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  • Second Generation EMUs by John Jackson

    As a youngster in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, my earliest memories of watching trains were at a time when diesel locos were replacing their steam predecessors. As a Northampton lad, those ‘spotting’ days involved regular sessions at the likes of Peterborough, Wellingborough and the West Coast Main Line station at Roade, just south of Northampton.

    It was not until a family holiday in 1964, however, that I had my first experience of trains running on electric power. We were staying just outside Newcastle upon Tyne when I had my first sight of a third rail providing 600-volt DC to power a fleet of ageing ‘North Tyneside Electrics’.

    This class 313, seen at Finsbury Park, was built in 1977. (Second Generation EMUs, Amberley Publishing)

    A little later that summer I was also to witness for the first time that same third rail powering London’s Underground network. Regular sessions at the likes of Clapham Junction and London Bridge were to follow shortly afterwards. It didn’t take long for me to realise the importance of the third rail in providing an intensive service for London bound commuters from what was then the Southern Region.

    Since those days in the late 1960’s, I have witnessed the expansion of electrification across much of the UK rail network. My childhood haunts of Peterborough and Roade have long seen electric trains running under the overhead wires. It should only be a matter of months before Wellingborough joins them as the Midland Main Line overhead electrification is extended northwards from Bedford to Kettering and Corby.

    The initial infrastructure costs of electrification may be high, but it is the considered view that electric trains are more environmentally friendly and, over time, have proved to be both cheaper to run and more reliable than their diesel counterparts.

    A class 717 unit, one of the newest classes, is also seen at Finsbury Park. (Second Generation EMUs, Amberley Publishing)

    The electric multiple unit (EMU) has played an increasingly important part in shaping Britain’s passenger railways and, in the 1970’s, this ongoing expansion of the electrified network demanded a new generation of these electric units. This planning culminated in the introduction of the class 313 units at the end of that decade, working on inner suburban services out of London’s Moorgate station.

    From the Isle of Wight to the Central Belt of Scotland centred on Edinburgh and Glasgow, this second generation of electric multiple units now provides the mode of transport for an increasing percentage of all passenger journeys made in the UK. Since swapping the rat race for the rail tracks and, with my camera as a constant companion, I have been privileged to witness the many types of electric units at work across the UK.

    In my twelfth and latest book, ‘Second Generation EMU’s’, I explore the variety of classes that have graced our railways over the last half century. Starting with the class 313’s introduced back in 1977 and ending with a glimpse of ‘bi-mode’ units. This latest industry buzz word may offer a far cheaper alternative than full end to end electrification of our secondary lines. These bi-mode units offer the flexibility of electric power when available, supplemented by the use of diesel engines when it’s not.

    Bi-Mode power may be one for the future. Meantime, I hope you have the chance to share the journey through the pages of this publication.

    John Jackson's book Second Generation EMUs is available for purchase now.

  • Shropshire Airfields Through Time by Alec Brew

    Wander nowadays down many Shropshire country lanes near small villages like Atcham, Condover, Montford Bridge or Rednal, and you will come across silent, sightless sentinels, looking out across empty fields of corn or cows, derelict control towers watching over long forgotten airfields. High above, only soaring skylarks can be heard, where once aircraft engines filled the heavens with noise, as young men from across the World learned the necessary skills to fight the aerial battles of the Second World War.

    The Spitfires moved south in August and were replaced by the Lockheed Lightnings of the 14th Fighter Group, who flew their aircraft from California. An RAF officer greets one of the pilots. (Shropshire Airfields Through Time, Amberley Publishing)

    When war clouds loomed in the late Thirties, the adjacent counties of Shropshire and Staffordshire were seen as the ideal place to site the training airfields which would be needed for an expanding air force, thought to be far enough away from Europe to be out of range of the Luftwaffe. Shropshire alone had nearly twenty airfields across its Northern plain, two of them, at Shawbury and Tern Hill, reviving First World War airfields, which had served the same function. Suddenly the skies over Shropshire were filled with aircraft, the circuits at many airfields almost touching.

    There was basic training from RAF Tern Hill, advanced training from RAF Shawbury, Bomber Operational Training Units (OTUs) at Tilstock, Sleap and Peplow, a fighter OTU at Rednal and Montford Bridge, the Fleet Air Arm used an airfield at Hinstock which they called HMS Godwit, about as far from the sea as a godwit could fly. Even the Americans came, operating a Combat Crew Replacement Unit at Atcham, and when their P.47 Thunderbolts chanced upon the Spitfires from Rednal, could they resist a mock dogfight?

    Other combats were far from mock. Night fighters operated from High Ercall and Tern Hill, stalking the Germans who came to bomb the North-West or the Black Country. Bomber OTUs joined raids on Europe, new crews testing their skills.

    Even in training accidents were many, young men let loose on powerful machines, always a recipe for disaster, and especially with the Shropshire and Welsh hills close at hand. The Americans at Atcham had a favourite sport, chock to chock races in their powerful Thunderbolts, all around the Wrekin, which loomed large just to the south. Such was its peril that they placed a warning beacon on the top, with the on/off switch in Atcham control tower, turning it off when Germans were about. After the War, when Atcham closed, the switch was moved to High Ercall, and now resides in the tower at RAF Shawbury.

    This photograph has always been attributed to Tern Hill, but shows 1456 Flight Turbinlite aircraft. In the foreground is a Handley Page Harrow transport ‘Boadicea’, sometimes called a ‘Sparrow’ without the front turret. Behind is an Airspeed Oxford of No. 286 Army Co-operation Squadron, a Havoc and two black Hurricanes of 1456 Flight. The Pontoon and Dock Company, currently make Marina equipment in this Type K hangar on No. 2 Sub Site. High Ercall has a total of three Type K hangars. (Shropshire Airfields Through Time, Amberley Publishing)

    When the invasion of Europe loomed, assault gliders were assembled at RAF Cosford, and glider pilots trained at Tilstock, Peplow and Sleap, and then they went away to carry the fight to Normandy fields.

    At the end of the War the cut back was swift, airfields soon closed, those at High Ercall and Tern Hill lasting longer than most. RAF Shawbury remains today training the helicopter pilots for all three services, including, in its time, two young princes. Its runway remains a safe haven for aircraft in difficulty, in an area of the country where few remain. RAF Cosford remains the sole training base for ground based trades, and the home of the RAF’s only surviving annual Air Show. Tern Hill was turned over to the Army but the helicopters from Shawbury visit often. Sleap became Shropshire’s main general aviation airfield, and up on the Long Mynd, the one airfield closed during the War, has thrived since, as the home of the Midland Gliding Club. One other airfield is a surprising survivor, little RAF Chetwynd, a neat grass field lost down the lanes north of Newport, continues to serve as an extra landing field as it has for over 75 years, currently for the helicopters from Shawbury.

    Hopefully my book makes sense of what once was there, and what little still remains, those silent sentinels, the old control towers, those small industrial estates in surprisingly rural places, built on the old technical sites like Condover, Hinstock, Atcham or Rednal, those derelict Romney or Maycrete huts in farmyards or woods. Unsung memorials to a generation of young men now disappearing as they are reclaimed by Nature and the march of time.

    Alec Brew's book Shropshire Airfields Through Time is available for purchase now.

  • River Thames Shipping Since 2000 by Malcolm Batten

    Cargo Shipping, Passenger Ships, Ferries, Heritage Shipping and More

    I grew up and still live in East London, only a few miles from where the Port of London Authority ‘Royal’ Docks used to be – the largest enclosed dock area in the world. My grandfather was a boilermaker in the ship repair yards – considered such an important skilled job that he was not called up during the First World War. Later he was chosen to demonstrate a pneumatic riveting machine to the King at the opening of the King George V dock in 1921. Although my father did not follow him in his career, he had an interest in ships and took several photographs around the docks, particularly towards their end. So it was perhaps inevitable that I would also be fascinated by the local shipping. As a boy I would often ride back and forth on the old Woolwich Ferries, which were coke-fired paddle steamers until replaced in 1963. Later when I first started working as a library assistant it was often on the mobile library that served North Woolwich, a location accessed via the bascule bridges that gave access to the docks. Therefore whenever a ship was coming in or out the bus would have a long wait, but the passengers would have a grandstand view.

    CMA CGM Sambhar (Monrovia) (2006, 51,870 tons). (River Thames Shipping Since 2000: Cargo Shipping, Amberley Publishing)

    Although I started taking photographs in 1969, I didn’t tend to take ships very often as my early cameras did not have a long focus lens. In fact it was not until around the end of the 1990s that I started photographing shipping regularly, by which time the ‘Royals’ and other London docks had long since closed. However there was still shipping to be seen on the Thames, albeit mostly downriver around Tilbury. The Port of London had concentrated development here when changes in cargo handling towards container and Roll-on, Roll-off ships made the old docks unsuited for such traffic.

    I have been following the events since then, and have endeavoured to record the changing scene in this pair of books. Change is continuous as shipping companies and services come and go. New expansion has come about with the Thames Gateway port at Thameshaven, capable of taking some of the largest container vessels now afloat. While this has led to a reduction in the container traffic handled at Tilbury, Tilbury is gaining an extension to its Ro-Ro and aggregates handling facilities with the construction of the new Tilbury 2 complex, on the site of the former power station. But elsewhere some things remain as they have seemingly always been. Bulk carriers bring sugar cane to the Tate & Lyle refinery at Silvertown as ships have done for over 140 years.

    The Marco Polo [Nassau] is seen on 4 August 2013. (River Thames Shipping Since 2000: Passenger Ships, Ferries, Heritage Shipping and More, Amberley Publishing)

    The Woolwich and Tilbury ferries still cross the Thames as they did in my grandfather’s time, but of course the vessels are several generations removed from those he would have known. Thames sailing barges can still be seen, though now sailed for pleasure rather than commercially. Each year (though unfortunately not in 2019) the paddle steamer Waverley has visited the Thames for a fortnight or so, to bring back the experience of the past when Londoners would flock to the paddlers for a day trip down to Southend or beyond.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

      

    Malcolm Batten's books River Thames Shipping Since 2000: Cargo Shipping and River Thames Shipping Since 2000: Passenger Ships, Ferries, Heritage Shipping and More are available for purchase now.

  • Yorkshire Buses by Scott Poole

    Gods own country is a name bestowed upon Yorkshire, with her variations of major cities, historical towns and award-winning villages. There are many attractions within the county of Yorkshire, from Minsters, Cathedral’s, ancient Abbey’s, market towns, rolling hills and vast moorland, Yorkshire offers plenty.

    Preserved 180 - a Horsefield car with Brush bodywork - stands in Crich Tramway Museum. (Yorkshire Buses, Amberley Publishing)

    Today transport within the county is operated by three large operators Arriva, First and Stagecoach, alongside Transdev. With the 1972 local government re-organising of the Yorkshire county from   Ridings to Metropolitan councils, it saw major transport departments of the cities vanish into new PTEs or merge into parts of the NBC bus operations. But the 1985 Transport Act again saw major change, as PTEs could no longer operate bus services, new arms-length companies arrived. New names, updated vehicles and the low floor generation saw new styles arrive into Yorkshire.

    From humble beginnings, using horse drawn trams and carts to steam powered vehicles pulling large trailer cars, to the use of electricity for the new generation of tram car, with designs created by forward thinking managers. Bradford, Doncaster, Halifax, Huddersfield, Leeds, Hull, Rotherham, Sheffield and Wakefield all had tramway systems, which towards the end of the 1940’s were slowly abandoned in favour of the motor bus. Some of our towns and cities used Trolleybuses to replace trams, which saw Bradford being the last operator of the type in March 1972.

    Bradford Corporation's last front-engine double-deckers were a batch of fifteen Alexander-bodied Leyland Titan PD3s. (Yorkshire Buses, Amberley Publishing)

    After World War Two, the manufacturing sector saw improvements to materials and equipment, which allowed new methods of construction. Gone were the traditional teak framed bodies, replaced by lightweight aluminum frames and sheets. Fiberglass parts were also constructed, which saw a much-needed shape arriving on to buses during the 1960’s. Yorkshire had many traditional industries and saw cities extend boundaries, as many of the population wanted to live outside of the centers. This is where public transport grew in the 1920’s, 1930’s and the 1940’s as the public moved around the area for reasonable fares, the boom time of the 1950’s saw an increase in leisure travel.

    Plaxton’s a Scarborough based coach builder would benefit from this coaching boom. With stylish bodies arriving at the Wallace Arnold firm, based in Leeds, with many journeys setting off from the Calls near the Corn Exchange, Leeds. West Yorkshire, West Riding, Yorkshire Traction and Yorkshire Woollen all joined together forming the coaching pool services. This saw in the 1950’s and 1960’s increased travel around the country, with days out to Birmingham, Edinburgh, The Lake district, Newcastle, Nottingham, Wales and London. With M1 opening, this allowed for express coach journeys to most of the cities’ south of Leeds.

    This bus is seen on the 163 in Kippax during the first day of the ADL E40MMC working the route. (Yorkshire Buses, Amberley Publishing)

    Charles. H. Roe, initially based on Balm Road in Leeds, moved to Cross Gates in the 1920’s, were the firm stayed until closure in September 1984. Roe had bodied almost all the vehicles of Leeds City Transport, with neighboring towns and cities also purchasing Roe bus bodies. As a tradition, Leeds always sent a specially built vehicle to the annual Commercial Motor Show at London’s Earl’s Court. The last Leeds buses at this show was a Roe bodied Daimler Fleetline 761 (211) in September 1972. Roe bodied the West Riding orders for the interesting Guy Wulfrunian, which arrived during the 1960’s a concept which failed. Luckily two examples of the type are preserved with the Dewsbury Bus Museum, one in the green and the other in the red West Riding liveries.

    The 1970’s saw the much-loved municipal transport departments close, as new transport ideas were generated, gone were local urban and district councils replaced by the larger metropolitan county councils. These in turn saw the creation of the larger Passenger Transport Executives (PTEs) from 1969, the Yorkshire PTEs arriving in April 1974. The National Bus Company (NBC) arrived in 1969, taking into her fold were the West Riding group, West Yorkshire Road Car and Yorkshire Traction. With a poppy red livery, the Yorkshire based fleets. Agreements saw the creation of the Metro/National group, which saw integration of the whole service numbers, inter-ticketing solutions, the rail network and the off-peak fares. Plus, the introduction of the multi journey saver strip, which was introduced as part of the 1983 bus fayre held in Leeds. The saver strip was a success along with the off-peak fares; it saw a 2 million plus rise in passengers during the late 1981-1983 period. But it was South Yorkshire, which had the rest of the PTEs thinking, bus fares in the county were the lowest, allowing the passengers to travel over ten miles for around 10 pence. All that would change in October 1986, as the fares in South Yorkshire rose to a staggering 250%, a basic trip across town would cost the same a Leeds, about 30 pence.

    Sheffield ordered a batch of eighteen Bristol VRTs with East Lancashire bodywork. This example has been preserved and is housed at the Wythall Transport Museum. (Yorkshire Buses, Amberley Publishing)

    The 1985 ‘Transport act’ or deregulation, as it became better known, saw the new commercial enterprise era arrive. The PTEs were no longer allowed to run services, but could assist in financial subsidies of service, were required. Companies had to register a commercial service before 25th October 1986, after which time a 56-day notice was required to set in any alterations or cancelations to a service. Yorkshire saw some colour return to the transport scene, but it led to some confusion as to which company was operating an established route. In both South and West Yorkshire most of the former PTEs services were successfully tendered by the new at arm’s length companies. Huddersfield, Leeds and Sheffield were the areas were most of the competitive nature of deregulation occurred. But by the turn of the century, the situation had changed, with the now established big three of Arriva (West Riding routes) First (former PTE operations) and Stagecoach (Yorkshire Traction services and Hull Corporation). East Yorkshire remained independent until late 2018, when the firm was purchased by the Go-Ahead group. In 2019 a new livery and branding of key routes followed by investment in new vehicles, have ensured East Yorkshire continues. Blazefield, set up upon the departure of AJS Holdings took over the former West Yorkshire operations in Harrogate, Keighley and Malton, now operation as part of the colourful Transdev group.

    In this volume I chart the ever-changing transport scene, as operators are seeing more difficult situations from funding cuts, competition and loss of business. It has shaped the county from its humble beginnings in the 1860 until now in the 21st Century. Step on board and enjoy this look back at the various types which once were operating around the Yorkshire area.

    A huge thank you to Connor at Amberley for the opportunity to write a second book and to everyone else at Amberley too for their time. I hope you enjoy the book.

    Scott Poole's book Yorkshire Buses is available for purchase now.

  • Freight in the Peak District by Paul Harrison

    Living on the doorstep of the Peak District of Derbyshire has over the last forty odd years or so afforded me many opportunities to jump on the train or bus and travel to places to photograph and watch the many varied freight train movements and record the details. My first visits to the area were in the early 1980s usually with my parents, brother and often our Uncle, who introduced me and my brother to a lifetime of railway trains. A favourite treat was to ride the diesel passenger train to Buxton on New Year’s Day to visit the town and have a look around the model toy fair in the Pavilion Gardens where our Christmas money could be spent on items for our model railway layout.

    The driver of No. 60047 is about to relinquish the single-line token to the signaller leaning out of the box with his hook. (Freight in the Peak District, Amberley Publishing)

    Although I have visited the main location of Peak Forest many times since the mid-1990s, I do regret not going up more in the late 1980s and early 1990s, before privatisation of the railways started. Back then it was British Rail and the Railfreight Trainload Sector operations and the local Buxton based Class 37s that ruled the roost with some help from Class 31s and 47s. The new Class 60s were first introduced to the area in 1991 for driver and technical training at first and I quite liked these rugged heavy-duty locomotives even more so as their engines were supplied from the Mirrlees-Blackstone factory in Hazel Grove. Little did I know then that these Class 60s would be the main traction type for my favourite traffic flow the Tunstead to Northwich limestone flow locally known as ‘The Hoppers’. These wagons and the traffic they carried were another reason for my interest in the local freight scene. Along with the various other stone and cement flows and the ‘Speedlink’ feeder service that ran between Warrington Arpley and Peak Forest where the wagons were split into separate portions for onwards dispatch to Hope for cement, Buxton for gas oil and supplies for the locomotive depot, and Hindlow for powdered lime. Plus what I considered to be foreign wagons would turn up sometimes and I would try to figure out what they were being used for. I could happily view these freight trains passing from my bedroom window.

    A double-headed Freightliner train of empty HIA hoppers heads to Tunstead for loading. (Freight in the Peak District, Amberley Publishing)

    It was during the mid-1990s that I picked up my Dad’s Zenit camera and soon acquired one of my own, another similar Zenit 11, which did the job in taking photographs of the trains passing through Hazel Grove and recording what was going on at Peak Forest. A better Minolta SLR camera with auto-wind on came a few years after and the better optics and focusing certainly helped. By 2007 I had saved up to buy a new Sony A100 Digital SLR which became my main camera having tried several different digital cameras up until then, the best of which was probably the Sony CD camera, which recorded onto mini three inch size CD-R discs and that performed well until the A100 was purchased. And so with the ability to take more photographs recorded onto a memory card I began to take more of the trains and the wagons that they were formed of. I still try and visit the Peak Forest area when time permits and enjoy seeing what has changed since my last visit especially the locomotive colours and wagons.

    After publishing my first book in 2002 on the history of the traffic from Tunstead to Northwich and beyond, I published my own booklet in 2006, which commemorated two railway anniversaries in Hazel Grove where I grew up. It wasn’t until many years later when an acquaintance in the DEMU modelling society had his book on modern wagons published by Amberley Publishing that the thought occurred to me to maybe try getting a book of my own published. And so the idea of a book looking at the Freight traffic in and around the Peak District was born using my own photographic material.

    Paul Harrison's book Freight in the Peak District is available for purchase now.

  • Turkish Steam Railways by Mick Pope

    Turkey is probably best known, in recent years, as a holiday destination for British sun-seekers and being a neighbour of war-torn Syria. Over the centuries Turkey, a country these days with one small foot in Europe and a larger one in Asia, has been the centre of a huge empire under the Ottomans and at times the focus of international conflicts. As a result of this strategic position various countries and alliances have had an interest in Turkey’s internal affairs including its transportation infrastructure. Modernized, under Kemel Attaturk, to a greater extent than most Middle Eastern states, Turkey has centres of heavy industry and although the majority of the population is concentrated in the west and coastal areas, it has cities in the east that need lines of communication and also to provide transit from the countries on its eastern border – Iraq, Iran Syria and Russia. Turkish railways, now government run, had backers from a variety of countries when first built and this is also reflected in the builders of many of its locomotives which came from manufacturers in, among others, Germany, France, the US, and Great Britain.

    The main motive power on the Zonguldak to Irmak line comes from the big American-built 2-10-0s known to enthusiasts as 'Skyliners'. (Turkish Steam Railways, Amberley Publishing)

    A lover of and photographer of railways, when the last steam locomotives were withdrawn from the national system in the UK in 1968, I found I had a big hole in my life. At first I filled it by tracking the last steam locomotives that clung on in industrial service in the UK but these were rapidly disappearing, a process accelerated by the decline in the coal industry. I was just finishing university and starting in my first job. Once settled in the latter, and getting married along the way, I realised that I would have to travel further afield to satisfy my appetite for steam locomotives. China was still building them, India was a heavy user and South Africa had some magnificent beasts but all these places were inaccessible for either political or cost reasons. So I concentrated at first on Eastern Europe where the communist states still ran some steam hauled services. I was also aware that Turkey was just that bit further and had a fascinating variety of locomotives but a visit there went on the back burner until the 1980s when I had the financial means to travel further afield and an understanding wife.

    A 2-10-0 leading a mixed train heads off into the east towards Kars and the distant mountains. (Turkish Steam Railways, Amberley Publishing)

    A solo trip to Turkey was a bit of a step too far in organizational terms and so I signed up for a 1984 tour with the Railway Travel and Photography group with whom I had travelled to South Africa in 1980. This blog is as much about the adventure of the tour as to the steam locomotive content. The normal modus operandi for such a tour was to divide the group up to travel around in a fleet of hire cars to pre-booked hotels, something I had experience of in South Africa. So it was that we arrived at Istanbul airport and were divided up with two drivers and one non-driver per car. On this trip, and a later one in 1985, my co-driver was Nick, owner of a well known company producing railway related videos. Nick had rallied cars and, being no slow-coach myself, we tended to arrive at our pre-booked destinations somewhat in advance of the rest of the party! I also returned in 1988 for a last look, a solo trip as I had more confidence.

    Here a Kriegslok waits with a scheduled service in Karakuyu station. (Turkish Steam Railways, Amberley Publishing)

    Turkey is not a country for drivers of a nervous disposition. The code of the Turkish driver is ‘insha allah’ which roughly translates as ‘the will of god’. In practical terms this means that, on a blind corner, one is very likely to meet a car head-on driven on the wrong side of the road. The belief behind this could be put in western terms as ‘if your number is up there’s nothing you can do about it’. We saw many wrecked cars and other vehicles – a coach from Iran abandoned on its side with luggage strewn across the roadside, in one place half a horse that had presumably half crossed the road. Our own group managed to damage most of their vehicles in some way or other, one being a complete write-off. Our own vehicle suffered a bizarre accident. It was the time of the sugar beet harvest [lots of extra trains] and the roads were full of overloaded trucks. While following one along a dirt road at 60mph it hit a bump and a dozen of the roots flew off and bounced along the road towards us. Most missed or hit a glancing blow but a few miles on the temperature gauge hit red and we realised that something was wrong. On stopping we found a round hole in the front grill and a sticky mess embedded in the radiator. We crept to the next town and stopped. While standing with bonnet open scratching our heads a local approached and offered the comment that a relative had a garage and could help us. We followed him to a shanty among the roadside shops where a beaming mechanic offered the typical ‘No problem’ response one often gets in less developed countries. While we sat drinking sweet Turkish tea in the cafe opposite, they whipped out the radiator, welded the leaks, pressure tested it and reinstalled it, all for about £5!

    Turkey has some amazing scenery – off the top of my head the cave houses at Goreme, the semi-deserts of the far east and the camel serai’s, fortress like stone buildings with stables for the camels underneath come to mind. At one of the latter we encountered some delightful fair-haired, green and blue eyed, children who might have come from a totally different world to the typical darker haired Turkish children.

    The enthusiasts' special seen in earlier shots crosses a viaduct as it descends into Egridir. (Turkish Steam Railways, Amberley Publishing)

    And so, briefly, a mention of the raison d’être of the trip – the trains. The service tended not to be very frequent but often quite slow and so it was possible to overtake them and photograph them at several different places. On a couple of occasions I drove side by side with a train on a parallel road while Nick hung from the window videoing it. Some scenic locations were fabulous. I recall in particular the line from Zonguldak to Cankiri where huge American built locos struggled over steep gradients, at times assisted by another locomotive at the rear, or the line to Kars where the landscape resembled the moon. In complete contrast was the system of branch lines in the west around the lakes at Burdur and Egridir. Here the sugar beet season saw extra trains hauled by a variety of German built locomotives of various vintages and a complex timetable of passenger trains shuttling back and forth.

    All this is sadly now gone and my recent trips to Turkey have involved sitting in the sun sipping cold beers. The railways did make a half-hearted attempt to run tourist trains but the infrastructure dictates that this would probably only appeal to a small market of diehard enthusiasts and the skills to maintain steam locomotives have been lost. Still, I have my photos and videos to remind me of these adventures. I share some of the former in my latest book.

    Mick Pope's book Turkish Steam Railways is available for purchase now.

  • Citroën 2CV by Malcolm Bobbitt

    Different is Everything

    Anyone who has driven a Tin Snail will know this is a car unlike any other. Its corrugated appearance and propensity to lean alarmingly through bends is all part of its abandonment to conventionality. A curious creature that treats pavé and cobbles with contempt as its suspension soaks up rough surfaces, its propulsion is by a feebly powered air-cooled twin-cylinder engine that lays no claim to spirited performance.

    Early 2CVs are recognisable by their corrugated bonnets, as demonstrated by this 1954 example. (Author's collection, Citroën 2CV, Amberley Publishing)

    My acquaintance with the Citroën 2CV began in the mid-1950s when, as a nine- or ten year-old, I discovered Paris courtesy of the obligatory school visit. By then, Citroën’s minimalist miracle had been in production for not even a decade but already had become a familiar sight. Even though it was constructed at Citroën’s Slough factory it was seldom seen on this side of the English Channel. British motorists shunned it in favour of Morris Minors, Austin A30s and Standard 8s. Put off by its stark bodywork, headlights on stalks emerging from the corrugated bonnet, the pull-and-push gear lever and a hostile interior with deck chair-like seats simply missed the point when it came to social acceptance.

    The 2CV was therefore quite different to anything I’d seen in my native London, and that includes such eccentricities as Bond Minicars and Reliant Regal three-wheelers. I remember being fascinated at the way the nose-down and canvas-roofed Citroëns scuttled along, and how their loudly chattering motors echoed around the boulevards.

    Few Saharas survive, this example being sold at auction around 2015. (Author's collection, Citroën 2CV, Amberley Publishing)

    Memories of Tin Snails shuffling around Paris were reignited when visiting provincial France in later years. By then they’d vastly multiplied in numbers to become commonplace in villages and towns as well as loping along rural roads and emerging from fields. Van versions known as fourgonnettes carried baguettes, barrels of vin rouge as well as taking live animals to market.

    When it came to buying my first car my parents were aghast at learning of my desire to acquire one of those odd-looking French contraptions, which in their opinion had to be viewed with the greatest suspicion. Wouldn’t a proper car be more sensible?

    Enduring seven years of British cars and having flown the nest, a new right-hand drive Citroën Dyane 6 was purchased in March 1974. Costing a little over £800, this 2CV sibling in its posh clothing was the nearest one could get in Britain to a Deux Chevaux. Two weeks after taking delivery of the Tin Snail and comprehending its ethos, together we embarked upon an exploration of Northern France. A short time later the Gallic call was satisfied with a dash across the Channel and southwards past the Loire and Dordogne en route to the Camargue and Provence.

    Fourgonnettes were put to many uses, as illustrated by this 2CV pictured in Lisbon serving as a mobile sweet shop. (Author's collection, Citroën 2CV, Amberley Publishing)

    The yearning for a proper Deux Chevaux was fulfilled when I succumbed to an ancient and not entirely reliable left-hand drive model. Compared with the 602cc Dyane, the 1955 425cc 2CV needed a lot of persuading in order to maintain any sort of speed, at best nudging 40mph on the level. Even modest inclines were met with dramatic drops in speed, while steeper hills amassed a tailback of frustrated drivers. Patience is everything when driving an early 2CV: the windscreen wipers are driven by the speedometer cable, which means in wet weather they crawl across the glass at a pace that would leave a tortoise breathless. Instrumentation is confined to a tiny speedo and a volt meter, so in order to know how much petrol there is in the tank it’s necessary to pull up, alight from the car and check the dipstick in the fuel tank aft.

    Though my stable has housed an eclectic array of cars over the decades to include a 1947 Citroën Light Fifteen, the excesses of a 1951 Bentley and, at the opposite end of the spectrum, an early 1950s Fiat Topolino, not to mention a 1961 British-built Citroën DS, a CX and a Renault 4, it never felt right without there being a 2CV. I’ve covered vast swathes of Europe in Tin Snails, one of the most memorable expeditions being to the North Cape, Norway’s most northerly point. This was in the late 1970s when the majority of roads were unmade and ferries bridged fiords.

    One of the last examples to be built, this car - a Spécial as denoted by the plastic rather than chrome griller - is in regular use. (Author's collection, Citroën 2CV, Amberley Publishing)

    Citroën 2CV – Different is Everything – is my 32nd motoring book to have been published. My regard for the Tin Snail and the pleasurable and exciting travel various examples have afforded over the decades, and continue so to do, provided the inspiration to impart the history of this remarkable car. Originally designed to offer the most basic motoring to those people who would not have otherwise owned a motor vehicle, its character and personality never changed throughout 41 years of production. It spawned ever so slightly more classy versions such as the aforementioned Dyane, the Ami and the British designed and built Bijou, but under the skin the basic idea of the Deux Chevaux remained faithful to the concept that was born in the mid-1930s.

    Driving even a late model 2CV today is akin to being at the helm of a piece of moving history. Strangers to the car take time to understand the logic of the gear lever that sprouts from the dashboard, but the real mystery for them is the art of maintaining surprisingly high average speeds despite such minimal power. Best of all is watching them come to terms with the car’s exceptional suspension which allows it to list unbelievably when navigating twisting roads. It’s no wonder the Tin Snail induces smiles wherever it goes.

    Malcolm Bobbitt's book Citroën 2CV is available for purchase now.

  • Diesels and Electrics in London and the South East by Malcolm Batten

    London is self-explanatory, but where exactly is the South-East? It all depends on the context. In 1986-8 British Rail decided to regroup the railways from a regional basis to a business-based system. The regional basis had dated from the formation of British Railways in 1948 from the former Great Western Railway, LMS, LNER and Southern Railways. The Eastern, North Eastern, Midland, Southern, Western and Scottish regions had largely reflected the boundaries and working practices of the former companies and had had a degree of autonomy in terms of locomotive design, liveries etc. Now with the withdrawal of the differing pre-nationalisation locos and stock and many of the early non-standard diesel designs new approach was called for based on the core business patterns of the railways. Thus came Inter-City for, as the name implies, inter-city traffic, Regional Railways for local services, RailFreight etc.  But one of the new business units was called Network South East. This took in Greater London and the outer commuting area to London up to about sixty miles each way. Fair enough, but this inevitably included most of what remained of the former Southern Region, much of which was electrified on the third rail system. So for operating convenience as much as anything, Network South East took in the whole of the former Southern Region main line area, as far as Weymouth and Exeter – hardly the geographical south-east! At one time the Southern Railway had continued on to Plymouth and into north Cornwall but this had all been axed under the Beeching cuts in the 1960s.

    Network South East was launched at Liverpool Street station on 9 June 1986 when Class 47 No. 47573 was named The London Standard. (Diesels and Electrics in London and the South East, Amberley Publishing)

    Network South East was launched on 9 June 1986 with a number of events – one was the unveiling of a new livery for locomotives and rolling stock at Liverpool Street Station in London. Stations had their seats and lampposts painted red as part of an NSE ‘house style’. A Network Card was introduced giving one third of travel within the area. This however came with restrictions. Thus although NSE stopping trains reached Peterborough you could only get the discount to Huntingdon, the station before Peterborough. This was because Peterborough was also served by Inter-City trains from London. If you wanted to benefit from the discount you would need to alight at Huntingdon and re-book onwards at full fare to Peterborough. Similarly NSE trains reached Exeter, but you could not get NSE discounted fares to there as there were also Inter-City trains from London, albeit by a different route. You could however get NSE discounted fares to Weymouth and Yeovil, for, although these stations were also served by Regional Railways, this was not on a direct competing route from London. Confused?

    While some of the Class 68s carry Chiltern Railways livery, others are in Direct Rail Services colours such as No. 68009 Titan at Marylebone on 23 June 2018. (Diesels and Electrics in London and the South East, Amberley Publishing)

    Shortly after the launch a ‘Network Day’ was held later with a Rover ticket giving unlimited travel in the NSE area for a flat fare. This was very well patronised and inevitably many people decided to travel as far as possible which was just short of Exeter. Rail enthusiasts also tried to maximise loco haulage on this route. I recall standing in the carriage end gangway of a very crowded train all the way to Yeovil!

    My book takes a period from 1969 to 2018 so covers the old BR regional era, the sectorisation era including Network South East, and the post privatisation era. However it only covers loco haulage so the majority of NSE operations with diesel and electric multiple units are not included – other authors have produced albums on this subject for Amberley. I have also decided to take a more restricted geographical boundary of some sixty miles each way from London. During the timescale of the book the specific motive power types of the old regions like the Western Region diesel hydraulics and the Southern Region class 33s were replaced by standard class 60s, 66s, 67s and 70s etc on freight traffic. Few diesel or electric locomotives are now used on passenger services, but where they are, privatisation and the changing of franchises has seen a variety of local liveries come and go.

    Malcolm Batten's book Diesels and Electrics in London and the South East is available for purchase now.

  • Armstrong Siddeley Motor Cars by David Welch

    I have been interested in the history of Armstrong Siddeley cars for many years and I was delighted when Amberley invited me to write a book about the marque.  I see it as a pocket primer, there have been much longer and more detailed books in the past but what I have tried to include in my largely non-technical book is the sort of thing I might tell a friend about the marque over a drink in a bar.  I imagined my potential reader as someone who wants to have a potted history of the cars produced by Armstrong Siddeley, or perhaps someone who had a relative who worked for the company and wanted to find out a little more.

    My Hurricane on display at Bamburgh Castle. Although it is by no means pristine help from more mechanically adept friends in the club has helped to return the car to reliable running order. It completed 870 miles in eleven days without missing a beat – deep joy. (Author's collection)

    I am gratified that so many Armstrong Siddeley Owners Club members have purchased the book and with these friends in mind I have used many previously unseen photographs, including a selection from the company photographic archive that is now in the care of the Armstrong Siddeley Heritage Trust.

    That is what is in the book, but there is so much more that can never be adequately described in the written word.  I returned from an eleven day motoring holiday in my red 1950 Armstrong Siddeley Hurricane, after taking part in the Armstrong Siddeley centenary celebrations.  Getting to the start at Bamburgh in Northumberland from my home in north London was simple.  Turn left out of the road where the car is garaged and feed onto the A1, proceed on the A1 for 320 miles and then turn right to Bamburgh.  A wonderful day’s driving with the top down – if I could bottle the pleasure I would be a rich man.

    This magnificent 5 litre Siddeley Special Six is back on the road after 30 years of restoration, now just the interior needs to be completed. It was one of four of these rare models, all with different coachwork, on display at Coventry, alongside a vast collection of other cars from almost every year that the company made cars. (Author's collection)

    Highlights of the holiday included meeting descendants of the first owner of my car, meeting a wonderful group of club members from Australia and, at the static show in Coventry that marked the culmination of the event, seeing a Thrupp and Maberly bodied Siddeley Special Six back on the road after a restoration that has taken 30 years so far.  That car would certainly have been in the book if it had been finished in time for me to take some photographs.  There were many other memorable moments that will ‘flash upon that inward eye which is the bliss of solitude’.

    Car shows are a great place to meet friends and enthusiasts, but for me there is at least as much pleasure to be gained from the journey to and from events.  I am currently looking forwards to taking my car to the Isle of Wight in September for two more car shows and a few days of gentle touring around the island.

    One unexpected result of the book was an invitation to give a talk about Armstrong Siddeley cars to the Society of Automobile Historians of Britain.

    A 1934 Siddeley Special Six by Burlington. (Armstrong Siddeley Motor Cars, Amberley Publishing)

    Meanwhile I must get back to preparing the next issue of Siddeley Times, the journal of the Armstrong Siddeley Heritage Trust.  It is time consuming researching lesser known aspects of Armstrong Siddeley history, but endlessly fascinating to me and many other enthusiasts.

    When my father brought home a second hand A.S.Whitley to be the family’s everyday car in the late fifties I never imagined that the marque would turn into a lifelong hobby.  If you are contemplating entering the joyous world of classic car motoring then I would urge you to consider getting an Armstrong Siddeley, compared with many other classic cars they are marvellous value for money and the availability of spare parts from the club makes running such a car a surprisingly practical proposition.

    If you are already a member of the classic car fraternity then I wish you many happy miles of trouble free motoring in your chosen car – or cars if you have been deeply bitten by the bug.

    David Welch's book Armstrong Siddeley Motor Cars is available for purchase now.

  • The Great Scuttle by David Meara

    The End of the German High Seas Fleet

    Witnessing History

    One hundred years ago last summer an extraordinary and dramatic event took place, a coda to the end of the First World War. The scuttling of the German High Seas Fleet in Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands, on 21st June 1919, Midsummer’s Day was the greatest single loss of shipping in maritime history, 74 capital ships scuttled, of which 52 went to the bottom.

    A panorama of the surrender of the German fleet on 21 November 1918, showing HMS Cardiff leading the German battlecruisers, flanked by HMS Lion and HMS Queen Elizabeth. (The Great Scuttle, Amberley Publishing)

    In spite of the drama and magnitude of the event, it is not as well known as it should be, certainly not in England. Partly because it happened after the First World War had ended, partly because of reporting restrictions at the time, partly because it was, publicly at least, something of an embarrassment to the Admiralty and the British Government, and partly because the Orkney Islands seem to be a long way away. Indeed I have discovered that some people are surprisingly vague about where the Orkney Islands are!

    So it seemed to me that the one hundredth anniversary year was a chance to remind ourselves of this dramatic postscript to the First World War. My personal interest in this subject stems from the fact that my mother and my uncle were witnesses of the event, because they were members of a party of school children from Stromness Academy who were being given a summer treat. A trip around the interned German Fleet on board the boat the Flying Kestrel: and right in the middle of their outing the scuttling began. Big ships turning turtle all around them, German sailors taking to the boats, English sailors shooting at them, the sea foaming and boiling, panic and pandemonium everywhere. It was an experience they never forgot, and my uncle’s diary account of the experience gave me the idea of writing an eye-witness account of the events of that day to mark the 100th anniversary.

    The story of the Great Scuttle is really a drama in three acts:-

    Act I)       The Surrender of the High Seas Fleet at the end of November 1918.

    Act II)     The Scuttling itself, after 7 months of internment in Scapa Flow.

    Act III)    The subsequent salvaging of some of the ships during the inter-war years.

     

    The Flying Kestrel, a tug used to take water and supplies to the British fleet. (Orkney Photographic Archive, The Great Scuttle, Amberley Publishing)

    Act I

    Under the terms of the Armistice of 11th November 1918 the German High Seas Fleet was to be interned in an allied port pending its disposal – and because no-one else wanted it, Admiral Wemyss suggested Scapa Flow.

    On 21st November 1918 under “Operation ZZ” the entire Grand Fleet, plus Allies, put to sea, 370 ships and 90,000 men, to rendezvous with the German Fleet off May Island in the Firth of Forth, flying as many white ensigns as possible. One immense line of ships dividing into two lines, meeting the German Fleet in line ahead, 9 battleships, 5 battle cruisers, 7 light cruisers, and 49 destroyers – under the command of Admiral Ludwig von Reuter in the Battleship Friedrich Der Grosse. The British light cruiser Cardiff led the German ships between the two allied lines, which then reversed course to escort the Germans to the Forth.  The whole operation was conducted in silence. At about 11.00 am Beatty gave the order that the German flag would be lowered at sunset and not hoisted again without permission. The entire event was carefully choreographed to demonstrate the power and might of the victorious British and Allied Navies, and the humiliation of the Germans. The British could hardly believe that the German Naval Command would submit so meekly, and so the prevailing mood was one of disgust and sadness.

    The ships were then inspected to ensure they were completely disarmed, and then over the next few days groups of ships were escorted northwards by the 1st Battle Squadron to their internment in Scapa Flow.

    Von Reuter decided early on in the internment that he would not let his ships fall into enemy hands unless ordered to by his own government, and so began making plans for scuttling but kept them secret, only telling his commanding officers. Vice Admiral Sir Sydney Freemantle, officer Commanding 1st Battle Squadron, didn’t keep von Reuter informed about the negotiations, and in fact took his ships out on torpedo exercises in the Pentland Firth on 21st June because of the good weather. So the fates conspired to present von Reuter with the perfect moment to scuttle his fleet and redeem his country’s honour. For the Stromness schoolchildren, the morning dawned fine and bright, and they prepared for their treat blissfully unaware of the tensions, humiliations and confusions of the previous seven months. It was going to be a day to remember.

     

    German destroyers ashore on the island of Flara. (Author's collection, The Great Scuttle, Amberley Publishing)

    Act II

    Leslie Thorpe, my uncle, twelve years old at the time, wrote a detailed account of the day afterwards in his diary and in a letter to his father. He takes up the story:-

    “Went down to see the German Fleet. Everyone came to school about 9.45 am and we marched to the Flying Kestrel, which was at the New Pier.” The Flying Kestrel was a tug from Liverpool, used to supply water and general stores to the British ships in Scapa Flow.

    The Stromness Senior School classes were being taken on the trip, leaving behind the Infants, and they marched down to the pier in class order, between two and three hundred children in all. Leslie Thorpe goes on:-

    The Kestrel was quite big enough to hold us, and we had liberty to go almost all over her. We had the Red Ensign at the stern, the Union Jack at the bow, and the pennant with the ship’s name at the fore-mast-head. We passed through the hurdles” (the anti-submarine defences) “and the first German ship we came to was the SMS Baden. She is a battleship, having two masts, and two funnels close together, two big guns aft, and two forward. The next was the battlecruiser König Albert. The battlecruisers all have very pointed sterns, and their names are at the stern instead of at the bow.

    The next ships were the battle cruisers Kaiserin, Derfflinger, Hindenburg, Von der Tann, Moltke and Seydlitz. I never noticed the Kaiser or the Karlsruhe. Perhaps I wasn’t looking when we passed them.” The central section of my book continues the narrative of the scuttling, largely using eye-witness accounts, which vividly bring to life the events of the 21st June 1919, and the impact it had on those who watched the drama unfold.

    At the end of that extraordinary day there must have been many excited children being coaxed to bed. Admiral von Reuter, after a game of piquet with his flag lieutenant in his cabin aboard the British flagship, HMS Revenge, now a prisoner of war, settled down in his bunk. The next day he and the rest of the German sailors were taken south to prisoner-of-war camps in England.

     

    The battlecruiser SMS Hindenburg has by this stage settled on the bottom, with only her masts, funnels and the upper part of her superstructure showing. (Imperial War Museum Photographic Archive, The Great Scuttle, Amberley Publishing)

    Act III

    This extraordinary drama was played out over the years leading up to the start of the Second World War, when through the efforts of Ernest Cox, a scrap metal merchant from the Isle of Sheppey, and his successors, all of the destroyers and many of the bigger vessels were salvaged, using pioneering techniques and sheer dogged hard graft and determination.

    Seven wrecks still remain at the bottom of the Flow, now scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act. They have become a top diving destination, bringing in a substantial boost to the local economy. Those wrecks and the German graves at Lyness Naval Cemetery on the Island of Hoy remain as mute testimony to the events of that day in 1919.

    The events of the 21st June 1919 were never forgotten by those who witnessed them. When interviewed for a magazine article in her 85th year one of the schoolchildren, Peggy Gibson said:-

    “I still think about it. It was really remarkable, and not something anyone could easily forget, seeing those great ships first listing, then sinking, with a great roar of steam escaping, and the German sailors jumping into the water.”

    One hundred years on, there are no witnesses to the scuttling still alive. But, through the memories and records they left behind, the drama, chaos and terror of that fateful day can be vividly recreated for later generations for whom the scuttling of the German High Seas Fleet is simply part of distant history. Young Leslie Thorpe called his outing on the Flying Kestrel with his sister and schoolmates “a most thrilling experience”, and in a PS to his long letter to his father describing their adventures, added:-

    “Don’t you think I’d better write a book about the scuttling of the German Fleet!”

    Over the succeeding years a number of accounts have indeed been written, and one hundred years later my own account of that one momentous day, Saturday 21st June 1919, fulfils that young boy’s aspiration, and tells this dramatic story afresh, through the eyes of those who saw it happen. As the young Leslie Thorpe said to his sister Winnie at the time: they were indeed “witnessing history.”

    David Meara's book The Great Scuttle: The End of the German High Seas Fleet is available for purchase now.

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