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  • 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 In common with many other lines in the area, passenger services were withdrawn as the UK rail network was cut back by around a third.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.

  • London Rail Freight Since 1985 by Malcolm Batten

    London owes its existence and development to the River Thames. The site was originally chosen as a settlement by the Romans who named it Londinium. The location was chosen as the nearest point to the estuary that the Romans could bridge the river with the technology at their disposal. The building of the first London Bridge then dictated the shape of the emerging settlement. Becoming a barrier to any ships that couldn’t pass under it, which meant that the wharves, warehouses and all other amenities associated with shipping came to be sited along the river to the east of the bridge. For several hundred years after the Romans left, London Bridge remained the only bridge in an expanding London. Other bridges would be added to the west, but it would not be until Tower Bridge opened in 1894 that a bridge was built to the east. This would then remain unique until the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge opened at Dartford in 1991 – still the only bridge across the river east of Tower Bridge, and all because of the need to provide clearance for shipping.

    Coming off the North London line and passing through Stratford, Class 47 No. 47476 Night Mail heads a Ford 'blue train' returning to Dagenham on 25 March 1999. (London Rail Freight Since 1985, Amberley Publishing)

    When railways first came to London, each line was built by a different company seeking to link their area to the capital. There was no through service from one side of London to the other, and indeed the railway companies were prevented from entering the central area of the City and West End. The traffic congestion that developed eventually led to the building of the world’s first underground railway, opened in 1863. The Metropolitan Railway ran from Paddington to Farringdon, linking the Great Western Railway’s Paddington station with the Great Northern Railway’s Kings Cross station and passing close to Euston station, built by the London & Birmingham Railway. When the Midland Railway opened their station at St. Pancras, next to Kings Cross, this was also served by the Metropolitan Line. But also significantly, the Great Western made a connection to the Metropolitan at Paddington and this allowed through freight trains to run to Smithfield Market until 1962. The Metropolitan would eventually be joined to the District Railway, opened in 1868, to form a Circle Line linking many of the main line termini.

    Class 60 No. 60025 Joseph Lister prepares to tackle the bank with the Langley-Lindsey return empty tank wagons, also on 19 July 1994. (London Rail Freight Since 1985, Amberley Publishing)

    While this enabled passengers to connect between the lines of different railway companies, albeit with changing trains, what of freight traffic from one line to another? In order to transfer freight traffic from one company to another, the various London railway companies to the north of the Thames made links to the orbital North London Railway which ran from Broad Street station in the east to Richmond in south-west London. The NLR also had a freight line into the east London docks. But when freight needed to cross from north to south London or vice versa, the railways came up against the same problem as the roads – no bridges to the east of London because of the need to provide clearance for shipping. There was a railway tunnel to the east of London Bridge – Brunel’s original Thames tunnel from Wapping to Rotherhithe opened in 1843 as a foot tunnel. This was converted to a rail tunnel in 1869. This did carry some freight traffic until the early 1960s, but its usefulness was limited by the fact that access on the north bank was from the west. Any freight trains wanting to enter the tunnel would have to reverse in the busy Liverpool Street Station first – not very practical. This tunnel is now used by the very intensive London Overground network and does not carry any freight. Until the 1960s some cross-Thames freights were routed by what is now the Thameslink route from Farringdon to Blackfriars and over the bridge there. But this involved a steep gradient, and the line now carries an intensive passenger service so no freight trains are now routed this way. Most cross-Thames freight (and passenger) traffic was normally routed via Kensington Olympia and the river bridge at Chelsea. This remains the case today, including traffic to and from the Channel Tunnel. When this line is unavailable due to engineering works, trains use the river crossing at Barnes Bridge – even further west.

    Shunting the yard to the west of the station on 25 September 1987 is No. 47376. The towers in the background, the nearer one of which is residential, are a local landmark. (London Rail Freight Since 1985, Amberley Publishing)

    While the one-time mass of transfer freights and trip workings between marshalling yards had long gone, as had the pick-up freights from local goods yards, there was still a reasonable amount of freight to be found in the 1980s and 1990s. This has declined somewhat since. Economic depression, the further losses to road transport and the closure of some sources of traffic have been factors. The regular Ford ‘blue trains’ have ceased with the end of car production at Dagenham, although there is still some rail traffic emanating from there. The Channel Tunnel has not generated the amount of through rail traffic that was at first anticipated. Instead, lorries clog the motorways to Kent to join the tunnel shuttle trains (or ferries) to cross to Europe. However the ever-present building work around London has kept the stone and aggregates traffic busy. The building of Crossrail led to a major rail freight flow, transporting the extracted spoil from the tunnelling site at Westbourne Park to Northfleet, where the spoil was loaded onto ships for land reclamation further downriver. Freightliner traffic from the ports of Felixstowe, Tilbury and the new Thames Gateway port, which opened in November 2013, is another major part of the London freight scene.

    This book takes the freight routes around London geographically, in an anti-clockwise direction, starting in East London north of the Thames and ending in South East London. The varying types of traffic, and the various locomotives and liveries used on these trains are depicted over a period of forty-plus years.

    Malcolm Batten's new book London Rail Freight Since 1985 is available for purchase now.

  • The F-14 Tomcat by Terry C. Treadwell

    My interest in aviation started when I was in the Royal Air Force and has continued unabated over the years. Some years ago I became the European Correspondent of Naval Aviation News, which is the official aviation magazine of the US Navy, giving me access to a great amount of material regarding American Naval aircraft. This allowed me to write about the various aircraft in the US Navy and I have written a number of books on these subjects. A few years later I also became the European Correspondent for a magazine called ‘Wings of Gold’, a magazine aimed predominantly at the US Navy and Marine Corps aviation, this gave me access to even more material.

    An excellent shot of an F-14 with its wings swept back. (The F-14 Tomcat, Amberley Publishing)

    In the 1930s the Grumman Corporation became the main supplier of aircraft to the US Navy and Marine Corps and the F-14 Tomcat was just one of a series of Grumman aircraft that were acquired by them. Throughout the Second World War the name Grumman became synonymous with US Naval aircraft and acquired the name ‘Ironworks’ because of their aircrafts rugged construction. Almost all the aircraft had ‘cat’ names, like the Wildcat, Hellcat, Tigercat and Bearcat. The Tomcat however was unofficially named (but widely accepted) after Vice-Admiral Thomas (Tom) F. Connolly championed the development of the aircraft for the US Navy at the cost of his fourth star. The full bitter story of this is in my book the F-14 Tomcat. The Tomcat was regarded by many as being the most lethal attack aircraft in the world at the time and was involved a number of conflicts.

    An F-14D Tomcat taxiing along the perimeter track at NAS Oceana. (The F-14 Tomcat, Amberley Publishing)
    F-14s being lined up for launch. (The F-14 Tomcat, Amberley Publishing)

    A number of F-14 Tomcats were sold to the Shah of Persia and in the book there are several unique photographs of the aircraft in Iranian colours and markings. However the Shah was deposed just after the delivery of the aircraft leaving the F-14 in Iran with no spares. The result was that within months they had to cannibalise all but two of the aircraft to keep them flying and even they were grounded within six months because of engineering problems.

    The history of naval aviation is extremely interesting, as it shows not only the development of the aircraft but also the aircraft carrier. It all started using converted cargo ships and warships and developed quite rapidly because of conflicts and wars.  The first carrier landings and take-offs were carried out by a civilian pilot, Eugene Ely in 1910 aboard the USS Birmingham. During the war against Mexico, seaplanes were carried aboard the USS Birmingham and were lowered into the water by crane. It was during the battle for Veracruz that a seaplane on patrol became the first American navy aircraft to be hit by gunfire and to sustain battle damage.

    Early aircraft carriers carried a complement of about fifty aircraft, today’s aircraft carriers like the USS George W. Bush, carries ninety-six aircraft and an array of weapons some nuclear. The development of the angled deck and the ski jump (both British innovations), enabled fast jets to be launched within minutes of each other.

    Amberley Publishing have produced a number of books on aircraft, all of which are of an equally high standard and extremely informative to the layperson without being too technical.  As the years progress so will aviation, but with drones becoming more and more sophisticated who knows what the future holds, but then that’s another story.

     

    Terry C. Treadwell's new book The F-14 Tomcat is available for purchase now.

  • South Coast Passenger Vessels by John Megoran

    Growing up in Weymouth in the 1950s and 1960s I was lucky enough to catch the tail end of the South Coast coastal excursion paddle steamers. We sailed on them as a family. When I was old enough (and in those days old enough meant from the age of 9) I went on them on my own. They laid up in Weymouth harbour each winter. I cycled past them on my way to school. I got to know some of the captains and crews and watched the progress of their refits. My boyhood dream was to go to sea so that one day I might become captain of one of them but sadly that dream began to look a little thin as my teens wore on and one after another the paddle steamer was sold for scrap leaving a huge void in South Coast cruising.

    Claire, the Hamble-Warsash ferry. (South Coast Passenger Vessels, Amberley Publishing)

    Fast forward fifty years to 2019. Look around the South Coast today. Want a boat ride? You are spoiled for choice. Ok so these vessels are not quite like the paddle steamers of yesterday but they are boats, they go places and they do still get you afloat.

    Mostly they offer shorter cruises of an hour or two in length and can carry between 12 and 250 passengers. Many are based on the principle of an open top deck to get the best of the sun when it is shining with an enclosed saloon below serving drinks and light snacks for when it rains. Most are under the command of Boatmasters, rather than sea-going captains, and have tiny crews of between two and four which make them very economical to operate.

     

     

    Waverley backing out from Swanage. (South Coast Passenger Vessels, Amberley Publishing)

    There are tiny ones like the rowing boats, ferrying eight at a time across the Harbour at Weymouth. There are the bigger launches which enable you to sail past the Portland Harbour Breakwaters, along the River Frome from Wareham or from the beach at Swanage. Sail through the tranquillity and shallowness of Christchurch Harbour on one of them or take a trip from Alum Bay or Yarmouth close up to get stunning views of the Needles. Jump aboard one at Southampton, Portsmouth and Cowes for trips in the Solent. Cross the Hamble River in ferries painted lurid pink. Take a ride across Chichester and Langstone Harbours on a converted lifeboat or a solar powered craft. And what about Brighton Marina from which you can take a short coastal cruise or a tour of the windfarms.

     

     

    Solent Flyer off Southsea. (South Coast Passenger Vessels, Amberley Publishing)

    Then there are the bigger vessels, some of which can carry over 300 passengers on excursions in the Solent, around Poole Harbour, dropping off some of their passengers at Brownsea Island, on to Swanage and Durslton Head. And let’s not forget the Isle of Wight ferries which offer opportunities for all who think that it is the size of ship that matters. For those who like it really big then there are the cross-Channel ferries from Portsmouth or Poole to take you on a day trip to France or the Channel Islands.

    I spent last summer visiting all the current operational South Coast passenger vessels and was astounded and impressed by the sheer quantity and diversity of the boats I found. In an area bounded by Weymouth in the west and Newhaven in the east there are currently well over eighty of them operating with Maritime and Coastguard Agency Passenger Certificates. That’s a lot of boats. That’s a lot of trip options. That’s a lot of boat rides.

    St Clare approaching Portsmouth. (South Coast Passenger Vessels, Amberley Publishing)

    “South Coast Passenger Vessels” is the result of my tour last year and includes details and colour pictures of all of them. Frankly I didn’t know that many of these boats even existed before I started out. Now that I do know I hope that this book alerts you to their existence and encourages you all to find out more about them and to seek them out so that you too can enjoy them and see from the water some of the most spectacular scenery in this beautiful part of Britain. If you get as much pleasure from it as I did last year, you will not be disappointed.

    John Megoran's new book South Coast Passenger Vessels is available for purchase now.

  • East Yorkshire Motor Services by Bernard Warr

    I retired from full-time work about ten years ago. Finding myself with time on my hands I started to look more closely at my extensive negative and slide collection which mostly comprised pictures of buses in the Midlands in the 1950s and 60s and railway subjects from the 1970s onwards.

    I set out to sort and catalogue my collection and by early 2011, I was ready to convert the many thousands of slides and negatives into digital images. To get the quality I wanted I had to resort to a professional scanning organisation and this proved expensive. Nevertheless, I carried on and had about 1000 negatives and slides digitised in this way.

    Showing off the fine lines of the Roe 'Beverley Bar' highbridge bodywork is a further example from the same batch, No. 491 (JAT 459), photographed on 18 August 1962. Note the flap on the destination blinds which allows the conductor to select the direction of travel without having to wind-on the blind. (Author's collection, East Yorkshire Motor Services, Amberley Publishing)

    In an attempt to defray the cost I started selling prints of these images on eBay and for the next couple of years this produced a steady flow of income, although it was quite labour intensive to deal with the packaging, posting, re-ordering etc. What did become apparent was the latent interest in the former Midland Red Bus Co that I had worked for when I left school in 1960. I decided to try and tap into this and write an account of my experiences based on my diary notes and photographic records taken at the time. After about two and a half years of occasional effort I had got the story down and found I had written about 75,000 words which when added to the captions for the 100 or so illustrations grew to nearly 80,000.

    What to do next? I contacted friends in the heritage industry and asked if they would be prepared to read my efforts and give me honest feedback. They all agreed and some passed the book on to other potentially interested readers. The results came back and were very positive. One of the reviewers, himself a notable author on Midland Red subjects with many successful titles to his credit, was very enthusiastic, said he enjoyed it from start to finish and even volunteered to correct my use of the English language and punctuation!

    Emboldened by the responses I was getting I decided to approach some publishers. One liked the story, offered me a contract and an advance of royalties. I signed up two years ago and we agreed that the title would be Midland Red Adventure. Since then nothing much has happened other than they have tried to get me to rewrite the book as a general history of the Company with lots of technical details of the buses. I'm not going to do this because it has already been done very expertly by others so there would be no point.

    After I had sent my 'flyer' about Midland Red Adventure to my selected prospective publishers I was approached by Amberley with a proposition to produce a full colour photo album of Midland Red buses to be called Midland Red in Colour, which was later published June 2018. Amberley have since asked me to do three more books in the same format and the first of these is about East Yorkshire Motor Services, published April 2019.

    In 1933 a new ticketing system was devised in conjunction with a prominent ticket manufacturer. (c. Stuart Warr, East Yorkshire Motor Services, Amberley Publishing)

    As their long-distance coaches visited Birmingham daily I came to know some of the drivers from both Hull and Bridlington depots, so on my teenage holidays to the East Riding, I would look up these friends and ride with them as they went about their daily work. Some of them are featured in the book.

    Another idiosyncrasy was the Willibrew ticket system named after its designers. No rolls of tickets here but plain rectangular tickets with the fares down one side. The conductor would insert the ticket into his ticket machine and slice off the section below the fare he was charging and the removed section was retained in the machine. Balancing the cash must have been a nightmare and some poor clerk would have to analyse hundreds of these ticket stubs each day.

    Looking back on it now, nearly sixty years later, it was a different age. Today it seems almost unimaginable that working men would befriend a teenager and encourage them in their bus enthusiasm hobby, but they did and my life was the richer for it because it led me to start a career in the industry.

    As to the book Midland Red Adventure well who knows?

    Bernard Warr's new book East Yorkshire Motor Services is available for purchase now.

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