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about The Management

'The Management' of Whittlecreek and Eaton St Torpid Heritage Railway is headed up by a sixty-something who spent his teenage years 'chopping' Airfix kits and scratch-building scenery to go with them. Much of this was done in 1:72 scale, and included rolling stock running on a short length of 12 mm track (a.k.a. TT gauge). So three-foot (or thereabouts) narrow gauge goes back to childhood!

When pocket money allowed, which wasn't very often, there were ventures into 1:32 scale, including 'chopping' a Triang Big Big Train – something of a precursor to Whittlecreek and Eaton St Torpid Heritage Railway. In the 1970s these practical skills evolved into training to be an industrial designer. Modelmaking was no longer a part of life.[TMI]

In late 2016 and early 2017 the management invested heavily in Hornby O gauge track and rolling stock. The idea for a fictional 'heritage railway' emerged at this time. However the management's long-standing interest in places – their names, history, relationship to landscape and such like – meant that the fictional locations needed to be 'well-rooted'. The putative location shifted from Great Yarmouth (with the Hole in the Wall; see photo) to Wisbech (home to the railway which inspired Rev Awdry's 'The Railway Series' – usually referred to as the Thomas the Tank Engine books) to Ramsey to Whittlesey – and maybe a few brief stops in between which have now been forgotten. The notion of a 'Tommy is a Punk Engine Festival' emerged at this time too.

The Hole in the Wall, Great Yarmouth
'The Hole in the Wall' in 1958.
Essential to any model of Great Yarmouth's quayside railways

There were also thoughts of a 'mineral line' inspired by the mid-twentieth century ironstone extraction in north Leicestershire. Eric Tonks wrote a brilliantly nerdy series of books about this – and seemingly the management went to junior school with his son….

The management's modelmaking skills were revitalised by scratchbuilding something inspired by a Ruston steam shovel. The real things are just amazing! And even more amazing! (warning: lousy camerawork.) N.B. These links are to Erie shovels not Rustons.

The wonderfully-restored Ruston Proctor steam shovel at Threkeld.

Seems the Threlkeld Quarry and Mining Museum is where British steam shovels go to be loved and restored as the quarry is also the home of the Vintage Excavator Trust. At least two weekends each year they try to get as many working as possible. This video gives some idea of what they get up to.


Just discovered that there's a steam shovel in the Thomas the Tank Engine animated films. Called Marion.

    'Marion is a bubbly and funny railway steam shovel, who loves her job. She doesn't just love digging, she also loves talking — talking about digging. She likes to think of herself as well-informed and is happy to share her knowledge of anything and everything, from correct railway practice to natural history. She works at the China Clay Pits with Bill and Ben and Timothy. With her own steam driven engine, she can can even pull her own trucks, but she prefers not to.' Thomas and Friends: Marion

Marion is voiced by none less than Olivia Colman. She of numerous acting awards who has previous experience of token female characters with rather ineffectual male 'friends'. According to an interview published in The Guardian during July 2017 Colman made a name for herself 'as foil to poncy Cambridge graduates David Mitchell and Robert Webb during the first seven series of Channel 4's cult sitcom Peep Show. She was Sophie, the posh muppet who succumbed insanely to the non-charms of both Mark and Jez before dallying with her no less tragic but more butch workmate Jeff.'

The interview continues with 'In The Green Wing and Rev, too, she made us laugh by playing women suffering from the inanity of men.'

where were we?

However 1:43rd scale (or thereabouts) seemed too fiddly for scratchbuilding. Using the Hornby track as the basis for a 1:32 scale narrow gauge system hit numerous technical 'buffers', mostly the absence of large-enough wheels with the necessary flange profile. The problems would have to be resolved by using finer-scale 32 mm track. But if the management needed to invest in new track then why 32 mm gauge? Why not 45 mm gauge? Feasibility studies were commissioned from outside consultants. This led to complete indecisiveness in the Board Room.

In mid-September 2018 the opportunity arose to acquire some secondhand LGB track and rolling stock – these are 45 mm gauge and modelled at 1:19 scale. This prompted extensive investigation of suppliers for scratchbuilders working in so-called '16 mm scale'. (Sorry, there is something inherently revolting about mixing metric and imperial units – i.e. '16 mm to one foot' – when dimensionless ratios such as 1:20 are far more useful.) Happenstance led to the management acquiring a large number of 16mm Today magazines for a tenner. Too much emphasis on live steam locos, but useful nevertheless. (Although live steam should be in the genes as the manager's mother's father, Frank Dallaston, was an avid live steam enthusiast in the 1950s and 1960s at Abbey Park, Leicester, where 'proper jobs' run on 5 inch gauge track.)

A longer-than-life-long friend (our mothers worked in the same office when they were both pregnant) generously offered the management the use of her caravan in Norfolk. Only after agreeing dates did she say precisely where it was. Her caravan is located right at the side of the former trackbed to the south of Heacham station. You couldn't make it up…

A pleasant few days in mid-October 2018 while staying in this caravan resulted in the management falling in love with the local Carrstone buildings and boundary walls, researching the former trackbed of the Hunstanton and West Norfolk Junction Railway, and steadily realising that the ideas for a fictional heritage railway which had been vaguely 'planted' in the Cambridgeshire fens actually fitted much better with the former railways in north-west Norfolk. Whittlecreek and Eaton St Torpid Heritage Railway was underway!

Sedgeford station
The real world inspiration for Whittlecreek station, October 2018

The real world location of Eaton St Torpid station, October 2018

The biographer of George Stephenson, Samuel Smiles (1812–1904),
"so understood the achievements, uniqueness and numinous quality of the railway system that he described it as 'a magician's road.'"
Paul Screeton Crossing the Line p4

Truth to tell the management can't get overly excited by locomotives or station buildings, although wagons and carriages occasionally arouse curiosity. The real interest is in the bigger picture of railways: why they were created, how they dealt with the local terrain, what influence they had on local farming, industry and settlements, and so forth. And that extends to 'heritage' railways: how they promote themselves as 'places of interest' and how they interact with other 'tourist attractions' in the vicinity.

Lots of 'scare quotes' as all these terms are loaded with assumptions and constructions, most of which get in the way of reality. The numinous yet chimeral nature of railways in their heyday was rightly deemed magical. In the intervening decades the notion of the English rural idyll was invented (on a golf course) and repeatedly re-invented and embellished.[fn] Looking at the past through the wide assortment of distorting mirrors we term 'nostalgia' and 'heritage' ensures that illusory qualities prevail over the mundane. The Whittlecreek and Eaton St Torpid Heritage Railway explores some of these concepts and confusions – often with several tongues in an assortment of cheeks – in the pages of this web site.

For this reason (if it is indeed reasonable) assorted little-known historical information about north-west Norfolk appears in obscure corners. (Don't be difficult. I am well aware web sites – unlike web pages – are not orthogonal so cannot have corners.) Indeed a decidedly complex back story has taken over the Whittlecreek and Eaton St Torpid Heritage Railway's web site, although apparent historical veracity is frequently peppered with parodies, salted with spoofs, and served with a garnish of parallel realities and converging fictions. Allergy warnings throughout for purple prose, profligate pedantry and alarming alliterations. If you expect railways (model or otherwise) to be written about reverentially then pop out and stock up on anti-apoplexy pills before you go any further. On the other hand, if you thought railways (real or imaginary) were only for a certain sort of 'bloke' then 'Hello and welcome to the Multiverse!' – I hope this web site will bemuse and maybe amuse.

Over Yuletide 2018 the management stayed near the the East Midlands tripoint known as Three Shire Oak. Being away from the workshop meant there was ample time to indulge in some pastiche 'artworks' and even a faux cartoon strip. This in turn led to beginning work on Art Nouveau designs inspired by Charles Rennie Macintosh and Herbert Ibberson (though the purists will mutter that they're more Art Deco than Art Nouveau). These are planned to 'manifest' as a dining car for Whittlecreek and Eaton St Torpid Heritage Railway. For the time being the artwork is expected to appear as a forthcoming exhibition at the Arts Centre and a range of giftware. The management also had a hand in revitalising the Brindlecliffe ECHO!

Update March 2019

In the six months since deciding to 'manifest' Whittlecreek and Eaton St Torpid Heritage Railway at 1:20 scale there has been considerable activity, mostly relating to the building of rolling stock – and this web site. The management have resurrected a wide spectrum of craft skills and general 'artiness' – and, sometimes, a touch of more technical nerdiness too – to overcome all the design and construction challenges. Alongside all this is research into the appearance and history of relevant vehicles, locations and railway operations. The overall process is creative in many diverse ways and more satisfying than comparatively focused crafts, such as making pots or carving wood. And, compared to 1:1 scale projects, much can be achieved in fairly short periods of time, and at much lower costs.

As this web site will continually evolve, here is a 'snapshot' of the rolling stock completed between Michaelmas 2018 and St Patrick's Day 2019:

Some progress has also been made with Monarch of the Glen and the 'first Porsche'.

Update May 2019

The combined Whittlecreek and Eaton St Torpid Heritage Railway management team visited the caravan in north-west Norfolk in mid-May 2019. Once again the weather was most conducive to sightseeing. One day was spent checking out the venues for the proposed vintage bus tours to Bishop's Snoring, and checks were also made on the proposals for vintage bus tours to Brindlecliffe and possible future vintage bus tours to Little Walsingham, Upwell, and the Romanesque fonts.

Highlight of the hols proved to be a different 'pilgrimage' to Little Walsingham – sitting in a carriage on the 10¼ inch gauge Wells and Walsingham Light Railway. Delightfully 'shoestring'. Just as well the management didn't discover this before starting work on the Whittlecreek and Eaton St Torpid Heritage Railway else this might have proven to be a tempting basis for a model… (after all 12 mm track – a.k.a. TT gauge – would be as near as darn it 10¼ inch gauge at 1:20 scale).

Not that the management fancies scratchbuilding anything as complicated and snazzy as the Wells and Walsingham Light Railway's 2-6-0 + 0-6-2 Garratt-style Norfolk Heroine, commemorating Edith Cavell (as such this loco is also listed as a war memorial).

However the general look-and-feel of the place will almost certainly be reflected in the appearance of Whittlecreek station:

update November 2019

Very little happened over the summer months – after all, the management still have some sort of life – although summer running operated outdoors for a few weeks. And a brief affair with Ivor the Engine in a parallel universe at 1:32 scale.

Shortly before Halloween, after indoor operating shedules had resumed (mostly around dusk), the management successfully bid on eBay for an assortment of LGB wagons, and a coach. See November 2019 news update for the low down.

On-going regular visits to the proximity of the east midlands tripoint earlier mentioned are enabling some less tangible aspects of the Whittlecreek and Eaton St Torpid Heritage Railway to manifest. Initially an insight into Eaton St Torpid's disused tide mill and Daoist retreat centre, while a resumption of the Brindlecliffe ECHO! is also planned.

update May 2020

Between All Hallows 2019 and St George's Day 2020 the rolling stock steadily increased.

The Bulrush Dining Car progressed very slowly initially, although gathered pace despite two 'quickie' projects: the 'Newt' guards van cum parcel van and 'Black Mary' hearse wagon.

The first class sleeping coach, third class sleeping wagon and nursery sleeping coach all came together relatively quickly.

The dining car acquired the all-important field kitchen and the Viking 'charabanc' also manifested.

Two small coaches suitable for Sir Toby to pull were built and construction commenced for the Rocket-powered B-type railbus.

Along the way Tales from the Railway was published and the team who run 'The Alex' arts centre uploaded images from their four major exhibitions during 2019:

update July 2020

As with last summer, most construction activities have ground to a halt but are expected to resume come the autumn. As with a year ago, there has been a summer 'distraction' – but this time at 1:20 scale.

Back in October 2018, when the initial ideas for Whittlecreek and Eaton St Torpid Heritage Railway started to come together, one of the key inspirations from Rowland Emett's illustrations involved a lighthouse. Which rapidly morphed in the management's mind into a wind-powered affair, based on Leonardo da Vinci's helical sail.

However very little progress had been made until June, when it became an ideal 'summer light relief' project. More details of the inspirations and the construction here.

There are also plans to transform the garage into a 'board room'. Maybe.



Industrial design never really became a part of life either as the management's early career focused on product and process development (mostly in the plastics industry, with a brief excursion into aluminium alloys – if you ever need to make an aluminium-zinc or aluminium-copper alloy 'superplastic' then just get in touch). This involved working alongside the chemists who had invented hot melt adhesives and the first soft contact lenses, among much else (before my time the founder of the company had invented chipboard, GRP, cast acetate sheet and much else that is now commonplace).

Along the way the management programmed Commodore 64s and BBC Acorns to persuade them to process data from impact testing (squeezing the code for fast Fourier transforms into a total of 32k of memory was his biggest claim to fame) and, for reasons that made sense at the time (allegedly), qualified as a quality assurance assessor. (More details here.) Spare time was largely devoted to cycling and photography, with usually one long session in the darkroom each week.

Although the management's secondary schooling was focused on maths, physics and chemistry – at the expense of the arts and humanities – when at art college studying industrial design there were ample opportunities to 'bone up' on everything that had earlier been eclipsed. The ability to flip between 'technical' and 'arty' perspectives has always persisted, and blurring the supposed boundary is endemic to Whittlecreek and Eaton St Torpid Heritage Railway.

After a move to Leicestershire in 1986 work took a different tack into marketing and sales – although in somewhat 'technical' parts of the plastics industry – and photography dropped back as an interest. Instead the management became much more actively interested in all aspects of places: geology, landscape, archaeology, local history, folklore and place-names. By 1990 this evolved into writing articles and publishing booklets and a quarterly magazine about folklore, mythology, archaeology and landscapes. Creating websites kicked off in 1996 – hence the now-archaic skill of handcoding HTML. Writing and publishing became the management's full-time activity at the end of the last millennium and photography – this time digital – came back to the fore for relaxation.

'The Arts' as most people think of the term were never too distant. Somewhere along the way the local pressgang succeeded in enlisting the management as a trustee of the excellent local community arts organisation – although an honourable discharge was obtained after about six years. And the Whittlecreek and Eaton St Torpid Heritage Railway's Property Manager once owned art galleries and then managed a nationally-significant gift shop for twelve years; the management team still visit art exhibitions, open studios, craft fairs, gift shops and the like.

In 2010 the management moved to Avebury, Wiltshire, and photography once again went onto the proverbial back burner. Despite heading up a pioneering project on medieval carvings and getting rather obsessed with Anglo-Saxon England, this was the start of getting back into making things, such as carved wooden staffs and assorted amulets. After returning to Leicestershire in 2016 this 'craftiness' extended briefly into leatherwork and sketching then (thanks to Gerry Unsworth and Ben Brierley) pottery. Other artistic endeavours include making some videos.

In various ways, much of this diverse 'CV' is reflected in the rolling stock or the rambling remarks in this web site. Indeed, at several levels the whole of this website verges on the autobiographical. You have been warned… 

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The invention of the English rural idyll is discussed in the the opening chapter of one of the management's books.

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