Early Railways Shire Book 1569 to 1830 and other early railway titles

Another excellent Shire Library book, a short illustrated introduction covering the earliest days of mineral tramways from horse-drawn tramways into the experimental steam era.

Book Blurb “In the popular mind, the history of the railway begins in 1830 with the opening of the Liverpool & Manchester Railway. In fact, by that time the concept of the railway in Britain was already more than 250 years old. The interim is a fascinating but little-known period of experimentation, improvement and invention which included such remarkable oddities as an Elizabethan version of the ‘Scalextric’, an early ‘JCB’, and an engine fitted with steam-powered legs. Innovations such as iron rails, inclines and the pioneering locomotives were gradually introduced, so that by 1830 the basic principles of the modern railway were already in place.

Never again would the industry see such fundamental development, and it is this heady and industrious period that Early Railways examines, in fascinating detail and with lavish illustrations.”


The authors Andy Guy and Jim Rees were involved in the Beamish Living History Museum 1825 early tramway recreation and the National Railway Museum at York.

Although I am not a railway modeller (but come from a family of railway modellers), I grew up on the edge of London near one early railway which is covered in this book and near a famous later railway tunnel where many navvies died.

Early inventions and incarnations of now familiar things fascinate me, including the ‘also rans’ and failures.

Jack Simmons‘ scholarly book on The Victorian Railway (Thames and Hudson, 1991/2009) is very good for this, as is Gordon Biddle’s Victorian Stations 1830 -1923 (David Charles, 1973) and the early part of the Victorian Farm team’s TV series Full Steam Ahead. All books worth a review on this blog sometime.

These books chronicle the many ways in which the “vandalism” of railways changed our towns, our countryside, our culture and the world.

Tunnels had to be dug, viaducts built Roman style and track had to be laid leading to the strange and riotous life of the navvy camps The navvies had already done the same for the canals and inland waterways, which were often eclipsed by their new upstart neighbour running alongside them.

Stations had to be built and carriages designed for people, often mimicking the stage coaches and infrastructure of the mail coaches of the day.

eBay image source: my copy of this unusual subject for a Britain’s figure is boxed away in storage somewhere!

I live in the Southwest UK and 150 years on still travel from a Victorian station on a Great Western Railway system of bridges, lines and tunnels created by Brunel.

Cornish inventors like Richard Trevithick, William Murdoch and Goldsworthy Gurney tried creating both steam cars or wagons and engines for roads.

If it had worked in the late 1820s, the post Napoleonic and Crimean era Victorian British Army could have ridden to war on a Gurney steam car or steam drag and dragged its guns there with steam. Instead Brunel built the “Crimean Railway” or tramway. Christian Wolmer has written an interesting history of railways at war called Engines of War.

Goldsworthy Gurney steam drag, 1820s (Wikimedia source)


Before dying aged 18 / 19 in the trenches in the final year of WW1, my Great Uncle had been a fit young “steam waggon stoker” in this road steam version of a locomotive and lorry, a curious and rare “steam hybrid” that I got to look around recently at a local steam fair. The internal combustion engine, road freight and diesel lorry eventually won over that rival or competitor. The world with its vanished branchlines is probably poorer for it.

Before this Victorian era, there were rail ways or tramways across my current landscape. I now live in a village like much of its area and road network still awkwardly shaped in parts by its early 19th century life as a horse tram and steam Mineral Tramway and docks for the Cornish mines, like many such tramways in Devon, Cornwall and the North. I still work in the shadow of a stone railway viaduct to a coastal town that owes its seaside heritage and modern trade to a mineral tramway that ended up shipping in tourists and holidaymakers when the minerals petered out.

Pull the Emergency Stop Chain now! Woah there!

Caught myself there before the railway madness in the family descends full steam ahead on me …

If you search early railways, you will find a range of interesting books including this one:


If you hanker after early tramways and railways, be warned, there is not much off the shelf Or ready to run engines and rolling stock. You’ll have to build lots of fiddly twiddly stuff.

Good to know that the original Airfix Stephenson’s Rocket kit (static model) and railway labourers are still available from good old Dapol:


Almost steampunk, two of the odder Airfix figures with their fine top hats.

They could join my Victorian policeman conversion (can you recognise the original Airfix figure with a ‘straw’ top hat?) sorting out those riotous navvies.

The sign reads “Stop Now! This (rail) way madness lies …”

Blog Post Script

I have Mr. Bob Cordery to blame for this post, having posted about his Diddly Dums.


One of the comments on his blog jokily mentioned Beware joining the “chuff puff loonies” so it’s obviously not just my family curse.

Blog posted by Mark Man Of TIN, 18 February 2023. Toot toot!


Puerto Borracho Railway

I found this charming small railway online (following a post by Mike Siggins) and thought I’d share it with you. It’s on Facebook …

And the videos are also available on Facebook

Such as this Youtube clip https://youtu.be/c-w20_Q0HTg

It’s a cheery, jokey, charming, colourful and beautifully detailed layout and project. Well worth watching.

Blog posted by Mark Man Of TIN 8 January 2023

Shad(ow)y Characters

These are some of the shad(ow)y railway characters that turned up in Lockdown April 2020.

I think they look quite striking in dark painted undercoat, like mysterious silhouettes or Cluedo game pieces from the 1920s and 1930s.

They were bought as civilians and NPCs (Non-Player Characters) for my Scouting Wide Games and snowball fight projects to go alongside my LBB30 STS Shiny Toy Soldiers 42mm range Boy Scout figures.

These plastic figures needed a bit of height to be adults alongside my strapping Boy Scouts, so I mounted the adults on 1p MDF and penny pieces.

A bit of research suggests that they are hard to find ex-Lionel Railway stock (USA). Now out of production and widely sold out (including from my original supplier below), they were sold or marked as O figures.


DMZ Post No. 3 – Tank Engine Tuesday

In place of the promised tankettes and Tankette Tuesday, here is the DMZ demilitarised version: Tank Engine Tuesday

DMZ? https://manoftinblogtwo.wordpress.com/2022/02/24/some-more-peaceful-or-non-lethal-tabletop-strategy-games/

Tank Engine Tuesday? No that’s not engines for tanks. I once saw a Matilda tank engine for sale on EBay and thought for a moment, it’s a start. A Matilda Tank on the Front Lawn would certainly be a conversation piece …

Anyway a DMZ demilitarised look at my occasional Sidetracked blog, where my gaming life sometimes overlaps with railways and model railways.

Ben, this lovely beast of a Tank Engine is still lurking in the family toy cupboards, along with this vintage handmade station with its tin and card adverts

According to the authoritative https://ttte.fandom.com/wiki/Bill_and_Ben

“Bill and Ben are based on the Bagnall 0-4-0STs “Alfred” and “Judy” of Par [Docks] in Cornwall, who are both preserved and in working order at the excellent Bodmin and Wenford Railway in Cornwall.”

“According to the foreword of Thomas and the Twins, Alfred and Judy are both Bill and Ben’s twins. Alfred was once repainted yellow for a Days Out with Thomas event, to resemble Bill.”



Railways are one DMZ demilitarised and relaxing modelling way of keeping the crafting modelling hands busy during current disquieting events.


Its an occasional itch – I come from a Model Railway Family (we’re all about 1 inch tall, made of plastic and don’t move around much).


Peter Dennis’ versatile civilians from his Little Wars, 54mm Paperboys – great passengers!


One of the attractive sections of H.G. Wells’ Floor Games (1911) is the ‘lectric, or clockwork engines, the photographs of the cities and islands by his wife Amy Catherine (“Jane”) Wells and the charming drawings by illustrator J.R. (John Ramage) Sinclair.

Floor Games 1911


The most attractive parts of railway modelling has always been the scenics and especially the figures, often a useful (but sometimes expensiv e source) of civilians for my DMZ Demilitarised Games – snowballers, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts / Guides …






Some interesting DMZ reading and viewing


Why not Do a Snooville? I remember this at the time from the family Railway Modeller magazine! https://sidetracked2017blog.wordpress.com/2019/10/13/do-a-snooville/

Much as I like British railways and vanished quirky branch lines, I also like American railroads, Mixed Train Daily and Short Lines (Hello citizens of Bowdon!)



I also like pop up instant railways

whether in a tin,


a pop up book https://sidetracked2017blog.wordpress.com/2020/05/22/pop-up-railway-americana/

or a Wild West battery train set and birdhouse trackside station


Set up and taken down in minutes. Instant fix. Quick joy.

Even a quirky pen and ink digital railway?




Why not take it around in a suitcase?



Taken from my occasional blog – https://sidetracked2017blog.wordpress.com/

Blogposted by Mark Man of TIN, 1st March 2022

“Some suggestions for toymakers” 1911

Some charming figures – Illustration by J.R. Sinclair from H G Wells’ “Floor Games” of 1911

Cheap and charming civilians, especially period ones in 54mm, are still hard to find. Not much has changed since 1911 then!


Working again researching and blog posting about H.G. Wells’ book “Little Wars” of 1911, I was reminded of this great illustration page of characters.

This book was expanded by H. G. Wells from a small end section of “Floor Games” of 1911 into two magazine articles and the famous book.

The charming railways section of “Floor Games” is explored and illustrated more here:


Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN, 5 December 2021

Now with Added Trains …

A Russian Civil War armoured trains gaming scenario from the Wargaming for Grown Ups website:


Everyday Tasks on the Steam Railway – Bennett Brook railway archive films on YouTube

The Bennett Brook Railway channel of railway archive films on YouTube shows Training films on everyday tasks such as track maintenance in the age of steam, including these great 1950s track gang.

To me they look just like the Airfix track workers still available from Dapol.

You can access the channel via YouTube through their railway newsreel archive posts such as: https://youtu.be/MGszU8cA8_I

It’s all the everyday detail that make such films fascinating.

Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN on Sidetracked, 28 December 2020.

Last Express Train on the Southwold Railway 1929

The Last Train from Southwold 1929


Southwold Railway History


Precious post link to Southwold Railway


As featured in


Small Goods Yard Layout, Railway Modeller February 1979

I like the corner compactness of this layout, gaming as I often do tucked away onto a corner table. Another vanished Short Line, this time in Stiperstones, Shropshire.

Another stray article that caught my attention in old Railway Modeller magazines I was lent, this one by Roy Link from Railway Modeller February 1979.

Blogposted by Mark Man of TIN on his occasional Sidetracked blog, December 2020

Pop Up Railway Americana

In the days of pop up shops, and Peter Dennis’ Paperboys soldiers, what about a pop up book railway?

I bought this over ten years ago quite cheaply at a seaside Pound Store / remainder bookshops type shop.

Illustrations by Michael Welply. 1997 Piggy Toes Press, produced for the Book People.

Illustrator Michael Welply http://michaelwelply.com/about/ has also painted the illustrations for certain American Army related Osprey titles.

The story on the back of the train pages, linking in part with the town and press out card characters …

Instant railways that go round and round are always fun, even if the clockwork engine here runs down very fast.

The PRESS HERE sound card worked well enough but the tiny batteries now need replacing (housed neatly in the Station Cafe central block).

Shhh! Don’t startle the deer and the rabbits …

I like the simple American country station halt.

The train really does fit inside the little shed when folded up and back in its book box.

A fierce looking schoolmistress …

Lovely details of the hobo cooking his breakfast above the tunnel, next to the Station Cafe.

A beautifully quick bit of paper engineering. When closed, the pond folds up for the train shed.

Great little pop up water tower.

What delighted me about this was the pop up rural Americana buildings.

Barns, schoolhouse, railway station, town hall – straight out of Little House on the Prairie or my favourite and wistful Americana website (and Facebook page) Forgotten Georgia http://forgottengeorgia2.blogspot.com

If I had seen another of these books at the time, I’m sure I would have stripped one for buildings or stuck them down a bit more permanently and adapted them for Airfix figures.

Shootout at the station OOHO Airfix figures. My Train in a Tin sadly doesn’t run on these ‘rails’

Instead of cutting it up and sticking it all down ‘better’ I will enjoy it for the peaceful instant pop up whimsy that it is!

Blogposted by Mark Man of TIN on Sidetracked, his railway / gaming blog.