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Thursday, 30 December 2010

UK Heritage (Preserved) Railways

This post (30th December 2010) focuses on two of the 75 or so UK Heritage Railways - The Bluebell  Railway and the East Somerset Railway. Whitman covered many such railways during the 60's and 70's with their 400-piece 'Steam Railways' series. There were three 'Steam Railways' series, (7414, 7525 and 7714) each of four puzzles, all reproducing photographs of variable quality. Also collectible is the 'Great Little Trains of Wales' series (7695) of six, 400-piece puzzles.

The first photograph depicts a Whitman jigsaw titled 'East Somerset Railway',  showing one of the engines purchased by artist David Shepherd.  BR Standard class 4, No.75029, which he named  The Green Knight is the one in the pic, the other was giant 2-10-0 class 9F, 92203, which he named Black Prince. David purchased Cranmore Station and a small section of railway line in 1972 on which to house and run his two locomotives; thus, the East Somerset Railway was born. The ESR is a small railway of around three miles between Cranmore and Medip Vale and around five steam locos are operated by the railway.

The second photograph features another Whitman puzzle 'The Bluebell Railway Limited' showing a short train on the Bluebell Railway in Sussex. This railway boasts that it was the first preserved, standard gauge, steam operated passenger railway in the world; the first train ran in 1960. The line is approximately 9 miles long with stations at Sheffield Park, Horsted Keynes and Kingscote. Depicted is the ex South East & Chatham Railway 0-6-0, C-class locomotive No.592,  built in 1902, one of 30+ steam locomotives operated on the railway.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Brunel's Broad Gauge

An excellent jigsaw puzzle depicting an early broad gauge locomotive is the 500-piece example from Country House Treasures, produced for the Science Museum, London. It is titled Iron Duke at Chippenham c1850 and is reproduced from a 1984 watercolour, by artist Sean Bolan.
Isambard Kingdom Brunel built the original Great Western Railway to the broad gauge of 7ft 1/4ins after convincing his board of directors that the wider gauge would offer greater speed, efficiency, stability and safety. The GWR was opened in stages from 1838, the Chippenham to Bath stage, in 1841. Iron Duke was the first member of a class of 29 remarkable locomotives all of 4-2-2 wheel formation. Designed by Daniel Gooch they were the epitome of power and speed on the GWR for many years. The smaller gauge, 4ft 8 1/2ins, as adopted by George Stephenson, eventually proved to be more popular than the broader gauge. With over eight times the mileage, the smaller gauge became standard from 1845, as a result of a Royal Commission investigation. The latter ackowledged the superiority of the broad gauge in most aspects of travel, but had to bow to the waggonway standard, originating in north-east mines, adopted by many other railways.  The Gauge Act was passed by Parliament a year later. The GWR ran dual gauge in places for a time but the last broad gauge track was lifted in 1892.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Two from Wentworth

In the hands of an expert artist a painting of surreal ambience and drama can result from the absence of sunlight in a railway scene. Accentuated highlights, reflections and ghostly shadows resulting from artificial light sources and traces of moonlight combine to produce that all important quality, called impact.
Malcolm Root's Duchess of the Night - available in various sizes and corresponding numbers of wooden pieces from Wentworth - is a typical example with impact to spare. The 500-piece version is featured in pic number one. The locomotive is a LMS 'Princess Coronation' class No. 6233, Duchess of Sutherland, without smoke deflectors ('blinkers' as we used to call them in the halcyon days, were added from 1945). She is shown in a shed setting at twilight, in a cold, smoky atmosphere, and the qualities previously described are inherent in the picture. Little is lost in the transfer of engine shed atmosphere to canvas, and finally, to jigsaw puzzle. The 'Coronation Scot' in blue livery, is just visible, lurking in the background.
The second picture also shows a Wentworth wooden jigsaw of 500 pieces and Malcolm Root is, again, the artist involved. The title is the The 'Duke' and the Clan. Two BR Standard creations of R.A. Riddles are pictured in the coaling plant at Carlisle Kingmoor (shed 12A), class 8, 'Pacific' No.71000, Duke of Gloucester and class 6, 'Pacific' No.72001, Clan Cameron. Only in preservation, following rectification of design inadequacies, has 'The Duke' lived up to the hype that preceded its inaugural run in 1954. The original painting has translated well into an impressive jigsaw.
Specially shaped pieces or 'whimsies', a feature of Wentworth wooden jigsaws, can be seen in both puzzles.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

More Small Puzzles

In the November 13th post I featured three small jigsaw puzzles. I described them as puzzles produced with children in mind, even though they would enhance any adult steam railway jigsaw collection. They, and others like them, certainly enhance my own collection.
This post (14th December 2010) comprises two more pictures of smaller jigsaw puzzles although they are not straight forward examples like those in the earlier post. The puzzles also continue a previous post on 'Shapes',  featured on 18th November.
Pic number one shows an excellent puzzle, of unknown origin, titled Trains and Engines. It was advertised as both a cut out toy and a jigsaw puzzle and comprises 72 pieces. Eight types of steam train, a station, a water tank, a signal box and a coloured lights signal can be separated from 60, semi-interlocking pieces. The 12, separated pieces can be used as stand-alone models and wooden bases are provided for this purpose.
A not dissimilar puzzle is the rare Waddington's Quiz Teaching Jigsaw of 1963, shown in pic number two. It comprises eight, separate locomotive puzzles each of between 6 and 12 pieces. Each locomotive is numbered (1-8) but identifying clues, numbers and names for instance, are absent from the designs. Written clues to help identify the class and name (if any) of each locomotive are described on the box. Locomotives ranging from one of the first, Rocket, to the last, Evening Star, are included. An American 'Wild West' wood burner and a 'Western' diesel hydraulic are also featured, with four other British engines.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Valentine's Wooden Puzzles

The Valentine Company was set up in 1851 by James Valentine in Dundee and became Scotland's most prominent photographic company. Using pictures from in-house artists and photographers, the company produced postcards at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. Greetings cards and calendars followed on but it was the mid 1930's before jigsaw production began. The cutting of Valentine's wooden puzzles is difficult to research but like so many other printing companies at the time, this task may have been outsourced. Waddingtons took over the company in 1963 and sold it on to Hallmark Cards of the USA in 1980. The Dundee premises finally closed in 1993.
In this post (8th December 2010), I have included two photographs of Valentine's wooden jigsaws from my collection. Strangely, both are untitled, although superbly boxed. I will show a picture of a third Valentine's puzzle from my collection, in a future post.

The first pic shows a 60-piece puzzle from an Alan Anderson painting, featuring an interesting 'Streak'. Gresley 'A4' class No.4495 is shown liveried in 'Garter Blue'. Apparently when this locomotive emerged in 1937 it was painted in 'Apple Green' but was returned to Doncaster almost immediatley to be repainted in 'Garter Blue' to match the coaching stock of a special, new express. The original name of Great Snipe was also changed to Golden Fleece. The engine was one of two chosen to head the train to be named the 'West Riding Limited'. The latter was originated at the behest of Yorkshire woollen merchants so that they could quickly access the London Wool Exchange, and return in a single day; hence the change of locomotive name. The express ran Bradford & Leeds to Kings Cross and return, and a special poster was produced by the LNER.
Pic number two is far easier to 'read'. BR class 'A4', No.60034 Lord Faringdon, in 'BR Blue' livery is shown heading BR 'blood and custard' coaches, exiting Kings Cross for the East Coast Main Line. The puzzle comprises 180 pieces and is reproduced from an original T.E. North painting.
I am receiving one or two comments (mostly positive) about the blog but I cannot reply unless you email me directly at the address at the top of the blog. If you wish to receive a reply or even converse with me please email me.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

The Photochrom Company

The Photochrom Company of Tunbridge Wells and London features in today's post (4th December 2010). Postcard production was the main outlet for this printing company from the turn of the 19th/20th centuries. Fine quality wooden jigsaws followed later. The company operated the Photochrom process - invented in the 1880's by Hans Jakob Schmid - under licence from the Swiss company, Photochrom Zurich. Production also included railway posters and travel guides.
The starting date for jigsaw production is unknown to me but I have several titles of puzzles depicting steam railways in my inventory. Just one, unfortunately, enhances my collection, a 160-piece example titled L.N.E.R High Pressure Compound Engine No. 10000. It is described as an interlocking colour puzzle de luxe but in truth looks like a monochrome photograph with a small amount of colour added. It is shown in the accompanying picture.
No. 10000 was the number attributed to a Gresley, class 'W1' experimental locomotive, of 4-6-4 wheel configuration (technically 4-6-2-2). It became known as the "Hush Hush" locomotive because of the extreme security bestowed on its development phases. It was fitted with a high pressure water tube boiler and was completed at Darlington Works in 1929. I must admit that this was an extremely handsome locomotive but because of many problems, complete rebuilding was required from 1936. She re-entered service a year later. As a result she boasted a conventional boiler, and streamlining similar to the class 'A4s'; her 4-6-4 wheel configuration remained, however. Her BR number was 60700 and she was finally withdrawn from service in 1959.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Double Headers

In my teenage days two locomotives heading a train, or double headers as they were called, always caused great excitement and optimism among train spotters for the obvious reason; they provided the possibilty of two 'cops' rather than one. This post (29th November 2010) is dedicated to jigsaws highlighting such pairings.
A superb puzzle shown in pic number one, is Double Header at Dainton, part of the Waddingtons' 500-piece Great Western Railway series of four jigsaws. All four puzzles replicate excellent Don Breckon original paintings. 'Grange' and 'King' class 4-6-0s of Charles Collett are pictured working hard on a severe incline hauling a seemingly endless rake of 'chocolate and cream', GWR carriages. Resting cyclists, mother and child possibly, and a small dog are watching intently from a wall. On the heavier trains such as the summer 'Cornish Riviera Express', a pilot locomotive, introduced at Newton Abbott, was often used to overcome Dainton and Rattery Summits.

 Reproduced by Falcon from a George Hieron painting, Claughton Class - LMS was one of four puzzles that comprised a 300-piece Steamtrains series. Pic number two features this puzzle. Two of C. J. Bowen Cooke's locomotives are shown double heading a London & North Western Railway express. The pilot locomotive is No.5908 Alfred Fletcher, the second one is difficult to identify but is probably 5905 Ralph Brocklebank. The 'Claughton' class, introduced in 1913, comprised 131, large 4-6-0 express passenger engines. The first member of the class was named after the L&NWR chairman, Sir Gilbert Claughton.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

House of Puzzles

In this post (24th November 2010) I am concentrating on two jigsaw puzzles currently in production. Both jigsaws are of a similar style, not surprising as they replicate original paintings by the same artist, Ray Cresswell. The manufacturer is House of Puzzles, of Invergordon, and both puzzles are part of my steam train jigsaw collection of nearly 400 examples.

House of Puzzles produced a 250-piece jigsaw in 2008 as part of its Meadow Collection. It is titled Train Spotting and incorporates pieces larger than normal. The puzzle is aimed at older children, but because of the larger pieces, also at young and old with tactile or visual impairments. LNER class 'A1' (later 'A3') 4-6-2 locomotive, No.4472 Flying Scotsman, is featured heading the famous express of the same name. The picture also includes a boy admiring the passing express from a vantage point, high up, on a stone bridge. His dog is pictured running along a narrow station platform below, barking at the train. The location is very rural.

The second pic shows a puzzle of 1000 pieces from the Dalmore Collection, titled Train Now Standing. Nigel Gresley's famous locomotive No.4472, heading a train of the same name, is again to the fore, waiting at a station platform. What might be a LNER class 'O4' 4-8-0, of John Robinson, is passing on an adjacent line. There are lots of other interesting parts in a very busy picture including a post van and postman, guard, signal box, footbridge, and a boy taking a photograph of the steam loco's. The jigsaw was marketed in 2009.

Thursday, 18 November 2010


In this post (18th November 2010) the shape of steam railway jigsaw puzzles will be scrutinised.
The most popular size for a steam train jigsaw puzzles is either 500 or 1000-pieces and there is not much variation either in their shape. This, quite simply, is dictated by the outline of a steam engine or train. The rectangle, in the landscape format is, easily, the most common shape offered by manufacturers, both past and present. Some of Gibsons' puzzles are also offered in panoramic format, long and narrow rectangular puzzles of 636 pieces.
Vertical (portrait format) rectangles are much scarcer but have been used successfully by Victory and King International, for instance. The Silver Jubilee Train, a vertical, rectangular puzzle made by Victory, has been described in the post of 3rd August.
The circular shape is more difficult to find. Waddingtons and King produced highly collectible circular puzzles of 500 pieces, Steam Railways and Road meets Rail, respectively as described in the 10th August post. W. H. Smith also made a lovely circular puzzle of 500 pieces titled The Railway Crossing.

Puzzles cut to the shape of steam engines were marketed by Chad Valley. For two examples, Speed and King George V go to the post of 13th October. ‘Castle’ class 4-6-0 Caerphilly Castle, marketed in 1924 at a cost of 5/- (25p), was the first of this popular series made for the GWR Public Relations Department. The puzzle coincided with the display of the locomotive at the British Empire Exhibition in May of the same year. In June the price of the puzzle was reduced to 2/6d (12.5p). This puzzle is shown in pic number one.

The 100-piece jigsaw - ‘A3’ No.2501 Colombo - by Profile Publications Ltd., - was cut to the unusual but eye-catching shape of a long letterbox cut tightly around the side-on technical illustration of the locomotive and tender. The illustration is by Arthur Wolstenholme. This puzzle is shown in pic number two.

I will continue this theme in a future post. The latter will include a 3D puzzle and an example from which parts can be removed as separate 'toys'.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Children's Jigsaws

From around 1939, Victory produced wooden steam railway jigsaw puzzles of 45-80 pieces, with children of all ages in mind. They were part of the Topical series and labelled TP0, TP1 and TP2. In addition, the Simple Picture Puzzle (SP) series comprised jigsaws of 8-12 pieces aimed at 2-4 year-olds; at least one of them featured a steam train. For 4-7 year-olds the Adventure series (c1956) of 45-70 extra large pieces also included a poster-style steam railway jigsaw. All five of the TT (Tiny Trains) series, TT1-TT5, of 45 pieces, depicted express trains. For this post (13th November 2010) I am using two pictures of children's jigsaw puzzles (but still collected by adults such as yours truly) made by Victory, and a third showing a Philmar equivalent.

Picture one shows a Victory 64-piece puzzle from the TP1 series featuring the 'Scarborough Flyer' express train. It is a fine reproduction of a T. E. North painting. One of A. H. Peppercorn's 'A1' class locomotives No.60140 Balmoral, is pictured heading the express, flanked by Gresley 'A4' class locomotives. One of them is No.60007 Sir Nigel Gresley but I can't identify the other one. The express is exiting Kings Cross for its journey to the famous holiday destination on theYorkshire Coast.

The second picture shows another Victory jigsaw, featuring British Railways 'Standard' class '7' locomotive, No.70000 Britannia, from the TP0 series. This jigsaw, of 45 pieces, is reproduced from another T. E. North painting. The 55 members of the 'Britannia' class of 4-6-2 locomotives hit BR metals (track) between 1951 and 1954, under the supervision of Robert Riddles. The last of the class was retired in 1968. Two are preserved -No.70000 Britannia and No.70013 Oliver Cromwell.

The third and final picture in this post features a Philmar jigsaw of just 35 pieces, titled 'Bon Acord'. This named train ran from Glasgow to Aberdeen. In the picture, (artist not known) the express is headed by a Stanier 'Princess Coronation' class '8P' 'Pacific' No. 46243 City of Lancaster, in BR blue livery. The class numbered 38 on completion but all had been retired by 1964. Three are preserved - No.6229 Duchess of Hamilton, No.6233 Duchess of Sutherland and No.6235 City of Birmingham. The puzzle is from the Famous Trains series of four, all depicting steam trains.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Named Trains

There were many named trains in the halcyon days of steam including legendary examples such as the following: 'Royal Scot', 'Golden Arrow' 'Cornish Riviera Express' and 'Flying Scotsman'. These and other famous trains are well represented in steam railway jigsaw puzzles. However, in this post, I am using three photographs depicting less familiar named trains.

The first pic shows the 'East Anglian' express. Titled East Anglian to Norwich, it is a wooden jigsaw of 55 pieces reproduced from a Roland Davies painting. As I purchased this puzzle without a box, I have no idea of the manufacturer. If you can help, please let me know. The 'East Anglian' ran from London's Liverpool Street Station to Norwich. The locomotive in the picture is an unidentified, but named, 4-6-0.

Pic number two shows the luxurious 'Devon Belle' express hauled by an Oliver Bulleid, 4-6-2 'Merchant Navy' class locomotive, No.21C4 White Star Line. Simply titled The Devon Belle SR, the puzzle is part of the 500-piece Steamtrains series made by Falcon. The 'Devon Belle' was a Pullman Car service operating from Waterloo to Exeter, where the train split - part for Plymouth, part for Ilfracombe. A special feature of the train was an observation car at the rear. The puzzle is reproduced from a George Heiron original canvas.

The final pic shows a 400-piece jigsaw produced by Good Companion, titled The Yorkshire Pullman. The crack express, involving splits and additions, linked the Yorkshire cities of Bradford, Harrogate, Leeds and Hull with London's Kings Cross. The jigsaw, from a T. E. North painting, shows the train headed by a Peppercorn 'A1' class locomotive, No.60136 Alcazar, passing another train headed by a Gresley 'A4' class locomotive, No. 60025 Falcon.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

King George V

One of the icons of the Great Western Railway was Charles Collett's giant 4-6-0, No. 6000 King George V. The locomotive has been the subject of many jigsaw puzzles especially from manufacturers Chad Valley and Victory. Chad Valley produced the locomotive in cut-out style as a 200-piece* or 300-piece puzzle, and in four other puzzles heading different trains - Britain's Mightiest, Locomotives Old and New*, Torbay Express and Royal Route to the West (it also appeared as a ghostly image in The Streamlined Way). *These two puzzles have been featured in previous posts.
In this post (4th November 2010) I am using two more pics of jigsaws featuring this famous locomotive (currently in the National Collection at the NRM, York). The first pic shows Royal Route to the West made by Chad Valley between 1933 and 1939. The locomotive is shown in GWR green livery heading a rake of GWR coaches towards the West Country. The jigsaw is a 150-piece example, reproduced from a 1929 G.H. Davies painting. The puzzle was also available with 200 pieces.
The second pic shows the locomotive, in BR blue livery, exiting a tunnel with a rake of BR carmine and cream passenger stock behind. This puzzle of approximately 70 pieces was made by Ponda. The original painting was by T.E. North.
Following successful trials heading the 'Cornish Riviera Express' in 1927, the locomotive was shipped to America to join the Centenary Celebrations of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. The trip was so successful that the engine returned to the UK with a commemorative bell and cabside medallions fitted by her American hosts. These fittings are clearly visible in both pics.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Scottish Locomotives

Somewhat neglected in the steam railway jigsaw market are those examples depicting locomotives representing the superb Scottish railway companies - The Caledonian Railway, The Highland Railway, The Glasgow and South Western Railway and the North British Railway for example. Two such jigsaws in my collection are titled Caledonian Railway 123 at Carstairs and Clan Fraser - LMS.
The first is a fine 400-piece jigsaw from the Rail Journey series by KG Games. Featured is the handsome 4-2-2 locomotive, No.123, exhibiting superb engineering qualities complemented by the famous 'Caley blue' livery. The picture appears to be reproduced from a photograph. Designed by Dugald Drummond in 1886 and built by the Glasgow company of Nielson & Co. in around 67 days, CR No.123 achieved immortality during the summer 'Races to the North' between East and West Coast Railway Companies, in 1888. In the races, she ran the final Carlisle - Edinburgh leg for the West Coast every day - a fantastic achievement. She has survived into preservation in her native Scotland.

When considering steam railway jigsaw puzzles of the rural setting type, one of my favourites is Clan Fraser - LMS reproduced from an original George Heiron painting. The 300-piece puzzle from the Falcon Steamtrains series depicts the ex-Highland Railway 4-6-0, No.14763 (previously Highland Railway No. 51) designed by Christopher Cumming. The locomotive is shown in her post grouping livery (Midland Red?). The setting is the picturesque Inverness to Perth line.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

'Coronation Scot'

For today's post (23rd October 2010), I am focusing on a special express train, the 'Coronation Scot', as depicted in just three of many jigsaw puzzles.

The first pic shows a puzzle full of impact, Coronation Scot, a 500-piece example from KG Games. The close up view of a streamlined Stanier 'Pacific' locomotive No.6220 Coronation, in blue and silver livery and 3/4 elevation, can be compared/contrasted directly with the expansive trainshed of a huge mainline station. The train wins easily relegating the terminus to a minor role. The artist is not named.

Pic number two shows a picture from the famous railway artist David Weston. I know of only two of David's railway paintings, and they are certainly not his best, that have been reproduced in the jigsaw trade - as half of the 200-piece Steamtrains series by Falcon. The better one, Coronation Scot-LMS, shows a 'Coronation' class 4-6-2, in red (crimson lake) and gold livery, hauling the famous express. The backdrop is heavy industry (blast furnaces?) emitting what appears to be a 'golden glow'. The famous express, subdued lighting and heavy industry combine to make a memorable, but small, jigsaw puzzle.

I must admit that the jigsaw shown in the third and final pic is a bit of an enigma to me. Does it depict the 'Coronation Scot' as sent to the USA for the 1939 World Fair? No.6229 Duchess of Hamilton masqueraded as 6220 Coronation for the trip. Pictorial Publications (Leeds) Ltd., under the Grafton Major label, produced the 400-piece jigsaw titled British Express. A bell and headlamp are clearly shown in the puzzle - American adaptations. However, the locomotive, seven coaches and a first class sleeping car that were sent to America were liveried in crimson lake and gold, not blue and silver as in the puzzle. The name plate is also a long example much like City of xxxxxx  or Duchess of xxxxxxx. So the jigsaw and its title mystifies me. Can anyone shed any light?

Monday, 18 October 2010

Father of Railways

A rather special little puzzle is the subject of today's post (18th October 2010). It celebrates the life of one of the greatest engineers of the railway world, George Stephenson. 
Titled The Father of Railways it is a 48-piece example commemorating this extraordinary man who began working with his father, at Dewley Collliery in north east England, when he was 14. At 19 he was building his first railway at nearby Hetton Colliery. The rest, they say - from locomotives Locomotion No.1 (Stockton & Darlington Railway) to Rocket (Liverpool & Manchester Railway) - is history. Surrounding a central, oval portrait of George Stephenson are the following – his birthplace at Wylam, Northumberland; later residences at a cottage at Killingworth and Tapton House, Chesterfield; a Hetton Colliery locomotive; Locomotion No.1; Sankey Viaduct. Both artist and manufacturer are unknown to me. Although historical in context and highly collectible, this puzzle is extremely small. My copy is in a wrapper, not a box. If anyone has any information about this puzzle please let me know (email address above). In my view, more puzzles should be dedicated to the work of George and Robert Stephenson. This remarkable father and son duo were responsible for much of the civil and mechanical engineering involved in the birth of railways from the early 19th century.

For interest I have also added my pics of Stephenson's statue and plaque which both stand at the National Railway Museum in York - taken in 2009. The former can be seen in the Great Hall, the latter on an outside wall.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Chad Valley 'Cut-Out' Style Jigsaws

For this new post, 13th October 2010, I have chosen to include two photographs of jigsaws, both in the popular 'cut-out' style championed by Chad Valley in the 1920's and 1930's.

The first shows 'King' class 4-6-0, No.6000 King George V. I have this puzzle, in both of the manufactured versions, in my collection - 200 pieces and the more valuable 300 pieces. The jigsaw is simply titled King George V; the artist/photographer is not named. The pic shows the 200-piece puzzle featuring the locomotive, without the commemorative bell presented by the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company, following a successful visit, in 1927.

The second pic shows 'Castle' class 4-6-0, No.4073 Caerphilly Castle. This puzzle, titled Speed, is of 150 pieces and shows the locomotive travelling at great speed, in almost front elevation, heading GWR passenger stock. Although the original artwork is in a strong illustrative style, the artist is not named on the jigsaw.

Charles Collett designed both locomotives. The giant 'Kings', sometimes known as 'Super Castles', came into service between 1927 and 1936; all 31 were built at Swindon Works. The 'Castles, one of the most successful locomotive designs of all time, came into service between 1923 and 1950; 171 were built, all at Swindon Works.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Exeter and Birmingham

The two puzzles in this latest post (2nd October 2010) show GWR stations, Exeter St Davids and Birmingham Snow Hill, as superb backdrops.

Exeter St Davids, a 1000-piece puzzle in Gibson's Heritage series, is reproduced from a Chris Woods' painting. Converted 'Star' class 4-6-0 locomotive No.4056 Princess Margaret is pictured reversing onto 'Castle' class 4-6-0 No.7029 Clun Castle to double head a passenger train to Plymouth. The 'Star' class locomotives were designed by G. J. Churchward. Clun Castle is preserved at Tyseley Locomotive Works in Birmingham. Beside these fine GWR locomotives, gas turbine locomotive No. 18100 races through the station heading another passenger train. This locomotive was actually ordered by the GWR in the 1940's but delayed by World War II. It was withdrawn from service in 1958 and was converted shortly afterwards to the prototype electric locomotive E1000. Renumbered again in 1959 to E2001, the locomotive was finally withdrawn from service in1968.

Birmingham Snow Hill Station is featured in a jigsaw from W. H. Smith titled, rather oddly, Brockhouse Station. The original painting is by John Austin who told me that the publishing company that supplied his artwork for jigsaw manufacture misinterpreted advertising signs at the station (clearly seen in the jigsaw picture) as the station name, hence the wrong jigsaw title. Two of Charles Collett's finest are depicted, a 'King' class 4-6-0 locomotive* travelling into the station whilst another, 'Castle' class 4-6-0 No.5072 Hurricane, waits in a nearby platform. Both locomotives are heading GWR chocolate and cream passenger stock.
Young trainspotters, clearly seen on the foremost platform in each puzzle, are an integral component of both.

*Thanks to Glyn Roberts for this information

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Three favourites

I have many favourites among my collection of steam railway jigsaw puzzles and here are three photographs showing less expensive examples.

The first pic features a 400-piece Mercury (Tower Press) puzzle from the 1950's/60's titled Getting Up Steam. This is a real 'in your face' puzzle of vibrant colours. It features a 'Britannia' class 4-6-2 locomotive No.70020, Mercury, heading passenger stock through a station, on a central line. On the left, on the adjacent line, a 'County' class 4-6-0 No. 1015, County of Gloucester, stands at a platform-based water tower. A railwayman stands between the two locomotives. Overhead, a 'Standard' tank engine pulls a mixed freight train over a bridge, towards a signal gantry. Boxes and milk churns add to the busy station ambience as a porter pushes a luggage trolley on the opposite platform. The artwork is not signed unfortunately, but the strong illustrative style, is superb and ideal for jigsaw puzzles.

Sir Nigel Gresley's 'A4' class locomotives were very popular with both artists and jigsaw puzzle manufacturers. C.J. Ashford's illustration of 'The Talisman' express (introduced by the LNER in 1956) was used by Tru-Cut for a 260-piece jigsaw in the Modern Travel series. Titled The Scottish Express the locomotive No.60024, Kingfisher, is pictured sporting the early BR (1948-56) lion and wheel motif on its tender. The train is composed of carmine and cream passenger stock and is pictured exiting Kings Cross station, destined for Edinburgh Waverley.

My final picture shows a puzzle from an excellent Chris Nevard photograph that exemplifies the harmonious interaction of railway and landscape. The untitled puzzle from Fame Puzzles of Holland features a class 'U' Maunsell 2-6-0, No.1618, complete with white Southern Railway (SR) route discs. The loco is hauling SR and Pullman stock through a beautiful glade of blubells on a preserved railway. The locomotive is preserved by The Maunsell Locomotive Society.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Circular Puzzles

Circular puzzles always attract more attention than those of a more conventional shape, whether they are straight reproductions of paintings or montages of several paintings. Unfortunately, in my thematic jigsaw collection depicting steam railways, I have very few examples of a circular shape.

Here are two, however, and the first one shown is a favourite in my collection - a Waddington's 500-piece jigsaw from the 1950's. The montage style puzzle comprises five different express trains, all displaying famous headboards. They are pictured in separated, equal segments within a circle; they are 'Flying Scotsman', 'Golden Arrow', 'Royal Scot', 'Yorkshire Pullman' and 'Cornish Riviera Express'. Its shape places it in a minority class immediately and always invites attention, accompanied by head and neck contortions when viewed. The artist is unknown to me.

A Malcolm Root original painting was used as the source for the second circular jigsaw - a 500-piece straight reproduction example from King International. The puzzle depicts a bridge carrying a steam train over a busy high street. The locomotive appears to be one of Sir William Stanier's large 2-6-4T tank types built from 1934. An interesting feature of the puzzle is that the double-decker bus carries a destination that includes 'SHOEBURY COMN'. Before she was broken up for scrap, Shoeburyness shed was the last home for tank engine, 42516, featured in the puzzle. A bus, lorry, car and people all vie for space beneath and around the bridge, in the bustling town centre of Southend-on-Sea.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Three from Victory

The humble origin of Victory, one of the best loved of all jigsaw manufacturers, lies in a Dorset garden shed. Here, Gerald Hayter cut wooden puzzles for around ten years from c1920. He then rented a workshop in Bournemouth before establishing a business in Boscombe, from where Victory wooden jigsaw puzzles became a household name. For an extensive history of the company, including the complicated nomenclature and numbering systems employed, two books published by Brian P. Price in 1999 and 2000, are a must. I have many Victory jigsaws in my collection ranging from children's examples of 12-80 pieces to adult puzzles of 400+ pieces. I have chosen just three for my blog but I think they are a very interesting trio.

The first photograph depicts a puzzle titled The Silver Jubilee Train, a splendid tribute to this famous express but equally notable for its portrait format. The puzzle pictured is the 400-piece example from the Victory range of 40-400 pieces. The express came into service in 1935 and ran until the outbreak of World War II. In the jigsaw the train is hauled by 'A4' class 'Pacific' No.2509 Silver Link.

The second jigsaw photograph shows off George Heiron's skill as an artist. His painting of Stanier class 7P 'Pacific' No. 6231, Duchess of Atholl, has reproduced well for Victory in this 100-piece puzzle. Heiron's skill at portraying copious volumes of exhaust are on show here as the powerful locomotive hauls a long rake of passenger coaches against a backdrop of winter snow.

The third picture shows another Victory classic jigsaw, titled Flying Scotsman (the train, not the locomotive). This flagship express of the LNER with 'A1' class locomotive No. 4476 Royal Lancer (rebuilt as an 'A3' in 1946) at its head is depicted passing over the famous diamond crossing before entering Newcastle station. The puzzle shown is the 400-piece example from the range of 80-400 pieces.

Friday, 30 July 2010

The 'Golden Arrow', Blast Furnaces and Snow

Three more pictures for today all duplicating jigsaws from my collection of over 370.

The first is a photograph of a 400-piece puzzle by Kolorbax from a B. A. Osborne original painting. 'Merchant Navy' class 'Pacific' No.21C1  Channel Packet is shown heading the prestigeous 'Golden Arrow' express of Pullman coaches. An aeroplane is included in the picture and lineside engineers add human interest. This artwork has also been reproduced in wood, by jigsaw manufacturer Victory.

The second pic shows a jigsaw of 400 pieces from Good Companion. Titled Blast Furnaces the jigsaw depicts an internal railway system within a large steel works. Two large tank locomotives head different freight trains with huge, 30metres tall blast furnaces in the background. Artist T. E. North offers us a glimpse of the atmosphere in an industrial steel colossus possibly in Sheffield, Corby, Teesside or South Wales (?).

A superb painting by Don Breckon, Meeting The Train, is replicated as a jigsaw in my third pic. This is a truly memorable puzzle to assemble, offering many pictorial snapshots in its very simple composition. In the jigsaw a small GWR 0-4-2T tank engine, No.1401 hauls two, small chocolate and cream liveried passenger carriages on a snow-covered single line. The train has just left a small Halt (visible in the background). On an adjacent footpath children are using a sled to transport some luggage, possibly for an elderly relative or friend struggling behind in ankle deep snow. The puzzle is one of an excellent  series of four by Waddingtons and comprises 500 pieces. The series, issued in 1989, is titled Great Western Railway and all four reproduce Don Breckon's paintings.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Wentworth, Chad Valley and Good Companion

This, my second post, comprises three photographs of jigsaw puzzles from my collection, all made by different British manufacturers.

Considering that Wentworth was only formed in 1994 global recognition of the company's wooden jigsaw puzzles, including 'whimsies', has been achieved in a short period of time. Examples depicting steam trains feature strongly in Wentworth's portfolio, all of them, made from wood. They exceed 70 in my inventory. Original paintings from several famous railway artists including Terence Cuneo, Barry Freeman and Malcolm Root have been used by the company. My first photograph is of a 250-piece jigsaw showing a rebuilt 'Royal Scot' class 4-6-0, 46108 Seaforth Highlander, heading maroon passenger coaches through Hartford Station in Cheshire; the artist is Malcolm Root. The jigsaw is also titled Seaforth Highlander.

The jigsaw in the second picture features Flying Scotsman - both locomotive and named train. The 200-piece puzzle in my collection, another wooden example from Chad Valley, is contained in its original pink box. The vertical format puzzle is unusual and includes the following legend "The "Flying Scotsman" runs non-stop from London to Edinburgh, the longest non-stop journey in the world."

The final photograph in this post depicts an example from Good Companion; the latter is possibly connected to the Tower Press Company*. The 400-piece puzzle is titled The Irish Mail. A Hughes/Fowler 2-6-0, locomotive, 42758, (known as a 'Crab') is shown hauling the train past Conway Castle in North Wales. The Irish Mail, the oldest named train in the world, began running in 1848 between Euston and Holyhead. The Good Companion range of puzzles included at least twenty-one examples featuring steam trains.

* Many identical jigsaws are produced under both brand names.