Saturday, 5 May 2012

Sepia Saturday 124: John Bradbury Winter, modelmaker

It's been almost six months since I last wrote an article for Photo-Sleuth or made any contribution to Sepia Saturday. The reason for this has been my involvement, in a variety of roles, in the Rena Oil Spill Response which has just been wrapped up. I've posted a few photos taken during my Rena adventures since mid-October over at my Gluepot Gazette blog if you're interested in seeing what I've been up to. I'm afraid there just hasn't been the time for catching up with fellow SS enthusiasts' efforts, let alone researching old photographs. While I await the outcome of several job applications currently in the pipeline, I'll hopefully have a little more time to do both over the next few weeks.

Several family members worked for the railways during Victorian and Edwardian times, but they appear to have left little in the way of ephemeral evidence of such employment. I'm concentrating, therefore, on the "model railway" aspect of Alan's photo prompt with an example from my collection of purchased photographs.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
I'm not sure why I purchased this one; it doesn't have the usual pre-requisites for my eBay purchases, e.g. from Derbyshire. Perhaps it reminded me of my brief childhood passion for making models, although I never made anything approaching the quality of this example. It is a print (100 x 70mm) mounted on card with rounded corners and unusual dimensions (105 x 82mm), a size/shape I tend to associate - rightly or wrongly - with shots taken by amateurs in the late 1890s and early 1900s.

The subject appears to be a model of an early railway locomotive, its wheels resting on wooden rails. My knowledge of early steam is so meagre that I couldn't begin to make an identification, but from a cursory glance through a selection of Googled images I'm guessing it was a design from the mid-1800s. An inscription handwritten in pen at the base of the mount, below the print, suggests that the photograph was taken in Brighton on 10 October 1905 (10/10/05).

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
The reverse shows a handwritten insciption in pencil, Built by J.B. Winter, probably in a different hand to that on the front. A little research on FreeBMD and Google revealed that this is most likely to be one John Bradbury Winter (1869-1950), a medical doctor and renowned model maker. Born in 1869 at Brighton, Sussex, he was the son of John Newnham Winter (1830-1907) and grandson of Thomas Bradbury Winter (1797-1874), both surgeons.

It has occurred to me that the inscription could have been made much later than the photo was taken, and might even be a hopeful, rather than strictly factual, attribution. I'd therefore be interested in hearing from model makers and enthusiasts who might be able to identify the model of locomotive and suggest whether the workmanship is up to Mr Winter's calibre.

Image © alesara2 and courtesy of Flickr
Model of Stephenson's Rocket by Dr J. Bradbury Winter
Collection of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers
Image by kind permission of © Alan Stepney and courtesy of Flickr

This miniature version of Stephenson's Rocket was constructed in silver by John Bradbury Winter for the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, who still own it. The following is an extract of a post on a model makers' forum:
Dr John Bradbury Winter was a model maker with incredible skill and patience, and everything he made was simply a reduced version of the prototype. I remember reading long ago about a model he built of William Stroudley's "Como" that involved him crawling inside the tender of the original to ensure that he had every detail correct. It's currently in the Brighton and Hove Museum.
If you have any further information to add to the story, please leave a comment or get in touch by email. Also, please do visit the contributions by other Sepia Saturday participants this week. You're guaranteed to be entertained.


  1. Welcome back Brett - and bang on theme with a delightful post!

  2. It's amazing how much info you got from that one signature on the back of the photo. I love the train in the first photo. Looks like so much work.

  3. I wondered what happened to you, Brett. Great post! I'll check out your other blog to see about the spill and clean up.

    Take care,

    Kathy M.

  4. I had friends who made model airplanes and model cars, but no model trains. I suspect your photos represent a higher level of model-making than any of my friends achieved.

  5. Good to see you back Brett, we've missed you. Thanks for the Rena links as I worked in the oil and gas industry for a while and was involved with contingency plans.
    I'm a big admirer of anyone who can make models but Dr Winter is exceptional.

  6. Delighted to have you back Brett. Your posts are always a highlight of Sepia Saturday and I am always delighted to see your name on the contributors list.

  7. Your posts are always interesting, so I'm glad you are back.

  8. Wonderful to have your return to the sepia stage, Brett. This is a perfect fit photograph too. I imagine Dr. Winter had the eye for detail and found the miniature engineering challenge a relaxing distraction. Perhaps models were made for the manufacturers as boardroom presentation items or like a salesman trade samples.

  9. This is so wonderful to be able to know who built this engine. I think it impresses me even more than knowing the name of someone in a photo. It's thinking about the pride the man would feel knowing his work has lasted longer than he could have ever imagined.

  10. While some folks might have found Dr Winter annoying for all his fastidiousness about details, the results speak for themselves.

    You may have been gone awhile but haven't lost your touch.
    Welcome back!!!!

  11. Thank you all, for your warm "welcome back" and kind comments. It'll be good to join you all in this regular weekly excursion once again.

  12. Very interesting post, Brett, and I especially enjoyed your research comments as I am constantly learning how to research old photos. Welcome back!

  13. Thx for your post, I really enjoy your blog. Long time lurker, first time commenter, you know the drill. I tried to share this one time before, I don’t think it posted correctly…hopefully it will this time!

  14. Thank you, Anon, for your kind comments. If you put some sort of name in the relevant box, your comment won't get sent automatically to the Spam box, which is where I rescued it from. Good to have you on board.


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