Month: November 2013

The Big Move

The next time I write this will be from Salisbury.  Tonight is my last sleep in my little home from home in Southampton, a place where I have stayed since April this year.
My home from home

My home from home

In fact I was supposedly moving awhile ago but circumstances made me delay my move until I knew a bit more, but the time has now come to pack my goodies and leave. I have a flat share close to where I work, and will hang in there for awhile until I can settle down and get my own place. I moved in here with a suitcase and a wheelie bag, and am now leaving with two suitcases, a wheelie bag, a bin of bits and pieces, a duvet and 1,5 pillows. Next time I will need bearers and a sedan chair,
 
I would have remained in Southampton had we not been approaching winter. Travelling by train isn’t too much of a mission but the vagaries of weather and leaves on the line can prove to be disastrous as was seen when we had the big storm. I do not want to be stranded at Salisbury Station by the closure of a railway line. It is a miserable place even when the sun is shining. The colder weather and early darkness does make my morning and evening commute unpleasant at times and the move will negate that aspect as I am now roughly 8 minutes from work. 
 
So, don’t go away, I will be back, but it may take awhile. And, be prepared for no more ship pics! I will miss taking those, but realistically there are no unique arrivals for quite some time, so I wont really be missing too much, although 39 ships wasn’t too bad an innings.
Salisbury doesn’t have ships. It has a cathedral.
Salisbury Cathedral

Salisbury Cathedral


and it is not too far from Stonehenge

That’s about it. There are a number of really beautiful buildings though, but they are for another day. I have to get settled in properly and conduct some grave hunting first. 
 
DRW © 2013-2019. Images recreated 14/04/2016

Southampton Shipwatch 39. Saga Pearl II

Now many years ago, when Union-Castle had gone from our waters and cruising was not even an option in South Africa, along came the Astor. Owned by Safmarine, she had been built in 1981 and had been a failure for the original owners, as she was for Safmarine too.  I recall when I was first looking for a cruise in 1986 there were still brochures for the ship, but she had departed from our shores. I believe one of the issues with the vessel was that she was not suited for South African waters and was uneconomical to run in the service they intended. 

Astor in her original HADAG livery before being painted in Safmarine livery

1/1250 waterline model of the Astor in her original livery

Safmarine then commissioned an almost identical vessel, albeit slightly larger, and they sold her almost immediately while she was still under construction. 

Commercial postage view of Astor alongside at Cape Town in Safmarine livery

The ship currently sitting at City Terminal is that original Astor. She arrived some time in the morning of 21 November and I was only able to get pics of her alongside when I got home from work and it was already dark.

I was hoping that I could get pics of her sailing the next day, as she had a 4pm sailing time, and Fridays I get off early. Lo and behold she was still alongside when I arrived at Mayflower Park shortly before 2.50. The weather was stunning and the late afternoon sun really made her stand out compared to my almost identical pic from the previous evening.

According to my usual sources her sailing time had been moved forward to 15H45 so I decided to hang around and wait for her sailing instead of going home and then having to come back to the harbour almost immediately.

It was going to be a long chilly wait as the aft crane moved busily between quayside and deck, possibly loading luggage? The sun did not have much longer to shine on this afternoon and the light was deepening all the time.
As sailing time grew nearer I was getting anxious, because the radar wasn’t turning and the tell tale puff of smoke hadn’t happened either. The sun was almost on the horizon by now, and with Adonia due to sail at 16H00 I was beginning to think she was going to be delayed. Yet, according to my handy source she had already left!


Then I saw lines start to come in and the radar was spinning and smoke was coming from that strange tall distinctive funnel. Without the aid of a tug she pulled away from City Terminal and headed my way. The sun was gone and only the faint afterglow remained, turning the sky an orangeish pink. Some of her deck lights were on too, so with a bit of luck I would still get semi decent images of her. 

Up at Mayflower Adonia was also getting ready to move so I would be seeing two movements for the price of one.

She is not an unattractive vessel, but of the two ships the second Astor just looked better, the extra few metres in length gave her much better balance.

The strange funnel has always drawn criticism, it does look much too tall for such a narrow beam, and it is not too difficult to envisage a better looking funnel on her, but the funnel makes the pair of ships unique, and at least it isn’t a stove pipe like Costa has. The funnel is supposedly representing a packet of cigarettes with 4 cigarettes poking out of it (I kid you not).

And then she was past me, and I turned to watch Adonia sailing. I was thoroughly chilled by now and did not hang around long after that. I was glad to have seen this ship with a connection to South Africa, and she is now already a classic vessel in her own right. Amongst my goodies I have a publicity pic of her with Hapag Lloyd’s Europa in an Italian port, and it is interesting that the pair of them are now fleetmates. Europa now sailing as Saga Sapphire.

What happened to the larger Astor? She ended up being sold to Black Sea Shipping Company, and reflagged in the Soviet Union under the name Fedor Dostoevskiy, and she called in South Africa, being photographed by a friend in Durban

She currently operates as Astor, although no longer under Soviet ownership.

DRW © 2013-2019 Images recreated 14/04/2016, added image of model 15/07/2019


The Romsey Signal Box Project

On my way to work every day I pass the Romsey Signal Box Project, and naturally my curiosity was piqued and while I never made a conscious decision to go there, the idea did fester in the back of my head for quite some time. On my visit to Romsey on 16 November I walked past the entrance and decided that it was now or never! 
 
I originally trained as a Telecommunications Technician with the South African Railways back in the early 1980’s and part of our jobs was to maintain the trackside and cabin equipment that involved telecommunications, and to a lesser extent small scale electronics used in the cabins. I was not involved in the signalling side, but as a bit of a train buff I do have an interest in things like this.
 
I cannot really tell the history and workings of the equipment as their website explains it better than I can. Suffice to say I did not expect to see too much but was fortunate that one of the members was there on that day and he very kindly showed me around.
 
 
There is a section of track with a point as well as associated equipment on the site, as well as the frame and all its attendant linkages and rods. Unfortunately a real train is not present but the present railway line runs on the embankment behind the project. 
 
 
The operation of the equipment is all done manually, and a controller can sit in the level below and simulate trains in the section while the signalman above can operate the appropriate signals. 
 
 
What interested me was the tag block above. I wired many of those while I was a technician, and could probably still wire one up today. Telecommunication is really lots of short lengths of cross connect wire joined by long lengths of cable.  I also spotted a telephone set which was familiar to me, and it was one of the items we had to wire up for trade test. I seem to recall it being called a “Plan 11” and was basically a master incoming phone with extensions. 
  
I was distracted there for a moment, but all around me was this equipment from the past, and a lot would probably be familiar to South African signalmen as it would be to British ones. And, a few model railroaders would probably understand the inner workings just as well.
 
I even spotted a set of aerial lines that made me recall the hours spent “up the pole”, it was one thing we all dreaded during trade test. I was fortunate enough to not get it when I wrote. 
The one end of the line

The one end of the line

The other end of the line

The other end of the line

The low brown building also revealed an extensive array of railway memorabilia that was amazing to see, a lot of this equipment is long gone from memory, but lives on in heritage rail and museums. 
 
 
 
I must admit I know nothing about signalling, and semaphores were long gone by the time I was an appy, but in some of the more rural areas of South Africa they survived for many years. Unfortunately a site like this would be a prime target for the scrap metal thieves that exist back home. 
  
This line extends from Salisbury, through Romsey, Southampton, Southampton Parkway, Eastleigh, Chandlers Ford and back to Romsey with all stations inbetween. It is not electrified, so everything here is diesel powered. The station does not see to much traffic either, but I believe at one point this was a very busy goods line. Of course a lot of traffic was on this line during war time, and a plaque on the station testifies to that. 
 
The project is a great idea, and has so much potential to be something amazing. Sadly it will be closed for 18 months while development is being done on the area around it, and the last public open day will be the 1st of December. I guess I was very lucky to get to look around here before it closes, and I hope by the time it re-opens it will be an even better experience for the participants and volunteers. 
 
  
DRW © 2013-2019. Images recreated 14/04/2016