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  • 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.

  • Trains Around Peterborough by John Jackson

    I was only a few years old when I first visited Peterborough. Although I didn’t appreciate it at the time, it was the city’s prominence at an important railway crossroads that was to blame. When I look back, I suppose my love affair with the city started at the end of the 1950’s. That enthusiasm for the city has never gone away.

    My father had encouraged me to share his passion for the steam locomotive. Today that passion extends far beyond these shores to most things transport related around the world.

    But Peterborough has been in my blood for over half a century. Some of my earliest memories involve the long, but exciting, train journey to visit my aunt and uncle who were then living just outside Hull, then in Yorkshire’s East Riding. The journey from our family home in Northampton meant a change of trains, and stations, in the city of Peterborough.

    The sign commemorating Mallard’s world record. (Trains Around Peterborough, Amberley Publishing)

    Our journey included the stretch of track just north of Peterborough where Gresley’s A4 Pacific Mallard reached a speed of 126 miles per hour. That 1938 achievement between the villages of Little Bytham and Essendine still stands to this day. It is marked by an appropriate sign that can be seen by the eagle-eyed observer passing at a hundred miles per hour!

    In my earliest travelling days, in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, steam locos still held sway although diesel power was starting to make its presence felt around Peterborough on the East Coast Main Line and beyond.

    The line from Northampton to Peterborough, our line, was to fall victim to the ‘Beeching Axe’ a few years later. In common with many other lines in the area, passenger services were withdrawn as the UK rail network was cut back by around a third. The lines westwards from Peterborough towards Market Harborough and Rugby were also victims to this pruning.

    Nevertheless, Peterborough remains an important railway crossroads, and its diversity of both passenger and freight traffic, continues to draw today’s enthusiasts to the station and surrounding areas.

    Of course, much else has changed in those fifty or so years. The East Coast Main Line has been electrified, our railways have passed into private ownership, and Felixstowe has emerged as the UK’s largest container port. Much of this container traffic reaches its customers by crossing East Anglia and passing through Peterborough station. It is featured here but its worth mentioning that more examples can be found in my earlier Amberley Publication, ‘East Anglia Traction’.

    One of Hitachi’s new Azuma trains passing through Peterborough. (Trains Around Peterborough, Amberley Publishing)

    More recently, we have seen the passenger operator of intercity services on the East Coast Main Line, Virgin East Coast, surrender its franchise. This has left these services in the hands of LNER, owned by the Department for Transport, at a time when the line is seeing significant changes to the type of trains provided.

    My book, ‘Trains around Peterborough’, takes a look at the rail traffic found in the area in the years leading up to these changes, together with a comparison with the scene around the time of rail privatisation a quarter of a century ago.

    By the time this book appears, the word ‘Azuma’ will probably have passed into common usage. The LNER launch publicity is already on display at their principal stations, including Peterborough, where they are advertising an Azuma journey into London’s Kings Cross station in just fifty-one minutes. These Azumas, the word means ‘east’ in Japanese, are built by Hitachi and use Japanese bullet train technology. They are replacing the class 91 loco and mark 4 coaching stock that has operated the route since electrification in the mid 1980’s.

    But Peterborough offers the rail enthusiast so much more than just these new Azumas. Spending time on the stations platforms offers the chance to witness passing passenger services from up to six different operators to and from most compass points around the city. The three main freight operating companies, DB Cargo, Freightliner and GB Railfreight, also provide a variety of freight types through the area, alongside more unusual offerings of just about any type of loco and train seen on the network today.

    I hope you have the chance to share this journey through the pages of this publication.

    John Jackson's book Trains Around Peterborough is available for purchase now.

  • Coaches In and Around Brighton by Simon Stanford

    From the motorised charabancs of the nineteen twenties to the luxury coaches we see on our roads today, coaches will always be with us to serve the travelling public, conveying passengers to destinations far and wide. Excursions, sightseeing, holidays all give fulfilment and enjoyment to many, passengers, driver and enthusiasts alike. Some will recall their holidays by coach, express travel or childhood school trips, we can all remember travelling by coach at some time in our lives.

    The enthusiast, whilst some people regard coaches as a means of getting from A to B, coaches and buses have a huge following and bring pleasure to a great many people. Rallies and shows take place up and down the country each year drawing in the crowds with cameras at the ready, Museums exhibit examples from the past for us to admire and relive history, or bring back memories. We see restored and preserved buses and coaches brought back to their former glory to enjoy once again. I once owned a former Southdown coach, in her heyday a tour coach, a hobby bringing pleasure to many.

    A typical Brighton coaching scene. Unique coaches Bedford Duple, immaculately turned out when photographed by Stuart Little in 1976 on Marine Parade, Brighton. Goodwood races is the excursion on offer for intending passengers. (Coaches In and Around Brighton, Amberley Publishing)

    I wrote Coaches in and around Brighton to recall my lifelong passion for coaches in the seaside resort of Brighton where I was born and grew up. The book recalls those years from the sixties to the nineties when I remember accompanying my father, a coach driver all of his life for local Brighton firm ‘Campings’, with fond memories of Brighton’s Maderia drive on a weekend. Coaches all lined up with destination boards leant up against the sides of the coach advertising that days excursion, a remarkable sight, one that is rarely seen today if at all. Regular passengers arriving for an afternoon trip to an array of destinations for a few shillings with that essential tea stop. Staff transport for factory workers, horse race meetings, privately hired coaches and tours formed the Brighton coaching scene as I knew it. Booking kiosks adjacent to the palace pier where bookings could be made well in advance for a programme of planned trips throughout the season traditionally starting around Easter.

    For the book I selected photographs, some with the help of wonderful fellow enthusiasts to replicate this period as a youngster and to mark this era that reached a peak in what I refer to as traditional coaching and of course to bring back some memories in pictorial form. The photographs will also remind us what Brighton has to offer in stunning architecture and scenery. For around 30 some years Brighton hosted the British coach rally held on Maderia drive, an event I attended for countless years as did others and coach operators, many returning each year had this opportunity to show off their new coaches for the forthcoming season or to enter an older coach needless to say in immaculate condition, prizes to be won too.

    I would regularly watch visiting coaches arrive on mass, often two or three from the same operator dropping off their passengers eager to enjoy a day at the seaside. Many of these firms are no longer around, Bexleyheath transport, Venture, Grey Green, Wallace Arnold to name but a few. Local Brighton names like Alpha, Unique, Campings and Southdown are all but memories.

    Such is the coaching industry that many dedicate a lifetime to it, long service awards issued to a great deal of workers over the years. Generations commonly running the family coach business; with sons and daughters following in their father’s footsteps. I for one have completed forty years in a variety of roles; I refer to that phrase used in the book ‘It’s in the blood’ rings true.

    Looking forward, we still have coaches, coach trips as popular as ever just different from the heyday I remembered but the camera keeps clicking away and who knows material for Coaches in and around volume 2 is plentiful.

    Simon Stanford's book Coaches In and Around Brighton is available for purchase now.

  • West of England Emergency Service Vehicles by Dave Boulter

    I have always had a strong interest in all three emergency services as well as the RNLI. I served for almost 30 years as a police officer, retiring at the end of 1996 as a chief superintendent (divisional commander) with the Ministry of Defence Police (MDP), my early police service being ten years with Somerset & Bath which amalgamated to become Avon & Somerset Constabulary. After eight years serving in uniform and plain clothes in Weston-super-Mare, followed by two years as a detective sergeant on the Regional Crime Squad, I transferred in 1978 to become a detective inspector with the MDP.

    Wiltshire's air ambulance is Helimed 22, registration G-WLTS, a Bell 429 with a top speed of 178 mph. (West of England Emergency Service Vehicles, Amberley Publishing)

    My retirement present at the end of 1996 from MDP colleagues was a decent camera and it was then that I made the decision to record the street view of emergency service vehicles in use in London and Bristol so that a record of the vehicles mainly captured on the move in their working environment could exist for any grandchildren I might eventually have. (They now total seven with very little interest at this stage of their lives in their grandfather’s archive!)

    I do stress it has never been to impose on anyone’s grief, dignity or privacy, my photographic interest being confined to the vehicles themselves. The only licence I did give myself was to broaden the term ‘vehicle’ to include police and ambulance helicopters, marine police vessels, mounted and dog sections. Undercover and plain clothes department vehicles are not subject of my photographic interest, security considerations and the safety of the officers involved being paramount.

     

     

    The other very strict rules I have are:

    1. To ask permission where possible to photograph even in a public street although I accept this is often not practical given my style of photography.
    2. Never to use flash photography, not even at night. It is vital drivers are not distracted.
    3. To be as discreet as possible so as not to become a nuisance to anybody.
    4. To be mindful of my own personal security, especially at my age carrying photographic equipment.
    5. As often as circumstances allow thanking the emergency crews regardless of which service they represent for the work they do. I have always found this simple, heartfelt gesture greatly appreciated by them.
    MAN aerial ladder platform appliances. (West of England Emergency Service Vehicles, Amberley Publishing)

    Looking back, I wish I knew then what I know now as it was never my intention to write a book in those early days, merely to keep a video and 35mm still print record. Successive house moves resulted in loss, damage and destruction to parts of my collection, subsequently not aided in my early computer days by programmes crashing and material disappearing for evermore. Then the digital era arrived and presented all manner of opportunity for the non-professional like me to experiment with basic tasks such as cropping the image. Unfortunately my endeavours ruined many a good shot as I was to later find them unsuitable for a publisher’s technical requirements! However, if you love a subject you persist, undaunted by failures from the past or what could have been if only more care had been taken by me with the original material. But we all learn - and as the years advance the rule holds just as good in my 70s as it did when I was a younger man.

    Thus, with the encouragement and advice from my commissioning editor, Connor Stait - to whom I will always be grateful - I persisted, embarking on a very steep learning curve involving much burning of the midnight oil. As a result, and thanks to my wife Margaret’s help behind the camera, London’s Emergency Service Vehicles and West of England Emergency Service Vehicles, published in 2017 and 2019 respectively, enable a record to be exist thereby allowing future generations to look back on the current scene. With pride in helping others, particularly the younger generation, have a greater appreciation of their emergency services in these modern times, I regard my books as the “The Future History, Today.”

     

    Dave Boulter's new book West of England Emergency Service Vehicles and previous book London's Emergency Service Vehicles are available for purchase now.

  • The Scottish Rail Scene in the Twenty-First Century by John Jackson

    The date was 9th August 1968, a day I remember well. That was the day I crossed an imaginary line, and my imagination turned to reality. My love affair had begun.

    Leaving Carlisle’s Kingmoor yard behind me, my first entry in my beloved spotting notebook was to be at the isolated community of Beattock, around forty miles north of the border on the West Coast Main Line. That was the day that I had crossed the border from England to Scotland for the very first time.

    The iconic Forth Bridge, spanning the Firth of Forth since 1890. (The Scottish Rail Scene in the Twenty-First Century, Amberley Publishing)

    In the next few days I will notch up my fifty-first consecutive year of visiting Scotland at least once, and, most years, many times more.

    Just a couple of years ago, my visit to the re-opened Borders Railway ensured that I have still visited every open passenger railway station in that country. Of course, many escaped my grasp due to the ‘Beeching Axe’ taking out much of the Scottish passenger rail map before both my maturity and financial position would have enabled me to visit.

    Back in 1968, I was a teenager with a hobby, but it was so much more than that. It was, and still is, a passion. My father had lit the touchpaper by sharing with me his love of steam engines. Those beasts may have come and gone but my love affair with our railways remains. In recent years, my camera has become my travelling companion as I pursue another railway target, this time to take at least one photo at every station on the rail network. That remains a tall order.

    So, fast-forward fifty years from that teenage moment in 1968, and I am standing on the single platform at Altnabreac. This isolated station is just over forty miles south of Wick on the Far North Line. My wife and father-in-law, and our car, are left behind at nearby Scotscalder as I make the ‘out and back’ journey with a twenty-minute connection here at Altnabreac having arrived on the lunchtime southbound train and then returning north almost immediately.

    The remote outpost of Altnabreac on Scotland’s Far North Line. (The Scottish Rail Scene in the Twenty-First Century, Amberley Publishing)

    As I stood at this remote outpost I had to pinch myself. The motivation for this particular journey was to take a photo, not just for my private enjoyment, but also for imminent publication.

    I had decided that Altnabreac was to feature on the Far North Line pages of ‘The Scottish Rail Scene in the Twenty-First Century’, my tenth title for Amberley Publishing. It didn’t matter that there was no road access to this station whatsoever! The twenty minutes waiting here between trains gave me the chance to archive yet another chapter in my Scottish Railway memories.

    I have thoroughly enjoyed travelling the length and breadth of Scotland’s railways over the last half century. Of course, the Scottish railway scene has changed much in that time. By the time of my early ventures north the steam engines had disappeared, but in their wake came a wide variety of Diesel locomotive types. Most of these locos seemed to spend most of their time stabled out of use at the many depots that littered Scotland in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Most of those locos and depots have also been consigned to history. But Scotland’s railways still have much to tempt me north.

    The last few years of these travels are reflected in this book. The publication takes a whistle-stop tour of those lines that survived into the twenty-first century. From the border city of Carlisle to the Far North termini at Wick and Thurso, the book covers the length and breadth of the country. I have included as many lines and locations as space constraints allow. I hope you have the chance to share my journey.

    John Jackson's new book The Scottish Rail Scene in the Twenty-First Century is available for purchase now.

  • South Devon Railway by Bernard Warr

    This is the third book I have written for Amberley but the first about railways, a subject that is close to my heart. My romance with the South Devon Railway started on a hot summers day in 1965 when I was being driven along the old and winding A38 road in Devon. We came upon Buckfastleigh, much more famous among tourists for Buckfast Abbey than anything to do with railways in those days. My friend and flatmate, Nigel, in whose car we were travelling, pulled into the entrance of the station approach road but found our way barred by a substantial gate, firmly locked and chained. We climbed out to have a look and found a notice attached to the gate telling us that the former railway from Totnes to Ashburton was to be reopened by a private company as a tourist attraction. An appeal for help was made and an address to contact for information was given.

    Buckfastleigh Station in 1965. (Image Bernard Mills, South Devon Railway, Amberley Publishing)

    This sounded interesting and I contacted the address to offer my help, deep down expecting to be told that they wanted people who knew something about railways and could be of more use than a humble bank clerk. How wrong I was! They welcomed me with open arms and I was soon a regular attendee at the weekend working parties. On site, a veritable treasure trove of Great Western Steam engines and coaches had been assembled ready for the day when services could recommence. As it turned out, it was to be nearly four years before the first fare paying passenger was carried. The problem being the section of the line between Buckfastleigh and Ashburton. The Ministry of Transport wanted to keep this strip of land to enable the A38 to be straightened and widened. Because of this the company was only able to run services between Totnes and Buckfastleigh from April 1969.

     

    The very last train from Ashburton on 2 October 1971 was the 3.05pm to London Paddington, loading to eleven carriages, seen here approaching Buckfastleigh in the capable hands of former GWR loco 4588. (Image Bernard Mills, South Devon Railway, Amberley Publishing)

    In the succeeding years, as the railway prospered, so did Buckfastleigh, enjoying something of an economic renaissance as a result. Meanwhile the Dartmoor town of Ashburton, bereft of the tourist railway, has not participated in similar economic success.

    The last trains to Ashburton ran in 1971 and included enormous through trains from both Swansea and London Paddington and on this day, the line saw more visitors than at any time in its history.

    Shortly afterwards the road contractors moved in, ripped up the track and obliterated the line north of Buckfastleigh. An enormous embankment was built across the Buckfastleigh Station goods yard, removing at a stroke, the many storage sidings it contained.

     

     

     

    The bridge over the River Dart north of Buckfastleigh in 1971, with the station and goods yard in the background, all soon to be obliterated by the widening of the A38 Trunk Road. (Image Bernard Mills, South Devon Railway, Amberley Publishing)

    From this low point the company slowly built the new business, establishing a regular train service during the summer months and undertaking maintenance of the track, rolling stock and engines during the winter months. In those early years although the line passed through delightful scenery alongside the River Dart, it was very much a line to nowhere as the new station at Totnes, facilitated by the company, was divided from the town by the river and no one could get on or off!

    At about the time that the last trains to Ashburton ran the company was offered the freehold of the line between Paignton and Kingswear with the ferry across to Dartmouth. This proved to be an enormously successful venture and by 1989 the company decided that the line from Buckfastleigh to Totnes was losing money and could not continue to operate under their control. It was offered up for sale. Fortunately, the volunteers who had been supporting the Buckfastleigh – Totnes line banded together, formed a charitable organisation and negotiated a lease from the company with their first trains running from 1991.

    Copper capped chimney and gleaming brasswork. This picture of Small Prairie 2-6-2T No. 5542 as it passes Hood Bridge Permanent Way cabin says it all! (Image Bernard Miles, South Devon Railway, Amberley Publishing)

    The charitable status helped obtain grant aid to construct a pedestrian footbridge across the River Dart at Totnes which opened in 1993.

    Suddenly the ‘line to nowhere’ had gained a purpose and passenger numbers (and therefore revenue) soared. Over the years, other attractions have been developed; at Buckfastleigh there is the Otter Sanctuary and Butterfly World, whilst at the Totnes end is the Totnes Rare Breeds Farm. All very appealing for the family visit and makes an enjoyable day out. But of course, the real attraction is the Great Western steam engines with copper capped chimneys, gleaming brasswork and the smell of warm oil, burning coal and the steam! Long may it remain so.

    Bernard Warr's new book South Devon Railway is available for purchase now.

  • Beyer, Peacock & Company of Manchester by Colin Alexander

    The Quantock Hills have recently reverberated to the distinctive sound of two Maybach MD870 engines, as preserved Beyer, Peacock ‘Hymek’ diesel-hydraulics D7017 and D7018 were reunited in service on the West Somerset Railway. I first fell in love with these stylish machines when another preserved example, D7029, filled Newtondale Gorge in North Yorkshire with her distinctive growl, and more recently, the fourth survivor D7076 performing superbly on the East Lancashire Railway. The 101 ‘Hymeks’ were among the last locomotives to emerge from the famous Gorton Foundry of Beyer, Peacock, established 1854.

    One of Beyer, Peacock's most iconic designs was its 1864 4-4-0T for London's Metropolitan Railway, the world's first underground line. (Beyer, Peacock & Company of Manchester, Amberley Publishing)

    Among its early products were the famous condensing tank engines for the world’s first underground line, the Metropolitan Railway.

    Beyer, Peacock was a versatile manufacturer, constructing some of Britain’s smallest narrow gauge locomotives, as well as the largest of all. By 1907, the Gorton Foundry had erected 5000 steam locomotives, of which two-thirds were for export. Beyer, Peacock locomotives were renowned for their build quality.

    Internationally, Beyer, Peacock will always be associated with the legendary Beyer-Garratt locomotive. This was an ingenious solution to the problem of moving heavy trains on lightly laid permanent way, steep gradients and tight curves. It was effectively two locomotives supplied by one boiler suspended on a frame between them. One locomotive carried the water tank and the other the fuel. This configuration ultimately allowed larger boilers and fireboxes, as there were no wheels directly beneath.

    The design was patented by Herbert William Garratt, who came to Beyer, Peacock in 1907 with his articulated locomotive design, and the Gorton Foundry constructed the world’s first Beyer-Garratt locomotive. This was the diminutive K1 for the narrow-gauge Tasmanian Government Railway. Happily this iconic machine is now preserved in Britain. From this neat articulated 0-4-0+0-4-0 evolved some of the largest and most successful locomotives ever built, running in 48 countries.

    Beyer, Peacock Works No. 1989 of 1881 is a Class 23 0-6-0ST of the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway, seen in preserved condition at Haworth on the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway, in May 1981. (Beyer, Peacock & Company of Manchester, Amberley Publishing)

    Of more than 1600 Beyer-Garratts to run worldwide, over 1100 were built by Beyer, Peacock.  Many of them were destined for South Africa where the GA Class 2-6-0+0-6-2 of 1921 demonstrated its superiority over the ‘Mallet’ articulated locomotive favoured in the USA.  By the end of that decade the South African Garratt had evolved into the massive GL Class 4-8-2+2-8-4, an example of which, appropriately, is preserved in the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry.

    The Beyer Garratt design was ideal for developing nations where infrastructure needed to be inexpensive and light axle loading was required. It also obviated the need for costly double-heading with extra manpower.

    Just a few weeks ago I was privileged enough to sample Beyer-Garratt haulage for the first time, as a former South African Railways’ NGG16 locomotive took me from Porthmadog to Caernarfon on the spectacular Welsh Highland Railway, with a grandstand view of the engine from the observation car. The effortless way in which she dealt with steep gradients and sharp curves was amazing to see.

    Statens Järnvägar No. 75 was an 'A' Class 2-2-2 built by Beyer, Peacock in 1866 as Works No. 627. (Beyer, Peacock & Company of Manchester, Amberley Publishing)

    Like other British locomotive manufacturers dealing with the economic difficulties of the 20th century, Beyer, Peacock began to experiment and diversify. It dabbled in the manufacture of steam road wagons and took over the established Suffolk steam tractor firm of Richard Garrett in 1932. The factory’s versatility was demonstrated as tanks and other armaments were turned out during wartime.

    Attempting to keep pace with changing technologies on the world’s railways, Beyer, Peacock built small quantities of electric locomotives and later, usually in collaboration with other companies, diesels too. By 1949 the firm had joined forces with the established electric traction manufacturers Metropolitan-Vickers specifically to develop non-steam locomotives. For this, a separate factory was established at Bowesfield near Stockton-on-Tees. Beyer Peacock’s first experience with electric traction had come as early as 1890, when in conjunction with the firm of Mather and Platt, it was involved in constructing the tiny four-wheeled locomotives for the City and South London Railway. One of these can be seen today in the London Transport Museum.

    By 1966, locomotive orders had dried up and Beyer, Peacock ceased production after 110 years, with more than 8000 locomotives having emerged through the factory gates. There are many examples of Beyer, Peacock locomotives surviving in preservation around the world, but the company’s single greatest legacy is surely the Beyer-Garratt, which opened up so much of the developing world.

     

    Colin Alexander and Alon Siton's new book Beyer, Peacock & Company of Manchester is available for purchase now.

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