Thursday, July 31, 2014


An example of a bi-lingual sign in Aberystwyth station. Interesting all Arriva Train Wales signs look like they have to be bi-lingual no matter where they are shown so there is some Welsh signage up on the wall at Birmingham New Street too which is cool.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Square photographs

A question absolutely no one has asked me is why do i only take square photographs these days? Its actually been this way for quite a while, looking at my Flickr i started taking square photos only from November last year when i did the Limehouse Cut canal walk. Actually Flickr was a major reason why i started taking photos in this format.

The UI changes to Flickr last year made my photostream page very untidy (in my opinion) with different sized photographs making it jump around and lob-sided (look i have OCD ok?) So changing to square photographs only made the album display much neater. Afterwards i found i preferred square photos anyway. They remind me of my first film cameras and they also work nicely on my blogs (which is where a lot of my photos end up) especially when viewed on a mobile device. With a bit of CSS i can even give the photos the rounded edges you used to get with printed photographs...

Now its just too weird for me to take non-square photographs. My iPhone is set to square photos by default (have to get a separate app for that though), if i take photos with my DSLR then i crop them in Photoshop. Square photographs present more of a challenge often, especially photographing trains and boats and other long objects. Cars work pretty well though.

So there you are thats the reason for my square photos, driven by technological necessity and no doubt a lot of bloody mindedness.

Coventry Transport Museum

A brilliant museum dedicated to motor transport, you can see my photos from a recent visit here.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Horse drawn tramways (4) : The economic effect of the tramway (and success?)

Part 4 of this version of my MA dissertation. Part 3 can be seen here.

The coal trade in Stratford-upon-Avon expanded greatly in the early nineteenth century. The number of coal merchants rose from just 1 in 1792 to 18 by 1851 (going by Trade Directory figures). The population of the town itself only saw a modest increase in that same time period domestic consumption cannot account alone for the great increase in the trade.

By the 1840s 50000 tons of coal was entering Stratford every year, most of which then going on to other destinations. 10000 tons was carried by the canal and 15000 tons by the tramway. By sheer tonnage alone the tramway was a key actor in the expansion of the coal trade.

Tramway bridge at Stratford
The effect of the tramway can also be seen from the town at the other end of the line, Moreton-in-the-Marsh in Gloucestershire. Before the arrival of the tramway the town and its market was said to be of little importance but this changed when coal could be bought into the town from Stratford and agricultural produce could go the other way up to Stratford and via transport links to other destinations. The Oxford, Worcester and Wolverhampton Railway later built their line to Moreton where it joined the tramway. It was hoped this would increase the profitability of the Stratford tramway however the opposite effect occurred with through traffic decreasing. As with the tramway itself which was said to have diverted traffic from the Oxford Canal, providing an alternative route to take coal into the South Midlands, due to its perceived superior technology the steam railway to Moreton had the same negative effect on tramway traffic.

Stratford had been, and continued to be, a trading town and the tramway helped to develop that further after the similar stimuli caused by river and canal trade. The coal trade had existed before the tramway, the tramway does not seem to have created any new markets or traffic flows but instead improved what already existed. However in the longer term tourism was the area of the town’s economy that became the most important and here the tramway was not much of a factor. Some passengers were carried on the tramway after its opening with the first licences issued from 1834 though there are also some indications of this taking place illegally beforehand. However there were only two return passenger trips along the line every day (though other passengers paid to travel on freight waggons), perhaps this was due to the slow speed of the tramway and the limited scope of the network. The town would have to wait until the arrival of the steam railways to fully enable the arrival of tourists en masse.

Was the Stratford and Moreton Railway a success? It ran as a horse-drawn tramway for over thirty years and parts of the line continued in operation as a steam railway for decades after that. The initial grand ambition of the tramway was not fully realised though that ambition was sufficiently vague as to be easily discounted later on. Despite early problems with the quality of construction the tramway became a steady performer with a large share of Stratford’s coal trade. However the tramway was quickly overtaken by the new steam railways, the losses the Oxford, Worcester and Wolverhampton Railway made on their investment early on and the problems with conversion could indicate the tramway was a technically inferior and obsolete system. However most of these losses were due to the (perhaps overly) generous terms the OWWR paid in leases to the tramway’s owners and the system itself was basically sound, if needing more investment. It could be that a link to Birmingham would have been a more viable connection to the tramway at least in hindsight but the tramway’s builders wanted a good deal and no doubt got it from the OWWR.

Selected bibliography

R.B. Pugh (editor), Victoria County History. Gloucestershire Volume 7 (1965)
Stratford Birthplace Trust Record Office (SBTRO) ER10/3/658 Complaint of carrying passengers without a licence.


A Piccadilly Line train at Hammersmith tube station.

Thursday, July 24, 2014


A Peugeot 309 at Coventry Transport Museum. A good car this, my Dad bought a new E reg one and later a K reg one. In fact the 309 was the first car i ever drove, though only very briefly. It was on Dunlop's carpark and after quickly stalling it i decided it would be best if i waited a few more years...

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Missing Worcester

Although i don't miss the commute i do miss Worcester. How could you not miss sights like this?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Birmingham Business Park

It may lack some of the joys of Worcester but my new workplace at Birmingham Business Park does have this mini-stonehenge.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014


One of my favourite cars and one of the fine exhibits at Coventry Transport Museum.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

See the flowers

Vegetable growing has been scaled back this year to some pea plants in the garden (and not many of those though one seems strong) and some sweet peppers sown in a pot which is in my porch (it is East facing and makes a perfect mini-greenhouse). Both are flowering in fact and below you can see the sweet pepper flowers. A couple of years ago i had some great success with an indoor growing chilli plant which yielded some chillies for 2 seasons. Hopefully this one will be the same.

St Martin-cum-Gregory, Micklegate

One of the many churches of York, now home to the Stained Glass Centre.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Shell Petrol Garage

I have my own gas station, in HO scale that is. Project #058 is the latest building model for my Eskalon model railway layout and is a Shell petrol station. Its nearly complete, just needs a bit of painting and maybe some people added.

Stratford narrowboats

A whole host of narrowboats at the Stratford River Festival.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Coventry Transport Museum

Coventry Transport Museum is somewhere i've been meaning to visit for years, and today i finally got around to it! And its very fine indeed, a tremendous collection of classic cars from the earliest late 19th century vehicles to Jaguar concept cars. My favourite cars are the ones of the 70s and early 80s though especially the Triumph Dolomite and Jaguar XJ6. You can see my photos here.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Platform ticket machine

In the past train spotters (and anyone else not travelling anywhere but wanted to be on the train platform) could buy a cheap ticket from a machine like this (which is now in Kidderminster Railway Museum). I remember the machine at Birmingham New Street (which was not as cute as this), i think it cost me 2p!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

All quiet on the kits front?

It has been all quiet on the kits front actually, i got a bit bogged down with Project #056 the model of Jeanne d'Arc (dreadful kit to be honest) but that is now in the painting stage and i have also completed building of Project #057 a Tiger Moth. This is the second Tiger Moth i have built of course as Project #001 no less was also a Moth and started this whole model building thing off again...

Perry Barr lock

One of the lock gates on the Tame Valley Canal as it travels through Perry Barr.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Stratford River Festival 2014

The Stratford-upon-Avon River Festival is a lovely thing, especially if you like boats. Lots and lots of boats. This year did not disappoint for dozens of narrowboats and assorted river craft. I even spent some money at one of the stalls, obviously the horror of opening my wallet forced me to have a lie down for a while. You can see the photos i took here.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

A return to train spotting

Something i have not done for years, since my teenage years in fact, is actually go to a station and watch the trains go by for a few hours. Now i've been to preserved railway lines and museums (such as the SVR trip yesterday) and visited a station briefly now and then (plus traveled on trains a lot, especially this year) but i haven't gone to a station and watched the trains for an extended period of time.

In the past i used to go to Stechford a lot, loving the Euston expresses blasting past at a high rate of knots. Well today i went to Barnt Green and experienced much the same. Voyagers and Turbostars flying past but also a HST and a bit of freight too! You can see my photos here.

I must do this again, though with my DSLR next time. The iPhone is fine for static photos but messes up a bit when something is traveling fast! So yes a return to train spotting but i don't bother underlining numbers in my Ian Allan abc anymore.

I sea the see

The seafront at Aberystwyth. It looks like you could go on forever but actually you'd end up in Ireland.