Posts Tagged ‘1973’

The Snowdon Railway

June 8, 2016

Back in 1973 we took a brief holiday in North Wales. A treat on this holiday was to ride to the top of Mount Snowdon on the train. It starts at LLanberis just 60 metres above sea level. It takes you virtually to the summit of Wales’ tallest mountain at 1084 metres. That’s a mighty rise for a railway and it looks steep as soon as the train leaves Llanberis



The weather was iffy. Note the people on the left wearing raincoats and sheltering under brollies.

The steam engine pushes the coach up the mountain but metal wheels on smooth metal rails would never suffice. This line has a third rail between the other two and this is toothed.  You can see the toothed rail down by Llanberis Station.


In terms of view it was adead loss going to the summit of Snowdon. From the actual summit you couldn’t see the station just a few metres away. Fortunately, it had an electricity generator running and you could safely navigate by the noise that made.


That’s me at the top of Snowdon having travelled up by train. A wonderful journey but lacking the honour of walking it!

Small round bales

March 29, 2016

Bales of hay seem to be something from the past as many farmers feel silage made in big round bales and wrapped in black (usually) plastic is a better, more guaranteed option.

Bales of straw produced from what comes out of the back of a combine harvester have become enormous and need machinery to handle them.

Time was, not so long ago, that the small cuboid shaped bale was the thing. A bale of hay was heavy, but a decent farmer could pick them up with no problem. Straw is much lighter and they were easy.

Of course, before that and really before my memory in the prosperous south of England hay had been stacked loose. Straw was stacked in sheaves with the ears still attached to await threshing. In both cases the stack was then thatched to keep the rain out.

Back in the 1950s I recall seeing, somewhere near Firle in Sussex, some small round bales, probably of hay. I recall my dad commenting on their advantage of being like thatch and the shape meant rain drained off them. He also pointed out the disadvantage that round bales, inevitably, leave gaps when stacked. The small round bale didn’t seem to catch on, but I did see some on another occasion, near Alton Barnes in the Vale of Pewsey. This was in 1973 and I had by little Canon Demi camera and got a photo.

I should say these bales were no more than18 inches in diameter but the shape of the end shows they have been rolled rather than compressed and so water will drain off well.

Thirty years on, in 2003, and in a similar area, this was the scene.


Well clearly bales are now much bigger – and cameras have improved as well!

An interchange station

November 9, 2015

Today I have a photo of a station, with hardly a railway in sight. The station looks not much more than an attractive brick hut.

image002 I owe my dad something here, for he captioned this slide (taken on my Canon Demi) and he even added a grid reference for posterity.


My only mark on that is the R (upside down) at the bottom right. That’s a mark which tells me the photo was taken in the summer of 1973. My dad has added the information at the top.

So this is a canal/rail interchange station. We can just see a bit of canal at bottom left and there is a railway bridge in the background.

Now my dad has called it a passenger interchange and that would have happened for in days of yore canals did operate passenger services. But I suspect this was more a goods interchange point, between the Montgomery Canal and the railway linking Shrewsbury and Chester.

I think this is a lovely building and it still exists. It’s where the arrow points on the map.


The Sunday School Tram

November 7, 2015


Talk about a change of use. Once upon a time this had been a horse drawn tram car.


When I saw it, and took this photo, which was back in 1973, it had reached the stage of being a museum exhibit. In between it had been a Gospel and Sunday School.

That’s some change of use!

Back in 1973 it was at Blists Hill Open Air Museum. That was a part of the Ironbridge Gorge cluster of museums in Shropshire. Back then Blists Hill was very much in its infancy and I believe it has changed out of all recognition since then and is now marketed as Blists Hill Victorian Town. A few photos on the web suggest this old relic might be there somewhere, now painted in a red colour and with added lettering to indicate its religious function.

What I haven’t found is any real information. Where was it a tram? Was it mobile as a gospel vehicle? Where did it go? Where was it a Sunday School? When was it built? Has anyone got any answers?

A Virol Jar

March 15, 2015

Back in 1973 my wife and I went on a course – ‘Industrial Archaeology of Shropshire’. The course organiser was my dad and for those, better off than we young married couples, there was accommodation provided at Attingham Hall. We, the impoverished ones, camped off site in our little tent. My dad organised but was also a student. The course tutor was a fantastic bloke called Barrie Trinder.

On one occasion we went off to see a very early blast furnace and most interesting it was too, but some of us got waylaid by other distractions.


Not a good photo, but we found a baby hedgehog. I daresay it shouldn’t have been picked up!

And there was also a rubbish tip on which we found a Virol jar.


Now that, of course, we still have. I think it’s a lovely bit of earthenware and over the last more than 40 years, it has been much used as a vase for flowers.


Virol described itself as ‘The Ideal Food’ and as ‘A preparation of bone-marrow. An ideal food for children and invalids’.

The jars are common enough. I’m not a jot interested in cash value. I wouldn’t buy or sell at all. My collected items provide a jog to the memory. That’s their value to me.

I just wish I could remember something more about the blast furnace we visited!

Oliver’s Camp

January 31, 2015

Back in 1970 I came for a job interview in Wiltshire. I had no car then and I found that Chippenham was the nearest available station. From there I was given a lift to Devizes for the interview.

Regular readers will know of my love of chalk downland, so that car journey absolutely captivated me, for we passed some glorious chalk hills. One in particular stood out. It was steep sided with a clearly earth worked plateau on which a few gaunt trees struggled to survive. This was, I was led to understand, called Oliver’s Camp or Castle.


With such a hill so close by, I had to get this job, and I did, beginning what is now a 45 year association with Wiltshire. This photo of Oliver’s Camp dates from 1973.

It is a fairly unchanging scene – except with the seasons. This similar picture was taken in 2006. It is amazing how little those gaunt trees have changed in over thirty years.


Things would have looked different back on 13th June 1643. That was when a civil war battle took place in the area – the Battle of Roundway Down.

Cromwell’s men had camped on the headland the photos show although Oliver himself was not amongst them. The hill’s name comes from that day. Although it would seem that Cromwell’s men had all the advantages when the King’s men arrived from Oxford, it turned out to be a huge victory for the Royalist side. They won this battle, but in the end, of course, Cromwell won the war.

Today what was once a scene of utter carnage is quiet and peaceful.


It is wonderful walking country with fine views over the Vale of Avon, the Vale of Pewsey and, with a short walk the vale to the north.



September 8, 2014

It’s a bit shocking when your records let you down so I’m going to say we went to Chateaulin in 1973 plus or minus a year. We went camping with friends who kindly provided us with a very cheap holiday in Brittany.

We stayed in several locations of which Chateaulin is the best remembered because we settled there for a while.

It’s a pretty place – a small town on the River Aulne which doubles up at this point as the canal between Brest and Nantes, It’s that river/canal that this post is about.

Chateaulin has a lock.


This is a big, broad lock, quite unlike those tiddly 7 feet wide locks on much of the UK network. This could take a large barge carrying a worthwhile load. Having said that, commercial traffic was pretty well absent.

In the UK we expect a nice hefty balance beam, to rest on whilst the lock fills and then to push on at the appropriate time. Over the channel we seemed to get a pole to pull with.


Yes, that’s me pulling on the pole. Just one slip would see me tumbling backwards into the river, beyond.

The paddle gear was quite un-English as well. There are no open cogwheels or rack and pinion. There’s just a covered red box with a rack passing through it.


Of course, we had no windlass so that was left well alone – as it would have been anyway.

The river, alongside, tumbles over a man-made weir.


There’s a sluice to help control water levels in the event of the river being in spate.

The totally up to date Wikipedia records that Chateaulin is a major place in the salmon business. No wonder a fish ladder was provided to enable the salmon, heading upstream to spawn, to overcome the change in levels caused by man’s interference. When the navigation was built, the gentle flow of the river down to the wild Atlantic had to be converted into a series of weirs and locks to maintain a depth of water for boats. But the salmon, which can actually manage prodigious jumps, were not forgotten.


There’s a series of easily managed jumps for salmon, alongside the weir.

All photos were taken on my little Canon demi using Agfachrome 64 slide film.

Snuff Street

August 17, 2014

Industrial Devizes

For more than forty years, Devizes has been my local town. It has seen many changes in that time and today we are looking back to a time when Snuff Street still looked industrial.


Snuff Street turns directly off Devizes Market Place.

The name was based on the fact that the Anstie family had a tobacco and snuff factory there. As an avid anti smoker, I’ll say I am delighted it had closed by the time I knew the area and the old buildings were in use as a printing works.


Small cottages – straight onto the narrow pavement are mixed in with industrial buildings. Nowadays it is residential and commercial.

At the New Park Street end of Snuff Street there is a lovely large industrial building.


This was set up by a different member of the Anstie family and was originally a cloth mill. The building dates from 1785. These days this building is clean, spruce and gentrified. It still looks lovely, particularly from Its New Park Street frontage.

These Devizes industries are gone but not forgotten.

The pictures from the early 1970s were taken on my little Canon Demi camera.

St Ives Lifeboat – 1973

August 24, 2013

St Ives, Cornwall – home of artists and haunt of holiday makers. We were amongst the latter in the spring of 1973. It may have been a chilly day around Easter time, but St Ives was crowded with people. Quite unexpectedly, a couple of explosions were heard over the town. The maroons had gone up. Lifeboat men were summoned to action stations by the sound of the explosions.

What followed seemed odd, to say the least. From somewhere, a heavy caterpillar tracked tractor came, hauling a lifeboat on a caterpillar tracked trailer. This processed along the seafront street, amongst us gawping tourists.


When the tractor/trailer/lifeboat convoy reached a slipway it reversed down it until the lifeboat was in enough water to be launched.


One’s thoughts turned to whoever was in distress and desperately waiting for rescue as the slow lumbering set up navigated the narrow St Ives streets before the lifeboat could be launched.

I can report that by the time we left St Ives, the lifeboat had returned with no sign of any distressed people. Perhaps it had been a training exercise.

Chirk Aqueduct

July 27, 2013

People who read this blog will know I like bridges. Aqueducts, which carry water over a bridge, are special – and even more special if you travel over them by boat.

Chirk aqueduct is on the Llangollen canal and allows boat traffic to pass some 70 feet above the waters of the River Ceiriog which is on the border of Shropshire, England and Wales. It was designed by Thomas Telford and opened for business in 1801.

My journey was in 1975 but this photo dates from an earlier visit in 1973. I’m fairly sure that’s my dad walking along the towpath with his hands behind his back. We were on an Industrial Archaeology course which he had organised.


We are looking towards Wales and we can see the Chirk tunnel entrance in the background. The more recent railway viaduct on the left rather dwarfs Telford’s canal structure.

I’ve looked at Telford’s older, Longden upon Tern aqueduct on this blog. Both that one and Chirk were really preparations for his masterpiece at Pontcysyllte.