Posts Tagged ‘2015’

The contraption up the hill

October 29, 2015

We stayed, for a week, in Dent which is in Cumbria but also in the Yorkshire Dales. That was earlier this month. We had some friends who lived not so far away in Lancashire and they came to see us so we took a walk which took in Dent itself and also Gawthrop, a neighbouring settlement.

As we returned, down the hill from Gawthrop to Dent I came across a contraption on the hillside. To me it looked interesting to my friend it looked like a heap of junk.


That’s me and friend’s wife examining this contraption.

Well actually, it was more interesting than I imagined. It is a mini hydro-electric power station.


The drum shape at this end had enough rust to let us peep in. It contained what I could describe as a water propeller. The hefty tap on the left could control the flow of water to this. At the far end of the shaft there is clearly a dynamo or generator for creating electrical energy from the flowing water.

What a great bit of kit for this steep area, with many a potential flowing gill from which to gather the power.

Even friend admitted it was interesting!

Of course, I’d love to know more about it – like how it came to be in a field and where it had been housed and used.


October 21, 2015

Furnace is a village quite near Machynlleth in Wales. It is centred around an 18th century blast furnace for smelting iron ore into iron.

We have been there twice, in 2007 and again in 2015.

This was 2007.



I might have hoped to have seen the place in good weather in 2015, but it was not to be. It threw it down with torrents of rain.



But even in lousy weather it is a well restored relic of a past age.

Wilton Mill

October 12, 2015

Back in 1976 Wilton wind mill was restored to working order to become the only working windmill in my home county of Wiltshire. For some time, my wife and I, with friends, became volunteer stewards. We showed visitors around the mill and had to know our stuff.

The arrival of my second child, in 1980, really put an end to our involvement in the mill but of course I retain affection for it.

The mill, a handsome brick tower mill was built in 1821. Its job was to replace water mills which had lost out in competition for water, to the Kennet and Avon Canal which opened throughout in 1810. The good folks of East Wiltshire found that with the demand the canal had there was insufficient left to power water mills.

I visited the mill the other day on a glorious autumnal afternoon. The mill itself was not open so I only looked at the outside.

The low sun and the wind direction combined to make a ‘full frontal’ shot just a tad difficult. It was bound to be a bit of a silhouette. But from behind, this old lady presented a fine sight.


Being a tower mill, just the cap rotates to face the wind. It is automatically forced to face whatever direction the wind comes from by the fantail.


Such an elegant engineering solution. It is 100% essential that the mill sails or sweeps face the wind. If for any reason the mill got ‘back winded’ the sails, cap and fantail would all tumble to the ground.

Wilton, as we saw, has 4 sweeps. Two of them are called plain sails. They are a wooden framework over which canvas is laid when the mill is in use to catch the wind. The other two sails are patent sails which are slatted. This is more complex but allows more control over the mill whilst it is operational.


We can see one of the slatted patent sails as well as a plain sail, with canvas furled.

Lovely mill! Lovely day!

The Slate Lands

October 5, 2015

On a wet and miserable August day we left Corris and promptly failed to go the way we intended. We mistakenly, but quite wonderfully, got to the slate lands around Aberllefenni.

This is a part of mid Wales where everything is made of slate.

In my part of the world we have chestnut paling fences. Here it is made of slate.


image002 High on a hill was a lonely slate mine.

Down at our level was the timekeeper’s office, complete with bell.


Also there is a sluice for managing water levels and power.


I have to say, I found this place – Aberllefenni – absolutely fascinating although it was hard to keep a camera dry!



An M7 tank again

October 2, 2015

The old M7 tanks were designed at the end of the 19th century. They were steam locos and built for hauling passenger trains in south west London. They were an immediate success and 110 locos of the type were built between the first in 1897 and 1911. But they became utterly redundant from that job as lines were electrified and they migrated to other areas to haul local passenger trains on branch lines. They survived a very long time. The last M7 loco was withdrawn from service in 1965.

Two of the class have been preserved. One of them is based on the Swanage Railway and is still in regular service. When built, in 1905, she was number 53 of the London and South Western Railway. But much to my delight she is running in the form and colour I knew in the early 1960s – so she is number 30053 of British Railways.

image002 Here she is shunting down onto the train at Swanage. Tank engines were designed to run either way round equally well, but they still look better with the boiler leading. Once attached to the train we see her bunker first.


Like any working steam loco she has a fierce fire burning under the boiler.


Here’s the front end again.


Here we see the loco number and another little plate which says 71B. That little plate was called the shed plate and the 71B was code for a depot where the loco was based. In this case it means Bournemouth which is where locos on the Swanage branch would have been looked after.

Now to be a true train spotter for a while.

This was one of my spotter’s books from 1962


We can see I had deemed it important enough to fork out half a crown on this publication – and here’s a bit of one page in the book.


First of all 30053 is underlined which meant I had seen it. And the shed it was allocated to was 75E.

Time to look at another page in the book.


This shows us the codes for sheds and names them. 75E was Three Bridges which was my most local shed. It is also underlined which means I had visited that shed. 30053 was one of my home engines when I was a spotter. I have a feeling it was usually at the sub shed at Horsham and worked trains between Horsham and Guildford.

I feel privileged that I can still enjoy seeing this old friend hauling trains.


Another bird

September 30, 2015

I had just finished writing yesterday’s piece about the robin when one of those birds I find harder to identify turned up.

What took my eye was actually a flock of mixed tits. There were certainly four species of tit in it, the blue, the great, the coal and the long tailed varieties.

But then another bird was spotted which was not a tit. It was quite early morning and the light wasn’t brilliant. The photo I managed to take certainly isn’t perfect.


But even a poor photo is an aid to identification. I believe this is a chiffchaff.

The only other p[ossibility is a willow warbler. The two look very similar but I think the willow warbler is a brighter yellow than this.

These images come from the RSPB site.

However, as I am a tad uncertain I’d appreciate it if anyone could either tell me I’m right or put me straight.



September 29, 2015

In a recent vote the robin was named as Britain’s national bird – effectively it was deemed the most popular bird in the country.

They have, of course, been Christmas card favourites for years and this little, and seemingly cheerful fellow, must be the most well-known member of the avian species. Not that that says a lot for TV quiz shows often seem to discover just how little the great British public actually know about birds.

As a country dweller I almost consider it my bounden duty to have a knowledge of the feathered friends and if I do see a bird I don’t recognise you can be sure I’ll do my utmost to identify it.

Robins have always been a favourite of mine (albeit I always put starlings at the top of my list) because Robin was also the given name of my late brother. So I see a robin and oft times think of Robin – my brother.

This particular robin seems to have taken a territory very close to a window in our house. The other day I noted it ‘sitting on twig oblique’ and was able to get a camera and snap photos of it. Here’s one of them.


What a cute and gorgeous fellow he is. Or should that be she. The two sexes are just about identical in appearance.

As a species, robins seem to have learnt that they are liked by us humans. They are far less wary of us than similar sized small birds.

I do hope this one sticks around for a while. He (or she) brings a smile to my face.

Barmouth Bridge – then and now

September 24, 2015

Back in the 1980s – a generation ago – we took our family camping on the south side of the Mawddach estuary for three years running. It was a quiet and undisturbed area with bustling Barmouth less than a mile away across the footbridge next to the railway line.


I think we must have been up near Llynau Cregennen, above Arthog when this photo was taken.

That’s my daughter on the left looking about the age her son does now. I have to say she is also looking cold. A wooded hump rises up from by the water. That is Fegla Fawr – a hill we camped on.

To the right of that a black line goes across the water and that is Barmouth Bridge. This spans the estuary. We can also see, just alongside my daughter’s head and going into the centre of the photo the Fairbourne spit which goes nearly all the way to Barmouth.

I’ve called this a ‘then and now’ but I don’t have a now view. Instead I have the opposite view from Barmouth, across the bridge, over Fegla Fawr and up into the mountains.


The bridge passes in front of Fegla Fawr. Llynau Cregennen is high up in the mountains beyond.

It is a beautiful part of the world and people speak the Welsh language there. I may not understand what they say but by golly it sounds so beautiful and most folks can speak English and they do to we English folk.

Pronunciation is different in Wales too. We learned some things quite quickly back in the 1980s. The nearest railway station to where we camped was and still is Morfa Mawddach. It’s a request stop. If you want to get off the train there you have to tell the guard in advance so he (it was still all men back then) can ensure the train stops. We recall the first time and we told the guard we wished to get off at More fir more datch. Eventually he understood and said, ‘Ah! You mean more var mouthe ack’. We don’t pretend to be any good at Welsh but because road signs are bilingual we have learned many words and mostly we think we pronounce them tolerably well.


A Greyhound

September 22, 2015

Sorry. I’m not really a dog lover so this is not a real greyhound. In fact it is a steam railway locomotive.

It has featured on this blog before when I wrote about a special enthusiasts train I went on called The Sussex Coast Limited. The train made a photo stop at Guildford and I, a very inexperienced photographer back in 1962, grabbed this photo of the loco.

That kind of loco was known as a greyhound.

Officially it was class T9and had been designed by Dugald Drummond for express passenger work on the London and South Western Railway in 1899. They quickly gained a reputation for free running and speed – hence the nickname of greyhounds.

In 1962 when I took the photo above, this particular greyhound had been preserved as a part of the national collection of steam engines. It had been repainted to look more like it did in 1899 and was used on special trains and some ordinary service trains.

In September 2015 the very same loco was in service on the Swanage Railway. It arrived at Swanage hauling a train – but had its tender first which never looks quite right and can be very uncomfortable for those on the footplate.


One thing which has changed since 1962 is having female footplate crew. And oddly, the loco is now in the livery it might have had in 1961 when I saw many of this engine’s kennel mates.

A little later the loco was on the front of another train so could be seen properly.


Sorry about half a person!

The fireman (or driver) invited me onto the footplate.

The roaring fire was producing plenty of potential steam.


Let’s take a right side of the cab view.


It isn’t the clearest view of the line ahead.

How great to see an old friend again.

Old Chairs

September 13, 2015

Once you are a railway enthusiast, you never lose it. Railway memorabilia just crops up all over the place and you find yourself drawn to it.

Regular readers of this blog may know that I also find fishing ports fascinating with heaps of what I often call fishing detritus. These heaps are items that people who go out in fishing boats discard. Perhaps they think these things may be useful in the future – and maybe they are. Or perhaps they just gather rust or attract more old items to add to the heap.

Recently, in Aberdovey or Aberdyfi in the Welsh language, I found a fisherman’s heap of railway relics. Wow! What heaven that was.


These are clearly hefty bits of metal, presumable designed to sink to the bottom of the water and maybe hold a lobster pot or something of that ilk in place. Close inspection shows them to be chairs.


These are not, of course, chairs for people to sit in but rather for a length of rail to rest on.

The chairs would be attached to a sleeper using sleeper bolts. The fisherman’s rope is passing through the bolt holes here. The rail (of a kind called bull head) rested between the upright parts of the chair and was held in place with a wooden key, hammered in between rail and one of those chair uprights. If sleepers were 30 inches apart it meant that for every mile of railway track more than 4000 of these chairs were needed. They were a remarkably common hunk of metal and most were removed in the second half of the 20th century when a better and cheaper technology was developed.


This heap at Aberdyfi fascinated me because clearly chairs had come from different types of railway. The one which we might say is facing us in the photo is a big chunky beast and probably came from a main line railway somewhere. The upside down one at top left is a much smaller chair so may have originated on a Welsh narrow gauge line.

Sadly, those I could easily see were two corroded or barnacle covered to allow me to read any railway company name cast into the chairs. They probably had them though.