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Monday, July 11, 2005
The second fatal accident in two years at the innocuous Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway, which trundles past the caravans, beach huts and light houses of the Kent coast towards Dungeness. Back in the Second World War, the little trains were armoured in a Dad's Army kind-of-way, but their real moment of glory came in helping build PLUTO, the Pipe Line Under The Ocean that pumped fuel to the Allied forces in Northern France. 'Pumping stations were disguised as ice cream shops, garages and bungalows.'

The railway line was the pet project of two classic racing driver eccentrics, Captain JEP Howey and the famous Polish Count, Louis Zborowski. Zborowski, like his father before him, died at the wheel: 'It is said that when he died he was wearing the same cufflinks that had earlier brought about his father Eliot Zborowski's death in 1903, when one of them had become caught up in the hand throttle of his Mercedes during a hill climb at La Turbie.' The younger Zborowski's best known achievement was not the railway, but the creation of the original Chitty Bang Bang (note, only one 'chitty').

According to the official website of the West End Musical, that lyrical name has far from innocent origins: 'The name of the car was actually derived from the words of a bawdy first world war soldier's song. Officers would obtain a weekend pass or chit so they could go to Paris for a couple of days and enjoy the favours of the ladies of the town at their leisure:- 'Chitty - bang bang.' Wikipedia's page on the 1960s film, writing by Ian Fleming, is comprehensive, and here are some location shots. The film was production designed by Ken Adam, better known for his work on the James Bond films. Adam is also the subject of a new book by Christopher Frayling.

There were actually four 'Chittys', created with engineer Clive Gallop at Zborowski's country house near Canterbury. The pair's final car was the awesome Babs, which made a fatal last attempt at the land speed record at Pendine Sands in Wales, driven by John Godfrey Parry Thomas. Those were the days when driving racing cars, at locations like Brooklands, was a titanic struggle, the preserve of heroic, be-goggled figures, many of whom died in accidents.

*

Staying rail-related. A coal train on a burning bridge / Life in the Present has moved / Live8, the videos / the Gmaps pedometer / a new concept for the classic Citroen 2CV. / a collection of old fantasy film posters / the New York Public Library Digital Gallery (via Living Home).

Gutcult magazine / new sneaker art from Dave White / linked before, but well worth revisiting, The Recent Past Preservation Network. Related, the Chicago Architecture Club has launched a competition to find new uses for the city's industrial water tanks. Brings to mind Rachel Whiteread's 'Water Tower' of 2000.