Tuesday 29 June 2021

Shropshire Places (1) : Shifnal

Shifnal in the East of Shropshire dates from at least the 7th century where it was known as Idsall and settled by the Angles. Shifnal was mentioned in the Domesday Book and the parish church of St Andrew has a surviving Norman chancel though was built on the site of a Saxon church. Shifnal was granted a charter to become a market town by King Henry III.

The town was devastated by a fire in 1591 which destroyed many buildings in the town and damaged the church. Queen Elizabeth I sent money for the town's rebuilding.

In latter years Shifnal became known for one of the biggest bank frauds during the reign of Queen Victoria when a director and staff stole the equivalent of £16 million.

Shifnal's railway station was opened in 1849 by the Great Western Railway.

Monday 28 June 2021

Time for a new watch

For the last few years I have had a Swatch but it was starting to get a bit shabby so time to get a new watch. I decided it was time to get a smart watch, an Apple Watch SE in fact. I like the fact I can see what my heart beat is and hopefully it will give me more accurate activity reporting than my phone does (as the watch should be with me for longer). It is very nice, and space grey like my Macs of course.

Sunday 27 June 2021

Along the canal.. and more

Yesterday I did my first canal walk for some time when i returned to the Stratford Canal at Whitlocks End and had a walk in both directions, covering a stretch between the edge of Shirley/Yardley Wood down to Earlswood. You can see my canal photos here.

I also took some photos in Dickens Heath which is a rather strange place, a new village though everything is in a rather bland and controlled "pseudo-heritage" style which i'm not that keen of to be honest. Of more interest was a visit to Bordesley station. This is only served by one scheduled train a week and so is hard to visit but now i have.

Wednesday 23 June 2021

Model Week : Falcon and new wagons

The Birches Green flagship Falcon has returned to the active fleet, replacing Growler which has now gone into reserve. It is likely the newest switcher in the fleet Boco will also be rotated soon by New Plymouth. There is also a new wagon on the layout, a double bogie open wagon.

Tuesday 22 June 2021

Cathedrals (10) : Birmingham

The cathedral church of St Philip in Birmingham was built as a parish church in 1711-15. It was promoted to cathedral status in 1905. The church was designed by Thomas Archer in the Baroque style, inspired by Italian churches Archer has seen on visits to the country in the late 1600s. The church was opened and consecrated in 1715 though the tower was not completed until 1725.

The cathedral's nave has five-bay arcades. The chancel was enlarged in the 1880s. The cathedral was built from brick faced by Warwickshire stone from Archer's own quarry. However, the cathedral had to be refaced in the 1880s due to the softness of the original stone used.

Monday 21 June 2021

Sunday 20 June 2021


After last weekend's adventures around London, this weekend i stayed in the Midlands. I went to Wellington, a market town in Shropshire that is now part of Telford. The station is rather nice, past glories meant it is rather bigger than needed nowadays but that makes it interesting of course. You can see my photos here.

Friday 18 June 2021

London Trip Day 3

The final full-day of my London trip had less of a railway focus, though still included six new stations! I also visited Woolwich and walked underneath the Thames via the Woolwich Foot Tunnel. It was nice to spend some time next to a waterway, i haven't had much time to do that lately. You can see my Woolwich photos here and other Day 3 photos here.

Thursday 17 June 2021

London Trip Day 2

Day 2 of the London trip with no less than fourteen new stations visited! I started in South London in Clapham and later crossed over to the North East of London, Islington and beyond. You can see my photos here

Wednesday 16 June 2021

Model Week : Energising the MPD

There has been some work done on the Shard End N gauge layout. Using the switches recently replaced on Birches Green we have built a little two road motive power depot (or just a couple of short sidings anyway). To power these required a little bit of soldering and carpentry. 

Tuesday 15 June 2021

Cathedrals (9) : York Minster

York Minster is one of the largest cathedrals in Europe and the seat of the third most important office in the Church of England. A wooden church was first built on the site in 627CE to baptise Edwin the King of Northumbria. A stone church was completed a few years later but fell into decay within a few decades and was destroyed in a fire in 714. The church was rebuilt on a larger scale though suffered a number of times due to the turmoil of the late Saxon period.

The church was rebuilt in the Norman style in 1080. The church was rebuilt and modified in the Gothic style in the following century. Building continued until 1472. The church suffered during the Civil War, Reformation and from a number of fires including a serious fire in 1984 which destroyed the roof of the South transept.

The church has a cruciform plan with North and South transepts. The church has the widest Gothic nave in England and two towers at the West end of the church. The 15th century central tower was one of the last parts of the church to be built.

Monday 14 June 2021

London Trip Day 1

Late last week I returned to London for the first time since 2019, my target was to do a lot of train and tube travel and, if possible, visit nearly twenty new stations. An ambitious target of course. In the event I managed twenty six and could have done quite a few more! 

On the first day I headed up to Wembley Central firstly (after arriving at London Marylebone), this was the last station on the Bakerloo Line i had yet to visit.

Afterwards I visited some stations on the Jubilee Line, i completed the stations on the Jubilee Line Extension with their impressive architecture. You can see my Day 1 London rails photos here.

Wednesday 9 June 2021

Model Week : Testing the goods yard

The re-laid goods yard with the HOe switches have not been stuck (or fixed) down yet. A couple of goods trains have been tested on the track and all is fine. Fixing will happen soon!

Tuesday 8 June 2021

Cathedrals (8) : Worcester

The magnificent cathedral at Worcester has early Norman origins with work starting on the cathedral in 1084 but not finishing until the early 16th century. However, this replaced an earlier building with dated from 680. No remains of this first cathedral have survived.

The cathedral contains a number of different architectural styles from early Norman to Perpendicular Gothic. The former survives in the cathedral's crypt. The cathedral has two transepts which cross the nave. The building has a chapter house and a cloister. The central tower once had a spire though this has now gone. The cathedral contains King John's tomb, other burials include Prime Minster Stanley Baldwin.

Sunday 6 June 2021


Yesterday I headed to Spondon, in the East of Derby. A fine place it is too with a 14th century church and some great views of Derby in the valley below from atop a bridge which crosses a main road. You can see my photos here.

Thursday 3 June 2021

Model Week: Wagon and track

A new wagon has joined the Birches Green freight fleet, this is another Liliput open wagon. We already have a few of these, two are permanent members of the departmental fleet and fitted with track cleaners. This new wagon will be part of the general freight pool. We've also bought two proper HOe switches and used them to replace the N gauge ones in the freight yard. The N gauge switches are being used on the N gauge layout. 

We still have two N gauge switches on Birches Green but replacing them would cause too much upheaval as already ballasted track would have to be lifted and this would be a colossal mess. What we'll do instead is look for ways to hide the visible N gauge sleepers.

Tuesday 1 June 2021

Cathedrals (7) : Coventry

Coventry cathedral is one of the most extraordinary buildings in the country, though that can be said to have been thanks to the Blitz! Coventry's first cathedral was built in 1095CE but was demolished during the Reformation, the only medieval cathedral to suffer this fate. The second cathedral was begun in the late 14th century and was a parish church dedicated to St Michael, one of the largest parish churches in England with one of the tallest spires. It was elevated to cathedral status in 1918.

In 1940 the cathedral was almost destroyed by German bombers, only the tower, spire and parts of the outer wall survived. Work on a new cathedral began in 1956 next to the remains of the old cathedral. The new cathedral had a Modernist design and the juxtaposition of this superb structure next to the remains of the old cathedral is poignant and forward thinking. The result is a building that truly captures the imagination and spirit of remembrance and reconciliation.