Monthly Archives: August 2018

11th August 1968 and British Rail makes 3 Special Offers

 A 315 mile, almost eleven hour journey marked the end of standard gauge steam-hauled passenger service on British Railways.  The timings sheet was headed with the statement – ‘Last steam hauled train on Britain Railways on standard track, Sunday 11th August 1968.’

A ‘Souvenir Platform Ticket’ was available – it tells us that: The last steam hauled train to operate on standard gauge track will run on Sunday, 11th August 1968.  The train will run from Liverpool 09.10 via Manchester to Carlisle calling at Manchester Victoria at 10.36 and 18.48 and will be hauled from Liverpool to Manchester by a class 5 locomotive.

Front & back of a souvenir platform ticket is available from The John Debens Collection.   Manchester Victoria souvenir platform ticket 2s 6d.  Not valid on Train. Not Transferable.

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A railway ‘Fifteen Guinea Special’ for one last day

The ‘Fifteen Guinea Special’ was the last main-line passenger train to be hauled by steam locomotive power on British Rail.  It happened on Sunday 11th August 1968 – the day before the introduction of a steam ban. It was a special rail tour excursion train organised for the occasion to run from Liverpool via Manchester to Carlisle and back. It was pulled by four different steam locomotives in turn during the four legs of the journey plus two engines sharing the third, very demanding, last leg.

Why was it called the Fifteen Guinea Special you may ask!  It was called that because of the high cost of tickets for the rail tour. 15 guineas were £15 15 shilling in pre-decimal British currency – and was the equivalent to £250 in 2016! Guinea prices were normally only used for luxury items or professional fees, but ticket prices had been inflated due to the high demand to travel on the last BR steam-hauled mainline train.  The end of steam-hauled trains on British Railways was a turning point in the history of rail travel in Britain.

The BR steam ban was to be introduced the day after the rail tour, on 12th August 1968 and t  This slight change was to enable ‘Oliver Cromwell’ to make one last positioning run back to Norwich and on to Diss for preservation. This was the last steam-hauled passenger train to be run by BR on its standard gauge network. Thereafter, all mainline trains in Britain would be hauled by either diesel or electric power.  However – the ban did not apply to one mainline steam locomotive – the Flying Scotsman – due to Alan Pegler having secured a clause in the purchase contract when she was purchased from BR in 1963. After this, the only opportunity to view mainline steam locos in operation after the ban was to be on privately owned heritage railways and all but one of the locomotives that hauled the train were immediately purchased straight from service and passed into preservation.

Have a look at today’s other posting and see a little more about this very special journey.

War in Britain – great music in the US

Last week we were looking at three very different individuals and their music in the early months of the war – Noël Coward; Michael Carr (real name Maurice Alfred Cohen) and Hughie Charles an English songwriter and producer of musical theatre.   So, during the same time, what music was coming out from the USA music?

Well, Bing Crosby was the leading figure of the crooner sound as well as its most iconic, defining artist. By the 1940s he was an entertainment superstar who mastered all of the major media formats of the day, movies, radio, and recorded music.  Not too far behind Bing we can find Cabell Calloway – an American jazz singer and bandleader who was strongly associated with the Cotton Club in Harlem in New York City, where he was a regular performer.

Another man and performer of the times was Eddie Cantor (born Edward Israel Itzkowitz in January 1892). He was an American illustrated song performer, comedian, dancer, singer, actor, and songwriter.  Familiar to Broadway, radio, movie, and early television audiences, this “Apostle of Pep” was regarded almost as a family member by millions because his top-rated radio shows revealed intimate stories and amusing anecdotes about his wife Ida and five daughters. His eye-rolling song-and-dance routines eventually led to his nickname, “Banjo Eyes”.  His eyes became his trademark, often exaggerated in illustrations, and leading to his appearance on Broadway in the musical ‘Banjo Eyes’ in 1941.

I could carry on with regard to the USA and a possible war but the US ‘powers that be’ were watching what was happening there and across in Europe but not taking the next step.  That may well come next week but for this week we can look at the top 5 songs recorded via the limited chart positions by the USA watchers:

At number 5 in the ratings was Billie Holiday with ‘God Bless the Child’   

At number 4 was Jimmy Dorsey with ‘Amapola (Pretty Little Poppy)’. Jimmy was also in place at 3 with ‘Green Eyes’

At number 2 we can find ‘A String of Pearls’ from Glenn Miller who was also in place at number 1 with ‘Chattanooga Choo Choo’.

Numbers two and one would be noted by, and listened to, by people all over the world and Glenn Miller would receive the praise – but who actually composed ‘String of Pearls and ‘Chattanooga Choo Choo’?  They were Harry Warren and Mack Gordon.

Harry Warren was an American composer and lyricist and was the first major American songwriter to write for his composing primarily for film. He was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Song eleven times and won three Oscars for composing “Lullaby of Broadway”, “You’ll Never Know” and “On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe”.  Over a career spanning four decades, Harry was one of America’s most prolific film composers with his songs have been featured in over 300 films.

Mack Gordon was a Jewish-American composer and lyricist of songs for stage and film and was nominated for the best original song Oscar nine times in eleven years, including five consecutive years between 1940 and 1944, and won the award once, for “You’ll Never Know”.

So – let’s finish this week’s story with the number one of 1941 – the ‘Chattanooga Choo Choo’.

Pardon me boy, is that the Chattanooga Choo Choo?
Track twenty nine, boy you can gimme a shine
I can afford to board a Chattanooga Choo Choo
I’ve got my fare and just a trifle to spare
You leave the Pennsylvania station ’bout a quarter to four
Read a magazine and then you’re in Baltimore
Dinner in the diner, nothing could be finer
Than to have your ham ‘n’ eggs in Carolina
When you hear the whistle blowin’ eight to the bar
Then you know that Tennessee is not very far
Shovel all the coal in, gotta keep it rollin’
Woo, woo, Chattanooga, there you are
There’s gonna be a certain party at the station
Satin and lace, I used to call funny face
She’s gonna cry until I tell her that I’ll never roam

 

Grinling Gibbon – a wood graver bar none.

Grinling Gibbon died on 3rd August 1721.  He was arguably the most famous woodcarver of all time; and certainly in Britain. Born in Rotterdam in 1648, he ‘arrived’ in England in 1670/1. The diarist John Evelyn first discovered Gibbons’ talent by chance in 1671. In his diary for 18th January 1671 he wrote:

 “I this day first acquainted his Majestie with that incomparable young man Gibson (sic) whom I had lately found in obscure place, and that by mere accident, as I was walking neere a poor solitary thatched house in a field in our Parish: I found him shut in , but looking into the Window, I perceived him carving that large Cartoone, or Crucifix of Tintorets, a Copy of which I had also my selfe brought from Venice.’

Later that same evening he described what he had seen to Sir Christopher Wren and the pair soon introduced him to King Charles II. That first visit to the King yielded nothing but frustration for Evelyn and Gibbons but it was quite soon after that King Charles gave Gibbons his first commission.

Horace Walpole later wrote: “There is no instance of a man before Gibbons who gave wood the loose and airy lightness of flowers, and chained together the various productions of the elements with the free disorder natural to each species.” 

That conversation between Evelyn and Wren also led Gibbons to becoming a favorite of Wren, who used him to supply decorative carving for many of his country house commissions.  One such building was Burghley House near Stamford – the home of the Cecil family to this day.  Gibbins work at Burghley remains visible to this day and can be viewed by visitors.

The genius of Gibbons is not simply that he had a remarkable ability to mould and shape wood, but that he evolved a distinct style that was all his own. Working mostly in Lime wood, Gibbons’ trademark was the cascade of fruit, leaves, flowers, foliage, fish and birds.

In Britain the majority feel alone – but VERY determining.

Although the 2nd World War began with Nazi Germany’s attack on Poland in September 1939, the United States did not fully enter the war until after the Japanese bombed the American fleet in Pearl Harbour, Hawaii, on 7th December 1941. The 1940 and 1941 conflict in Europe had received help and support from the USA – but mainly from a distance.  In Britain the majority felt alone – but VERY determining.  Music was a great support for all and as the conflict moved on into 1941 music was all around.  On 29th March Benjamin Britten’s Sinfonia da Requiem was premiered in Carnegie Hall conducted by John Barbirolli.  On Saturday 10th May 1941 London’s Queen’s Hall – the venue for the Promenade Concerts – was bombed by the Luftwaffe. The Proms re-locate to the Royal Albert Hall and carried on with their performances.

Let’s have a look at three – different – individuals

One key member of the community was an individual that could displays skill at wordplay and evokes a feeling of both good humour and patriotic pride.  He was Noël Coward and the song poked fun at the disorder and shortages of equipment, supplies and effective leadership that the Home Guard experienced during the Second World War. The song was “Could You Please Oblige Us with a Bren Gun?” – a humorous song written and composed by Noël in 1941.  The subject of the song was the Bren light machine gun – a weapon in high demand and short supply in wartime Britain, especially in 1941, when the British military was still recovering from the massive loss of materiel and supplies at Dunkirk. First priority was given to the British Army and the Royal Marines, with the result that the units of the Home Guard, the very last line of defence, were quite unlikely to get one. As a result, members of the Home Guard often had to make do with whatever they could get their hands on- frequently old and outdated weapons.

Michael Carr – real name Maurice Alfred Cohen – was a British popular music composer and lyricist perhaps best remembered for the song ‘South of the Border Down Mexico Way’ for the 1939 film of the same name.  However – during World War II he served in the army and wrote “He Wears a Pair of Silver Wings” with Eric Maschwitz.  He was also ‘responsible for’ “Somewhere in France with Youin 1939.  He worked together with Jimmy Kennedy for ‘We’re Gonna Hang out the Washing on the Siegfried Line” and “A Handsome Territorial” in 1939; in 1941 with Popplewell on “The First Lullaby“; “A Pair of Silver Wings” (1941with Eric Maschwitz) and “I Love To Sing” (1943 with Paul Misrake & Tommie Connor)

Hughie Charles was an English songwriter and producer of musical theatre. Born Charles Hugh Owen Ferry in Manchester, he is best known for co-writing with Ross Parker the songs “We’ll Meet Again” and “There’ll Always be an England”. In 1938 he and Ross Parker had enjoyed their first hit, ‘I Won’t Tell A Soul (That I Love You)’ and followed that in 1939 with the defiantly optimistic ‘There’ll Always Be An England’ and ‘We’ll Meet Again’, both of which were successful for Vera Lynn, and many other artists.  Throughout the war years, Charles wrote more than 50 songs, mostly ballads, in collaboration with a number of other writers.

We’ll come back to these when the war has ended.