved steam too. Clearly I had to decide a time spam to cover, as realistically it would take more than one book to cover almost 40 years to give the locality some justice. Having decided to cover a 20 year period from 1998 to 2017 rather than say the last 10 years as example, I wanted to include the variety of motive power and liveries that had operated in Merseyside during that time, as well as the variety of photographic locations too.  Basically I needed to make the book as interesting as possible to attract wide attention as Merseyside is not exactly known as a mecca of railways within the United Kingdom. However, I knew different and maybe this was an opportunity to prove otherwise?

     

    Another image that did not quite make the final cut but still provides a good representation of the contents of the book is GBRf Class 59, No 59003 working 6F27 12.47hrs Liverpool Biomass Terminal to Tuebrook Sidings Biomass were the Class 59 will detach before heading to Drax AES Power Station behind a single Class 66 locomotive. It is seen here on a nice autumn day approaching Edge Lane Junction on the Bootle Branch line. 29 October 2015. (Merseyside Traction, Amberley Publishing)

    However, the hard work was only just about to begin with the process of selecting images for the book given the thousands of images to choose from! Why I selected the last 20 years was an easy decision as one of the images I wanted to show, was the last occasion a ‘Peak’ class locomotive hauled a Freightliner train in May 1999 and I was one of the few to record the working(s). I had also established early on, that over that period of time, numerous different locomotive classes had appeared in the area, not forgetting the variety of multiple units along with all the different liveries too. However, what I needed to avoid was the repetition of the ‘much loved’ EMD Class 66’s as that alone would be prevent people looking at the book let alone purchasing one! So a balance had to be met in order to make a fair representation of the motive power operated in Merseyside. Also during the 20 year period I had chosen, many locations and lines had changed, especially with regards to the railway infrastructure, basically out with the old, in with the new. Non-more so than the Liverpool & Manchester line with the introduction (and long over-due) of the overhead electrification. In consequence this allowed me the opportunity of one or two before and after images to be presented in the book.

    While compiling the images for the book, it was only then I realised the extent of the actual Merseyside county boundaries, where I thought a couple of locations were in Cheshire, were actually in Merseyside. However, I also then noted that the ‘Merseytravel’ transport boundary did actually go beyond the county boundary which gave me good reason to include, for example, Rainford which is in Lancashire. I had also noted at least twenty-six locomotive classes had been recorded as well as the appearance of twenty-two classes of multiple units most of which are regular visitors to the area. Merseyside is currently regularly served by seven Train Operating Companies, including Arriva Wales, Arriva North, East Midlands Trains, London Midland (now LNWr), Merseyrail, Trans Pennine Express and Virgin Trains with three Freight Operating Companies operating daily in and out of the area including DB Cargo, Freightliner and GBRF. However, Colas, Direct Rail Services, Network Rail, Rail Operations Group, and West Coast Railways do pass through the area too. So there is much variety to be recorded and that does not include the amount of liveries that have appeared too. It would also beg the question, how many areas around the UK actually provide such variety too? Not many I imagine!

    Passing the closed but now preserved Rainhill Signal Box on the Liverpool and Manchester line, Direct Rail Services Class 37, No 37194 with sister locomotive No 37667 on the rear hauling 1Q14 08.52hrs Derby RTC to Crewe 'Network Rail’ Measurement train. Since this image was taken, this line has now been fully electrified. 17 September 2012. (Merseyside Traction, Amberley Publishing)

    In selecting the 185 images which took me 3 months to complete and no easy task either (not including the captions), I then realised how many images that were excluded rather those included, that gave me the feeling that this project had only just began. This is also not forgetting the numerous images taken from 1980 to 1998 which could produce another book or two also? However, I need to wait to see how ‘Merseyside Traction’ is received first and foremost, along with the sales too! Added to this is the thousands of other railway images I’ve taken around the UK including preserved steam, which makes me wonder are there other book projects could be in the offering especially as I enjoyed putting ‘Merseyside Traction’ (Part One??) together.

    Finally, I must thank Connor Stait, Commissioning Editor for considering me for this project and hopefully his faith is rewarded in due course. I also wish to sincerely thank various staff at Amberley Publishing for their time, patience and support. Also to Gordon Edgar whose words of wisdom and encouragement were much appreciated. Now it remains to see how the book is received and hopefully it becomes a popular book, but more importantly, I have done my local area proud? Fingers Cross.

    Doug Birmingham's new book Merseyside Traction is available for purchase now.

  • Anglo-Scottish Sleepers by David Meara

    The Northbound London-Fort William Sleeper approaching the Cruach Snowshed between Rannoch and Corrour stations on the morning of 7 January 2010, running an hour late due to iced points. (Norman McNab, Anglo-Scottish Sleepers, Amberley Publishing)

    Paul Theroux’s amusing quotation, from his book The Great Railway Bazaar, sums up the sense of anticipation that a long railway journey encourages. I remember very well that sense of excitement when as a twelve year old boy I boarded the Royal Highlander at Euston Station to travel north to Inverness at the beginning of our summer holidays. It is an excitement that I was keen to recapture when I began writing my book on the Anglo-Scottish sleeper trains about two years ago. I knew that Serco, the new operator of the Caledonian Sleeper, was committed to improving the service, and together with the Scottish Government were investing £100 million into an enhanced experience and brand new rolling stock, and it occurred to me that no attractive and accessible history of the sleeper service existed. Having spotted a gap in the market I decided to do some research and see what I could find.

     

     

    Sleeping cars waiting for their passengers on Platform 1 at Euston station. (Author's Collection, Anglo-Scottish Sleepers, Amberley Publishing)

    The National Railway Museum was my first port of call, as they hold a big archive of books, leaflets and posters, of all of which I made good use of. Much of the detailed history is to be found in specialist railway magazines and books on the rolling stock of the individual railway companies that existed before nationalisation. There are also a few preserved sleeper carriages, both at the National Railway Museum and elsewhere. I wanted to write a social, rather than a technical history, and the atmosphere and style of the heyday of sleeper travel is best captured in period photographs and the wonderful posters which the ‘Big Four’ companies commissioned, often from well-known artists, to advertise and promote their services. The National Railway Museum holds a comprehensive collection of railway posters, and thanks to the help of Philip I have made good use of these in my book.

    I also wanted to describe travelling on each of the Highland Sleeper routes, to Fort William, Inverness and Aberdeen. So I booked myself onto the sleeper and did a round trip, travelling north to Aberdeen, across by train to Inverness, and on by bus to Fort William, from where I took the southbound sleeper back to London Euston. There is nothing on our railway network quite like settling into the sleeper lounge car, with a glass of malt whisky beside you, haggis, neeps and tatties being prepared in the galley, and the glorious expanse of Rannoch Moor unfolding before you in the evening sunshine.

    The northbound London to Fort William Sleeper passing through the remote Gorton loop on 1 May 2015 at 8.28 a.m., pulled by a Class 67 locomotive, Cairn Gorm, in the new Serco Midnight Teal livery. (Norman McNab, Anglo-Scottish Sleepers, Amberley Publishing)

    But one element was missing, and that was a selection of stories from the many thousands of people who have used the sleeper over the years. Their experiences would bring a book like this to life as well as providing valuable insights into the experience of the sleeper operation.  Happily a letter to ‘The Times’ helped to solve that problem, and thanks to a friendly ‘Times’ columnist I was inundated with all kinds of stories and anecdotes, funny, saucy, romantic and peculiar, which brings the story of the Anglo-Scottish Sleeper service to life, and reveal the great affection people have for the service.  From being the exclusive preserve of the grouse shooting gentry it has evolved over the years into a wonderfully democratic community of travellers, from business people to backpackers, and just occasionally the sportsman off to his Highland estate to escape the rigours of City life. The lounge car remains the social centre of the train, and has been the setting for many convivial gatherings, late night conversations, even an impromptu ceilidh or two. Hopefully the impressive improvements which Serco are introducing will not spoil this special feeling of being both on a working train and on a journey with a real sense of occasion and excitement about it.

    David Meara's new book Anglo-Scottish Sleepers is available for purchase now.

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