Thursday, 28 July 2016

The Last Post

I have decided that I will no longer be working on this blog due to the lack of information regarding the Picasa replacement. While it does seem like a minor inconvenience realistically it is more about the arbitrary removal of a very good platform without explaining what the replacement will be. May has passed and there is still no news. 

I used to like this blog, it worked well, the graphics platform worked well, it was fun to do and I learnt one heck of a lot. Considering when I started out here I was still asking the question "It looks real good but what does it do?" 
Now I know what it does and I have created my own replacement hosted on my own domain. 

I would like to thank the many people who were regular visitors, you know who you are and you know where to find my stuff. 
I would also like to acknowledge Blogspot for helping me to understand what a blog is, however, the thing to remember at all times is "you must have something to say". A blog is like a journal, and if you do not use it often it really dies; content is everything. I have been fortunate that I have content. 

I was initially adding in links to the new posts at Musings but will no longer be doing that and will gradually be deleting posts here as time passes.  They have all be transferred to Musings and still exist there.  As at 05/03/2017 there are only 95 posts still left. Who knows, maybe one day this will be the only post. 

DRW. 28/07/2016.

Saturday, 25 June 2016

More musings

Tick tock, time marches and still we sit!

On 01 July 2016 we commemorated the 100th anniversary of the commencement of the Battle of the Somme and the thousands of casualties caused by the battle. It has been an emotional commemoration though because over 19000 men lost their lives on that first day. I did a short commemoration piece on the anniversary.

anyway, on 25 June I paid a visit to the Tewkesbury Mini-steam weekend to take in some pint sized steam machines. Wonderful stuff!

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Picasa bites the dust?

This evening I discovered that Picasa is going to be shut down. For those who do not know, Picasa is where the images that are on this blog live.

The blurb reads as follows:

"Friday, February 12, 2016 10:00 AM Since the launch of Google Photos, we’ve had a lot of questions around what this means for the future of Picasa. After much thought and consideration, we’ve decided to retire Picasa over the coming months in order to focus entirely on a single photo service in Google Photos. We believe we can create a much better experience by focusing on one service that provides more functionality and works across mobile and desktop, rather than divide our efforts across two different products."

At last count there were 5479 images in this blog. That means unless Blogger has a way to correct all of the links automatically, 5479 images will suddenly cease to exist on the blog and be replaced by a "file not found". I do not know the full extent of the implications yet, suffice to say that this is a disaster of major proportions. While the images will all move to Google photos it really means I will have to go through each and every post in the blog to correct the image links for one heck of a lot of images. There are over 400 posts in the blog. I could be here till the end of time! so, it may be that the time has come to migrate the blog away from blogger completely and merge it with allatsea in one ginormous blog and frankly that sounds like way too much work. I will be doing some reading as to what the implications are, but it certainly changes my commitment to Blogger and makes every reason for moving from here a good idea!  I have since created a duplicate of this blog called musings while allatsea and all content that pre-dates the first post in January 2011  has been migrated to Musings.  Watch this space for any future developments. 

Update: 21/02/2016
I posted a question to the Blogger forum in this regard, and received the following reply: "Retiring Picasa Web Albums will not affect photos uploaded to a blog through Blogger; they will will continue to display on the blog even after Picasa Web Albums is retired. You will still be able to see these photos on your blog and in a new place we will be creating for you to access your Picasa Web Albums data. Picasa Web albums shared by a link will also continue to work with a redirect. For photos, albums, and slideshows embedded from Picasa Web Albums, and links to your public galleries, we will share more details as we get closer to these changes being made in the coming months."

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Triang Minic Ships

Many years ago. I had a huge collection of model ships and boats, including two radio controlled tugs. The smaller vessels I had never really indulged in though because I did not know that they existed. A visit to the home of one of the friends of a friend opened my eyes because he had the three major liners (Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth and United States) in 1/1200 scale, and they were the start of my collection.

The first Triang Minic ship I acquired was the Aragon. She was in a poor condition and minus masts and half of her bridge wing. I repainted it and made masts out of pins and put her on my shelf as an oddity amongst my collection. I still have her today, bad paint job and all.

Then things went quiet until I picked up an advert in a local newspaper for somebody selling a collection. There were 2 Cunarders in it, as well as the Queen Elizabeth and two tugs and a light vessel and some bits and pieces of harbour. This was in the pre internet days so there was no real way of finding out what was available. He also wanted R500-00 for it, and given my dead end salary it was really out of my price range. I came very close to buying it, but never did. Awhile later I picked up a slightly used Queen Elizabeth and added her to my collection too. She was resprayed by a friend and her funnels need a lot of work.

I have recently found masts for her, and one day will do something about the funnels.

That was the sum total of my collection for many years. There were rumours of a huge collection being sold out of the country, but I had no way of knowing what was available apart from the two Cunarders I had seen and the three major liners. Nothing happened for a long time but I used to haunt the hobby shops hoping to build onto my collection and at some point I managed to pick up a Queen Mary.

The model above is not my original Queen Mary though, this one I found in Salisbury in 2014.  

I also found a mint United States in South Africa which was really surprising. By now we were in the internet era and I would haunt the net looking for more ships, the problem was no longer a lack of ships, it was more about an exchange rate that made them very expensive and postage that was never guaranteed.   

My last South African acquisitions were on a local auction site, namely the Aquitania which does need a lot of work. 

as well as a Canberra in a poor condition

and a mastless model of the NS Savannah

I have since replaced my Canberra with a better one and found white metal masts for the Savannah. 

Triang also had a range of warships, and while I did not really look for them I would buy them if they were affordable, and I managed to acquire a DKM Bismarck

as well as an IJN Yamato

When I left South Africa in 2013 I left my ships behind, but hoped to get them back with me at some point and to add to my collection until then. 

In 2013 I attended the Maritme Festival  in Southampton. And on display there was an almost complete collection of Triang Minic ships and I was able to see what I was missing (and there was a lot).  My first acquisition in the UK was the Queen Mary pictured above as well as a Naval Harbour Set.

That set included HMS Bulwark and HMS Vanguard

I also started watching ebay and buying modern warships that interested me. Including HMS Daring, HMS York,  HMS Chatham and of course HMS Ark Royal.

I also picked up three very nice C4 Mariner class cargo ships. 

and even bought a Ellermans container ship: City of Durban

and a thumping great bulker too.

I brought my collection across in 2014 and it was still small compared to what it could be.

The 2014 Maritime Festival in Southampton once again had a Minic collection on display and I did quite a lot of drooling over it.

More importantly, I was able to add the Caronia to my collection, 

and bought a Canberra to replace my existing one. 

My most recent acquisitions were DKM Scharnhorst

as well as SS Nieuw Amsterdam

Sadly she is in need of a lot of work, but considering that she is quite an oldish model I was lucky to find her. Those missing Cunarders still haunt me though (Carinthia, Carmania, Franconia, Sylvania and Saxonia), but considering how many years it has taken to get to this point anything can happen. I am also on the lookout for an SS France to complete my major liner collection.

and I would like to add an American battleship to my battleship collection

But that is for the future. Anything can happen in these collections, it seems to happen in spurts and bumps, and who knows what I will have tomorrow.

My passenger ship collection.

The Triang Minic ships are nice momentos for a ship buff like myself, but once again, they are only of worth to a collector like myself, and not to somebody else. So hands off my stash! 

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Traveling with the GWR (1)

While gravehunting recently in Prestbury Cemetery in Cheltenham,  I kept on hearing a steam whistle, and I had read that there was a heritage rail operation in the area called the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway, it was time to investigate, and I duly headed in that direction on the 15th of August.

The railway runs from Cheltenham Race Course Station, to Gotherington, Winchcombe and then to Toddington stations where the loco shed and end point is. Actually that is not quite true as there is a halt further on called Laverton, which is really a signpost and not a station.  

Like most heritage rail operations I have encountered in the UK I was amazed at the professionalism of the operation. They are staffed by volunteers and run like well oiled machines, just like their fleet of steam and diesel engines.

I joined the train at Cheltenham Race Course Station for the run through to Toddington.

The loco in charge was a GWR 4200 Class, number 4270, and she dates from 1919 and she is one of 5 surviving sisters that were rescued from the famous Woodham Brothers Scrapyard in Barry. 

Her rake of coaches were a mixed bag of Carmine and Cream corridor and compartment coaches typically found in the UK. 

The train also had a buffet car and a compo van as well as a first class compartment coach. They are very comfortable coaches, totally unlike anything we had in South Africa. Oddly enough though, many of the internal fittings were the same as that found in South Africa, and the chances are the fittings all originated from the same place. 

Once our loco had had a drink she ran to the end of the line and then through the points onto the opposite line, ran past the train, back though the points and onto the back of the train (which was now the front of the train), she would run bunker first to Toddington. 

And then we were off. The line to Toddington has some challenging climbs until it comes to the Greet Tunnel which is almost the highest point of the line. The first station is Gotherington and I happened to be leaning out of the window as we came into it, and it looks like a fascinating place to visit as a destination. Technically from here you can just see Tewkesbury (although I expect binoculars would be needed).

The one things that amazes me is how children instinctively know how to emulate a team engine whistle, and I know that from the other heritage rail trips that I have taken.

The next "highlight" of the trip is the Greet Tunnel which is 693 yards long and it is the 2nd longest tunnel on a British heritage railway. I did try some photography in it using the camera flash, but my experiments were not really a success.

Next stop was Winchcombe and we stopped here to wait for the other train to arrive. The line is single rail between stations with passing blocks at the stattions. On this particular day there were 3 trains running on the system. 

And here comes the other train...

And with her out the way we could now proceed to Toddington. 

Our train is the one of the right, and the one on the left is the Railcar which runs between Laverton and Winchcombe. I had planned to look around Toddington and then grab the railcar to Laverton, and then reboard the train and travel back to Cheltenham with the next train depending on how much there was to see at Toddington. The loco shed is here and that was what I was really after. GWR also operates heritage diesels, and while these do not have the attraction of a steamer, some are really interesting machines in their own right.

45149 (D135) - Class 45/1 Diesel Electric Locomotive.

Class  49 'electro-diesel 6036
26043 (D5343) Class 26, Diesel Electric Locomotive

Yorkshire Engine Company 372
Of course there were steamers too, but they were all in the wrong position to photograph, the closest I could see were:

2807 - '28xx' class heavy freight locomotive, built 1905
35006 'Peninsular & Oriental S. N. Co' - Rebuilt Merchant Navy class
I would have really liked to have seen that Merchant Navy Class in action, but there was just now way to even get a decent pic of her.

I had decided to catch the railcar to Laverton and time was catching up with me so I headed across to the platform where she was was now due after a short jaunt to Winchcombe.

This particular example is 117 and it comprises cars W51405 (DMS), W59510 (TCL), W51363 (DMBS), although on this occasion there were only two cars coupled, of which both had a drivers end. They are powered by 2 x Leyland 680 150hp driving through 4-speed epicyclic gearboxes on each power car. It is an odd vehicle though, not quite a train, not quite a bus, although I was impressed by the smooth ride that it gave.

The trip to Laverton is a a short one, and the highlight is traveling over the Stanway Viaduct, which is 50 feet above the valley floor and comprises of 15 arches. You cannot really get a sense of these things when you are going over them, but you can bet that from ground level the viaduct is a pretty impressive piece of engineering.

The end of the line is Laverton. It is really just a signpost and not much else. However, there are future plans to extend the railway till it meets with the main line at Broadway, and then this operation will explode with traffic. It is 2 miles from here, so near, yet so far.
Our driver changed ends and we headed back to Toddington. Once we arrived I bailed out and went looking around again, realistically I wanted to catch a train back about 14H00, and it was do-able assuming I planned it right. The train was already in Toddington, but would not leave here until the other train had turned around at Cheltenham. It left me about 45 minutes to kill.

There was a particularly interesting exhibition in a restored bag van that had some fascinating artifacts in it, as well as a small shop with similar items.

Realistically Toddington is an eclectic place, with the emphasis on the past. They even have a narrow gauge railway at the station, but sadly this was not in use on the day when I was there.

Time was creeping, and I reboarded the railcar for Winchcomb as there were a lot of interesting pieces of rolling stock that I wanted to look at.

Unfortunately Winchcomb was a bit of a disappointment as the coaches were not accessible. It was a pity though as there were a lot of very interesting coaches to see.

I stuck my nose into nooks and crannies, passing time till my train arrived, or should I say, till both trains arrive. The one train cannot pass a section while there other is possibly in that section. It is the safe way to do things.

And then I heard a steam whistle.

It was not some imitation done by a child, but the sound of the train from Cheltenham. She would have to be alongside the platform and could only proceed until the Cheltenham bound train arrived. With minutes of her arriving my train hove along the bend and it was time for me to head off home.

That is the thing about trains, some arrive, and some depart, and some pass each other along the way.

My loco for the ride home was the 1928 built 2-6-2T - known as a ‘small prairie’ tank engine, and was used on light branch lines.  Her coaches were a crimson rake and they were just as nice inside.

As I left the station and headed for the bus stop I could hear the loco blowing her whistle, and I knew that I had heard that sound a few weeks ago, and that is what drew me to here in the first place.

It had been an awesome day, and I had seen so much interesting stuff and travelled on or behind three heritage railway vehicles. The GWR operation is fantastic, my only real gripe is that I did not get to see more of the loco shed, but otherwise, it was worth the time and effort. I returned to the GWR for the heritage diesel weekend, and you can read about it here.

Video of the some of the loco movements are on my youtube channel

DRW 2015.