Marcus' Model Railway Journey

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Marcus Antonius

Per Ardua Ad Astra
TNP Nation
Marcus Antonius #8887
This is a basically a blog about my model railway adventures, detailing the many aspects of the hobby and my personal journey and also IRL railway news.

My journey started over 50 years ago, starting with a train set and, hopefully soon, a very large layout.

I hope those of you who have a passion for trains have as much entertainment with this thread as I'm sure I will.

So let us begin.

All the best

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In the beginning........

It's Christmas 1963

I'm 2 years old and my Grandad bought me something that was going to impact my life for a very very long time and inspired in me a massive passion for railways.

The picture on the box intrigued me immensely

I have memories as a young child of real trains.

My Dad was in the RAF and as a family we travelled a lot by train, using his travel warrants.

I spent a lot of my childhood in a city called Ripon which used to have it's own railway station.

I have wonderful memories of my Grandmother taking me to see the trains flashing past at Littlethorpe near Ripon, North Yorkshire.

Steam trains pulling maroon coaches in the last years of steam.


'Up' and 'Down' Main lines (highlighted in red) passing through the platforms of the station (filled black areas) circa 1957
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Whilst at school I still managed to get my railway 'fix' :lol:

In the infant and junior schools there would be a copy of The Ladybird Book of British Railway Locomotives.

When we lived abroad in Singapore (1967 - 1969) they even had a copy of it in the school library!

The text is illustrated with 46 coloured photographs of various British Railway locomotives, photographs supplied by British Railways.

I will scan my copy of the book at a later date.

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Mentioning York Station reminds me of when we were waiting on the train to go from there to Harrogate.

We were sat in the carriage and my Dad gave me a huge/heavy coin and I said "Wow, thanks Dad!"

He snatched it out of my hand and said "It's not for you!" :hysterical:


Half Crown 1962 (equal to 2/6 [2 Shillings and 6d (Sixpence)] or 30 pennies [d]) :blink:

Alloy: Cupro-Nickel
Weight: 14.2 g
Diameter : 32 mm
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Well it's December 1970 and after nagging my Dad about how I wanted a Blue diesel with yellow ends, like the ones I had been seeing since returning from Singapore, for my model railway, he got me this for Christmas.


Tri-ang Transcontinental Railways Double Ended Diesel

It wasn't exactly what I wanted, he didn't realise I was hoping for a British locomotive, nonetheless I was very happy with it. It was a good runner and had lights as well.

I believe this loco is based on the ones used by the Victoria State Railways in Australia.

Well Dad got posted again, this time to RAF Bicester in Oxfordshire.

He sold it to me as a great town with it's own railway station!

My imagination went into overdrive.



In the 1960s the line had lost its former importance and appeared "forgotten" with a mediocre service.

In March 1967 all mainline services to Birmingham went via Oxford.

Bicester North Station went into decline.

The track was singled in 1968 between Princes Risborough and Banbury which also saw the demise of the signal box at the station and all trains stopped at the down platform only.
The reason for building the line, known to railwaymen as the "Bicester Cut-off", enabling the G.W.R. to provide a 2 - hour service to Birmingham from Paddington in direct competition with the L.N.W.R.

From the very beginning in 1910 it wrested the service away from the traditional Reading-Didcot-Oxford-Banbury route.

Such are the up and down fortunes of railways - Bicester handed back the services to the former route and was no longer part of the Western empire, coming under control of the Midland Region which was for so long its old enemy to the north!

But let us return to the G,W.R., surely Bicester's rightful owners, who built the station along traditional lines with an Up and Down pair of fast tracks through the centre and the two platforms served by loops, the platforms linked by a typically G.W.R. covered footbridge (until the winds came!).

For some 50 years it was the traditional high-speed racing ground for "Saints" and "Stars", being followed by the "Castles" and "Kings" which ran the majority of expresses right up until the end of steam.

Finally came the diesel hydraulics - the "Warships" and "Westerns".

And then Bicester was made to surrender its Inter-City status to something resembling a single track branch line with a daily gaggle of Diesel Multiple Units shuffling to and from Marylebone and only the morning and evening 'Pad's to remind it of its great days .... and even those are the province of Class 47 and Class 50 Diesel Electrics which had earlier ousted the Swindon-built Hydraulics!
To illustrate some of the above locomotive types I've used the more current to me location for these following images.........


A GWR 'Saint' 4-6-0 bring the empty stock into Cardiff General Station. View westward, towards Swansea etc.; ex-GWR South Wales main line. The train is entering Cardiff General from Canton Carriage Sidings, to form a train to Birmingham Snow Hill via Hereford, headed by the last of Churchward's 'Saint' 4-6-0's, No. 2920 'Saint David'; built in 9/07 it lasted until 9/53.
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Having recovered from the Great War, Bicester could provide, in the early 1920s, half a dozen local stopping trains in each direction with no less than sixteen expresses tearing through those centre tracks, roughly one train every 20 minutes during the 'working day'.

Truly a main line station.

It is surprising to reflect that not until this time had the station seen a traditional G.W.R. chocolate and cream coach.

At the time of opening the Company had, for several years, adopted an all-maroon livery.

Not until Bicester had been in use for some dozen years did the G.W.R. re-introduce its famous paint scheme.
The 1930s saw a similar continuation of services, the line also becoming well known for 'Slip Coach' working. :ermm:

A coach at the rear of the train would be 'slipped' by the main train while still at speed, that coach rolling on to come to rest at the next station which might be its destination or, more usually, the starting point for a continuation stopping at all stations, being pulled by a small tank engine or attached to another train.

The old G.W.R. had this worked to perfection, some trains slipping, in sequence, as many as four coaches.

Bicester, with its suffix "North", eventually on 9th September 1960 at precisely 6.12 p.m., became the venue of the very last slip-coach working in Great Britain.

Blackthorn was the point of slipping.

This extract from the BBC television series Railway Roundabout shows the very last slip coach to operate on Britain's railways, which dates the filming to 10 September 1960.

Click Link
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The last slip coach service

Slip coaches were a nineteenth century development whereby a carriage was uncoupled from the rear of an express train at speed as it approached an intermediate station, enabling such destinations to enjoy the benefits of ‘fast’ arrivals.

They were widely used throughout the country until the First World War, but on a reduced scale thereafter.

Suspended once more during the Second World War, only the Great Western Railway revived them afterwards.

In the early 1950s there were about a dozen slip coach services each day on former GWR lines, serving such destinations as Didcot and Reading (from up trains) and Westbury, Taunton, Princes Risborough and Bicester (from down trains).

Gradually, they were replaced by additional calls by expresses, until, by 1959, only one such working survived, shown below, which was discontinued in September 1960.


A GWR King approaches Bicester North at speed with the 5.10 pm Paddington to Birmingham and Wolverhampton.

The slip coach has already been dropped from the rear of the express and can be seen some way behind as it coasts to a halt in the station. The rear vehicle of the 4.34 Paddington – Wolverhampton can be seen at the extreme right as it waits at the down platform.
Disadvantages of the slip coach were the need for specially equipped carriages, a pool of guards trained to operate the braking mechanism, and the need for special arrangements to return the carriage to the starting point for its next working.

Bicester was the location of the last slip coach service.

Two trains left Paddington for Birmingham and Wolverhampton in the late afternoon, at 4.34 and 5.10 pm; the latter conveyed the slip coach.

The 4.34 made several calls, including High Wycombe and Princes Risborough before reaching Bicester at 6.03 where it waited in the platform loop until 6.25 when it resumed its journey to Banbury and (in 1960) principal stations to Birmingham Snow Hill.

The 5.10 ran fast to Leamington Spa, passing non-stop through Bicester on the through line at 6.15.

The slip carriage was uncoupled by the guard from the 5.10 about half a mile or so before Bicester and brought to a stand on the through line, alongside the waiting 4.34.


A closer view of the slip coach rolling gently to a stop on the through line.

Note that in the few seconds which elapsed between taking the first and second photos, the up platform to main line signal has been lowered, ready for the 6.0 pm Banbury to Princes Risborough stopping train.
The engine of the 4.34 would then pull forward onto the main line, set back to the slip coach and couple up, before drawing forward and setting back once more to attach it to the front of its train before continuing on its way.

This was a somewhat complex performance and it is only surprising that it survived so long.

At some stations, e.g. Reading, the slip coach was brought to a stand on the platform line, minimising shunting movements.

In the early days a horse was kept at Bicester to tow the Slip Coach to the waiting train.

One wonders what the safety authorities would say if there were a suggestion to reintroduce the practice!


A few moments later 6001 King Edward VII backs onto the now stationary slip coach before attaching it to the front of the 4.34 Paddington – Wolverhampton semi fast train which was already waiting in the platform alongside.

Note in the picture the special slip coach tail lights at the left of the carriage and also the large warning bell at both ends.

The vehicle is number W7374, built in 1948.

It has a guard’s slip compartment at each end and is shown carrying the late 1950s Western Region chocolate and cream livery with the BR crest on the side.

There was one first-class compartment (seating six) and four second- (originally third-) class compartments each seating eight passengers.
Bicester Station History continued............

The vast and heavy traffic of the 1939-45 War took tremendous toll, and it was several years after Nationalisation before the Western Region could recover some of the pre-war timings.

Old names were revived and new ones added, so that at one time no less than three titled trains used the route, the "Cambrian Coast Express", the "Inter-City" and the "Birmingham Pullman".

The first-named had been running since the early 1920s, but only carried the name from 1927.

It was re-introduced after the war and the name restored to the train in 1951 and really typified the type of service seen in those days with destinations as far afield as Welsh coastal resorts, Chester, Shrewsbury and Birkenhead.

Even if most of the expresses passed Bicester at high speed they nearly all stopped at Banbury, so the northbound Bicester passenger had only to catch the previous 'stopper' to Banbury in order to pick up the following express.

The "Birmingham Pullman" really heralded the final diesel take-over, the luxury train making two trips each way.

On one memorable day it failed at Bicester on its London-bound journey, the staff at Bicester stopping the following "Cambrian" and transferring passengers and luggage.

The "Cambrian", a lengthy train, was way off the platform and when the 'Right away' was whistled, one newly-engaged young Bicester porter had no platform to jump on to and decided against the Kamikaze-style drop. :whistle:

He was not missed at Bicester until a phone call from Paddington informed than that they had collared a lad without uniform or any form of identity travelling on the "Cambrian" without a ticket.

He was too newly employed to possess a uniform or identity. :ermm:

Lots of explanations needed. :blink:

With the cessation of passengers to Bicester London Road (Bicester's second railway station :)) in the 1960s there was no longer a need for individual identity, so the G.W.R, station became simply "Bicester" once again.

The GWR Kings and Castles which thundered through at over 80 mph have been largely replaced by diesel multiple units which mostly stop at the station which is now busier than at any time in its history.

But in the autumn of 2011 Chiltern Railways introduced their Main Line service from Birmingham Snow Hill and Moor Street to London Marylebone and loco-hauled expresses once more dash through Bicester at speed, though the motive power is now diesel.

Bicester North has seen its fair share of Preserved Steam workings and is on one of the few 'Steam routes', with former L.M.S., L.N.E.R. and S.R. engines regularly passing through on their way to or from Stratford.
My all time favourite train - The Midland Pullman

The Birmingham Pullman was operated by the Blue Pullman and introduced by British Rail on 12 September 1960.

Departures from Wolverhampton Low Level station at 7:00 am, with pickups at Birmingham Snow Hill at 7:30 am, Solihull at 7:40 am and Leamington Spa at 8:00 gave an arrival time at London Paddington of 9:35 am.

A second departure left Birmingham Snow Hill at 2:30 pm, with an arrival at London Paddington of 4:25 pm.

The return services departed London Paddington at 12:10 pm, arriving in Birmingham Snow Hill at 2:05 pm.

The evening train left Paddington at 4:50 pm and arrived back at Birmingham Snow Hill at 6:55 pm, and Wolverhampton Low Level at 7:20 pm.

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