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The honourable slipper boy - Part 3

Mikkel

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This is the third and final part of a story based on a real incident on the Great Western at the turn of the century. It draws on the transcripts of a court case at Old Bailey. The story is narrated by Dennis Watts, a slipper boy in the employment of the GWR. The story began here.

 


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Having produced their damning evidence, Detective Benton and constable Walmsley rounded up the four thieves and took them to court. I was the star witness at the trial, and made sure to tell the story well. Based on my testimony, Woods and Lawson were convicted and put away.

 


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Unfortunately Fraser and Marsh - the two other slipper boys - got off free. I hadn’t counted on that. After the trial they returned to work and cornered me.

 

 

 

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I ran off, but they chased me…

 

 

 

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…all over…

 

 

 

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…the goods depot.

 


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In the end I had to call for help…

 

 

 

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…and soon we were four against two.

 

 

 

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We quickly overcame the two villains, tied them up, and…

 

 

 

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…packed them in a couple of tea crates. They were forwarded that night on the 2AM goods, labelled for Thurso.

 


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Because you see, dear reader, I haven’t been quite honest with you…

 

 

 

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I’ve got a gang of my own, and we didn’t want those amateurs intruding on our turf. Not that they were any competition, really. We’re a pretty organised bunch. My uncle the goods checker is on board, and Watts the GWR copper. Handy people, if you’re into goods scams. You see, we don’t deal in petty theft. We aim much higher than that: We have ways…

 

 

 

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…of making whole trucks…

 

 

 

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….disappear.

 

 

 

*****************************************

 


Editor’s notes:

 

You may be wondering how much of this actually happened. The story roughly follows the real events recorded in the proceedings from Old Bailey up to the point of the trial (albeit in a simplified form, and with the names altered). The original theft of the satins and silks, and the clever detective work of matching the pieces of wrapping did thus in fact happen. The appearance of our “hero” the slipper boy as the star witness at the trial is also true, as is the fact that two of the thieves were released after the trial.

 

From there on, the story is fiction. Or is it? A closer reading of the court proceedings leave certain questions unanswered, and it is these “loose ends” that inspired the rest of the story. As for making whole wagons disappear, I refer to “GWR Goods Wagons” by Atkins, Beard and Tourret (1998 edition) which in the preface states that 3 wagons were added to the condemned list in 1908 because “they had not been heard of for 10 years” (sic).

 

PS: I’m using the term “truck” rather than “van” or "wagon", as that is the word used by all the staff in the testimonies of the court case at Old Bailey. I’ve always thought the words van and wagon were used at the time – perhaps that was the official terminology, and "trucks" was everyday slang?

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Fantastic stuff Mikkel,

 

Very entertaining and exquisite modelling!

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This a plot with twists and turns like those Scandinavian TV crime plays that are so popular over here. Sarah Lund not your missus? Very nice shots around the goods depot, really good. Yes, you can make a goods wagon disappear, we did it in a certain wagon shop to a traffic bogie bolster, when the per way people had a badly damaged crane match truck. Much easier pre TOPS days!

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Absolutely brilliant Mikkel,  

 

Wonderful story telling as ever and beautiful modelling.

 

Perhaps we could have a version in the style of The Bridge with an Edwardian Saga and Henrik on the case? 

 

Cheers,

 

Mark

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Ha! Super story with a lovely twist, and the photos are fantastic.

 

Over here on the Eastern, contemporary documents used the words wagon and truck concurrently to indicate whether they were loaded or empty. For example loaded wagons were forwarded to... and empty trucks returned ...etc. The caveat, and there's always one, was lettering on specialist wagons which always used the word truck, viz; loco sand truck, egg truck, etc.

 

Godt nyt

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Absolutely brilliant work!

 

Now we've just got to work out who nicked all the sleepers.

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Fantastic stuff Mikkel,

 

Very entertaining and exquisite modelling!

 

Thanks, these photos have been an experiment in trying to find new angles and layout photo techniques. The first pic was an attempt at creating perspective without the use of structures - it looks a little too staged, though.

 

 

This a plot with twists and turns like those Scandinavian TV crime plays that are so popular over here. Sarah Lund not your missus? Very nice shots around the goods depot, really good. Yes, you can make a goods wagon disappear, we did it in a certain wagon shop to a traffic bogie bolster, when the per way people had a badly damaged crane match truck. Much easier pre TOPS days!

 

Ha! I would have liked to see that bogie bolster/match truck exercise. Great stuff. So that's how wagons might disappear. 

 

There's no Sarah Lund around this house, although my wife does always seem to know where I left the keys :-)

 

 

Absolutely brilliant Mikkel,  

 

Wonderful story telling as ever and beautiful modelling.

 

Perhaps we could have a version in the style of The Bridge with an Edwardian Saga and Henrik on the case? 

 

Cheers,

 

Mark

 

Hi Mark, and thanks a lot. A model railway version of The Bridge? I think I'll pass that one to Will and his Victoria bridge, which would be very suitable! 

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Brilliant as usual Mikkel.

 

I had to re read the first ones again.

 

Thanks Pete, and yes I realize it can't be easy to remember the plot with such a long time between the episodes! Family affairs have got in the way of modelling time recently, haven't even had a chance to be much on here. Hopefully back to normal soon. 

 

 

Ha! Super story with a lovely twist, and the photos are fantastic.

 

Over here on the Eastern, contemporary documents used the words wagon and truck concurrently to indicate whether they were loaded or empty. For example loaded wagons were forwarded to... and empty trucks returned ...etc. The caveat, and there's always one, was lettering on specialist wagons which always used the word truck, viz; loco sand truck, egg truck, etc.

 

Thanks Buckjumper. That's interesting. I can imagine it must have been a little confusing for the un-initiated! In the court proceedings on which this case is based, there doesn't seem to be that kind of distinction.

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Excellent stuff Mikkel! I thought young Dennis might be too good to be true!:-) The disappearing van shot is lovely, perhaps you could use the technique to create a Farthing ghost train for Halloween! :-)

 

Great to start the New Year with a post from Farthing!

 

Best wishes

 

Dave

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Absolutely brillant from start to finish, great imagination & wonderful photography!

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Just brilliant, what a ripping yarn, and the photography is just a delight. Manys thanks for taking the trouble to entertain us all. All the best Adrian.

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Thanks very much gentlemen! Glad you like the ending, even if it's pure conjecture.
 
When reading the actual court proceedings I was struck by how eager the slipper boy seemed to be in accusing the thieves openly (Eg: "I say all the prisoners are thieves"). I wouldn't have expected someone in his position to speak out so openly about his own workmates in court. It's almost as if he has a special interest in having them put away...
 
In any case, it can't have been pleasant for him that the two other slipper boys were acquitted and must have returned to work alongside him! And why where they acquitted anyway? Was there reason to doubt his testimony?
 
I found this picture of a Mr James Williams, arrested for larceny in 1902. I bet he used to work as a slipper boy at Farthing!
 
James%20Williams%20Larceny%201902.jpg
 
PS: Dave, I think perhaps a ghost train is a bit too fanciful even for me!  :)

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Great story Mikkel and nicely illustrated . I did like the idea of them being crated up and dispatched to remote parts. I believe there was quite a problem with pilfering. I would not take too much notice of the words the boy used in court. The police would have made sure he knew what words to say. Not that police put words into someone's mouth but they do like to ensure salient points are mentioned.

Don

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Wonderful stuff, as ever.

 

You always deliver the goods, Mikkel  ;)

 

ray

 

 

Ha! Thanks Ray  :)

 

Flights of fancy aside, this story made me wonder if there's an aspect of railway modelling that could maybe be developed more, namely modelling real historical events and everyday lineside practices. The Luton MRC did it with the Great Train Robbery, but there's much more there.

 

It doesn't all have to be static either - it can be combined with running stock. For example, at some point I'd like to model the full flow of goods handling. Eg a goods train arriving, wagons being dispersed, complemented by cameo scenes that depict the main steps and staff roles in off-loading the goods, doing the paperwork, transferring the goods to horsedrawn vehicles, delivery, etc.

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Great story Mikkel and nicely illustrated . I did like the idea of them being crated up and dispatched to remote parts. I believe there was quite a problem with pilfering. I would not take too much notice of the words the boy used in court. The police would have made sure he knew what words to say. Not that police put words into someone's mouth but they do like to ensure salient points are mentioned.

Don

 Hi Don, glad you like it - I wonder if there's room for a person in a tea crate, never tried it!

 

You're probably right about the statements of the slipper boy, the actual cross examination is not mentioned in the proceedings, only the responses of those on the stand. So they may well have asked him "leading" questions. Still, it's January and really grey outside so a good time for conspiracy theories!  :)

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As the saying goes - 'it takes a thief to know one' but what a pity that he wasn't so 'honourable' after all.

 

I am most impressed by your setting up and photography of the various scenes.  I know from experience how difficult this is to achieve, and I greatly admire your patience and attention to detail.  Your use of a wide-angle lens to exaggerate the perspective has worked well, I think,, and enhances the 'credibility' of the scenes.  I also admire your use of the various 'props'.  That last BW 'vignette' has really captured the 'atmosphere' of the depot. 

 

For those who haven't tried to do this sort of thing, I can assure you that it requires scrupulous attention to detail and, even then, you will find that, when you look at your first set of photos, all sorts of errors will leap out of the picture!  It needs the patience of Job to persevere until it looks as good as here and, even so, the odd continuity error seems to be inevitable - not that I noticed!

 

To sum up - I offer you my congratulations, Mikkel.  If you really want to experiment with more realism, I suggest some 'weathering' and sprinkling of dust around the depot might help.  My own layout is so old that it has acquired a genuine patina, which is helpful when it comes to photography :)

 

Mike

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Great story. 

Love the pictures.

I have just one question. How do you replace your figures without making holes in the baseboard?

This could also be nice to use in my diorama's. Will give extra possibilities for story telling. 

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Mikkel,

Just read the lot - fantastic thank you. Exceptional modelling too!

Kind regards,

Jock.

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As the saying goes - 'it takes a thief to know one' but what a pity that he wasn't so 'honourable' after all.

 

I am most impressed by your setting up and photography of the various scenes.  I know from experience how difficult this is to achieve, and I greatly admire your patience and attention to detail.  Your use of a wide-angle lens to exaggerate the perspective has worked well, I think,, and enhances the 'credibility' of the scenes.  I also admire your use of the various 'props'.  That last BW 'vignette' has really captured the 'atmosphere' of the depot. 

 

For those who haven't tried to do this sort of thing, I can assure you that it requires scrupulous attention to detail and, even then, you will find that, when you look at your first set of photos, all sorts of errors will leap out of the picture!  It needs the patience of Job to persevere until it looks as good as here and, even so, the odd continuity error seems to be inevitable - not that I noticed!

 

To sum up - I offer you my congratulations, Mikkel.  If you really want to experiment with more realism, I suggest some 'weathering' and sprinkling of dust around the depot might help.  My own layout is so old that it has acquired a genuine patina, which is helpful when it comes to photography :)

 

Mike

 

Hi Mike, thanks very much - yep, it takes a thief to know one, but luckily I haven't been caught yet :-)

 

I agree, these close-ups can test our patience sometimes. For me it helps if I try not to rush things. I find it more satisfying to take some time for each photo and treat it as part of the hobby itself, looking for interesting angles for each shot etc. I've still got a lot to learn about the photography though. 

 

As for realism, this is something I'd like to improve further on my next layout. There's also an inevitable compromise when photographing 4mm figures close up. Even with the great new figures from Andrew Stadden, and even if you're an expert painter (which I'm not), close-ups of figures are bound to be a give-away 9 out of 10 times. In my view, the best approach to figures for overall layout realism is still to have just a few of them, in relaxed poses, at a distance from the viewer.

 

 

Great story. 

Love the pictures.

I have just one question. How do you replace your figures without making holes in the baseboard?

This could also be nice to use in my diorama's. Will give extra possibilities for story telling. 

 

Hi Job, thanks a lot. I carefully file the feet of the figures before painting, so that they are completely straight and have as broad a base as possible. I then position them with either Tacky Wax (for temporary positioning on hard non-porous surfaces) or very small blobs of Blutack under both feet (when more stickiness is needed). However, this does not prevent them from falling over sometimes during photo sessions if I knock something, which can be very annoying!

 

The figures actually have "permanent" positions when I'm not doing these photo stories. If I didn't have to move them around sometimes,  I would drill holes for them and fix them there.

 

 

Mikkel, Just read the lot - fantastic thank you. Exceptional modelling too! Kind regards, Jock.

 

Thanks very much Jock, much appreciated. To be honest I think I've had it with photographing my goods depot for a while now. It's been captured from every conceivable angle (except from a distance, come to think of it!).  I know it appears to be simply a diorama, but I do actually operate it with the traverser  attached, shunting wagons around and thinking about absolutely nothing :-)

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Ha! Thanks Ray  :)

 

Flights of fancy aside, this story made me wonder if there's an aspect of railway modelling that could maybe be developed more, namely modelling real historical events and everyday lineside practices. The Luton MRC did it with the Great Train Robbery, but there's much more there.

 

It doesn't all have to be static either - it can be combined with running stock. For example, at some point I'd like to model the full flow of goods handling. Eg a goods train arriving, wagons being dispersed, complemented by cameo scenes that depict the main steps and staff roles in off-loading the goods, doing the paperwork, transferring the goods to horsedrawn vehicles, delivery, etc.

 

 

I've had similar musings. I wonder if the techniques used in the "Pepper's ghost" illusion could be used? Perhaps for exhibition layouts only, but it may be possible to produce it on a smaller scale. It would be marvellous to see a train pull up at a platform and then have the 'ghosts' of the passengers and staff move about the platform and so on. The other alternative might be to use a looped video playing on a smartphone screen, which is then hidden inside a building so that the movement is visible through the windows? 

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I've had similar musings. I wonder if the techniques used in the "Pepper's ghost" illusion could be used? Perhaps for exhibition layouts only, but it may be possible to produce it on a smaller scale. It would be marvellous to see a train pull up at a platform and then have the 'ghosts' of the passengers and staff move about the platform and so on. The other alternative might be to use a looped video playing on a smartphone screen, which is then hidden inside a building so that the movement is visible through the windows? 

 

Some amazing ideas there Ray. I had to look up Pepper's ghost to understand how it's done. So you are thinking the cameos could be built in hidden parts of a layout, and then projected onto the visible area by changing the lighting? Quite a show-stopper! 

 

I've sometimes wondered how digital picture frames and flatscreens might be used on a layout, but your smartphone idea seems more straightforward. You could have a slideshow running on it, with still photos of figures in different positions toning (is that the word?) in and out. 

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Thanks Focalplane, yes there's not much on this little layout to please the loco enthusiast :-) When I operate it, the loco only gets to come onto the visual part of the layout very briefly in the yard behind the depot. Unless the management gives special permission to let it into the depot itself (which happens surprisingly often)!

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