News: “Over the graves of the Druids and under the wreck of Rome,
Rudely but surely they bedded the plinth of the days to come.
Behind the feet of the Legions and before the Norseman’s ire
Rudely but greatly begat they the framing of State and Shire
Rudely but deeply they laboured, and their labour stand till now.
If we trace on ancient headlands the twist of their eight-ox plough.”

-Rudyard Kipling
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Author Topic: Cars, Trains, Guns and things  (Read 9304 times)

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Offline filmer01

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Re: Cars, Trains, Guns and things
« Reply #36 on: December 26, 2017, 14:18:28 »
The Good Life

I grew up in a family that grew fruit and veg in the garden, and without a freezer (or even a fridge until the 60s) it was eaten seasonally or stored in the shed, bottled, pickled or made into jam. The smell of apples sat in trays in the shed roof is still with me today. It did mingle with the slightly "off" smell from the  silver paper, milk bottle tops and pie dishes, among other things that had been collected for the Guide Dogs for the Blind, that my mother did with the Townswomen's Guild (think WI but less Jerusalem).

I helped in the garden, partially out of interest, but once Dad was ill it became a necessity, certainly after he died. Therefore by my late teens, I had a reasonable idea about how to do things, and the techniques used.

Once I was away at University my mother soldiered on but after my Grandfather died (it was his house that the family lived in) she moved to a small bungalow back in Rainham. This had a small garden that she could easily manage.

I ended up, aged 22, living in a rented house in Culverstone, near Meopham. This I sublet to a variety of interesting characters over the next five years. One of these characters made the mistake of "hiding" his tall, green plants in the field. Unfortunately in summer 1976 the field died back to brown, leaving his well-tended, 6ft high plants very obvious. Good evening Officer.

Eventually we had a stable group, and we decided to grow some veg, and also kept a dozen chickens in one of the three Nissan huts in our large field.

Another of the huts was used as a temporary stable for a young horse that belonged to a local barmaid and girlfriend of a local (Pete) with whom we were good friends. It had a name, but because it was of Irish origin Pete would talk to it in a (bad) fake Irish accent and kept calling it Seamus. In a fairly short time the horse became known only as Seamus.

I got roped into helping get hay off the fields and into their barn, borrowing a dropside Transit from work. No problem until the next time when I was shown how to use a pitchfork to load bales onto a trailer. Lets just say that it is harder than it looks until you get the knack of it. I developed hay fever which has returned every year since.

When I bought my first house it had a small, terraced garden in which my dog reigned supreme, so nothing fancy grew. However, my girlfriend had bought a horse and this was kept as cheaply as possible in various locations around Snodland, then later on some ground just down the road with the other young horse she had now acquired.

Once we were living in the same house, the question of where to live next was starting to be asked. I had gone from needing a lodger to help pay the bills when I first bought the house, to seeing my wages rise as responsibility at work increased. She had worked in a pub to fund the animals (there was also her dog, and two cats...) but she also had an increasingly responsible job for SEGAS and for a brief period we were comfortable, even putting the horses into a livery.

After a few false starts we eventually found a small semi-detached cottage with an acre and a bit of grass and a few outbuildings. We cursed all those people who had bought these small houses, then extended the house out of our price range. What did we do ten years later? Oops.

The underlying soil was clay, such that when we first dug one border it was with a pickaxe. However over the years the application of well rotted manure, in industrial quantities, changed that completely.

Pete came down and gave us a hand. He had abandoned being an electrician and pump engineer and was now a self-employed gardening contractor. We cleared the field of brambles (with a chain saw!), ran a cultivator over the veg patch, and shifted some bulky feed bins in the back of his Standard Atlas pick up (remember them?). Then he emigrated to Australia to join the rest of his family.

We grew our own again.

Then parenthood. Our son was allergic to cows milk, and in 1981 alternatives did not fill the supermarket shelves. Sally's answer was typical, she brought home a goat. Unfortunately its name was the same as my business partner's wife-oh well, life goes on. Mandy was an Anglo-Nubian goat, a browser. Hedges are seen by most animals as a barrier, not to her – Lunch!

In order for goats (and cows) to produce milk they regularly need to have offspring to feed. Taking the goat to the billy was something that I never did, but I have driven with two goats in the back of a van, and they look out the back window like any other animal, the following vehicle's driver's expressions were "interesting".

Although I muttered about the effect that The Good Life as a TV programme had had on my wife in her formative years, we were able to do a more sensible version. More raised beds for vegetables, a fruit garden, a few chickens and more goats. We were able, and occasionally did, put a meal on the table that was completely ours, with wine (we don't talk about the parsnip...) except for the flour used to thicken the gravy.

Billy goat kids were never pets. What's that one's name? Was answered by "Freezer", and that's where they went, via an abattoir, as soon as they had horns and started to smell like a billy. We reckoned that they had a good life, well looked after, well fed and outside playing every day. They make a wonderful curry. The nanny kids were either reared on to replace or increase our herd, or sometimes sold on, but not to anyone we did not know.

Careful cross breeding had got Sally a herd of 12 milking nannies, all hand milked, and she was producing various milk products, soft cheese and yoghurt which we sold to my work colleagues and at the gate.

Sally was approached by a local farmer who was breeding a flock of expensive sheep. He had a couple of rejected lambs. These need colostrum which is in the early milk produced when the lamb, or goat is only up to a few days old. There was some available from one of her nannies, and we fed these little lambs until they were able to graze. Goat milk freezes well so it was straightforward to keep any excess early milk for future use. The farmer also happened to be butcher, so when happy, well fed lambs were given back to him ready to increase his flock, we were paid in meat, usually beef as we had pork.

What a good idea it was to keep a couple of pigs, I was told, get piglets, fatten them for a few weeks then off to the butcher and pork chops arrive. Now my idea of a piglet was about a foot to 18 inches long, how big could that get in 3 months? However... When they arrived they were already the size that I thought they would be at the end.

Anyway they hoovered up the surplus milk, and the ullage from the local pub, and the swill from the school kitchen and anything else put in their way.

They then had to be persuaded to board one of the company Astra vans. Getting one in is tricky, two nigh on impossible, but they went in eventually. They were taken to a local butcher where a swift and humane end was assured. The meat was excellent.

We did this a couple more times, asking for help to load them usually got refused the second time as the locals got wise. One piglet escaped when still small and a neighbour, not in the first flush of youth, lent a hand. I was at work, but by all accounts (and there were many witnesses) he got hold of a hind leg thinking that was that, until he was pulled, at some speed, through the adjacent brambles. To his credit he did not let go and the piglet was recaptured.

During this time the goats were often to be seen being walked up the road to other fields, just take the lead goat, and the others follow. There was even a registered herd name.

However, rules change and this semi-commercial milk production became impossible under new hygiene regulations. A while later the butcher stopped slaughtering as he found the new rules less humane in his environment.

Our last goat was kept as a pet, and when it died was buried (without full military honours) in the field. It needed a big hole!

We still kept growing our own.

During all this we had chickens, which, everytime I was left in charge, would be prey to the fox. So on one occasion when my wife was away I agreed to take a friends older hens as he wanted commercial production which is only from young birds, we were not so pressured. I went and picked them up (in a firm's Astra van, again) and was amused to watch in the mirror as they leaned into bends as I drove. So instead of there being fewer chickens there were twenty more.

Once we had got back to a sensible number of hens, we had a cockerel. He grew quite large, and was a splendid example who looked like many of those on a pub sign. He was called Rambo. Now what you should never do was get between Rambo and his ladies, or he would attack you. This is not to be taken lightly as he had large, sharp spurs and beak. Going to feed the chickens armed with a large plastic shovel was a wise precaution.

One evening we had forgotten to shut the birds away and after a commotion we found a couple of hens dead, and Rambo lying on his side, very still. While I was racing about with a powerful torch and shotgun, Rambo suddenly shook himself, jumped up and was back on guard. Cue "I say, I say, I say boy" impressions. Closer examination showed his spurs covered in blood, not his, he had attacked the fox. He was never quite the same after that, and with "Son of Rambo" who was smaller and more user-friendly the pair protected their flock for some time.

We eventually got some ducks instead of replacing the hens. These we could let wander the garden, being less destructive (no digging or dustbaths) yet still producing eggs.

Visitors were often startled by the other garden occupants, free range Guinea Pigs. They were surprisingly effective mowers, and their speed across the lawns was quite amazing. If you didn't expect them they usually made you jump, and immediately think rat! They also grew quite large, maybe almost twice as big as the average, caged, pig.

We concentrated more on growing higher value crops, and those that only taste as good a few minutes after picking. A greenhouse helped, and in it we grew the usual array of tomatoes and cucumbers, but also very early and very late peas. I started to count the cucumbers, growing over 90 from one plant, and over a hundred the next year. All visitors were given their obligatory cucumber, or two...

About six butternut squash seeds germinated, were potted on then put into the veg patch. The triffids then took over and shortly everyone had a squash to go with their cucumber. I took both to the local pub when visiting (regularly of course, got to keep up with local events) and they even raffled one as it was an "interesting" shape. A few more pounds in the charity box.

We continued in this way for a few more years, then moved, downsizing pending my retirement. Our new house came with a strip of land, long neglected, that has now sprouted a garage, many raised beds and fruit trees, some trained onto horizontal wires.

After we moved, Sally's ageing horse spent a couple of years stabled at her sister's then when they retired, he was moved to a field just up the road from us. She started growing veg there, using the readily available source of manure to help it all along. Sadly at 32 years old, the horse died, but we continue to have an "allotment" on the field that adds to our ability to grow our own. We also have free access to the adjacent small orchard of a wide selection of apples, mostly old varieties that are very tasty but would never be seen in a supermarket.

There is something most pleasing about popping out to the garden to pick fruit or veg for breakfast or dinner and knowing that it is both organic and as fresh as possible. Long may it continue.
Illegitimus nil carborundum

Offline filmer01

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Re: Cars, Trains, Guns and things
« Reply #35 on: November 26, 2017, 18:30:00 »
Guns, Part 2

As my firearm certificate renewal got ever closer, I contacted one of the organisers of the local pistol league, thinking to maybe just do a bit of pistol rather than the full-on everything that I had done a year or two before.

As it happened, his club were off to Bisley that weekend, so, slightly reluctantly, I went. A few rounds at 600yds and I was hooked again, so I became a member of the Maidstone Home Guard (1944) Rifle Club.

Ightham was also a club that came from the old Home Guard, practising and competing against each other. Early on in my time at Ightham the armoury was behind a shop in Ightham Village, where it had been since WW2. They even had their own version of Private Pike, who had shot as a lad in the Home Guard and still shot into the 1980s.

When the Home Guard was stood down in 1944, many of the units continued to shoot and became the basis for rifle clubs post war.

Maidstone HG shot indoors on a narrow 25m range at the Grammar School. Pistol was accommodated with a trestle erected at 20yds. Regular fullbore rifle at Bisley, and pistol at Stone Lodge resumed, but at a lower level, more casual shooting and just a few competitions.

A year or two later and the club secretary resigned, having ceased to be a regular shooter some while before. The Secretary usually holds the club firearm certificate and has responsibility therefore for the weapons and ammunition, although club officers can transport them and supervise their use. Reluctantly I agreed to fill the vacant position. I therefore found room for another, substantial, gun cabinet and various weapons.

I had earlier sold my Browning .22 pistol and upgraded to a Unique DES69, a French pistol designed for Olympic Standard Pistol. During my time with Maidstone I also acquired a Smith & Wesson Model 52. This was a 38special semi auto, designed specifically as a target weapon it would only chamber wadcutter (flat nosed, seated flush to the case) ammunition. This worked best with slightly more powerful loads than the revolver, there being some energy lost in operating the mechanism.

Lastly I bought a Colt .45ACP Gold Cup semi auto. This was a target version of the famous military sidearm. It also required me to have additional reloading equipment to suit the different calibre. More fun with infinite variations of bullet, including fully jacketed, and slower burning powders.

With these additions, as well as the club weapons, the local police firearms liaison “suggested” that I should have a decent alarm system to supplement our two German Shepherds. All the shooting gear (guns and ammo in steel boxes with serious locks) was in a small cupboard, which itself had a slightly reinforced door and a quality deadlock. It now had its own dedicated alarm circuit.

The .357 Magnum revolver remained my favourite for its simplicity and accuracy. Shooting at Stone Lodge one evening, I was just starting to pack up when I realised that I needed to shoot one more competition card. With a tad of bad grace, grumbling away as everybody else was getting ready to leave I put up the card.

I had already put away my spotting scope, and to save time just left the bench flap (like a pub bar flap) up and shot the first five. With the naked eye there were nines, an eight and a seven - rubbish. It was late, I was tired, shooting in the dark under lights, so I just reloaded and fired the last five almost casually.

Immediately I finished I started to pack up and someone else went and retrieved the card. When I was asked to sign it, I said just mark it and record it and lets get home. Then Andy suggested that I look again, and he witnessed it. Hmm that seven was an eight, the eight was a nine, and the rest were tens!

97 out of 100 my best pistol score ever – I still have the card somewhere, it used to live in a clip frame in my office, but the glass got broken. I also have the first rifle 100 that I shot, an external postal competition card, returned by the marker as a memento.

In the box of bits and pieces handed over from the previous secretary were a couple of journals. One detailed the early years of the Maidstone area small bore rifle society from the start of the first world war. The gentleman writing this was resident at Somerfield Terrace, now part of the Somerfield Hospital. The intention was to provide basic skill at arms before entry into the services and many additional ranges appeared, often attached to Pubs either physically or as homes for their teams. The usual give away is a long, low building. The two hobbies really should not meet.

A mention was made of shooting in the upper floor of what is now the Carriage Museum, and I have often thought to see if any evidence survives.

The records continue into the inter war period, with full bore rifle shooting taking place in an old quarry at Tovil. The advent of the Home Guard effectively took over the sport.

Post war there were Rifle clubs all over the place, in Maidstone there were clubs shooting at various Paper Mills, Rootes, Tilling-Stevens, Haynes and many others.

I also became a member of GEC Rifle & Pistol Club, but although I rarely shot in their indoor range, I was a mid-week regular on the outdoor range. This was behind the main hanger of Rochester Airport, and accessed past Medway Aeronautical Preservation Society’s wonderful sheds. The range was 50m small bore rifle, shot from a covered slab of concrete – think bike shed without the racks. Very strange sensation to be halfway through a competition card and a plane, or the Air Ambulance would take off just above the sand bullet stop brick support wall in clear view above the barrel. Another one for the excuses list…

Excavated at a lower level was the 20m pistol range, for small and full bore pistols, complete with turning targets. As one was above the other, either rifle or pistol could be shot, but not together!

A constant theme had always been the occasional Fun Shoot, where no official competition took place. I have previously mentioned the disc breaking, and we did a pistol version, just once as the discs were about the size of a Polo Mint, and nobody could hit the darned things. We had shot our .22 rifles at 200yds at Bisley one cold winter afternoon and found them to be surprisingly accurate.

Another winter at Bisley saw Maidstone with an array of unusual weapons that we all had a try at. A Brown Bess Musket, hugely long and unwieldy, a couple of muzzle loading, black powder, Enfield 1853 pattern 0.577” rifles, that were surprisingly accurate, but slow to load. As well as a couple of 0.303 Lee-Enfield variants, an early one, still my favourite, and a WW2 number 5 Jungle Carbine that was, shall we say, best at short range.

Previously we had been using the Gallery Ranges at Stone (I think our usual turning target bay had stopped turning) so there were other shooters mixed in with our lot. I had finished my card and was idly watching someone I had never met before shooting a flint lock pistol.  Realising my interest he showed me the piece, and after the targets were changed suggested that I might like to shoot it. Damn right I would! He loaded it, explaining his actions as he went, then went through the drill if it didn’t fire. No flash, just re-cock the gun and try again. If it happens again the flint needed adjusting. A flash but not firing (literally a flash in the pan), hold aim and wait in case there is a hang fire. If not, then the flash hole needed pricking out (to enable the flash from the pan to travel to the main charge) and the pan primed again.

So I held this thing, with a grip like holding a walking stick, pulled the flint back to full cock (from the “safe” position of half cock) and squeezed the immensely heavy trigger. Click! Nothing happened. Recock it, try again, a flash, no bang, so I stood there for about 10 seconds holding aim, then he poked about a bit and reprimed the pan, and I tried again. A flash. Ah I thought here we go again, then with some delay a gentle woosh turned into a long steady push on my arm totally different from our usual sharp recoil, as it fired. The owner’s efforts had scattered shot holes around the target, I took great pride in hitting a Nine, thanked him and gave him the gun back. How on earth did we gain an Empire with weapons that tricky?

I had a “slot” on my licence for a while that enabled me to buy a Black Powder pistol, but I never did. possibly put off by the gent at GEC who turned up, put on a disposable overall and gloves (with hood, as seen in all forensic investigations) shot his replica Colt pistol, then stripped off the overall and gloves into the bin and went home to an hour of gun cleaning. John Wayne never had that problem in any film that I saw!

We once met a group of four young men from Gloucester who had decided the night before to come to Bisley to try each others guns, and literally had a Cortina boot full of just about everything. Full bore semi-auto rifles were still permitted, but to our amazement one of them produced a Bren gun. He had just bought it and this was the first chance he had to shoot it. When questioned as to how he had got this on his licence it seems that he simply listed it as a self loading rifle made by the Brno small arms company of Czechoslovakia. We were astounded.

As the afternoon went on we continued chatting, and were offered a go with the Bren. It had the top mounted box magazine, and the simple instruction was to hang onto it as the action made it “walk” forward. It was rumoured to be very nice to shoot, and our brief encounter confirmed that, with good accuracy at 300yds.

When we had finished, the owner showed us how good he was with it, then pointed out the catch that in military use gave fully automatic fire, which I believe also had a 3shot position. Either way, to demonstrate that it was disabled he flipped it over, took aim and fired. Luckily the range was by now fairly empty and nobody else appeared to have realised that it had just gone, briefly, full auto. It was hastily put back in its case and carted off to the car.

At Ightham, because of the shoulder to shoulder league, we knew many of the other local clubs, and on one occasion were invited to try some of the local TA equipment. This was literally enlightening with light intensifying telescopic sights we were shooting at targets in virtual darkness. They extended an invitation to a few clubs for their open day shoot at Milton Ranges. We were firing .22 training anti-tank guns, and the old 7.62 SLR rifles, the actions of which sound terribly tinny when wearing ear defenders.

There was a “closest to the middle” competition onto a blank target at 200yds with the marker waving an arrow on a stick to show the fall of shot. The unkind tried to shoot the arrow, and were quickly dissuaded. With only minutes to go I held first place and our rifle captain second, but a TA Sergeant had to wrest some glory from the civvies and just managed to win at the very end.

A falling plate competition was the team event, where each rifle club, police and service unit had four or five shooters, each with a randomly allocated SLR with a full magazine. Against the clock who could knock over the metal targets scattered across the range quickest, two teams at a time. The trouble was the SLRs sights were all over the place and by the time you had worked out where to aim you had to be economical with the ammunition. If only we had taken our old bolt action rifles we could have shown them how to do it with ease. The Met Police won.

Highlight of our year was the Pistol AD event (so called as it was Pistol 92, Pistol 93 etc.). This was held over a weekend at Bisley with huge numbers of competitions, exhibitions and what I can only describe as a shooting oriented cross between a boot fair and serious professional stalls, all set up on the half acre green space at the centre of the camp. If it was legal you could buy it, and although a pistol meet, the offerings covered every aspect of shooting.

However, many of us felt that there was becoming too great a move towards the “practical” disciplines, mainly pistol. At their worst they were almost like playing cowboys and indians with real guns – an exaggeration of course, but a bit too quick draw and moving about for my, Olympic based, tastes. However, when on a range, keeping your pistol with you in a holster was more about ensuring that no one else could pick it up, than playing Dirty Harry. One range officer was moaning about this as a “yoof” thing to one of our more senior members, who, as we got onto the firing point, removed his 38special revolver from his shoulder holster…

However, after the horrors of Dunblane the writing was on the wall. I will not dwell on the arguments for or against the pistol ban, it happened, it was politicians and civil servants taking what I saw as the easy route, and at a stroke many people lost a sport, a hobby and for others also a livelihood. Those included the leather worker who made pistol belts and holsters through all aspects of range operation, gunshops etc., mostly small, specialist businesses.

The consequence of the ban was the hand-in.

Pistols were either surrendered for a generic (low) fixed fee, or against a suitable gunsmith’s valuation. There was a tariff for just about anything to do with the sport. Being organised by civil servants, probably with no knowledge of which they wrote, the other eligible items were full of anomalies. The simple concept was sound, if it could be used for other things or aspects of shooting, then it was not eligible. However with reloading equipment, unless it was “pistol specific” it was not included. The problem was that reloading rifle ammunition was a very niche hobby compared to the relatively huge numbers who reloaded pistol, and most of us preferred the safety and “feel” of stronger equipment which was capable of loading both.

In common with many others, a group of us went for a last blast, shooting anything and everything that we had, trying each others guns and attempting to use up our ammunition.

Some moved their guns to continental clubs rather than surrender them, and a regular Eurostar trip kept them happy. This did not appeal to me. Others faced a dilemma over historically significant or special weapons. Hand them in and argue for their value, have them de-activated (ruining them for what they were, and their value) or sell them, probably through a dealer to a collector abroad to keep them used and appreciated.

The actual hand-in was quite well organised. I went at the appointed time to one of the old Police Houses behind Maidstone HQ, and met two of the familiar firearms personnel. I had two because of the quantity of equipment that was involved with the club and my personal items. I went in my wife’s Land Rover 90 Station Wagon, the rear of which was filled to window level.

I handed in pistols, holsters, speed loaders for revolvers, magazines for the semi-autos, empty cases, bullets, reloading consumables and much more. I kept my pistol belts, very thick (7mm) leather, lined and with sturdy brass buckles, they were intended to be worn over your normal belt and clipped to it, but with a couple of extra holes drilled through them they still hold my jeans up very effectively.

I subsequently had a serious spat with the Home Office who tried to cherry pick what to agree to accept and for how much. I had ended up travelling a fair distance to a dealer who was prepared to value my guns. The Unique was the problem as they were uncommon. It was valued at £710, but the Home Office wanted to give me the basic £150, while agreeing to the other valuations. A few letters later and slowly increasing offers, I was awarded the full amount. However my reloading gear was rejected, despite having adaptations specifically for pistol loading. Again a few more letters and I was partially successful as I got a simple reloading press with a fixed 38special case holder accepted for the basic compensation – which was more than I paid for it.

My main reloading equipment was sold for a fraction of its worth to one of those going the continental route.

The aftermath was quite strange. I was seriously annoyed at what had gone on, a little lost without some of my sports and hobbies, but understanding of the concerns that prompted it all.

A year or so later and I had a health issue that prevented me from shooting prone rifle for a while, and I resigned as Secretary, donated my .22 rifle to the club and sold the Enfield and my rather nice shooting jacket to another club member.

I kept my firearms certificate open with a .22 semi automatic rifle for vermin shooting, but I’m not much of a hunter and eventually that was sold and in 2015, after 38years I did not renew my certificate.

Illegitimus nil carborundum

Offline filmer01

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Re: Cars, Trains, Guns and things
« Reply #34 on: November 07, 2017, 11:17:20 »
We occasionally shot at Milton Ranges. Watching some of the squadies made you wonder about barn doors, they were so inaccurate. Because of the rules about separation and different distances, on one occasion we were asked to stay at 200yds. So we started shooting pistol from a prone position, using heavy loads. More accurate than expected, but we were asked to stop, as they were cautious about even that amount of separation.

At the end of the session they all had to line up in front of their lorry, and, one at a time, individually stand to attention, salute the officer in charge, and yell out “I have no live rounds or empty cases in my possession, Sir!”

Made us giggle as we lumbered past each carting a small arsenal back to our cars.

This was about 1981.
Illegitimus nil carborundum

Offline AlanH

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Re: Cars, Trains, Guns and things
« Reply #33 on: November 07, 2017, 09:30:27 »
"forbidden to possess even empty cases." WOW. I knew things had been tightened up a lot but didn't realise the authorities had become so paranoid they banned even empty cases!
When I used to shoot over the marshes at Higham and elsewhere when I could, a 12 bore shotgun license cost 7/6d for a year. No questions asked and available from any PO. I don't think we needed one for an air rifle which many of us had back then before graduating to a shotgun..
When I came to Oz in the early 70s we could buy guns of all kinds at the local shopping centre and again no questions asked.
What an absolute mess the world has become from the world we lived in 60 years ago when a lad with an air rifle or shotgun was not looked upon as a possible mass murderer.
I don't shoot now but my son does (or used to before he married the witch....) and he has to have so much security for anything related to shooting let alone the guns which the cops inspect before he can get a license.
Pity the crooks who cause all the trouble don't care about the rules.....
Happy shooting if you can.

Offline 80sChild

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Re: Cars, Trains, Guns and things
« Reply #32 on: November 06, 2017, 13:18:50 »
I remember those too when I was a boy.  :)

I seem to remember having a small red one at some point (like the one in the top-right corner of the picture).

Can't remember what happened to it though...

Offline conan

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Re: Cars, Trains, Guns and things
« Reply #31 on: November 04, 2017, 19:32:31 »
A fascinating post filmer01, I never really took to shooting except for the occasional foray with a keeper friend of mine shooting pigeons for the pot with one of his spare 410 shotguns. I did however take up archery for a while but found it a bit elitist, being expected to wear the club colours and so on when all I wanted really was to go to the ground and loose a few ends as a way of relaxing, I had no real interest in getting a handicap sorted out and so, although I was fairly good at the sport I left the club after a year, shame really as I enjoyed it.
  On another note (and slightly of topic) you mentioned caps in a roll, I remember another use for them was to make cap bombs go bang.

To remain ignorant of what happened before you were born is to remain a child......Cicero

Offline filmer01

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Re: Cars, Trains, Guns and things
« Reply #30 on: November 04, 2017, 18:45:49 »
Guns and things part 1

I am part of the generation for whom Cowboys and Indians was the default game. At an early age I therefore had the hat (black, with yellow fringe) and a pair of revolvers in holsters and loose bullets in loops around the belt. A Winchester style rifle came next, although I think that Winchester didn’t make them with chrome barrels and white plastic fore ends and butts! Rolls of caps (bought in little round white cardboard boxes) could be consumed at a rate that my pocket money could not afford.

The budding engineer in me was fascinated by the mechanisms involved in these and other weapons, especially bolt-action rifles and revolvers. I started to pick holes in the western films of the day, simple things like counting the shots fired. Still a worrying habit.

I was definitely NOT allowed an air rifle or pistol. I was given a bow and arrow and target when our neighbours emigrated to Australia and decided not to pack them, but it was not really quite what I wanted.

At University there were rumours of the rifle club, but I was too busy with the motor club to investigate.

I mentioned to Bob (my workmate and rally driver) that I found guns interesting, only to find that he had previously shot target rifle. We found a local club, nominally Ightham, but they actually shot at Borough Green, and joined.

Ightham Rifle and Pistol Club shot in a redundant quarry. The clubhouse was an old prefab divided into three. The club area was the largest, then there was a narrow room for the prone rifle firing points along the long side, with flaps cut out at low level, so that you shot from indoors to outside. A similar arrangement with stable doors at higher level served the pistol section, shooting at right angles to the direction of the rifles. The range was only suitable for .22LR rimfire weapons. The rifles were shot at 25, 50 & 100m, the pistols at 20m.

I have seen odd comments and question marks next to the existence of “Miniature Rifle Clubs” in some village histories. The members were shooting what are now referred to as small-bore rifles usually with a bore of 0.22inch. These were quite miniature when compared to some earlier military rifles of 0.45inch calibre, or even the later standard 0.303inch. These larger rifles are known as full-bore weapons.

The club’s own rifles were old BSA 12/15 Martini action, and quite small framed. They also had a later BSA Mk2 Martini, a much heavier and relatively modern weapon. After a while shooting the Mk2 under tuition I started to get the hang of it, and shot a series of 5 or 6 cards (each target card at 25m has 10 separate aiming marks) in order to obtain an average. Setting an average is effectively setting a handicap against which your actual score (gun score) is selected on an impressive chart (probably use an app on their phone these days!) which gives you your adjusted score. Therefore all levels of proficiency can shoot against each other using adjusted scores.

The usual form of competition was by post. The members of a team would all shoot their cards by a specific date, and their competitors in that division of the league, would also send their cards to an independent marker. Marking can be done by eye, but a gauge is used (and sometimes a magnifying glass) to help judge the close ones. Rifle scores are outward gauging, so if you touch the line between, say, the 9 and the 8 rings, you score an 8. Pistol, by the way, is usually inward gauging, so you get the higher score.

A gauge looks suspiciously like an unused pop rivet, it is put into the hole with as little pressure as possible and the skirt is the deciding factor. In the upper divisions appeals were quite common and argued loudly!

Having a new, and rapidly improving, shooter in a team was a bonus. They will soon consistently shoot better than the average previously declared, and even after that season’s competition the average from that should still not really reflect their likely scores in the next one.

All rifle competitions were shot with open sights, no magnification allowed except for prescription corrective lenses. The rear sight is a simple peep sight, a small hole the size of which was very much a personal choice. The foresight a choice between a post type or the usual ring type. These vary in the thickness of the ring as well as the aperture, some prefer to have a small, tight, fit to the aiming mark, others followed the alternative, allowing more light around the target. Coloured filters are used in the rear sight to give a sharper contrast, different colours for differing lights. We shot under floodlights on winter evenings and daylight in summer and Sunday mornings.

Our Rifle Captain not only entered me into a couple of postal competitions, but Eley (cartridge makers) were celebrating their 150th anniversary in 1978, and they ran a huge series of competitions for the various disciplines for which they made ammunition. The early rounds were shot at 25m on a postal basis using adjusted score, and then the final was held at the NSRA Annual Shoot at Bisley at 50m and 100m. I made it to the final, but, totally unused to such types of competition, didn’t shine on the day. An excellent experience.

I had shot at this final with the club’s Mk2 Martini as I was used to it, and for the weeks leading up to the final no one else was allowed to use it so my settings for the sights did not get messed about. I had, by this time, my own firearms certificate, and had bought a secondhand rifle, an Anshutz 1411 Match 54. An older style of this very successful single shot, bolt action, weapon, but as I had hardly shot with it, I left it at home and went with the BSA.

A couple of us started shooting pistol as well, which was not common, most shot either rifle or pistol, and some degree of rivalry and banter went on between them. I bought a Browning semi-automatic pistol and started to achieve reasonable scores. The usual pistol disciplines were “precision” which was a small target with quite close scoring rings, or “Standard Pistol” which was a discipline using three targets, best described as Slow, Timed and Rapid. Five shots were fired, twice in each sequence, in 150seconds, 20seconds and finally 10seconds. Targets were changed between each pair of sequences. Even 10seconds is long enough to fire five fairly controlled shots – or so I would tell a novice if I was coaching...

In my time at Ightham I would describe myself as a fair pistol shot, and a reasonable rifle shot. I once had a rifle average of nearly 98 for 25m where the whole focus is on taking every shot as exactly as the last, but I preferred the greater challenge of the longer distances, especially the 100m, but that was only shot in conjunction with 50m, although 50m was the Olympic distance.

The combination of 20shots to count at both 50 and 100m is called a Dewar course of fire. The 50m target has two aiming marks, five shots on each, the 100m target is all 10 shots on a single aiming mark. A spare target is also provided to enable the shooter to sight in, especially important when changing distances, my Anshutz sights needed to come up 9 clicks of the adjuster from 25 to 50, but another 45 to 100m. Forget to check the sights and you are in for a surprise!

Prone rifle shooting is all about precision and speed does not really enter into it for this type of competition. I became a marker for a couple of divisions of the local league, and then a national one. Our postman must have been impressed as every two weeks I got a pile of A4 sized envelopes, one of which bore the House of Commons crest – yes there is a range underneath it!

Shoulder to shoulder competitions are when a team visits another range and the targets are shot together, quite literally shoulder to shoulder. Ightham shot in a local league and it was quite revealing to see other ranges that went from a glorified shed in the woods through a village hall that you approached on foot through a virtually unlit churchyard to some that were very nicely appointed. A certain workers club shot in their hall, the front of the stage swung up in sections to reveal the target holders, and you shot from the floor at the other end. The temptation to pop one through the piano was almost too much!

Once a year there was the club Disc Breaking Competition. For this black painted boards were set up at 100m and 6 fragile white discs about 50mm diameter were hung on pins. It was shot in pairs, drawn randomly, as a knockout, the first one to clear their discs went through. There were some really competitive types around, using post foresights carefully sighted for ease of aim. However one gentleman always did well, it just suited him. He was, as usual, on course to win when he just could not clear the last disc, and a relative novice was set to beat him. At this point the whistle went to cease fire, and the reluctant disc was retrieved to show him that it was wood, and had been hit more than once. A re-shoot was a white wash and he went on to win – again.

The finals of some postal competitions were held at an open shoot at the end of the season. Major shoots have plain cards set back behind the targets, so that if someone shoots at the wrong target (easily done and quite common under the stress of competition) the angle of the cross shot will reveal the culprit, and which shot it was so that it can be removed from the scoring.

The usual rifle shooter’s excuses list revolve around The Wind, The Light and The Ammunition.

Wind is a problem with low powered rifles over longer distances and a close eye has to be kept on the flags used as indicators. With light variations that is where filters and adjustable rear sights can help. Ammunition, you get what you pay for, so buy the best that you can afford if shooting competitively over longer distances.

When shooting shoulder to shoulder and at open shoots, the excuses list is rapidly expanded to include interference from the shooter next to you, who may belch, fart, sneeze, swear and a whole lot of other distracting things. The old Mk2 Martini had a very powerful eject that if the spring loading was “helped” by a particularly sharp snap of the lever downwards, the case would fly out and bounce off the shooter at least two away. They can be quite warm.

At the end of one of these open competitions teams of three were asked for a sweepstake fun shoot. It turned out to be a disc breaking competition and with most never having done it before we trounced all comers, and all three claimed the last disc as we shot in unison. Happy days.

Some of the more serious shooters also shot full bore pistol and full bore rifle. Pistol was shot at Stone Lodge at Dartford, an Olympic standard range for small bore rifle and pistol and full bore pistol. Some of the pistol ranges were equipped with two banks of turning targets, intended for the small bore rapid fire discipline. However it also enabled us to shoot properly timed sequences for Standard Pistol as well as Police Pistol (intended for revolvers) and Service Pistol (intended for semi-autos, but possible with a revolver).

To join in I bought a brand new Smith and Wesson Model 19. This was a 4inch barrelled, .357 Magnum revolver with target hammer (wider spur) and target trigger (wider). I opted for a .357 as it is stronger than the standard 38Special upon which it is based. Confusingly they are actually both the same calibre (0.357”) the magnum case being a little longer so that the greater potential power could not accidentally be loaded into a standard 38Special.

Generally we would shoot with lightly loaded 38special ammunition with “wadcutter” bullets, which are lead cylinders to punch a neat hole in the target. The base was usually funnel shaped to expand into the rifling of the barrel and get as much accuracy as possible. The light charges also went some way to help the soft bullet engage the rifling rather than being forced through it and stripping the lead away.

Buying factory ammunition is not a cheap hobby, therefore most pistol shooters reloaded their own full bore ammunition. This is not without potential hazard, but with a rigid work method and routine the risks can be almost eliminated. It is a long winded process, of several small and repetitive steps.

A loaded round of ammunition consists of four components. The case, usually brass, into the centre of the base is pressed the primer which is a very small explosive charge which when struck then ignites the propellant that burns very quickly producing gas at high pressure to force the actual bullet out of the case, along the barrel and onto the target.

Using previously fired, empty, cases the first thing is to remove the spent primers. A reloading press holds the case and a hardened pin is pushed down through the hole in the base of the case (through which the ignition of the charge takes place) and pushes it out. At the same time the case enters a die that squeezes it back to its original diameter, as it will have expanded due to the internal pressure when fired. The case is then cleaned, the primer pocket by a small hand held wire brush, and the cases can be put in a vibrating container with a mild abrasive such as crushed walnut shells.

A new primer is then pressed into place CAREFULLY, this is an explosive after all. Generally the case is then given a slight flare to its mouth so that the bullet will enter easily.

Then the really sensitive bit, the propellant. Various powders are available, and they range in texture and the speed at which they burn. Therefore for an accurate target load a small quantity of a fast burning powder was used. Very careful measurement is needed, for instance I used to use between 2.8 and 3.2 grains of Bullseye powder in my target ammunition. One Grain weighs just under 85 milligrams, or one 7,000 of a pound. These minute weights are weighed on a small, but very accurate beam balance. In practice an automatic powder measure was used, a sort of sophisticated version of my mother’s tea measure from the sixties, which when adjusted correctly gave the precise amount required each time the lever was operated.

For peace of mind, and safety, I used trays that held 50 cases. Each case was picked up, the powder measured into it from the machine, and then replaced. Every ten the charge was weighed to check that nothing had changed. Once the tray was full it was carefully examined from oblique angles to check the level of powder, hoping to spot any double charges (not good!). As soon as that was done the bullets were lightly placed into the cases rather like stoppers.

Back in the press, the bullets were seated to a set height, wadcutters flush with the case end, and a light crimp (the top of the case squeezed in) applied to grip the bullet. A quick wipe over and they were packed into boxes ready for use. With adequate supplies of tea, I regularly reloaded 400 rounds on a Saturday afternoon.

Bullets could be purchased commercially, or some other shooters cast their own using various mixtures of lead and similar metals, old printing type was highly prized. I often traded lead obtained from the day job for finished cast bullets. The heavier loads possible with the magnum cases used different powders and at the factory level of charge, semi-jacketed bullets. These have copper bases and part covered sides so that the heavy charge still makes them engage the rifling. Some larger calibres need fully jacketed ammunition, especially for semi-automatic pistols.

There was a saying that some shooters reloaded to shoot, but others shot to reload, such was the almost infinite variations of powder type, load, bullet type, weight and intended weapon that it was a hobby in itself.

An Enfield T4 rifle in 7.62mm NATO military calibre was bought secondhand in good condition. These rifles were built using Lee Enfield bolt actions (mine was dated 1949), but with target woodwork a heavyweight barrel and target sights. Mine was also fitted with a ten round 7.62 magazine which was slightly unusual.

Although we shot mainly for fun, there were internal competitions and the occasional more serious shoot. At short notice I filled a space shooting for Barclays Bank against the Navy, we won. At my favourite distance of 600yds my average was 95-96. The bull at that distance is about a foot diameter.

Although we could hire a marker (most often teenage schoolboys) to work the target in the butts and signal the score, we usually did it ourselves, taking turns. The communication between firing point and butts was originally by ancient field telephone – the sort that you crank a handle to ring the other set. Also seen on daytime antique and collectable TV programmes. Due to the background noise (at both ends) there is a message code to save explanations. The most common one was message four – a shot has been fired but not marked. Two common reasons, either the marker was asleep/eating/drinking/talking or you shot at the wrong target! With over a hundred targets on Century Range cross shooting was so easy.

I never tried reloading full bore rifle ammunition even though my press could cope with the long cases. Although expensive high quality British Army, Radway Green (RG) 7.62mm Sniper Grade (Green Spot) ammunition was always available and many cheaper options for less important shooting. Many serious competitions required you to use the issued ammunition.

We kept our fired full bore rifle cases, and small bore empties and every few months they would be taken to the scrap man along with any pistol cases that had split. I often did this as I already went with any scrap copper and brass from work.

I had a phone call from Kent Police one morning at work, asking if I had been responsible for selling the company Granada that I used to drive. It turned out that the trader had fixed the engine, and sold it on to a Royal Engineers Officer. He gave it good clean and was startled to find a few empty rifle and pistol cases in the nooks and crannies of the boot. Now a serving officer would not only know what they were, he would also know that he is forbidden to possess even empty cases.

He therefore reported it and the information was passed to the police. Unfortunately for the trader, he was Irish (in 1981 the IRA were still very active), and someone added up 1 and 1 and made an awful lot more! An early morning raid followed, so by the time I was called he had been at the Police Station for a few hours. When I was asked if I knew about any cases (in a tone of voice that implied that of course I wouldn’t) I simply gave them my firearms certificate number, easily remembered as it was 33999, and an apologetic policeman made his excuses and rang off. We still sold the trader cars, but I think the deals were probably not so good…

At my busiest I was shooting at Ightham on Tuesday evenings and Sunday mornings. Then in the winter for the shoulder to shoulder league every two weeks on a Thursday evening. Once a month we had a Saturday afternoon at Stone Lodge for full bore pistol, and once a month down to Bisley to shoot full bore rifle and maybe a bit more pistol.

When we started our own company, such was the need to concentrate on that, that I found that I was dropping out of competitions despite having taken over as Pistol Captain, and in the end faced a decision as to my future in shooting as my firearms certificate came close to its renewal date.
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Offline filmer01

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Re: Cars, Trains, Guns and things
« Reply #29 on: October 31, 2017, 18:29:58 »
Found a couple of East Kent Gazette clippings of the portable track at fetes.

Borden Fete is 1965 - the year determined by the results of the baby competition names checked through Find My Past  :) :)

Wakeley Road paper is dated 17 June 1966
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Offline filmer01

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Re: Cars, Trains, Guns and things
« Reply #28 on: October 31, 2017, 17:02:34 »
This is the cover of the 64 page guide to Swindon from my visit, again early 60s. In the back of the guide is a ten page fold out map of the site, with an 1848 version inset. I have scanned a section of it, hopefully resized it will still be legible.

The cover price of the guide was 3/6d, but that is overstamped "Gratis".
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Offline filmer01

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Re: Cars, Trains, Guns and things
« Reply #27 on: October 31, 2017, 16:42:20 »
Two more internal shots, resized a little this time.

I'm not sure when they were taken ( with a cheap Kodak Instamatic) there are no clues on the pictures, negatives or Boots folder, but very early 60s is pretty certain.
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Offline filmer01

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Re: Cars, Trains, Guns and things
« Reply #26 on: October 31, 2017, 16:35:04 »
I have found some old photos of my visit to Eastleigh.

30073 was a USA Class 0-6-0T shunter quite different to what I was used to seeing.

41294 was an Ivatt 2-MT Class 2-6-2T from the LMS probably why I took the picture
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Offline filmer01

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Re: Cars, Trains, Guns and things
« Reply #25 on: October 15, 2017, 22:21:34 »
No, never visited, didn't really go to foreign places like Sheppey until later, my sister, however, went to the Sheppey Tech - the strange purple tinged females!
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Offline conan

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Re: Cars, Trains, Guns and things
« Reply #24 on: October 15, 2017, 22:14:10 »
Enjoyed that filmer01 especially the reference to the GWR, a tip of the hat to the great George Jackson Churchward is in order I think.
Did you ever visit the garden layout at Warden point?
To remain ignorant of what happened before you were born is to remain a child......Cicero

Offline filmer01

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Re: Cars, Trains, Guns and things
« Reply #23 on: October 15, 2017, 21:52:41 »
Trains and bits

I have vague memories of watching the signalman at work in the old signal box at Rainham, the traditional large levers being easily visible from below. It seems that this was a favourite place to take me when very young so that I could watch the signal box activity, the level crossing gates being (manually) operated, and of course, best of all, the steam locomotives.

A Hornby Dublo 3 rail train set, a simple oval with a siding, fixed to a board so that I could easily play with it, appeared when I was about four. My oldest sister, her best friend, and the friend’s boyfriend were going out on a Sunday afternoon, but my father was trying to master the uncoupling rail, and show me how to use it. The boyfriend and Dad spent so long playing with this that the outing was abandoned. Excellent priorities!

The train set grew, but once it outgrew its 8x4 board I never had a place to have it set up for more than a day, which I found hugely frustrating. My only Aunt had married late in life, and her husband provided even more track and rolling stock from his nephews.

When we moved to Hartlip Hill in 1958, I was excited to find that the railway ran past the bottom of the garden. A seven year old was not consulted about the new house, the day we moved in was when I first saw and explored it.

The line was the recently upgraded section between Rainham and Newington, now with four tracks on the embankment, and a signal by the bridge over the lane down the side of our garden so many trains stopped there. A copy of “The Observer’s Book of Railway Locomotives” was purchased with the next Christmas book token (remember them?). I still have it. My bedroom was the only one at the back of the bungalow, so I had full view of the tracks, and the night workings as the old tracks were replaced by continuous rails, all arc lights and welding sparks – wonderful theatre.

The embankment was covered with lupins, probably escaped from someone’s garden, and the usual vegetation control was to burn the bank.

An infrequent, but imposing, sight in the morning was The Golden Arrow hauled by a Bullied Pacific, often one still with its streamlined outer. Much as I enjoyed this spectacle it meant that I was late for the bus if I didn’t get a move on real sharpish!

It is worth noting that after a while you really didn’t find the trains intrusive at all. It was only when they were not running that you suddenly realised that something was missing.

An early visit to the Bekonscot model village, with its extensive O-gauge layout was inspiring, I so wanted an outdoor railway, so much more practical than the RHDR that I had ridden many times.

My friend two doors away was less enthusiastic about model railways than me, but being a later arrival to the interest, his was a two rail layout. We even worked out how we could run a track from him to me. The first stage was to lay a cable between us. I say cable, but it was a seriously long collection of every bit of electrical wire that we could find – the resistance must have been huge. Our electrical knowledge found wanting, the scheme was (sensibly) abandoned. I did buy some two rail track and a couple of points, intending to create a small layout and fiddle yard, and a couple of early style GWR coaches were made into more realistic replicas. Time and other interests did not permit it to go further.

Finding out that my church choirmaster actually had a live steam model locomotive really got my interest. He had a portable section of raised 3.5” track, about 100feet long and gave rides at Church Fêtes and the like. By the time I was about twelve I was helping at these events, setting up, taking the money and acting as general dogsbody. I eventually got to drive.

In order to understand driving better I spent time at Mote Park driving the track there, where the necessity to manage the fire, water level and steam pressure were completely different to just shunting up and down a short, straight track, although that taught you a lot about stopping distances and reversing.

Graham had actually built two locos, an 0-6-0 tank engine “Vera”, and then “Bantam Cock” which was based on the Gresley V4 2-6-2 of the same name. Vera was rarely used as it was a poor performer, alright for the fête shunt, but around Mote Park it could easily run out of steam on the way up the hill. Being modelled as a tank engine it had relatively large cylinders, and small wheels and boiler, hence it used steam faster than it produced it, unless carefully managed.

Bantam Cock was great to drive, and with its outside Walschaerts valve gear, looked the part as well. Even the injector picked up easily.

Through my early teens I devoured books on locomotives and railways in general, but found that I was drawn to the Great Western. Isambard Kingdom Brunel became an early hero, and through my contact with the model steam engines I learnt to understand their workings, and be able to interpret the drawings. Curiously, at school I could not take Technical Drawing as it clashed with Physics, most odd, but then the grammar school wanted to produce academics rather than engineers. 

We went to real locomotive works. Ashford and Eastleigh were a bit disappointing, but Swindon, still repairing proper locomotives, was stunning. We actually went to Crewe, the highlight of that was turning the corner to find “Evening Star” standing there, sadly not in steam. Breathtaking.

I kept Vera in my workshop for a while, doing a bit of restoration and maintenance. I tried, unsuccessfully to persuade my parents to let me put up the fête track down our back lawn.

I acquired a small lathe for £5, but spent over £30 getting a decent chuck. Using it I intended to build “Juliet” an 0-4-0 tank engine. I opted for Baker outside valve gear and made a start. Then, only a few months later I discovered motorbikes and girls at about the same time, and the engine didn’t get a look in!

Since then I have usually got to have a snoop about whichever preserved railway was near the holiday destination, and will try to return once again to the North Yorks Moors Railway. I have photos of both our Land Rovers under the Ribblehead Viaduct a few years apart, and my wife just could not understand my need to peer over the bridge into the gloom to see Dent Station, windswept and spooky even on a summer’s evening.

For some years my mug at work was one from the Wensleydale Railway Association.

I gave my old train set to my nephews, and to my joy and amazement, they gave it back a few years later. I still have it, and fully intend to get it out and working once more. It sits, in the same wooden, wheeled box, under my bed, just as it did 50years ago.

My teenage consumption of information (thank you O.S.Nock, L.T.C.Rolt, and others) meant that one evening in the mid 1970s we (the inmates of my rented house) were watching Mastermind, and one specialist subject was The Great Western Railway. I scored more points than the contestant. Smug, or what. I couldn’t even hope to do that now.

My younger son was taken with railways, thanks in no small part to the Thomas the Tank Engine TV series, which I always admired for the model making. I made a layout for him (might have been for me though!)  and my late father in law gave us some Hornby 0 gauge tin train rolling stock, which 25years ago got me £200 of credit in the model train shop as a part exchange. Chris still has it all boxed up, he also intends to play again.

On one of our various family visits to K&ESR we had stopped off on our way elsewhere to have a quick look at Wittersham Road, and as I watched a loco get under way I realised that the fireman was my old choirmaster, the creator of Bantam Cock.

From time to time I still have a look at garden railways, of all gauges, and wonder if I could finally create one. It needs to be dog, cat and duck proof, which adds to the challenge.

My natural inclination towards things mechanical was certainly enhanced by contact with model railways, which attracted me to the remote control not only of the trains, but points, signals and later a better understanding of the basic electrics required. However I still find electronics to be more akin to witchcraft, I have been referred to as a nut and bolt engineer.

The real engineering required to build and maintain the live steam locomotives, and the background of the huge figures who made the real thing, all drew me in, and it was no surprise that I studied Mechanical Engineering at university, even though by than I expected to work in the motor industry. We were, after all, only a few miles up the Bristol Road from Longbridge and there were some close ties between the Department and BL.

However, 1972 was not a good year to be seeking a graduate engineering position in the motor industry. Very few were being taken on, I was quite keen on Girling (brake makers) who were developing anti-lock braking. However I didn’t like the “feel” of the place at all. I therefore came back to Kent, my mother had moved back to Rainham earlier that year, and I stayed there for a while.

I was in the running for an interesting job with a haulage company. They wanted someone who would learn the business from the ground up. Starting with getting an HGV licence (they already ran tuition courses) and then through each department, all under the guidance of the owner and founder. It got right down to when they wanted me to start, and then the anticipated funds from a training initiative were withdrawn and that was that.

So I answered an ad in the KM and went for an interview with a heating company, the boss of which had the same qualifications as me, in a trade almost noted for the lack of technical training. I took the job of running the spares and service department, and basically ended up doing that for the next 44 years in one form or other. Almost got the hang of it...
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Offline filmer01

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Re: Cars, Trains, Guns and things
« Reply #22 on: October 13, 2017, 10:04:36 »
Cars part 5

When I moved to Larkfield I still had three cars. The Morris, a red mini and a Triumph Herald 13/60 convertible. The last two were quickly disposed of and the Morris a while later when I had despaired of Sally ever passing her test.

I now had the pleasure of driving the spare company van. With a growing number of maintenance and repair engineers, as well as the installers and supervisory staff, covering the times when they needed their vehicles servicing or just backup meant that we ran an extra van, which I now drove. This, for my sins, was a Bedford Chevanne (being based on the Chevette, often known as a “shove it”) and being rear wheel drive, when empty had absolutely no traction in rain or snow.

I had little input as regards the vehicle purchases, but often managed the sales. For this I took home the vans, de-signed them (we had early sticker sign writing), cleaned them up and advertised them. Selling four or five Escort vans would only mean one advert in the KM, with one van outside my house, the others hidden round the corner in front of my garage. As they were sold the next took its place and so on. All cash transactions, from which I earned a nice commission.

A Morris 1100 served a purpose when Sally finally passed her test.

Sally got promotion that involved being able to travel around Kent to various SEGAS offices, and needed a reliable car. I went and saw our van supplier and got a part exchanged Hillman Hunter Estate for a sensible price. This was fine until the clutch started slipping, so I changed it, regretting the decision once I found out how heavy the gearbox was, in the cold and dark, knowing that it had to be finished to take her to work in the morning.

We went on holiday to Yorkshire, swapping my van for one of the Surveyor’s Datsun 180B saloons. This had a terrible wheel wobble between 65 and 75 mph, so out on the motorway you either had to keep dodging the lorries or elbow your way along the outside lane. Once in the depths of the Moors, I tried giving it some power halfway round a sharp bend, intending for the tail to come round. No. Terminal understeer as it charged straight at the dry stone wall. Didn’t try that again.

We went up tracks and into deserted places, and had to filter out some of the photos when we got back so as not to incriminate myself. We covered the Moors and Dales, doing silly mileages, often chasing the crew filming “All Creatures Great and Small” around the area. We fell in love with the Dales and have returned many times.

Bob had added to the value of the company car and got a Ford RS2000, white with the blue lining. It was not long before talk turned to rallying, and we went marshalling a couple of times. Eventually we did a local rally that ended in a Cafe out on the Marsh. The last couple of sections were around the Marsh, lots of straights, then tight corners. The navigator can, to some extent, control the driver’s pace by the way he calls the corners. A right angle corner would be called as a “90 right” say, and if you were on the ball a distance given. If the driver seemed a bit hesitant then the distances would be called shorter, and the bends shallower so that they didn’t slow too soon or by so much.

As Bob and I went along these last sections I was over calling the bends like crazy as we seemed to going very quickly. At the end I asked why he had speeded up, that was easy, the brakes were so hot that they had faded away and he stopped using them most of the time. When we got out to go into the cafe the smell was horrendous.

After a close encounter with a tree root while nipping between marshalling controls on a later event we decided to pack it all in before we broke something serious – like me, for instance?

Sally and I moved to Grafty Green to a cottage with an acre or so of land so that she could keep her horse “on site”. At work it was decided that I should drive a car rather than a van, and I was reluctantly given the Granada 2.8 Ghia that the boss’s wife had been driving. I had borrowed it a few times so knew what I was getting. The lady in question was very short, barely 5 feet, so vision out of cars was often an issue. When I first knew her she drove a Citroen DS23 Pallas Estate, a huge beast. I drove it home from the office one winters evening. Heeding warnings I opened the door and adjusted the seat back a few notches before even attempting to climb in. The DS had an impressive single spoke steering wheel which she set low and if you just jumped in, the combination of seat and steering wheel could be damaging to your delicate anatomy.

The brake “pedal” was a rubber button on the floor (luckily in the right place) about the size of a halved tennis ball. It was connected to some really powerful brakes, and the power steering was hugely assisted. That combination saw me stop well short of the junction at the end of the road, and nearly drive over the kerb. Being dark the swivelling headlamps got tested – very strange experience to start with. Both the Lotus and Cooper S had four auxiliary lamps, the mini two driving lamps in the centre with two fog lamps set at an angle at each end. This gave light over more than 180 degrees but until you get used to it, rather like the DS, you think that someone else is coming at a junction.

Anyway, back at the Granada, it had a basic 3 speed automatic gearbox with an annoying habit of dropping into second if you tried to accelerate past someone at motorway speed, then immediately changing back up – grrr! We took it on holiday into deepest Wales, and as I was now paying for the fuel I drove like an absolute granny. Filled the tank, quick calculation, about 24-25mpg. Driven like a loony (as usual) it did 22-23mpg. Back to normal then. I showed Sally the Abergwesyn-Tregaron mountain road remembered from my university rally days. It was best described as unsuitable for big, soggy, Granadas.

The handling in the snow was entertaining. Being an automatic the driven wheels give no resistance when the power is removed, so if they start to slip easing back on the throttle can often restore grip and maintain motion. I never got stuck in it, despite a 4mile trip through the lanes from the A20 to home. I did, however, manage to simultaneously knock the snow off the hedges on both sides of the lane on a few occasions.

I had parked the beast in the drive one night, and walking back from shutting the gate, noticed a light from under the bonnet – odd. Opening the car again I raised the bonnet to find flames. A quick jug of water put them out, but courtesy of that oil fire I now had a five cylinder engine. It was decided that I and the other employed director could have new cars, and we were set a price limit. I moved the Granada on through my trade contacts for shifting cars that needed more than a quick buff up. I was then loaned the boss’s wife’s current car to spend the weekend looking for a new car.

Her high-speed handbag was a Porsche 924 Turbo. The turbo was a bit slow to kick in, there was lag and it wanted medium high revs, and very unsubtle in its entry, easily able to catch the unwary. This coupled with a gearbox layout that put 1st (of five) opposite reverse took a bit of getting used to. The boss hated it, give him his XJS any day.

I quite fancied the small BMW, but their pricing structure meant the small 4 cylinder engine with power steering was easily within my budget, or the larger 6 cylinder engine with no useful toys or extras. All radios were extra. They could sell all they could import so no deals whatsoever. The test car was, of course the 6 cylinder with everything on it.

My entry in the Porsche impressed the local Ford salesman, but he also would not get the price down on a Capri 28 Injection far enough to be below the budget. However, I found out that we were due to replace two estate cars for the installation supervisors, then a saloon for the Commercial Surveyor, with possibly two more estates to come shortly after. Another Ford dealership then did the deal with a Capri and two Cortina estates and it was in stock, in blue (actually blue and silver), and without a test drive it was mine.

I loved the Capri, yes it had its faults, the non-optional sunroof being the greatest, as you developed “Capri drivers stoop” to avoid its contact with your head over bumps. But it was otherwise practical, the boot was fine and the roadholding transformed from the 3 litre that we had a few years earlier. Performance was good, mine was an early one, so had a four speed gearbox (which I broke under guarantee). It could, and did, do 100mph in third if you weren’t careful. I calculated the rev limited top speed to be 131 mph using gear ratios and tyre rolling radius information. It served us well for three years then I parted company with that employer and with three others set up on our own. I missed it.

The new venture meant a return to a van, now a Mk1 Astra diesel. They were an OK workhorse. When we employed additional staff, I graduated to a secondhand Vauxhall Carlton Estate, sign written to match the vans. Its sunroof was not quite water proof, icy melt water down the back of your neck at 8am is not good at all.

A nasty winter convinced us of the need for a 4×4. I bought a short wheel-base Shogun. It was handy for towing horseboxes as well, but on a wet M25 with mud and snow tyres, quite terrifying knowing that your stopping distance was huge and every other driver kept diving into your carefully preserved gap to the car in front.

I also towed a friends old Formula Ford 2000 race car for him, which we kept in our garage for a time. That meant a few days at Lydden for free and whole different perspective on racing. Not for me though.

Meantime my eldest sister asked if I would look at a car that a friend of hers had in a lock up in Rainham. A green Triumph was the only information, and I had hopes of an old TR. It was a 1970 Triumph Vitesse 2litre, the Herald based, six cylinder saloon. It had not run for a couple of years but was I interested, of course. A sensible amount of money changed hands and it was mine. Pump up the tyres, check the oil, put a few gallons of fresh fuel in, connect the jump leads, and it started. I came back the next day, and drove it home. Putting it in my newly created garage was a thrill. Checking the irregular tickover not so much. In the end I took the cylinder head off, and there was a burnt out valve.

That evening we had guests, and they wanted see what I had got in the garage. When it was revealed it turned out that one of them was actively looking for a Vitesse, and so a deal was done, and I never got to play with it, or put the cylinder head back, that went in the boot.

I had learnt that if you had sales contact with Mr & Mrs Public, it was best not to look too flash/prosperous with the car that you arrived in. I ran an early VW Jetta for some time as a company car. Originally bought as a temporary stop gap, it was practical, had a secure boot, and economical. I sold it to a local with over 130,000 miles on the clock, and he nearly doubled that.

Meantime Sally had become a Land Rover driver, firstly with a grey 90 Station Wagon. This was petrol, and so thirsty that it only had about 125 mile range. Even so it went to John O’Groats with the whole family aboard. A friend had found us a roof rack that was almost an architectural work of art in aluminium tube, an offset walkway that lined up with a rear ladder made it very practical. The boys hated it, especially if you turned up at school in it. Very Uncool, but you could always find it in a car park.

A leased Audi A4 was the Jetta’s replacement, an excellent daily driver. However it did not survive being barrel rolled into a telegraph pole by my eldest son. It actually took the impact impressively well, there was a straight panel left afterwards, the rear offside corner!

Meantime the same friend who had found the roof rack, bought the 90, and we found a Defender 110 turbo diesel. This, equipped with a dog guard meant the dogs in the back, luggage in the middle, us in the front. Someone had spent money on this vehicle, the front seats were replaced with Recaro buckets, re-trimmed in Land Rover fabric, and the rears were high backed items. A fancy CD player was under the rear seats, and the windows were darkened. We went all over the country in this, Yorkshire was still a popular destination, staying at the same B&B, as they were happy for us to turn up with two German Shepherds. We kept it for many years.

A VW Golf VR6 was suitably under the radar, a Golf is a Golf to most people. However it was a real performer, but with torque steer in abundance. Its party piece was to join the motorway from the slip road at 50mph in third, and if you weren’t careful by the time you needed fourth it was doing 100mph in the outside lane. I owned this car and the company paid for my business miles, but changes to tax meant it would cost me to drive it, so it went.

Another VW, a Diesel Bora was next, again a modest looking car, but with excellent on-road performance, but also economy, and being the Sport version a bit of extra comfort. Unfortunately my wife did not beat a Renault across a cross roads early one morning on her way to the gym. I always held that going to the gym was not a sane thing, especially at 6.30am. The impact removed the rear axle from its mountings, and did lots of other violent things to the poor car. Amazingly the insurance company had it rebuilt, but I did not want it back and part exchanged it for an even more mundane Ford Focus.

The Focus was a 2litre turbo diesel and so was still quite nippy, and again kept me on the right side of everyday cars when visiting potential customers. One even said that he was pleased that I drove a sensible car as the surveyor from a rival company had turned up in a brand new Mercedes. Brand new vans and second hand cars was always my motto.

My wife, used to her much beloved, and greatly missed, Land Rover Defender 110 drove the Focus through a puddle that was nearly a lake. Unknown to most of us, many modern diesel cars have low air intakes to get cold air, so she sucked water in, which being incompressible basically bends things inside the engine. To my amazement the insurance company paid out a total loss as water damage. Thank you Direct Line!

Meantime as a bit of a toy I had bought a Mazda MX5 so that became the daily driver. It was noticeable that I got comments from customers, usually favourable, but they were noticing what I was driving. At the end of last year, when I could no longer be comfortable getting in or out of it my eldest son took it on.

I had previously bought an MBG GT to replace the Vitesse as my “toy”. I rebuilt the front suspension and upgraded the brakes. Adding a rear anti-roll bar made the whole thing feel much more modern. I used it for a few years, then the overdrive gave up, and lacking the time to repair it, it spent the winter in the garage. My eldest son wanted to fiddle with his car and asked if he could move the B. No problem, but it has no brakes. He interpreted that to mean that it had 1960’s brakes, but I meant that it had NO footbrake. He hit the corner of the stable. I sold it as it was, I had lost enthusiasm some time before, especially when trying to get a better fit for the doors, which saw me taking an angle grinder to the hinge.

I vowed that with the next car I would not have to put somebody else’s dodgy work right. I had been going to kit car shows for some time, but was constrained by my wife’s opinion that a replacement for the MGB should also have at least 2+2 seating. Considering that we hardly ever went out as a family in the MG, and once the boys were larger than the legless dwarves that the BGT was designed to accommodate, that constraint disappeared. I am not good with paint and trimming so although a 30’s touring style of car appealed, (think Morgan look-alike) the work didn’t. I had broken up my brother-in-law’s Cortina Mk5, and kept the engine, drive train and suspension. I rebuilt the engine.

In the end I was allowed to go for a more basic high speed bathtub type, the genre based upon the Lotus Seven. After a bit of looking around I bought a “comprehensive” kit from Tiger Racing to build a Tiger Cat.

A Sierra, with about 5minutes MoT left, was sourced for pennies, and ripped to pieces on the drive, and the useful bits cleaned up and put away. The scrap man dealt with the rest and the unwanted Cortina bits.

Unfortunately life got in the way and after a couple of years the Tiger ended up (as many kit cars do) under a dust sheet in the garage, which now doubled as a company stores and workshop. When we moved, it then spent time (3 years) in two barns before coming to our next home, and its brand new garage. I had driven the car briefly on the private access road to a garden centre on its trip to the first barn.

Even with it now at home very little progress was made until I boldly/foolishly decided to write about it as a spur to actually working on it.

Every two months I now write an article of about 1000 words with a few photos about my progress, that form part of a series in “Complete Kit Car” magazine under the heading “Running Reports”. My main challenge now is having to take a design from before the introduction of SVA (single vehicle approval) and adapt it to satisfy the much more rigorous and closely specified IVA (Individual Vehicle Approval) standards. A very thorough test and inspection, lasting a few hours is also required to ensure compliance. Some quite major reworking of previously finished aspects of the car are now required. My lathe skills have been rediscovered as I try to find engineering solutions rather than simple bodge jobs.

That work continues.
Illegitimus nil carborundum


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