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I gotz the railroad in my blurd. Don't ask me why I have to say it like that.

It must be in my blood because it certainly isn't anywhere else (Grandfather, Great Grandfather and Great Great Grandfather were railwaymen.). I dislike travelling by trains almost to the extent it could be described as a medical condition.

Although England created the railways it is not really cut out for the job. The place is too small really, the train barely gets going before it is slowing down for the next stop.

The scenery is tedious and everything looks grubby and grey. Then there are the delays, the fact you have to change trains almost constantly and connections fail leaving you to stand on vandalised platforms wondering if the next train will turn up. Even if it does the station is going to be so far away from anywhere you actually want to get too the journey is almost pointless.

You get to pay darn good money for this service, you'd think they should pay you really, certainly have to pay me.

True to form Wills is busy selling the sausage.

So faced with the reality of the present I have two choices; look forward to the future where we all have given up eco-destructive cars or head back into the mists of time.

The future is probably more fearful than the present, so back to the days of my grandfather. He was a railroad man (hence the opening statement). He could carry a railway sleeper under each arm and drive a spike in with one blow, chew iron and spit rivets.

Multi-talented as the fellow seemed to be, he pulled levers in a signal box (probably had to be careful not to twist them right off) it was a darn busy signal box mind you.

The title of this page is due to the fact I live in a seaside town at the end of the line. If the buffers don't stop you then the 100 yards further on you drop into the sea.

Actually this is not quite the truth, a few years ago, the buffers did fail to stop the train but what they failed to do the toilet block and waiting room succeeded in doing. It would have represented a horrible accident in days gone by but the train service and the town are long past the sell-by date and only the guard and driver were vaguely hurt.

It would have been a surprise if anyone else was as there was nobody else on the train or the platform. Still you cannot expect people to travel on the trains in the middle of the day.

It might also be the fact I live in the UK that rail travel seems like a darn bad idea. There was a TV series a while back entitled, Great Railway Journeys. Spectacular stuff but Liverpool Street to Walton on the Naze did not seem to likely to feature.

So I will change that as well.

The grass is always greener on the other side of the Atlantic as the saying doesn't go. It seems half of Europe want to get the US and half the US want to get to the UK. Wonder what would happen if we were all allowed to swap.

There is an article on the website which relates to the journeys this one is more about the engines that made then possible.

Wills, Railway Engines

Wills, Railway Engines [1924] 50 cards kicks off with the engines of the GWR. You could do worse than this set of cards relating to railways. Some of the cards have a rather flat appearance with the engines and tenders being shown 'side-on' which makes detail slightly cramped. This is unfortunate as most a very well drawn.

The engines were always the romantic part of the railway. At least they were in that golden age of steam that could never really have existed. Trains meant holidays to the vast majority of the population. People were not really commuting to work in the manner they do today but equally a much lower percentage of the population had access to private transportation.

Card 14, L & NE Railway, Great Eastern Section, Engine No. 1534 4-6-0 (the details are not for the feint-hearted) underlines the point as an engine which principally moved passengers to a variety of seaside locations.

My family were employed by Great Western Railways (GWR) or Gods Wonderful Railway. Amusing then I live in an area called Gods Waiting Room (amusing to those that don't have one foot in the grave that is.)

Apart from card 6 that is. Quite what was going on then is beyond me. I would almost think it was a printing error the colour is so uniform and flat (for those that want an idea of what it looks like check out the gallery section).

The level of detail on the reverse of the cards is quite amazing. Quite how many people knew what they were reading is questionable but it is all there none the less.

Details from Card
Card 1:
Engine No. 4073
'Caerphilly Castle - 4-6-0
The first of the latest series of 4-6-0 or ten-wheel four cylinder simple expansion locomotives, having two outside cylinders driving the middle pair of the coupled wheels, whilst the inside drive the leading pair. Is fitted with a large boiler, superheater, Belaire firebox, and the usual GWR standard appliances. A new type of cab with side windows is provided. Built at Swindon, the total weight of the engine and tender in working order is 120 tons.

For some the detail is everything, some train spotters have an encyclopedic knowledge of rolling stock but most seem to know everything. They would know that 'The Great Bear' (card 2) was the only engine on the GWR line that had an eight-wheel tender. Why it had is a mystery to me but the important thing is, it had.

Trains had names to conjure with, card 4, 'Knight of the Golden Fleece'.

Before nationalisation (which was before privatisation) there was a bewildering array of railway companies crisscrossing the UK. The GWR might be the most memorable (?) but it was by no means the only one. Reading the reverse of the cards you soon realise every engine seems to have some sort of unique feature one way or another.

What appears to be simple from a distance usually becomes darn complicated as you get closer to the situation. Railways seem to be no different. Card 17 show an electric locomotive. Card 19 shows an electric train (there is probably a difference between a locomotive and a train as there is between a train and a tank I suppose) which gives a bit more detail about things electric.

The Bishop's Road to Farrington Street line was electrified in 1905 by the looks of the card. DC being picked up by a live central rail (card 17 has pantographs mounted on the roof). The electrification was considered a great advantage.

Indeed it was. Let's face it steam trains are for enthusiasts. Rather like big houses, really practical as long as you have huge pockets and a large staff otherwise just a pain in the neck.

A good few years ago I was watching a program about steam trains and the need they have for water. It stands to reason this is necessary but getting the water into the engines is a time consuming process. However not when there are water troughs.

Built into the track system as the train passed over them a scoop could be lowered and the water rammed straight into the tenders. It amused my sense of invention. However card 22 shows an engine which works on tracks which work on gradients to steep for water troughs. Instead they have tenders with a water capacity of 5000 gallons.

In 1937, Gallaher Trains of the World appeared in cigarette packets near you. If the Wills set was well drawn these were masterpieces. I would certainly suggest it was one of the best sets Gallaher produced from this period of their output.

Whereas Wills got busy with the technical detail Gallaher was selling the sizzle not the sausage. The reverse of the cards

Details from Card
Trains of the World #4
The Scarborough Flier
The Scarborough Flier runs every weekday during the summer between London (Kings Cross depart 11.10am) and Scarborough, the only intermediate stop being at York. Often, when the traffic is heavy, the train is run in duplicate. It is a restaurant car express and provides the fastest service between London and York - the journey of 188.5 miles being accomplished in three hours at an average speed of 62.75 mph - and also between London and Scarborough. On Saturdays in the summer it is one of five restaurant trains leaving Kings Cross within half an hour for the Yorkshire coastline.

You can smell those sausages when reading the backs of these cards, who cares if a major component is offal and sawdust, they sure smell good. Note the spelling of flier, can also be spelt flyer (as in card 6).

Whereas the Wills set remains firmly focused on the engines (as you would expect) Gallaher also details the train bit of the things as in card 15 which is the Royal Blue, which turns out is being pulled by the Lady Baltimore. It ran on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad which if the illustration represents half of what it looked like was something to behold.

The Wills set also has its share of foreign rail services but it has a greater focus on the British market. Not that it seems to much matter as the rolling stock seems reasonably standard throughout the set.

By 1937 things have changed and design elements are coming in. No longer is it good enough to put a cylinder boiler on a set of wheels and let it loose. By 1937 streamlining was beginning to make an appearance and there is a wider variety of ways to power the engines, with diesel and electric taking up a fair share of the cards.

That said, stream was still the most important of moving methods. Card 17 has a train of sheer wonder, Streamlined Steam Train. Something of a sheep in wolf's clothing it was a massive body kit stuck onto a 29 year old Atlantic (4-4-2). Introduced in 1934 the stream lined body looked fast standing still. Despite the old technology it was racing towards an exciting future. Nothing like the slabs of metal we have trundling about the present railroad system.

Gallaher, Trains of the World

That said, card 45 of the Wills series is a peek at the future, South African Railways ran an electric locomotive (built in Sweden) which had all the charm of a house brick by the looks of it, along with the functionality and practicality no doubts.

Every so often a film maker comes up with a road vehicle which can be quickly converted into a rail vehicle which confounds those chasing. Well Gallaher card number 8 has a petrol railcar. This was a converted road omnibus which began service in Ireland in 1935 and by all accounts was mighty successful on the Sligo Leitim and Northern Counties Railway.

Details from Card
Wills, Railway Equipment #5
Guard slipping a coach
A GWR guard is shown in the picture pulling the lever which releases the couplings and this also parts the vacuum brake and train heating pipe connections between the front of the slip coach and rear of the main train. When the slip has separated, the guard will be able to control the vacuum brake as required, to bring the coaches to rest at the platform. A screw-on type of hand-brake is also provided, and the handle for this is to the left of the lever in the picture. A small 'slip' signal alongside the track tells the guard whether all is in order for him to pull the lever and so release the slip; a large bell is fitted on the front of the slip coach to warn men on the permanent way of its approach.

Although the engines are the most glamourous end of the beast it would amount to nothing without all the equipment which was needed to keep the things going. Wills steps into the knowledge gap with the commendably inexpensive, Railway equipment [1938]. True to form Wills is busy selling the sausage. Although not the most exciting of sets it has a work-man-like approach to a subject which you can admire.

This series is excellent for explaining all those things the Wills, Railway Engine series took for granted. Card 7 explains the taking on of water and card 28 leaves nothing to the imagination as to the workings of the scoop which gets water into the tender.

Remember all those numbers after the train names, well cards 21 & 22 of this set explain it is all to do with the configuration of the wheels. Also tells you the 4-6-2 configuration is called 'Pacific' and certain other configurations have specific names. The front of the cards having a bewildering array of diagrams to illustrate.

The set leaves very little to the imagination and is worthy of any railway collection and given its modest price probably would not do any harm in any collection.

Wills, Railway Equipment

Of course if you are more interested in looking out of the window and admiring the scenery than worrying about whether the last set of points was forked or not then Churchmans is the company for you. Not only did they do the Wonderful Railway Travel set in 1937 they also did the Empire Railways series in 1931. The 1931 series being something like eight times more expensive than the Wonderful Railway Travel series. Both cover the same sort of material, examining the landscape through which railways wend, which for the purposes of illustration tend to cross rivers, deep valleys, or through tunnels. Which is a lot better than a shunting yard somewhere in the middle of nowhere.