Thursday 30 March 2017

Hall Green

A London Midland service arrives at Hall Green heading for Whitlocks End.

Tuesday 28 March 2017

The Watercress Line

On the Saturday afternoon of my recent holiday i travelled down from Woking to Alton which is where the "Watercress Line" or Mid-Hants Railway joins the mainline. I travelled up this lovely line which runs along the edge of the South Downs in Hampshire stopping off at Ropley, where there is an engineering workshop, and the terminus at Alfresford. You can see my photos here.

Its funny, but after a lifetime of never seeing the British Railways 9F steam locomotive (the last to be built) in motion i've now seen 2 in a week (at this railway and the SVR last week!)

Monday 27 March 2017


Woking is only 10 minutes away from Guildford on the train and i went there on Saturday morning. Of course i took some photographs at the railway station which has a marvellous Art Deco signalbox and some photographs along the Basingstoke Canal which goes through the town.

Perhaps most interesting though were some of the unexpected items in the town itself, a Hawker Hunter on a plinth and a Martian tripod statue! The latter because the Martians in War of the Worlds first landed near the town and indeed HG Wells was living in the town when he wrote the story.

Sunday 26 March 2017


I've just returned from a 3 day trip to Surrey and Hampshire and what a nice (and exhausting!) time i've had. I was based in Guildford, which i believe derives its name from the ancient and venerable Guild of Ford Dealers (this might not actually be true). Anyway its a lovely town which reminded me in some ways of Banbury and Aylesbury which of course are high on the list of my favourite places. As with both there were interesting railways and waterways in Guildford to explore...

The railways first: in Guildford we are in well into the old Southern live rail territory and so the trains are quite different to what we get up here in the Midlands. Lots of Class 455s for example, which are one of my favourite trains. You can see my railway photos here.

The river Wey is navigable through Guildford, plenty of rather expensive looking houses back onto the river. You can see my photos of the river here. I really must come again some time.

Wednesday 22 March 2017

Saving endangered photographs

Conserving historic photographs is a very complicated business because of the variety of methods used in early photography, and the science itself is a fairly recent development. This fascinating article traces the history of photo conservation and the complications involved. Research into photo conservation was spurred in the 1990s by the explosion in value of historic and artistic photos and the discovery of some frauds.

What astounded me was that there have been over 150 different photographic processes developed in the 187 years since Joseph NiƩpce first took a photograph of the view from his window. The article lists some of these including processes i've heard of like daguerreotypes and also others i hadn't like ambrotypes and kallitypes!
Photo from Flickr Commons, British Officer from Sir William Dixson's collection of ambrotype portraits, ca. 1857-1858, possibly by Thomas Glaister (State Library of New South Wales)

Tuesday 21 March 2017

Monday 20 March 2017

Tie-ins (3) : The Barlow Casebook

The Barlow Casebook by Elwyn Jones and John Lloyd

Unlike the previous two tie-in novels in this series i can't remember anything about the 1970s crime show starring Stratford Johns as Detective Chief Superintendent Barlow. I probably did see it as a child, or at least was in the room when it was on. So i approached this book completely blind... and enjoyed it very much. It is a very good read, with 6 original scripts from the show converted into a novel.

While it is very well done this maybe leads to my only criticism i have with the book is that sometimes the dialogue is a little hard to follow as its often rapid fire with no naming of who is saying what so you can get a little lost. What can work well on screen does not always translate to text, and vice versa.

However this only a minor quibble. As with the Superintendent himself the book is straight forward and leaves no stone unturned. I did hope the story was a novelisation of a now forgotten 70s spin-off of Coronation Street where Ken took time off to investigate crimes but alas...

SVR Spring Steam Gala

I paid my first trip to the Severn Valley Railway this year yesterday and for the first time attended a steam gala on the railway. I've been to the last 3 diesel galas but not a steam one. I'm not a big steam fan but enjoy a tank engine and there were a couple on display. A good day with plenty of good operating and visits to Highley, Bewdley and Kidderminster. You can see my photos here.

Thursday 16 March 2017

New Cross Networkers

A video taken in London a few weeks ago, a couple of Class 465 Networkers pass New Cross.

Tuesday 14 March 2017

Gardening update

As Spring seems to be raising its head tentatively its time to do some gardening. Actually i mowed the lawn last week as it was getting pretty long as was taxing for me with my hand mower. I gave it a second (and much easier) cut at the weekend.

I've also cleared out the herb garden, cutting the rosemary and lavender back a bit. New mint and parsley plants have been added. The sage is still alive but the old mint and oregano plants seem to have not survived the winter.

Monday 13 March 2017

Snow Hill Lines

Another Saturday another railway adventure of course. This time i wanted to go to some of the stations on the Snow Hill Line that i usually go through when i go to Stratford-upon-Avon. I stopped off at Yardley Wood, Whitlocks End and Hall Green and took some photos and videos for my Calling At... stations blog.

I continued North of Snow Hill to Jewellery Quarter and then had my first proper journey on the Midlands Metro to The Hawthorns. Then one more stop to Smethwick Galton Bridge to also take some photos of Galton Bridge and the canal tunnel below. You can see my photos here.

Friday 10 March 2017

Tie-ins (2) : The Sweeney

The Sweeney by Ian Kennedy Martin

The Sweeney was one of the most iconic TV series of the 1970s and quite a few tie-in novels were written, of which this was the first - and written by the same bloke who wrote the original teleplay and many episodes too. Though the first thing to notice is that Sweeney is spelt "Sweeny" on the front cover and spine! Luckily it is spelt correctly throughout the actual book...

In the story a US cop comes over to join an investigation... my heart immediately sank when i read the blurb to be honest. The British were too obsessed with adding Americans to stories back then but my fears were needless as the story works out very well and the characterisations arn't far off either - though truer to the earlier feel of the show with Jack Regan as a loner who hated everyone and not how the show developed with Jack and George Carter forming a good double act.

Ah Jack Regan, what a hero. The 70s idea of a hero too, nowadays TV detectives tend to be groomed and buff. Jack Regan was an Old Spice man and the only "Jim" he knew was the bloke he gave a kicking to in the cells last week.

So a good read, and i have 3 other Sweeney novels to read for this series too...

Wednesday 8 March 2017

Recovering old software and data

Although there are some great museums like the National Museum of Computing doing there best to preserve computing's rich history so much computing heritage has been lost. One problem is that data stored on obsolete formats often cannot be read any more. This website illustrates the problem, the CROOK operating system for a Polish minicomputer called the MERA-400 was sought. A copy had survived but it was on magnetic tape and there was no easy way to read the media.

Luckily with some ingenuity and hardcore geekdom a way was found to read the tapes. In the end they found multiple copies of CROOK, other old operating systems and some other thought-lost software which can now be read and saved for humanity.
ICL tape drives at the National Museum of Computing

Monday 6 March 2017

Stafford rails

Its been a few months since i've visited Stafford station and as it was a nice day (the Sun was shining anyway) i went up there with my camera. Stations like Stafford are always better to visit on a weekday because more freight is running. Today there was the incredible sight of a five locomotive light engine movement. I've never seen that before, three a few times but never five!

You can see my photos here. After some damp and grey days recently it was lovely to feel the Sun on my back.

Sunday 5 March 2017


Redditch is the final destination on the Cross-City Line and so is on a direct route from Erdington. Despite that i've never been before so i went there on Saturday to take a few photos of the station for a future post on my "Calling at..." station blog. Next to the station is a large mall which i made the mistake of entering, when i came out the other end i seemed to be in the middle of nowhere. The town centre must be elsewhere, i really should have looked at a map first before i came. Well there is always the next time!

Tie-ins (1) : Enter The Dragon

This new series will review tie-in novels to popular movies and TV shows, especially those written in the 60s and 70s. I've always been a fan of tie-ins such as Star Trek and CSI novelisations though this series will tend to go deeper into the past...

Enter The Dragon by Mike Roote

Enter The Dragon, the classic Bruce Lee kung-fu epic is one of my favourite films, can the martial art skills of Bruce translate into prose? Well yes the author does an unexpectedly good job. As the film is one of my favourites i have seen it many times of course, so that makes a tie-in novel in this case an interesting experience. Will the book stay true to the original screenplay? Will it add anything new?

Well yes to both really. The novel is fairly true, there are a few differences in structure for example the flashbacks near the start of the film are presented in the book in linear fashion at the start but that's fine as it probably works better in print. The overall plot and feel of the film is adhered to with some differences in detail (but this may have been changed from the screenplay the author worked to anyway).

Does the novel add anything new? Well amazingly yes, it helped clarify some parts of the plot which perhaps were not that clearly laid out on screen. So overall a hit. The cover artwork is basic but effective, a classic still of Bruce in his epic fight with Han. No bullshit.

Thursday 2 March 2017

MV : "No charge" by JJ Barrie

One of those songs which could have only been a big pop hit in the 70s.