Posts Tagged ‘1961’

On Rippon Tor

January 8, 2016

Back in 1961 a trip down to Devon was a totally new experience for me. Up until then I had not ventured outside the south east of England. All my fellow bloggers who write about ‘the only way is travel’ may be horrified and alarmed by this. How could anyone be a fully rounded human without travel and new experiences? That seems to be the line on many a blog. Now I’m not averse to travel and it can broaden minds and experiences. But so, too, can staying put and learning about places in detail. Being as open minded as possible is what matters to me.

image002 This is me and my sister. We are on Rippon Tor on Dartmoor. There is a photograph fault at bottom left.

Let’s deal with us first. Many folks will remember a photo of Prince Charles and his first wife looking in opposite directions and looking glum. This instant snap was used as an indicator of a failing relationship. Well, my sister and I clearly have turned our backs on one another and, at that time, I don’t think we did get on all that well together. She regarded me as a silly little boy. I regarded her as just silly. But clearly we are both occupied with geology. And we got on well when we both grew up!

This was my first experience of igneous rocks. My life in the south east had limited me to sedimentary rocks only. Here we had granite, full of sparkly crystals. It had to be explored.

My dad had travelled – World War 2 had seen to that although he never actually left the UK. But I believe this was the first time he had got close and personal with granite. I know he was captivated too.

Almost inevitably I fell in love with Dartmoor and still visit quite often, albeit often only to drive across when heading to or from Cornwall

My own children had a much younger experience of the moor than I had.


That was in 1982.

And Dartmoor again in 2010.


Boxing Day

December 26, 2015

Traditionally this is the day for giving and receiving Christmas boxes – that is presents. For many, these days, it marks a day when people can say, ‘Phew! That’s it for another year’. And in some ways it is a bit like that for us this year. Our children and grandchildren have been with us in the run up to Christmas and on Christmas day. Today they head off to see what I’ll call the in-laws. Next year it’ll be done the opposite way around. But this year, and, indeed, into January, we’ll keep decorations up until 12th night.

Back in 1953, when I was but a nipper, it was my grandparents who came to visit us.

image002This was my childhood dining room on Christmas day in 1953. We are about to eat our Christmas pudding. I expect my mum made it, but granny, with as big a grin as I ever remember her having, has taken the knife to it and is preparing to serve it out whilst Grandad, dad, mum, me, brother and sister look expectant. Well, I expect I looked like that, but my back is to the camera so I can’t really tell.

But now to two happy young ladies enjoying a nibble of something in Christmas 1961.


This is my wife and her sister. Behind them on the old telly we can see the base of their artificial tree which sister in law still has.

I wonder what grandchildren might do with photos taken yesterday in fifty or sixty years’ time.

First trip to Stonehenge

December 13, 2015

These days I think of Stonehenge as ‘just down the road’. Or at least I did until the road past the monument was closed. The authorities have managed to almost hide the old monument away and now those who really want to see it have no option but to pay the price to go in. Just as a matter of interest, members of The National Trust or English Heritage get in without further payment. And visitors can get short term membership which makes a visit much cheaper.

I cannot tell you what it cost when I first visited in the early 1960s. This would have been on one of my first trips out of the south east corner of England. We had no car until the very late 1950s and the first ones were elderly. But my dad got a job that involved travel and a brand new vehicle was bought – a Bedford Dormobile which served as family car and also holiday home HQ.

The trip past Stonehenge was en route to a camping week in South Devon. The photo my dad took of his three children does amuse me just a bit.


I’m the little boy on the right wearing the sandals my parents thought were good for my feet. My brother, on the left, 18 months older than me is determined to look like a hard guy with dour face and thumbs in pockets – but the sandals probably rather let down that image. My sister, in the middle, has discarded any footwear she might have had and is bare footed. She is keen to look like a demure young lady – no longer under the thumb of parents.

Actually, I know we were all thrilled to be at Stonehenge for it had seemed almost as remote as the North Pole until then. It was a place you read about, saw pictures of, but didn’t really expect ever to be there. Yet there we were, amongst the stones. It looks as though it was a fine day and I know it was in a Whitsun school holiday. It’s amazing that it was possible to get a shot with just us and no other people in view.

The South Eastern Limited

October 15, 2015

My life in tickets

Somehow this ticket got separated from the crowd. I knew it was missing and also knew that one day I’d find it again. It is a very special ticket for me as it is for one of the enthusiast special trains I went on.


This ticket dates from 11th June 1961 and it marked the end of the line for various things. First of all it was the last British Railways passenger carrying train on the branch from Paddock Wood to Hawkhurst and also from Robertsbridge to Tenterden.

It also, pretty well, marked the end of steam power on the railways of Kent. It was a magic day for me with the highlights being the two branch lines scheduled for closure. For the Hawkhurst line a truly venerable engine was chosen. It was an 01 class good engine – the last of its type to survive. And for the Tenterden branch two even more venerable engines were selected – two of my very favourite ‘terrier’ class.

It was a fantastic day.

Like many a rail tour, the train lost time. At first it was just a couple of minutes, but things really began to slip on the Hawkhurst branch and by the time we reached Robertsbridge the train was about 25 minutes off schedule. By the time we had been to Tenterden and back it was all but an hour late. The final arrival at Charing Cross was scheduled for 19.44. In fact it was an hour and a half late at 21.15.

But nobody griped or moaned for it had been a very special journey.


A grand old engine on the train back in 1961. I took this with what amounted to a box camera.

Childhood Home revisited

August 25, 2015

This is not a physical revisit – merely that I have featured my childhood home before. But I can look back at a photo like this one and be amazed at the conditions it looks as though we lived in.


Actually, it wasn’t as bad as all that. It was just that building works were going on at the time.

Our house, a small and inconvenient semi is on the right. The house on the left belonged to the Langridge family and it looks as though I (for yes, that is me) am trying to say ‘hello’ to their dog which was called Lulu. The downstairs window facing the camera was our main living room. The one above it was my parents’ room. My dad’s new garage was being built in agreement with neighbours. Making our footpath house entrance shared enabled us all to get cars off the road. But the old shed is still standing behind the house and it looks like a heap of scrap near the camera.

The photo dates from the early 60s. It does all look a bit squalid.

Later, after my mum had died and dad remarried he and second family moved to a more spacious house across the road. Stepmother, half-sister and family still live there so I do see this house from time to time.

New owners decided to call the old place ‘Shambles’!

A Well Tank

May 30, 2015

Do you know, it is just about a month since I last wrote about trains although I did have some luggage labels about three weeks ago? No wonder I am suffering from withdrawal symptoms!

Perhaps it is time again to look at an old friend from the very early 1960s – it’s a sweet little tank engine which for some reason was classed as an ‘0298’. The class was also known as Beattie Well Tanks. They were designed by Joseph Beattie and a well tank, for water, was sited under the boiler and footplate.

These tanks were introduced in 1863 to operate what were then very lightweight London suburban trains. They worked well but as train sizes had to grow they became too small for the task. Production ceased in 1875 and locos migrated to the west of England to operate branch line services there. The engine I show here was part of a batch produced in 1874.

By 1895 most of the 85 engines built had gone but three had found their way to the Bodmin area in Cornwall where they were found to be the ideal loco for the china clay trains on the Wenford Bridge line. The three old locos stayed put until 1962 enabling me as a train spotter to see them and as a rail enthusiast to travel on a special train around south west London which was hauled by two of them. It should be said that the locos were quite considerably altered during what proved to be a very long working life.

Two of them have been preserved and here is one of them on shed at Bodmin as a preserved loco in the year 2003.


What a lovely old lady this is – and it is one of the locos I have been pulled by. Of course, I have my ticket for that journey – but no photos taken by me.


Here we see (not for the first time on this blog) my brother, on the right, and I spotting the loco at Wadebridge in 1961.


No doubt, like most people, I can be amazed at the changes which have taken place during my life time. It seems unthinkable, now, that you might find mainline railways being powered by locos or trains that were close on 90 years old. But there she was and still doing a useful job.

Ian Allan’s Trains card game

March 3, 2015

This was another pack of cards that were discovered whilst having a tidy up. They obviously date from my time as a train spotter – I’d date them as 1961. I do not recall if I bought them or if they were bought for me by a kind relative. I have to say I have no recollection of ever playing the game either.

This is a boxed set of cards.


That’s a nice picture on the front. It looks like a British Railways Brittania Class loco possibly working hard up in the Westmoreland Fells.

The backs of the card inside are plainer.


They feature a Gresley A4 class loco – like world steam speed record holder, Mallard.

But the fronts of the card are more interesting.


Some are route cards, others portray stations and others offer conditions and situations that might have been found on the railways of 1961. They are all about the East and West coast routes between London and Scotland and they feature a mix of steam and diesel locos. They are a pleasure to look at but of course they don’t feature any of my favourites from the south east of England.

There is a book of rules.


I have to say the rules seem horrendously complex. I know each page is small, but there are 24 pages of them!


There’s a sample. Yes it really does look complex.

I believe this game is quite collectable (even if not very playable).

On the Kent and East Sussex – again

September 19, 2014

The Kent and East Sussex Railway is a line full of interest, with bits of family history thrown in for good measure.

These days it is a ‘heritage’ line running from Bodiam to Tenterden. It had been built, as a light railway and opened in 1900. In terms of where it went, traffic expectations can’t have been great. It left the Tonbridge to Hastings line at Robertsbridge and passed somewhere near various small villages to a station called Tenterden but now called Rolvenden. It isn’t that close to either place. An extension to what is a well sited station in Tenterden opened in 1903. A further extension to Headcorn, on the main line from London to Dover was opened in 1905.

The line was one of several railways which were operated by Colonel Stephens from his office in Tonbridge. The Colonel Stephens lines were renowned for making do, basic facilities and a rather ramshackle collection of rolling stock.

My dad visited the line, probably in the 1920s and I have no idea why. Outings weren’t common for dad. Outings that involved paying for transport were incredibly uncommon. But the line stuck in his mind as an oddity. He spoke of the ‘train’ being two model T Fords, on rail wheels and joined back to back. I’m not sure if his description is really correct.

The end was coming for the line and in 1954 the last scheduled passenger train ran between Robertsbridge and Headcorn. The track from Tenterden to Headcorn was lifted but the section to the south was retained as a freight only line, with the occasional special train for enthusiasts run along it.

The last of these, before complete closure of the line, was run on 12th June 1961. I was a passenger on this train and of course, I still have my ticket. But just where it is, I haven’t identified at the moment.

I do have a photo of the train I was on which I have used before on this blog – but here it is again.


This was a magical journey, with power provided by two of my favourite engines – the ancient (89 years old then) Stroudley designed class A tanks which had various modifications through the years to become class A1x.

The Colonel Stephens Museum at Tenterden has a far better picture.


And it was the only train I was ever on which failed to climb a hill first time. The load was too much for two little engines and the hill between Rolvenden and Tenterden town proved too much, first time. The train had to have a rest to get up steam to make it into Tenterden.

I do recall that the train was an hour or so late by the time it got back to Charing Cross and I must have been very late home that night.

This loco is still on the line and on a recent visit to Rolvenden I was able to ‘cab’ the engine.


This picture was taken in September 2014

Yes, that’s me on the footplate but of course, the loco was not in service at the time. It was like finding an old friend.

This was a very recent visit and there might be more from the railway to come.


Hooray! Found my ticket and here it is!


Railways are Valid

August 14, 2013

I was talking to a relative the other day who told me of a friend of hers who looks at this blog.

‘Of course, she misses out the railway ones,’ was added.

My immediate and continuing thought was that people are entitled to their opinion, but what a shame so many people have their opinions formed for them by the mass media. Being interested in railways, according to the media, means you are a narrow person with no social skills and therefore not quite a proper person. So people, fearful for their own reputations, think railways aren’t something one should be interested in. That is to say, some people think that. And of course, some people just aren’t interested anyway which is a perfect right.

Now being a train spotter, which I was for a few youthful years, may be a strange habit without a good purpose. But actually, it is no different from being an avid collector of anything. Collections may serve some historical purpose and may have a cash value, But mostly they are not useful and a list of train numbers most certainly isn’t really useful.

But knowledge of railways is surely as valid as any other knowledge, particularly when you realise the huge impact that railways had on the lives of people.

It is now time to introduce my favourite railway book. It has a long title – ‘A Regional History of the Railways of Great Britain: Volume 2 – Southern England’.


This book is not about trains, locomotives, engineering and certainly has no lists of numbers. It is about social history and the impact that railways had in the extreme south of England which was where I lived.

If it has any value (which I doubt and wouldn’t care about anyway), it is a first edition and I purchased it in the year of publication.


Through this book I learned that Redhill hadn’t really existed until the railways came and neither had Haywards Heath. In fact, nearby Cuckfield which fought against the railway rather declined as the new railway town of Haywards Heath grew.

I learned how most of the south coast holiday resorts owe their existence to the coming of the railway. Brighton did exist, but Bournemouth is totally a railway creation.

I learned about business rivalry – how companies built lines, not because they were ever going to turn a profit, but because it made sure a rival company wouldn’t get access to the area. The sleeve notes give a good idea.


This book is one I have loved for over fifty years and I still refer to it. Maybe one day I’ll get an updated edition for it now tells less than three quarters of the history

On the Street where I lived

March 27, 2013

For virtually all of my childhood, I lived on a village street in Ifield which is in the top right hand corner of West Sussex. During my childhood the village became a part of Crawley New Town but remained, as it still is, right on the edge. The street was very ordinary although it had features not all villages had. There was a village shop almost opposite our house. A bit further along there was a pub which was always seen as a den of iniquity in my family. There was a bus stop by the pub. We could catch a bus into the town of Crawley from there. We even had a petrol station and car repair garage – not that we had a car to be repaired for many a year. There was a hall – I’ll call it a village hall – where community events took place. We were there quite often.

Ifield, like other villages, met the needs of the local inhabitants.

There were some odd things in my childhood. One was that we had friends who were Germans. It was soon after World War II and people, unthinkingly really, hated the Germans. But not in our household. In about 1961, one of the family German friends, Herman and his wife Geppa paid us a visit and my photo shows Herman setting up a group snapshot.


I still visit this street and I am reminded how much change there has been. The first house we see on the right was fairly new then. The two young lads standing outside it will be Michael and Peter. After I left home, my dad bought that house and members of the family still live there. The little bungalow has gone and has been replaced by a modern dwelling. The pub – The Royal Oak – is behind Herman. You can see the pub sign and the other small square sign on a post is the bus stop. By this time there was a bus shelter on the other side of the road.

The left hand side has gained a pavement. Back then cars were still a luxury and by no means everybody had one. It was perfectly safe for Herman to set his camera up, standing in the street and then to get himself into his photo.


The people, from left to right are my dad, Geppa, Herman, my mum, me, my sister and my brother.

You can’t actually see our house. The window on the right is the other half of the pair of semis. The house associated with the garage is immediately behind us all.

These days you probably wouldn’t see us for parked cars!