Friday 31 January 2020

Churches (49) : St Nicholas, Islip

Islip was the birthplace of Saint Edward the Confessor and he was (probably) baptised in the Oxfordshire village. However not in the church of St Nicholas which was built around 1200CE (Edward would have been baptised in about 1004CE). The church was built in the Early English and Decorated Gothic styles. An earlier church did exist on the site, built around 1065CE.

The chancel was rebuilt in 1780 and the whole church rebuilt and restored in 1861. The church is built from limestone ashlar and rubble. It has an aisled nave, chancel, vestry and a West tower.

Thursday 30 January 2020

BGLR : A new wagon

The BGLR's first new rolling stock of the year is this open wagon. It is the first Tillig-Bahn stock to join the railway and is rather nice too. It may join the engineering rake of wagons. Interestingly the wagon is dual gauge with the wheels adjustable to work on HOm (same scale but slightly wider gauge). So if ever the BGLR gets a HOm branch line in future we have some stock for it already!

Wednesday 29 January 2020

Restoring a 6502

Restoring a microchip is much like any other kind of restoration, just on a smaller scale. This website details how a circuit board found in a barn (literally stinking of cow manure) contained a rare early MOS 6502 CPU from May 1976. The 6502 was extracted from the board, cleaned up and still works!

The 6502 is one of the iconic early CPUs of the microcomputer revolution in the 1970s being first produced in 1975, powering the likes of the Apple II (my IIe seen below). Amazingly the CPU is still produced today and used in many embedded systems.

Tuesday 28 January 2020

Staffordshire Places (4) : Codsall

The village of Codsall is in South Staffordshire. The village is mentioned in the Domesday Book, though only six people were recorded as having lived there then! Codsall's economy has remained mostly agriculturally based. There are still farm fields around the village though most of the over 7,500 inhabitants these days do not work on farms, rather they work elsewhere most notable Wolverhampton which is not far away to the South East.

Codsall has had a church since Norman times though since the arrival of the railway in 1849, and especially post-war, the centre of the village has moved away somewhat from the church as the village has expanded.

Sunday 26 January 2020

Derby with a difference

Obviously i got to Derby quite often but usually it is to stay on the station. Yesterday however i thought it was high time i actually ventured into the town itself. Derby surprised me with it's multitude of churches and it's rather fine cathedral. It is a fine city indeed. You can see my photos from Derby here.

Friday 24 January 2020

Churches (48) : St James the Great, Colwall

The church of St James the Great is over a kilometre to the South West of the centre of the Herefordshire village of Colwall which is near to the Malvern hills. There has a church on the site since Saxon times with the oldest parts of the current church, which dates from the 12th century, including the South doorway Norman. The church is built from grey, brown and red sandstone.

The South aisle dates from the 13th century. The tower is a mix of 14th and 15th centuries. The nave roof probably dates from the 16th century. A three bay chancel was added in the 19th century as was a North aisle for children from the grammar school.

Thursday 23 January 2020

Flickr-ing away?

Flickr has, for a long time, been one of the cornerstones of my online digital presence. This has especially been so as i have begun to travel around the country taking photos of... well anything and then blogging about it. I find Flickr vitally useful in finding anything among the tens of thousands of photos i have now taken. If i want some photos of a railway station or church, for example, its much easier to search through my photos online than try and find it on my Mac.

Therefore the doubts being expressed about the future of Flickr by it's current owners Smugmug have been worrying. If Flickr doesn't start paying fot itself then the service may cease to exist. Unfortunately the way they are aiming to try and do this is by large price rises. Prices have doubled since the last time i renewed my PRO subscription in 2018 and with more price rises on the way there was the offer for PROs to renew early at the old prices. Now my subscription wasn't due to expire until June but i decided to renew and now i no longer have to worry about it for just under thirty months.

That is if Flickr is still around then. There have been concerns about the services' future before especially towards the end of Yahoo's reign of error. Back then i began to take measures to prepare just in case Flickr died, i now have multiple back-ups (offline and online) of my photos. So if Flickr did die then i'd have the photos, though i'd lose all the metadata of course. Lets hope Smugmug can turn things around though i think how they have handled things leaves a lot to be desired...

It is hard to say for sure what the first photo I uploaded to Flickr back in 2006 was as i deleted some old ones but i think this rather fine picture of a bus is definitely one of the earliest.

Wednesday 22 January 2020

BGLR : Rolling stock plans for 2020

We are now making plans for which rolling stock we will aim to add to the BGLR fleet in 2020. In 2019 there was a new loco, a railcar, a heritage rake of coaches and some new wagons. In 2020 we are aiming for two new locomotives. One may be a steam locomotive and the other a shunter. As with anything though what we get depends on availability, which is often problematic with HOe which isn't as easy to get in the UK as scales like OO.

Although the coaching stock and freight stock fleets are well provided for we are still looking for good examples to augment the fleets. We will be looking at different types to add to the variety of train formations. Infact a new wagon might be arriving pretty soon.

We will also be looking for a locomotive for the HO scale tram line and a suitable wagon for engineering duties. Lets see how the year develops...

Tuesday 21 January 2020

Staffordshire Places (3) : Stone

Stone is a market town located between Stafford and Stoke-on-Trent. There have been people living in the area since at least the Bronze Age with some sites around the current town dating to Roman times. The name Stone may come from the Old English stān (stone). Legend has it that a pile of stones was built here for the graves of two Christian martyrs, princes killed by their pagan father for converting though this probably isn't true.

A church was built in Stone in 670 over the sites of stones but this was later destroyed by the invading Danes. A replacement Augustinian priory was built in 1135 which survived until the eighteenth century. Stone was granted a market charter in 1251 by Henry III.

Like many places Stone existed quietly until new transport links bought an increase in trade and population. Stone is in the Trent valley and sat on a turnpike road. The Trent & Mersey Canal flows through Stone and indeed was the headquarters of the canal from it's opening until the office moved to Stoke. Stone has a railway station on the West Coast Main Line.

Sunday 19 January 2020

Wandering around the Wirral

I headed up to Liverpool yesterday with a detailed schedule for my visit, but late running trains and engineering works I didn't know about meant plan A had to be completely scrapped and plan B made up on the fly!

No worries though as plan B turned out pretty well. I headed over to the Wirral, visiting the rather fine model village of Port Sunlight and also the last two stations i have yet to visit on the Kirby branch of the Merseyrail network. I also managed to get to Edge Hill which is where my Dad did his train spotting many years ago! You can see my Port Sunlight and Lower Bebington photos here and my Mersey railway photos here.

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.

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.