Archive for December, 2012

The Newport Transporter Bridge

December 31, 2012

Time was when the River Usk, in South Wales was a major transport artery for tall ships. Any structure over the river needed to be at a high level. But at Newport, the land is fairly low and flat. The engineering needed to build a high bridge would have been massive. The solution was to suspend a moving platform below a high superstructure and move that platform from one side of the river to the other – a transporter bridge.


There’s the structure for the true nerd, the tower height is 242 feet and the moving deck hangs 177 feet below the horizontal beam. The platform, or gondola, has to travel some 645 feet.


There’s the laden gondola in transit.


There’s the rather pretty driving compartment and a driver at work.


The bridge was opened in 1906. My pictures date from 2002.

A scene from childhood

December 30, 2012

Here’s childhood in 1952. It isn’t me though. It’s my brother.


From the nerd point of view maybe the elderly trike is of interest. It was a venerable machine without a doubt and it passed to me when my brother moved on to two wheels. He was 20 months older than me. Sadly, he died young – as a young adult, already married and with two children.

My brother probably never knew – I certainly didn’t – how poor we were as a family. After the second war ended my dad decided to go to university so we were living on a student grant – Dad, mum and we three children. I learned after of the usual student panic. The grant had been spent by July and it would be the start of October before any more money arrived. But I had no idea’ I only knew that Dad did some private tuition – presumably enough to keep the wolf from the door. I had the happiest of childhoods.

The scene, by the way, is Ifield Green. There was clearly money for photography with processing all done at home.

Veules les Roses

December 29, 2012

Veules les Roses is a small village on the Normandy Coast. It boasts what it calls the shortest river in France. It’s a river and village where you can enjoy a stroll. They are good at renewable energy in France and have been for years. The little river Veules – just over a kilometre long, is well utilised for power, but also for agriculture, with watercress beds near its source and then wheels all the way down to the sea. This picture comes from my first visit in 1998. I must have bought a bigger memory card for my first digital camera for I was using high resolution which gave me images of 640 by 480 pixels.


Yes, it’s one of the wheels. It had been very wet and there was some flooding in the village.


That’s a road – not the stream.

I love looking at badly translated web sites about France. Here’s a bit from which probably makes perfect sense in French but not when computer translated.

His celebrities Veules-les-Roses keeps the memory of the great loyal heart of beautiful minds, the masters of French comedy and fine arts who were able to find – create and launch its beach.

(The site does admit that machine translation isn’t always wonderful!)

A Railway Carriage at Bembridge

December 28, 2012

I love the Isle of Wight. It was a place I visited in the 1960s to get tickets from Ryde and travel the vintage delights to Ventnor and Cowes. This was more than mere train spotting. It was a desire to enjoy the travel and the wonderful scenery of the island. I still enjoy trips to the island.

However, today we are looking back to 1969. The Southern Vectis bus rover tickets allowed you to reach places the railway no longer got to, and one of these was Bembridge. And there, on the beach, was an old railway coach in use as beach huts.


Bembridge had once been served by trains – at the end of a short branch line from Brading. The station and line closed in 1953.

I don’t know much about this carriage. It might have come, originally, from the Metropolitan Railway. Once again I appeal to blogland for help with more information.

I believe there are still railway carriage beach huts at Bembridge

The AA Box

December 27, 2012

Who remembers the days when car drivers, who were members of the AA, or indeed the RAC, had badges on the front of the car so that they could be easily recognised? Patrolmen for these motoring clubs rode motorbikes with side cars. They had to spot the badge on cars they passed and salute the member driving the car. And here and there, around the country were AA boxes. If you were a member, then you had a key to unlock the box and you could use its facilities. As far as I remember both AA and RAC used the same key so you could use boxes belonging to either organisation.

Inside, they were basically a public telephone box but with space, notepaper and something to write with.

I think I became aware that they seemed to be diminishing in number and I decided to snap a photo of one in 1975.


I have a problem of not having recorded the location but surely someone can tell me where box 578 was. I think it might have been in Hampshire, quite near Andover.

In the background I can see my car of the time – an Austin 1100.

All of the AA features mentioned above have gone. AA men use vans. Saluting was abandoned because the sheer quantity of members meant one hand had to be pretty well permanently raised to the forehead for the AA man. And boxes ceased to have a function when the mobile phone became pretty well universal. They were finally abandoned in 2002.

In need of attention

December 26, 2012

This loco would seem to have seen better days. It’s a photo taken by me in about 1975. I think it was at Didcot


It’s not only the loco that was in need of attention back then. So was I. I haven’t recorded any details about the engine and I’m now not nerd enough to recognise it.

So, it’s a Boxing Day quiz. If you can identify this loco please let me know.

Best ever Christmas Present (as a child)

December 25, 2012

I have one present that stands out head and shoulders above others I received as a child. In fact, I’m not sure I remember all that many presents at all but I can certainly recall my much loved Odham’s Young People’s Encyclopaedia which I still have and many a part for the train set (Triang TT gauge) which I also still have.  But it was real steam that wins the day. I’m tempted to say it was a Mamod stationary steam engine – except it wasn’t actually by Mamod. I dare say Dad found a cheaper, but just as good alternative. I believe it is a Wilesco and similar engines are still made. And yes, I still have it.


As you can see, it is no longer in tip top condition but I reckon it could still work. I mention that much chunkier spare cylinder and piston later. I’m sure I have the purely decorative chimney somewhere. It served no actual purpose.

It burned what was called meta fuel. No, I don’t have any, but this was what the packet looked like (taken from


Safe might not be the word to use, for they were toxic. In fact, the effects by inhalation are thoroughly nasty – but well over fifty years on, I’m still here to tell the tale.

My dad and my brother used to make Meccano  models for the engine to drive, but I wasn’t too bothered by them. I just loved being in charge of a real ‘live’ steam engine. I say well done to Mum and Dad for finding such a toy for me.

During the early 1970s, I attended some metalwork classes and I made a new and slightly bigger piston and cylinder for the engine. This was more to prove I could reasonably accurately engineer such a part. I don’t think it made any difference to the performance of the engine, but of course, I still have that spare working part for the engine.

Oh, in case anybody feels inclined – please don’t buy or offer me another such engine. Wait a few years and give one to Grandson instead!

Meet the Ancestor – Truggy Stevens

December 24, 2012

George Stevens earned the sobriquet of Truggy’ because he was an avid gardener and user of the Sussex trug. He was my Great Grandfather – the son of Henry Stevens and Helen (née) Peirce who we have seen on this blog already.

George was born in 1854 – the fourth child of his parents. They lived in Isfield in Sussex.

By 1871 George, who still lived at home with his parents, was classed, unexpectedly, as an ‘Ag Lab’.

George married Sarah Ann Crosby in 1879. Their first child, my Great Aunt Nellie, was born the following year.

Censuses continue to describe George as an Ag Lab – in three different parishes. In 1881 the family were in Ringmer. In 1891 it was Ridgewood and in 1901 it was Isfield. My gran was born in 1892 in a different parish again – Little Horsted. What all of their known homes have in common is proximity to Plashetts Wood. We know that George was really more a woodman than a farm worker.

By 1911 they were back in Ringmer and George remained there for the rest of his life. He died in 1926 and is buried at Ringmer (no headstone).

Here is George, Truggy Stevens


He looks a kindly old chap but seems to have been remembered as rather harsh.

First Family Car

December 23, 2012

For the first ten years of my life, I lived in a carless family. How different life was then. Journeys to see grandparents started with a mile walk to Ifield Station (It was properly Ifield Halt at the time)  and then at least one change of train along the way. Two bus services passed by our house. For us, both went to Crawley and both were operated with what I now know were venerable old buses. Usually we cycled to Crawley but in any case, much of our shopping was dealt with at Howlett’s Store which was just across the road from our house.

My dad had acquired a driving licence during World War II. By 1959 the family finances were deemed sufficiently firm for a car to be added to the household effects. It was a pre-war, 1937 Austin 10. Here it is, outside the house with mum admiring it. Dad, obviously, took the photo.


As far as I remember, my dad paid £50 to get us on the road. Some of its faults can be seen – the rusted running board under the doors and the dented rear wing are fairly obvious. It had other quirks. The gear stick wouldn’t stay in first gear unless it was held there. If there was a front seat passenger, then it was their job to hold the stick in place. My dad attached a piece of elastic to loop over the stick for solo driving. Then, the force of gravity was stronger than the petrol pump. On steep hills, petrol failed to reach the engine and the only option was to turn the car round and reverse up hills. Later, one of the rear wings partially fell (or was knocked) off. It was held in place by wire but from then on that side’s rear door couldn’t be used.

None the less the old car – first registered in Southampton and with the number plate of BCR 337 got us about.


That’s mum again, and a grossly overladen car arriving at our personal camp site. A box looking like a picnic hamper has been unloaded. It actually contained the family cat who came camping with us.

In 1960, the car testing regime was introduced by government decree. There was no way old BCR 337 was going to pass so, sadly, off she went to meet her maker. A new(er) car was bought – a mere dozen years old. The motoring age had come to stay.

A Card to Granny

December 22, 2012

Granny was born in 1892 – actually on January 1st. She was a Sussex girl and regular readers of this blog will not be surprised to know that her dad was an ‘ag lab’ – a farm worker.

Sixteen years later, Granny was in service at a house called Saxon Court in Buxted, Sussex.  Grandad lived in Buxted and they must have met

I suspect this was quite an early message sent by postcard from Grandad to Granny.

The picture is of lilac.


I cannot be certain if this is white lilac – in which case it symbolised purity. I think it was purple which signified the first emotions of love. Certainly it seems that Grandad didn’t want a casual reader like a postman to read his message.


Was there any significance in the stamp being at that angle?

The writing is mirror writing – so easy to turn in today’s digital age.


Actually, Grandad was not brilliant at doing it. It reads

Dearest E

I was very pleased with letter. Hope your cold will soon be better. This leaves me quite well.

With fondest love from ___________ SWAK

It hardly seems a very incriminating message. But it must have had an effect, for the couple did eventually marry and, as we have seen already, they went on to celebrate a Golden Wedding in 1966.