Saturday, 6 August 2016

A train set and a brave new world

Now they were made of tin, often had features painted on and by later standards were pretty simple, but the train sets of the 1950s were and remain pure pieces of magic.

Ours stretched over a converted table tennis table and dad had run all the wires for the signals and points underneath and with something like three circular tracks,  branch lines off as well as rail sidings it was impressive.

We or I should say dad had built it up over a few years and the sheer size of the layout, the locomotives and carriages, fright trucks, stations and trackside furniture made it something that even now I look back with pleasure.

I am guessing that the first bits of the train sets were laid out around my seventh birthday which would make it just a decade after the end of the last world war when rationing was still a strong memory and the scars of the nightly air raids were still all around us.

But the evidence of a growing prosperity which was trickling down even to our family was there for all to see.

Around the same time we got our first television and Dad was driving coaches on main land Europe for those who wanted the sort of holiday that they could not have aspired to in pre war Britain.

There was full employment a National Health Service, free at the point of need and the beginning of an ambitious programme to rebuild our schools.

Of course there was also the hardening of the Cold War, a series of colonial conflicts and much that still made Britain seem a stuffy place compared to a decade later and yet looking back now there was a lot that was new, innovative and exciting.

I didn’t see it at the time but I rather think my parents felt that confidence that the post war prosperity was here to stay and the Means Test, and the lines of the unemployed were over.

Dad had moved to London in the late 1920s and mum twenty years later and both would have benefited from an economy which was on the move recovering far more quickly from the Depression than the North East and the Midlands where they had grown up.

And by the 1950s a train set, a television, and before the end of that decade a washing machine and fridge were all things we took for granted in our house.

All of which makes that train set a marker for how Britain was changing

By the 1970s into the 80s  for some that prosperity and automatic access to consumerism would start to be eroded, but that was a long way from me as I ran the Duchess of Montrose with its red and yellow carriages around the old table tennis table.

Pictures; courtesy of Ken Jaggers,

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