A Long-Forgotten Detail Rediscovered

david_xmastreerailway_croppedcrightFor the holiday season, here’s a slightly different “throwback” article.

When I was two years old, my parents bought me my first (clockwork) train set. The photo above, from Christmas 1963, shows me with everything set up under the Christmas tree, in the living room of our house in Scarborough.

Much later, the original train set developed into a “model railway” layout, which was permanently set up in the conservatory of our house. Although I was perhaps lucky that we had space for such a layout at all, a conservatory certainly wasn’t the ideal environment for it, since it was cold and very damp in winter, and exposed to direct sunlight in summer. As a result, the layout deteriorated to the point of unusability after a few years.

One summer evening, probably in 1973, I discovered that my father was taking photographs of the layout. At the time, I wished that he had let me know his plans beforehand, so that I’d have had a chance to “tidy up” the details as best I could. As it turned out, the photographs also left something to be desired! Nonetheless, two of those photos have survived in monochrome print form, and are now the only remaining record of my efforts. The photo below shows a closeup of part of the layout.

A portion of my falling-apart model railway, in 1973

A portion of my disintegrating model railway, in 1973

Most of the buildings shown were plastic or cardboard kits produced by Tri-ang, Playcraft, Superquick and other manufacturers.

One prominent item in the photo is the rather wonky-looking water tower (towards the bottom right), which was one of my earliest attempts at “scratch-building”. I used thin cardboard and Superquick “brick paper”, but I had no plans and just created the building’s walls “on the fly”. The initial result wasn’t too bad, but the flimsy cardboard construction couldn’t survive the climatic extremes in our conservatory, so, by the time the photos were taken, the structure was warped and was falling apart.

The posters for Beefex and Kelloggs on the sides of the water tank were hand-drawn by me. Both were real products, of course, except that I misspelled Kelloggs with only one “g”! I’d also decided to depict one of the posters peeling off the wall, which was a detail I knew I’d seen in real life somewhere years before.

I couldn’t remember where I’d seen the peeling poster, and I certainly never expected to see that real-life example again.

I was astonished therefore when, decades later, I was thumbing through a recently-published book on the Hull & Scarborough railway, and there in the book was a photo of the old water tank at Bridlington Station, with a Martini poster on the side, one corner of which is peeling! The image below is a partial scan, showing the relevant detail.

Railway Water Tank at Bridlington Station, c.1965

Railway Water Tank at Bridlington Station, c.1965

The photo in the book isn’t dated, but the Martini slogan in the poster was in use around 1964, so I probably saw it a few years after that. The only other mistake I’d made was to have the corner of the poster defying gravity, by peeling up from the bottom corner, instead of down from the top!

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