John M Rodway’s Tales From Knottewithought Junction

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The Case of the Sticky Coal

Have you ever dreamed of wandering around the stations, goods yards and streets of your own layouts, or imagined being one of the miniature characters in them? John Rodway opens the door to this model railway Neverland in the first of a regular series of short stories, with illustrations from Pete Kelly’s stored OO-gauge ‘Slagdyke’.

It was another lovely day in the early summer at Knottewithought Station, even though it was a cold winter’s evening outside. The bell on the Stationmaster’s phone rang threetimes.


“Hello. Albert Newton speaking.”

“George here, at Lower Knotte with Sidings. We’ve got problems with a load o’coal.”

“What sort of problems?” the Stationmaster asked.


“It’s stuck in the wagon. It’s as if it’s been glued in, like. Stuff’s solid. We’s having to use picks to break it free. It’ll take hours to empty it. What we’s supposed to do?”

“Have you tried pouring hot water over the coal?” Albert advised. “Glues often soften when so treated.”

“How’s we going to boil enough water, seeing as hows we’ve no loose coal?” George replied tersely.


“Ah, yes. Good point.” The Stationmaster paused. “Could you take some water from the boiler of the shunting loco?”

Here comes the goods train to take the gunged-up stuff away.

“That’s naw use. There’s nowt in t’boiler but a lecky motor. Even that decease chippy thing doesn’a
get ’ot enough to make an ’alf decent brew o’tea.”

“You have a problem indeed,” Albert responded. “I’ll send young Jimmy to help you. He’s a strong lad.”


Young Jimmy was the booking lad in the signal box at Knottewithought Junction. It was his job to record in the Train Register all the bell messages sent to and from the adjacent signalboxes and their times, together with other events of significance, such as when the box was opened, changes of signalmen and so on.

For the full article and to view more images, see the December edition of Modelling – available now!

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About the Author

Nigel Devereux

Railway Production Editor at Mortons Media Group Ltd.
Nigel Devereux is a Senior Lecturer in the School of English and Journalism. He has worked within the print publishing industry for 37 years. Nigel was editor of his hometown newspaper - The Horncastle News - from 1998-2001. Nigel is currently the senior sub-editor on The Railway Magazine, the UK’s biggest selling magazine for railway enthusiasts. He is also responsible for maintaining and updating several websites across the Mortons portfolio.
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Nigel Devereux

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