Thursday 29 September 2016

Baking a cake

Tomorrow we are holding a MacMillan coffee morning at work to raise funds for the deserving charity. I decided to bake a cake for it. Now i have baked a couple of cakes before with reasonable success this time i decided to bake a coffee & walnut macaroon cake and here is the result. I'm pretty proud of it, i did it all without help as my wife is away and some operations mentioned in the recipe were a bit mysterious to me but i managed to work it out. The macaroon halves are maybe a bit stodgy but the cream and chocolate will hide that hopefully! It does look pretty good, now all i have left to do is the washing up...

Wednesday 28 September 2016

Coffee jar flower update

Back in late July i sowed some pansy seeds in coffee jars for a gardening/art project. In the end i used 3 jars and all 3 have pansies growing in them as you can see from the photo below. Hopefully they will all bloom in the Autumn to give some colour to the house in the run up to Christmas. They took a while to get going, its a pity i didn't have the idea to do this a couple of months earlier.

Monday 26 September 2016

Buses I Have Known (5) : Leyland Atlantean

The Atlantean was the pioneer rear engined bus that predated the Fleetline and Metrobus earlier in this series. It was in production from 1958 to 1986 and its no surprise that over 15,000 were built and served in the UK and all over the world (including Baghdad). However my only memories of the Atlantean are with North Birmingham Busways.

They were a small independent bus operator in the 1990s and early 2000s based in Erdington, in fact their garage was on Wood Lane so not very far from where i live. For most of the life of the company before they were bought up their fleet consisted of second-hand Leyland Atlanteans (ex-Blackpool i think or somewhere else up north anyway).

I didn't have chance to use their buses much but on a couple of occasions when i was working at BCU (and before i learnt to drive) i was able, while waiting for my usual Number 11, to catch a passing school service which was returning to the garage (and hence virtually took me home). Now that was great, a bus to myself (with the driver of course) with no other stops!
Buses at the Wood Lane garage

Sunday 25 September 2016

Rowsley departure

Another video from my recent trip to Peak Rail, last time a train departing Matlock for Rowsley South, this time a train going in the opposite direction. With plenty of clag too!

Wednesday 21 September 2016

Matlock departure

Class 44 and 31 top and tail power for a Peak Rail service from Matlock to Rowsley South. You can compare it to a similar video i made on my last visit to Peak Rail, with different motive power!

Monday 19 September 2016

Buses I Have Known (4) : Leyland National

The famous Leyland National was built in the thousands between 1972 and 1985 though it wasn't a bus i travelled on a great deal as Birmingham (or the routes i travelled on anyway) in those days tended to be the realm of the double decker (see Fleetline and Metrobus).

However it was a bus i was familiar with and found interesting even as a kid. I remember one at Birmingham Airport i saw a few times which had a cute blue destination blind. In later years the National tended to be the last survivors of the older generation of buses with the Erdington Circular Route 600 using them for a time and Chase Buses still used them well into the 2000s on services from Birmingham to Chasetown. They were a familiar sight around Birmingham.

Now they are mostly only seen in preserved collections though in a way the Leyland National does still survive in daily revenue earning service. The "Pacer" diesel multiple units Class 142 used a modified National body and for the moment they are still in service in various areas, i saw some in Liverpool a couple of weeks ago!

Midland Red
Class 142 rail bus

Sunday 18 September 2016

The art of movie posters

Movie posters are a wonderful art form, classic film posters are nearly as memorable as the actual film in many cases (especially in early cinema). This poster for the silent horror film Häxen is particularly striking though. I don't think it leaves much to the imagination, i'm sure you would go into the theatre knowing what you were about to see!

The film actually is being shown next month in Leicester though i'll just stick to watching it on Youtube perhaps.

Peak Rail / HST

I returned to Peak Rail yesterday and travelled up from Matlock to Rowsley South on a Peak Rail heritage train, this time hauled by a Class 44. A Peak hauling a train through the Peaks, it can't get better than that? Well it can as i also visited the Heritage Shunters Trust again and had another tour, this time managing to photograph things i wasn't able to last time. The HST is great and well worth a visit and your support, as is the Peak Rail heritage line. You can see my photos here.

Thursday 15 September 2016

The Grand Union Canal in the 1930s

An amazing film from the Huntley Film Archives following showing canal boats travelling from London up to Birmingham in the 1930s when the canals were for freight not fun!

The film shows inland waterway traffic on the Thames, Regent's Canal and Grand Union Canal all of which i have walked extensively over the years. Some things of course look very different now but some things are unchanged, though you may need to look closely sometimes!

Tuesday 13 September 2016

Super slow-mo

I really do think the video camera mode on my smart phone (iPhone SE in case you wonder) is pretty impressive and shows how far technology has come... recording HD video on a phone? Hello?! One new mode i haven't tried before is slow-mo and i shot a couple of test videos with my model railway. The effect is pretty cool even if i say so myself...

Monday 12 September 2016

Buses I Have Known (3) : Volvo Alisa B55

The Alisa was not a bus i got very often as it seemed mainly to be used on routes like the 107 which i never needed to travel on. Occasionally though it did turn up on the number 11 and was always an interesting experience. Unlike buses like the Fleetline and Metrobus the Alisa had its engine at the front and had an unusual interior to go with its striking exterior thanks to its Alexander bodywork.

The stairwell was quite large and opposite the stairs on the upper deck there were a couple of single seats as there was not enough room for the usual double seats. That and the roar of the engine made travelling on the Alisa quite memorable.

Luckily i was able to travel on the preserved Alisa WMPTE 4527 as shown below a few years ago and had a very enjoyable thrash from Aston to town and back.

Saturday 10 September 2016

Exploring Merseyside

The weather down here in the Midlands was pretty poor today but i saw on the forecast that it was a lot better up North so i headed up to Liverpool again and did some exploring. I went up to Crosby which was the first place that i ever lived. I don't remember anything about it though as i was only a baby and a toddler. Well i say that but... my earliest ever memory is very vague but i was sitting in a wheel chair i think and looking at roses. I know from photographs there were a lot of roses around the old house so maybe this is a memory of Crosby. Or just some other random roses elsewhere.

Anyway you can see my photos here. I was keen to get plenty of new stations in the bag for my Calling At... blog and i got 7 new ones in so mission accomplished!
Blundellsands & Crosby
Conway Park

Wednesday 7 September 2016

Calling At...

Introducing my latest blog Calling At! I've got two railway blogs already but here is a third, why? Well the other blogs concentrate mostly on rolling stock (locomotives, multiple units et cetera) but this new blog looks at the actual stations much of that rolling stock serves. National Rail and preserved stations are covered, basically stations that i visit in my travels.

I'm trying to make the posts as geographically spread as possible so we've already visited London, Liverpool, the Isle of Wight, Oxfordshire and Wales - though the majority of posts will be in the Midlands as that is where i go the most!
Monks Risborough

Liverpool James Street

Tuesday 6 September 2016

MV : "Unprepared" by The Ice Choir

How excited am I by the forthcoming new album by my favourite band? On a scale of 1 to 10... about a quadrillon.

Monday 5 September 2016

Buses I Have Known (2) : MCW Metrobus

Towards the end of the 1970s and into the early 1980s the Fleetlines so common on Birmingham's roads began to be joined by a new bus, the Metrobus. Soon it was dominating the WMPTE fleet and when i went to secondary school, and had to get the bus every day, it was often a Metrobus and not a Fleetline that turned up. By the end of my time at school it seemed to be Metrobuses all the time.

The Metrobus seemed to follow me as i went to college and then university, even when i started work though by the mid-90s. When i started work at BCU in 2001 my office was next to the Perry Barr garage, all i could see from my office window were the roofs of numerous Metrobuses! By then Metrobus domination was starting to give way to other types though it remained in service in Birmingham until 2010.

To be honest i didn't like the Metrobus at first. I found the buff coloured interiors with its abstract flowery pattern rather dull compared to the blue of the Fleetline. They also stank in the winter of damp. Upstairs a river would flow along the side of the seats under the window. Sudden stops could make the murky water slosh over your shoes! But i came to like the Metrobus and it was a big part of my life for a long time... or at least got me to it.
Three Metrobuses at Aston

Route 101 Metrobus

Sunday 4 September 2016

SVR in the rain

A quick return to the Severn Valley Railway yesterday for it's "Icons of Diesel" event, some extra runs with a Deltic and Western to be exact. The weather was awful and this curtailed the enjoyment slightly, but only slightly. It did curtail my photography quite a bit though but i did take a few and added them to last month's SVR album. It was probably my last trip to the SVR this year, i've managed 3 which isn't bad. More next year hopefully.