Memory Lane: New DVD is right on track

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THERE cannot be many today who remember George Bennie, but in the late 1920s, he was lauded in high places after inventing a railplane that was to revolutionise public transport.

His propeller-driven vehicle shaped like a wingless aeroplane attracted widespread attention.

Politicians Lloyd George and Ramsay MacDonald, along with the heads of three railway companies, went for test runs in Scotland.

It was claimed the railplane would be able to travel between Glasgow and Edinburgh in an unheard of 20 minutes.

Closer to home, the inventor planned to link the Fylde coast and Southport with a bridge across the Ribble from Warton to Hesketh Bank, incorporating the railplane’s overhead track.

But interest faded during the depression of the early 1930s, and the outbreak of the Second World War.

The above photograph was last seen in The Gazette exactly 54 years ago today when we reported, on November 26, 1957, that Mr Bennie had died in Surrey, aged 65, his proud invention sadly no more than a memory.

So it should be no surprise to hear that you won’t find any mention of the railplane in a new two-disc DVD set, but you will see and hear first-hand the many changes on the local network, thanks to the painstaking efforts of Thornton rail enthusiast Keith Stringer, who fully narrates his four-hour package.

He takes viewers from the time when Britain’s railways were a fully-integrated network in public ownership under British Rail.

But as Mr Stringer recounts in 25 Years Of Railway Highlights Around Preston And The Fylde: “The railways in the years that followed privatisation would be a fragmented mix of passenger, railfreight and leasing companies, with Network Rail managing the track and infrastructure.”

He says: “The DVD footage illustrates the loss of familiar routes and services, but also highlights the introduction of new passenger train companies with the colourful variety of designs and liveries, new rolling stock and new services for both passenger and freight workings.

“Then there is the emergence of railway preservation and site attractions, and the visits of diesel and steam special charters brightening up the ordinary scene.”

n The twin DVD is available, price £9.95, including P&P, from Mr Stringer on (01253) 859728.