Monthly Archives: January 2015

Bob Symes (1924 – 2015)

In a rare departure from my general policy of ignoring of topics beyond strictly modelling, I thought I really ought to comment on the passing of Bob Symes at the beginning of this week

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To those in the UK of my age, you probably will have first encountered Bob as the presenter of the Model World TV series in the early 1970s.   This was a series of six (I think) episodes, each dealing with a different modelling subject; military modelling, ship modelling, aeroplane modelling and, of course, model railways.  You couldn’t see the BBC risking BBC channel 73 with a series on making models now, let alone a prime evening slot on BBC 2 which is where I think these were aired.  Most of the episodes are available on youtube (for example this one) and whilst perhaps the quality of modelling has come quite a long way in the last 40 years, I wonder if the charm that Bob seemed to impart to his interest may have been lost?  And for you that really were there watching these back in the 1970’s, the opening music will instantly wipe away the years………….

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Thereafter, I encountered Bob quite regularly as he was the president of my then local model railway club; the Astolat Club in Guildford.  He would attend most of the Astolat’s shows and was always encouraging to the efforts of the juniors, such as myself, which was certainly appreciated.  He would also have an open day at his house in the summer where you could get to see and play with his trainsets – and didn’t he have a few!   It is not everyone that has what must be something like a 12 inch guage circuit in their garden; and gauge 1 circuit, and a couple of others besides and that is even before you get to his steam powered generator and water pump!

Bob Symes

I still pass close by to where he lived quite regularly and thought I ought to see if I could get a further invite.  Now the chance is gone.  So rest in peace Bob, you definitely were an asset to the hobby.

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The majority of these photographs are with thanks to Guy Carpenter of Gullwing Photography and he retains copyright of them.  For more information please go to Guy’s website and for some more of Guy’s fine photographs of his visit to Bob’s house please go here.


The Hundred of Manhood and Selsey Tramway

On Sunday, I got to play trains on something that is mildly different for me.  This is a layout called Selsey Town which depicts the same on one of the best named railways you can imagine – the Hundred of Manhood and Selsey Tramway (you couldn’t make it up could you?).

This line was one of Colonel Stephen’s light railways; this being engineered by him, managed by him and largely owened by him at the end.  The line was incorporated in 1896 and opened the following year.  It ran from Chichester, which was on the LBSC coast line about 25 miles west of Brighton down to Selsey which was on the coast.  It ran across predominantly flat ground but this was quite marshy (indeed, floods severed the line on a number of occassions).

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In typical Colonel Stephens style, the line was a real hotch potch of cobbled together equipment that was patch, patched again and then patched some more to get it to go.  The line operated without Board of Trade approval for its first thirty years on the basis that it operated exclusively on private land.  My knowledge of the controls is that this can’t be true, but it certainly did not have approvals in place until much later in its life.


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The line was famous for the first use of petrol railcars; something of a calling card for Colonel Stephen’s lines.  These came in several different forms and on the layout a pair of them work back to back.  There are apparently plans for a further pair; one of which will be a flat bad lorry.  To bad if the compartment is full!

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One rather curious procedure that happened on the real line was the some waht unorthadox mixed trains.  On the outward journey from Chichester the wagons would be tucked behind the coaches but on the return journey they were sometimes propelled by the train, whilst the remainder of the train was pulled.  Somehow, I don’t think the Board of Trade would have approved!photo 9

The layout was built by Keith Smith; although he was convalescing so was not actually there – thats why they needed a bit of assistance and how I bummed my invite!  Keith’s pleasure is making the scenary and there are large number of very well executed people and cameos on the layout.  Here are a couple; an artist being interrogated by a shepherd and a little boy going through a rather more severe interrogation from a police office – I wonder if Dixon of Dock Green will see the caterpolt behind the boy’s back?

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And finally, here are a couple of postcards of what the line lloked like in real life; with those Ford Railcars out in action.  The line was famous for the poor condition of its trackwork; a point that can’t be disputed by the first photograph at least!  The line eventually closed in 1935, a few years after Colonal Stephens died and now there is very little remaining of it.


Selsey ST postcard

Compare this!

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NER Hoppers – Part 2; liveries

I have made more progress with the hoppers, having completed the main paintwork of these and also the lettering.

Both the livery and the lettering offer further opportunities for variety, which I have taken.  First up are a pair of wagons lettered with the full legend “North Eastern Railway”; a livery applied on some of them upto 1903.  This was a fair pain to create, as the full words had to be spelt out from an alphabet; even now I am not totally happy with this and a few tweeks to some of the letters is possible.

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The most common livery for the period that Benfieldside is set (just prior to the first war), was the livery applied between 1903 and 1911 and the legend NER was used.

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The final livery was on a darker grey and NER was dropped and replaced with a mere NE.  This vehicle had a load designation on its end too, which appeared to be an occasional feature.

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Once I have had a chance to tidy up the lettering, I will paint the interior a dirty black and speckle it with coal dust.  I will also make a coal load.  Then these need the application of grunge as I can’t believe that coal wagons were kept particularly well!

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