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STEWART BLENCOWE
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News & Jottings

Here we are, half way through 2017 and I find myself rather behind on the website maintenance front. Not entirely my fault I hasten to add as Microsoft forces me down the Windows 10 route and as a consequence certain things then refuse to work. Thanks to one of my sons we are back in action but much head scratching and muttering went on in the meantime. So apologies to everyone - hopefully we are now back on track.

The first half of the year has also seen us increasingly busy in the Gloucester Antiques Centre. Rather pleasingly more people are finding us and, as ever, it has been a struggle keeping a range of nice affordable items on view before they are whisked away by eager purchasers. Which rather nicely brings me round to the following comment.

Following several abortive days out around antique and junk shops I have been stunned by the prices some dealers are trying to charge. Of course antique dealers know nothing about railwayana but price it high on the basis that it is railway and anything railway has to be worth a lot. This is not helped by the numerous and dubious 'flog-it' type programmes on the mass media. We have recently seen Adlakes signal lamps at 145 and 225 pounds, LNER enamel poster-board header damaged for 275 pounds and a BRWR waiting room enamel at 345 pounds. Is there anyone out there who pays these sort of prices? Makes our offerings in the Antique Centre look very cheap indeed! Rant over!

For no particular reason this years trips have got off to a rather slow start and didn’t really kick off until May. The Irish Railway Record Society has, for many years, been known for running some excellent railtours using various motive power and travelling over a variety of lines. Of this I am continually reminded by a colleague who had had the fortune to experience them in the early 1960’s. Though the motive power is fair more predictable these days and many of the lines have closed or disappeared, on the principal that ‘it’s never too late’, I made the booking for this May’s trip.

The available five day programme included travelling on the empty stock workings, a one day diesel tour and a two day steam tour – take your pick. Demands elsewhere meant we could only join the two day steam section. The news on joining the train at Dublin was that the 4-4-0 had failed but 2-6-4T No.4 would take over for the whole two days.

And so we travelled the lines from Dublin to Portarlington, Athenry, and Gort to Limerick on the first day, and on the second day returned to Dublin via Limerick Jc, Waterford and Kilkenny. The overnight stay in Limerick was arranged by the Society as were packed lunches and, of course, Guinness, on the train. For me a highlight was a return to the Athenry-Limerick line which was mothballed in the undergrowth when I visited ten years ago. At Gort, there had been lines of rolling stock covered in brambles and along the line stood abandoned signal boxes and leaning telegraph poles. However the phoenix has risen and now you would never guess just how derelict it had been.

No.4 performed faultlessly, a credit to the society, and it was certainly full marks for the organization overall. If you are thinking of going, go soon as I was told by one organizer that ‘we’re not getting any younger’. I also have to mention the printed tour guide provided for the trip – an absolutely superb potted history with entertaining stories of the lines and places visited – reread since we got back as well! All in all, I hope to be back next year.

The bags hardly had time to settle before we were off again, this time to Austria. It had been forty-three years since our last visit, a visit which concentrated on the Iron Mountain with it’s wonderful steam rack line out of Vordenberg. That’s long gone of course and this visit was much closer to a ‘normal’ holiday than I would like, but we did manage to ensure rides on the Zillertalbahn, Achenseebahn and the Pinzgaubahn to Krimml.

I find Austrian railways very similar to Swiss railways but actually not quite as interesting. However, trains run on time, facilities work and are impressive, and the whole railway is obviously far more customer focused than certain other systems one can think of. A classic example is the Zillertalbahn, a narrow gauge, community run line of some thirty miles long to Mayrhofen. Even on a Sunday the service is half-hourly. Due to engineering work over a two mile section the gap was filled by a bus service manned by the train staff whose diligence ensured that no passengers were left behind. Full marks.

It was very refreshing to see the sheer amount of freight on the Austrian railways. A daily early morning walk from our hotel at Oberndorf was usually rewarded with plenty of freight action in between the passengers. The journey to and from Austria was broken at Nuremberg and Mannheim where incredibly our hotels, right by the stations, overlooked the lines, where the long procession of freights belied the fact that German rail freight is in the doldrums.

Since arriving back two mini-trips are worth a mention. Firstly, a look at the Lynton & Barnstaple. To my shame it’s taken this long for my first visit to this amazing resurrection. Full marks and good luck to them in their efforts. Having now visited I can understand why the original was such a failure.

Secondly, were a few days on the Isle of Wight with the purpose of travelling on the Ryde-Shanklin ‘underground’. With stock over eighty years old, the ride was bouncy to say the least, but I had forgotten just how comfortable the seats were. A forthcoming change of franchise is likely to see significant changes and certain withdrawal to these veterans.

So thats it for the moment and we eagerly await our postponed trip to Columbia and Ecuador in October. Hopefully this time the God's will smile and we actually get to go.

In the meantime, the usual pleas for photographs should anyone be downsizing. I currently have three collections of material awaiting collection around the country so there should be some good stuff coming through shortly.

Otherwise do make contact if there is anything specific you need or come a say hello if you actually notice me on the stand somewhere.

I am an avid collector of Indian railway publicity, guides, books, folders, leaflets etc. In line with English railways, such publicity started with the original Indian companies, the Bombay, Baroda and Central India, the Bengal Nagpur, the East Indian etc in late Victorian times and continued up to the 1950s. I am particularly trying to obtain all the folders, like the one illustrated below, and would love to hear from anyone who has one of the following;

Big Game Shooting in India
India and the Tourist
India for the Tourist
Tourist Cars
Indian Cameos
South India
Travancore
Kangra Valley
Delhi