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Tag Archives: Transport

  • Tyneside Railways: The 1970s and 1980s by Colin Alexander

    I was six years old when the 1960s gave way to the 70s.  Man had landed on the Moon the year before, an event I remember watching on our old grainy black and white television.  Although steam had ended on British Railways in 1968, my Dad would take me to see any steam ‘special’ that visited Newcastle, and many of the local industrial railways still relied on steam power.

    Tyneside Railways 1 HS4000 Kestrel was a 4,000 hp prototype built by Hawker-Siddeley and is seen here leaving for King's Cross on 20 October 1969. (c. Tyneside Railways, Amberley Publishing)

    In 1970, most of Tyneside was black.  Buildings were black, the river was black.  There was industry of all kinds lining both banks of the river, stretching from the west of Newcastle and Gateshead almost to the river mouth.  Shipyards, power stations, coal staithes, docks, chemical works, warehouses and coking plants competed for river frontage, and in the hinterlands, there were colliery headstocks as far as the eye could see.

    By 1990, a complete transformation had taken place.  Virtually all traces of all those industries were gone and the smoke-blackened buildings were cleaned up.  The steam-age railway with its semi-derelict stations had given way to an electrified main line and a smart new underground Metro.

    Tyneside Railways 2 Fenwick pit, east of Backworth, also in 1973 with NCB No. 16, built by Robert Stephenson & Hawthorn as late as 1957. (c. Tyneside Railways, Amberley Publishing)

     

     

     

     

    Anyone who’d left Tyneside in the 1960s and returned for the first time in the 1990s would scarcely have recognised the place; such was the magnitude of the change.

    Tyneside Railways: the 1970s and 1980s is intended to illustrate the many changes that took place on the railways and in the North East in general during a tumultuous twenty years both for me, and for Tyneside.

    Tyneside was widely acknowledged as being at the epicentre of the birth of the railway.  Long before railway mania gripped the rest of Victorian Britain, pioneering engineers on both sides of the Tyne were connecting collieries to the river by primitive wagonways to facilitate the export of coal.  Prior to this, it was only economic to extract coal close to navigable water, but the wooden wagonways of the 1700s allowed much more of the coalfield to be exploited.  While other areas of industrial Britain were digging canals, the wagonways of Northumberland and Durham would evolve into the ‘iron road’.  North-East men like William Hedley, William Chapman, Timothy Hackworth and of course George and Robert Stephenson were instrumental in replacing horse power through the steam revolution that would shrink nations and continents across the world.

    Tyneside Railways 3 On 19 August 1977, a Metro Cammell DMU is on its way around the North Tyne loop from Newcastle via Wallsend and Benton back to Newcastle again. (c. Tyneside Railways, Amberley Publishing)

    While the region always had its glamorous Anglo-Scottish express passenger trains, the railways in the North-East were dominated by freight services, and the North Eastern Railway had a virtual monopoly from the Humber to the Scottish Border on the transport of vast amounts of coal, iron ore, steel, fish and other goods traffic for decades.  This traffic continued after 1923 under the London & North Eastern Railway and into the early days of post-war nationalisation in British Railways’ North Eastern Region.  That freight traffic was to go into terminal decline through the 1970s and 80s as industries disappeared.

    The book includes many locations beyond the obvious Newcastle and Gateshead, visiting the suburbs to the east, the beautiful Tyne Valley to the west, as well as going slightly further afield to locations in the South-East Northumberland coalfield and almost to Wearside.

     

     

     

    Tyneside Railways 4 Along the River Tyne at Blaydon on 7 April 1984, pioneer Class 40 No. 40122/D200 with green livery restored is in charge of IZ69 the Knotty Circular Rambler that has travelled from Stafford to Carlisle and will return via Newcastle and Leeds. (c. Tyneside Railways, Amberley Publishing)

    I have tried to show a wide variety of motive power in the book, including preserved steam and BR diesel traction; steam, diesel and electric-powered industrial locomotives; Tyne & Wear Metro stock and even the ill-fated Advanced Passenger Train makes an unlikely appearance.

    Recently, much of the North-East's rich railway heritage has seen a renaissance with some beautifully restored stations and bridges, and the region can boast some of the preservation movement's most precious relics.

    9781445662305

    Colin Alexander's new book Tyneside Railways: The 1970s and 1980s is available for purchase now.

  • Film and Television Star Cars - The Latest Additions by Paul Brent Adams

    No one I have ever met seems to have any idea what a Star Car is, but as soon as you mention the James Bond Aston Martin or the Batmobile, no further explanation is needed. It is any vehicle, not just a car, used in a film or television programme. The term has been around since at least the 1980s - I first recall seeing it used by Mat Irvine in the pages of the British modelling magazine Scale Models. It has also been used in the titles of several books devoted to the actual screen vehicles.

    Film and Television Star Cars 1 Corgi Junior Lotus Esprit submarine car from the James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me, released in 1977. The wheels are hidden in the base.

    I began collecting these models in the 1990s. Apart from a book by Dave Worrall in 1996, which covered only the Corgi James Bond range, I think this is the first book ever devoted entirely to collecting model Star Cars, although diecasts have featured heavily in a number of books on film and TV toys, or on characters such as Batman. It is amazing that it is still possible to find a subject that has not been covered before. As it appeared no one else was going to write a book on Star Cars, I decided it was up to me. Between finishing the book, and publication in November 2016, I have added several more models to my collection, a mixture of older models bought at various fairs for collectors; and current models bought in retail shops, and a local supermarket while doing my grocery shopping. To show just how affordable this hobby can be, none of the models shown here cost more than $10 New Zealand, less than £5. At the opposite extreme, it is possible to spend hundreds of dollars or pounds on a single model.

    The James Bond movie The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) featured probably the second most famous of all Bond cars, the Lotus Esprit which converts into a submarine.  Corgi did a large version, with pop-out fins and missiles, which was included in Star Cars. This is the smaller Juniors version. It does not have any special features, and the fins are fixed in place. Like the larger version, it runs on concealed wheels. The 007 and gun logo on the nose did not actually appear on the movie car; after all, James Bond is a secret agent.  This slightly play-worn example was picked up at a collectors fair for $10.

    Film and Television Star Cars 2 From a small range of Flintstones models, the Corgi Junior model of Wilma's Coupe, released in 1983, with Wilma Flintstone at the wheel. Again the model runs on concealed wheels.

    From The Flintstones cartoon series of the 1960s, Corgi produced a set of three models in the early 1980s, each driven by one of the main characters: Fred or Wilma Flintstone, or Barney Rubble. All had plastic figures. This is Wilma's Coupe, which runs on four concealed plastic wheels, and again it was about $10.

    Film and Television Star Cars 3 Corgi Junior Chopper Squad Bell Jetranger helicopter with floats. Both the main and tail rotors rotate.

    Next up is a Bell Jetranger helicopter from the Australian TV series Chopper Squad, about a team of surf life savers at an Australian beach. The model has white plastic floats (other versions of the model had a different lower fuselage, with the more common skid undercarriage), and the main rotor blades fold so the model will fit inside its packaging - this is common among diecast helicopter models. There was also a larger version. I am not sure now how much this one cost, perhaps $5.

    Film and Television Star Cars 4 The Hot Wheels mainline toy version of the Aston Martin DB10, built expressly for the Bond film Spectre.

    From the most recent Bond film, Spectre (2015) is the Aston Martin DB10. Hot Wheels have included it in both their main toy line and in the more detailed and higher priced HW Entertainment series. Very few of these Hot Wheels models have any working features, and this applies to the DB10. Oddly, the model is not included in the HW Screen Time series of film and TV models, but is part of the HW Showroom series, although it still comes on a card with the Spectre title in the corner.

    Film and Television Star Cars 5 The 2016 Hot Wheels Yellow Submarine is much smaller than the 1969 Corgi version, but both run on concealed wheels. The model can be found on both long and short cards.

    Yellow Submarine (1968) was an animated film starring The Beatles. Corgi released a regular model of the submarine in 1969, which has been reissued several times with slight differences; but they never did a small Juniors version. In 2016 Hot Wheels finally gave the world a small, Matchbox-sized model of the Yellow Submarine. Like the bigger Corgi model it runs on concealed wheels. This one was included in the HW Screen Time series. This proved a very hard model to find in the shops, but I did manage to get a 2016 model on a long card; and a 2017 short card version from my local supermarket. The only difference in the models seems to be a very slight variation in the shade of yellow used for the lower hull, which is so slight it is only apparent when the models are studied side by side. The main difference lies in the design of the cards. Hot Wheels begin releasing their new models late in the preceding year, which is why I obtained a model dated 2017 in November 2016. These models were both $3 each, the usual Hot Wheels price in NZ. I have seen them at fairs for $10, and $15 for the less common short card version; prices which I refuse to pay for current models.

    Film and Television Star Cars 6 The popularity of video games has seen a number of tie-in models being produced, these Hot Wheels models are for the games Halo and Minecraft.

    I am not a video game player, and know little of the subject, however Hot Wheels have released a number of video game related models over the last few years. It seems logical to count these models as Star Cars, especially as several games have been turned into movies. Hot Wheels clearly share this view, and have included these models in their Screen Time series. The models shown here are for the games Halo and Minecraft, and again cost just $3 each. There is also a separate series of Halo models, on special cards. Other game related models have been the Red Bird and green Minion Pig from Angry Birds; Super Mario Brothers; and various Atari games as part of one of the higher priced premium lines.

    9781445662107

    Paul Brent Adams book Film and Television Star Cars is available for purchase now.

  • Steam railways and a new generation by Stuart Hylton

    Not long ago, I was on the platform at Oxford station when an express train, drawn by a steam locomotive, came through at speed. For a moment, all activity on the platform stopped – it was as if we had all been transported back in time. Another moment and it was gone, and all that was left were wisps of steam and the happy smiles on the faces of the travelling public. Surely no piece of our industrial heritage has a warmer place in the nation’s affections than the steam railway engine.

    For no other piece of machinery comes closer to having the attributes of a living, sentient creature. One of the first people to witness a primitive prototype of a railway locomotive was Thomas Grey in 1812, and he certainly saw the kinship between these early ‘walking horses’ and their flesh and blood counterparts:

    The superabundant steam is emitted at each stroke with a noise something similar to the hard breathing or snorting of a horse – the escaping steam representing the breath of his nostrils and the deception altogether aided by the regular motion of the beam.

    Steam Engines and Steam Railways pic 1 A safety valve, doing its job. (c. Steam Engines and Steam Railways, Amberley Publishing)

    Small wonder too that another pioneer, Richard Trevithick, the unacknowledged father of the steam locomotive, found the best advertisement for his engine Catch me who can was to offer a speed trial against the finest race horse Newmarket had to offer.

    I belong to a generation whose childhood memories include a railway that was almost entirely driven by steam. The sights, sounds and smells of it are still fresh in my mind and for me a steam engine evokes a whole host of memories. From standing on another platform and enjoying a little childhood frisson of fear, as a Great Western express thundered through on its way to the West Country or Wales, to being my own master of the universe as I created my own little railway world on the sitting room carpet, courtesy of Messrs Hornby and Triang.

    But my generation is growing old and those that follow will not have the same store of memories, on which an attachment to steam can be built. How will they view steam locomotion? Will it just be another historical curiosity, as far removed from their direct experience as the stagecoach or the penny-farthing bicycle? Will they even be remotely interested? Perhaps more to the point, how many of them will be interested enough to put themselves through the lengthy and demanding process of learning to drive or fire a steam locomotive?

     

    Steam Engines and Steam Railways pic 2 No. 31806. This U class locomotive started life as something rather different - a K Class tank engine. (c. Steam Engines and Steam Railways, Amberley Publishing)

    Since retiring from my day job I have devoted part of my time to being part of the education team at the Didcot Railway Centre, home of the Great Western Society. Our main activity is introducing parties of up to a hundred or more school children to the world that the steam railways helped to create. One of the things this brings home to myself and my fellow guides is how far the world has changed in our own lifetimes. We find ourselves having to explain what coal is and, for many of our car-centred young visitors, the very idea of travelling anywhere by rail is a novelty.

    Steam Engines and Steam Railways pic 3 Gladstone, the first in a class of thirty-six locomotives built for the London, Brighton & South Coast Railway from 1882. (c. Steam Engines and Steam Railways, Amberley Publishing)

    But one thing I have learned from my experience is that heritage railways offer a rich potential for engaging young people’s interest and a way into a variety of areas of the school curriculum. For history, there is the story of the industrial revolution, which could not have happened in the way it did without the railways. It gives an insight into the lives of all classes of the Victorians, from the Royal family to the poorest travellers, enduring the harsh conditions of early third-class journeys. For all of them, the railways changed their lives in a way that no other development, before or since, has done. For more modern history, a staged ‘evacuation’, with the children being assigned to new ‘foster carers’ at the end of the journey, can provide the basis for a wide range of teaching about the home front during the Second World War.

    For the sciences, we have the physics and mechanics of how steam engines work and the dramatic development of that technology, which meant that the main operating principles of the steam locomotive for the next hundred years had been worked out within about a decade of the opening of the first modern railway, in 1830. Then there are the engineering feats of the giants of railway building such as Brunel and the Stephenson’s, which redefined the boundaries of the possible in railway building.

    For those of us who care about the future of steam locomotion, one of our priorities must surely be to help educators to make the most of this rich history, and use it to fire the enthusiasm of a new generation of steam railwaymen.

    9781445656687

    Stuart Hylton's book Steam Engines and Steam Railways: A Young Person's Guide is available for purchase now.

  • From Horses to Artics: The Tales Behind the Transport by Nick Corble

    A book on the history of fairground transport? It sounded like the sort of thing that might feature at the end of Have I Got News For You? – I was going to need some convincing. As it turned out, not that much convincing, as my co-author, Allan Ford, is a compelling story-teller, as well as being a fount of knowledge on all things connected with the travelling funfair. The more we spoke, the clearer it became that there was the opportunity to put some of those stories onto paper, and the result is A History of Fairground Transport: From Horses to Artics.

    Once a travelling showman himself, Allan was largely responsible for reviving interest in the Wall of Death motorbike attraction at the turn of the century, when he restored and travelled with a wall after a period when the spectacle had died out in Britain. These days he spends much of his time chronicling the showman’s way of life, as well as building up an impressive collection of fairground memorabilia, while at the same time being active in safeguarding the safety of rides.

    We had worked together before, both on You Can’t Wear Out an Indian Scout: Indians and the Wall of Death, an Amberley title that underwent a re-issue earlier this year, and on canal-related books (a passion we share). Collaboration is not for every author, but in our case it seems to work. My role, as I see it, is to streamline the process of extracting the requisite knowledge and details we need for the book, and project managing the task of getting thoughts onto the page. Allan brings the knowledge (and the treasure trove of material), and his role is to bring this to the table and, with gentle nudging from me, bring it to life.

    A History of Fairground Transport From Horses to Artics pic 1 The earliest form of showman's transport was the simple handcart. (c. A History of Fairground Transport, Amberley Publishing)

    Once we started to investigate the potential of the title, it became clear that there was an opportunity to use transport as a vehicle (as it were!) to tell a number of other parallel stories. Perhaps the most significant of these was the history of funfairs themselves and how they have met the need inherent amongst all human beings for a little light relief from the predictability of their lives. This history goes back nearly a thousand years, to the Charter Fairs established in the 1200s, when a showman’s two legs and his back, and if he was lucky a barrow, were the only the transport available to him as he travelled around from site to site.

    The sorts of people who adopted this way of life, and the conditions in which they operated, in turn provided an insight into a part of history beyond the traditional curriculum of kings, queens, empires and battles. A sense of how the vast majority of the population lived their lives, seen through the prism of the diversions that occasionally lifted them out of those lives, even if for only a brief few days a year.

    A History of Fairground Transport From Horses to Artics pic 2 A belt-driven dynamo, providing the power for illumination. (c. A History of Fairground Transport, Amberley Publishing)

    As showmen were able to afford horses their shows got bigger and they were able to take their families on the road with them. Even this detail revealed a deeper understanding of the world ordinary folk inhabited. Of how towns and villages had grown to a size where they offered a support network of blacksmiths to conduct running repairs and tenant farmers willing to let the horses graze in their fields while the showmen did their thing.

    Then, as now, horses could be reliable one minute and temperamental the next, offering the potential to release catastrophe if they bolted, or even died, unexpectedly. Little wonder then that showmen were early adopters of steam once it came around with buying and ornamenting traction engines, incorporating their sound and fury into the show. Obviating the need for friendly farmers but still locking into the network of blacksmiths for assistance when required.

    The more I learned of the history of fairground transport, the more the adaptability of showmen came to the fore. As industrialisation gathered pace, so demands changed and opportunities for entertainment widened. Showmen had to respond to these changes, whilst at the same time organising themselves to meet the tightening grip of regulation. Forces beyond their control, such as world wars, also brought the need to respond. Showmen proved resourceful in using redundant military equipment as the basis of their attractions, as they needed to harness the potential of petrol and diesel engines.

    This was particularly the case as the world tried to get back to normal after 1945, with most military equipment after the first left on the battlefields. Very quickly however, perhaps the most challenging period on the evolution of the travelling funfair and the transport needed to make it possible began – the clue, after all, is in the name; without transport there is no travelling funfair.

    A History of Fairground Transport From Horses to Artics pic 3 (c. A History of Fairground Transport, Amberley Publishing)

    Changing tastes and the need for ever more inventiveness in the face of a consumer revolution were reflected in showmen’s transport, with old military platforms giving way to converted commercial vehicles and to today’s massive articulated lorries. Throughout all this change however many traditions have survived, including the brotherhood of showmen and their families. One of the parallel stories we were able to tell is how showmen’s accommodation has evolved during history from sleeping in a convenient hedge, through bender tents and converted gypsy caravans to ‘living wagons’ and today’s modern homes on wheels.

    So, what looked on first glance to be a fairly dry subject, turned out to offer a fascinating microcosm of social, technological and history change, all sandwiched in under a hundred pages, many of them graced with lavish illustrations in both colour and black and white. Suitably emboldened, Allan and I are now turning our thoughts to our next project: From Frost Fairs to Funfairs, a history not just of fairground transport, but of the funfair itself.

    9781445661407

    Allan Ford & Nick Corble's book A History of Fairground Transport: From Horses to Artics is available to purchase now.

  • Strathclyde Traction by Colin J. Howat

    In preparing Strathclyde Traction, I must admit that one of the main problems was the selection process. Going through my collection, I initially narrowed the amount of photographs to approximately 2000, which ultimately had to be narrowed down many times before getting to the required 180 for the book. I would like to have used more but that is for the future.

    Strathclyde Traction pic 3 320321 (GW) at Partick with a Dalmuir-Cumbernauld Service. (Strathclyde Traction, Amberley Publishing)

    Fortunately, my whole railway photographic collection has now been saved on computer. Which was completed over a couple of years by scanning all my old black and white and colour slides and negatives.

    Moving on from my earlier book Ayrshire Traction the opportunity was taken to scroll through the archives and as Strathclyde is quite a large area itself, a varied selection of shots were available. There have been many boundary changes within Scotland over the last forty years but it has not really changed the railways. Scotland’s railways overall have expanded and although some line closures have taken place, on the whole there has been a refreshing outlook by both Strathclyde PTE and later Transport Scotland.

    In a wider context compared to other European countries, the UK has been incredibly slow in the electrification process. In Switzerland for example, 90% of their railways are electrified whereas in Scotland only approximately 40% has been done.

    Strathclyde Traction pic 1 Orange livery 314201 (GW) at Glasgow Central with a Glasgow Central-Neilston Service. (Strathclyde Traction, Amberley Publishing)

    The Orange livery that came out in the early 1980s was not only applied to the trains but also to the buses and the underground system. The underground trains were affectionately known as the “Clockwork Orange Trains” which was a reference to the film A Clockwork Orange made in 1971 by Warner Brothers and directed by Stanley Kubrick starring Malcolm McDowell.

    Railway photography like most photography has its own special delights and drawbacks. I have been out in all sorts of weather to get the rare shot. I think heavy rain is the railway photographer’s worst nightmare although I have also endured temperatures as low as -20 degrees. I have also encountered some alarming moments. I was once chased by a bull at Mossgiel farm near Mauchline. I have also walked a number of disused railway lines and have had interesting encounters with various animals! I have also met many members of the public some good, some not so good. Most people in my experience usually enter into good banter but there are a few who are not so accommodating. On the whole most people are pleasant but since the 07/07 bombings in London, understandably there has been a distinct downturn in trust from rail staff who are now much more vigilant at all stations with rail enthusiasts and visitors.

    Strathclyde Traction pic 4 380113 (GW0 at Western Gailes with a Glasgow Central-Ayr Service (Strathclyde Traction, Amberley Publishing)

    I have included in this blog some of the photographs that were not used in Strathclyde Traction but may be used in the future. As well as railway photography, I enjoy many other interests including walking with my two German Shepherds. When I started getting interested in the railway in the 1970s, I used to visit Bogside and Irvine signal boxes. I can remember being welcomed in, the smell of the coal fire and some chat always passed the time of day. Aye those were the days!

    9781445662848

    Colin J. Howat's book Strathclyde Traction is available for purchase now.

  • The Liverpool & Manchester Railway by Anthony Dawson

    the-l-m-r-1 A first-class coach, as depicted by Isaac Shaw in 1831. (Author's collection, The Liverpool & Manchester Railway, Amberley Publishing)

    Friday, 17 September 1830. James Scott, Station Superintendent, resplendent in top hat, dark blue frock coat (with gilt ‘company buttons’) and white trousers checks his pocket watch.  Ten minutes to seven o’clock. All was bustle around him as passengers - all of them of the first class – clambered up into the primrose-yellow coaches, which sat waiting for them. Glancing along the train of four coaches; resplendent with the exciting names of Experience, Traveller, Despatch, and Victory. Fussing around are the porters, heaving heavy trunks and portmanteaus onto the roofs of the carriage. Seated on top, wrapped up from the elements in their watch coats are Johns and Hargreaves, the guards. It is their job to keep a good look-out for any dangers and to apply the brakes on the coaches upon which they are sat. Hargeaves, more senior of the pair, takes his place on the rearmost carriage facing forward and puts on his special wire-mesh spectacles to guard against any soot getting in his eyes. Johns takes his seat on the front carriage, but facing backward so as to be in visual communication with Hargreaves. In case of danger they each have a red, a green and a white flag.

    Some of the more curious gentlemen are dallying around North Star, the iron horse at the head of the string of coaches. Painted olive green with black lining-out she presents a compact, purposeful, look with her pair of large five-foot diameter driving wheels and powerful cylinders, set nearly horizontally, alongside the firebox. On her footplate are Thomas George and his mate John Wakefield. Suddenly the safety valve lifts with a whoosh, scattering inquisitive pigeons and passengers alike.

    the-l-m-r-2 Interior of the replica first-class coach, which sat six persons almost knee to knee: 'upholstered in French grey cloth with buttons and lace to match ... the upholstery is carried to a considerable height above the seats, padded head rests being included'. (Lauren Jaye Gradwell, 2016, The Liverpool & Manchester Railway, Amberley Publishing)

    At five minutes to seven, Scott instructs the large brass bell on the platform to be rung, to inform passengers still dawdling in the waiting room to hurry up, that their train will be leaving at seven o’clock sharp and there would be only a 50% refund on the cost of their 7s (about £10 in 2016) tickets. If any passengers had a complaint, they could write it in the ‘Passenger’s Diary’ found below in the booking hall. The tickets themselves are oblong slips of bright pink paper and had to be purchased the day before, and included the name, address, details of any next of kin, and the reason for travelling. Once booked, a passenger was assigned a numbered seat in a named coach. Each of the coaches sat eighteen in three sumptuous compartments, lined with French grey cloth; the seats stuffed with horse-hair and provided with arm - and head - rests; carpeted throughout and as plush as any drawing room of the best sort. It was a tiny padded cell of luxury.

    One minute to seven. Scott nods to the bugler stood to attention at the head of the train. All the train doors are closed. The luggage is secure. The guards are in their seats. With a twitch of his gloved hand, Scott signals to the bugler; he puts his instrument to his lips and sends off the train with the opening strains of ‘I’d be a butterfly’. Wakefield responds with a brief toot on his own bugle; Thomas George eases open the regulator and for a few moments North Star is lost in a cloud of steam from her open drain cocks. With a barely perceptible whoof, she begins to slowly move away, the polished steel valve levers beginning their hypnotic dance as she clatters over the Water Street Bridge and on to Liverpool, where they would arrive 90 minutes later.

    the-l-m-r-3 The precarious position of the guard, perched on the coach roof, is readily demonstrated: it is easy to see how they could freeze to death on a cold winter's night. (Matthew Jackson, The Liverpool & Manchester Railway, Amberley Publishing)

    Such, perhaps, was the scene at Liverpool Road Station, Manchester on the first day of operation of what was the world’s first inter-city railway 186 years ago. Whilst not the first public railway (that was the Lake Lock Railroad in Yorkshire (opened in 1796)) nor the first to exclusively use steam traction (that was the Middleton Railway, Leeds, in 1812) it was the first double-track mainline inter-city railway; the first to have a working timetable; a written set of rules and regulations; and the first to develop a code of signalling and safety instructions. The Liverpool & Manchester, despite various false starts and the tragedy of the formal opening (15 September 1830) changed the world, not only in how people travel, but in what they wore, and what they ate.

    Henry Booth, the Secretary and Treasurer wrote:

    The most striking result produced by the completion of this Railway, is the sudden and marvellous change which has been effected in our ideas of time and space. What was quick is now slow; what was distant is now near.

    9781445661889

    Anthony Dawson's new book The Liverpool & Manchester Railway is available for purchase now.

  • Triumph 2000: Defining the Sporting Saloon by Kevin Warrington

    Is a simple form of transport a reflection of one’s personality?

    For many people a motor car is not just a simple means of personal transport, it is a reflection of who they are and of their status in life. Today, the prestige market for “executive” saloon cars is dominated by three German manufacturers: BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz. But in the early 1960’s, certainly in the United Kingdom, the market was very different with local manufacturers having a near monopoly on supply and the market segmented very differently. Small family cars, a result of the helter skelter, stop go economy and fuel crisis brought on by the Anglo-French “Suez Adventure” were becoming popular. At the high end, well-appointed large motor cars with engines of around 3 litres and interiors finished more like country house drawing rooms than a car. In the middle sat a range of unadventurous and mundane models that, by repute, rusted before they left the production line and while they performed the task demanded of them, were neither adventurous or stylish.

    triumph-2000-1 Shown here is a Mark 2 model, a car that was to gain a slightly undesirable reputation as being the 'get away' car of choice for armed robbers. (Triumph 2000, Amberley Publishing)

    All this was to change in 1963 when the rival businesses of Standard -Triumph and The Rover Car Company each announced a new model that would create a paradigm shift in the motor trade by providing a new model that would offer the style and appointment of the existing three litre class, the performance of a sports car (certainly in the case of the Triumph), but be priced in the middle market area. That rival manufacturers were about to launch a new model that would turn upside down the established market segments and compete with each other was well known to each company for there had earlier been attempts to merge both businesses and historically, there were close family connections between the senior management of the two businesses.

    triumph-2000-2 Very early cars featured a two-tone dashboard covering that in certain colours was attrative, but could be quite garish with boled colours. (Steve Parkin, Triumph 2000, Amberley Publishing)

    “TRIUMPH 2000 – Defining the Sporting Saloon” tells the story of the Triumph model and how it established the market. The book starts with the origins of the Triumph company, one that like so many businesses that were to settle in Coventry had its foundations in sewing machines, bicycles and motor cycles before entering the world of motor cars. It tells of the perilous finances of the business leading to insolvency and eventual sale to the Standard Motor Company in 1945 where the Triumph name would be used to great success, initially on a range of highly successful sports cars and ultimately on the entire output. The chance meeting between senior executives of what was then called Standard – Triumph with Italian styling genius Giovanni Michelotti lead to a distinctive house style of cars that immediately suggested quality and sporting prowess. To the middle manager or professional looking for a suitable form of transport, the new Triumph or Rover was the solution. While the Rover 2000 expressed traditional “Britishness” and featured an innovative style of construction, the Triumph made great play of the company’s sporting success, which in the early 1960s was at its Zenith with multiple class wins both on the circuit at Le Mans and in rallying.

    triumph-2000-3 Inside the main assembly hall at Canley, saloons and estates are being assembled. (c. BMIHT, Triumph 2000, Amberley Publishing)

    Featuring many new and previously unpublished photographs, this book describes in detail the evolution of the car and Triumph’s efforts to substantially increase its performance through the addition of petrol injection. The first UK manufactured saloon car to feature such a system at a time where any form of fuel delivery other than by carburettors was restricted to the race track or exotic machinery with prices orders of magnitude more expensive than the Triumph. Such innovation was typical of Triumph; not always successfully.

    The book concludes by pondering whether had the Triumph brand survived the upheavals of the motor industry in the 1970s and the mergers with the volume car business of BMC not taken place. Would the aspiring successful business person of today now be considering the purchase of a Triumph rather than a BMW?

    About the Author:

    “TRIUMPH 2000 - Defining the Sporting Saloon” has been written by Kevin Warrington who has been Editor of the Triumph 2000 / 2500 / 2.5 Register club magazine “SIXappeal” for seven years and is actively involved in the management of the club. He is an enthusiastic writer and photographer, having started to take pictures when he was given his first Kodak 127 Brownie camera as a gift for his 7th birthday. “After 53 years, I think I am just about getting the hang of it”, he frequently says. Kevin’s family background has been in the motor and transport business for many generations, but prior to embarking on a writing and photographing career, he made his life in the computer industry where he did, as he describes if “just about everything”, starting as a designer, then a service engineer before moving into product management and eventually sales. A change of management and business strategy led to him leaving a very senior international management position in one of the largest software companies to pursue his own interests.

    9781445655635

    Kevin Warrington's new book Triumph 2000: Defining the Sporting Saloon is available for purchase now.

  • Blue Light Models 'How I got started' by Adrian Levano

    Nowadays I usually come out to most people as a ‘toy car collector’. Time was that I might have hidden the fact away from new acquaintances, at least until I was sure they could handle it – and until I was fairly sure they thought I was, in all other respects, normal! Belonging to a collectors club helps in many ways, you realise there are plenty of intelligent people out there with the same hobby – and interacting with the members in my role as editor of the club magazine has led me to explore areas of the model world about which I previously knew very little.

    blue-light-models-1 Dinky Toys nos 250 and 259. (c. Blue Light Models, Amberley Publishing)

    I’m told that I could identify real cars before I could pronounce the names. I’ve always been a ‘collector’ of toy cars, and since the age of about eight or nine have kept them in their boxes. Admittedly they were taken out and played with, so most from those early days show some signs of that use. There have been times over the years when the collecting was ‘on hold’ but I hardly ever disposed of any toys, and still they keep accumulating as I find new areas of interest.

    It was probably a move to the South-East of England in the 1980s that was the biggest boost. I found myself in close proximity to several collectors’ toy fairs, one of which was in the town where I lived. I do find such fairs are the best way of adding to the collection, although internet auctions are good if you know your subject.

    With one exception, I have always avoided the temptation to try to get everything of a particular series. It’s the last few that are always the most difficult to get and which cost a lot more. There is always something different to add a new flavour to the collection – for example it’s only in the last year or two that I have taken any real interest in tinplate toys. They have a distinct charm which had eluded me previously. Perhaps with age and experience I can now put toys into a social and historical context which gives a new dimension to my hobby.

    blue-light-models-2 Budgie produced the Wolseley in two scales; here we have both police versions and the smaller one again as a fire car. (c. Blue Light Models, Amberley Publishing)

    I have to admit that I’m not a specialist on emergency services – I have all sorts, in all scales and materials. In many ways that probably equipped me better for this project than collectors who specialise in only one particular aspect. A lot of British collectors seem to prefer home-grown products, and I think the same applies in other countries. For me it’s the more unusual the better.

    When I was young we made regular family trips to Germany and other European countries, and that was a major influence in widening my horizons about what was around – remember that was long before the internet, so the toys and models I brought back from my travels were things hardly seen in England.

    In this book I try to give an overview of model emergency services vehicles over the decades, across the world, and some advice about how to buy, store and care for a collection. Of course, most toy and model manufacturers have produced a far wider range than just ‘blue light’ models, so in a way it’s also a brief history and overview of model vehicles in general.

    blue-light-models-3 From a range of detailed fire vehicles aimed at the North American marker are a REO Speedwagon pumper and a Mack L pumper - both in 1:50 scale. (c. Blue Light Models, Amberley Publishing)

    In fact the title is a rather Anglo-centric as emergency services vehicles in other countries can have other colours of flashing lights such as red or orange. Although it’s written from the point of view of a British collector, I have tried to cover as wide a spread of interests as possible, and have included modern toys available at ‘pocket money’ prices through to the rarer collectibles.

    I wouldn’t like your readers to think that toys and models are my whole life! At times I just shut the door to the collection room (yes, it does have its own room complete with small photo studio) and try to engage with the real world. For example, I’m an amateur musician and play keyboards. It’s odd how things overlap though; of the musicians I’ve worked with in recent years, at least two spring to mind as serious model enthusiasts, one is a leading expert on plastic toy soldiers, the other makes the most amazing model railway locomotives and rolling stock from scratch and also edits a model railway club magazine.

    I’m a keen, if very amateur gardener, and also hope to get back to more travelling soon. My favourite city to visit is Istanbul, but as fate would have it, Turkey adds very little to my model collection – so going there is a real holiday from my everyday world in every sense.

    9781445657158

    Adrian Levano's new book Blue Light Models is available for purchase now.

  • A look at the Transport Police by Michael Layton

    I retired from the British Transport Police in 2011 and whilst I had no intention of severing my links with the police service little did I realize at that point how close and fulfilling those relationships would continue to be.

    In 2013, somewhat by accident, I started writing and since then have been fortunate enough to have worked closely with a number of former colleagues, in both the British Transport Police, and West Midlands Police, which has resulted in a number of books being accepted for publication.

    In particular both the British Transport Police History Group, and the West Midlands Police Museum Group, has played a crucial role in supporting these ventures and I remain indebted to those individuals who make these two voluntary groups the vibrant bodies that they are today.

    9781445651804Tracking the Hooligans was co-written with former BTP Assistant Chief Constable Alan Pacey and was published in January 2016 by Amberley. It details more than forty years of football violence on the UKs rail networks, London Underground, and on ferries when BTP still had jurisdiction. The activities of hooligan elements attached to nearly one hundred football clubs is covered with detailed comment from nearly fifty retired BTP officers who tell it ‘how it was’ particularly in the dark years of the 70s and 80s.

    In 1972 the then BTP Chief Constable Mr Gay commented “On an average Saturday some thirty trains carried police escorts of between two to eight officers. They sometimes reached their destination with their uniforms soiled with spittle, and other filth, burnt with cigarette ends, or slashed…” This is how it was, and often still is, for a very thin blue line of officers and the book is a testament to their routine bravery.

    Due to recent problems with football hooligans the current Chief Constable has made combatting the problem the forces second highest priority after terrorism.

     

     

     

    9781445655475Police Dog Heroes co-written with BTPHG stalwart Bill Rogerson MBE details the intriguing history of the British Transport Police Dog Section, the oldest in the country, from its inception in 1908 through to modern day policing, and will be published in May 2016 by Amberley. It is packed with recollections from retired BTP officers, many of them dog handlers, two of whom are now in their nineties. One of the most poignant is that of retired officer PC Dave Coleman who tells the remarkable story of his explosives search dog ‘Vinnie’ and their search of Russell Square Tube Station following the terrible events of the 7/7 terrorist attacks in 2005. ‘Vinnie’ was subsequently awarded a PDSA Gold medal for his actions which was presented at a special investiture ceremony by HRH Princess Alexandra. New accounts of public order incidents, including football violence, are recounted as are cases of tracking by dogs who simply would not give up. Whilst these were working dogs, they also in many cases became part of the officer’s families and their passing was mourned in the same manner.

     

     

     

     

    9781445657875Birmingham’s Front Line – True Police Stories details my account of life in the West Midlands Police CID in the 70s and 80s, predominantly working in Birmingham City Centre. It will be published in 2016 by Amberley and details crimes of violence, robbery, murder and public order during the ‘hey days’ of skinheads, mods, rockers and bikers – and of course football hooligans. It also provides an insight into the days of ‘cottaging’ and the activities of so called ‘rent boys’ offering sex and operating in and around New Street Station. Once again previously unpublished accounts are included by former BTP officers that clearly illustrate how local police and those working with a railway environment, in the main worked closely together.

    They say that within everyone there is at least one book and I would encourage anyone who has stories in their heads to make that step and to start writing. Whilst clearly it is extremely challenging it is also exciting, and hugely satisfying.

     

     

     

     

    About the Author:

    Michael Layton reached the rank of Chief Superintendent before serving with the Sovereign Bases Police in Cyprus, eventually returning to the British Transport Police. He was awarded the Queens Police Medal for distinguished police service. He has written several books on the subject of policing the rail network and football violence.

    Michael Layton's new books Tracking the Hooligans: The History of Football Violence on the UK Rail Network, Police Dog Heroes and Birmingham’s Front Line are available for purchase now.

  • Automating the Northern Line by Owen Smithers

    This book begins with a potted history of the construction of the Northern Line and its various stages of expansion I hope you will find as absorbing as I did.

    The book features thirty-two years of signalling experience from boy to man, experiences like so many others who I was later to befriend, and eventually worked with so many in the last twenty or so years until the author's departure. Whilst each signal box operated in the same fashion, all had their own peculiarities – no two were the same. This is what made the work interesting.

    Automating the Northern Line 1 Morden Signal Box, 1955. The furthest drum sets up a train's platform number, the other the train's destination. (Automating the Northern Line)

    It was unfortunate that the general public in the period of 1958 to 1970 had to suffer mainly due to unforeseen circumstances. Unknown to them control staff suffered even more in their attempts to correct situations they were not responsible for.

    The attempts to relate the operating experiences of twenty-six signal boxes do not include the two on the Northern & City line, which operated between Moorgate and Finsbury Park. Learning and retaining the working knowledge of the whole of the Northern Line and its variety of operations was interesting. It will give the reader some idea of how, first as a signalman, then as relief signalman, it was all taken in. Now having retained all this knowledge, it was put to use when experiencing the break up of individual controlled areas a piece at a time which were transferred into a new control area, with restricted working conditions for eleven years. Whilst the first attempts of automation were making an appearance over the whole line none of us had ever experienced this type of push button operation, but we learnt with the help of our background knowledge. The complications were unimaginable since work was begun piece meal here and there along the line making the operation of passing information on to those signal boxes still manned stressful. As the work continued it was to create vast gaps between control areas that taxed operators to the limit. In 1969 the whole control operation was moved once more overnight into a new building that was just as stressful and complicated. It was made even more difficult since it was to be a while until the northern end of both branches were completed and added to our control. The room was also shared with the Victoria Line that also became our responsibility as the line was being constructed.

    Automating the Northern Line 2 Colindale during an early shift, with myself at the controls, 1956. (Automating the Northern Line)

    Working with long standing friends who were either formal signalmen from closed signal boxes or the lines relief signalmen, was to create a great team of work mates. Over the years we were joined by others from other Lines who moulded in making up what I always felt was a great family. You realise what a bond it was to become when the line was experiencing difficulties. It was during these moments when everyone banded together completing tasks to help as though they were thoughts already in your own head – it was uncanny.

    Obtaining an invitation to visit the very new control centre in 2015 was an eye opener that caused all the memories of what we all went through previously flooding my head and now to discover complete silence in the whole room. With all signals as we knew it having all been removed, a feat beyond our imagination during the 50's and 60's. The whole line now really is very automatic in its operations. The technicalities are all in the book relating as to how everything is now set up.

    Automating the Northern Line 3 Camden Town Kennington desk, 1970. (Automating the Northern Line)

    The hundred or so photographs taken should clearly illustrate to the reader what it was like operating areas during a very busy service, plus those many infrequent moments when things were not as they should be.

    This work is dedicated to all the men involved in working during the complete and final automation on the Northern Line and those unnamed who followed.

    9781445654829

    Owen Smithers new book Automating the Northern Line is available for purchase now.

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