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Tales from a Fractured Folly: 6th October 2017

Bertie likes to start his day bathing in the morning sun when it’s shines through the landing window onto his bedtime perch. He’s a smashing little feller, very loving, always runs to say hello if he’s home when I get in, loves his tummy rubbing (and doesn’t ever do that cat thing)

Groovy Word of the day: familiar

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A Steam Powered Surprise at Malvern Station

I had heard from the Malvern History page on Facebook that a double headed steam train would be picking up travellers at Malvern Station on a day trip to Cardiff on Sunday morning. As this nicely coincided with taking my son Duncan to the station to return to London we arrived a little early to see it. Unfortunately Beastie was too poorly to come, so he stayed in bed while I was in charge of the pictures.

Duncan and I took a good position on the down platform to get a view along the line which is straight to Malvern Link. It was already 5 minutes late and we were chatting idly when suddenly I heard a distant chuff, on the edge of my hearing.

“It’s coming” I whispered tapping Duncan excitedly. We stopped talking and soon after, heard a faint train whistle as the train drew near to Malvern Link. We waited, spellbound, straining our eyes and ears for any sign of the train.

Then, there it was, at first sight just a swirl of steam and smoke in the far distance, getting ever closer as it stormed down the line towards Great Malvern. Then we saw its front light, then the engine itself. It blew its whistle again, just because it could. It had no need to attract attention to itself. 

Then all of a sudden it was rushing past. First the two engines with the drivers and stokers faces tinted orange by the roaring flames of the fire. Then the coaches. Lots of them. So many coaches that the engines were well out of the other end of the station, all steamed up and lit with table lamps and decorated with tinsel. Full of smiling faces looking forward to their shopping trip to Cardiff and maybe their silver service meal on the way home.

We rushed through the tunnel to try and get a better view from the other platform as the line curves to the right out of the station, as it heads towards the tunnel through the Malvern Hills and then out into Herefordshire. By then the next train to Birmingham had arrived and was massively spoiling the photo opportunities from this platform. This was in fact the train Duncan needed to catch so I left him briefly and tried in vain to get a picture of the engines but they were too far distant to be inspiring and also completely engulfed in steam. 

The whistle blew, doors slammed, the engines began to roar and bellow and the lovely train drew off. 

We had just enough time for a quick hug then Duncan too was on his way to London. 

I have had a hankering for a special train ride for a while and this just confirmed what I already felt. I admit, I am now a railway nut, officially. This has to be the single most exciting moment for me for some time, sad I know. If our circumstances were different and Adrian had been with me and said, “Come on, get aboard. This is your Christmas present” I would have been delighted. 

We might have to go back this evening and see it again.

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York – The National Railway Museum

© Beastmaster 2016

© Beastmaster 2016

The Mallard and The Flying Scotsman were the two train stories that tugged at my heart strings. The Duchess of Hamilton epitomised my idea of a beautiful art deco train. Our day at the museum was quite captivating.

© Beastmaster 2016

© Beastmaster 2016


Mallard is the holder of the world speed record for steam locomotives at 125.88 mph (202.58 km/h). The record was achieved on 3 July 1938 on the slight downward grade of Stoke Bank south of Grantham on the East Coast Main Line, and the highest speed was recorded at milepost 90¼, between Little Bytham and Essendine. It broke the German (DRG Class 05) 002’s 1936 record of 124.5 mph (200.4 km/h). The record attempt was carried out during the trials of a new quick acting brake (the Westinghouse “QSA” brake).

Mallard was a very good vehicle for such an endeavour. The A4 class was designed for sustained 100+ mph (160+ km/h) running and Mallard was one of a few of the class that were built with a double chimney and double Kylchap blastpipe, which made for improved draughting and better exhaust flow at speed (The remainder of the class were retro-fitted in the late 1950s). The A4’s three-cylinder design made for stability at speed, and the large 6 ft 8 in (2.03 m) driving wheels meant that the maximum revolutions per minute was within the capabilities of the technology of the day. Mallard was four months old, meaning that it was sufficiently broken-in to run freely, but not overly worn. Selected to crew the locomotive on its record attempt were driver Joseph Duddington (a man renowned within the LNER for taking calculated risks) and fireman Thomas Bray.

In the words of Rob Gwynne, Assistant Curator of Rail Vehicles at the National Railway Museum:

Duddington, then aged 61, climbed into the cab, turned his cap around (as had George Formby in the contemporary film No Limit), and drove Mallard into the history books. He had 27 years on the footplate, and had once driven the Scarborough Flyer for 144 miles at over 74mph (average speed), considered at the time to be the highest speed ever maintained by steam in the UK.

The locomotive had previously had problems with the big end bearing for the middle cylinder, so the big end was fitted with a “stink bomb” of aniseed oil which would be released if the bearing overheated. Shortly after attaining the record speed, the middle big end did overheat and Mallard had to limp onwards to Peterborough. It then travelled to Doncaster for repair. This had been foreseen by the publicity department, who had many pictures taken for the press, in case Mallard did not make it back to Kings Cross. The (Edwardian period) Ivatt Atlantic that replaced Mallard at Peterborough was only just in sight when the head of publicity started handing out the pictures.

Stoke Bank has a gradient of between 1:178 and 1:200. Mallard, pulling a dynamometer car and six coaches, topped Stoke Summit at 75 mph (121 km/h) and accelerated downhill. The speeds at the end of each mile (1.6 km) from the summit were recorded as: 87½, 96½, 104, 107, 111½, 116 and 119 mph (141, 155, 167, 172, 179, 187 and 192 km/h); half-mile (800 m) readings after that gave 120¾, 122½, 123, 124¼ and finally 125 mph (194, 197, 198, 200 and 201 km/h). The speed recorded by instruments in the dynamometer car reached a momentary maximum of 126 mph (203 km/h).

On arrival at King’s Cross (just after the run) driver Joe Duddington and Inspector Sid Jenkins were quoted as saying that they thought a speed of 130 mph would have been possible if the train had not had to slow for the junctions at Essendine. In addition at the time of the run there was a permanent way restriction to 15 mph just north of Grantham which slowed the train as they sought to build up maximum speed before reaching the high speed downhill section just beyond Stoke tunnel.

Flying Scotsman

The LNER Class A3 “Pacific” steam locomotive was built in 1923 for the London and North Eastern Railway (LNER) at Doncaster Works to a design by Nigel Gresley. It was at that time given the number 4472 and used to haul long-distance trains notably the 10.00am London King’s Cross to Edinburgh Flying Scotsman express after which it was named.

It received much public attention when selected to appear at the British Empire Exhibition in London in 1924 and went on to feature in several publicity films made for the LNER. Improvements to its original design in 1928 resulted in a new tender for carrying coal, which had a corridor allowing a new crew to take over without stopping the train. This allowed it to haul the first ever non-stop London to Edinburgh service on 1st May, reducing the journey time to eight hours. In 1934 it became the first steam locomotive to reach a fully authenticated 100 miles per hour making a new steam speed record.

Throughout its 40 year life on Britain’s railways, the locomotive clocked up over 2 million miles and had several changes to its designated number and its livery, appearing in LNER Apple Green, Wartime Black, Powder Blue and BR Brunswick Green at the time it was retired from mainline duties in 1963.

Following its purchase from BR by the late Alan Pegler in 1963, ‘Scotsman’ has had several owners including Sir William McAlpine, Pete Waterman, Tony Marchington and now the National Railway Museum. In the early 1970s the locomotive toured North America and Canada, some 15 years later it was a show-stopper in Australia where it recorded the longest ever non-stop run by a steam locomotive, travelling 422 miles.

In 2004 the locomotive was again up for sale and was purchased for the nation, following a successful campaign which included £415,000 raised by the public, £365,000 donated by Sir Richard Branson, plus a £1.8m grant from the National Heritage Memorial Fund.

York – Exploring in Photos

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Holiday Photos France May 2016

I have now edited some raw versions of our holiday snaps. You can see them below.


The Antics of Worth and Gates 127/366

A trip to the south of France would not be complete for Worth and Gates if they did not spend at least one afternoon on their favourite beach. Basically they head for L’Escalet turn right at the beach and park as far along as they can. Then they walk along the coast towards Cap Taillat, a small island that juts into the sea and which Worth thinks of as Kirrin Island from Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books. Halfway there they drop down to this small strip of golden sand.

Worth lay down and studied what he saw. High above jets had criss crossed the sky with their vapour trails. Christian crosses dominated the sky like signs for those who seeked a sign, or an omen for some, or just the ironic artistry painted by jets polluting the sky as they brought happy people to fresh shores for fun and frivolity.

As time passed, the vapour trails turned to wispy cloud, beautiful yet reminiscent of a white artex  ceiling on a 1980s English home. Below this ceiling single engine propeller planes scuttled across the sky, bringing the noise of their engines to Worth’s ears and naturally making him think of Biggles. Below this seagulls floated on unseen currents of air, gliding over the beach and the sea looking for an easy meal. Their world mingled with man’s world sharing the same space yet living such different lives. Or maybe Worth is wrong. Maybe the seagull has read Biggles too and right now is pretending to glide across the border from a Spain torn asunder by civil war into the halcyon safety of a France not yet introduced to Hitler’s Stuka bombers. The seagull perhaps has an imagination as strong and rich as that of either Worth and Gates.

Following the seagull’s glide, Worth has his eye taken to the horizon, where the sky tumbles into the sea. The demarcation is clear as the deep blue sky nonetheless contrasts strongly with a line of dark navy sea. To Worth’s eye there is an inch or so of this navy sea before it turns to a beautiful turquoise blue. The colour of summer jewellery. This turquoise sea sits higher than where Worth is lying. It appears to cascade towards him creating bold waves as it nears the beach, waves that threaten to roll straight over Worth. Power and beauty.

And on the beach people play. A family shares a picnic. An adorable little boy rushes to meet the waves clutching a stick and a little red bucket. A lady walks by with a tall thin dog an Afghan hound and a tiny dachshund. The tall dog was on a lead, the dachshund bounced around and under the larger dog. An incongruous but irresistible pair of dogs. Three Canutes stand at the edge of the sea. All their power combined fails to stop the sea and three shrieks leap from their mouths to meet the sound of the lone propeller high above.

Gates opened the picnic and Worth felt like they were sat on two street facing chairs people watching as the world ambled past. They were the best seats in the cafe thought Worth and that was the main thing.

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Playing in Grimaud and St Tropez

Yesterday we went to book a horse riding trip for Thursday and on the way back we stopped in Grimaud for lunch. We had a saunter round and wandered up to the old chateau that tops the hill. It is a lovely place to spend a few hours exploring.

Lunch was lovely. Norwegian salad for me and an omelette for Peanut washed down with a glass of white wine each. A lot of Harley bikers were there making the restaurant busy. 

We had planned to go to the beach but the strength of the sun had waned so we went to St Tropez for a mooch instead. 

We parked in the centre at place des Lices and then headed to the port to grab a few photos of the yachts.

A lot of the more traditional yachts were in the port which to us are more interesting to see. Contrasting with these were the Harleys parked along the quayside. Peanut grabbed this photo. The reddy background is from the seats of one of the more famous cafes that surround the port. I loved this image that P shot.