Thursday, 9 July 2020

Memories, Memories ...

In Memoriam
Five years ago today the fbbs' No 2 Son was shot dead by a trigger-happy policeman in Los Angeles. Neil was misbehaving, but he was unarmed and the autopsy found no drugs or alcohol in his body. On the night that he died, but unaware of the tragedy, Mrs fbb had a dream - a vision - in which Neil was sitting at the foot of the bed with head bowed in an attitude of contrition. An almost touchable atmosphere of peace filled the room, so different from normal dreams which often featured the young man's flawed nature.

It was a fortnight later that the policeman came to the door and revealed the awful news!

No one took the knee, no one rioted, no one set fire to anything - it was just a routine Los Angeles happening.

Of course black lives matter, of course ALL lives matter.

For only a penny you can buy two sparrows, yet not one sparrow falls to the ground without your Father's consent. As for you, even the hairs of your head have all been counted. So do not be afraid; you are worth much more than many sparrows! - from Matthew Chapter 10.

The fbb's thank God that their son is now at peace; revenge or retribution will not give him back his life, and the fbbs do not seek such and never will; but the bias of George Floyd events does make the memories something of a tough challenge.

Instead of trying to rewrite history by demolishing statues etc, surely the right way forward is to seek condemnation of all future brutality by "the authorities" directed at ALL peoples. And how about campaigning loud and long about the appalling level of violent persecution of Christians (and other faiths). And a similarly vociferous campaign against 21st century slavery, notably for the so called "sex trade", which is endemic throughout the world and thus here in the UK.

All peoples should be working and praying to make things better NOW for everyone, not trying to rewrite history.


And Now, Some Happier Memories
As part of their 100 years celebrations, Hornby have produced an edition of "The Hornby Book of Trains".
It follows in a long line of such titles, the first of which appeared in 1925.

But that was 23 years after Frank Hornby's genius idea went on sale. In 1902 he began selling the world's first ever construction toy; whereby mechanical models could be made, dismantled and reassembled as something different.
It was soon rebranded as Meccano.
After a few years it was joined by a magazine, first a freebee but then sold on subscription.
The purpose of the periodical was to arouse and develop interest in the technology of the day so that young lads would want to build ever more complex machines as here with a working loom.
In order to do this, of course, it would be necessary to go to your local supplier and purchase extra bits, either as an add-on set or individually.

How about a few trunnion plates? You could have them flat ...
... or angled ...
... or, in a later version, with boss.

Then the Hornby boss had yet another jackpot idea. Why not design a toy train which, like Meccano, could be taken apart and re-assembled using little nuts and bolts.
So it was that in 1920 the 100 years of model trains began with a simple four wheel clockwork loco now reproduced as a three rail electric model. Back in 1920 there were crude coaches and wagons.
Today your £524 (OUCH-plus) will just buy the loco. To run it you need at least some track and preferably a vintage carriage or two. fbb reckons that most of them will sit in display cabinets and never turn a wheel.

But back in the 1920s, it was not long before you could get wagons which did things, like this working snow plough ...
... and a level crossing with working lights.
Hornby produced stock for the Canadian market ...
... and bog standard four wheel loco mechanisms with pseudo European bodies on top.
At least one UK model made a valiant attempt to reproduce a real loco, namely a Metropolitan Railway electric jobbie ...
... but with the 0-4-0 mechanism hidden below deep valances. 

By the mid-1930s hornby had begun to produce stuff of higher quality (and at a higher price!) ...
... but the War curtailed such projects.

fbb owns a couple of the bogie coaches (unboxed) but sadly one of them has been well bent at one end and fbb has not yet been brave enough to try unbending it.
But the writing was very much on the wall for Hornby "O", as announced by a two page spread in a 1938 Meccano Magazine.
Like many of his elderliness, fbb, aged 7/8, was given an enhanced set similar to below for Christmas.
It was second hand but came with track, points, a second loco and a few wagons including fbb's favourite, a side tipper. It ran on a large circuit round the lad's bedroom, such that, inevitably, the spring wound down while it was under the bed. Once re-wound it went so fast the it fell off the track at the corners. There was no speed control, just a brake and reverse controlled by the two levers poking out of the back of the cab..

fbb soon lost interest and the stuff was passed on.

But, more or less, that was the end of O gauge toy trains, leaving the scale to wealthy specialists who constructed their own locos. We all though that traditional tinplate was gone for ever.

Until 1996, that is.
In 1996, Allen and Charlotte Levy started their Ace Trains company.
The locos returned to the scale and quality of those Hornby biggies from the late 1930s ...
... electrically powered (two or three rail), complete with nostaligiafest rolling stock.

Briefly in 2008/9 Hornby re-entered the O gauge tinplate - sort of by accident. Hornby took over Corgi, for long a competitor to Dinky Toys, and with that business came Corgi's entry into the tinplate market using the super historic name of Bassett-Lowke.
The series came with a selection of fondly remember tin wagons ...
... but production was soon ended; leaving the market clear for Ace.

Of course the market has changed yet again, with finely scaled O gauge models being produced at, for some people at least, affordable prices.
£335 - ONLY.

Only 30 years of Hornby's 100 have passed by but post WW2 everything was Dublo!

fbb will pick up the story in a later blog. Also tomorrow we see what finally happened to the Control Tower.
The excitement is almost too much!

 Next Technology blog : Friday 10th July 


  1. Andrew Kleissner9 July 2020 at 08:32

    I first became aware of Ace Trains about 20 years ago when I visited Fortnum & Mason's one Christmas (as one does ...). Ace had set up a large demonstration layout and I was hooked! Way out of my price range sadly.

    There is another company called Darstaed who make both fine and coarse scale O gauge stuff, I'm not sure of their history but do know that they and the Ace trains people have been at legal loggerheads for years.

    Allan Levy, one of the founders of Ace Trains, had a marvellous tinplate and vintage emporium in the very smart Cadogan Square in London. I visited it with my father and we actually bought a 1930s Bassett-Lowke "Super Enterprise" steamer. It never ran very well and we were later able to exchange it for one of the famous "Moguls". The shop produced a wonderful catalogue with was a veritable history of tinplate trains. I no longer have it which is a shame as they are now quite sought-after. I can't imagine the shop ever made any money for its owners although even in those days its prices were not exactly "bargain basement"!

    The recollection of your son's death was moving: my thoughts are with you and your family today.

  2. Firstly, and most importantly I want to say that my thoughts are with you (and Mrs FBB and your family) at this difficult and challenging time. I am truly sorry that you have had to face this horrific loss.

    I have thought long and hard about whether I should respond to what is clearly a very personal and touching subject but felt I must. I must because of the importance of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement and through the fear that the important message that movement is highlighting is at risk, through comment such as some of those in this blog, of being lost.

    To say that “All lives matter” is wrong. It seems perverse to sit here and write that the phrase “all lives matter” is wrong, because clearly and obviously it is inherently right. But, that is the problem, it is a statement that is so obviously right that it becomes meaningless. This serves only to water-down and obscure (“whitewash”) the very important message that the BLM movement is highlighting – it is verging on racial gaslighting. That is not a phrase I use lightly, but “all lives matter” is a direct response to “black lives matter” and it is a response that codedly downplays black people’s experiences of systematic racial discrimination.

    There is no “bias” as you put it in the response to the George Floyd events – it is a simple reflection of the horrifying fact that in a modern, western country like America you are disproportionately more likely to be killed by the police because of the colour of your skin (and disparities appear to be even starker for the killing of unarmed suspects). That is the focus. These differences manifest themselves not just in police brutality, but in throughout the criminal justice system, and throughout everyday life.

    The black lives matter movement is not about rewriting history it is about facing up to and confronting the uncomfortable truth that police are murdering black people in the streets. It is about the systematic discrimination of black people that remains prevalent in modern society. In any case, demolishing statues is not rewriting history. Statues are NOT history – they are someone’s attempt to celebrate someone. History isn’t learnt from statues and history isn’t forgotten when there isn’t a statue or a statue is taken down. History is learnt and taught and passed down – history is found in thoughts, in museums, in books and in schools – demolishing a statue doesn’t rewrite history. The removal of statues of Hitler doesn’t mean we have forgotten the atrocities of Nazi Germany.

    The teaching of black history in this country however remains rooted in white history – it is only seen through the lens of slavery and civil rights. In other words, it only exists when it is at odds with white imperialist history.

    Yes, please do rally against persecution, please do campaign against 21st century slavery, please fight against child poverty but please don’t do so by trying to overwrite the black lives matter movement and its message.

    1. Beautifully written Ben. Having read today's blog and in particular the segment on BLM I went through the exact same thought processes as you, but decided not to reply as I didn't feel able to express those thoughts and balance them correctly with the horrifically sad personal experience of FBB and his family, whom I feel nothing but compassion towards. I'm thankful that you managed to find the words I could not.