Tag Archives: history

More YouTubing

I have a love-hate relationship with London. I love the concept, the idea, the history of the city. I hate having to actually visit the place. Too many people, too much noise, too much dirt. From where I live in the south-east of England, London forms an impenetrable lump of stuff that must be driven around in order to go almost anywhere else. Horrible place.

That’s probably why I find various YouTube channels about the city fascinating. That’s probably why I am providing links to them here. I hope this blog doesn’t become a link farm!

The first is called Joolz Guides. A dapper chap in a bowler hat leads you on walks around London. Along the way, he points out interesting buildings, talks about events and people, and educates and entertains. I simply adore this kind of stuff. Joolz is just the kind of genial guide to a place that makes actually having to visit in real life worth all the effort.

The next is called Londonist. It does what it says on the tin. As well as the channel, they have a web site with lots of fun information. Like Joolz, the presentation is witty and knowledgeable. I particularly liked the Underground series.

Anyway, that’s all for this post. Thanks for looking. More soon, I hope.

British Railways Diesel Electric Co-Co 10001 (redux)

The so-called LMS Twins, a pair of 1,600hp diesel electric locomotives that had been designed and built at the British Railways Locomotive Works at Derby in 1947–48, were proper prototypes. They were both right at the leading edge of railway design of the time, and needed to be thoroughly tested. By 1953, both locos had been updated and modified, and were moved to the Southern Region for more testing. They were joined by their larger cousins, 10201, 10202 and 10203, designed by the former CME of the Southern Railway, OVS Bulleid.

By the end of the 1950s, diesel traction was entering the BR fleet in numbers, and the prototype diesels were moved back to Derby make it easier for maintenance. Relegated to secondary duties, and painted in less flamboyant liveries, all five prototypes were eventually withdrawn and scrapped. 10001 lingered at Derby until 1966. Sadly, none of these locos was considered worthy of adding the national collection. There is an organisation trying to build a recreation 10000, the pioneer loco from 1947.

This commission build was to make a representation of 10001 as it appeared in 1953. Various updates and modifications were made to the Just Like The Real Thing kit, such as revised roof grilles and the air horn brackets this loco featured until 1954. The client requested a light weathering, so I’ve aimed for grubby but cared for. The bogies showed the grime a lot, being finished in an aluminium silver paint, so I’ve concentrated dirt round there.

This is my second 10001 build. The previous one represented the loco in its as-built 1948 condition.

A day—or two—out

When you work for yourself, and your other half is retired, it’s very easy to forget to take holidays. Well, I find it easy to forget. To overcome this problem, we’ve decided to try to take short breaks that happen to coincide with model railway meetings of one kind or another. The precedent has been set by our annual jaunt to Telford for the Gauge O Guild exhibition.

This past weekend we wandered up to the West Midlands. We stayed in Oldbury, in one of those identikit hotels, on a short visit that encompassed the ScaleSeven Group’s AGM at the nearby Warley Model Railway Club’s premises. We travelled up from darn sarf on Friday, had the AGM on Saturday (feeling relaxed and refreshed by not having made the journey on the day), and pottered back home on the Sunday.

With time in hand, we made a slight detour to a local attraction before heading home.

Blakesley Hall, according to Wikipedia, “is a Tudor hall on Blakesley Road in Yardley, Birmingham, England. It is one of the oldest buildings in Birmingham and is a typical example of Tudor architecture with the use of darkened timber and wattle-and-daub infill, with an external lime render which is painted white. The extensive use of close studding and herringbone patterns on all sides of the house make this a home that was designed to show the wealth and status of the owner.”

The house and gardens are run by the Birmingham Museums. Originally a farmhouse set in its own land, the hall is now surrounded by 1930s housing estates. Nevertheless, once you enter the property, it is a tiny oasis of calm in the bustle of a suburban environment.

There is a modern entry block, with the gift shop, toilets and a tea room. On the day we visited, there was a display of various birds of prey. Volunteers were on hand to guide round the house, explaining about the building and its contents, and the histories of its various owners.

If you find yourself in the Birmingham area and have a couple of hours to spare, visit Blakesley Hall. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit, and you might too.

You can see some more of the images I took on our visit on my Flickr page.

A week later!

Telford was an excellent exhibition, a credit to the organisers and managing crew. I spent the weekend talking, buying, and ending up tired out! I handed finished models to clients, and collected some new commissioned work. I think it was a good show.

Lots of nice textures and colours were about. I wonder if all the cast plates were made on the site?

As is now our habit, we stayed in the Telford area for a couple of days after the exhibition. Our plans were flexible, with museums and the Severn Valley Railway high on the agenda. Monday saw us visit the Blists Hill Victorian Town. The link explains what the place is all about, and it proved a pleasant afternoon of wandering about. I spent much of the time cursing my DSLR, which is really cursing myself for being thick. I really need to get out with the beast more often and learn how to drive it properly again.

It would have been lovely to have seen more activity around the town. It was rather as if the inhabitants had all gone on a charabanc trip to the seaside and left everything unlocked.

Our last day we went to Bridgnorth and visited the SVR. We took the digital sound recording gear, in the hopes of more excellent recordings such as we had last year. Sadly, I hadn’t slept at all well the previous night, so our visit was somewhat curtailed. I still haven’t had a chance to edit the recordings we made. In fact, I’ve not even listened back to them, which is quite telling on what I think about them.

So, that’s the Big Exhibition over for another year. Back at home, I spent the rest of the week nursing a toothache and setting out plans for the year ahead. I have, it seems, a lot of work to be getting on with!

A nasty dose of nostalgia

By nature, I am a hoarder. I don’t like to throw stuff away—it might come in handy one day. At least, that’s what I tell myself. Just occasionally, though, I force myself to go through the somewhat painful process of clearing the hoarded stuff of years.

We’re doing it now, as it happens. I’m blogging while taking a break from rearranging our shared studio space (a back bedroom in our house). We’ve cleared out about a decade’s worth of accrued junk, most of which is finding its way to our local recycling centre. I had stashed a bunch of software boxes under a desk, and because we wanted to shift some cupboards about to make some space, they had to go. 

Well, some of it had to go. Versions of the Mac OS and various bits of software that won’t install, let alone run, on my collection of Apple hardware. It’s useless to all intents and purpose, but I just can’t quite find it in my geeky heart to get rid of all of it.

Take Softpress UniQorn, for example.


To run UniQorn, I need a Mac running System 7 and QuickDraw GX. The oldest Mac I own in working order is currently capable of running OS 8, but that’s too modern—and I don’t even have a copy of that OS any more! So, I keep the UniQorn box, complete with the umpteen 3.5in installation floppies because when I bought the software I didn’t even have a CD-ROM drive on my machine, just for the sheer geeky archaeology of it.


It’s the same with QuarkXPress 4. I can actually run that on one of my Macs, but there’s no point. I think I keep it around simply because of how much it cost me to purchase back in the day. I don’t recall exactly how much it was, but it definitely had four figures before the decimal place…


There’s a part of me that would love to get hold of an old Quadra or PowerPC Mac with System 7 on it so I could install UniQorn again. But then, the realist in me jumps to the fore and reminds me that once I’d played with it, and rebooted a few times due to the inevitable crashes, I’d soon get bored with it. Best to leave it in the box, with all the memories.

Kit’s Coty House – a set on Flickr

At some point about 5,000 years ago, a person or persons died. Their friends and relations saw fit to bury them in a long barrow, on the south side of the North Downs overlooking the Medway Valley in Kent.

Over the centuries the earth mound eroded away, although apparently the remains of the mound were still visible in the middle of the 20th century, leaving three standing stones with a cap stone. Known as Kit’s Coty House, the remaining stones stand isolated, near a field edge and the North Downs Way footpath.

I’ve lived in the area for nearly a quarter of a century. I have known of Kit’s Coty House, and the nearby Countless Stones, all that time but never before managed to visit. The monument, one of the first Ancient Scheduled Monuments in the country, is some way off the beaten track, with no easy parking, so despite it only being a couple of miles from home, it’s a proper expedition in order to find it. Well worth the effort, though.

Dornier 17 Conservation Project – Aircraft Restoration at the Royal Air Force Museum

Boulton Paul Defiant fighters attacked the Dorniers at 13,000 ft over Deal in Kent before they had reached their intended target. They claimed at least six Dorniers destroyed and one damaged for the loss of three of their own aircraft and two air gunners killed. One of the Dorniers, flown by Feldwebel (Flt Sgt) Willi Effmert, attempted a wheels-up landing on the Goodwin Sands. He touched down safely and the aircraft sank inverted. Effmert and his observer were captured but the other crewmen died and their bodies were washed ashore later.

A follow-up to the post last week about this plane.

Change happens

As a railway modeller, I spend a good deal of time studying photos. Many are in published history books, so my only source is a photo someone took in the 1940s or 1950s. If I’m lucky, someone else may have taken images at a similar place, so I can begin to build a picture of what it is I’m attempting to reconstruct.

Change is inevitable. Familiar places change, almost imperceptibly, over many years. Someone familiar with their home town as a child – like me, for example – but who has lived away for several decades, finds the old landmarks gone, and the familiar become strange and alien.

We’re currently working on creating a scale model of Wolverton Station as it was in about 1960. We want to make it as accurate as we can, so we’ve spent ages poring over photos of the period between 1955 and 1960. We’ve found gaps in our knowledge, we’ve acquired plans and maps, and generally we’re having a fine old time researching for the model. Older images often yield vital clues, too.

We also have photos taken in the 1980s and 1990s of the area. Best Beloved lived in the area in his formative years, and you’d think he would have reasonably clear recollections of the station since he used it frequently. However, memory is fallible, as we’ve discovered. Facts that are quite clear to Best Beloved turn out to be wrong when you’re on the ground – much to his surprise, it has to be said.

While the Wolverton we’re recreating is no longer there, there’s enough of the basic infrastructure and surrounding ground to help us complete our picture. We paid a swift visit to Wolverton a short while ago, and spent a few hours walking around the Grand Union Canal, and around other parts which haven’t changed significantly in five decades. It was great fun, and educational, because I now have a much better idea of where things are – or were – in relation to each other.

Even in a short space of time, however, Wolverton Station changed beyond recognition. In the 1980s, the station building on the road bridge was still intact.


A short time after that photo was taken, the building had been demolished.


And today, you’d never even know it might have been there.


Happily, because we’d been able to take images of the area over the period during which the station was demolished, we have been able to fill in gaps that other sources have left. It’s pretty likely that many of the residents of the Wolverton area would have been unaware of such changes over the time, because it happens so slowly. I do believe that if we had been living in the area, we would have been able to fill many of the gaps in our knowledge, and to provide a fuller history of the area for future generations.

(Ironically, the demolition of the station building yielded useful information about the structure that supported it, information we may never have been able to spot if the building had still remained intact.)

This very morning, I was studying a photo taken in 1962. A week before I had been standing on the very spot the photographer had used. I’d studied the photo before, but only this morning had I noted an important fact. Looking across the Grand Union Canal to the railway, in 1962 there was no towpath on the opposite bank. Today, there is a towpath – in fact, it’s even marked clearly on the 1938 Ordnance Survey map! Yet, in 1962, not far on from the period we’re trying to research and recreate in a model, that towpath is quite obviously not there. This has also raised tangential questions about how the path crossed the canal at two places with no obvious remains or record of bridges…

I lived and worked in Maidstone for a period in the late 1980s. At that time, there were still vestiges of an industrial heritage in the town. The gasworks, while disused, was still there. A large sweet factory still worked in the town, and there were still the remains of paper mills and so on along the river. That’s all gone now. Large DIY outlets and shopping centres have sprung up, and anyone under the age of 20 will never even be aware that such features existed before they were born.

Another example: I live close to the M2. It was built in the early 1960s as a four-lane dual carriageway. It was slow, winding its way laboriously up the Nashenden valley. Over a period of five or more years, the entire motorway was rebuilt. It’s now eight-lane dual carriageway, with sweeping junctions and new viaducts across the Medway valley. I can’t even remember how the original junctions worked, yet I drove around them countless times in the past.

Which is kind of my point in this Sunday morning ramble. It’s easy to poke fun at people who take an interest in their locality, who note change, or record it by camera. However, without such people recording the ordinary, mundane story of our environment, great chunks of shared history would be missing. We would quite happily have modelled a towpath alongside the Grand Union Canal at Wolverton, but for the fact I noticed something different in a photograph of somewhere that has changed almost out of recognition in the past 50 years.

Wolverton – death of a station


Following up on the last post about our researches into Wolverton Station, here’s a set of images taken over something like a 10 year period, documenting the decline and fall of a grand old Victorian railway station.

Click the photo or the Flickr link to see the rest of the set.

I should add we ordered a copy of the 1938 1:2500 Ordnance Survey of the area today. Hopefully, it will give us some important dimensional information.