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Welcome to the blog of Ian Wilson, author of the award-winning Canadian Branchline series, the King's Highways & Steam Trains series, and the Angus Wolfe adventures series.

Speed Graphics and Steam 1957! and Hadrian's Wall

May 29, 2018

Hadrian’s Wall was ambitious, if not audacious. It slices across England for some 80 miles. I explored there last year with my family.

That Roman fortification came to mind as I pondered the stacked empty boxes which had contained copies of Speed Graphics and Steam 1957!

Roman soldiers built Hadrian’s Wall. Hired teenagers erected our wall of boxes containing Speed Graphics and Steam 1957!

You can see the resemblance between the watchtowers and that big, square stack of book boxes that loomed in our basement family room a couple of weeks ago.

Over the centuries, since the Romans left England, farmers and local merchants have ransacked the stones from Hadrian’s Wall. If you travel to England, you can easily spot remnants of the blocks—now supporting farmhouses and public houses, and snaking for miles across fields separating flocks of sheep.

Our wall constructed of book boxes has been eroding for more than two weeks now. It’s a blink of an eye compared to the eons which have assailed the Roman fortification. But no less dramatic.

As with the remnants of Hadrian’s Wall, little pieces of our wall have been sent to the local area. But they’ve also been dispatched to Ontario at large, the rest of Canada, the United States, Great Britain, Europe, Australasia and even Japan. I doubt that stones from the Roman fortification ever travelled that far afield!

In England, you can identify blocks of stone which formerly comprised parts of Hadrian’s Wall. They are cut and marked in a distinctive way. They form part of local lore.

If you could peek into the dens, railway rooms, man caves, studies and libraries of steam railway fans, you’d see equivalent blocks from our version of Hadrian’s Wall. Units marked in maroon and bearing the inscription Speed Graphics and Steam 1957! are being scattered as we speak, conveyed far from their original place in the fortification erected in our family room.

I daresay, in those same places of railfan retreat, you could find other similar pieces. These would be from former walls and towers, also built onetime of book boxes. They are long dispersed now. But you will spot them from time to time. They are predominantly black in colour and bear characteristic markings.

To Stratford Under Steam.
Steam Over Palmerston.
Steam Through London.
Steam to the Niagara Frontier.
Steam in Northern Ontario.

Years ago, we built towers and walls of boxes containing those books, too. And now they’re gone—even more extinct in their original location that the venerable Hadrian’s Wall.

Yesterday, we couldn’t resist a little sport. My two sons—instrumental in building our walls and towers of book boxes—asked me to knock over the empty cartons they’d been piling up. These had contained copies of Speed Graphics and Steam 1957! I obliged.

It’s easy to make a wall of empty boxes (a “bastion” as we’ve been calling it) tumble to the floor.

You can see here where the contents of those boxes have been going every day. Like the blocks of stone being carted away from Hadrian’s Wall, these units are dispersing. From this platform we send them out across the fields of England Ontario to worlds far removed.

Some of the tower of book boxes is still in place, of course. But the boys are dismantling it piece-by-piece as I write this.

Be sure to scrounge for your souvenir—your lasting memento from this wall of boxes containing new copies of Speed Graphics and Steam 1957! If you haven’t yet, you’d best not wait too long.

And spread the word, please. Link to this post (see the social media icons or cut-and-past the url) for anyone in your circle who may want a copy of Speed Graphics and Steam 1957! before they’re gone like the blocks from Hadrian’s Wall.

If you’re part of a social media group (on Facebook, for example), please copy and paste this link into a brief post drawing attention to the dwindling stock of Speed Graphics and Steam 1957!

Now, I have to go and help my able-bodied assistants dismantle some more of that wall. They much prefer the book cases to be empty.

Far more useful as boards for a makeshift basement mini-stick arena.

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