Jigsaw puzzles and steam railways successfully coincided in the 1920's when the board of the Great Western Railway Company (GWR) introduced a range of promotional jigsaw puzzles that unashamedly exploited the relationship between railway and passengers. The plywood jigsaws were sold cheaply or even given away free of charge. They were an effective way of showing off all the positive aspects of steam railway travel associated with the GWR including holiday destinations, cities, castles, cathedrals, stations, local history, special locomotives and trains etc., etc. At the same time, the popularity of jigsaw puzzles had never been higher and over a million puzzles had been distributed by the end of the following decade. Chad Valley's origin was in the Birmingham printing and book binding business of Anthony Johnson c1820. In 1860 Johnson's two sons set up a similar business in the same city. In 1897 the two sons, Alfred and Joseph, acquired new factory premises close to the Chad stream at Harborne, near Birmingham. These premises became known as the Chad Valley Works. The Chad Valley Company Ltd., was formed in 1920 when three, company owned factories were merged. Some of the finest wooden jigsaws were made between the two World Wars although the company was probably more famous for making teddy bears.
Today's post, 11th May 2011, comprises two pics of steam train jigsaws, with both locomotives sporting famous headboards - The 'Cheltenham Flyer' and the 'Torbay Express'. The former was famous for making and breaking speed records, the best example being the run of locomotive No.5006 Tregenna Castle in 1932. The 'Castle' class 4-6-0 hauled the express from Swindon to Paddington at an average speed of 81.7 mph. The Chad Valley jigsaw of 200 pieces, titled The Cheltenham Flyer, is reproduced from an 'F. Moore' (a syndicate rather than a single artist) original and shows the express speeding over Brunel's Maidenhead Viaduct spanning the River Thames. At the head is 'Castle' class 4-6-0 No. 5000, Launceston Castle - it is shown in pic number one.
The Torbay Express, a 375-piece puzzle from Chad Valley is shown in pic number two. At the head of the train is the icon of GWR metals, 'King' class 4-6-0 No.6000, King George V. The first 'Torbay Express' ran in 1923 from Paddington to Torbay (Torquay) and by the mid 1930's the journey was taking 3.5hrs including a short break at Exeter and station stops at Paignton, Churston and Brixham. 'Castle' or 'King' class locomotives usually headed the express.