Wednesday 30 May 2012

Epping-Ongar heritage railway reopens after restoration

Photos of Epping Ongar Railway, Chipping Ongar
This photo of Epping Ongar Railway is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Epping-Ongar heritage railway reopens after restoration

Some pleasing local news (local inasmuch as it's in the same county, if not quite as close as I'd like!) in the form of the long-awaited reopening of the Epping-Ongar railway as a heritage line - the longest in Essex!

Closed in 1994, before which it was the easternmost branch of the London Underground Central Line, the Epping-Ongar Railway has since been converted into a tourist line until recently running only diesel and electric stock.

4953 Pitchford Hall, now in use on the Epping-Ongar Railway

Now with the restoration of the line complete, with new track laid and Ongar and North Weald stations revitalised, steam locomotives are now also in use and the line is close to realising its full heritage potential.  Work is still ongoing to link up with the western terminus of Epping but until then a vintage bus service takes passengers the last leg of the way, surely the next best thing!

Photos of Epping Ongar Railway, Chipping Ongar
This photo of Epping Ongar Railway is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Congratulations to the volunteers at Epping-Ongar Railway for reaching this important milestone after 18 years of tireless work.  I'm sure they will succeed in getting to Ongar and making an already excellent heritage line even better, and I wish them the best of luck in that regard.  This is one county-dweller who certainly is proud of this Essex heritage line, which I shall have to make every effort to get to at some point in the future.

Monday 28 May 2012

Rare car buried under a Gloucestershire shed wins an award

Rare car buried under a Gloucestershire shed wins an award

After the pleasant diversion of a blog award it's back to the meat and potatoes of this blog, the "vintage-item-found-in-odd-place" story.  In this case the vintage item is a 1928 MG 14/40 Mark IV and the odd place - underneath a cowshed!

In one of those bizarre instances that I love so much this MG, dismantled and buried shortly before the Second World War, was rediscovered 60 years later and has since been restored to show-winning standard.

What it must have been like to unearth (literally!) an almost complete pre-war MG - in such unusual and unexpected circumstances - can only be imagined.  The story of its fate prior to this is quite remarkable and remains open to speculation.  The idea that it was buried to save it from use in the war effort is an interesting one, but to the best of my knowledge cars of the time were not reused for war materiél although some were of course converted for military service.  The likelihood of a sporty MG being used for such purposes is doubtful, though.  It is always possible, I suppose, that the owner was anticipating the worst-case scenario on the outbreak of hostilities.

Whatever the reason for it ending up where it did its wonderfully preserved condition (albeit in pieces!) has allowed for a splendidly original restoration, allowing it to take its rightful place alongside the few examples of its mark and bodystyle as a rare MG with a fascinating story to tell.

The Artist, now showing in your home!

A quick reminder that today sees the UK release of The Artist on DVD and Blu-Ray.  I trust you've all bought your copies.  Don't get left behind!

Friday 25 May 2012

Another One! (Lovely Blog Award)

Yesterday proved cause for a double bloggy celebration - not only did I hit 150 followers but the charming Anna of the blog Miss Beatrix kindly gave me a One Lovely Blog award.  Thank you, Anna, I'm flattered!

Hello too to all my followers old and new - I hope you're all still enjoying my vintage ramblings.  Now, I'm fully aware that fifty followers ago I promised a giveaway.  I've been a naughtily remiss blogger on that account, but the good news is that I definitely do have something planned for very soon.  The prizes are all set, I have a box in which to send them, so watch this space!

Back to the award, and the same caveats remain for accepting it (although the design seems to have changed since Jennie from It's A Charmed Life munificently gave it back in 2010, unless it's a different "One Lovely Blog" award - "Another Lovely Blog", "One More Lovely Blog", or "Two Lovely Blogs" perhaps? - just joshing, I'm honoured to receive it twice!).

First I of course have to thank the giver and link back to their blog (see first paragraph).  I then have to nominate fifteen other worthy blogs (something that isn't hard) and tell you all seven things about myself (which is!).

Thanks to my prolific use of the "Follow" function in the seven months since my last award, I have many more fine and noteworthy blogs on my list (and more importantly, ones that haven't received this award recently but which truly deserve it).  Here they are (in no particular order, beyond alphabetical!):

  1. A Harem Of Peacocks
  2. Advantage In Vintage 
  3. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes 
  5. Joyness Sparkles 
  6. Lady Jardin - Vintage Views of the South Coast 
  7. La Pépée de Paris 
  8. Lil Vintage Me 
  9. Love Letter from London 
  10. Old Fashioned Susie
  11. Ravishing Retro 
  12. The Diary of Roxie Roulette 
  13. The Lothians 
  14. Vintage Secret 
  15. Wartime Housewife
Now the hard part - seven facts* about me that I haven't told you before!  I have to admit to pinching some ideas from other nominees who have come before me for this time.  Here goes...

  • My favourite blend of tea is Assam.  It has just the right mix of tannins, flavour and strength and makes the perfect cup of char.  I can go for Ceylon sometimes as well, although I tend to find that a bit weaker.  Currently my Assam comes from a certain orange-coloured supermarket but Twinings, Whittards and others have been known to be in my cupboard!
  • I've been drinking tea since I was about 6 months old, when I suddenly went off milk (in all forms) and juices.  Following the doctor's advice to "try him on anything, he has to drink something", a warm and milky cup of tea was proffered and the rest, as they say, is history.
Mmmm, tea! ;-P  Check out that cottage suite - nice, huh?
  • My favourite dessert (and cake) is cheesecake.  Strawberry for preference, although most varieties are appreciated (not so keen on chocolate/toffee, though).  It takes some not inconsiderable restraint to stop myself eating a whole strawberry cheesecake in one sitting.  Yum!
  • I hate self-adhesive stamps.  On a personal level they make me feel like a child playing with stickers instead of a link in the chain of a traditional and time-honoured postal system.  As a philatelist they annoy me because they're the very devil to remove from paper - even prolonged soaking in warm water is not always effective and sometimes leaves a lumpen mess where the glue has remained and dried.  I've managed to overcome the former objection although not without difficulty.  Almost all British stamps are self-adhesive now due to "overwhelming support in public consultations".  It wouldn't have been quite so overwhelming if they'd asked me, I can tell you!  Sometimes I think these "public consultations" exist only in the mind of the companies who quote them, or are at the very least skewed to favour the preferred outcome (I should know, I used to work in market research!).  After much investigation the only stamps I can find that are still gummed are the Country Definitives, which bear the various symbols of each nation of the United Kingdom.  Over time I have stocked up on sheets of these definitives (the 2nd Class English three lions passant, for preference) until I have now got nearly 300 of them, setting me up for the foreseeable future (and avoiding the Royal Mail's recent extortionate price rise, ha ha!).
  •  My favourite board game is Monopoly, but I'm alone in my liking of it, so I almost never get to play it.   I have to make do with Monopoly Deluxe CD-ROM and play against a computer, while hoping to find someone to play my Nostalgia Edition with.  Another of my favourite traditional games that I picked up from a charity shop many years ago is the card game British Towns.  Great fun, and at least the family enjoy it too so I get more of a chance to play it!
  • My first word was nothing so pedestrian as "cat", "dog" or "car".  No, the very first word I ever said was "butterfly" (or to be precise "utterfly", as apparently I didn't quite make the "b")!  What a bright kid - where did it all go wrong, eh?
  • Another of the most highly prized books in my library is a tome entitled Power and Speed: the story of the internal combustion engine on land, at sea and in the air, a 1938 first edition detailing all the latest advancements in engineering in all the disciplines mentioned and with lots of lovey fold-out cutaway drawings of 1930s cars, aeroplanes and boats (including some record-breakers) as seen in magazines of the day such as The Motor and The Aeroplane.  It even has contributions from the likes of Sir Malcolm Campbell and Prince Chula of Siam.  A beautiful book (despite 74 years of age and wear) that I am proud to own. 

Well, there we have it again.  Thanks again to Anna for the award, and I hope you've found at least some of this post interesting(!).  Don't forget to keep your eyes peeled for the forthcoming One Hundred and Fifty Followers Giveaway, in the meantime have a great weekend all!  Enjoy the sunshine now that it's here, and before it goes again!

* interestingness not guaranteed

      Monday 21 May 2012

      Archie Goodwin, Style Icon

      Time for another of my style icons, this time with a bit of a difference.  I said when I first started this series that I would draw inspiration from my favourite actors of the Golden Era but also that I would mix it up now and again with a fictional character from the world of [modern] film or television.  Here is the first.

      I'm currently re-watching my A Nero Wolfe Mystery DVDs so I feel now is the time to do a few caps and find a few pictures of Archie Goodwin, Nero Wolfe's wisecracking leg-man, as portrayed by Timothy Hutton in the 2000-2002 A&E series.  As we only really know Archie from Rex Stout's books and this TV series, this post may take on more of characteristics of a fashion overview (in the manner of the Captain Hastings series) but I will try to look at some of the admirable character traits of Archie, highly stylised for fiction though they may be.

      Snappily-dressed to match his snappy and quick-witted personality, Archie dresses in typical Fifties fashion with added flair.

      As the series was set in a particularly colourful 1950s world (I don't think I've seen such a wonderful use of colour on film since Dick Tracy) Archie can often be seen wearing beautifully-coloured suits, which suit (pardon the pun!) his personality perfectly anyway.  I like to think the Archie of the books is similarly dressed.  Some of the original illustrations go some way to this confirm this.

      Most of the primary colours are represented in suit form, and I want all of them!


      As with all his outfits, he accessorises brilliantly with contrasting ties and pocket squares and occasionally his trusty white trilby.

      His green suit, in certain lights takes on a remarkable turquoise hue and even undone in times of trouble still looks good.

      The red suit is equally covetable - a splendid shade which he contrasts successfully with a dark overcoat and fedora on many occasions.

      And finally the famous white suit - a definite summer staple.  With this snazzy number Archie tends to wear a coloured, striped shirt - usually red or blue - and the matching white hat.  Unfortunately this is a difficult look for us mere mortals to pull off - around here comparisons with Martin Bell or even worse The Man from Del Monte usually result.

      Even sans jacket Archie can still display a variety of colours - an excellent illustration that the main items of a chap's wardrobe aren't the only things that require thought.  What a perfect (and patriotic!) red, white and blue combination!

      As well as these aforementioned accessories, Archie can also be seen brightening up some of his darker (plainer) outfits with that Fifties staple - the Co-respondent/ Spectator shoe.  They suit his personality down to the ground.

      In addition to his Co-respondents Archie frequently uses colourful ties and pocket squares to break up his darker suits.  Red with blacks and greys, yellow with blues, and so on.

      Further on the accessories front, Archie sometimes wears a gorgeous red fedora but is careful never to wear it with his red suit, instead contrasting it with his dark overcoat.

      And when out working on a case, especially in the depths of winter, no-one looks classier than Archie Goodwin in a fedora, overcoat and contrasting scarf.

      Topped off with some lovely touches in the form of spearpoint collars with gold tie-bar, Archie is the consumate dresser.  Then of course there is the classic pinstripe suit:

      Yet even dishevelled and tired, he can still cut a dash!

      The character of Archie Goodwin is revealed partly through his clothes - attentive to detail, serious but with a playful side.  It is a measure of our favourite literary and screen characters that we want to be like them - what I wouldn't give for half of Archie's confidence and ability (not to mention his wardrobe!).

      A street-smart ladies' man who can bluff, rough-house it, socialise and investigate with the best of them, Archie Goodwin is an all-round solid fellow, expertly essayed by Timothy Hutton in the A&E series.  As such he fully qualifies as a Style Icon.

      Of course special recognition in this case should go to series' costume designer Christopher Hargadon.  And no discussion of A Nero Wolfe Mystery would be complete without a mention for the man himself, Nero Wolfe as brilliantly portrayed by the late great Maury Chakin.  Just as inspiring for his love and use of the colour yellow (also my favourite), he is proof of that which is contained in the original Chap Manifesto - "a well-tailored suit can disguise the most ruined of bodies."

      Thursday 17 May 2012

      A history of accident prevention posters revealed

      A history of accident prevention posters revealed

      We tend to bemoan the modern Health & Safety culture, deeming it to be a product of today's risk-averse society where common sense and personal responsibility are going the same way as common courtesy and good manners.  We look at the past as a time when danger was a far greater fact of life and litigation was something reserved for serious crimes.


      To an extent this outlook is true, but safety at work and play was very much considered even as long ago as the 1930s as this latest display from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents' archives goes to prove.

      In pictures: RoSPA posters go on display

      Far more stylish than today's stark warnings, these old posters still manage to get their point across with ease and directness, while at the same time making the viewer think more clearly and (in some cases) to see how such accidents can occur and the results of them.  It is remarkable to note the difference between the modern "instructive" format and the older "advisory" approach.  Like so many things in those days - film, television programmes, newspapers - people were obviously expected to have a brain and to reason out and make inferences from these signs rather than be spoon-fed ever more comprehensive instructions as they are today.  Whether such a style of warning sign would work now I wouldn't like to say, but I know which I prefer!

      These images form just a minuscule part of 700 posters dating from between the 1930s and 1970s that were found by RoSPA while they were clearing out one of their warehouses (and obeying Health & Safety regulations, one imagines!).  Now they can be saved for future generations, as indeed they have been with photographic copies being displayed in Birmingham and prints available online from The RoSPA Collection.

      These warning posters provide a fascinating insight into a past that was also concerned with safety, but which went about it in a far more wide-ranging, all-encapsulating manner.  I could see my old workplace being spruced up quite nicely with a few of these numbers.  They're great fun to look at, but the message is still clear.  Don't forget to be careful out there!


      Tuesday 15 May 2012

      Radio-controlled Spitfire achieves cross-Channel flight


      Radio-controlled Spitfire achieves cross-Channel flight

      A Spitfire crossing the Channel is by no means a new thing - after all they were doing it every day 70 years ago - but this is the first one where the "pilot" has been controlling it from another aeroplane!  Of course, the reason for this is that the Spit in question is in fact a ¼-scale model.

      A bit of fun on the part of the aircraft's builder - who quite understandably wanted to undertake the ultimate test-flight - the crossing is also a minor testament to those young men who flew the real thing during the war, ending as it did at the Spitfire & Hurricane Museum at Manston in Kent.

      Scale model aircraft have obviously come a long way for one to be able to cross the Channel in under an hour at an average speed of 100mph.  It certainly puts my Airfix models, polystyrene & elastic-band wind-up kits and an old petrol-powered wood-and-papier-mâché Spit that was controlled by two metal wires and which could only be flown around in circles(!) into perspective!

      A super-realistic model able to fly over long distances (albeit with the controller in attendance!) must surely be the next-best thing to the real article.  I hope Mr Booth continues to enjoy his aeroplane, and maybe even take it on further long-distance flights.

      Friday 11 May 2012

      WWII fighter plane found preserved in the Sahara

      WWII fighter plane found preserved in the Sahara

      Hot on the heels of the twenty Spitfires discovered in Burma comes this equally remarkable, albeit far more bittersweet, story of a lone Curtiss P-40 Kittyhawk that has been found in the Sahara desert.

      Despite having crash-landed on the sand 70 years ago the aircraft is apparently in very good condition overall, the result of laying undisturbed in the dry and rarefied atmosphere of the Sahara for the last seven decades.

      An important machine to many air forces, particularly with the famous "Flying Tigers" of the Chinese Air Force in 1941-42 and the USAAF in the first months of the Pacific campaign (as well as with the RAAF & RNZAF later in the same theatre), the Kittyhawk (and earlier Tomahawk) was also used in large numbers by the RAF in North Africa as part of the Desert Air Force.  Considered superior to the Hurricane and early marks of Spitfire in the dusty, arid conditions of the desert the Kittyhawk was the main Allied fighter aircraft in the North African theatre for several months of 1941-42.

      World War II RAF Kittyhawk fighter plane found in the Sahara Desert in Egypt

      It was in one of these RAF Kittyhawks that Flight Sergeant Dennis Copping (a native of my nearby town of Southend) was flying on the 24th June 1942 when he got in to trouble - probably lost - and was forced to belly-land many miles from civilisation.  Now, 70 years after he and his aircraft were last seen, the discovery of his crashed aircraft, discarded parachute and wireless equipment tell the sad story of what happened to him.  It seems fairly certain that having failed to summon help by radio he made a futile attempt to reach the nearest settlement but succumbed to the harshness of the desert.

      Now this chance discovery has set the historic aviation world a-twitter and work is already underway to return the Kittyhawk to the UK for it to be put on display at the RAF Museum in Hendon.  A search is also being carried out for the remains of Flt. Sgt. Copping and it is to be hoped that, if he is found, he will be repatriated along with his aircraft or at the very least given a proper military burial.  It would also be nice if his aeroplane - restored or not - were kept as a permanent memorial to the man.  Although I can understand the feelings of some who think it should be left where it is (particularly if F/S Copping isn't found) as a sort of war grave, the ever-present threat of trophy-hunters and scrap merchants makes such a course of action undesirable.

      World War II fighter found in Egyptian desert

      Whether or not the pilot is found the momentous discovery of this aircraft has at least answered the question of what became of him and his memory can be forever honoured by the display of his Kittyhawk, an important historical find on its own and a fine tribute to the man.

      Thursday 10 May 2012

      Museum marks end of the trolleybus era

      What Goes Around from David Doré on Vimeo.

      Museum marks end of the trolleybus era

      Fifty years ago this month the last trolleybus ran its final scheduled service in the capital before the type was withdrawn in favour of more modern buses such as the Routemaster.  Sixty years ago the last few trams disappeared from the City's streets.  To celebrate this double anniversary - and also to remember the trolleybuses that ran in the nearby towns of Ipswich and Southend - the East Anglia Transport Museum held a special two-day gala event to remember these forgotten forms of public transport.

      Eight London Transport trolleybuses were on show at the museum - the most all together in one place since they went out of service - and it is fascinating to see how quiet and efficient they still are today.  Eventually undone by [then-cheap] diesel-powered buses that were not constrained by route-defining overhead wires or the risk of those same wires coming adrift, trolleybuses had faded into obscurity - in this country at least - by 1962 and had completely vanished from the country ten years later.  But at their height they were seen as the future of public transport - clean, fast, modern and the natural successor to the open trams that plied the same routes.

      Those same trams were evolving too, and new enclosed models allowed them to stay in the capital for only ten years less than the trolleybuses.  In fact, trams could be said to have held on better than trolleybuses, for as well as the world-famous examples in Brighton new tram networks have been reintroduced in Croydon, Manchester, Sheffield, Nottingham, the West Midlands and (eventually) Edinburgh.

      However while trolleybuses, like trams, have remained popular in Europe it is only now - in light of so much environmental concern - that they are being brought back to Britain.  A new 21st Century trolleybus is being planned for Leeds.  If it is successful other cities may follow suit.  As the title of the accompanying video so presciently states: what goes around... comes around.  Something we all know well, eh?

      Sadly I was not able to attend the East Anglia Transport Museum for this particular celebration but I have been in the past, when I took these pictures.  The great thing about museum exhibits and vintage vehicles like these is - they don't date!  It was a thoroughly enjoyable visit at the time and has stayed in my memory ever since.  I am long due a return visit and I would thoroughly recommend it as a day out if you are ever in the area.  It's simply smashing to see so many people turn out to celebrate the classic tram and trolleybus, and to know there are still enthusiasts around to ensure these wonderful machines keep running.  Long may they continue, and perhaps we shall see these vehicles' spiritual successors in cities up and down the country in the future.

      Wednesday 9 May 2012

      Photos of life in the British Raj in India are found in a shoe box


      Raj pictures found in shoe box at Edinburgh national collection

      Another shoe-box full of never-before-seen historic photographs!  Where are they all coming from?  And why aren't we finding them?!

      This time the welcome find consists of 178 - yes, one hundred and seventy-eight - negatives untouched for almost 100 years and detailing life in India during the time of the British Raj.  Featuring myriad images of British diplomats and grand occasions such as the visit of King George V and Queen Mary in 1912, the collection also includes many fascinating scenes of local life and people going about their business.  Some of the pictures hardly look a century old.


      Photos of life in the British Raj in India are found in a shoe box

      Surprisingly little is known about a lot of the photos and even less about the photographer so it is hoped that the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland can, with the help of photography experts, historians and members of the public, find out a great deal more about these wonderful images and who took them.


      Described as a "treasure trove", they certainly are that and more.  An amazing set of photographs that provide a remarkable insight into British and Indian way of life in the Raj one hundred years ago, with luck the RCAHMS will put them on display and made available to the public.  Already all 178 images have found their way on to the Commission's digital archive and many are available to view online now.  Another set of rare images to immerse myself in?  Yes please!

      Monday 7 May 2012

      Hindenburg 75th anniversary gathers last witnesses to the airship

      Hindenburg 75th anniversary gathers last witnesses to the airship

      This year marked a particularly famous centenary of an historic transportation disaster - the sinking of the RMS Titanic - but it is also the anniversary of another well-known tragedy.  Seventy-five years ago yesterday, the airship LZ-129 Hindenburg exploded and crashed over Lakehurst, New Jersey, killing 36 people and effectively putting an end to the airship as a means of passenger travel.

      The German airship Hindenburg was destroyed by fire in Lakehurst, NJ, 75 years ago

      Just as with the Titanic, a memorial ceremony took place at Lakehurst but unlike the great ocean liner's demise there are still witnesses to the Hindenburg disaster alive to recollect the event and offer their own theories as to why the giant hydrogen-filled airship exploded (although we may never know the exact cause for certain). These memories provide a fascinating and oft-forgotten insight into that fateful day in history.

      The Hindenburg should, however, be remembered not just for its fiery death - broadcast on newsreel around the world - but as a truly great wonder of the modern age.  Today's airships may have been relegated to observation and transport work for the military or short scenic flights and advertising, but they are by no means an extinct aircraft and one day in the not-so-distant future we may see their like gracing the skies more widely again.  In the meantime we look back and remember this colossus of the air and its untimely end in which 36 people lost their lives.


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