Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Real Steam

As described earlier the interest in steam and model railways can be traced back as far as my great grand father, Mr William H Ellis. The family no longer has any of his models but we do have a number of paintings, photographs and a selection of tools.

By all accounts my great grand father was a very strong minded man who’s language was always choice. My father notes in a small bio on the family, ‘he was a brilliant engineer in a variety of fields including aviation, automotive and railways as well as a painter and sculptor’. I remember my father relaying a story where by on returning to his workshop his grandfather had destroyed a car body he had been working on, saying ‘you would never had finished it and they were like oil slicks when new’ Not the most encouraging man it seems but he did past on his knowledge and instilled an interest that has been passed on to me so he can’t have been that bad!

I have a number of photographs in my possession that show the last model he made a live steam LMS Princess. Built around the late 30s early 40s to a gauge of either 31/2 inch or 5 inch the locomotive looks an impressive piece of engineering. There is some confusion about the gauge, as I know he built a number of locomotives of LMS design in a variety of scales. I would dearly love to track it down and perhaps even get the locomotive to run again, alas sadly not at the railway it spent many hours running on.

The locomotive is pictured at ‘The Looms’ firstly pulling a number of wagons and then appears in the corner of a number of photographs. I would really like to solve the mystery of the gauge, which is further confused by the history of the railway it ran on.
The photograph below shows the locomotive on a small bench possible confirming its gauge of 5inch?

'The Looms' was a large garden railway built by Jimmy James just outside Chester around 1930. It was located in an old orchard close to the Chester to Birkenhead railway line. The original layout was a built to a gauge of 3 ½ inches, running around the orchard with a 3 ½ / 5 inch or maybe 7 1/2 inch gauge raised level track running down one side. At some point the inner layout was replaced with a 7 1/2 inch and 5-inch gauge railway that ran around his house and orchard. This remained until about 1993 when the house and railway were sold. 
These pictures show the last running day 1983/4 with resident 71/2 inch A3 pacific built by Jimmy James and a visiting LMS Royal Scot. Today the buildings remain including the small shed down the side of the house, much of the original track bed is still visible forming planting boarders for the new residents
The railway used a variety of locomotives with the princess making regular visits. There are a number of other locomotives pictured in my possession which appear to be models built by Jimmy and my great grand father. I have also been able to dig out some very old film footage from about 1950, which shows locomotives running back, and forth on the demonstration line. This is of poor quality but once transfered to DVD it maybe possible to see other classes of locomotive.
The last picture shows Jimmy James with a relative operating a locomotive on the raised demonstration line. My father is on the left aged about 8 which makes this date to around 1953. Thirty years later I would be stood aged 3 next to Jimmy's A3, marking the beginning of my interest in railways.

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