Saturday 29 April 2017


I haven't been to Rugby for a long time, many years ago when i was starting my career i did work there for a week on site but obviously didn't have the time to look around much back then (i was trying to write a DLL that integrated with some funky websites - and learn C at the same time - so was pretty busy).

So i returned today and as well as take some photos at the railway station for my Calling At... stations blog i visited the Oxford Canal which goes through the town and took some interesting photos. I'm definitely coming back as there is much more to see, the canal through Rugby seems to love its aqueducts. You can see my canal photos here.

Thursday 27 April 2017

Tie-ins (6) : The Sweeney 4: Regan and the Lebanese Shipment

The Sweeney 4: Regan and the Lebanese Shipment by Joe Balham

Another Sweeney novel and this time Jack is back in London at last, though some of the villains come from abroad (the novel's title will give you a clue where). Its a gritty tale of London gangland violence and treachery.

Jack Regan is still the loner, his relationship with George Carter is as adversarial as his with his superiors so its not quite the same Jack as in the TV series but getting closer. The story is fairly engaging and has all the familiar elements to a Sweeney story: grim villains, posh nobs, ultra violence and useless interfering bosses. So put your trousers on and get reading.

Wednesday 26 April 2017


A decent display of diesel power as 2 Class 37s depart from Derby with a rail tour excursion bound for Inverness.

Saturday 22 April 2017


I like to go to new places so today i went to Ledbury, somewhere i've only travelled through until now. I had a nice walk through the town, which is small but pretty with lots of Tudor timber and along the Ledbury Town Trail.

I also found the old site of Ledbury Town Halt though there is no trace of it now (closed in 1959), the railway line that used to be there, or the canal that was there before! Just a footpath now. You can see my photos here.

Friday 21 April 2017

Farewell to the D78

Today marked the final service runs of D78 Stock on the London Underground. The Metro-Cammell built trains have been in service since 1980 so have had a good run which has now come to an end barring railtours and departmental use (a new Rail Adhesion Train has been made out of withdrawn D78 Stock). Many may also live on as "new" diesel powered trains outside of London though that project is still in its development stage.

The last D78 Stock train i travelled on was on January 23 of this year when i got off at Temple and took the photo below. I didn't know at the time it would be the last one i would travel on but obviously i knew their days were numbered so i took the photo just in case. Of course i am glad i did!

Monday 17 April 2017

The end of the 19th century

The death of Emma Morano meant that in a way the 19th century finally ended. As well as being the oldest living person in the world (until she died of course) she was the last living person born in the 1800s, born late in 1899 infact. Her successor as oldest living person was born in 1900.

However Morano would not have had any memory of the 19th century, the century passed out of living memory (something i am very interested in) some time ago. I think you probably have to be around 7 or 8 at least to have any meaningful memories of your surroundings. Although you usually do have earlier memories you tend to be more interested in toys or food in your earliest years. Although i was born in the early 1970s i have few memories you could say were living memories of the decade, maybe some around 1978 or 9.

Looking at the records for the oldest people the oldest people born in around 1890 its possible that Emiliano Mercado de Toro born in 1891 and died aged 115 in 2007 was the last person having much in the way of living memory of the 19th century.

Everything passes out of living memory eventually of course, the First World War no longer has any living combatants though there are still people around who might have living memory of living in those years. Or not, memory is a very unpredictable thing. I lived during punk but i couldn't tell you anything about it!

I wonder when the last person born in the 20th century will die and when that decade will pass out of living memory. Its likely to be some time in the next century though maybe with scientific advances it could be a lot later than that.

Departing Guildford

456 012 departs Guildford for the big smoke.

Sunday 16 April 2017

More Victoria Line tile motifs

Since writing about the tile motifs of the Victoria Line (each station on the tube line has a unique tile motif on the platforms) i have visited 3 more stations on the line and photographed the motifs. You can see them below.


Saturday 15 April 2017

Back to Ambergate

I enjoyed my trip to Ambergate last year which included my first visit to the Cromford Canal. However i had unfinished business, i had nearly walked to the end of the canal at Ambergate (in its current state) but had turned back without realising. So i returned yesterday to get to the end, which isn't that impressive really (shown in the second photo below - the water just drains away) but maybe one day the canal will fully restored to how it was before - the Friends of the Cromford Canal certainly hope so.

Anyway you can see my photos here. Ambergate is a great place, its high on my list of places i'd like to live one day. Very high in fact. Maybe the top...

Thursday 13 April 2017

Tie-ins (5) : The Man From U.N.C.L.E. 7: The Radioactive Camel Affair

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. 7: The Radioactive Camel Affair by Peter Leslie

I can't really remember much about The Man From U.N.C.L.E. but was familiar enough with the characters of the show with the unwieldily acronyms to get into the book straight away. In this story THRUSH are stealing plutonium and our heroes Napoleon Solo and Ilya Kuryakin are sent to find out whats going on.

The rather mysterious title of the book stems from the cunning THRUSH plan to transport the plutonium to their secret base in Sudan by caravan. Solo follows the trail while Kuryakin follows other leads. And much of the book is taken up by what feels like an endless romp through the desert. It does get a bit dull at times.

Fear not the action hots up at the end when we get to the SEKRIT THRUSH base complete with nuclear reactor in a cave and nuclear missiles hidden under bushes. Well of course. If the desert part of the book could have been shortened somewhat it would have been all so much better but as it is the book isn't bad. Total campy 60s secret agent nonsense of course but enjoyable.

Tuesday 11 April 2017

Crossing the Oxford canal

Usually my railway videos are recorded at stations but this one was taken while i was walking along the Oxford Canal, the railway crosses it at Enslow and i got this video of a freight train heading across the bridge.

Monday 10 April 2017

How OS/2 kickstarted the UK e-commerce industry

Its 25 years since the release of OS/2 2.0 by IBM and this blog post about a previously thought lost beta build of OS/2 2.0 being rediscovered caused me to remember when i ran the operating system. This was back in the early 1990s when i was at university doing a software engineering degree. Most people were happy with Windows 3.1 and DOS, with a 32-bit version of Windows on the horizon. But i wanted something more, i wanted something now.

My PC back then was a rather lowly Unisys 386SX-33 with just 4MB of RAM. I had an external CD-ROM and was thinking of running OS/2. For graduating my parents bought me a copy of OS/2 3.0 Warp in 1995 and a 4MB RAM upgrade. Thus i installed Warp on my Unisys and it ... worked great actually. Perfectly usable, not lightening fast but worked great for what i needed. I even wrote my first webpages on it, viewing them in Web Explorer.

A few months later in 1995 i started my first job at TW2, a very early UK web design agency. The big plan was to create one of the UK's first (maybe the first - Amazon was only a couple of months old at the time after all) e-commerce website. I needed a web server on my work PC to develop the site... well Apache and Perl ran on OS/2 so i installed that on the PC and build a demonstrator website for this new and back then fairly unknown concept of selling things on the internet.

My prototype website was then demonstrated in late 1995 to the heads of the UK arms of software companies like Adobe and Microsoft to get buy in to the project in London. The demonstration wowed the crowd as a web store was searched and items were added to a basket! All running on work PC running OS/2 (though the actual live site when built in 1996 ran on Irix).

So OS/2 Warp helped start British e-commerce, and thats nice.

Saturday 8 April 2017

Tackley and the Oxford Canal

I went to Tackley in Oxfordshire today, next stop on the line from Heyford. The main reason was to walk some more of the Oxford Canal which i did though its a bit of a walk from the station unlike Heyford which was a case of literally stepping off the platform onto the towpath! I walked the canal up to Enslow in glorious sunshine. The canal here reminds me a bit of the Stratford Canal North of Wootton Wawen, in good weather there is nowhere else i'd rather be. Its a wonderful part of the world for sure. You can see my canal photos here. And some photos taken at Tackley station here.

Tackley station is interesting, to cross between platforms you have to use a foot crossing but a footbridge. The non-stopping trains pass through here near 100mp/h so although they do sound their horn you only have a few seconds to get out of the way!

Thursday 6 April 2017

Leaving Woking

A very colourful SWT 450 departing from Woking. SWT will cease to exist in the Summer though the old livery will no doubt remain for some time.

Wednesday 5 April 2017

IBM 1403 Printer

This is an interesting feature on the IBM 1401 computer system which revolutionised computing in the early 1960s and its (or strictly the follow-on 1460's) printer the IBM 1403 which could reach 1, 100 lines per minute. An impact printer of course so rather loud. I remember the printers connected to the (Pr1me) minicomputer at university, they were so fast yet also sounded like a chain saw.

The printers were also remote, in another building from the actual computer of course. If they fouled up you never knew (if you were changing the paper) if a print job sent from someone else would come through and send everything into chaos. That counted as excitement back then.

Anyway the 1403 was fast because it was a line printer. A chain of metal embossed characters (each character on the chain 5 times) continuously revolved and the paper was pushed against the relevant character (and an ink ribbon) by tiny hammers to print a character [1]. Hence the speed... and the noise. The article comes with an interesting video history of the 1401. You can see it below too.

[1] Barry Wilkinson & David Horrocks, Computer Peripherals (Edward Arnold, 1987) p. 90

Monday 3 April 2017

Tie-ins (4) : The Sweeney 3: Regan and the deal of the century

The Sweeney 3: Regan and the deal of the century by Ian Kennedy Martin

So lets explore another Sweeney novel. I've skipped #2 as it appears to be set in New York and to be honest i want my Sweeney set in good old ultraviolent 1970s London. A good part of this book though is set in France. As with #1 this is a self-destructive loner Regan who fights against his own colleagues as much as the criminals. Again a shame as it was the bromance with Carter which really made the series to me and the Sergeant hardly appears in this one.

The story is well written but also of its time, casual racism and sexism rather jarring to a modern reader. The plot though is oddly relevant today as it involves a hard up West willing to flog anything they can to the Arabs. The French in this book wanted to sell nuclear technology, these days we've basically sold London to them.

Sunday 2 April 2017

Safety on the track

This is a fascinating video made by British Transport Films in the early 1950s advising London Transport workers on trackside safety. As you might imagine its not quite as health and safety conscious as things are now. Though the permanent way is still a dangerous place, lets hope health and safety regulations stay tight...