Monday, June 30, 2014

Severn Valley Railway

The Severn Valley Railway is one of those gems in Midlands' tourist attractions that i have kept meaning to visit but always forget to... until now. I had a few days left on my last train season ticket to Worcester so took the opportunity to visit the SVR at Kidderminster. I have actually been to the SVR once before but that was when i was a cub scout in the late 70s or early 80s. I remember a camp somewhere near Bewdley, and a trip on the train to Bridgnorth but little else apart from earwigs and a sprained ankle.

I didn't go to Bridgnorth this time but instead took the steam train to the new visitor centre and museum at Highley. The journey there was in an old skool compartment coach, such a lovely way to travel. You can see my photos here. Well its taken me over 30 years to return to the SVR but i think my next trip will be soon. Less than 30 years time anyway!

Eastside City Park

Eastside City Park in Central Birmingham, the first new city park for a long time, 130 years in fact. Prefer something a bit less managed personally but the chairs are cool.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Contrasting front ends

Contrasting DMU front ends at Worcester Shrub Hill, a class 170 and a 156.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

A farewell to Worcester

I've been taking a lot of photographs in Worcester this year as thats where i have been working! However on Friday that will end, i will bid farewell to Worcester after 6 months and will instead be working in Solihull. I am sad to go in many ways, the people i work with are great and Worcester itself is wonderful though its a long way to go every day and there are other issues (which its best not to go into!)

But anyway its been great Worcester, and i'll be back to visit for sure. How about a photo of some lovely wild flowers taken near the river?

Leamington flower

A lonely flower canal side in Leamington Spa.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Monday, June 23, 2014

Pea survival

A couple of weeks ago i transplanted my first batch of pea plants from the nursery tub to the dangers of the open air. And dangers is the word as vicious slugs decimated the peas wiping out nearly all of them in double quick time! Three have survived at least and 2 are reasonably strong so hopefully they can thrive over the next few months. I do have a second batch of peas growing indoors though just in case!


The German Naval warship A1425 Ammersee on a visit to London.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Plantsbrook Local Nature Reserve

Plantsbrook is a local nature reserve that i really should go to more often seeing as it is only a couple of miles away from where i live, still i made my (first or only) visit in 2014 this morning. Plantsbrook is especially lovely on a sunny morning. You can see some photos i took here.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Oscott Road

Oscott Road in Perry Barr, most houses in this road next to BCU are student occupied.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

My graduation

So thats it then, MA in History completed. My graduation was this morning in Birmingham's Symphony Hall. Although i got the actual certificate a few months ago it was nice to formally end the course in this way. At the moment no further studies are planned so maybe the academic journey begun back in September 1976 when i started school can be said to have finished today.

Or maybe not. Learning is a lifelong process. There might be a PhD one day perhaps, i just need to think of something for my doctorate, get the time to do it, and some cash would come in handy as well of course.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Lift bridge

One of the distinctive lift bridges on the Oxford Canal, this one is in Banbury.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Peas in

While the peas i sowed directly into the ground in the veg plot didn't come up the ones i put in an indoors nursery tub did come up a treat and were now big enough to transplant into the veg plot. This is always a risky business putting the young plants at the mercy of the outside world and its millions of slugs but they can't stay indoors forever.

I've sowed a second batch in the nursery tub as a back-up / second crop just in case. I really need a green house to be honest.

The porch does suffice to some extent, my peppers are starting to grow.

Aberystwyth promenade

Aberystwyth promenade on a blustery day (as the energetic waves indicate) a few years ago.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Return of the TwiggyMac

The Twiggy Mac is the stuff of myth surely? Macintosh prototypes up until a fairly late stage in the project to produce the Apple Macintosh in 1984 were going to use the same 5 1/4 inch "Twiggy" disk drive as used in the Apple Lisa. Unfortunately the Twiggy drive was rubbish and often failed. Luckily Sony had just bought out their new 3.5 inch floppy drive format and the rest was history...

But it was assumed that none of the Twiggy drive equipped Macintosh prototypes had survived as Apple had them all recalled and destroyed in 1983. However one was found and later on another one turned up too! After some restoration work the Twiggy Macs now work again and could boot from the original Twiggy system disks which included a beta version of Mac OS from August 1983. This version of the eventual first release of Mac OS included some intriguing differences from the final version including "Steve sez" in dialogue boxes. The whole story is recounted in the highly enjoyable Twiggy Mac website.

I don't have any original Macs but i do have the second version, a 512K, and here it proudly is (serves as a clock stand these days to be honest)...

St James' Church

St James' Church, Hill in Mere Green. Pink churches are not that common, this is a lovely sight!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Horse drawn tramways (3) : The problems with the Stratford & Moreton Tramway

Part 3 of this version of my MA dissertation.

Part 2 described the planning and construction of the Stratford & Moreton Tramway. A rather poor job appears to have been made of the initial construction though the tramway was operational by the late 1820s. However by the time the Stratford and Moreton Railway was becoming operational horse-drawn railways were already becoming obsolete. New steam-operated railways were now spreading rapidly across the country, often buying up and replacing existing horse-drawn routes.

Surviving tramway wagon at Stratford-upon-Avon
The Stratford tramway itself was targeted by the Oxford, Worcester and Wolverhampton Railway (OWWR) scheme in the 1840s as at Moreton their line cut through the tramway’s yard. The OWWR formally made an offer to buy the Stratford tramway in March 1845 with the takeover completed in the early 1850s. The takeover was not hostile or unwelcome, indeed Stratford’s inhabitants are said to have been “indignant” at times at the slow pace of the takeover amid concerns of the town being left behind by the railway building taking place elsewhere. Traders including the draper Mr Medelcott were keen for the town to increase its links “in all directions”. The only question appearing to be if the OWWR offer was the best one available or if an alternative railway route to Birmingham would have been better for the town.

An enquiry was held including evidence from farmers and merchants as to which railway scheme would be the best for Stratford’s trade. Although a Birmingham route had favour with some including the farmer Michael Alledery who thought the route would be a “great advantage to his trade” which was selling cattle in Birmingham, the OWWR offer was considered the best deal overall with the railway leasing the tramway for £2500 a year until finally buying the line out completely. Brunel carried out a new survey of the line for the railway company to see if it was suitable for conversion to a steam railway, as with the previous surveys his findings were not that favourable. He found the engineering of the line poor and not suitable for conversion due to clearances and drainage. The new owners of the Stratford tramway therefore continued horse-drawn operations throughout the period being considered by this study.

A two and a half mile long branch line to Shipston-on-Stour was added to the tramway in 1836. The branch was quickly profitable though did not add much to the tramway bottom line as a whole. In 1840 the branch line bought in £240 of revenue compared to costs of £92, this compares to an income of the tramway as a whole of £2907 and expenditures of £2992 that year. The Shipston branch was performing relatively better than the line as a whole but unfortunately the surplus was not sufficient to offset the losses. Although receipts began to outweigh costs they were not enough to cover the rent the railway company had to pay as well.

So why was the tramway not making enough money? It certainly carried a great deal of freight along it’s route. Coal was the major cargo, 15000 tons of coal is recorded as travelling along the tramway in 1845 alone, this compares with an estimate of 50000 tons in total being bought by the various routes into Stratford in that year. Other cargoes included Cotswold stone and agricultural produce. The importance of the latter borne out by the inclusion of farmers in the inquiry into which railway buy-out scheme was the best one for the tramway, not that their advice was necessarily followed.

As was common with tramways waggons were privately owned and owners paid to use the tramway. Loads were charged at a rate of per ton per mile depending on the type of freight, coal and stone for example was 2p per ton per mile. Waggons were weighed using machines on the line for example at Moreton though this machine was not considered to be very accurate. Loads from Stratford to Moreton and Shipston and vice versa were the most common with not much traffic to the intermediate points on the route. Indeed the building of the Shipston branch was said to have negatively affected the already low usage of the wharf at Newbold and the owners requested (and received) a reduction in their rent to the tramway company. Few private sidings were built, one reason for this may have been access.

Transport links need connections to other viable transport systems to make the most of their capacity and utility. Mention is made by the committee of the importance of improving road links to the tramway in places like Alderminster, this could indicate that access to the tramway was difficult except at the two towns on either end of the route. This could have had an adverse effect on the economic viability of a tramway, poor link roads reduced the effectiveness of the Brecon Forest Tramroad for example. Lack of access could sometimes be down to resistance by landowners, one reason given for the Shipston branch not making as much money as it was thought it could have done was due to the owners of the land the branch line passed through who wanted the line fenced off and access to the intermediate points of the line restricted. Despite these problems the line did carry a lot of freight, mostly coal, and the tramway did make money but not in sufficient amounts to cover the cost of running the line and paying the rent to the builders.

Next : The economic effect of the tramway (and success?)

All text and images (c) Kris Davies

Selected bibliography

Stratford Birthplace Trust Record Office (SBTRO) DR 638 Letter book of John William Kershaw clerk of SMRC
The National Archives (TNA) RAIL 673/6 SMRC Journal
Berrow’s Worcester Journal, Thursday January 27 1848
Stanley Jenkins, 'The Shipston-on-Stour Branch', British Railway Journal, 32, 112-21 (p. 112)

Thames fire rescue

A Fire Brigade rescue boat on the Thames in London.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Monday, June 2, 2014

LMS Ivatt Class 4

43106, seen here on the Severn Valley Railway, is the only member of this class which survived the cutter's torch!