Tuesday 27 February 2018

Golden Age (3) : The Lake District Murder

Theatre director and producer Ernest Elmore wrote thirty detective novels under the name John Bude of which The Lake District Murder was one of the earliest. It was first published in 1935 and recently has been republished as part of the British Library Crime Classics series.

The Lake District Murder is the earliest Meredith story, the Inspector appearing in most of Bude's novels. In this case Meredith investigates the apparent suicide of the owner of a remote roadside petrol station in the Lake District. As the case progresses we see that it was murder not suicide and wrapped up in a complicated plot involving illegal whisky stills.

As a detective novel The Lake District Murder works very well. Meredith is meticulous and thorough though sometimes the novel goes into a little too much detail. The part of the investigation that involves weights and measures for example could probably have done with a little heavy editing!

For a second novel though it is excellent work. Bude manages to portray the geography of the setting very well. The Lake District becomes one of the principal characters indeed.

Sunday 25 February 2018

National Emergency Services Museum

A highlight of my trip to Sheffield yesterday was to visit the National Emergency Services Museum, a former combined police and fire station now a museum packed with old police cars, ambulances, fire engines and the like... even a life boat! It really is my kind of museum, rammed full of exhibits. The museum is highly recommended, as it highlights some very important and sometimes overlooks aspects of society and covers some very interesting history. You can see my photos here.

Saturday 24 February 2018


I've been through the city a few times but today was the first time i've stopped off at Sheffield and explored it, and what a great place! A very impressive city, modern and regenerating with a great tram system too. I travelled on the tram a bit, also walking along the river Don and visited the National Emergency Services Museum (we'll look more into that in a later blog post).

You can see my railway and tram photos here. I'll definitely be coming back some day!

Wednesday 21 February 2018

Three lifeboats at Gloucester Docks

Three preserved lifeboats on display at Gloucester Docks on the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal, see below for a short history of each boat.
RNLB Richard Vernon and Mary Garforth of Leeds was built in 1957 and served at Angle and Whitlow until 1988 when she was retired and sold [1].

RNLB Dorothy and Philip Constant was built in 1962 and like the first boat also served as a lifeboat until 1988. In it's RNLI career it was stationed at Shoreham, Oban and Relief [2].

RNLB Robert Patton (later renamed The Always Ready) is the oldest of the trio of lifeboats, dating from 1933. It served at Runswick until 1954 until being sold. First the boat served as a pilot at Sharpness Docks before entering private ownership [3].

[1] Nicholas Leach and Tony Denton, Lifeboat Directory (Ships in Focus, 2013) p. 72
[2] Ibid p. 78
[3] Ibid p. 43

Tuesday 20 February 2018

Golden Age (2) : Murder Underground

The British Library have re-published dozens of Golden Age crime novels, many by authors now largely forgotten. Mavis Doriel Hay wrote three crime novels in the mid-1930s of which this, Murder Underground, was the first.

Like many Golden Age authors her career was cut short by the Second World War and the chaos caused during and after it and she never added to her three novels post-war. Though she did write some non-fiction books in the 1950s and 1970s.

Her first novel Murder Underground, which deals with the investigation (largely by amateurs) of the murder of a woman at Belsize Park tube station, can be best thought of as "promising". The set-up of the story is well done and interesting but unfortunately the story meanders a bit too much with the characters being rather one-dimensional and mostly unlikeable.

Towards the end of the book though it really starts to pick up once the story seems to get some direction and the ending is excellent, it is just a shame the earlier two-thirds of the book are a bit lacking.

Overall though a good enough read, and it has a lovely painting of a 1938 Tube Stock train on the cover!

Saturday 17 February 2018

Two special trains at Stafford

I went to Stafford station this morning to take a few photos of two specials which went through the station. The first bought back a lot of memories to me as it was Class 86 hauled, when i was a kid train spotting at Stechford i used to see trains hauled by 86s all the time. Its a lot rarer now though i did an 86 hauled freight at Bletchley last week (though unable to get a photo of it at the time).

The second special train was hauled by two Class 37s, so plenty of diesel thrash there for sure! You can see my photos here.

Wednesday 14 February 2018

The Angel escalator

One aspect of metro railway systems like the London Underground which is often overlooked is the escalator. They make getting to and from the platform level much easier especially on deep level stations. The alternative is to use lifts, and if you have ever used an escalator-less station like Elephant & Castle or Covent Garden then you know they very easily become bottlenecks or the stairs, and having climbed 180 steps at Clapham South at the weekend that is usually something to be avoided!

The longest escalator on the Underground is at Angel tube station on the Northern Line, only an escalator at Heathrow Airport is longer in the UK in fact. They are the fourth longest in Europe [1]. The escalator is sixty metres long and rises just over twenty-seven metres [2]. The escalators were installed during a rebuild of the station in the early 1990s.
Going up

And down again!

[1] Paul Moss, London Underground (Haynes, 2014) p. 158
[2] Jason Cross, London Underground Guide 2017 (Train Crazy, 2017) p. 99

Tuesday 13 February 2018

Golden Age (1) : 2835 Mayfair

My favourite literature these days are detective and mystery novels from the first half of the twentieth century (mostly between the two world wars), known as "Golden Age of Detective" fiction. Stereotypically they are thought to always involve mysteries in country houses investigated by keen amateurs. As we will see there was a lot more to these stories that that...

We'll start with 2835 Mayfair, also known as the Mayfair Mystery, and to be honest it does not sit that comfortably in the genre. It was written by Frank Collins Richardson before the First World War. Later reissued as part of the Collins Detective Club.

Although an enjoyable and witty read as the book progresses you are not sure what kind of story it is, is it a crime novel or something else? It is something else but you arn't really sure what that something is until the ending.

The story actually is pretty preposterous and only a skilled author could get away with it, luckily this is the case here. The characters are well drawn and you do care about them in the end which is always a hallmark of a good story. The best thing about it though is the reproduction Collins Detective Club cover.

Monday 12 February 2018

Another set of London rails

As i was in London on Saturday i did some more rail exploring in the capital, concentrating on the Northern Line. I visited Kings Cross to see a steam locomotive display, St Pancras to see some Eurostars, Angel, Oval, Balham and finally Clapham South where my Hidden London tour took place. You can see my photos here.

Sunday 11 February 2018


The 2018 model building season is off and running with Project #081 a Curtiss Tomahawk. The second one i've built. Painting has just begun on this one.

Saturday 10 February 2018

Clapham South shelter

Today i headed down to London for another Hidden London tour, this time the former air raid shelters at Clapham South. Eight of these deep level shelters (Clapham South is 11 stories down) were built to protect people in the WW2 Blitz though by the time they were completed the Blitz was over - however they were used to shelter people during the V-1 and V-2 attacks on London later in the war.

Postwar they were used as cheap hotel accommodation and temporary housing for recently arrived immigrants. In recent years they have been used for document storage but nowadays the Clapham South shelter is just used for tours. A very good tour it was too, though the 180 steps to climb back up the surface did test me! You can see my photos here.

Tuesday 6 February 2018

Churches (17) : St Anne, Ambergate

St Anne's church is a fairly recent one, being built in 1892 to serve the Derbyshire village, before then local houses and even the public house (The Hurt Arms) were used as a place of worship.

The church was built from local stone from Ridgeway as a three storey building, the top storey being the church itself. The middle storey was once a school and is now the village hall. The building of the church was funded by J. Thewlis Johnson, owner of the local wire works. The land was donated by Mr Hall of nearby Alderwasley Hall.

Monday 5 February 2018

Aspley Guise to Woburn Sands

I had a day off today and did some exploring. I went to Aspley Guise just on the Buckinghamshire-Bedfordshire border. A lovely village with the added bonus that the name sounds like a 1930s Golden Age detective. I walked to Woburn Sands to catch the train back from that station. Woburn Sands is pretty close to Aspley Guise, infact the two villages (and Aspley Heath) all merge into each other really. You can see my photos here.
Peeking through the wall

Aspley Guise cross

The Royal Oak pub in Aspley Heath

Woburn Sands, originally known as Hogsty End

Delightfully old fashioned shop in Woburn Sands

Thursday 1 February 2018

Circular spill weir

Spill or overflow weirs are pretty common on the canal network, they are a means of managing water levels by providing an "escape" for overflow water if the water level gets too high. Rarer though are circular spill weirs, several still remain on the Cotswold Canals such as the one shown below at Ebley Wharf on the Stroudwater Navigation.

With this type of weir, water from the canal rises up in the outer ring and when it reaches a certain level overflows into the central hole. The water then is carried away through a culvert. In the case with the weir here to the river Froome.