Friday, November 9, 2012

A Magnat Debon and ?

My latest find, this vintage photo of a group of military personnel and their vehicles, has been a real labour of love, for a start, though a lovely historical record, it wasn't cheap (though I managed to get 10 euros off!). Secondly, nothing in it was identified, and thirdly it needed retouching - about 10 hours worth as there were little spots on it where the emulsion had been distorted. The first to be identified was the motorcycle which seems to be a Magnat Debon from between 1905 and 1910. I haven't had any luck with the car at all, though it has quite a distinctively shaped radiator grille and very plush seats, and it's in the phaeton style of that era, probably used for collecting officers from the station.
Most of the men have a distinct insignia on their lapels, which I also haven't been able to identify. One has a white armband and others dark armbands - one with writing on it which is unfortunately not readable. the soldier on the motorcycle doesn't have the lapel insignia, but a logo on his puttee which can just be seen through the motorcycle - no clues there either! He's also carrying a rifle slung behind his back, it took me several hours to notice that, and up until then I thought they might be civilian - railway workers or postmen. Next, on to the location - there must be thousands of "Hotel de la Gare"s in France, so it was just down to dogged persistence and looking through old postcards until suddenly I came across a different view of the same hotel. Double checking on Google Earth confirmed. The cafe, which says H. Caziot above the door, is now a house and the hotel is now apartments, in the region of no. 22 Avenue de la Gare, Gannat, Allier, France, which is not too far from a garrison in Clermont Ferrand. Coincidentally or not, I'd already discovered that the car registration "F", if a private car, was registered in Clermont Ferrand. This is a very detailed photo which enlarges well, here it is on a poster:

Hotel de la Gare, Gannat, France

Sunday, November 4, 2012

And possibly a narrowboat anorak!

I now have a blog dedicated to waterways - please visit

I've loved canals for years, ever since my first holiday on the Llangollen in 1968. Numerous holidays later, including helping people move boats from A to B and many happy trips on Aber in the 80s, I now live in France, a good 2 hours from the nearest canal. So, to help with the withdrawal symptoms, I've been going through my old trannies and copying a few lucky find postcards. Large Woolwich Aber (GUCCC no. 101) and Heidi, the bearded collie
Many thanks to the various people with FMC resources who have made my research much easier! The first one is I believe a pair of Fellows, Morton and Clayton narrowboats moored up in the entrance to a lock presumably at Berkhamsted on the Grand Union. The butty could possibly be Grange No. 261 though the boats are slightly out of focus for artistic reasons, I can just make out NGE on the left side and it could easily be GRA on the right. The wording on the cabin of the motor can only be Fellows Morton etc. The photograph was taken by J T Newman of Berkhamsted and was posted to France in February 1917 with this wording on the back.
This shows the frozen canal. The ice has been broken by a special "ice-boat".
The icicles on the lock gates are just fantastic. the original has a slight sepia tinge but I've given this a pale blue tint as it looks coooold! Here shown on a Christmas card but prints and other items are available (sorry for the plug, but one does try to earn a living!).
The next boat took some research, as the low resolution image on the sale site gave me the impression it was another boat, however, it turned out to be FMC Bison No 289. Here seen running through the ice on the Grand Union next to the now rebuilt Wolverton station, Milton Keynes. I don't know the age of the photo but it must be fairly late. I still remember working boats at Croxley Mill in the 60s - what a pity I didn't take any photos!, but this is quite a bit earlier than that.