PAINTINGS – Railways around Walsall

Being what was once known as a “commercial artist” in my working life I have painted various subjects for many years as a hobby, some with success, others not so, now you can be the judge.

For many years I sold my paintings through the Luvane Gallery in Goodall Street which was housed in a building that I knew well, Walsall School of Art. The gallery was run by Nigel Tonks who later passed the business to his nephew on his retirement but sadly things didn’t go to plan and the gallery closed around 2012.

As much of my working life was spent illustrating technical subjects it will be of no great surprise to see this also crept into my hobby. Currently I enjoy painting steam locomotives and years ago I painted cars and was a member of the Guild of Motoring Artists. The Luvane Gallery sold virtually all I could paint on that subject, when the gallery closed only two automotive paintings remained, sadly they are now in my loft!

With a desire to paint technical subjects again around 2010 I embarked on a venture of painting mainly steam railway locomotives that I recalled from boyhood days at nearby Bescot shed (3A) and Walsall station. The locos we saw as lads at both venues were real workhorses, covered in grime and soot, we had to go further afield to see them in better condition….and cleaner. I really enjoy painting scenes based around engine sheds as depicting dirty locos is a real challenge. Many of the paintings are based on old photographs but always with additions or deletions to the composition.

All of the paintings shown are painted with W & N Griffin Alkyd Oil Paint on fine canvas mounted onto MDF board which gives a solid base to work on.

All of the images shown are the copyright of John Griffiths.

bescot-coaling-plantAbove shows the coaling plant at Bescot in 1964 with ageing Super D 0-8-0 49407 simmering next to 2-6-0 Hughes/Fowler “Crab” 42779.

46757-at-walsallThe painting above is based on a black and white photograph from June 1949 showing 2-4-2 Webb tank engine 46757 about to depart with a train to Dudley.

49081-at-mill-laneDuck 8, 49081, passing over Mill Lane bridge hauling coal trucks circa 1960. The painting is based on a black and white photograph taken by the late Walsall historian and photographer, Jack Haddock, a good friend who sadly died in March 2016. Jack was most enthusiastic about my paintings and encourage me at every opportunity, usually enquiring every Saturday morning when I saw him at Walsall Local History Centre, “got anything to show us this week?” Two additions were added to Jack’s original photo’, a trolley bus can be seen passing along Coalpool Lane and Jack himself pushing his bike under the long gone bridge. Thanks Jack.

48254-mill-laneAnother painting, but this time very loosely based on another of Jack Haddock’s photographs. Jack’s original showed a Duck 8 passing over Mill Lane bridge but as I had already completed a painting with one of those locos I substituted it with a 2-8-0 Stanier 8F freight engine hauling empty coal trucks.

fosseway-crossing-43013The painting above came about whilst looking at a very blurred video from the 1960s which showed a locomotive passing over Fosseway Crossing just outside Lichfield. I knew this crossing well for many years as sometimes it was on my route home from Lichfield. The loco’ is a 2-6-0 Ivatt Mogul, rather unkindly called, in my opinion, a “Flying Pig” and is seen heading in the direction of Anglesey Sidings at Brownhills. Although no longer a level-crossing, the boarded up signalbox, dating back to 1875 and re-modelled in 1890, fortunately remains in place and the cottage behind the trucks has been replaced with a more modern residence. For anyone interested in reading more about the crossing go to the following link :-  On the left can be seen the three spires of Lichfield Cathedral and in the far distance, just above and to the left of the signalbox roof is the spire of St. Michael’s Church. The latter place being of particular interest to me as I have several ancestors buried in the churchyard.

pleck-stationThis painting of the old Pleck Station is based on a black and white photograph taken in 1959 by the late Roger Shenton, the well-known railway photographer and author. I always loved Pleck Station when I was a lad with its quirky design and small flight of wooden steps on each platform which allowed passengers to alight safely from the carriages. On the right of the lower part of the station roof, below the wonderful chimneys, can a series of grey spots, they are the floodlights of Fellows Park, the old home of the Super Saddlers. Me and my pals may have loved Pleck Station but the staff who worked there were not so keen on us…..“‘ave yo’ lads gorra ticket or a platform ticket,” when we said we hadn’t it was usually followed by “well clear-off then!”

w-shakespeare-at-walsallThe painting above was an interesting one from my point of view. Once again I am back to good old Jack Haddock, he showed me a couple of photographs he had taken of the 4-6-2 BR Standard Britannia loco’ William Shakespeare 70004. This engine turned up at Walsall in 1963 I think it was to haul the last leg of the Pines Express to Bournemouth. William Shakespeare was once the pride and joy of the Southern Region along with the Iron Duke, 70014. Both of these engines hauled the famous Golden Arrow expresses and were always in immaculate condition. When the end of steam was in site the Golden Arrow was hauled by diesel locos and William Shakespeare ended up at Cardiff Canton shed, sadly the western region drivers were not overly keen on these huge engines and the old girl finished up in at one of the Birmingham sheds, I think Jack said it was Monument Lane but I wouldn’t swear to it. I do remember showing the finished painting to Jack who commented, “yove tarted that up a bit, that day it was in Walsall it was absolutely filthy, the only water it had seen was when it rained, they day bother cleaning it”. He also commented about two very small spots on the side of the smoke deflector just below the nameplate. Jack said he liked my attention to detail but did I know what they were for? I must confess I didn’t, but Jack soon put me right, “them two spots were the bolts that held the actual Golden Arrow sign in place on the loco'”. You were always learning when talking to Jack!

When I did the painting I wanted to show a bit of old Walsall too and I remembered the old E. T. Holdens factory that stood in between the station and the Science & Art Institute and Bradford Street bus station which I thought would be an appropriate background.

3 Black FivesOne of my favourite paintings which shows three Black Fives at Saltley in the mid 1960s.

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