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The honourable slipper boy - Part 1

Mikkel

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This blog sometimes tells some pretty tall tales, but this one is based on a true story. I recently came across a fascinating account of a court procedure at Old Bailey, involving an incident on the Great Western at the turn of the century. I decided to re-enact the incident, with Farthing as the setting and a little, ahem, modeller’s license. Dennis, will you take it from here?

 

 

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My name is Dennis Watts, that’s me on the right. I’m a slipper boy with The Great Western Railway Company. I scotch trucks. They pay me 10s. a week. Here is my story.

 

 

 

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This is my uncle Henry Watts, he's a checker in the goods depot. It’s the afternoon of May 28, 1902. Pay attention to that box on the porter’s trolley. My uncle is consigning it to the daily Penzance truck.

 

 

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After loading, the Penzance truck is shunted to no. 1 line with other trucks for dispersal. Most of the trucks will go out in the next few hours, but the Penzance one is left overnight for attachment to the 4:55 goods.

 

 

 

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That night, I walked home from a late shift after the lamps were out. I passed the Penzance truck sitting alone in the dark, and saw some people there.

 

 

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I recognized two horse drivers, Woods and Lawson. There were also two other slipper boys, Fraser and Marsh. I could tell they were up to no good.

 

 

 

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I walked up to them and saw that they had opened a box of silks from the Penzance truck. They were tucking the goods down their trousers. They asked if I wanted to buy some cheaply for selling on, but I refused.

 

 

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Being an honest sort of person I was very uncomfortable with the situation. They were all a bit threatening and I was afraid. What would they do to me?

 

 

 

To be continued.... :)

 

Part 2 is here: http://www.rmweb.co.uk/community/index.php?/blog/75/entry-17072-the-honourable-slipper-boy-part-2/

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Wonderful as ever Mikkel.

 

A great tale in installments as well to keep you on the edge of your seat! 

 

The modelling's not bad either! ;)

 

Cheers,

 

Mark

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Your photography perfectly captures an era, a story, and a very specific, slighly tense atmosphere.  I felt myself shifting uncomfortably in my chair as I read your posting.

 

I don't think I want to read the original Old Bailey proceedings - why detract from a perfectly interersting and inventive narrative? (Ok, I may take a peek later).

 

I'll look forward to the next exhilerating episode (Is it being syndicated in the Penny Dreadfuls?  ;) )

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I think you will find that horse shunting was always done from the six foot i.e. the horse was not expected to walk over sleepers. There was a loop or cleat on the solebar of most wagons were the towing line was attached.

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Ooh, I love a good mystery.  I too am resisting looking at the Old Bailey link - I feel it might be like reading the last two pages of a good novel after reading just the first chapter!

 

Lovely modelling and very evocative lighting.  Can't wait for the next instalment!!

 

PS I hope that Dennis is going to be OK, I do worry for the boy.

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Excellent as usual! I do love a good cliff hanger ending:-) The new brass work on your little saddle tank is glinting very nicely, good to see the crew are keeping on top of the polishing.

 

Very much looking forward to the next thrilling instalment!

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Certainly beats reading the Beano or Dandy Mikkel !

Will it be a weekly issue?

Totally impressed with your inventiveness, as usual, executed in your inimitable way :)

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Wonderful as ever Mikkel.

 

A great tale in installments as well to keep you on the edge of your seat! 

 

The modelling's not bad either! ;)

 

Cheers,

 

Mark

 

Hi Mark, I'm getting my own back after all those frustrating cliff-hanger moments when a TV episode ends :-)

 

Although actually the "breaks" has more to do with my own concentration span. These stories are fun to do and I enjoy taking the pictures, but when it involves moving figures around like here it becomes a bit cumbersome, and so I tend do just a few "scenes" at the time.

 

 

inventive as ever and some great photographic lighting :)

 

Thanks Mike. Those "night" shots tested my new camera! I simply turned off the light in my layout room. It's in the basement but there are some small windows above ground which let in some mystical light. The camera captured the darkness well enough, but the original images came out bluer than what I saw - which poses a philosophical question: In a situation like that, do you leave the image as is or alter the white balance to show what your eyes see? I chose the latter option.

 

 

Your photography perfectly captures an era, a story, and a very specific, slighly tense atmosphere.  I felt myself shifting uncomfortably in my chair as I read your posting.

 

I don't think I want to read the original Old Bailey proceedings - why detract from a perfectly interersting and inventive narrative? (Ok, I may take a peek later).

 

I'll look forward to the next exhilerating episode (Is it being syndicated in the Penny Dreadfuls?  ;) )

 

Hi SB, many thanks! I'm glad if the period setting comes across, capturing the atmopshere of the railway environment (and people) of a certain era is a main aim of all this sillyness. 

 

I was really captivated by the original proceedings from Old Bailey. It's a pretty mundane story really, but the testimonies say a lot about the time and give little details I didn't know about. Such as the use of the word "truck" which everyone in the case uses rather than "van" or "wagon".

 

I have simplified it greatly here, I did consider illustrating the original testimonies but they are rather confusing so it would have been difficult to follow. Instead I'm using the Hollywood approach to re-telling a story ;-)

 

The Penny Dreadfuls are a good idea, I pitched it to HBO but for some odd reason they weren't interested! 

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I think you will find that horse shunting was always done from the six foot i.e. the horse was not expected to walk over sleepers. There was a loop or cleat on the solebar of most wagons were the towing line was attached.

 

Hi Bill, that's what I always thought, but then I started looking at photos and some of those appear to show horse shunting in the four-foot, with the chains attached to the main coupling hook or another fixture on the buffer beam.

 

In all cases, it seems to be where the sleepers are embedded in the ground, ie where the horse would have been able to walk without the risk of tripping. I'm thinking that maybe this was preferred when possible because the strain on the horse would have been better in this way, compared to the diagonal pull it normally had. 

 

See:

 

http://www.steampicturelibrary.com/the-last-shunting-horse-at-paddington-1925/print/6300316.html

 

http://www.shorehambysea.com/shoreham-historical-photos/sussex-archaeological-society-photo-archive/shoreham-history-photo-collection/kingston-by-sea/rb1-3616.html

 

I suppose the above could be posed shots where the photographer has asked them to line up nicely - but then there is this shot:

 

horse%252520shunting.JPG

 

(I'm taking the liberty of embedding the photo here, it's captured in Google but Google's page link appears to be broken)

 

In any case, it needs more looking into if I'm going to model a proper shunting scene.

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Ooh, I love a good mystery.  I too am resisting looking at the Old Bailey link - I feel it might be like reading the last two pages of a good novel after reading just the first chapter!

 

Lovely modelling and very evocative lighting.  Can't wait for the next instalment!!

 

PS I hope that Dennis is going to be OK, I do worry for the boy.

 

Thanks Ian. Speaking of railway mysteries, Iain Robinson recently pointed me to Andrew Martin's The Blackpool Highflyer, which I look forward to reading.

 

Most of the real world crimes on the railway seemed to have been very petty stuff though. Have a look at the BTP's rogue gallery here. Not exactly high crime, note the rabbits and whisky!

 

http://www.btp.police.uk/about_us/our_history/crime_history/visit_our_rogues_gallery.aspx

 

 

Excellent as usual! I do love a good cliff hanger ending:-) The new brass work on your little saddle tank is glinting very nicely, good to see the crew are keeping on top of the polishing. Very much looking forward to the next thrilling instalment!

 

Thanks Dave, yes those replacements of the dome and safety valve were worth it I think. Looking forward to getting my 1854ST finished as well (experimenting with acrylic sprays at the moment, but can't find the right colour shade). I've also made the mistake of ordering parts for the 1813 with sidetanks that I'd like to do. This could be another diversion before I gert on with the layout! 

 

 

Certainly beats reading the Beano or Dandy Mikkel ! Will it be a weekly issue? Totally impressed with your inventiveness, as usual, executed in your inimitable way :)

 

Thanks Grahame, although there's nothing wrong with the Beano - or at least there wasn't back in the good old days! Nothing beats The Bash Street Kids.

 

Not going to be a weekly story I'm afraid. For one thing, the real story doesn't have enough material! I might add a little just to spcie it up though ;-)

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Inspiring. An other way to tell a story.

Love your pictures.

Will keep your approach in mind for my Northall diorama's.

 

I liked the story,

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Superb as usual Mikkel and great photographs to boot.

 

What those peeps haven't realised yet is that Dennis is trained in martial arts so we look forward to a fully choreographed Tarantino style set of fight scenes in the next instalment :jester:

 

I can hear the Jam's 'down in a tube station at midnight' song in the background too :D

 

Staying tuned...

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Wonderful as usual Mikkel. Not much to say as it has been said above. So when is part 2?

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Hi Bill, that's what I always thought, but then I started looking at photos and some of those appear to show horse shunting in the four-foot, with the chains attached to the main coupling hook or another fixture on the buffer beam.

 

This seems to be one of those cases where practice seems to have differed from the 'rule book'  When I modelled horse shunting, I found a photo from Barnstaple in BG days, where the horse was on the track bed but I thought this was possibly because of the absence of cross sleepers.  Like you, I've subsequently seen several photos where the horse was simply attached to the coupling hook.  I suspect this was 'easier' when a small amount of movement was needed. 

 

Another reason for working the horse from the side was that it avoided it being run over if the wagon 'ran away'

 

 

 The camera captured the darkness well enough, but the original images came out bluer than what I saw - which poses a philosophical question: In a situation like that, do you leave the image as is or alter the white balance to show what your eyes see? I chose the latter option.

Good to see that your new camera is working well.  I think you made the right decision in leaving the blue 'moonlight' effect (as used so often in films)  I believe that it is more important in these 'fantasies' to create the right 'atmosphere' rather than 'reality'.  As you wrote, "capturing the atmosphere of the railway environment (and people) of a certain era is a main aim of all this sillyness." - which last word is exactly how my wife describes my North Leigh fantasies :)

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Thanks Ian. Speaking of railway mysteries, Iain Robinson recently pointed me to Andrew Martin's The Blackpool Highflyer, which I look forward to reading.

 

Most of the real world crimes on the railway seemed to have been very petty stuff though. Have a look at the BTP's rogue gallery here. Not exactly high crime, note the rabbits and whisky!

 

http://www.btp.police.uk/about_us/our_history/crime_history/visit_our_rogues_gallery.aspx

 

Mikkel,

I am an avid reader, and always like mystery type novels.  A few months ago I discovered the "Railway Detective" series of books by Edward Marston.  These are all set in the Victorian era and in my opinion are a jolly good read ;-)

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Inspiring. An other way to tell a story.

Love your pictures.

Will keep your approach in mind for my Northall diorama's.

 

I liked the story,

 

Thanks Job, I think there's a lot of similarity with your August 23 1959.  Arthur and Daisy just inhabit a different time period. The last shot of Daisy in front of Arch records looks like she's ready to tell a story :-)

 

 http://www.rmweb.co.uk/community/index.php?/blog/1325/entry-16847-a-week-in-northall-sunday/

 

 

Top stuff, I hope we get part 2 soon :)

 

Thanks, I won't be able to get anything done for a couple of weeks, but I'm sure that won't keep people up at night   :)

 

 

Superb as usual Mikkel and great photographs to boot.

 

What those peeps haven't realised yet is that Dennis is trained in martial arts so we look forward to a fully choreographed Tarantino style set of fight scenes in the next instalment :jester:

 

I can hear the Jam's 'down in a tube station at midnight' song in the background too :D

 

Staying tuned...

 

Many thanks Pete. When I read those court proceedings, I can't help thinking there's more to Dennis (whose real name was different) than it appears. We'll see  :D

 

Just heard the Jam song on Youtube and read the lyrics. Scary lyrics!

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Wonderful as usual Mikkel. Not much to say as it has been said above. So when is part 2?

 

Hi Pete, thanks, I'm glad we'll have you back at the workbench soon! Part 2 will be ready before you finish the G6  :D

 

 

This seems to be one of those cases where practice seems to have differed from the 'rule book'  When I modelled horse shunting, I found a photo from Barnstaple in BG days, where the horse was on the track bed but I thought this was possibly because of the absence of cross sleepers.  Like you, I've subsequently seen several photos where the horse was simply attached to the coupling hook.  I suspect this was 'easier' when a small amount of movement was needed. 

 

Another reason for working the horse from the side was that it avoided it being run over if the wagon 'ran away'

 

Hi Mike, very interesting, and yes you're probably right that these were exceptions to the rule book, unlike your law-abiding shunters here: http://www.rmweb.co.uk/community/index.php?/blog/1405/entry-12460-horse-power/

 

Speaking of rule books, there seems to have been a booklet published in 1915 called "Great Western Railway. Instructions to Shunt-Horse Drivers and Horse-Keepers". Has anyone come across that?

 

 

Spice it up, Spice it up ! Oh! Yes please Mikkel :)

Easy now, remember this is a family site  :jester:

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Mikkel,

I am an avid reader, and always like mystery type novels.  A few months ago I discovered the "Railway Detective" series of books by Edward Marston.  These are all set in the Victorian era and in my opinion are a jolly good read ;-)

 

Ah yes, Iain mentioned those too. Thanks for the recommendation, it does sound like just the thing. On a related theme, it looks like there's been a book made on "the electric constable", the first use of telegraph in a murder case - and all on the GWR !

 

http://www.johntawell.com/the-case/

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Unfortunately I have read the Old Bailey proceedings but the models and the pictures are just superb. 

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Thanks very much Chris, glad that someone else has tried to make heads and tails of those proceedings. You may still be surprised at the further developments in the Farthing version though. When I say  "based on", I mean it in the Hollywood way ;-)

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Speaking of rule books, there seems to have been a booklet published in 1915 called "Great Western Railway. Instructions to Shunt-Horse Drivers and Horse-Keepers". Has anyone come across that?

Janet Russell.s book on GW Horse Power (Oxford Publishing 1995) has a short section on shunting horses.  She quotes a GWR publication of 1888, which set out 30 rules relating to the work and conduct of shunting men, including the following:

 

No sudden jerks and bring to draught gradually.

Shunting horse driver responsible for seeing that slipper boy is in his place at all times.

Any cruelty to horse will result in a fine and suspension from duty.

Horse must not draw more than one passenger coach .... or more than two loaded or empty goods wagons.

Where practicable horses must be attached to the wagons so as to enable them to stay outside the rails.

A copy of these rules to be taken on duty with the driver and horse keeper.

 

She also records that the late Jim Russell's father was the shunt horse driver at Banbury in the early 1920s

 

Mike

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Excellent info Mike, many thanks! The "where practicable" phrase seems to solve that one then. And we get another mention of the term slipper boy, I've been wondering just how widespread the term was.

 

So Janet Russell is related to Jim Russell who did the GWR engine books? I must get the GW Horse Power book. I've been putting it off because its usually rather costly when it turns up, but seems worth it.

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Great story and photography.  There's something deliciously farcical and oh, so very English about scoundrels tucking illicit goods down their trousers.

 

Nice to see the many of your recent blog entries taking cameo roles - the LSW van, the shiny fittings on the Buffalo, the printed crates, and the figures.

 

Looking forward to part 2!

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