musings while allatsea

Musings of a curious individual

Month: October 2013

The Big Storm

I am currently sitting  at home writing this, when I should actually be at work fixing broken stuff. Its really the aftermath of the storm that hit Southern England yesterday (27 October) and that has caused havoc along the way. Southampton was one of the places that was affected, or should I say,  the trains out and into Southampton have been affected. Outside my flat all is about as normal as it usually is.
I woke up a bit earlier than usual this morning, and the wind was howling. 18 Hours ago  it was blowing at 25 knots, gusting to 31 at Southampton Dock Head. It was much more later that evening. I could hear it blowing like mad outside each time I woke during the night, and by the time I left home this morning it was not too bad. Cold, but not impossibly so.
I had had notification that my usual Southwest train at 6.30 would be cancelled, but it looked like the First Great Western from Portsmouth would be running. It was scheduled to arrive at 06.46. But, at the station it was confirmed as arriving at 07.11, and then 07.35. The station itself was empty, only the Cross Country train to Manchester was sitting wasting diesel at platform 1.
At 7.35 the Portsmouth train arrived and we proceeded cautiously along, stopping close to Romsey. A fallen tree had blocked the line and we were going no further forward, only backwards to Southampton.
It was becoming increasingly more crowded at Southampton Central as all 4 platforms were now filling with trains that were going nowhere. There were over 30 trees across the lines over the network and it was expected that some sort of limited service would be running after 11am. I do not know if that included the service to Salisbury.
So I came home. 
Strangely enough it is quite a nice sunny day outside, if not a bit windy. Wind speed at the dock head is 16 knots gusting to 25, and the sun is shining like mad. One of the cruise ships even slept at the harbour last night, and quite few dustbins were tipped where I stay, but other than that we are still here. Now if only I could get hold of somebody at work!
© DRW 2013-2018. Images replaced 14/04/2016
Updated: 29/12/2017 — 07:52

Southampton Shipwatch 38: Boudicca

What luck! Boudicca was due to call at 17H00 on the 18th of October, and that is the day I actually get home early. Built as one of the Royal Viking Sisters (Royal Viking Sea, Star and Sky), she is the former Royal Viking Sky, her sister, Black Watch (RV Star) had called here earlier in April when I had photographed her, it also means I have now seen all three of the sisters, although only RV Sea in her original livery way back in 1986.
The weather was not pretty. A layer of clouds covered the late afternoon sun, and a freshish wind did not make things vcry comfortable if you were not wearing a jacket. The ship arrived around 16H30, and she looks like a ship, not some block of flats with a pointy end. Although she does have a very pointy end. 
Unfortunately, being somewhat of an oldie, she did need assistance, and the tug Lomax glued herself alongside for the whole trip down to City Terminal.
There were quite a few shipwatchers present to see her arrive, although I don’t think too many will be around at 23H30 when she is scheduled to sail. 
There was still enough time to make a mad dash down to Mayflower Park before she came alongside, although they still had not removed the boat show detritus!  She would also take some time to get alongside given her lack of sideways propulsion. 
I was quite surprised that they brought her bow forwards quite far into the berth before swinging her stern parallel with the quay. I remember Black Watch had had a problem with the ship ranging in the berth and I suspect the wind may have also influenced how they brought her alongside. 
While all this was going on, Saga Sapphire decided to leave, and from Mayflower Terminal her 3 blasts of her whistle went unanswered. However, on startup she still smokes like a coal burner.
It was now a case of trying to decide which ship to watch. Both are classics and were amongst the top ships of their day. Both are now getting on in years and are amongst the few oldies that still sail on, much to the admiration of ship enthusiasts. 
There seemed to be a bit of trouble getting her close enough to get the lines ashore, and Lomax ended up having to nudge her alongside. Its still great to see a tug at work, although they do tend to get in the way. Finally she too was able to leave, and Boudicca was safely alongside.
Then it was time for me to head off home, but I will not be back to see her sail tonight, that is waaaay past my bedtime. Boudicca is operated by Fred Olsen Cruise Lines, and her next destination is Spain; I believe she will be back again one of these days but it is doubtful that I will be around to see her on that day.
© DRW 2013-2018. Images recreated 14/04/2016
Updated: 29/12/2017 — 07:52

Siemens Northam Train Depot Open Day.

When I first started to explore Southampton I spotted the Northam Train Depot from the railway bridge near the stadium, and I really hoped that I could find a way to get around exploring the place.

Somebody must have taken my thought to mind as it was announced that the 12th of October would be an open day at the depot. This was my chance at last! Fortunately the weather was decent on that day so it was worth spending some time there looking around. I have travelled on a few of the South Western Trains in the area and they are really comfortable and the blue and red colour scheme on some of them is very handsome.

It is a short walk from where I live to the depot, although I was coming from a totally different area, but I got there about midday, and it was already bustling.

The main workshop area is spotless, and I am sure that was not because it was an open day either. A variety of trains were on the lines and most were open to inspection. There was also an inspection pit where we could see what goes on underneath.

Driving coach bogie with traction motor and gearbox

Driving coach bogie with traction motor and gearbox

The underside of the train is populated by a lot of equipment that is taken for granted by the passengers above, and it can include things like sensors, compressors, traction motors, gearboxes, batteries and a host of other odds and sods. As much as I wanted to take more pics and ask pointed questions there were a pile of people behind me who didn’t. 

Brake calipers and wheel.

Once back at ground level I headed across to see what was happening outside, a vintage steam engine had been brought from Swanage Railway and I was hoping to at least get some footage of her before leaving. Outside a battery driven shunter was running back and forth between the workshop and the building where the wheel lathe was housed. 

Battery driven shunter,

Wheel Lathe

The wheel lathe was a much more complicated machine than that which was laying at Sanrasm North Site so long ago, but then are from two different eras altogether.This vehicle was not going to win any speed records, but I expect it is very effective at moving trains around that are not under their own power. Incidentally, the third rail power to the depot was isolated so nobody was accidentally fried by standing in the wrong place.
Returning to the workshop I really wanted to see the drivers cab of one of these trains, but finding one where somebody had not stalled completely in the way was very difficult. I am also amazed how people leave their children to just push and shove and pull anything that looks like a switch or lever. I am sure that a number of the trains there would have had to have their drivers panels reset after the panelbeating they received from junior train driver wannabes. 

Drivers view

Drivers view

There is not a lot to the panel, and the view outside isn’t expansive, but with the train in motion it must be a totally different story altogether. The conductor/train manager also has a panel, although that one is much less impressive. I wonder where the recorded voice is kept, because the one on my morning train is kind of confused. 
Conductors panel.

Conductors panel.

The closest we have in South Africa to these trains is the Gautrain, and back home they forget that technically the Gautrain is reasonably mundane in the UK, Commuter trains here are almost all like that, except maybe the smaller DMU sets that we have up to Salisbury. 
The workshop has walkways that can access all three levels of the train, (underside, ground level, roof level), and the only thing I did not see what a washing bay, but I expect that exists as well. 


There were over 1600 people at the open day, which was quite a good turn out for something like this, of course the heritage items may have proven to be a drawcard as well.

As for the steam engine… this was an M7 Class 30053, 109 years old and the only surviving member of that class. She was running between the depot and just past the Stadium close by. Had she continued down that particular line she would probably have come out in the harbour at Ocean Terminal. The queue was long to go on her so I rather went and took pics where I could. 

She was pulling a very attractive brake van, which I would have loved to have had a closer look at, but the crowds really made that impossible.


My day was about over, and I was ready to head off home. It was a very interesting morning, and I am glad I took the opportunity to have a look. It is not very often that you get to see what goes on behind the scenes of a place like this. There is a huge train repair depot up at Eastleigh that looks very interesting, but the odds of getting a look around there are small.



Who knows, I may never view a class 450 in the same way ever again.

© DRW 2013-2018. Images replaced 13/04/2016

Updated: 29/12/2017 — 07:53

The Society of Friends Burial Ground, Southampton.

I must have walked past this place at least 10 times before it actually registered with me that there may be something of interest behind the fence. 

And, even when I finally did have a look I missed the important sign on the gatepost.

My contact at the Hamble Valley and Eastleigh Heritage Guides was quickly able to inform me that this was the Quaker Burial Ground, and that with a bit of luck I would be able to swing a visit to it if I emailed the right person. My curiosity was piqued, and I managed to reach the right person and a visit was organised. Unfortunately I had to pull out at the last minute due to a job interview, but all was not lost because one Saturday morning I went past and the gate was unlocked. 

I did take pics, but was really missing the context of the cemetery from somebody that was connected with it, and sure enough, a visit was organised to the cemetery by the Friends of Southampton Old Cemetery and I headed back again on the 12th of October. Theoretically at this point I should have been living in Salisbury, but my plans there went awry.
It is not my place to explain the history behind the Quaker movement in Southampton, there are others much more qualified than I am, suffice to say that the burial ground has been around since 1662, and is still in use today.
The headstones (technically these are footstones), are all of identical size and shape and are inscribed with name, age and date of death. This exemplifies the principles of equality and simplicity which are part of Quaker belief. 
The graves are laid out in a North/South Orientation on either side of a central path, and the earliest stone now visible marks the grave of Anna Thompson who died in 1817. However, there are much older graves in the cemetery that were not marked with stones, and these date back to the founding of the burial ground. 
In 1841, an additional plot of land was purchased to the west of the burial ground, thereby doubling the size, and making more land available for new burials. The burials are laid out on a map, and while some of the inscriptions are long gone, the map does hold the information as to who is buried in the plots.
The burial ground is a peaceful one, the noise of the traffic outside is easily forgotten once standing amongst the graves of those long passed on, and there is a feeling of tranquillity within its walls. Sadly though, it does have its fair share of vandals and ne’er-do-wells, but overall I expect most people just walk past it, blissfully unaware of the history buried within. 
Maybe that is a good thing? because preserving a space like this is important, not only from a historical point of view, but as a green space inside a busy city. 
It is also important to consider the context of this burial ground as a part of the city of Southampton. When George Fox, founder of the Quaker movement visited Southampton in 1662, there were twenty two local Quakers in prison for holding illegal assemblies, refusing to take the oath of allegiance or failing to doff their hats to those in authority. They were probably imprisoned in the Bargate, which today still exists, although no longer a prison or seat of authority. 
The city has changed, rulers have come and gone, and the world has passed this small haven of tranquility by. But, like so many other burial grounds, churchyards and cemeteries there is much to see if you stop and look, and while there try to imagine those who walked this path before you.
Special thanks must go to Margaret Matthews, (Convener of Burial Ground Committee), who took time out to show us this treasure, and for permission to use information from the handouts. And to Friends of Southampton Old Cemetery and Geoff Watts who arranged this visit. 
I paid a visit to the Friends Burial ground in Tewkesbury when I moved there, and my thoughts and images are on the relevant post. I also visited the Friends Burial Ground in Evesham in 2018, and the former burial ground in Bristol
DRW © 2013-2018. Images replaced 13/04/2016, two new links added 25/08/2018
Updated: 26/08/2018 — 16:46

Southampton Shipwatch 37: Saga Ruby

I first saw Saga Ruby under her original name Vistafjord when she called in Durban many years ago. In those days she was owned by Cunard, and bore a grey hull with a Cunard funnel livery. She arrived on one of those ugly grey Durban days so the images I have of her are not great at all.
She did not impress me either, possibly because I had much higher expectations of her. But, there is no denying that she is a good looking vessel. 

Cunard Line postcard

Between then and now she has gone from being one of the top ships in the world into being one of the real classics still afloat. Her fleetmate and near sister Sagafjord was broken up a number of years ago, but Saga Ruby has soldiered on, and this is probably her last year in service. Currently operated by Saga Cruises, she has been slated for disposal, and these calls in Southampton will probably be amongst her last. 
She arrived at just before 07H00, the sun was just starting to wake up, but it was very chilly at Town Quay, a reminder that winter is not far off.
She had two tugs with her, Wyestorm and Lomax. Lomax was a bit of a surprise as she normally hangs out at the refinery. It is a reminder that this is a ship from a different age, although she does have a bow thruster she does not have the manoeuvrability that modern cruise ships have. 
She was due to berth at City Terminal, port side to, so I had a chance to move from Town Square to Mayflower Park before she came alongside. 
Modern ship designers please note: This is what a ship is supposed to look like!  End of rant.
The detritus from the boat show is still being dismantled, ruining photography at this area of the harbour. 
It was a long process to swing her about her axis and then push her alongside, but the light kept on improving, but still with the pink/orange glow that sets off a white superstructure really nicely.

And then her lines were going ashore and she was safely alongside. It had been quite a good morning from a photography point of view, I did shoot some video too, but it will take awhile before I process it through. She is sailing at 16H00 this afternoon, so I will be there to see her go. It is probably the last time I will see this beautiful classic too.

Sailaway. 16H00 10/10/2013.
What a pleasure it is to watch a ship sail on time. With a minimum of fuss Saga Ruby slipped her lines and was swung by the same pair of tugs from earlier in the morning. Much to my dismay she did not even blow her hooter, but then there was nobody else to reply to it anyway.
It did seem as if she had a list to starboard, but it could just be the effect of the tugs pulling her away. 

And then she was past the boat show detritus and sailing on her own, and she really looked beautiful. This livery suits her so much better than the grey I had seen her in originally.

And then she was past me, and I could glimpse the glassed in windowed area that was a really beautiful space on her and Sagafjord. I think it was a club or bar, and when we went through it was filled with the yuppie crowd. I hope that they didn’t change that on her.


And that was Saga Ruby. One of the few ships from my past that is still afloat, and one which looks so much nicer now than she did back then. The ship does have limited time left though, which is a shame, but it is also an inevitability. Classic vessels like her will be sorely missed when they are no longer with us, so seeing her really made taking a day off work worthwhile.
*Update 12/04/2017*
On 12 April 2017 the former Vistafjord was beached at Alang for demolition.  It was the end of an era.
© DRW 2013-2018. Images recreated 13/04/2016, updated 12/04/2017
Updated: 29/12/2017 — 07:53

Random Churchyards: St Thomas and St Edmund’s Salisbury

There are a number of really beautiful churches in Salisbury, and often you find them by accident. St Thomas and St Edmund’s is one such find. Even though I go past it 10 times a week it still does not dominate the skyline the way Salisbury Cathedral does. If anything the church does sit in an awkward place in the city, and trying to get any complete photograph of it is almost impossible.
I was originally interested in the Churchyard, but the church doors were open so I ended up going there first. It is a very pretty church inside, with large windows and a serene lightness about it. I had a similar feeling about the Cathedral.
The church dates from around the 15th century, and the has a number of historic artefacts within its stonework. The history of the church may be read on the Church website (PDF Document).
One of the more famous items at the church is the “Doom Painting” which was painted around about 1470. It was covered by whitewash for a long time but has now been restored and is really magnificent. Unfortunately it is difficult to really examine because it is so high up.


There are a large number of monuments in the church, some obscure and others very prominent as well as a number of military monuments and memorials. 
The Humphrey Beckham Panel

The Humphrey Beckham Panel

The altar is dominated by the east chancel window which dates from the 1840’s, although this is not the original window that occupied this space.

Unlike many of the churches that I visit, this one is well documented with large information panels that explain a lot of the history behind the church and its contents. 
St George's Altar.

St George’s Altar.

The pulpit.

The pulpit.


And what of the churchyard? It is difficult to really know how big it was. Certainly there is a very obvious area with headstones, but there is also an area that is more park like. I could not work out how to access the latter though, but the former wasn’t too difficult. I was able to access the park like area one afternoon after work, (easy enough if you know where to look), and it contains the modern Garden of Remembrance.


I do suspect a number of the buildings around the church are built on top of the graveyard, but again there is no real way of knowing.

I did not seem to take many pics of the churchyard, which seems to indicate that there were not too many headstones to photograph originally. I did do a return visit to the church, and was able to satisfy my curiosity on at least 2 aspects that puzzled me before. 
The church is a gem, and well worth looking for if you are in the area, and I expect there is still a lot to see that I have missed. The biggest problem is that due to its location it is really difficult to photograph the buildings, and it is quite a busy area too, so you do have to run the gauntlet of tourists and unconscious cellphone maniacs.

What is interesting is how this church has literally had a city centre built around it, and integrated itself into its surroundings. I suspect that many politicians would have loved to raze it to erect some fancy office block or high street storefront, but it has outlasted them all.

© DRW 2013-2018. Images recreated 12/04/2016.  

Updated: 29/12/2017 — 07:54

My Buddy Conk.

Tonight I was reading about the Concorde, and it took me back many many years ago (January 1973) when the Concorde prototype 002 (G-BSST) came to South Africa to do hot and high test. I was very young then and under the influence of aircraft fans, but I was absolutely enthralled when she flew over Johannesburg, banking so that we could all see her. She was beautiful. One of those truly spectacular aircraft that you never tire of seeing, and which can still draw oohs and aahs from even the most hardened piston jock. I nicknamed the aircraft (as you tend to do when young) “my buddy conk”. No, I do not understand the logic behind it, although conk = Concorde?
Anyway, I never saw her again, although she was on my bucket list, her and QE2, although I never did manage either of them. 
In 2008, I was in the UK for a course, and as we landed at Manchester airport we spotted a Concorde parked at a display area, and when the driver arrived we begged him to please make a detour, which he very kindly did. 

The aircraft in question is G-BOAC, and is the oldest in the Concorde fleet, at the time when we saw her she was parked in the open, but has since been placed under cover.

Unfortunately she was not open to the public as she was hosting a banquet or conference or something like that (much to our disgust).

I took many pics that day, and I hope that I will be able to see at least one more of them before I shuffle off this mortal coil. There is one at Yeovilton which is not too far out of range of Southampton, so maybe one day I can make a detour to there. 


How could you not love a nose like this? The aircraft in the left hand side is an AVRO-RJX, aka AVRO-146-RJX100, a really nifty little aircraft that I flew in twice when in the USA in 1999. I really scored two great aircraft in one day.  

I am afraid commercial airliners are not really my favourite, but some I do admire, and Concorde will always be on that list. The accident that caused the final grounding of the aircraft was a tragic one, made even more so by the video footage of that burning aircraft in its death throes. It is one aircraft that has a well deserved place in history, and will always be one of those aviation “greats”. It has never been equally by commercial aircraft, and if anything aircraft have just become fatter with even more people crammed into them. 

Concorde no longer graces us with her presence, but I think one of those truly magnificent moments are when you see footage of them coming into land, like a very graceful bird, landing at its home, and resting before soaring in the skies once again.

Update 22/01/2015
It is now 2015, and this past week I was on my way home from West Norwood in London when I spotted a Concorde from the train on the way to Basingstoke. Investigation revealed that this is G-BBGD and 2 days later I was on my way to Brooklands to see her.  Unfortunately the weather was grey and gloomy, so my pics were not great, but just the thrill of seeing my third Concorde made the trip worthwhile.

According to the blurb: 202 was one of three Concordes built for evaluation testing and final design. It made its first flight in 1974, wearing BA’s colours. It last flew in December 1981 and was bought by BA in 1984 for spares – proving useful right up until 2001, when it was used to test the reinforced cockpit doors required for all aircraft after 9/11. It moved to Brooklands in 2003.




She is still beautiful, she still draws crowds, and she is still one of the most iconic aircraft ever built. I am happy to report I have seen 3 of them now and still not got on board!

Much has been written about the aircraft and its history, and I do recommend Heritage Concorde as a source for all things Concorde.

© DRW 2013-2018. Created 01/10/2013. Updated 22/01/2015, images recreated 12/04/2016

Updated: 29/12/2017 — 07:55
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