Posts Tagged ‘Swanage’

Mr Punch at Swanage once more

August 24, 2016

On a recent visit to Swanage I took a six year old grandson. I had an excuse to visit and watch the Punch and Judy show.

The show, I feel, has been modernised a bit. Some little bits were quite clearly aimed at the adults. There were some political side swipes (and being Punch and Judy of course the swipes were real ones by Mr Punch and his stick) and also some innuendos which one has to hope were way beyond the little ones but which gained guffaws from the adults.

This year the Punch and Judy man is Professor J Burns. His site is where Punch and Judy shows have always been in Swanage – and they’ve had them for more than 100 years.

The plot was much as usual. Mr Punch was thoroughly bad to baby and was ticked off by a policeman who got sideswiped out of the way. Quite where the sausages came from I Wasn’t sure but they appeared and after some crosstalk and knockabout stuff, the crocodile ate them. At the end, our Professor proved that no real harm had come to anybody.


There’s Mr Punch with Joey the clown.


The shows main protagonists – Punch and Judy.


Punch, the croc and the sausages

I, for one, am delighted the old tradition keeps going. And at a pound a person it really is cheap entertainment these days.

Punch and Judy in 1980

February 8, 2016

I have shown Punch and Judy shows at Swanage a couple of times ion this blog. And here’s a third. This one dates back to 1980 which was still, just, the era of black and white photography, home processed.


My son would have been four at the time and I’m sure he was amongst the watchers. My daughter would have been there as well, but still unborn.

The shows follow a familiar format. But this looks quite remarkably similar to a colour photo I have shown before so I reckon both were taken on the same day. I used an Agfa rangefinder camera for black and white and, usually, Ilford HP4 film.

Of course, what is really good to report is that the politically incorrect, frightening and generally a tad nasty Punch and Judy shows still take place on Swanage Beach and long may they continue.


An M7 tank again

October 2, 2015

The old M7 tanks were designed at the end of the 19th century. They were steam locos and built for hauling passenger trains in south west London. They were an immediate success and 110 locos of the type were built between the first in 1897 and 1911. But they became utterly redundant from that job as lines were electrified and they migrated to other areas to haul local passenger trains on branch lines. They survived a very long time. The last M7 loco was withdrawn from service in 1965.

Two of the class have been preserved. One of them is based on the Swanage Railway and is still in regular service. When built, in 1905, she was number 53 of the London and South Western Railway. But much to my delight she is running in the form and colour I knew in the early 1960s – so she is number 30053 of British Railways.

image002 Here she is shunting down onto the train at Swanage. Tank engines were designed to run either way round equally well, but they still look better with the boiler leading. Once attached to the train we see her bunker first.


Like any working steam loco she has a fierce fire burning under the boiler.


Here’s the front end again.


Here we see the loco number and another little plate which says 71B. That little plate was called the shed plate and the 71B was code for a depot where the loco was based. In this case it means Bournemouth which is where locos on the Swanage branch would have been looked after.

Now to be a true train spotter for a while.

This was one of my spotter’s books from 1962


We can see I had deemed it important enough to fork out half a crown on this publication – and here’s a bit of one page in the book.


First of all 30053 is underlined which meant I had seen it. And the shed it was allocated to was 75E.

Time to look at another page in the book.


This shows us the codes for sheds and names them. 75E was Three Bridges which was my most local shed. It is also underlined which means I had visited that shed. 30053 was one of my home engines when I was a spotter. I have a feeling it was usually at the sub shed at Horsham and worked trains between Horsham and Guildford.

I feel privileged that I can still enjoy seeing this old friend hauling trains.


A Greyhound

September 22, 2015

Sorry. I’m not really a dog lover so this is not a real greyhound. In fact it is a steam railway locomotive.

It has featured on this blog before when I wrote about a special enthusiasts train I went on called The Sussex Coast Limited. The train made a photo stop at Guildford and I, a very inexperienced photographer back in 1962, grabbed this photo of the loco.

That kind of loco was known as a greyhound.

Officially it was class T9and had been designed by Dugald Drummond for express passenger work on the London and South Western Railway in 1899. They quickly gained a reputation for free running and speed – hence the nickname of greyhounds.

In 1962 when I took the photo above, this particular greyhound had been preserved as a part of the national collection of steam engines. It had been repainted to look more like it did in 1899 and was used on special trains and some ordinary service trains.

In September 2015 the very same loco was in service on the Swanage Railway. It arrived at Swanage hauling a train – but had its tender first which never looks quite right and can be very uncomfortable for those on the footplate.


One thing which has changed since 1962 is having female footplate crew. And oddly, the loco is now in the livery it might have had in 1961 when I saw many of this engine’s kennel mates.

A little later the loco was on the front of another train so could be seen properly.


Sorry about half a person!

The fireman (or driver) invited me onto the footplate.

The roaring fire was producing plenty of potential steam.


Let’s take a right side of the cab view.


It isn’t the clearest view of the line ahead.

How great to see an old friend again.

Strolling on the pier

March 19, 2015

It isn’t all that traditional to laud weather forecasts. They tend to get remembered for the things they get wrong but most of the time, these days, they are spot on.

March 4th was such a day. They picked it as a bright sunny, but cold and a tad breezy. We decided that sounded ideal for a trip to Swanage. They got it right and we had a glorious day.

We decided to walk out on Swanage Pier, paying our money for two people ‘strolling’.


What you get for your money could be said to be ‘not much’. This is no pleasure pier with all the fun of the fair. Rather it is a quite historic structure and by purchasing a ticket you are providing a little bit of cash to keep the pier going.

This extract comes from the pier’s web site at

The original Swanage Pier was constructed in 1859/60 by James Walton of London for the Swanage Pier and Tramway Company and opened by John Mowlem. The Pier was built primarily for shipping stone. Horses were used to pull carts along the narrow gauge tramway which ran along the Pier and seafront.

As you walk to the pier you’ll note those old railway tracks have been safely incorporated into a promenade.


And here is the pier as seen from the Peveril Point area.


The near end of the pier – still on fairly solid ground, is devoted to a dive school and there are information boards about what divers might manage to see. There’s also a museum but that wasn’t open in early March. It is fun when it is open for it features early pier type penny in the slot machines. There is a café as well.

For me, the real pier begins when it turns into the wooden walk. The decking planks get sponsored and people pay to have their brass plaque attached. Here’s one such plaque.

image008I photographed this one because my wife and I are Roger and Sue. But not the Roger and Sue with a plaque. This couple are 36 years after us when it comes to getting married.

There’s a very negative quote and I don’t agree with it or know where it came from. It goes, ‘Life’s a bitch and then you die’. One plaque on the pier spoofed this and is altogether more pleasing. ‘Life’s a beach and then you dive’.  Now that’s much more seemly.

Go out on Swanage Pier for the best views of Swanage.


Or enjoy the sea view to the Isle of Wight.


This is actually the remains of the original pier. You can just make out the western end of the Isle of Wight.

You get a good view of some of the stacks around ‘Old Harry’.


That’ll be Bournemouth in the background.

And to finish with – a pair of posers on the pier.


A Gronk

August 24, 2014

Youngsters will have no idea how much shunting used to go on all over the railway network in Britain. It really did happen almost everywhere and huge numbers of locos were built to do the work.

This extended into the diesel era. Over 1000 of the 350 Horse Power diesel electric shunters were built from 1953 onwards. The last entered service in 1962.

What did they all do? Well freight trains (or goods trains as we called them) were quite different then and a train of wagons, at say Brighton, might need putting together to go to Norwood. At Norwood trains might be formed to go off to various destinations and shunters would spend their days moving trucks from one train to another.

Every loco depot (or shed as we called them) needed a shunter to move steam locos around. An out of use steam engine can’t just be started to move itself. It takes hours to get them ready. Shunters were needed for that. And carriages for passenger trains needed moving from one place to another. Step forward, again, the shunter.

When a train – say The Atlantic Coast Express was being prepared and the carriages needed to get from the depot to Waterloo they were hauled in by a shunter. When journeys were completed, carriages were hauled away again, by a shunter. Shunters were ubiquitous and there commonness made them somewhat despised by spotters.

But things change and as the numbers diminished the good old English Electric shunter (by now officially a class 08) got a nickname. They became gronks. Somehow it seems a fitting name for these box like diesels.

There are still some front line gronks and also many are kept and used by heritage railways. I noted this one, recently, at Swanage.


These days, with that outside con rod – much like steam locos had, they seem quite characterful.

An M7 tank

August 18, 2014

Guess what? An M7 tank is a railway locomotive. My knowledge of and interest in them stems back to early days. Indeed I have a record that says the first number I ever collected as a train spotter was number 30051 which was an M7 tank.

Look at that! I became a train spotter on 13th April 1960 and there’s the first number I recorded.


The M7s were designed at the end of the 19th century and originally they were built to haul suburban passenger trains in and out of Waterloo station. But they proved useful, later on, on rural branch lines and many of these engines survived into the 1960s. Sadly, very few survived after the 60s but one remains and runs on the Swanage Railway. Sadly, the day I visited recently it was out of use and parked over an inspection pit. Maybe some fault had developed that needed attention.

The old girl still looks fine, though. She’s parked up with a couple of diesels both of which are in there 50s as far as age is concerned.


At the moment 30053 is in the livery I remember as a train spotter. She looks just wonderful to me.

This photo dates from August 4th 2014. Locos in service that day carried a wreath marking the 100th anniversary of Britain’s declaration of war – the First World War.


Aha, that’s the single line token that gave the driver permission to travel from Harman’s Cross being passed to the outstretched arm of the signal man.

The Train Arriving at Platform 2 ….

August 18, 2013

Perhaps this continues my theme of railways being as valid a branch of knowledge as any other. It seems I am not alone in my thoughts. It also continues from Punch and Judy for the location is Swanage and the photos date from 6th August 2013.

Now I’m a happy nerd – and you’d expect me to want to see a steam train. But on this occasion I had a rather distant view and was able to take in lots of other people recording the train arriving at platform number two.

I could depart from theme here and say that as a train spotter at Gatwick Airport station, the train at platform two was always (in impeccable recorded English) ‘for London, Victoria calling at Redhill and East Croydon. Change at east Croydon for London Bridge’. This was then repeated in impeccable recorded French.

But here we were at Swanage and the train arriving was a steam train.


Let’s do the nerdy bit first. The loco is a former Great Western Railway tank engine dating from 1928. After a lifetime of working Birmingham suburban trains and then South Wales coal trains she was withdrawn from service in 1964 and sent to Dai Woodham’s yard in Barry, Wales, for scrapping. Instead, she just waited, and fifteen years later she was bought for restoration and now she has a home on the Swanage Railway and she looks utterly splendid.

Now concentrate on the people. There’s a goodly crowd watching the arrival at the traditional platform end haunt of the train spotter. Now the tall chap on the right in shorts and sunhat just could be a bit of a nerd. He’s got pole position to get his photo. The others all obviously want to witness the arrival but certainly don’t look like your typical train spotter.

Platform two was lined with people so as the train moved down to the terminus, we can see more people watching with interest.


And once again most people look to be enjoying the arrival of the old engine.

It’s a lovely loco, a terrific train and a really good railway. Give it a visit and enjoy a bit of living history.

Punch and Judy (2)

August 17, 2013

Just a week ago I wrote about Punch and Judy at Swanage. On a lovely August day, my wife and I joined the throngs at Swanage this year and I am pleased to say there is still a Punch and Judy show and it still attracts the kids.

It looks as though, back in 1982, you were asked to pay 15p to watch. In 2013 – more than thirty years later, it is a pound which, really, is not a bad price.

Here we see a little of the show as put on this year.


‘A show will start soon. Please come and grab the best places’, was the message coming from the booth. And indeed, the people did come and crowd around. I counted at least 90 paying customers but it could well have been more for just this one show.


There’s Punch and Judy, arguing as ever.


Mr Punch is holding forth as ever.

Long may they continue to make kids laugh, yet terrify them at the same time.

Punch and Judy

August 10, 2013

Punch and Judy

Do nerds like children’s entertainment? This happy one certainly likes a good Punch and Judy show.

Punch and Judy ‘professors’ still have their pitches at seaside resorts. Mostly, if I am at such a seaside place, I am devoid of children – the excuse for watching. It is quite a time since I have settled down to a good show.

Back in about 1982, whan my own children were little, we did watch the Punch and Judy show at Swanage.


There we see Guy Higgin’s stand. Mr Punch is resting on the stage, watched by a creature I can’t quite make out.

It seems I couldn’t hold a camera straight even back then – but I was sitting on the ground (which I have always disliked) and probably had a child or two with me. Well, that’s my excuse for failing to keep the old Canon Demi camera on the straight.

Perhaps at about this time I had a cousin (and I still have) who was a Punch and Judy person. Sadly, I never saw her perform and she has long since hung up her puppets.

Further back in time I had a puppet theatre which my dad made and quite a collection of cheap glove puppets.


There’s me in 1954 with the theatre and some puppets. I have a fox, Judy, Punch and a clown there. I loved those puppets and really regret I decided to get rid of them.

It seems there is a ‘puppet’ gene in the family.