Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Golden Age (10) : The Secret of High Eldersham

The Secret of High Eldersham by Miles Burton starts off a typical detective murder story in a small East Anglian village. As its a Golden Age story the police inspector is assisted by his friend who is of course an enthusiastic amateur. So far so good... then suddenly we are in a tale of witchcraft, black magic and forbidden rituals.

A few chapters later the story changes tack again (actually literally) as it becomes a mystery set in the littorals near the village, in lagoons along the coast.

All these aspects of the story are linked and come together reasonably well in the end. The pacing goes a bit off at times and the genre switching can make you think the author was a bit confused but this was one of his earlier novels. The amateur detective Merrion went on to appear in fifty nine further stories!

Monday, 17 September 2018

A tale of two Warwicks

Today I travelled to Warwick Parkway railway station, to gather some imagery which will one day feature on my Calling At stations blog of course. The main reason though was to join the Grand Union Canal which is next to the railway line and walk into Warwick itself (the Parkway station is in Budbrooke).

In the town I went to the other Warwick station (and took some photos there as well of course). So a tale of two Warwick (stations), you can see my railway photos here. You can see my canal photos here.

Sunday, 16 September 2018


My original plan for the weekend was to go to Bedford on Saturday but for various reasons that never happened. Instead I went to Evesham instead on Sunday. I have been to Evesham once before, when I was at university but that was about thirty years ago! Evesham is a nice old town with medieval and Civil War buildings though I was more interested on this brief trip by walking along the Avon. To get from Worcester to Evesham I went on the new GWR Class 800 train, which was rather nice. You can see my photos here.

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

Golden Age (9) : The Pit-Prop Syndicate

The two most common themes in Golden Age detective literature were the enthusiastic amateur detective and the steady plodding police professional. Ingeniously Freeman Wills Croft has combined both in this tale of smuggling and murder.

The first part of the book (the two parts are actually titled "The Amateurs" and "The Professionals") describes how a wine merchant touring South West France comes across a mysterious English lorry which for an unfathomable reason has changed it's number plate. As he investigates further with his friend he discovers mysterious goings on in a remote yard and a coaster that regularly travels to England. Are they smuggling brandy?

Eventually in part 2 the police are called in as the plot is far too dangerous for our amateurs, especially after one of the gang members is murdered in London. A complicated plot is uncovered by our Scotland Yard detective involving secret tunnels, dedicated telephone lines and other mysterious goings on. It can be quite intricate a plot at times, maybe even rather dense but enjoyable in how it all comes together. Freeman Wills Croft really did know how to write an engaging crime novel.

Monday, 10 September 2018

North London tubes

As well as visiting the RAF Museum on Saturday I also did some train travelling in North London. After the museum (which is best reached via the Northern Line) i headed up to the terminus of the line at Edgware. Now the Northern terminus of the Jubilee Line is only a couple of kilometres walk away in Stanmore so I walked over to it (to be honest it was further than it looked on the map!) You can see my photos here.

Sunday, 9 September 2018

RAF Museum London

I went down to London yesterday to visit the RAF Museum in North London. It is a very impressive site, similar in scale and quality of collection to the other RAF museum up at Cosford. I particularly enjoyed seeing the Heinkel He162 Salamander there, the insane project in coming up with a jet fighter in a few months at the end of World War 2 always fascinating me, especially as the resulting aircraft was somehow pretty decent. You can see my photos here.

Thursday, 6 September 2018

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

Birmingham Snow Hill in 1914

Birmingham Snow Hill, one of the city's three railway stations, was the Great Western Railway's main station in the city. The station still exists nowadsys but it is very different to how it used to be. These three photographs are from the Railway Times in 1914 (via Archive.org) and show the station just following a major rebuild.

The station was closed in 1972 and became a car park for a while until it was finally rebuilt and re-opened in 1987, though looks very different now. It is a shame that both Snow Hill and New Street have lost their overall roofs. At least Moor Street is still close to it's original state. More old photos from Snow Hill (from the 1950s this time and showing the lines just outside the station) can be seen here.

Tuesday, 4 September 2018

British Airliners (5) : Vickers Viscount

The Vickers Viscount was one of the most successful British airliners of the post-war period, taking advantage of the new turboprop engines developed in the late 1940s by Rolls Royce.

First flight: 1948
Withdrawn: 2009
Number built: 445
The Viscount first flew in 1948 and entered service in 1953 being the first turboprop airliner to enter service and the first turbine powered airliner to carry fare paying passengers. It was designed for short to medium haul journeys on routes with lower passenger numbers. Originally it had a fairly short fuselage and could carry up to thirty two passengers but later versions were extended. The Viscount had a pressurised cabin and large cabin windows and proved popular with passengers and airlines.

The then new turboprop propulsion proved it's superiority of traditional pistol engines and despite some initial scepticism from airlines soon proved a hit and four hundred and forty five were eventually built. It had a long service life, finally leaving airline service in Britain in 1996 but continued in service elsewhere especially in Africa. The final Viscount flight was in early 2009 in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
In service with British Midland in the early 1980s at Birmingham Airport

Preserved Viscount at Brooklands

Monday, 3 September 2018

Nightingale / Leawood Arm, Cromford Canal

The Nightingale (or Leawood) Arm of the Cromford Canal in Derbyshire was built by Peter Nightingale (the great-uncle of Florence) to reach his cotton mills and lead smelters [1]. The canal arm, which opened in 1802, reached Lea Wharf, later extending to Lea Mills before being cut back due to disputes over water rights. The arm was in use up into the 1930s but fell into disuse and was closed like the rest of the canal during the Second World War.

At the junction of the arm and main canal stands Aqueduct Cottage built for the lockkeeper who looked after the lock at the entrance to the arm. The cottage was lived in until 1970 [2] but as an unoccupied building has sadly fallen victim to neglect and vandalism and is now a ruin.

[1] Hugh Potter, The Cromford Canal (Tempus, 2003) p. 106
[2] Ibid. p. 27

Saturday, 1 September 2018

Butlers Lane

Just a short railway adventure this weekend, up to Butlers Lane which was the last station I had yet to visit on the Northern half of the Cross City Line. It isn't far away, indeed i was back within a few hundred metres of the station later in the day (in the car this time) when i did the weekly supermarket shop!

Now I need to complete the remaining stations on the Southern half of the line, including the new terminus of Bromsgrove. As a bonus today I travelled on a West Midlands Railway train in the new orange livery for the first time. It looks really good.

Friday, 31 August 2018

Scouse underground

A Merseyrail train arrives at Hamilton Square, next it will pass under the Mersey.

Wednesday, 29 August 2018


Yesterday I went to Beaconsfield in Buckinghamshire to visit the Bekonscot model village. What a lovely place this is too, the model village has been open for nearly ninety years. Originally it was a hobby in someone's garden and is now a tourist attraction with thousands of visitors a year! The model village has a great variety of models ranging from castles and churches to an extensive railway, the docks, even a cable car. You can see my photos here.

Tuesday, 28 August 2018

British Airliners (4) : BAC One-Eleven

The short-haul BAC One-Eleven is one of the most successful British airliners. Unlike most types covered in this series it sold a healthy amount and not just to the British state owned airlines and air force. Although no longer in passenger service two are known to remain in service with Northrop-Grumman as test beds.

First flight: 1963
Withdrawn: Early 2000s (except
for testbeds)
Number built: 244
Development of the One-Eleven began in 1956 with a thirty-two seat turbojet powered design known as the Hunting H.107. The design was later amended to use turbofans and the passenger capacity was increased to fifty nine. However the project, by then under the umbrella of the British Aircraft Corporation, was still considered not ready for market. Finally a stretched version with eighty seats gained favour and became the BAC 111 (later One-Eleven).

The aircraft first flew in 1963 a year before it's major rival the Douglas DC-9. Despite the crash of the prototype customers were keen on the One-Eleven with a healthy order book when it entered service in 1965. Nearly two hundred and fifty One-Elevens were built, about half sold to US airlines. As the One-Eleven was not designed to the tight criteria of the state airlines like the VC10 and Trident it had a much wider appeal with customers. Production continued into the 1980s with the final aircraft being built under licence in Romania.

The One-Eleven remained in widespread service until the 1990s but began to fall foul to more stringent noise regulations and the last were withdrawn from airline service in the early 2000s.
In British Airways livery

Two views of a preserved One-Eleven at Brooklands

This aircraft ended it's days as a research test bed

Monday, 27 August 2018

Adverts of the 70s/80s... an occasional series

A new irregular series delving into the mysterious world of 1970s and 1980s print advertising.

Sunday, 26 August 2018

Mersey rails

Back to Merseyside just a week after my last trip, though this time on my own so i could get some decent rail thrash in. My principle objective was to go to Maghull North, currently the newest railway station in the land. Objective two was the Wirral Transport Museum which unfortunately didn't open until too late so I just went to four more new (for me) stations instead. You can see all the railway photos from the two trips here.

Boeing 707

Barring varnish Project #083 is now completed. The Boeing 707 model has been troublesome, never have i know a kit so badly moulded! I also had a disaster while applying the decals so the finished article is rather unprotypical but doesn't look that bad!

Tuesday, 21 August 2018

British Airliners (3) : Scottish Aviation Twin Pioneer

The Scottish Aviation Prestwick Pioneer was a single engined short take off and landing (STOL) light transport that saw a deal of success and served with the RAF and other airforces in the 1950s and 1960s. Scottish Aviation designed a larger twin-engined transport, calling it the Twin Pioneer.

First flight: 1955
Withdrawn: 1968 (RAF military service)
Number built: 87
Like the smaller Pioneer the Twin Pioneer was a STOL transport and able to operate off a runway just a few hundred metres long.

Although military operators including the RAF and Royal Malaysian Air Force (with whom it was the first type they operated) were a major customer for the Twin Pioneer civil orders also came in too. It was popular with small airlines who operated off rough unprepared runways and also used by oil and mineral survey teams and government surveyors. It was retired by the RAF in 1968 though continued to be used elsewhere for a number of years.
Preserved RAF XL993 at RAF Cosford

The Twin Pioneer had a triple vertical tail

Rear view

Monday, 20 August 2018

Telephone Jukebox

Whilst watching the 1942 movie X Marks the Spot the other day I was taken by surprise by a rather interesting piece of technology in the movie. In a bar a man walks up to a large jukebox in the corner and puts in a coin. Instead of manually choosing a record he spoke into a microphone and was connected to an operator in a central office. Then his choice of record was found and put on a turntable, the music then piped to the jukebox in the bar.

These Telephone Jukebox systems ran in a number of US cities for a while in the mid-twentieth century including Manhattan (setting in the film). Music was transmitted over premium quality phone lines to the jukebox and while not what we would consider high quality these days was probably sufficient bandwidth for a 78rpm record.

Rock-Ola was the producer of such a device, the rather fine looking Mystic Music Jukebox. The central office served up to thirty jukeboxes. The Rock-Ola boxes also had up to twenty records stored inside it locally so users wouldn't always have to use the remote service (the machine in the movie seems to have a list on the front of it, maybe these were the records stored on it). The key advantage of a telephone jukebox being, of course, the much wider range of music that was available, from a few dozen held locally to a few hundred [1].

One of the most successful of these devices was the Multiphone by Kenneth C. Shyvers which at one stage had eight thousand machines in use. This system required two dedicated phone lines, one to speak to the operator (based in Seattle) and the other for the music [2]. These systems began to appear in the US in the late 1930s and survived in cities like Washington until the late 1950s. By then the improved technology of 45rpm singles (which of course had better sound quality than 78s and also were more compact) rendered the Telephone Jukebox (which wasn't a cheap system to run) obsolete.
Scenes from the movie

The operators look for a record 

A considerable collection of 78s

[1] Barry Ulavov, "The Jukes take over swing", American Mercury (October 1940) p. 177
[2] Gert J. Almind, Coin-Op Telephone Music <http://juke-box.dk/gert-telephone-music.htm>

Saturday, 18 August 2018

Back to Merseyside

I went back up to Merseyside for the first time in awhile. I wanted to see more of Waterloo Marina which apparently i was taken to in a push chair when it was opened by Princess Anne in the early 1970s (not that I remember anything about that!) I'm sure it has changed a bit over the years. I also visited a number of stations including Birkenhead Central for the first time. You can see my railway photos here.