Tuesday, 24 May 2016

"1679, Charlton Athletic"

I'm very lucky these days in that I have an excellent model railway club nearby (Erith MRC) with which to run my rolling stock. 

One such engine to run in was this, my model of fictional Gresley B17 "Charlton Athletic".

She ran beautifully a week ago. Made from Hornby's model of "Sandringham", a Bachmann tender replaced the GER type tender, the Westinghouse pump and associated grubbing were carefully removed, and the smoke box was given plastic Humbrol filler and sanding down plus paint to finish. My usual Johnsons Klear/Pledge floor varnish finished the boiler, cab and tender.

It's been a highlight for what has been a pretty horrendous year so far for me, bar the magnificence of 25 February 2016. 2016 just has not turned out the way I wanted it to at all. It's been frustrating, at times very sad, and heartbreaking (both in football and love interests!)

Yet my railway modelling goes from strength to strength. I'm really enjoying building my fleet and my model railway. It's been such a comfort when I'm feeling down. 

This year I saw someone I thought I'd never see again. Meeting her reminded me I still have the potential to feel and be a normal, working human being. This in itself is a beautiful thing, as I have for some time - maybe for years - wondered if I'd have feelings the like again.

All I can say is that love is the best thing we do. Even when it's not reciprocated, though it can be hard to take, remembering why someone makes you feel the way you do is never a bad thing. If love was easy, straightforward and tangible, it'd be just another commercialised and organised aspect of our lives, and it wouldn't be love.

 If you're wondering why the sudden about turn in blog content today, let's just say I am doing my best to move on from feelings that I realised this year have been lying dormant since a cold New Year's Eve in 2005. I meant it then and I mean it now. The clock never stops ticking. Or should that be beating.

I'll leave you with one last shot of 1679 - a more normal, regular service is coming to the blog. Hang in there everyone: we all get there in the end.

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

"Following Charlton, my only desire"

There aren't many words that I have at my disposal right now. It's a sad evening to be a Charlton fan, but in light of the joyous news elsewhere in my friends circle (the birth of a beautiful baby girl) it's hard to get entirely worked up over the inevitable end to what has been the worst season at Charlton Athletic for many, many years.

The above photograph hangs in our study, and it's one of my earliest memories of football. It stands out because it is taken in front of the old Wembley Stadium, with my little sister Claire on my left, my mother Jill clutching her flag and my father Jerry stood behind. All of us are wearing Charlton gear in some form or another, and to our left and behind us is a Charlton fan looking directly at the camera, and to our immediate right and behind us, a Sunderland fan is also looking at the camera.

Football matches are unique. They are the coming together of two different teams, playing the same game on one pitch, having to deal with the same factors, both internal and external, and ultimately the end result is a game of two halves, and two stories to tell.

Following the 1st Division play-off final of 1997-1998, there were two stories to tell. One was the big team from the North failing at the last hurdle to gain promotion, despite playing some exceptional football, with a big, passionate, and very much brilliant crowd behind them, and the other story was the small club from south east London, coming off the back of some of the worst years of their club's history, against all odds being promoted to the Premiership.

This match sticks out in my mind because it summed up what football has always been about for me. From start to end, it was a joyous, nerve wracking, exciting, brilliant display of football from two football teams who just wanted to play to win and were doing it for their incredible supporters.

It is the one game of football I remember where there doesn't seem to be a controversial decision, there's no diving, the fouls were minimal, but there were lots of goals, end to end action, and at the end of it, some beautiful and respectful sportsmanship from the Sunderland and Charlton faithful to each other. Either team could have gone on and won that match: but for the hand of Saca Ilic, it could have been Sunderland.

History records this as one of the greatest matches played at the old Wembley Stadium. Ending 4-4 after extra time, it was 7-6 to Charlton on penalties, with club legend Clive Mendonca becoming the last English player to score a hat trick in a cup final at Wembley. He was my hero of heroes, and to this day the urge to sing out "Super Clive Mendonca" remains strong.

The point of this article is that this photograph wouldn't have been possible without a number of decisions being made in the late 1980s and early 1990s. For the fans to take on an election and win to get the ground back, after years in the wilderness at Selhurst and Upton Parks. For the fans to clear out the derelict Valley, with people of all ages, ethnicity and creed coming together with shovels, black bin bags and hope, to make the ground afresh and the club renewed.

Without the fans, there would have been no Wembley play-off final. No chance at glory in the Premier League. Alan Curbishley would have been unlikely to remain in charge if Charlton had not returned to the Valley and we wouldn't have had 13 amazing years with him at the helm.

The fans saved the club, and they supported it through the good times and bad. The fans even bought into the club: my father owned shares in Charlton Athletic PLC and was a non executive director at one point, with seats in the director's box (Dad if I have got these details wrong, and you're reading, please correct me!)

At every stage of Charlton's development the fans have been there to support the club and help it.

Which is why with tonight's relegation, we have to come today and fight for the club stronger than ever. Because without every single fan standing up, with one voice, and helping to remove the current regime from their stranglehold on the club, we will never have the one thing the picture above symbolises: hope.

We will never again hope for better things, we will never again sit in the stands and cheer on the team with hope and passion in our hearts, and we will never hope to reach the upper echelons of English football again.

The word "strangle" is apt: since Chris Powell's League 1 winning side and his controversial dismissal from the club, we have seen the first team starved of its star players, the manager with a passion for the team and winning, and we have seen our youngest and brightest sold at prices well below their worth, when their true value is standing on that football pitch in a bright red shirt.

So if you can, come to the Brighton match on Saturday. I am not promising that the team will win. It's about so much more than the result. It's the future of our family club, and the future of our family. I'm game to try and save it if you are. Fans have done it before, and it is time for the new generation to stand up and be counted.

I want our Charlton back.

Simon A.C. Martin

Sunday, 17 April 2016

"Testing, testing"

So I'm testing a new way of writing my blogs in an effort to get more proactive about showcasing my modelling. So here is a picture of my first resin Gresley V2 kit, on part of my spare section of Ganwick Curve:

It is taken directly on my iPad mini! Which has a pretty decent camera.

I'll blog more about this next time.

It seems to be a good test blog though! I'm using the Blogger app on the same iPad you see!

Until next time.

Friday, 18 March 2016

"Gresley streamlined P2 - further updates"

Some time ago I started work on modifying one of Hornby's Railroad P2 locomotives into a streamlined variant. The identity of this engine has been picked, but it won't be immediately obvious which P2 it is.

Today I've been mostly concerned with adding handrails, the lubricators and generally tidying up the cuts made in the body shell to fit the A4 front end. It's nowhere near a patch on Graeme King's excellent P2 conversion (which you can find on the LNER forum) but it serves.

For anyone interested, I've used Bachmann V2 valve gear, virtually unmodified, using the same Hornby hexagonal screw to fit the valve gear on as is used on the normal Caprotti valve gear normally found on the base model.

As you may have guessed, my model will be wartime black once all of the modifications are done.

Until next time...

Monday, 29 February 2016

"Gresley's P2 Class Locomotives - Andrew Hardy"

The P2 Steam Locomotive Company is delighted to exclusively announce the publication of an all new book on the P2 class locomotives in conjunction with Ian Allan Publishing. 

The book, written by the Trust's researcher and archivist Andrew Hardy will feature new and unseen photographs, letters and other material never previously printed making this the must read book on the class. 

contribution from the sale of each book will go towards No. 2007 Prince of Wales. This will be higher if bought direct from the Trust. 

Pre-orders are available now through the Trust for publication in May 2016 with no money required until final publication. To pre-order or for more information please email andy.hardy@p2steam.com

I would like to assure readers of my blog that this book is worth purchasing. It is, in my opinion, the most balanced and fair account of these locomotives ever written: it includes never-seen before archive material, and the fact that its sale directly contributes to the building of no.2007 Prince of Wales is a further bonus.

Quite frankly, if you love the locomotives of Sir Nigel Gresley, you need this book in your collection.

Until next time.

Friday, 26 February 2016

"Flying Scotsman"

I write this a few hours into the day after the most publicised railway event of all time, to give a hearty congratulations to everyone involved in Flying Scotsman's inaugural run. I was on the train, and despite the incident at St Neots, it was a truly brilliant trip. For me, none of the magic was taken away from the day by anything which was perceived to have gone wrong.

I met Michael Portillo, a true gentleman in every sense of the word, at King's Cross early doors, who is filming for his next in the series on Bradshaw's guide, and he of course had his copy with him. 

Shortly afterwards on the same platform I met Sir William McAlpine, who shared a heart rending moment with me when he said "I only wish Alan was here to enjoy the day with us". Alan being Alan Pegler of course. I was very choked up by that, and whilst it is true that preservation is the poorer for Alan Pegler's passing, we owe him such a large debt of gratitude for the locomotive still being with us. 

There was a great tribute to him, in that the locomotive did of course pass the large brick chimney with "Peglers" still written on it on its journey north to York. For me, that was a significant moment passed by us in the carriage with a moment of quiet reflection. We do also of course owe Sir William the same, as a former owner and supporter of the people's engine.

I was in coach G and shared my compartment with a delightful group of fellow enthusiasts. The trip was fascinating, as the life experiences of my fellow passengers was something to behold. An ex-King's Cross driver, no less, a gentlemen doing timekeeping of the run (and seeing the speeds come up on the iPad as we travelled northwards was great fun!) and a car designer who had worked on the McClaren P1 too, together with a very knowledgeable Electrician and another fellow Scotsman enthusiast. 

There is nothing quite like the ambience of a steam train at speed on the east coast main line, in great company with food and drink plentiful. The catering staff were fantastic as you'd expect - champagne drunk at half eight in the morning! Such a pleasure cannot be understated!

The weather was perfect throughout (perhaps a little overcast on arrival at York) and the locomotive performed beautifully. Speeds in the high 70s were definitely recorded throughout the trip, and she just went on and on, sounding like a sewing machine at times. It was a memorable, wonderful sound.

On arrival at York, there was time for a buffet lunch, courtesy of the wonderful people of the National Railway Museum, and time to spend around the museum, taking in the sights and sounds of the exhibits before retiring to the North Yard to see her arrive. 

The speeches by Mr Kirkman and the head of the heritage lottery fund were thought provoking and enjoyable, and being able to get up close to the people's engine and take photographs and converse with other members of the general public was wonderful. A very human and very memorable experience. 

I was later on in the day interviewed by Dominic King for BBC Radio Kent, and you can listen to it here from 1:35 hours in: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p03j0jcz
Former Medway MP & now novelist Bob Marshall-Andrews QC chats to Dom about his new book

In my interview with Dominic King, I said that the story behind Flying Scotsman was people. It was the story of people who built her, ran her, watered her, fed her, bought her, took her to America and Australia, sold her, fixed her, painted her and loved her. That this still remains true nearly a hundred years after her building cannot be understated. She remains Britain's most treasured locomotive, the engine which shines a light on the pleasures of railway travel and brings people from all walks of life together.

Overall, it was just one of the best experiences of my life. Thanks - big thanks - to everyone involved in bringing the legend back to steam. Thanks to the National Railway Museum for buying her, and persevering with the overhaul through everything. Special thanks to Helen May and Catherine Farrell for their part in making the day particularly memorable for me. The buffet lunch and chance to rub shoulders with some icons of the railway preservation industry was terrific. 

Thanks to the Heritage Lottery Fund for the donations to help the project along. Thanks to everyone, who like myself, have over the years donated sums of money to the locomotive for her purchase and later restoration.

Thanks to the A1 Trust for the loan of Tornado's support coach at the last minute, a great gesture and I said as much to their chairman Mark Allatt on the day. Thanks to Heritage Painting for the superb finish which looked the business. 

And of course - the man of the decade - we must give thanks and props to Ian Riley and his team for bringing her back to life. I am sure there are others we haven't mentioned and they too deserve praise for their part in the wonderful day that was. 

You have all made this young man very happy, remembering times spent with his late grandfather and his father watching this locomotive go by in days past, remembering that very first childhood memory of steam: a dark green steam engine, with 60103 in cream on the cab sides, pulling a train of maroon coaches through the green valleys of Wales.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

"Hornby and the model railway media"

Unless you've been sat under a rock today, you'll know that Hornby have announced a profits warning. Read on this here.

It makes for sobering reading, amidst the back drop of what I believed to an entirely positive 2015 for the company, particularly in terms of the models it was producing.

The magnificent Peppercorn K1, the J15, the Goods Arthur, the Great Western King, the Gresley J50, announcing the new Merchant Navy, a plethora of wonderful carriages and wagons alike: this was not the design of a company on the way down but one very much on the way up.

I've been privileged to share my knowledge over the course of the last few months with a couple of individuals and they've been good enough to allow me into their confidence. I say this not to show off, as others might, but because I feel it is important to give both sides of the story: and that is I feel Hornby are going in a very positive direction in their Research & Development, and I am anxious that this isn't scuppered or spoiled for a ha'porth of tar, so to speak.

I don't feel it is giving anything away to say that Hornby have surprised us all, and will continue to surprise us, with their planned new products into the future. I have been very impressed by the openness of Hornby in many ways, and I feel their approach to their Research & Development is spot on. They have the hobby, the modeller and the beginner's best interests very much at heart, in my view, and I don't say that lightly. It is not something I believe is true of all other manufacturers.

It is clear, on the flip side, that their sales and in particular with their retailers, have been a most commanding influence in the profits warning issued today. I have said previously that I feel Hornby need to have a round the table discussion with their retailers to improve the situation all round: here is my offer to act as an impartial adjudicator for all, representing no sides but helping everyone be heard and look for a solution to the problems which my local retailers and Hornby are finding increasingly difficult to cope with.

I make that offer in the spirit of wanting to help: and after all, I am a financial adjudicator in my day job. It is something I am particularly good at: researching, and then analysing both sides of a particular story and then offering a practical solution designed to help both sides move forward.

So there you have it. Yes, it is disappointing news today, but let this be where the line is drawn, and we go no further. Constructive rather than destructive going forward. Being critical and able to analyse is fine, but Hornby could rightly be described as the backbone of the hobby and certainly it is the entry point for many of the younger generation. Let's not lose sight of that.