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Withdrawn: Early 2000s (except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in widespread service until the 1990s but began to fall foul to more stringent noise regulations and the last were withdrawn from airline service in the early 2000s.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 <>

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.

Friday 17 August 2018

Hillman Avenger

The Hillman Avenger was a small family car built by Hillman, Chrysler and Talbot between 1970 and 1981. The car was designed by Rootes and released under its Hillman marque, though Rootes itself had been taken over by Chrysler in the late 1960s and the car was released in the USA as the Plymouth Cricket (the world of car marques was especially complicated in the 1970s!) The Avenger took its styling cues from the latest US car designs though was in many ways technically conservative (for example sticking with a four speed gearbox instead of moving to a five speed). The Avenger was well received by the press and public and considered superior to its rival the Morris Marina. It also competed with the Ford Escort and Vauxhall Viva.

After 1976 the Avenger became a Chrysler proper as the Hillman marque was retired but in 1979, following the sale of Chrysler Europe to PSA, the Avenger was rebadged again as a Talbot! Time was running out for the car however as production only continued until 1981 in the UK. The Avenger was also built abroad, even appearing with a Volkswagen badge in Argentina. The Avenger was a popular car with the public and three quarters of a million were sold. Technically and conceptually the car was perfect for the 1970s though suffered from poor build quality and corner cutting to save money, however the Avenger was not alone in suffering from these problems of course.

The Avenger below is preserved at Coventry Transport Museum where it helps to demonstrate the production lines which enabled mass production of motorcars.

Wednesday 15 August 2018

Tuesday 14 August 2018

British Airliners (2) : Bristol Britannia

The Bristol 175 Britannia was a fine aircraft once the problems with it were finally sorted out, but by then it had been over taken by the jet airliner.

First flight: 1952
Withdrawn: Early 1990s
Number built: 85
The Britannia was designed as a medium-to-long haul airliner for empire routes. It had an advanced fuselage design and was powered with the new Bristol Proteus turboprop. The Britannia first flew in 1952. However the plane began to run into problems during it's development and testing especially with the new and unproven engines. No less than sixteen engine failures occurred during test flights. One of the prototypes crashed after an engine fire.

Finally, and after much modification, the Britannia gained it's airworthiness certificate in 1955 with the first two deliveries to BOAC just before the end of the year. Although the Britannia was lauded for it's quietness and speed the Boeing 707 was only a couple of years away and potential customers decided to wait. Only eighty were sold to airlines.

Although its front line airline service was fairly brief (BOAC retired the type in 1965) it did survive in service for many years, an airline in the Democratic Republic of Congo continuing to use the Britannia on cargo flights into the early 1990s.
Three views of former RAF Britannia XM497 at RAF Cosford

Saturday 11 August 2018

The Virtual Keypunch

If you want a taste of "old iron", classic computing before the days of microcomputers, floppy discs and the like try the Virtual Keypunch. Punched cards (and tape) were an early data storage method with the data being encoded using holes in a piece of card or other material (hence the need of a Keypunch to make the holes!) The holes and absense of them represented binary data.

Programs were encoded using the cards but because each card (if using the IBM 80 column card method) could only hold one line of code then you might need hundreds of cards for a serious program. All the cards had to be in order and there are plenty of tales of chaos caused by people dropping card stacks!

One benefit of this data storage method however was that if you did suffer such a catastrophic data corruption you could restore it by putting the cards back in order! Corrupted cards (bent for example) could also repunched and then replace the defective card.

By the 1970s computers were moving onto magnetic storage and visual display terminals though you could still find the keypunches and readers well into the 1990s. I remember at university in the early 1990s one room still had an IBM keypunch machine - though it was not in use. We used the far more up to date Volker-Craig dumb terminals to type our programs instead!

Thursday 9 August 2018

Bourne End Mill Arm

The Bourne End Mill Arm is a formerly navigable arm off the Grand Union Canal near Hemel Hempstead. The arm once served a water powered corn mill at Bourne End. A mill has been on the site since 1289 though the current mill building dates from the nineteenth century. It is now a hotel and restaurant. The arm itself if closed off to navigation by a footbridge and is a nature reserve.

Tuesday 7 August 2018

British Airliners (1) : Vickers VC10

This new series will looks at some of the many airliners produced by the British aircraft industry over the decades. Starting with the mightiest of them all...

Like many airliners the origins of the VC10 lay with a military type. In the early 1950s Vickers were approached by the government to design a military transport based on the Valiant bomber. The V.1000 was to be powered by four Rolls-Royce Conway turbofans, the first turbofans to enter service and later used on the Boeing 707-400 series [1]. The V.1000 was to have a civil version called the VC7 able to carry up to one hundred and twenty passengers. Unfortunately the V.1000 (and VC7) were cancelled 1955.

First flight: 1962
Withdrawn: 2013 (military service)
Number built: 54
However the British national airline (then BOAC) needed a 707 type aircraft for African and Asian routes. These routes usually had short runway and thus the VC10 was designed with excellent short field performance though as it was heavier and higher powered than the 707 and DC-8 it was comprised economy wise [2].

The VC10 reused a lot of the design of the VC7 including the Conway turbofans however it had them at the rear of the aircraft in two sideways pairs instead of buried in the wings. BOAC placed an order for thirty five aircraft.

The VC10 first flew from the Vickers factory at Weybridge in 1962. By then Vickers had designed an improved Super VC10 having more powerful engines and a longer fuselage. Production lasted until 1970 with only fifty four VC10s being built, most going to BOAC. Ironically the success of the 707 and DC-8 had seen many airports with shorter runways extend them for the American airliners thus negating the one key advantage of the VC10.

The VC10 remained in service with BOAC (later British Airways) until 1981. Fourteen ex-BA VC10s were sold to the RAF where they had a much longer service life as transports and tankers. The last RAF VC10 was retired in 2013. Ten VC10s have been preserved, though not all in complete condition.
Former British Airways G-ARVM at Brooklands Museum

Under the tail of A40-AB, former Omani VIP jet


Front fuselage of G-ARVM at Cosford

[1] Charles Kennedy, Boeing 707 (Haynes, 2018) p. 37
[2] Keith Wilson, Vickers/BAC VC10 (Haynes, 2016) p. 11

Sunday 5 August 2018


I felt like going to the seaside yesterday and having found out there was a unique railway running on Southend's pier that was the obvious place to go! Southend-on-Sea is a bit of a trek from Birmingham but was well worth going. The Southend Pier Railway is tremendous fun. The pier at Southend is apparently the longest pleasure pier in the world. You can see my photos here.

Wednesday 1 August 2018