I am old enough to remember those days in the 1930's and 40's when, as a young boy I travelled everywhere by train. On holiday with my grand parents at Westbury in Wiltshire, where my grandfather was a driver, I spent many hours wandering around the station, in and out of the goods and engine sheds gazing through the haze in wonderment at Counties, Halls and small Tanks being cleaned; also I shall never forget the smell of freshly opened goods vans containing cheeses lying in straw packing waiting to be unloaded for the near by Chedlet cheese factory, or the smell of 2cwt bags of malting barley on their way to Westbury's maltings, and those were the days when all small parcels where wrapped in brown paper and tied with string. Another joy was standing on the road bridge between Edington and Bratton watching the King and Castle expresses thundering west, their front bogies seemingly about to leave the rails! During the war years there was always a stop off at Trowbridge to see my aunt who was the station buffet manageress. Visits to Swindon to see my uncle, he was a photographer and worked for the GWR photographic department producing marvellous black and white photographs of GWR locos with all the backgrounds touched out. As you will have gathered we were a real railway family.
My home was in Somerset and holidays were always a trip to from Evercreech to Poole and Bournemouth on the S & D, or the short trip to Yeovil and then on to Weymouth with the L & SW. Every year we had a Sunday School outing to Burnham on Sea, boarding the train at Pylle, our local station, two coaches pulled by a Drummond T9 or a 0-6-0 Derby trundled across the moor through Shapwick and then rattling across the rails at Highbridge and finally to Burnham Pier head. By the way, Pylle station had no water and this was brought each day in milk churns from Evercreech! Shepton Mallet, our nearest town, had a station and an army prison where on occasions a hanging took place - the rope and noose were always brought by train and transferred to the prison by local taxi under military escort - how times change!
Farming relations near Culmstock in Devon ensured that even when away from home the train was king. Shooting produced such an abundance of rabbits and pigeons that I was detailed to take the surplus to Culmstock station on my bicycle and see that it caught the overnight express freight at Tiverton junction for London. Days later there arrived in the post a postal order, a few shillings to buy more cartridges!
Occasional holidays to Sidmouth caused great excitement, on the way a lookout was always kept for the sight of a West County class express, 'there's one coming mum' I can hear my mother now 'don't put your head out of the window you'll get a smut in your eye', and I would step back as the great green monster rushed by. Occasionally my mother would decide to 'do a shopping' in Bath, this necessitated a trip to Evercreech by car and then by S & D to Bath Station via Radstock and Wellow. This must surely have been one of the most beautiful train journeys in the country, quintessentially English in every way and what steam journeys were all about.
What has all this got to do with model railways - well, the smell, the sound and the atmosphere has gone, and these memories can only be brought to life with models. Unfortunately there seems to be some idea among model manufacturers that steam locomotives and rolling stock should almost all be represented in post war livery and bearing the British Railways crest. You see for me and many others the age of steam ended in 1945 and we look for models bearing the great railroad names of the past. Come on manufacturers, lets see a few 0-6-0 and 4-4-0 Drummond's and Derby's and a few U and L class all in authentic colours and the liveries of the S & D, L & SWR etc.. Why forget the Scottish Highland Railway with its Jones 'Big Goods' 4-6-0's, and its Drummond 4-4-0's and 4-6-0's. Finally, the one great model omission, the 2-8-0 7F. Why has no manufacturer ever produced a model of this famous locomotive type - and when you do make sure it's in authentic S & D J R livery and numbered 86 - this is the locomotive that was exhibited by Stephenson's at the Stockton and Darlington Centenary celebration in 1925. Come on manufacturers you have so much still to do.
For further information or comments please E-m@il Arthur.
Please take a look at the following British sites who stock and mail order model GWR steam engines and rolling stock by HORNBY, BACHMANN, GRAHAM FARISH, DAPOL and WRENN, in N, 0, 00 and H0 gauges.