Archive for November, 2015

The Welshpool and Llanfair Railway

November 30, 2015

I’m afraid to say it is over 40 years since I last visited this railway. I bet it has changed a lot in that time. This was a train in 1972 when I was there.


There’s not much Welsh or even British about it. The loco had come from Austria. The carriages had as well and at that time still told us they ran on the Zillertalbahn.

The line was built in 1903 as a light railway to serve the local fairly rural area. The gauge – distance between the rails – was 2 feet 6 inches, slightly more than half the standard UK gauge.

Two locos which the line still has kept the line going until it closed in 1956. Passenger services had ceased in 1931. The line was never commercially profitable.

By 1956 other narrow gauge railways in Wales had passed to preservation societies and this one joined them reopening, bit by bit from 1963. It has now run for just about as long as a heritage railway as it did as a ‘real’ railway.


The Bartered Bride

November 29, 2015

On the whole, I have not taken much part in dramatic presentations. I could say I find it hard enough being me, without trying to pretend to be somebody or something I am not.

When the school I attended put on a production of Smetana’s opera, The Bartered Bride, I certainly was not amongst the cast although I did have a minor part in the production of another opera (I can’t remember what it was called) the following year. The Bartered Bride was put on in the academic year of 1961 to 62.

My sister was in it. From memory she was one of the more important minor characters if that isn’t a contradiction in terms and she was an understudy for one of the stars – ready to fill the gap if a leading actress fell ill.

However, it is my sister who seems to have the central female position in a press photo taken of the cast.


That’s big sister in the dark outfit behind the chap at the table.


Sister, sadly, died last year and a fair bit of her memorabilia has come my way now.

As for me, I saved just about nothing from my time at that school. Regular readers may know that I had the highest regard for my geography teacher, Mr Cole, but by and large I never thought that school served me very well – and I certainly didn’t serve it well. I was so pleased, at age 16, to be able to transfer to another school in town to do A levels.

I’m much older now, of course, and maybe a tad wiser. I am pleased that my sister kept a few items from her time at secondary school. It makes up, a bit, for the fact that I didn’t.

Grouse at Grinton Moor

November 28, 2015

We saw grouse a year ago at Grinton Moor, and we were back there a month ago. I’m pleased to report that there are still grouse and they still seem able to tolerate people in cars. If you get out, they are off rapidly, but you can park close by them and get what photos you can.

image002 The birds are content to sit on roadside walls and you can draw up alongside them with no problem.


Sometimes, they are a little further away and in the heather.


They may sit on the rocks strewn on Grinton Moor which is betwixt Swaledale and Wensleydale.


Time to bring some zoom into play.


All these photos were taken within a few minutes of one another on a very drab day – 15th October 2015.

Photographic tint

November 27, 2015

My wife has been sorting through some of our stationery items. For years they might have been called stationary as well for they haven’t moved. But now they are being looked through, checked over and, in quite a lot of cases, discarded.

But some items are interesting. I think this must have belonged to my wife’s father who, sadly, died in the 1960s.


This is a small bottle of blue photographic tint.

In times past photographs were black and white but artists could hand paint on colour. Many of us will have photos which have been tinted. I can assert that the process was still used in the 1960s. I have a hand tinted photo of my grandparents celebrating their Golden Wedding anniversary which was in 1966.

In fact there are still artists who do this by hand, but I suspect more people, these days, would find a way of using computer software to add colour to old photos.

This bottle of blue is small – here it is alongside a ruler.


It has to be said that there is now no sign of the tint ink being liquid.

This is certainly not a process I am likely to take up. I have always found difficulty making writing and drawing implements do just what I’d like.

But here is that tinted golden wedding photo of my grandparents.


At Castlemaine Dairy in 1971

November 26, 2015

A correspondent, new to this blog, recently asked whether I had married my fiancée I mentioned in a postcard from 1970. Well, the answer was yes and it still is. We married in 1971 and this is a photo taken on our honeymoon tour of Eire. It is at Castlemaine and shows the morning milk arriving at the dairy. Castlemaine is north west of Killarney and near the Dingle Peninsula.


I was captivated by this scene for it represented the past as far as a South of England young man was concerned.

Well some of the milk has been tractor hauled, but the horse and donkey were still vital forms of motive power down in the south west of the republic. We clearly were in small farm territory. Loads of one, two or three churns were the norm, maybe representing milking herds of a dozen beasts.

But of course, this daily routine for the local farmers brought them all within chatting distance of one another. It was a daily opportunity to exchange gossip and news. The bulk tank collection from huge farms just doesn’t allow for this.

Mind you, patience was needed whilst the farmer’s chatted.




November 25, 2015

Today I am unashamedly showing some railway locos that will keep me happy. The small tank engines built by the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway in the 1870s became my favourite type of loco in my train spotting days getting on for 90 years after they were built. A few were still in service. One of them, my absolute favourite, was number 32635 which had been painted in its 1870s colour scheme. When I knew this loco it fussed around Brighton station, shunting things out of the way. Sadly, that particular engine got scrapped, but others survived. The work these engines did earned them the nickname, ‘Terriers’.

Back in 2001, on a trip to the Bluebell Railway they had no less than four of these wonderful locos gathered together and all working trains.

image002There are two of them about to depart with a train from Sheffield Park.



Here’s a third. This is Stepney, the Bluebell Railway’s first loco acquired back in 1960. She is in that 1870s livery so looks very much like I remember that Brighton shunter.

And here’s the fourth Terrier running round a train.


What a fab day that was. And there were other locos in steam and operating as well.


Battered but beautiful

November 24, 2015

Can an old dictionary be beautiful? Probably not in any normal sense, but this one has beautiful history attached to it.

image002We can see from the front of it that this book has seen plenty of use and has also seen better days. We have to look at the spine to see what we have.


This is the modern universal dictionary and world atlas. The question is, when was it modern for it certainly isn’t in 2015. Maybe a picture inside can give a clue. There are several black and white whole page photos in this dictionary and some of them show modern items. There is a photo of the Queen Mary Ship which was launched in 1934, a photo of the Sydney Harbour Bridge which was completed in 1932 but I have chosen one of the London Television Station at Alexandra Palace which came into use in 1936 and then ceased to operate during World War Two.


But the give-away for date is the bookplate stuck in the front.


This was a prize awarded for proficiency in the knowledge of Holy Scripture and it was awarded to Violet Ware in May 1938.

Violet Ware was my mother and it is this plate that makes the book beautiful in my eyes. It also tells us this book was modern 75 years ago. Mum grew up in Tonbridge which was at the heart of the area this prize was for.

My mum died almost 50 years ago when I was still a youngster so I really treasure these odd snippets of her early life.


Another gramophone

November 23, 2015

If I was asked if I needed another gramophone then the answer would undoubtedly have been, ‘no’.

But one was gifted to me and I reckon it is actually useful so I’m pleased to have it.

By my standards this is a modern gramophone – perhaps of the type more usually called a record player. It is electrically powered, rather than by a clockwork motor. It has a light weight tone arm and uses long life sapphire tipped styli (Is that the plural of stylus?).

But this ‘modern’ device is probably fifty years old – maybe a bit more. When I started gathering old gramophones, also more than fifty years ago, the old machines I collected were in the region of thirty or forty years old so this one is certainly a fairly vintage device. Here it is.


This is a Phillips Diamond model. The speaker forms a lid for when the machine is not in use. It has four speeds – 16, 33, 45 and 78. It also has an auto-changer which allows eight or maybe ten records to be stacked up on the spindle. These drop, one by one, onto the deck to be played. That works fine with 7 inch 45s. Because of the age of 78 rpm record I have, the auto-changer is not so suitable. Most of my records don’t have a lead in groove so the needle drops onto the outer rim and just stops there until gently pushed into the groove. Many of the records have no lead out and that is needed to start the mechanism that gets the next disc ready to play. But it was, of course, a clever system in its day.

This model is AG4025/W15. But I can’t find much about it.


Arten Gill

November 22, 2015

The railway line between Ribblehead and Dent is dramatic in scenery and engineering. What is the case, in my eyes, is that the Victorian railway engineering actually enhances the natural beauty of the area.

Ribblehead Viaduct is well known and I have featured that on this blog. Soon after northbound trains cross the viaduct they plunge into Blea Moor Tunnel – well over a mile and a half long. Once through that there are a couple more significant viaducts before England’s highest station at Dent is reached. One of the viaducts is over Arten Gill.

This is Arten Gill viaduct as seen from near Dent Station. It is in a remote location, but once Arten Gill was a veritable hive of industry.


Having left this good view point, I realised a freight train was about to cross the viaduct so I found another, less good viewpoint and snapped.


Having had these glimpses, I had to take a closer look.


Now that is glorious. It is taller than Ribble
head and the confined location probably makes it look taller still. And here’s my wife as we start to get up close to the viaduct.


Yes, it is a fine view down Arten Gill.


The viaduct is made of the local stone which is called Dent marble but is actually a form of limestone.


This time we were lucky enough to see a passenger train cross the viaduct.


What a lovely, lonely location. Building the viaduct there almost beggars belief.

Durham Park by Mathias Hess

November 21, 2015

My family are very thankful to Mathias Hess. I never knew him – in fact I don’t think any of us still alive ever knew him but we know of his existence and we know some of what he did.

Mathias was a German prisoner of war in England. When he was captured, I do not know, but he was still in England in 1946. My dad was working in POW camps at that time and got to know Mathias and this is what he wrote about him.

MATTHIAS HESS was a German prisoner of war in 145 GPW Working Camp based at Normanhurst Court, Battle (now demolished). I was on the staff and my home, Beals Oak, Wadhurst was in the grounds of the satellite camp at WadhurstPark.          

Matthias Hess was given some purely nominal work and allowed, in practice, to exercise his artistic talents around East Sussex, staying from time to time at any of the satellite camps – Hollington, Robertsbridge, Hurst Green, Wadhurst,   Halland, Hadlow Down & Hurstmonceax.  We often entertained him at Beals Oak.

Two drawings by Mathias (I use his own spelling of the name rather than the one Dad used with two ts) are of that home, Beals Oak, and the people there – my dad, my mum and their first born who was my sister.

My dad’s memories of him come from about 1980 but he added that after the war:

I never heard, of him again. As I remember him, 35 years later, he must have been around 40 at the tine – certainly above average age for a POW.

I have a picture that has come to me which is by Mathias Hess and here it is.


The picture carries a signature, a year and a title.


So there we have it. In 1946 Mathias Hess created this picture and called it Durham Park.

Now I want help. I’d love to trace any family of Mathias. On my dad’s estimate he’d have been born in around 1906, presumably in Germany but I have no idea where.

And where is Durham Park. Again, on my Dad’s memories you’d think it was in East Sussex. Maybe Mathias got the name wrong for I trace no Durham Park in Sussex.

Do get in touch if you can help me find any information about Mathias or can identify where this picture shows.