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North Leigh Blanket Traffic



For the last couple of weeks, I have been dealing with various track issues and tidying up bits of scenery, none of which makes for very interesting blog writing! I noticed, however, in Mikkel's workshop thread some comments about Witney blanket trains, which reminded me of a photo that I had seen of a GWR 'Queen' class 2-2-2 heading such a train. This seems a rather unlikely combination but I eventually tracked the photo down to Colin Maggs' book "The Branch Lines of Oxfordshire" (Amberley, 2010).


Spurred on by this revelation, I have been searching through the North Leigh archives and found the following photo of No. 1124 heading just such a train out of Witney. The stock is a typical mix of wooden 'Mink' vans in varying heights, which gives 'character' to the train. It is possible that this train might be heading towards Farthing, carrying a load of blankets for the military garrison there. (I'm not sure if Mikkel has ever mentioned that feature but it could be an interesting source of traffic and personnel). If not Farthing, it might have been Devizes, or one of the other Army towns clustered around Salisbury Plain.




In a previous post, I showed a 'mock-up' of my then-proposed model of GWR No.184, next to a Dean 'Stella' class 2-4-0. I'm now able to show a photograph of the actual models, although No.184 still needs a lot of work to turn it into a fully-working model. At the moment, it can be pushed along by a motorised Dean 2,500 gal. tender. I'm also not satisfied with the paint finish. I have not been able to tone down the excessively glossy finish - matt varnish made it look 'blotchy' and the current, supposedly 'satin' finish is still too glossy for my taste.




I think the comparison makes the Dean design look very 'pugnacious' against the older (1853) low-slung and lightly-built E.B.Wilson engine. For me, there is so much character in these old engines, and they have the advantage for modellers that they are (usually) of quite simple design.



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Hi Mike, the traffic around North Leigh really was something special!


The shot of the blanket train is wonderful, there's even a sense of steam in the air. Yes I'm sure there was a garrison near Farthing, just next to the race course and the quarry and the hunting grounds and the branch line and whatever else we can come up with to justify traffic :-)


The comparison between the Stella and no. 184 is intriguing (I had to look up pugnacious!). As you say it does really show the difference in style - and the evolution of boilers and fireboxes. I still can't get over how your Stella completely captures the look of that class, despite not being a 150 Pound brass kit!

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Thank you, Mikkel.  I see what you mean about the 'steam' look.  The photo was a bit underexposed in the foreground, so I used the 'burn' tool in Photoshop and inadvertently produced that effect :) 


The scene is a little later than my usual timeframe - I guess, about 1905, since the vans have the large GW marking but the engine still has red frames.  Time has moved on and Blanche has become a pillar of society, married to an Earl, whereas the seemingly staid Amy eloped to Italy with an artist!!!  Another 10 years and their sunlit Edwardian world will vanish for ever.  The old carriage on its truck is well past its "best before" date and Charles is an enthusiastic 'motorist'.


I like to encourage non-native English speakers to expand their vocabulary!



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Thank you for the link, Mikkel.  Those photographs on the Malvern Hills are amazing! 


I think Charles was more a contemporary of Ellis' daughter, Mary, and I feel sure that he would have admired her "adventurous taste for motorcycle racing".  Charles would also have been a contemporary of Laurence Pomeroy who, after an apprenticeship with the North London Railway at Bow, joined Vauxhall Motors in 1905, where he re-designed the engine to provide double the power!  This engine was later used in the famous 'Prince Henry' Vauxhall of 1911 - one of the first true 'sports' cars. Charles would have liked to get behind the wheel of one of those!



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Ah yes of course, I hadn't quite got the ages right :-)  


The uncomfortable question arises: If Charles is so interested in horse carriages and motorcars, then why not in railways? Or maybe I'm forgetting something in his past...

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Lovely stuff again Mike. I do like the Van train. I have coaches of differing heights it seems typical of edwardian GWR.


Re Mikkel last remark perhaps in Edwardian days to the upper class young bloods perhaps railways seemed 'old hat' where as Motor cars were new and exciting. According to one of the old boys the first two motorcars around Much Wenlock one belonged to the Doctor the other the Bank manager ran into each other on a country road both were used to locals getting out of the way when they heard the strange noise of a motor car. I could see such an attitude suiting Charles.



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Hi Don - I agree with you about Charles.  I think, after the heady days of the 'Races to the North',, railways were seeming a little dull in the early 20th century.  Designers were becoming more pre-occupied with economy than with speed. 


Motor-cars and the news from America about the Wright brothers were far more exciting.  The railways tried to re-create a little more glamour in the 1930s but, sadly, the characters in my tale vanished into the morass of the first world war.



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