This week we feature one of the books from the temporary exhibition on Narrow Gauge Railways depicted in Literature. Ian Evans provides a review of the book.
The Stationmaster’s Daughter by Kathleen McGurl
This novel, published in October 2019, is based on a fictional railway in Dorset, where the author lives, but readers will recognise Woody Bay, Chelfham and Lynton from her descriptions. It is a dual timeline novel – the historical story tells the tale of the last months of the Lynton & Barnstaple Railway’s operation in 1935 and a contemporary story follows its restoration. And there’s a mystery and a surprise or two along the way. Both stories kept me enthralled, a genuine page turner … what happened next? Would the characters live “happily ever after”? You will have to read it yourself to find out! However, it is a novel and not a historic description of the operation of the L&BR in 1935, nor a record of its more recent reincarnation. The latter covers the many tasks involved in rebuilding and operating the line; the running of special events, but also a nod towards the importance of protecting artefacts and records for archiving or display.
The photographs show the book cover, and a reminder of the Lynton and Barnstaple railway stations in the form of a glass from the Lynton and Blackmoor Refreshment Rooms, which is in our collection.
The Patent Exhaust Steam Injector Company was established at the Rheidol Foundry, Aberystwyth in April 1878, by James Metcalfe, who was a locomotive foreman for the Manchester and Milford Railway. He had patented an improved steam injector and received financial backing from David Davies and Edward Hamer, the General Manager of the Manchester & Milford Railway. The company later changed its name to Davies and Metcalfe Ltd, and moved to Romiley, Manchester.
Whilst concentrating on the manufacture of steam locomotive components, the company did build two complete locomotives for the new Vale of Rheidol Railway in 1902. The basic design was subsequently copied by the Great Western Railway for the current locomotives.
The Company issued a centenary plate, and the photograph shows the plate with the Vale of Rheidol locomotive in the centre.
The Talyllyn Railway locomotives often carry headboards marking significant events. Some of these are now in the museum, and the photographs show two that are connected with the Railway Letter Service.
On the 1st February 1891 most of the railway companies in Great Britain entered into an agreement with the Post Office whereby letters could be carried by the railways between any two railway stations throughout the country. Although the Talyllyn was included in this agreement, it was not until 1957 that a regular service was introduced.
To mark the 50th anniversary, a special headboard was made for the commemorative train on Wednesday May 23rd 2007. The picture taken by Neill Oakley shows the train at Abergynolwyn.
The second headboard was used during the occasional all night train service. One such year was in 1990 when a special first day cover was issued.
The Chattenden and Upnor Railway (later known as the Lodge Hill and Upnor Railway) was a 2ft 6in gauge military railway originally built by the army but taken over by the admiralty. It conveyed ammunition to and from Upnor Pier to magazines at Chattenden.
Saxby and Farmer Frame No 4383 of 1871 was used on the railway. The photographs show the lever fame as installed in the former museum building, with detail of the interlocking mechanism, and the lever description plate.
Railway openings were marked by festivities, and one of the common features was a celebration meal. Here is the menu for the official opening of the Leek and Manifold Valley Light Railway on 27th June 1904.
The 8 mile line lasted barely 30 years, closing on 12th March 1934. The track-bed was taken over by Staffordshire County Council and opened as a paved footpath in 1937.
The museum recently received this lovely email from Ziyad, together with the photographs.
" Dear the Narrow-Gauge Railway Museum Team,
I hope that you are all doing okay and that you are getting through this strange time fairly well. I am a member of the Talyllyn Railway Preservation Society, and I really love the railway and the museum.
I like all of the exhibits at the museum, and it is very interesting learning about all of the locomotives and wagons on display. One of my favourite things in the museum is the recreation of Reverend Wilbert Awdry's study on the upper floor. I have always loved 'Thomas the Tank Engine', and especially the original books in the Railway Series by Awdry. I like how all of his original items are inside the study, such as the typewriter, the books, the glasses, and the pipe!
It is a big year for Thomas the Tank Engine this year (75 years since the publication of the first book) and my family and I had a lovely celebration the weekend after the publication date! Me and my mum also created a big '75' out of all of the Thomas engines that I have collected over the past years. Among them are, of course, Skarloey, Rheneas, Sir Handel, Peter Sam, and the other engines that are based on engines from the Talyllyn Railway! The picture of it is attached to this email; I hope that you will like it.
We miss coming to the Railway, and we look forward to seeing you again soon!