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STEWART BLENCOWE
BOOKS

 

News & Jottings

Well, with the Warley Model Railway Show at the NEC over for another year, there comes a short break in events, up to the end of the year before it all kicks off again. This gives me a chance to catch up on the administration, part of which is trying to keep this web site up to date. You’ll be aware that the website does not get all the attention it deserves - but I keep trying!

After a year of doubt and postponement we finally managed to join the Railway Touring Company trip to Colombia and Equador – and everything ran to plan!

Both countries had virtually abandoned the use of rail during the 1990’s via a combination of neglect and the forces of natural destruction. In Columbia, other than some coastal mineral traffic, a resurrection has occurred in the capital Bogota where, through the entrepreneurial efforts of one local man. Buying up the remains of the steam fleet and with the acquisition of some more modern motive power he now operates a daily suburban service for university students and tourist trains, once a week to Zipaquira, the famous Colombian salt cathedral.

Proudly showing us around the workshops, where he employs a number of apprentices, we were then treated to the sight of four locomotives performing a quadruple departure from the station. Over two days we travelled what remains of a once extensive system, on somewhat precarious trackwork overgrown in many places. Nevertheless, much of this was accomplished on the footplates of a 2-8-0 and a 4-8-0 – my first ever footplating of a 4-8-0.

The Equadorian railway from the coast at Duran, up into the Andes and on towards the Colombian border was badly affected by the forces of nature in the 1990’s. While one section will never be rebuilt, and the northern section to the coast has closed, the rest has been repaired or rebuilt. The tourist board now operates tourist trains over certain sections while enthusiast groups can utilize the very small fleet of steam locomotives. So it was that we progressed northwards using a combination of steam and diesel heading a couple of passenger coaches. All locomotives are Baldwin products and in excellent working order – footplating was whenever you wanted it, for as long as you wanted it. The journey took a week to complete but the pace was leisurely with plenty of time for runpasts, lunch breaks and the odd ‘tourist’ sightseeing expedition.

While some days were rather dull the weather was kind to us with just one afternoon of drizzle, and a fairly constant warm temperature although at 11,000 feet up, the summit of the railway, it was a little chilly. The clear and fresh Andean air was a treat and to stand on the equator with a snow-capped mountain in the background a rare treat.Such conditions were ideal for photography although I do wish rail tour companies would ban people who insist on annoying fellow passengers by wearing high-viz anoraks and the like.

However, for me, the highlight of the whole trip, and the fulfillment of a long held ambition was to travel up the Devil’s Nose. The section, between Sibambe and Alausi has been relaid and now tourist trains run over this section most days of the week. Unfortunately steam is not allowed up this zig-zag part which has probably taken the edge off the experience for some, but nevertheless it is still most exhilarating. During a break at Sibambe we were taken in the back of jeeps up the hillside opposite to view the tourist train coming down and returning before it was time for our special train to make the assault. Wonderful stuff!

Both countries are certainly well-advanced, with good hotel facilities, good food and friendly people, certainly a journey to be recommended. While we have the wedding of one of sons next year we will hopefully maintain the overseas travelling. In fact, tentative plans for 2018 are already afoot!

I can happily report a busy year so far in the antiques centre in Gloucester where the railway memorabilia, books and models have continued to attract a steady number of visitors. Long may it continue and we will do our best to maintain a variety of items at sensible prices – although they gets increasingly hard to do. Auction houses commission rates continue to rise and in excess of 20% + vat is now commonplace. Quite frankly sellers who ‘fear’ selling to dealers are literally, and unbeknowingly, being ripped off by the auction houses. It is a situation supported by a continual stream of ‘fake’ auction programmes on the television giving people the wrong impression under the guise of ‘entertainment’. Believe in your local dealer – he has no interest in ripping anyone off. OK, I’ll get off my soap-box now!

So, the usual pleas for photographs and slides should anyone be downsizing - but please, only material that is at least captioned with dates and locations. Having just dealt with a life-long collection of some 10,000 slides, uncaptioned with no apparant catalogue/notebook, it is so disappointing to think this photographers anonimous efforts are largely destined to the great rubbish bin in the sky.

Otherwise do make contact if there is anything specific you need or come a say hello if you actually notice me on the stand somewhere.

I am an avid collector of Indian railway publicity, guides, books, folders, leaflets etc. In line with English railways, such publicity started with the original Indian companies, the Bombay, Baroda and Central India, the Bengal Nagpur, the East Indian etc in late Victorian times and continued up to the 1950s. I am particularly trying to obtain all the folders, like the one illustrated below, and would love to hear from anyone who has one of the following;

Big Game Shooting in India
India and the Tourist
India for the Tourist
Tourist Cars
Indian Cameos
South India
Travancore
Kangra Valley
Delhi