Saturday 31 October 2020

Model Week : Passengers please

A week ago I received a large pack of HO scale sitting passengers. Therefore I would be finally able to let the Birches Green Light Railway's coaching stock fleet actually carry something around! The first coach to receive some patrons is the latest to arrive on the layout. The VIR coach to be precise. The other coaches will receive passengers when they are rotated back into the active fleet. The push pull coach seen below already has some people aboard, though I may add some more.

Friday 30 October 2020

Churches (83) : St Mary, Atherstone

The parish church of St Mary in the Warwickshire town of Atherstone has it's origin in a 12th century chapel. The chapel was, by the 16th century, neglected but had a revival in the following centuries and some quite extensive rebuilding. The tower was rebuilt in the late 1700s as an octagon. The church was rebuilt in 1849 when the current nave and North and South aisles were built.

The church also has a chancel and North and South transepts.

Wednesday 28 October 2020

Selling typewriters

The market for typewriters (new ones that is not vintage gear sold to obsessives like me by Etsy and eBay) is a bit small these days but back before the days of personal computers, typewriters were big business. Every office would have at least one secretary with a typewriter. 

I've always had a liking for typewriter adverts, here are four i've scanned from a calendar of "60s" adverts. More lovely typewriter adverts can be seen here.

Tuesday 27 October 2020

Story of the British Tram (3) : Heyday and decline

In Part 2 of this series we saw how after the introduction of the electric tram in the late nineteenth century it quickly replaced the horse tram and by the early twentieth century there were over two hundred electric tram networks in the British Isles covering a considerable amount of route miles. However, the heyday of the tram was very short. Even by the 1920s tram networks were being closed or absorbed by larger concerns. So, what happened?

Maintaining a tram network, a light railway in all but name, was an expensive business. Many tram companies outside of the big cities had marginal finances and could not afford the ongoing cost of renewal as track, infrastructure and the trams themselves became life expired. Luckily there was a cheaper alternative, the motor bus. After the First World War motor technology, especially the diesel, had become sufficiently mature enough to become a viable alternative to the electric tram. Many tram networks were replaced by motor buses.

However, the tram was not finished yet. The larger municipal networks continued to develop their routes and bought in a new generation of trams in the late 1920s and 1930s which had more modern styling and improved facilities for passengers like the Blackpool Balloon Car and the London Feltham Tram. Competition with the bus was still fierce however. The advent of the Second World War, it's strain on the networks during the wartime conditions and the economic difficulties after the war was the final hammer blow for the electric tram. Even the large networks in the likes of Birmingham, Leeds and London began to be replaced by the bus. This was not a phenomenon unique to Britain, all around the world street tram networks were being closed down.

The tram was seen as yesterday's technology especially as car ownership rose. Of course, applying modern day hindsight, replacing electric transport with polluting vehicles and congestion nowadays seems an odd thing to do but at the time the car (and to a lesser extent the bus) was seen as the future. The railways were also being replaced by roads. With the final closure of the Glasgow network in 1962 the electric tram was limited only to Blackpool where it fulfilled a semi-public transport semi-heritage role. This seemed to be the end of the electric tram as part of the British transport story. However, the tram wasn't finished yet.

A preserved Birmingham Corporation tram

Later Liverpool trams

A Feltham tram

A Blackpool streamlined tram

Saturday 24 October 2020

Back to Beaconsfield

I have been to Beaconsfield once before, just over two years ago in fact. That time i visited the model village. Now this is in the "new" part of town which dates mostly from the early 20th century and later. So, today i visited the "old town", and very nice it is too with the usual timber framed buildings from the Tudor period and later. The church is rather special too with a grand tower. You can see my Beaconsfield photos here.

Friday 23 October 2020

Churches (82) : St Stephen, Redditch

The parish church of St Stephen in the centre of Redditch was built in 1845-5. It replaced an earlier chapel in the then-fast growing town (Redditch was a centre for needle manufacturing). The church was built from coursed sandstone rubble with an ashlar dressing and is in the decorated style.

The church has a North West tower, a five-bay aisled nave and a three bay chancel. The church was extended in 1893 which added chapels and a vestry.

Thursday 22 October 2020

Model Week : Showing the dust

As i dusted off my SLR last week (for the Hatton trip) i thought i would also take some photos of the layout. With the greater detail you get with a proper camera you can really see the dust! In layout news the new tramway siding has been glued down, the bogie goods wagon has returned to the layout. The three tourist coaches have gone into storage.

Tuesday 20 October 2020

Story of the British Tram (2) : Going electric

As we saw in part one of this series, horse tram networks spread quickly across the country in the second half of the nineteenth century. However, tram companies were keen to find an alternative method of traction to the horse which had a number of disadvantages (especially manure!) Steam, cable hauled and even compressed air were tried as alternatives to the horse but the method which saw the most success was the electric motor.

The story of electric railways goes back as far as 1842 and the battery locomotive Galvani, but it was not until the latter half of the century when the technology had improved to make the use of electricity viable. The first electric tram was operated in St Petersburg in 1875. The first electric tramway in Britain was the Volk's Electric Railway which opened in Brighton in 1883 (and is still open). The first electric street tram network was a conduit system along the Blackpool promenade which opened in 1885. Of course electric trams still run along this route.

There were various methods of getting the electricity to the tram. The earliest systems used live rails (like a model railway) but these were hazardous to pedestrians and animals of course! One variation of this was the stud contact where the tram would complete the circuit as it travelled over the studs - though this was also prone to accidents. Successful systems either used overhead lines or less commonly power conduits buried underneath the road surface. Nearly all electric tram systems used parallel electric transmission but the interesting Northfleet tramway used serial. 

Electric tram networks sprang up quickly across the country, either conversions of existing horse networks or new lines built especially for the electric service. Over two hundred separate networks existed across the British Isles. Nearly every decent sized British town and city, and some relatively small towns too, had electric trams. However, the electric tram had a new rival on the horizon, in the early decades of the twentieth century, the motor bus.

One of the original Blackpool trams from the 1880s

Blackpool & Fleetwood Crossbench tram from 1898

Derby Corporation tram from 1901

Chesterfield Corporation tram from 1903

Monday 19 October 2020

Copland, the mythical beast unveiled

Copland was one of Apple's biggest failures. It was an attempt to bring MacOS up-to-date in the early to mid 1990s but after several years of expensive development and project chaos, Apple was left with a mess which would crash even if you blinked too fast. Copland was cancelled, not even making it to a proper developer release and Apple looked elsewhere for the future, which ended up being MacOSX...

But Copland has been lost to time, or has it? A few builds did make it out into the wild and on this blog the sheer horror of build D7E1 is revealed (yes it crashes a lot). It did introduce a lot of technology which made it into subsequent versions of MacOS however. To me Copland is a bit of a mythical beast so seeing this video is like seeing footage of Bigfoot walking down Erdington High Street.

Sunday 18 October 2020

Model Week : Painting

The Dominie has now entered the painting stage. There was a short delay as I had run out of white paint! A number of new kits has also arrived over the last week or so so model making will continue into 2021.

Saturday 17 October 2020

Hanging around Hatton

Yesterday I went to Hatton. My plan was to go to the footbridge near to the station and take some photos of the railway line there with my Nikon (which has not seen any use this year so far). But when i was making my way there i was soon confronted by a rather unpleasant mud quagmire. I decided to return to the station and take my photos there instead! You can see my railway photos here. Plus you can see some canal photos i took with my iPhone here.

Friday 16 October 2020

Churches (81) : St John the Baptist, Peterborough

The church of St John the Baptist is a rebuilding (after a relocation) of the original 11th century church in the early 15th century. The church was dedicated in 1407CE. The church is close to Peterborough Cathedral and was intended for the normal people while the cathedral was limited to the monks! The church was nearly demolished after the Civil War though this, fortunately, was abandoned.

The church was greatly changed in a late 19th century rebuilding which added a new clerestory and galleries. The church has a West tower, an aisled nave and a chancel.

Thursday 15 October 2020

Keeping in Kidderminster

I have been to Kidderminster quite a few times over the last few years, however it has always been to visit the Severn Valley Railway. So, i have walked out of the mainline station across the carpark to the SVR station and that had been it for my exploration of this Worcestershire town! That changed yesterday, i went into the town centre. Kidderminster has a wonderful church which the canal runs next to. You can see my Kidderminster photos here, and photos of the canal here.

Tuesday 13 October 2020

Story of the British Tram (1) : Horse drawn

This new series will track the story of the British tram from horse drawn to electric trams, their downfall and rebirth in the modern day.

The use of rails or tracks for transportation purposes dates back to the Classical World as we saw in the series on the Earliest Railways. In the late 18th and early 19th century mineral carrying railways or tramroads (as they were often called) often unofficially carried passengers, usually just by letting them hitch a ride and sitting atop the coal or other mineral in the horse drawn wagon!

In 1807 the Swansea & Mumbles Railway became the first to officially carry passengers, these were carried in a horse drawn horsecar or tram. The tram owed much to contemporary stagecoach practice. Despite this early start the horse tram service closed in 1827 (it was restarted later) and it was not until 1860 before another horse tram service began in Birkenhead.

Many horse tram networks followed, they competed with the horse bus. The smoother ride offered by using rails giving them an advantage. By the late 19th century there were scores of systems across the country. However, the use of horse power carried a number of disadvantages in terms of expense, operational difficulties and time wasted. Horses needed to be changed regularly, as many as ten horses were needed for each tram car. Horse manure was also a problem, the tram companies being responsible for cleaning it up!

The advent of alternative propulsion systems for trams, most notably electric, saw the quick demise of the horse tram though some remained in service until the 1910s. The last horse tram in regular service remained in use in Northern Ireland until 1957 but nowadays they can only be seen as heritage tourist attractions.
Horse bus and horse tram at the LT Museum, notice the similarities

A Leamington & Warwick Tramway horse tram, they later switched to electric

Chesterfield Tramways Company Number 8

Monday 12 October 2020

Another canal walk at Rugeley

I am not working this week so headed up today to Rugeley. A couple of months ago i walked the Trent & Mersey Canal up there. Today i returned and went in the opposite direction! I had a long walk through and beyond Rugeley, the towpath was nice and firm most of the way which is always good especially after wet weather! You can see my canal photos here.

Sunday 11 October 2020

Along the Erewash

I've been to the Erewash Canal in Long Eaton once before, that time i walked along it up to where the canal meets the mighty river Trent. This time i went in the other direction and into the centre of Long Eaton itself. You can see my photos here.

Saturday 10 October 2020

Back to Long Eaton

Today I headed up to Derbyshire for the first time since March. I returned to Long Eaton which I have visited once before. That time I only did a canal walk up to the river Trent, this time i took the canal in the opposite direction and reached the centre of this interesting little town with a number of fascinating old buildings. Canal photos will be discussed in a separate post, but my photos from Long Eaton can be seen here.