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The Remains of the Day

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Mikkel

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While researching a book on the real Farthing station, I recently acquired a set of photos from the 1900-1910 period that I thought I would share here. My sources in Farthing have been able to provide a bit of background on some of the staff featured in the photos. Above, we see the bay platform at Farthing, with station staff in attendance. The stationmaster Mr A. Woodcourt is seen second from the left. The stock presents something of a mystery. While it has been known for some time that loco No. 34 was occasionally seen at Farthing, it appears here to be heading a 70 ft Autotrailer to Diagram A12. These coaches were built with gangways to run behind railmotors in the Plymouth area, and it seems highly irregular that it should turn up at Farthing on its own. Perhaps readers can offer an explanation?

 

 

 

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"Buffalo" No. 1234 in the bay area at Farthing. The fireman was known as "Mad Charlie" due to his rather spectacular style of shoveling, which included various risky balancing acts on top of the bunker. Sadly this practice eventually led to his demise, as one day during a particularly tricky move he fell off the loco at full speed. His reputation lived on, however, and for many years afterwards firemen in the area would acknowledge a particularly deft move as "a Mad Charlie".

 

 

 

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The bay in a lull between trains. The picture carries the date "May 5th, 1907" on the back. The photographer must have been standing on what was then Platform 3, looking across the Up Main. Today, of course, everything seen in this photo has been converted to a parking lot.

 

 

 

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The gentleman in this photo has been identified as Mr Tom Gradgrind, a worker for the local cartage company Smith & Sons. Always known as a bit of a dreamer, he eventually became obsessed with the notion that the entire population of Farthing were merely toys in the hands of a giant. Although he was later cured and settled down for a normal family life, his wife would occasionally notice him casting fleeting glances at the sky, as if trying to catch a glimpse of another world beyond the clouds.

 

 

 

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William K. Honeythunder with his parcels van and horse. Although much admired by the women of Farthing, Mr Honeythunder's true love were the horses he worked with. Some 15 years after this photo was taken he became a superintendent in the GWR's cartage department at Paddington, where he fought long and hard against the phasing out of horse power on the Great Western.

 

 

 

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Stationmaster A.Woodcourt served the GWR for 27 years. Farthing was his last post. Throughout his career with the company he was known as a disciplined, meticulous but also somewhat cautious man. It therefore came as a surprise to many when, the day after his retirement, he withdrew his entire savings from the bank, boarded a ship for Brazil and disappeared into the Amazon jungle.

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Brilliant back-story. The chap in the straw boater in the first pic deserves a few words too. Looks a bit of a cad to me.

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I wonder what Kazuo Ishiguro would make of this!

Probably not much biggrin.gif .

 

He might be able to help me find a publisher though. I'm thinking of trying Lame Duck Press (Wild Swan not being interested).

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I'm glad you included the portrait of Mr Woodcourt in his uniform. When I saw the first photo, I thought it was Brian Blessed standing there and was beginning to think this was a spoof with actors and models :rolleyes: but the final portrait has convinced me.

 

As to Mad Charlie, he appears to have his jacket buttoned in the style that I associate with drivers. Perhaps the flapping jacket tails caught on something as he was furiously shovelling, and pitched him off the footplate?

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Straw Boater Man (Terry Thomas accent): "Would one of you splendid chaps be so kind as to carry my trunk to the hansom?"

West Country Porter (in expectation of a hefty tip): "Certainly Sirr."

WCP (attempting to lift trunk): "Arrgh. Urggh... Sir, what 'ave 'ee in 'ere? Is it full of books?"

SBM (twiddling moustache and looking shifty): " Fraid I'm not at liberty to say, old chap. How far is Wild Goose Publications from here?"

 

...continues after the commercial break...

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I'm glad you included the portrait of Mr Woodcourt in his uniform. When I saw the first photo, I thought it was Brian Blessed standing there and was beginning to think this was a spoof with actors and models rolleyes.gif but the final portrait has convinced me.

The stationmaster does look like Brian Blessed, I hadn't thought of that. Life imitates art smile.gif.

 

As to Mad Charlie, he appears to have his jacket buttoned in the style that I associate with drivers. Perhaps the flapping jacket tails caught on something as he was furiously shovelling, and pitched him off the footplate?

There are photos with firemen in that style, but I agree he looks more like a driver as he stands there confidently beside the Stationmaster. And you're right, no doubt the jacket tails caught on something and killed poor Charlie. Perhaps that explains why this style of buttoning the jacket disappeared later on!

 

 

Straw Boater Man (Terry Thomas accent): "Would one of you splendid chaps be so kind as to carry my trunk to the hansom?"

West Country Porter (in expectation of a hefty tip): "Certainly Sirr."

WCP (attempting to lift trunk): "Arrgh. Urggh... Sir, what 'ave 'ee in 'ere? Is it full of books?"

SBM (twiddling moustache and looking shifty): " Fraid I'm not at liberty to say, old chap. How far is Wild Goose Publications from here?"

Aha, the plot thickens! biggrin.gif I think we need to bring in Scotland Yard - incognito you understand:

 

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great thread reminds me of Iain Rice layouts discriptions

I wish! smile.gif The real-life tales found in some of the good line histories are really fascinating though (if perhaps a little less dramatic!). Kevin Robertson's books on the DN&SR for example, with their stories of railway lives. Fascinating stuff!

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