If you wish to communicate with me about steam trains, railway art or related jigsaw puzzles, please email David, at :

Monday, 21 March 2011

Puffing Billy, Jupiter and North Star

I am returning to the early days of steam locomotion for today's post, 21st March 2011. Two jigsaws in my collection are a perfect fit for this subject.

My first pic shows a 200-piece jigsaw marketed by William Ellis & Co Ltd under the 'Welcom' brand. Titled Discovery of Steam Locomotion the puzzle features the oldest surviving steam locomotive in the world, Puffing Billy. The engine is on display at the Science Museum, London. Built in 1813 by the famous engineer William Hedley, the steam engine was used to haul coal trucks from a mine at Wylam to the docks at Lemington-on-Tyne in Northumberland. It is known to be the first, commercial adhesion, steam locomotive to have operated on smooth rails. The brightly coloured, illustrative style artwork for the puzzle is not signed, unfortunately, but shows the locomotive in a rural setting, possibly en route to the docks.

My second pic shows a superb hand cut, wooden jigsaw by the renowned specialist Sara White. Titled Travelling on the Liverpool & Manchester Railway - 1831, the 430-piece puzzle dates from 1999. The original work was by Isaac Shaw and aquatinted by S. G. Hughes but Sara's jigsaw is from a Raphael Tuck commercial print that replicated the coloured aquatint. The jigsaw features two trains - a first class train with an additional mail coach attached to the rear, and a second and third class example, with open carriages. The first class train is headed by the locomotive Jupiter, built by Robert Stephenson's engineering company in 1831. Jupiter was a locomotive of the 'Planet' class of 2-2-0 locomotives and is incorrectly portrayed with four equal wheels. The second train is headed by the locomotive North Star, built by the same engineers a year earlier and complete with water barrel tender. 
Thankfully, manual techniques for manufacturing wooden jigsaw puzzles are still carried out by a number of traditionalists who will hand cut you an elaborate puzzle of excellent quality. However, when one considers that a hand cut jigsaw of 1000 pieces, for example, involving high degrees of skill, patience and creativity will normally take over a normal working day to produce, it doesn't require mathematical genius to work out the expense involved.