If you wish to communicate with me about steam trains, railway art and related jigsaw puzzles, please email David, at :

Monday, 28 July 2014

Philmar's Inter-changeable Centres

As the title clearly states this post, 28th July 2014, features a jigsaw puzzle from Philmar with inter-changeable centres.

The first pic shows the 72-piece surround with the first core of 18 pieces. The latter in this case is a BR (ex LNER) 'A4' class 4-6-2 of Nigel Gresley, No.60025 Falcon. The locomotive is pictured heading the famous 'Flying Scotsman' express. The surround is extremely pictorial with signal box, signal gantry and road bridge to the fore. The main focus, however, is the two children waving to the train from a line-side fence, accompanied by the family dog. A lorry provides additional interest as it approaches the bridge in the background.

The second and third pics shown together, feature the other two interchangeable centres - a BR (ex SR), un-rebuilt 'Merchant Navy' class 4-6-2 of Oliver Bulleid,  No.35019 French Line CGT and a BR (ex LMS) 'Jubilee' class 4-6-0 of William Stanier, No.45602 British Honduras.

Although made primarily for children, this puzzle is a 'must have' for inclusion in thematic, steam train jigsaw collections.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Steam Trains and Canals

Today's post, 16th July 2014, is dedicated to the steam trains and canals genre from my 450+ strong thematic collection of UK steam train jigsaw puzzles. 

By the 1820s around 2,200 miles of canal had been built in the UK. The opening of the Stockton and Darlington Railway in 1825 and the Liverpool and Manchester Railway in 1830 proved to be decisive moments in the change from canal transportation to that of the railways. In terms of transport time, it was generally accepted that canals could compete with railways at the speed of a horse drawn barge. But railways could and did travel much faster. From the above dates the superiority of railways was accepted unanimously.

A steam train on a main line beside or crossing a picturesque canal in a tranquil British countryside setting - what artist could ignore such a scenario? Not many it seems. Nostalgia and serenity emanate from the three jigsaw pictures I have chosen to illustrate this particular transport combination.

The first picure features a jigsaw of 1000 pieces by Ravensnsburger titled Canalside Memories. In Trevor Mitchell's artwork, Chirk Aqueduct, built by Thomas Telford in 1801 to carry the Ellesmere Canal across the Ceiriog Valley, is featured running parallel with a higher railway viaduct. A large, cargo narrow-boat dragged by a working horse is pictured traversing the aqueduct and pedestrians are included on the aqueduct footpath for effect. A ‘Castle’ class 4-6-0 locomotive is pictured hauling a passenger train across the railway viaduct. The narrow boat Gifford included in the picture is preserved at the Ellesmere Port Boat Museum, but can be spotted occasionally on the UK canal network. She was built in 1926 as a tank boat for Thomas Clayton (Oldbury) Ltd., and used to carry bulk liquids such as creosote, crude oil and tar on Midlands' Canals. She was restored in 1971.

Classic DeLuxe also issued jigsaws in this category in 2008, duplicating paintings (2002) by Kevin Parrish. My second picture shows one of these puzzles, of 500-piece example, titled Canal Crossing. Depicted are a small motorboat or narrowboat  moored on a canal bank with a small boy in charge. He is waving at the driver of a small GWR locomotive (a 'Manor' class 4-6-0?) as it crosses a bridge above the canal, heading a rake of GWR chocolate and cream passenger coaches.

The third photograph features the second 500-piece jigsaw from Classic Deluxe titled Canal Cruise. This is another from Kevin’s portfolio of 2002. This and the previous puzzle capture the empathy between canal narrow boats and steam locomotion perfectly. In this puzzle a blue and black liveried narrow-boat, Water Lily, with at least three people on board, is travelling serenely along a tree-lined canal at sunrise (or sunset) having just passed beneath a brick, arched bridge. On the bridge, a British Railways (BR) 'Standard' 2-6-2T tank locomotive of George Ivatt is shown heading maroon coaches. 

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

A Wentworth Duo

Two modern wooden puzzles from the UK manufacturer Wentworth are featured in today's post, 1st July 2014.T

The Wentworth company was only formed in 1994 in Malmesbury, Wiltshire but has achieved global recognition in its short existence. Each wooden puzzle includes unique, specially shaped ‘whimsy’ pieces some of which, typically, relate to the jigsaw picture. A huge number (over 100) of steam train titles are included under the Wentworth name in my inventory of steam train puzzles, a remarkable number. Famous artists such as Barry Freeman and Malcolm Root are strongly represented. Standard sizes range from 250-1500 pieces but smaller examples are also made.

The first picture features a 250-piece puzzle replicating artwork by Malcom Root. Titled Coasting Down to Kyle the jigsaw depicts a scene in the Highlands beside Loch Carron. A Stanier 'Black Five' is coasting towards the terminus at Kyle of Lochalsh, the main ferry port for crossing to Skye, before the Skye road bridge was opened in 1995. The locomotive in the picture is preserved and Malcolm painted it for one of the co-owners. The locomotive was the 184th departure from the famous Woodham Bros'  Barry Scrapyard* in January 1987, having arrived 21years earlier. It is now under restoration at the Colne Valley Railway in Essex. 

The second picture shows another 250-piece Wentworth puzzle titled Corfe Station. The artwork is by Gerald Savine - both Malcolm Root and Gerald are members of the prestigious Guild of Railway Artists (GRA). The jigsaw picture features a BR ‘Standard’ class ‘4’ locomotive, No.80078, leaving Corfe Castle Station in Dorset with a passenger service. The scene is entirely rural with the famous castle providing a historical backdrop. The scene has always been popular with photographers and artists, up to the present day. The Swanage Railway currently hosts the 2-6-4T locomotive, the 84th engine rescued from Barry Scrapyard* in 1976, following arrival for breaking up in 1966.

* A fantastic book, Barry Scrapyard : The Preservation Miracle by Alan Warren, is available on many Internet book sites and is highly recommended.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

More Children's Jigsaws

This post, 16th June 2014, features three photographs of wooden jigsaws commonly known as children’s examples, due to their small size.

The ‘Queen of Scots’ luxury Pullman service originated in 1928 (formerly the Harrogate Pullman). The service ran from London Kings Cross to Glasgow Queen Street, via Leeds, Harrogate and Edinburgh Waverley, on the London & North Eastern Railway (LNER). An excellent jigsaw of ‘The Queen of Scots’ (headboard with definite article) is the Philmar wooden example of 50 pieces. At the head of the train is the Peppercorn ‘A1’ class 4-6-2 No.60115 Meg Merrilies. The jigsaw is titled The Queen of Scots.

This picture of a Victory 60-piece, wooden jigsaw features two GWR icons – ‘King’ class 4-6-0 No.6000 King George V and the Royal Albert Bridge at Saltash. The locomotive hauling the 'Cornish Riviera Express', (also the title of the jigsaw) is liveried in BR passenger blue. The BR logo, known as the ‘cycling lion’ can be seen on the tender, dating the picture to c1948-1956. The artist was T. E. North

A BR ‘Standard’ class ‘8’, 4-6-2 locomotive, No.71000 Duke of Gloucester is pictured next in this Ponda wooden puzzle of 54 pieces. The title of the jigsaw is the West Coast Portal but I can’t find any reference to this name; can anyone help?

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Two Old Wooden Jigsaws

This post, 29th May 2014, comprises two photographs of wooden jigsaw puzzles which occur infrequently on the secondary market

The first picture features a jigsaw of 80-pieces replicating an original illustration by A. Chigley. The label on the box reads 'The Arrow Series' but I'm not sure if this is the brand or series name. A title is also absent. The wooden puzzle is of excellent quality and shows a 4-4-0 locomotive originally designed by Harry Wainwright for the South East & Chatham Railway (SE&CR). The Wainwright designs were further modified, eventually by his successor as Chief Mechanical Engineer of the SE&CR, Richard Maunsell in 1913, and put into production. The Maunsell designs included No.781 shown in the jigsaw picture but this locomotive was one of ten built by the Borsig company of Berlin, incorporating some German ideas. They arrived in kit form and were assembled at Ashford Works. (Twelve were also built in Britain by Beyer Peacock). The locomotive was withdrawn from service in 1959 and later, scrapped.

The attractive puzzle picture shows the locomotive heading green passenger stock on a main line, passing under a road bridge with parts of a signal box included on the left and a signal on the right.

A fine, steam train jigsaw of 329 pieces titled Wyvern Express is shown in the second picture.The wooden puzzle was originally from the Tanglewood Jigsaw Club. It is packed in a cloth bag printed with the club name, puzzle title, number of pieces and size. Each piece has been painstakingly stamped on the back with the puzzle's code number so if a piece went astray one could tell instantly which puzzle it belonged to. As usual with a jigsaw club puzzle, a reference picture is not provided. I have found it difficult to research Tanglewood Jigsaw Club puzzles but a Mrs Barclay crops up occasionally. Was she possibly the president of the club? Was she also a jigsaw cutter? Both "push fit" and "interlocking" puzzles were made. They were never sold in boxes only bags and no picture to help as described above. Vintage puzzles date c1930 to about 1960.

The jigsaw picture features a Somerset & Dorset Joint Railway (S&DJR) locomotive of 1914, a class '7F', 2-8-0 design of Henry Fowler. The S&DJR was owned by the Midland, and London and South Western Railways. I can find little information on a 'Wyvern Express'. I suspect it is a Heritage Railway title as the locomotive in the picture, No.13809, is preserved on the Midland Railway at Butterley (No.53809). Another photograph on the Internet features the ex LMS Fowler class '4F' 0-6-0 tender locomotive, No.4027, displaying a 'Wyvern Express' headboard. Another  internet picture shows a GWR pannier tank 0-6-0 locomotive with the headboard 'The Wessex Wyvern'.

If anyone has any information about the points raised in these jigsaw puzzles, please contact me - my email address is at the top of the blog.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Philmar 'Steamtrains' series

For today's post, 20th May 2014, I am using two pictures of cardboard jigsaws made by Philmar.

Philmar, formed c1937 began jigsaw production in the 1940’s and often used alternative brand names for particular series of puzzles: the Valiant name was common. Many steam train jigsaws of wood and cardboard were made between the 1940s and the 1970’s. The portfolio of steam train puzzles was fairly extensive and included many examples featuring preserved railways.

The first picture shows a 64 piece jigsaw, one of a set or series of four titled Steamtrains from Philmar: featured is the Ffestiniog Railway. Steam train enthusiast Alan Pegler gained the controlling interest in a derelict Ffestiniog Railway in 1954 and became chairman. Alan then transferred his shares to a charitable trust - The Ffestiniog Railway Trust. The Trust with a volunteer board of directors employed enthusiastic working volunteers and a small paid staff to begin the laborious task of rebuilding the line from Porthmadog to Blaenau Ffestiniog. The first services began in the summer of 1955 but only over a short distance from Porthmadog to Boston Lodge.  The railway was completed in May 1982 and the line from Porthmadog to Blaenau was finally opened. The Trust, as it is today, still manages the railway. I can thoroughly recommend a  book of paintings of the working Ffestiniog Railway, published in 2008 by Gutenberg Press Ltd., and titled The Ffestiniog Railway Paintings of Edward Paget-Tomlinson. Some of the paintings would make excellent jigsaw puzzles.

Unfortunately I cannot identify the locomotive in the jigsaw photograph but it may be the Hunslet 2-4-0 STT, Linda, made in 1893 (does anyone know for sure?)

The second picture shows a locomotive in the national collection at the National Railway Museum in York. The 64-piece puzzle from the same Philmar series of four described above includes this example featuring the ex London & North Western Railway (L&NWR) 2-4-0 locomotive, No.790 Hardwicke. The puzzle replicates a photograph of the locomotive in its preservation days heading a rail tour between Carnforth and Grange-over-Sands in May 1976. The location was Silverdale Station. The locomotive became famous during the 'Races to the North' (West Coast route versus East Coast route) when it ran from Crewe to Carlisle at an average speed of over 67mph in 1895.

Monday, 5 May 2014

A Brace of Falcons

Two jigsaws in a single box are the subject of today's post, 5th may 2014. Steam Travel is the title of the duo from Falcon but each puzzle also has its individual title.

The first picture features a 500-piece puzzle titled The Crossing. Depicted is GWR ‘Castle’ class 4-6-0 locomotive, No.4082 Windsor Castle, passing a signal box and over a gated level crossing, heading old style brown and cream clerestory coaches. In the opposite direction is an approaching 0-6-0 pannier tank of the ‘2721’ class, No.2790. This locomotive is heading freight wagons. On the road, on opposite sides of the crossing are a 1919 Thornycroft open air, double-decked bus and a vintage car. The artwork is by Robert Nixon. No.4082 was renumbered and renamed No.7013 Bristol Castle in 1952. The reason for the change was that No. 4082, the official Royal engine, was being overhauled at the same time that a locomotive was urgently required for the funeral of King George V. Both locos thus swapped identities. A haywain is clearly visible in the corn field behind the railway.

Not surprisingly, Robert’s artwork for the second 500-piece jigsaw titled, The Red Dragon, features ‘Castle’ class No.7013, Bristol Castle - a duo in more ways than one. The locomotive is pictured hauling the famous Paddington to Carmarthen express under a small road bridge on which three, late 1940’s to early 1950’s road vehicles are clearly visible. On the bridge are a coach (Bedford OB?), a Royal Mail van and a car. An 0-6-0 pannier tank is included in the picture but cannot be identified.

Monday, 21 April 2014

Two Royal Scot class Locomotives

In today's post, 21st April 2014, two pictures are used both showing 'Royal Scot' class locomotives of (Sir) Henry Fowler and the LMS (London Midland and Scottish Railway).

The first photograph shows a jigsaw of a 'Royal Scot' locomotive in a station setting with vintage commercial vehicles in the background. The class 'prototype' No.6100 Royal Scot  is shown in early guise with parallel boiler and full LMS red livery. The class of  4-6-0s emerged onto LMS metals (track) from 1927 and totalled 70 on completion. The 'locomotive' was sent to America in 1933 as a British exhibit at the Century of Progress Exposition in Chicago; in fact the locomotive sent was actually No.6152 The King's Dragoon Guardsman masquerading as No.6100 Royal Scot. No.6152 had been built later (1930) and was considered superior to the prototype. A complete train was sent to the States which toured America and Canada either side of the exhibition. The locomotive was returned to the UK with special commemorative plates positioned below the nameplates. The jigsaw is a recent 48-piece example from JL Templates  - and is regularly available on ebay.

This picture shows a rebuilt 'Royal Scot' locomotive as designed by (Sir) William Stanier, No.46112 Sherwood Forester. The jigsaw depicted is a 500-piece puzzle made by JR Puzzles from original artwork by Edgar Hodges. The 'Thames-Clyde Express' first ran in 1927 from London St Pancras to Glasgow St Enoch (Glasgow Central on closure of St Enoch in 1966) along the Settle & Carlisle, ex Midland Railway route. It was withdrawn for ten years from 1939, reinstated, and completely withdrawn in 1975.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Jigsaws showing GWR Locomotives

In today's post I am using two pics showing Great Western Railway locomotives as depicted on wooden jigsaw puzzles. One locomotive pictured is from the early days of the GWR and the other is preserved in the National Collection.

The broad gauge system of Isambard Kingdom Brunel and the Great Western Railway was unique. Brunel persuaded his GWR board that a wider gauge (7ft 0.25ins) than that currently in use (4ft 8.5ins) on the fledgling railway system, would afford greater flexibility towards the major objectives of speed, efficiency, safety and therefore, profitability. The line was started in 1835 and opened in stages between 1838 and 1841; it was built from both ends, London and Bristol. 

Broad-Gauge 8-Footer GWR 1851-1892 is one of four, plywood jigsaws showing early steam engines from a series made incredibly, for Exide Batteries. The legend along the base of each puzzle reads “one of the series of twelve illustrations drawn for Exide batteries by C. and W. Meadway”. The puzzles are of 190-200 pieces and semi interlocking. The locomotive in the jigsaw picture appears to be an example from the 'Iron Duke' class. Iron Duke was the first member of a class of twenty-nine GWR broad-gauge locomotives, all of 4-2-2 wheel formation, although for a short time from construction in 1846, Iron Duke itself was a 2-2-2 design. Designed by Daniel Gooch this famous class was the epitome of power and speed on the GWR for many years. ‘Iron Dukes’ were famous for their 8ft driving wheels and were introduced in April 1847. In 1848 class member Great Britain reached a speed of around 78mph near Swindon, a new speed record and a phenomenal achievement for the time.

If you know anything about the Exide batteries' puzzles please contact me - my email address is at the top of the blog. I know little about them.

Britain's Mightiest, a 150-piece wooden puzzle from Chad Valley, depicts the icon of the GWR, Charles Collett's 'King' class 4-6-0 No.6000, King George V. The jigsaw picture is reproduced from a c1935 GWR poster by Moy Thomas.The ‘Kings’ were the heaviest (136tons) and most powerful 4-6-0s to operate in Britain and emerged from 1927. The first one, No. 6000, King George V was sent to the Baltimore and Ohio Centenary Railroad Celebrations in 1927 following its inaugural run hauling the ‘Cornish Riviera Express’. In recognition of its achievements the Americans presented a commemorative bell, seen clearly on the front buffer beam in Thomas's picture.

Monday, 31 March 2014

Steam with other forms of Transport

In this post, 31st March 2014, I am using three pictures of jigsaws each featuring a steam train with other forms of transport. The first jigsaw represented is a current issue whilst the others are older.

In this jigsaw puzzle Kevin Walsh's artwork includes a classic red sports car with driver and passenger contrasted with a farmer driving a blue tractor attached to a hay-filled cart. London & North Eastern Railway (LNER) ‘A1’ class 4-6-2, No.4472 Flying Scotsman is pictured hauling a long rake of teak coaches somewhere on the East Coast Main Line. The 1000-piece puzzle from Falcon, titled Wartime Summer,  depicts an “oasis” in WWII Britain. However, the summer tranquil scene is interrupted by two Spitfire fighter planes, reminding everyone beneath of the reality. Two boys and three dogs complete the picture and leave little space for further inclusions.

Picture number two shows a small 20-piece wooden puzzle from Tower Press's Little Folk series. The jigsaw is titled The Express Train. Pictured is a huge London Midland & Scottish Railway (LMS) 'Princess Coronation' class 4-6-2, No.46245 City of London hauling a rake of British Railways (BR) carmine and cream passenger coaches beneath a road bridge. On the bridge is a single-decked bus and above that is a helicopter, one of the few jigsaws to depict this type of transport. Three children are included as spectators to add that special human interest to the composition. The artist is not named.

A Falcon 500-piece jigsaw is seen in this picture showing a typical town centre scene (c1950's) dominated by a large bridge. Single and double decked buses, cars and a small blue van are included  in the busy scene with a BR Eastern Region 'B1' class 4-6-0 locomotive passing over the bridge with a passenger service. The early 'cycling' lion' motif on the tender suggests a date between 1948 and 1956 for the subjects in David Wright's artwork. Several people and an iconic red telephone box are included in David's illustrative style.