May 2010

So far I’ve discussed the Basilica Fields project running c1890-1898, and I’ve already admitted that this is quite a big timeframe to deal with, especially as it is one in which a great many changes took place. However, dealing with so many railway companies and a very incomplete historical record when taken as a whole, I’m left with little choice, and it has proven impossible to narrow things down further. Even with this very large window in time of almost a decade, there are still gaping holes where I’m simply going to have to make a best guestimate based upon the information and advice given to me by those who are well respected in their areas of historical railway knowledge.

Nevertheless, despite the pitfalls, 1898 isn’t the end of the Basilica Fields story, and I also intend to run a 1899-c1906 period. Again, this is very feather-edged with no delineated start or cut-off point, and like in the earlier period there will be times when there will be anachronistic pieces of stock running…but not in the same train.

‘Why?’ is a very legitimate question, and is one which I’ve been asked more than once. The answer is simple; the last decade of the 19th century saw the pinnacle in artistic locomotive and stock design, and one which contrasts with the early years of the 20th century when there was a move towards more powerful looking designs. It’s a fascinating change, and one of the big advantages of modelling such a wide timeframe – indeed, one of my earliest ideas, and something that I kept coming back to when planning all of this – is the opportunity to show not what the railway looked like at a certain date, but to show the changes that took place over a period of time. Few modellers have attempted anything quite so daft, and to be honest, I now know why!

Head in the sand or not, this is what I plan to do, so without further ado…

Graham’s comment about couplings sent me scurrying off to the book room to look for more info. Far from finding definitive answers, I’ve found that coupling types in use during the period were legion; three link, four link, five link, three link plus one for shunting, links (of different numbers) with a hook (sometimes short, sometimes long) on the end, short links, long links, short pilot screw links, long screw links, side chains (with different numbers of links), and more besides! As for the coupling hook, there were Gedge hooks, plain hooks, some locos had an an eye-bolt and no hook! Solid hooks, swinging hooks, ad nausium. Even more hair-raising was that different members of the same class on identical duties could have different coupling types, and some locos wore two or even three types of coupling at once. Sometimes these multiple types were hung loose over the hook, sometimes they were attached to a common hook (or eyebolt). Mad. Just mad.

Walworth Models have made it known that they are producing a kit for the GNR Class J14 (LNER J53). This could be good news as the 921 series was one of the constituents of that class. The kit was pencilled in to go on sale at Telford last September, however, as is the way of these things, there has been some delay. A quick email to John Percival today revealed that he’s had the artwork amended (not a bad sign), and is waiting for the etched sheets to arrive as well as some of the castings.

I say ‘could be good news’ because I’ve not built any Walworth Models’ kits, so their fidelity to prototype is currently an unknown factor. I suspect the kit will retail at the same price as their J52 kit – currently £125 – so in the grand scheme of 7mm kits, not terribly expensive and probably worth a punt.

Also in development is a kit for the GNR J15, seen here which bodes well for a future segment of Basilica Fields.

One facet of the East End life not yet touched upon was the ubiquitous public house; like a church, a pub was always no more than a stone’s throw away, and more often than not, could be found on street corners.

The Spencer Arms was located on the corner of Dean Street and Spencer Street, next door to Abraham Nerhard’s grocery shop (seen far left). In the early 1900s, Silas Hill was landlord of the establishment, and lived on the premises with his family.

This photo dated c1910 is packed with detail, from the sign written boards, the peeling block walls, the net curtains in the upper story windows, and the wooden panelling on the ground floor. Etched glass was perfected in the 19th Century, and the Spencer Arms doesn’t disappoint with a fantastic display on the large window panes as well as the doors. As with many East End pubs, this one had a fabulous lamp over the door, no doubt to attract the punters out of the cold or another greasy pea-souper.

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