The Missing Slides

According to Wikipedia, ‘The Bluebell Railway is a heritage line running for 11 mi (17.7 km) along the border between East and West Sussex, England] It uses steam trains which operate between Sheffield Park  and East Grinstead, with intermediate stations at Horsted Keynes & Kingscote.

The first preserved standard gauge steam-operated passenger railway in the world to operate a public service,[1] the Society ran its first train on 7 August 1960, less than three years after the line from East Grinstead to Lewes had been closed by British Railways.

On 23 March 2013, the Bluebell Railway commenced running through to its new East Grinstead terminus station. At East Grinstead there is a connection to the UK National Network, the first connection of the Bluebell Railway to the national network (in 50 years) since the Horsted Keynes – Haywards Heath line closed in 1963.

Today the railway is managed and run largely by volunteers. Having preserved a number of steam locomotives even before the cessation of steam service on British mainline railways in 1968, today it has the largest collection (over 30) of steam locomotives in the UK after the National Railway Museum. The Society also has a collection of almost 150 carriages and wagons, most of them pre-1939.

By August 1969, therefore, the steam trains that had run past 29a Stanton Road, where I grew up, no longer ran past the maisonette. Perhaps that is why Jackie and I, with Michael and Matthew, joined our then friends, Sue and Keith Bannister for a ride on the Sussex tracks. Keith and I both took our cameras to record the event.Sue, Keith, and Matthew 8.69Jackie and Matthew 8.69

Today I scanned most of my batch of slides. The first set were taken inside the historic train. Matthew probably didn’t appreciate a camera being pointed in his direction.

These old corridor trains contained carriages in which two rows of people occupying upholstered seats that can be seen in the first two pictures faced each other. Not counting those who, in the rush hour, were forced to stand, there was room for perhaps a dozen passengers in each compartment on the national railways. The story of how two of my classmates ensured their sole occupancy of such a set of seats at such a time is told in ‘The Drain’.

Keith and Michael each spent some time standing at the windows in the doors. Keith 8.69Michael 8.69

It is not possible, as is often done in period dramas, to open these doors on the move, and looking out of the windows was not recommended. This is because there were no electronic locking devices in those days. The window was lowered or raised by adjusting the notches holding a leather strap, and the door had an albeit strong levered catch. If you wished to hang outside the carriage, either to get a breath of fresh air or to escape a would-be murderer, you could. Similarly, by doing what Keith was doing, you could risk being decapitated as the conveyance careered through a tunnel. Michael was still short enough not to be tempted into such risky behaviour, and Keith would, no doubt, have drawn his head in when necessary.

The differences in approach to photographing the trains in their yards between Keith and me was interesting. Keith concentrated on the whole train in its setting, whereas I focussed on sections in close up. Unfortunately only one of my efforts has survived. This is because I was so pleased with them I had some A3 prints made by a professional and somehow managed to lose the original slides. Only one of the prints is still in my possession, and that is too large for my scanner.

So how was I to reproduce it for this post?

Obviously I needed to photograph the photograph. But I am no Ken Morse, and without his rostrum camera, there was bound to be some distortion at the edges of the new picture. A very small amount of trimming was required.

Here is the sole representative of an afternoon’s exploration of beautifully polished brass, heavy wheels, and all the other delightful examples of that machine age:Steam dome

I always delight in asking viewers of this print what they think is being portrayed. What do you think? The answer will be provided tomorrow.

This evening we dined on pork rib rack with a barbecue glaze, stir fry peppers and onions, fried rice and green beans followed by rice pudding and strawberry jam. Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Bordeaux.



The rain kept off and we had a very pleasant day.  I was able to dig more of the shrubbery bed and do some pruning before visitors began to arrive.  These comprised my niece Danni and her partner Andy; Chris and Frances’ daughter ( my niece) Fiona, her husband Paul and their six month old son, James; and my mother.  As was mentioned, James, the delightful latest member of the clan, had three greats in the gathering, Elizabeth and me as great aunt and uncle and my mother as great grandmother.  We spanned practically ninety years.

Taking a break to watch the Jubilee flotilla on the Thames we Shared Danni’s excitement at the appearance on screen of ‘Tenacious’ and two of the Pilgrim brothers.  Danni works part-time at the Jubilee Sailing Trust, a registered charity which manages two tall ships, one of which is the ‘Tenacious’.  These offer sailing holidays all over the world.  Their two ships are the only ones designed to enable people of all levels of physical ability to sail together as equals.  One of the brothers interviewed was able bodied; the other severely disabled by meningitis in earlier life.  Danni was particularly pleased that two representatives of the Pilgrim family had been chosen for interview.

The waterborne theme continued when Fiona asked me for advice about fundraising for particular physical feats.  She has a friend who is wanting to climb Kilimanjaro in memory of another whose ambition to do the same has recently been cut short by an early death.  She needs to raise money for the trip.  The reason I was asked was because of Sam’s ocean rowing achievement.  He had formed his own charitable company to raise funds for his row.  Anyone who has read my post of 28th. May will realise that I wasn’t the most successful fundraiser.  Nevertheless I was able to give her some ideas. My approach to Samsonite to suggest they might like their logo on Samson Knight’s boat was quite fruitless.  Given that he won the race, I think that was rather short-sighted of them.  Fiona and her parents had made the trip to Barbados to welcome Sam’s arrival there after 59 days at sea.

Comparing James’ electronic musical toys with the wartime toys available to his grandfather and me led us into the perennial discussion we have when we all get together about the rapid technological progress which has taken place in our lifetimes, let alone Mum’s.  Mum and I reminisced about an Intercity train trip we had taken about twenty years ago from Newark to York.  She had been absolutely amazed at the modern 125.  She had not been on a train for fifty years.  Then many still ran on steam, and carriages were designed to consist of several compartments each with their own separate doors.  Those were the days of the named locomotives and there was no ‘leaves on the line’ problem.  I am told railwaymen say that this is because the stoker’s embers burned off the leaves from overhanging trees.  Steam trains ran past the maisonette in Raynes Park in which we grew up.  They were splendid specimens often hauling most ornate Pullman carriages.  We all got excited when they puffed past and we could check their names.  Each one bore a different name and we ‘collected’ them.  Mum reminded me today that that up to the minute train to York had also carried the passengers from a broken down one bound for Durham.  She had been wondering whether perhaps it would be easier for her to travel by train than by car from Southampton to Newark.  That particular element of our journey had put her off the idea.

For the evening meal Danni and Andy produced a very tasty chicken casserole which we enjoyed with various assorted wines.  Danni told the assembled company about a misunderstanding that had arisen between her and me earlier on.  She and Andy had been driving out and I had stopped them to find out whether they were coming back.  ‘I’m only going to my Dad’s to collect something.  We’ll be back later.’  she’d said.  ‘Buy him some mudguards’  I had replied.  ‘Really?’ said Danni, quizzically.  ‘Yes’, said I, ‘I don’t have a problem with him’.  She drove away looking puzzled.  Some way down the road she realised that what I had actually said had been ‘give him my regards’.