Saturday, 18 January 2020

Crossing the canal in Kidsgrove

I like videos were the railway crosses the canal, here a Northern train crosses over the Trent & Mersey in Kidsgrove.

Thursday, 16 January 2020

Mel and the LGP-30 drum memory

A famous piece of computer folklore is the story of Mel, a "real programmer" who was able to perform amazing feats on an old computer by taking advantage of an obscure hardware feature to create self-modifying code. Mel Kaye was in fact a real person as were the computers mentioned in the story, the RPC-4000 and the LGP-30.

The computers were developed in the 1950s as joint ventures between Librascope / General Precision Equipment and the Royal McBee Corporation (under whose name the computers were sold). The Royal McBee LGP-30 is pretty much forgotton these days but in it's day was a rather notable small (by the standards of the day) computer mainly used for scientific purposes. It was the size of a desk and included a console typewriter (no screens though you could add a printer). The computer pre-dated the microchip era of course, instead it used vacuum tubes and diodes. It also had a magnetic drum for memory (a hardware quirk of which Mel famously took advantage of). The drum gave the LGP-30 4K of 32-bit words of memory. The LGP-30 did not have RAM like a modern computer and only ran at 120kHz (kilohertz not megahertz) however it was fast enough to perform up to four hundred calculations per second.

The LGP-30 had a number of notable users, including the metrologist Edward Lorenz who used it to model weather patterns. His work on the computer, howing how small differences in data could lead to large differences in forecast led him to develop the butterfly effect and chaos theory.

Wednesday, 15 January 2020

BGLR : Track plans

The planned main board extension will be a 30 x 90cm board which will host stabling in the backscene. Although it may turn out slightly different in reality a track plan created in Railmodeller indicates it may be possible to have up to four sidings which, with a couple of isolation section, could hold up to six locomotives.

One problem is the bookcase which it is intended to support the board is slightly too high. It is almost the same height as the main board which is fine until you take into account the thickness of the wood. However it may be possible to use thin wood or board. Work will take place on the extension later in the year hopefully.

Tuesday, 14 January 2020

Churches (47) : St Lawrence, Long Buckby

The church of St Lawrence is the parish church of Long Buckby in Northamptonshire. The church has existed since medieval times, possibly since 1280s when the current market place was laid down. The church has a West tower, a nave, chancel and aisles (North and South). The church is made from coursed ironstone rubble and ashlar.

The church was restored in the nineteenth century with the aisles being gothicised.

Monday, 13 January 2020

Staffordshire Places (2) : Fazeley

Fazeley is a small town on the Southern edge of Staffordshire and border with Warwickshire. The town is on the outskirts of Tamworth. The first mention of Fazeley dates from the twelfth century and the name may have Saxon origins. The town is situated on the Roman road Watling Street.

Originally Fazeley was part of the manor of Drayton, once the home of Sir Robert Peel. The manor has now gone but the name lives on as Drayton Manor theme park! Fazeley later became a parish of Tamworth, after 1894 having it's own parish council. Fazeley became a town in 1975.

Fazeley gives it's name to the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal which joins the Coventry Canal in Fazeley. The nearby railway station of Wilnecote was known as Wilnecote & Fazeley until 1904.

Sunday, 12 January 2020

BGLR : Into 2020 with the BGLR

There hasn't been a lot of action on the Birches Green Light Railway recently but there are big plans for 2020. Work will continue on the tramway with the aim of getting it fully operational this year and not, as it is now, a bit of a dumping ground! The big project however will be a small extension to the main board using a bookcase as a base (luckily the bookcase is almost the same height as the layout main board). This will allow for extra stabling space in the backscene and maybe mean there is no longer a need to rotate the active locomotive fleet.

Saturday, 11 January 2020

Hartford to Greenbank

The second rail adventure of the year was a return to the North, a bit further than last week. I went up to Hartford on the West Coast Main Line in Cheshire. I took some photos of the rather nice parish church of Hartford and also the nearby station of Greenbank just inside Northwich. Greenbank was unstaffed, a bit uncared for and basic: just the kind of station i love to be honest! You can see my railway photos here.

Friday, 10 January 2020

Tuesday, 7 January 2020

Churches (46) : St Michael, Budbrooke

The parish church of St Michael in Budbrooke, near Warwick, dates from the twelfth century. The church is fairly small and built in the Norman style with a West tower, nave and a chancel to the East. The latter was rebuilt and enlarged around 1400CE. The tower was also a thirteenth century addition, which was reconstructed in the seventeenth century according to an inscribed date (1668CE).

The North doorway is a surviving example of the church's Norman origin, like many medieval churches there was rebuilding and restoration in the nineteenth century.

Monday, 6 January 2020

Staffordshire Places (1) : Penkridge

Penkridge is a town in South Staffordshire near to Stafford. People have been living in the area since the Bronze Age and there was also a Roman settlement and fort in the area. Penkridge was first mentioned in 958, though had probably existed for some time beforehand. It was a settlement in the kingdom of Mercia.

Penkridge's early importance was due to the church of St Michael which was a collegiate church with a chapel royal set aside for use by the king. The town grew economically after the reign of Henry III who relaxed the restrictions on land use around Cannock Chase near the town. The town began to have a weekly market and was famous for it's horse fair.

Like many small towns Penkridge grew in size and economic importance following the arrival of new transport links. Penkridge station is a stop on the West Coast Main Line, the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal also passes nearby. In more modern times nearby motorway links have seen the town population greatly increase.

Sunday, 5 January 2020

Waterways of Kidsgrove

The two canals which flow through Kidsgrove are quite something. The Trent & Mersey flows through the town, entering via the Harecastle Tunnel - once the longest tunnel in the country and still one of the longest. Near the railway station the Macclesfield Canal branches off from the Trent & Mersey (though some call this a branch of the other canal) and before very long the two canals cross in a rather spectacular aqueduct! You can see my Trent & Mersey Canal photos here and the Macclesfield Canal here.

Saturday, 4 January 2020

Kicking things off in Kidsgrove

So let us begin the 2020 adventures. The first was up to Kidsgrove in North Staffordshire. I had a number of nice surprises there. The station was at a junction so had four platforms and plenty going on. The town's canals were also rather splendid but we'll cover that in another post. Although i always do some preparation before i go somewhere new i do like to leave things a bit up in the air so i can have some surprises.

You can see my photos from Kidsgrove station and town here. The year's adventures are off to a great start!

Wednesday, 1 January 2020

Review of 2019 : A year of rail travel

At the start of the year i decided to keep a spreadsheet of all the different types of train i was going to travel on in 2019. I recorded the type of rolling stock and the company operating it. In total i travelled on two hundred and forty trains in 2019, plus a couple of score more if you include preserved trains and the likes of the tube.

If we are to analyse the journies taken (unfortunately) there are few surprises. The railway companies used are pretty much as you expect for someone who lives in Birmingham! The top four companies were West Midlands Railway, Chiltern Railway, Cross Country and London Northwestern.

Similarly the types of train also holds no surprises with the types used locally like the Class 323 and 170 dominating. I will create another spreadsheet for 2020 and in a year's time we will see if there are any changes!