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The Confluence Of Organ And Trains


Jeremy Jones
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Reading the potted histories of members of this forum, it becomes clear that I am by no means alone in being fascinated, not to say nuts, about the organ and trains, steam or otherwise. Anyone got any ideas why this might be?

 

 

Both attract nutters. Seriously, you would not believe the amount of odd people you meet at recitals. I have a theory that in any given recital audience at least a third will be mad !!

 

I think its that railways and organs have both got a mechanical bent. I think, in a way, that is to the organ's detriment as it means that the focus can be on the instrument rather than the music.

 

I feel sorry for cathedral Organists who after delivering sublime music are often button-holed by blokes in anoraks wittering on abt the 32ft reed !

 

Mind you if you think that the organ and railways crowd are a bit eccentric, you should see the cinema organ crowd.

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Reading the potted histories of members of this forum, it becomes clear that I am by no means alone in being fascinated, not to say nuts, about the organ and trains, steam or otherwise. Anyone got any ideas why this might be?

 

I've been interested in trains and railways since childhood, and I have no idea why so many organists have this shared interest. For my part, it's certainly not through any interest in mechanics - talk of wind pressures, schwimmers, actions and the like leave me cold. Similarly, I have no interest in the actual workings of steam engines or diesel locomotives.

 

An organist friend of mine (FRCO, CHM, ADCM etc) has a great interest in buses, and was one of hundreds present at Brixton Garage last year when the last Routemasters went out of service. And another good organist friend - a very fine recitalist - can tell you the location of every signal on the Circle line!

 

But we're not nutters................ B)

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Both attract nutters. Seriously, you would not believe the amount of odd people you meet at recitals. I have a theory that in any given recital audience at least a third will be mad !!

 

I think its that railways and organs have both got a mechanical bent. I think, in a way, that is to the organ's detriment as it means that the focus can be on the instrument rather than the music.

 

I feel sorry for cathedral Organists who after delivering sublime music are often  button-holed by blokes in anoraks wittering on abt the 32ft reed !

 

Mind you if you think that the organ and railways crowd are a bit eccentric, you should see the cinema organ crowd.

 

 

======================

 

 

OMG!

 

I live almost on top of a steam railway, I've driven a traction-engine and steam-train and I love old cars, buses and trucks.....BUT....worst of all....I like cinema organs.

 

I am clearly on the slippery-slope towards total insanity and anorakism.

 

Still, it could be worse. I recall Philip Tordoff of Halifax pc, saying to me as we travelled on a Roe-bodied, Halifax Corporation, Daimler bus, "Hey, listen to that! In second gear you can hear a minor fourth, but in top gear, it's a major seventh!"

 

Of course, he's quite a keen supporter of real-ale and CAMRA, but he raised a few eyebrows when giving a talk entitled "Highways and Byways," where there were numerous poe-faced methodists assembled.

 

Showing the first photographic slide of a Yorkshire hill-top village, he said, "There is the old chapel and the pub".

 

Showing a newer photograph, in which one of the buildings had disappeared,he said, "This is the same place, and as you can see, the pub is still there."

 

He also photographs old gas lamps and leaning-chimneys.

 

B)

 

MM

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I think it could be something to do with closet megalomania.

 

Like JSB, I enjoy testing an organs lungs, and given half a chance, would love to have a thrash on a steam engine.

 

Perhaps the UN would have had better results in Iraq had they sent in an army of organists and steam enthusiasts. The steam engines would all be running again, and the militants could all chill out to the sounds of the merry organ (and steam whistles).

 

I understand that there are a number of steam engines located near to Baghdad, including a British built 8F.

 

I’ll get my anorak.

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OK, its beginning to look like trains and organs are a shared interest. But what about the holy trinity: trains, organs and real ale? MM only had to mention real ale and I started hyperventilating at the mere thought of downing a cool pint of Fullers London Pride. B)

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OK, its beginning to look like trains and organs are a shared interest. But what about the holy trinity: trains, organs and real ale? MM only had to mention real ale and I started hyperventilating at the mere thought of downing a cool pint of Fullers London Pride.  B)

 

This sounds better - I wasn't going to chip in on the trains debate having no interest at all except in the fact that the one from Bristol to Bath today did all it should on time for myself and small daughters. (Mind you I did meet the Assistant Organist of Bath Abbey at one end of the journey). However - a pint of either the brew from my local pub's micro brewery or Adnams in Southwold or surrounding area (it doesn't travel well I think) is a different matter.

 

AJJ

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Both attract nutters. Seriously, you would not believe the amount of odd people you meet at recitals. I have a theory that in any given recital audience at least a third will be mad !!

 

I believe you're absolutely right, but my wife would have it that the percentage is much closer to 90%... and apparently I'm NOT in the remaining 10%!

 

Mind you if you think that the organ and railways crowd are a bit eccentric, you should see the cinema organ crowd.

 

You're not wrong. I would find it difficult to have too much sympathy with the Cathedral organist having to head off the anorak, having regularly to deal with old men in old raincoats, frequently with what appears to be their breakfast spread down the front, and a runny nose to boot. They mostly want to know things about what makes the console go up and down, how does the glass surround change colour, and possibly if you've got a particularly knowledgable example there might be a query related to the position of the chambers or whether or not the Tibia is wooden. Most will go away still thinking that Wurlitzer built the best organs (note - not just cinema organs) in the world, and I have yet to have any of these people ask any serious question about the music performed or the repertoire of any forthcoming guest organist!

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OK, its beginning to look like trains and organs are a shared interest. But what about the holy trinity: trains, organs and real ale? MM only had to mention real ale and I started hyperventilating at the mere thought of downing a cool pint of Fullers London Pride.  B)

 

Now you're talking..... B)

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Whilst I was chairman of the KWVR, I ran into Roger Fisher, who was travelling as a passenger. I introduced myself, and we had a little chat. It turned out that he, too, is something of a steam railway enthusiast. He mentioned that he had once been on one of the Llangollen Railway's "Footplate Experience" events, where they let you drive the engine under supervision. His memorable comment on that subject was, "The surge of power as you opened the regulator was wonderful - it was just like opening the swell box at St Mary Redcliffe!"

 

Railways also seem to go with dog-collars. One of the most famous British railway photographers, Eric Treacy, was vicar of Halifax and Bishop of Wakefield. He was also the first president of the KWVR. I never met him, as I had only just got involved when he died - on the platform at Appleby railway station.

 

As for the strange types that railways attract, I could tell you a tale or two, but I won't - apart from this one. A few years ago, Jenny Agutter (of Railway Children fame) came back to the Railway. There was a biggish crowd and a couple of coppers to ensure order. In the crowd was one of our stranger volunteers, known to us as "Lurch". This poor man is a good few bars short of a voluntary, and not unknown to the police, largely because of his habit of putting bricks through shop windows. Anyway, they stopped him and asked what was in his shoulder bag, to which he replied, "Nowt." They made him open it, revealing a half brick. "What's that doing in there?" they enquired. "Oh, that," he said, "Ah must 'a forgotten to tek it out."

 

It's not all driving the train and parading about in uniforms: sometimes it's more like care in the community.

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OK, its beginning to look like trains and organs are a shared interest. But what about the holy trinity: trains, organs and real ale? MM only had to mention real ale and I started hyperventilating at the mere thought of downing a cool pint of Fullers London Pride.  B)

 

========================

 

 

Now, just for Jeremy's pleasure, if he were to take a ride on the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway, he could stop off at Ingrow and play a wonderful neo-baroque organ where I play, then catch the train to Haworth.

 

On the train, he could sample as much real-ale as the journey time permits, and then the trick is to walk up the steep hill to the top of Haworth village, and then descend again, visiting every pub on the way back to the station.

 

Apart from the delights of such brews as "Speckled Hen," "Theakstons" and "Bishop's Finger", he could sample the finest of all real ales, in the form of Taylor's best, which really is a very special brew indeed; having won top accolade from CAMRA numerous times.

 

In fact, as Taylor's is brewed just down the road from the church where I play, and the station is within easy walking (staggering?) distance, I guess I am surrounded by the blessed trinity in fine style.

 

Pity I don't drink, but many of my friends are dedicated alcoholics.

 

MM

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So, my original thesis was correct. Nutters !

 

On a couple of points. I wonder if anyone has ever read the diaries of a 19th century vicar, Francis Kilvert. He describes a rail journey between Bath and Bristol where he was nearly asphyxiated by smoke in the Box Tunnel. Hopefully, things have changed.

 

Wurlitzer did make the best Theatre Organs. My view would be even more strongly held if I could visit the states and listen to some of the biggies. Wurlitzers certainly sound good compared to the small tedious thin toned six rank Comptons that were installed all over the UK.

 

If you are within reach of London and want a quick fix of Wurlitzer, I believe Richard Hills plays each saturday afternoon in the Habitat in Regent's Street. Not only is this a sweet sounding instrument, The conversion of this former cinema to a store is quite stunning !!

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There used to be a steam locomotive in the organ loft of Bedford School Chapel. Well, it was only an 00 scale Kitmaster model – so it didn’t steam, but it had a job to do. It ran on a length of track across the top of the music desk. Its position indicated how full the reservoir (not sure which one) was.

 

The organ had originally been hand-blown but an electric blower had been installed. The string and weight which had told the person doing the pumping how full the reservoir was had been diverted across the top of the music desk, with some extra pullies, and the engine was attached to the string. The pneumatic action was full of leaks and some ranks had been added, so it was not very difficult to empty the reservoirs..

 

The locomotive was therefore a “very useful engine”.

 

The master who installed this arrangement had moved on by my time, leaving behind a single black locomotive. I understood there had previously been a whole set painted in various colours, which he changed around so that the locomotive was always the correct liturgical colour for the season.

 

He was, apparently, quite keen on trains!

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Wurlitzer did make the best Theatre Organs. My view would be even more strongly held if I could visit the states and listen to some of the biggies.  Wurlitzers certainly sound good compared to the small tedious thin toned six rank Comptons that were installed all over the UK.

 

If you are within reach of London and want a quick fix of Wurlitzer, I believe Richard Hills plays each saturday afternoon in the Habitat in Regent's Street. Not only is this a sweet sounding instrument, The conversion of this former cinema to a store is quite stunning !!

 

Changing the points, but without wishing to take this thread too far off 'track' I have to speak up for Comptons here. Certainly Compton installed some fairly bland and ineffective 6 rank jobs for ABC cinemas. They were built very cheaply and very quickly and were installed equally quickly. Fundementally they were good organs, just not properly finished. When you hear one that's been properly set up, it's chalk and cheese, like the ex Regal Putney job now in Germany.

 

Wurlitzer built hundreds of tedious thin-toned 4, 5 and 6 rank jobs to accompany silent films, and even the 8 ranks of the New Gallery/Habitat in Regent Street won't set the world alight, with the chorus reed being a very smooth toned Tuba.

 

To see what Compton could do with six units go to St. John Vianny church in Ilford to hear the former Ritz, Nuneaton job. An absolute cracker, and certainly Compton's answer to what Wurlitzer were doing at the Granadas like Clapham and North Cheam.

 

Incidentally, if you do go to the states to hear some of the really big jobs the two that really show outstanding quality are the Kimball at Dickinson High School, Wilmington, Delaware (which Richard Hills has recorded) and my personal favourite, the 42 rank Moller at the Fox, Atlanta.

 

Both outstanding organs, neither of which came from North Tonawanda!

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OMG.....memories of the good Mr Tordoff at Halifax Parish Church. My boss here in Sydney does the finest impression of PT - dating from a recital he gave in 1986, after which he was approached by Philip with the most leading of questions...."Ah take it tha's not tee-total then".

 

As for me - although I'm a big train person (railway enthusiast rather than trainspotter thank you) I'm actually more of a tram person. I draw the line at traction engines though. Saw Robert Wolfe at Thursford in 1985 and put me off Wurlitzers for life.

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As for me - although I'm a big train person (railway enthusiast rather than trainspotter thank you) I'm actually more of a tram person. I draw the line at traction engines though. Saw Robert Wolfe at Thursford in 1985 and put me off Wurlitzers for life.

 

Hi

 

I'm also a railway enthusiast (and buses and trams - and any vintage transport). I'm a member of the Bradford Railway Circle (which very conveniently meets in my church!).

 

I also quite like theatre organs - although so far I've only managed to play 4 (apart from electronic copies and the (free) computer simulation "MidiTizer" - well worth a look if you're into that sort of thing).

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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Bizarre! I'm an organist and also interested in steam engines! May be something about a combination of a mysterious machine making fascinating sounds?!

 

Regards,

 

Owen

 

Reading the potted histories of members of this forum, it becomes clear that I am by no means alone in being fascinated, not to say nuts, about the organ and trains, steam or otherwise. Anyone got any ideas why this might be?

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This rather ties into the other thread, "Where have all the women gone". Organs, real ale, trains, trams, steam engines and canals are all, on the whole, blokey interests.

 

In the case of organs, it's slightly odd, because I suspect as many women as men actually play. But women don't seem to become obsessed with the instrument like we blokes do.

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