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If Only I Had .......


by Bob Brown


My first camera was a Brownie 127, fixed focus, fixed exposure and a proclivity to take banana shaped pictures of anything of any length (especially railway engines).


In order to solve this problem I bought, with the aid of a donation from my parents, a more sophisticated replacement which took 2.25 inch square negatives (I do not appear to have fractions on this damned keyboard) and set off on numerous trips photographing lots of three quarter front views of steam locomotives.


If only I had considered the infrastructure and other paraphernalia I would have quite an archive to refer to for our projects for the Friends.


I did, however sometimes stray from the main line companies and on at least one occasion visited Burton upon Trent, where I stumbled across the Bass Brewery railway and took a few photographs with my trusty camera. Some years later I was returning from a trip to York via the Swinton and Knottingly Joint through Bolton on Dearne when out of the corner of my eye I saw what appeared to be a Bass Brewery locomotive by the goods shed. I decided to return the following weekend in order to take some pics.


There she was, Bass Brewery no. 7, a very elegant machine, minus coupling rods, but otherwise intact. With a heavy heart I duly took a pre mortem photo.


By the scrap pile stood the partially dismantled remains of a Worthington Brewery saddle tank. I duly photographed the dismembered corpse of this previously beautiful engine and returned home thinking if only I had explored Burton more on my first visit I may have seen this engine in all its glory.


I was reminded of these events by a couple of photographs published in Railway Bylines vol.14, issue 1 published December 2008.



Taking a Look Back


by Mick Yarker.


For a change I am not looking at an old issue of the Great Western Railway Magazine. I have usually chosen articles for 'Taking a Look Back' which cover lesser-known aspects of the G.W.R. All enthusiasts know about the locomotives, and that the railway carried goods as well as passengers, but the Great Western was not satisfied with just that, far from it.


They also operated a massive fleet of road delivery vehicles both horse-drawn and motor as we know from our activities with the G.W.R lorries and drays, and they also had a fleet of ocean-going ships & canal boats. They even operated a bus service too. (Locally, a bus ran from Bridgnorth to Wolverhampton, and the remains of the bus garage still exist behind our storage shed at Kidderminster. The company had its own hotels as well, all these facets of operation fitting together like a jigsaw puzzle, and complimenting one another.


It is no surprise, therefore, that the G.W.R ran its own airline! It was the first railway company to do so, hiring three Westland Wessex monoplanes from Imperial Airways and painting them in the corporate colour scheme of chocolate and cream. The service began operating from Plymouth's Rodborough Airport via Haldon Aerodrome to Cardiff in April 1933. Connecting buses operated from Haldon to Torquay and Teignmouth. A single journey from Plymouth to Cardiff was £3-10s-0d and a return £6-0s-0d. Torquay or Teignmouth to Plymouth were £1-15s-0d single and £3-0s-0d return. In May that year the service was extended to run Plymouth – Cardiff – Birmingham(Castle Bromwich). There was a connecting bus to the main line stations of each city. The fare was reduced, becoming £3-0s-0d single and £5-10s-0d return between Plymouth and Birmingham. This compared well with a first class single ticket between the two cities which was £2-5s-3d. The journey by aeroplane took 170 minutes as compared to 320 minutes by train.


Each passenger was allowed 35 lbs hand luggage with an excess of 6d per lb. Heavier luggage up to 150 lbs could be conveyed to the destination free of charge by train. When the first season's service closed for the winter on September 30th, 714 passengers had been carried along with 104 lbs of freight and 454 lbs of mail. The mail was not run in co-operation with the GPO. In addition to the normal stamp there was an additional charge of 3d.


The next season, 1934, the GWR service was operated by the 'Railway Air Services Ltd'. Which was a newly formed joint venture of all the big four railway companies and Imperial Airways. This article was inspired by a piece in the December 2008 edition of Fly Past, which deals with the restoration of a Dehavilland Dragon Rapide passenger aeroplane at Reynolds-Alberta Museum Wetaskiwin, Canada.


This aeroplane is the oldest Rapide in existence, being the fifth built, and being registered G-ACPP and named 'City of Bristol'. It began its working career in 1934 flying for the Railway Air Services (RAS), painted white, and with red and black lines along the fuselage, and lettered in red and black. In August 1935 'City of Bristol' was flying from Le Touquet to Shoreham and in poor light and low cloud making an abrupt landing in a hedge on the Isle of Wight while looking for land. It was the sight of a lighthouse that guided her to comparative safety!


On 31st January 1939 'City of Bristol', together with sister G-ACPR 'City of Birmingham' and Dragon2 G-ADDI 'City of Cardiff' were transferred from the RAS to the newly formed Great Western and Southern Airlines, a joint venture by the GWR and SR. This saw 'City of Bristol' operating the Land's End to Scilly Isles route and in the evenings helping with army searchlight training. Following declaration of war she was requisitioned to 'C' flight of 24 Squadron, flying from Hendon, before returning to the GW&SA until 1941.


She then went to Scottish Airlines, and on nationalisation of all of Britain's transport system in 1948, became part of the British European Airways fleet along with the GW&SA aeroplanes at the same time. This was the end of the Great Western Railway too, and an end to railway-associated airlines. After passing through a number of hands, she was shipped to Canada in 1961. She flew until 1963 and was put in store. Finally in a very deteriorated state she was acquired by the Reynolds-Alberta Museum and is being restored as a static exhibit, just one of seventy aeroplanes in their collection.


A die cast model of 'City of Bristol' is available in 1/72 scale (00) from Collectors Aircraft Models. It is finished in the authentic RAS livery of white with black wings and a black and red flash along the fuselage. 'Railway Air Services' is in white in a red panel and the name is picked out in black. The model retails at £189.95. For a little less money you can have a flight in a Dragon Rapide! A company called Buyagift organises flights from Duxford, Cambridgeshire for as little as £140.00, which includes a visit to the aircraft museum there.


There is an excellent book which deals with the history of the RAS in much greater detail. It is titled 'Railway Air Services' by John Stroud and published by Ian Allan. ISBN 0-7110-1743-3

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