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Wednesday, 27 January 2016

1000-piece Puzzles from Gibsons.

Today's post, 27th January 2016, features pictures of two large puzzles from the extensive, and rapidly increasing portfolio of Gibsons' steam railway jigsaw puzzles.

Up first is a 1000-piece example from the Heritage collection titled Calling at Rushbury. The artist, Don Breckon, unfortunately passed away in 2013 but his legacy of magnificent paintings, books and other commercial outlets such as jigsaw puzzles, lives on.  In Don's painting the Great Western Railway (GWR) '4400' class, 2-6-2 tank engine No.4406, is arriving at Rushbury station with a short, branch line passenger service. The class of 11 locos was built by George Jackson Churchward in 1905, especially for such branch line work. No.4406 was withdrawn from BR Western Region service in 1955.

The second picture showing a 1000-piece Gibsons' puzzle is titled Two Weeks in a Welsh Town and the artwork is by Barry Freeman. A Stanier class 'V' 4-6-0 locomotive, No.45110 in late British Railways guise, is pictured pausing at Deganwy station along the Conway Estuary, with a holiday 'Special'. The locomotive is famous among railway aficionados as one of three members of the class to head the "15 Guinea Special", the last steam-hauled passenger train, on 11th August 1968. The locomotive is one of 842 built between 1934 (LMS) and 1951 (BR) all equally at home on freight or passenger duties. No.45110 is currently on display in The Engine House at Highley, on the Severn Valley railway.

Monday, 28 December 2015


Some enthusiasts love montage style jigsaw puzzles and I admit to being one of them. Today's post, 28th December 2015, features two pics of montage jigsaws although, I prefer to call one of them, a composite.

First of all let me explain. In my 2007 book, Steam Trains and Jigsaw Puzzles, I said "Composites are separate images joined together with definite boundaries between them in contrast to montages, where images are blended together with no definite boundaries. These are my own definitions for this book and may not comply with those of others". I stand by these entirely personal definitions.

Picture one, left, shows an early noughties', 1000-piece jigsaw from Waddingtons which, by my definition, is a montage. It is titled Classic Steam Trains. Eight images, duplicating the superb artworks of Malcolm Root are blended together to form a single picture with superb impact. The original images can be found in two books of Root paintings - The Railway Paintings of Malcolm Root (1996) and Malcolm Roots Railway Paintings (2004). From left to right, top to bottom the paintings are as follows:

'Winter at Corfe Castle'. A small 'M7' class 0-4-4 tank engine, No.30060, designed by Dugald Drummond for the London & South Western Railway in 1897 is pictured leaving Corfe Station. The two coach passenger train is shown in a winter . The snow and Castle add pictorial interest.
'Weymouth Turnaround'. A re-built 'Merchant Navy' class 4-6-2 locomotive of Oliver Bulleid, No.35017 Belgian Marine is the focus here. The engine crew are working hard turning the huge locomotive on the ex GWR, 65ft turntable at Weymouth.
'All Out Effort'. 'King' class 4-6-0 No.6023 King Edward II, in BR passenger blue livery, is pictured passing Stoneycombe Quarry and signal box. The train is the famous 'Cornish Riviera Express'.
'Clouds and Crosswinds'.  Sir William Stanier's 'Princess Coronation' class 4-6-2, No. 46238 City of Carlisle is pictured on the northern fells approaching Shap Summit with a Scottish express. The spot is famous for inclement weather and a favourite among artists.
'Night Ferry'. The night service destined to reach Paris in eleven hours after leaving Victoria Station at 10pm is headed by 'Lord Nelson' class 4-6-0, No.855 Robert Blake. The locomotive class was designed by Richard Maunsell. 
'ConstableCountry'. 'Britannia' class 4-6-2, No.70003 John Bunyan is depicted attacking Dedham Bank after leaving Manningtree with an express. The signal box adds to the impact.
'Grantham Departure'. The huge 'P2' class 2-8-2 locomotives, designed for the LNER by Sir Nigel Gresley, were the most powerful in the UK. No.2001 Cock o' the North is pictured heading north with an East Coast express.
'Halstead's Own'. This picture represent Root's home town of Halstead in Edwardian Times. The locomotive in the station is a Hawthorn-Leslie 2-4-2 tank, No.2 Halstead, of the Colne Valley Railway. 

Picture two shows the Gibsons 1000-piece jigsaw simply titled Brunel, which by my definition is a composite. From left to right, top to bottom the pictures are as follows:

The Deck of Brunel's 'Great Eastern' 1866; 'The Thames Tunnel', London, 1830; 'The Royal Albert Bridge, Saltash', BR (WR); 'Iron Duke' locomotive at Chippenham Station; Isambard Kingdom Brunel, English railway engineer and inventor, 1857; Launching a buoy from the 'Great Eastern'; 'Recovery of the cable on the Great Eastern'; 'Clifton Suspension Bridge, Bristol' GWR/LMS; 'Speed to the West' GWR poster, 1939. The pictures were sourced from the National Railway Museum, Science & Society Picture Library and Science Museum.

Friday, 18 December 2015

Small Railway Stations

Today's post, 18th December 2015,  features pictures of 1000-piece jigsaws on the theme of Railway Stations.

The first picture, left, shows  a Gibsons' example titled Little Spotters which was also used as a promotional jigsaw by Cadburys. The artist is Kevin Walsh. The station is a small example complete with most railway structures you would have been familiar with, if of a certain age, in the late 1950's - platform waiting room/buffet, children loco spotting, a couple of steam trains, a luggage cart with milk churns and numerous advertisements. The locomotive in the picture is ex GWR Prairie Tank' 4575' class 2-6-2, No.4588, built in 1937 and designed by Charles Collett. The British Railways (BR) logo on the locomotive indicates a date between 1956 and 1962, when the engine was withdrawn from service. The locomotive was preserved and based on the Paignton & Dartmouth Steam Railway and then the Dartmouth Steam  Railway which gives a clue as to  the location of the station in the puzzle. It is now out of service, awaiting overhaul at Tyseley Locomotive Works.  

The second picture features a Falcon jigsaw titled Steam Express, reproduced from artwork by Kevin Walsh again. The scene is not dissimilar to the first puzzle but includes extras such as a signal box, a porter and trolley, a footbridge and the family dog. The main locomotive in the picture is the ex GWR 'Castle' class 4-6-0, No.5097 Sarum Castle; the latter, designed by Charles Collett is depicted pulling into the station with a passenger service. No.5097 was built in 1939, withdrawn from service in 1963 and scrapped two years later. In the jigsaw picture, a second locomotive waits on the adjacent line. 

Both pictures are typical of Kevin Walsh's work showing a strong affinity between railways and the local community.

Friday, 27 November 2015

Stanier and Gresley

For today's post, 27th November 2015, I have chosen two pictures of jigsaw puzzles each featuring magnificent 'Pacific' 4-6-2 locomotives designed by two of the greatest locomotive engineers, Sir William Stanier and Sir Nigel Gresley.

The first picture features the first, LMS 'Princess Coronation' class 4-6-2 locomotive, No.6220 (BR 46220) Coronation, hauling the prestigious express, the 'Coronation Scot', of 1937. The latter Euston - Glasgow express established a new world record of 114mph during an early test run, headed by No.6220. The engine and coaches were streamlined and liveried in 'Caledonian' blue with matching silver lines, along each side. Malcolm Root's painting is titled Coronation Scot and the jigsaw of the same title is a 500-piece example from King International. It hurts a little for me to say this as a 100% GWR enthusiast, but this class of locomotives represents, for me, the best of British locomotive designs - immensely powerful and very fast. The class of 38, designed by Sir William Stanier (aided by his chief draughtsman) was built between 1937 and 1948 at Crewe Works. Only three members of the class are preserved.

The 'A4' class of 4-6-2 locomotives was designed by Sir Nigel Gresley to head the LNER’s crack expresses from 1935. No.4498 (BR 60007) Sir Nigel Gresley was the engineer's 100th 'Pacific' (4-6-2) locomotive built, and it was fitting that the loco was named after him. The class of 35 was built at Doncaster Works between 1935-38. They were designed specifically for the high-speed, streamlined expresses running from Kings Cross to Newcastle, Glasgow and Edinburgh; the 'Silver Jubilee' train was the first. Class member No.4468 (BR 60022) Mallard, still holds the world record of almost 126mph for a steam locomotive, achieved in 1938 on the downward section of Stoke Bank near Grantham. The jigsaw in the picture is a 300-piece example from Hope featuring No.4468 Sir Nigel Gresley, the title of the puzzle. Six members of the class are preserved, but two are overseas (USA and Canada). The jigsaw photograph shows the locomotive in preservation days.

I don't normally endorse any products in my posts but in this case I am making an exception. In my opinion steam railways and wildlife produce an irresistible combination and a current artist who is not represented in the jigsaw trade, to the best of my knowledge, has taken this combination to heart. Alan Ward paints steam railways and four such paintings of  Gresley ‘A4’ class locomotives, shown on his website, include associated examples of wildlife  - a golden eagle at nest, a pair of kingfishers, a fox with pheasant kill and flying mallards. The painting titles are Golden eagle in the Glens, Kingfisher Country, Quicksilver Fox and Mallard in flight, respectively and the specific locomotives featured are Golden Eagle, Kingfisher, Quicksilver and Mallard. The association between locomotive and painting is obvious in three examples but Quicksilver Fox is an example of artistic licence – the amalgamation of the locomotive name, Quicksilver and the fox. The four paintings would make a superb set of jigsaw puzzles, of great appeal to a wider public. To see these four paintings and other steam railway examples of Alan's go to  

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

A Trio from The Works

Today's post, 18th November 2015, comprises pictures of three jigsaw puzzles marketed by the high street book shop/stationer, The Works. 

The first jigsaw pictured is a 500-piece example titled Steam Train, Staverton Station. The locomotive depicted is one of 100, class '4575' 2-6-2 tank locomotives, No.5526. The wheel configuration is known as the 'Prairie' type. No.5526 was built in 1928, designed by Chief Mechanical Engineer of the Great Western Railway (GWR), Charles Collett. She is pictured on her home preserved railway, The South Devon Railway, at Staverton Station, in early British Railways (BR), 'cycling lion' livery.

The second jigsaw pictured is another 500-piece example, titled Paignton and Dartmouth Steam Train. The engine in the photograph is another of the '4575' class 'Prairie' tanks, No.4588, built in 1927. The locomotive, in early Great Western livery, is heading a passenger service with a 'Devon Belle' observation coach immediately behind the locomotive. The picturesque backdrop shows a host of sailing craft at Dartmouth (?).

The locomotive in the third jigsaw picture is the 'Old Lady' of the GWR, No.3440 City of Truro. This icon of the steam era was built in 1903, one of ten 'City' class 4-4-0 locomotives, designed by William Dean and modified by George Jackson Churchward. The jigsaw is another 500-piece example but it differs from the previous two as it is of the portrait format. The puzzle is oddly titled Staverton Steam Locomotive but the photograph features the 'Old Lady' on the Llangollen Railway at Berwyn Station. She is pictured in very early GWR livery and was believed, by many, to be the first locomotive to clock over 100mph (9th May, 1904). No.3440 is presently on show in the Main Hall at the National Railway Museum, York. 

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

National Jigsaw Day

I was listening to Radio 2 this morning and it was announced that it was National Jigsaw Day, today, November 3rd 2015. I have not heard about it before but it seems appropriate that I post on this special day.

The picture features a Bits and Pieces, 1000-piece jigsaw titled The Railway Children. The artist is Stuart Booth and another puzzle displaying his artwork, Cornish Riviera Limited,  by Otter House, can be found in the post of 18th July 2013. The reasons I have chosen this puzzle are simple - subject and difficulty. It is not an easy puzzle to assemble due to many similar clumps of shape and colour in the tree areas. The composition, comprising a single track branch line in rural UK, an old locomotive and watching children, is highly pictorial and a proven, successful combination. 

The locomotive, heading some old Southern Railway green coaches is an Adams Radial Tank, a famous design from c1885. On this date the Locomotive Superintendant in charge at the London & South Western Railway was William Adams, and his class '415' of 4-4-2T engines, included No.520 - No.30584 in BR days - as in the jigsaw picture.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Poster Style Puzzles

Posters, during the steam era, were extremely common around railway stations and have become collectors items today. Carefully planned original illustrations were completed with bright, block colours and coupled with legends aimed, unashamedly, at prospective customers. They were full of impact if devoid of small detail. Many such posters were based around famous locomotives or named trains.

Today's post, 20th October 2015, includes three pictures in a block colour style, probably with a digital influence, each featuring a famous London & North Eastern Railway Company (LNER) locomotive. The first two have been used in a previous post but the three together constitute a fine tribute to three historic locomotives and their designer, Sir Nigel Gresley.

All are of 500 pieces and marketed by Demand Media Ltd,. The first features one of Sir Nigel Gresley's 'V2' class 2-6-2 locomotives No.4771 (60800 in British Railways' days) Green Arrow. The locomotive is currently a static exhibit in the National Railway Museum (NRM) in York, awaiting overhaul.

The second picture shows perhaps Sir Nigel Gresley's most famous locomotive, 'A1/A3' class 4-6-2, No.4472 Flying Scotsman (60103 in BR days). This locomotive is based at the NRM in York and is almost ready for trials following a massive overhaul spanning several years. Many events, involving No.60103, are planned for early next year at Shildon (an NRM extension) and York.

The third picture features an engine that vies with Flying Scotsman as Britain's most famous steam locomotive - Sir Nigel Gresley's 'A4' class 4-6-2, No 4468 Mallard. This locomotive broke the world record for a steam locomotive in 1938 - almost 126mph - a record that still stands today. She was numbered 60022 in BR days and now stands, immortalised, at the NRM in York. The locomotive in the jigsaw picture is traversing the famous viaduct at Knaresborough in Yorkshire, heading a passenger train.

I hope you agree that the artwork involved is striking and ideal for jigsaw puzzles.

Friday, 14 August 2015

Two More From KG Games

Two jigsaws from K G Games are featured in today's post, 14th August 2015.

Both jigsaws are from the 400-piece series titled Rail Journey and this first example is titled Pendennis Castle at Chester. The static locomotive is ex GWR 'Castle' class 4-6-0 of Charles Collett, No.4079 Pendennis Castle. The picture shows the locomotive at Chester before heading the Ian Allan 'Birkenhead Flyer' back to Birmingham, in 1967.  

The locomotive is one of the more famous GWR locomotives. In 1925 the GWR loaned her to the rival LNER company where she was compared with the new LNER 'A1' class 4-6-2 locomotives. Trials proved her superiority over her rivals. In 1977 she was sold to an Australian iron ore company but repatriated in 2000. The locomotive is currently under overhaul at Didcot Railway Centre.

Jigsaw picture number two features double heading GWR locomotives on the 'Cambrian Coast Express'. The jigsaw is from the same 400-piece series as above and titled On The Cambrian Coast. The two locomotives are an unidentified 'Manor' class 4-6-0 of Collett and a  'Small Prairie' class 2-6-2 locomotive, No.4555 of George Jackson Churchward. 'The Cambrian Coast Express' began in 1927 and ran from Paddington to Aberystwyth and Pwlheli; it was the Shrewsbury - Aberystwyth - Pwllheli lines that tracked the Cambrian Coast in Wales. The line could not support heavy locomotives and the smaller 'Dukedogs' and, later 'Manors' were ideal for the service. Just looking closely at the picture reminds us of how safety and security have changed on the railways since steam days.

A third jigsaw from the Rail Journey series, Caledonian Railway No.123 at Carstairs, is featured in the post of 30th October 2010.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Bluebell Railway

Today's post, 5th August 2015, features pictures of two jigsaws, each showing an early locomotive of the Bluebell Railway.

A short history.

The Lewes and East Grinstead Railway Company was formed to build a railway in 1877 but a year later the line was acquired by the London, Brighton & South Coast Railway (LB&SCR) and completed in 1882. 

The 18 mile line from Lewes to East Grinstead was closed by British Railways in 1958. The Bluebell Railway Preservation Society was formed a year later and initially leased the Sheffield Park-Horsted Keynes part of the line from BR.

The Society ran its first train on 7th August 1960 - the first preserved, standard gauge steam-operated passenger railway in the world to operate a public service.This first train was headed by locomotive No.55 ‘Stepney’ followed by two coaches and locomotive No.323 ‘Bluebell’ (on the rear). Both of these locomotives are shown below in the jigsaws depicted. At this time a trip on the line was a return trip between Sheffield Park and Bluebell Halt but by the end of October the railway had carried thousands of passengers. The Railway was finally allowed to operate into Horsted Keynes in October 1961 - Kingscote station was re-opened in 1994. 

From 2003 the Railway laid track in the direction of East Grinstead and seven years later a Bluebell platform was opened at East Grinstead station. In March 2013 a steam service ran the 11 miles from Sheffield Park to East Grinstead and all trains now operate this complete journey.

Today the railway is managed and run largely by volunteers. Having preserved a number of steam locomotives even before the cessation of steam service on British mainline railways in 1968, today it has a large fleet (over 30) ranging from small 0-6-0 tanks to large 4-6-2 Bulleid 'Pacifics' 

The first picture (left) features the ex Brighton & South Coast Railway 'A1X' class 0-6-0T tank locomotive, No.55 Stepney. Known as 'Terriers' the locomotives were designed by LB&SCR Locomotive Superintendent, William Stroudley, in 1875. The jigsaw is a 500-piece example from Hestair titled Bluebell Railway Engine. The jigsaw photograph appears to have been taken on an 'Edwardian Day' at Sheffield Park Station, as volunteers are dressed in period costume.

The second picture (right) shows the ex South Eastern & Chatham Railway (SE&CR) 'P' class 0-6-0T tank locomotive, No.323 Bluebell. She was built in 1910, one of eight designed by Locomotive Superintendent, Harry Wainright, as improved 'Terriers'. The jigsaw is a 100-piece example from the Hestair Puzzler 100 series, simply titled Bluebell Railway. The station name is not included in the photograph, but if you know for sure which one of the four it is, (Sheffield Park, Horsted Keynes, Kingscote or East Grinstead), please let me know.

Friday, 31 July 2015

Locomotives at Bressingham

In this post, 31st July 2015, I am describing two jigsaw puzzles, each showing a locomotive on exhibition at Bressingham Steam Museum in Norfolk.

Bressingham hosts a garden centre, commercial nursery, gardens and a steam museum. Housed in the latter are steam locomotives, carriages, steam rollers, traction engines, showman's engines and steam waggons. A standard gauge railway has over ¼ mile of track and offers footplate rides.

The first picture shows a 300-piece puzzle from Hope's Railway Series titled Royal Scot. The Stanier 4-6-0, No.6100, Royal Scot, is pictured at Bressingham Steam Museum. She was built in 1927 for expresses on the London Midland & Scottish Railway and rebuilt by British Railways in 1950. She went on to serve another 12 years on the West Coast Main Line and was retired in 1962. The 'Duchess' was then purchased by Billy Butlin and became a star attraction at Butlins Holiday Camp in Skegness, as a static exhibit.

6100 left the Butlins site for the Bressingham Steam Museum in 1971 and was returned to steam in 1972. In 1978 she became a static exhibit again until 1989 before being sold to Bressingham by Butlins in the same year. She was sold again to the Royal Scot Locomotive and General Trust in 2009, and was moved by road to the Heritage workshops in Crewe. In the same year she caught fire en route to a steam gala at the West Somerset Railway while being transported along the M5 Motorway on a lorry. A fire started on the lorry under the loco's leading wheels leading to a long lay-off and more restoration. Royal Scot is expected to steam again in September, this year.

The same photograph is used in the Hestair 100-piece puzzle (Puzzler 100 series). For more information on the Hestair and locomotive No.6100 go to the post of 1st May 2011.

The second photograph shows a 200-piece jigsaw from Ingham Day from the Byegone Days series titled Duchess of Sutherland Locomotive. Depicted at Bressingham is Stanier 4-6-2 'Princess Coronation' class locomotive, No.6233 Duchess of Sutherland. This giant locomotive was built in 1938 at Crewe Works for the London Midland and Scottish Railway to haul express passenger services between London Euston and Glasgow Central, among others. She was retired by British Railways in 1964 and sold to Butlins Holiday Camp at Ayr. The loco was then transferred to the Steam Museum at Bressingham in 1971 where she was used on the demonstration line for footplate rides for the next three years. Unfortunately, problems occurred in her firebox and she was retired once again.  She remained at Bressingham on static display until 1996 when she was acquired by 'The Princess Royal Class Locomotive Trust' for restoration. In 2001, No.6233 was restored to operating condition and since then has been a regular performer on the mainline network, mainly as No.46233.