musings while allatsea

Musings of a curious individual

Month: January 2015

The London Bus Museum

The London Bus Museum is housed at Cobham Hall in the Brooklands Museum, and I paid it a flying visit during my trip to Brooklands. As a child I was slightly infatuated with buses, or rather with toy buses, but I shall deny everything. My own experience with buses in Johannesburg I posted about in October 2012, and I expect it is rather different from the experience that people in the UK had. Still, old buses are great to see because they do not have that sleek self important look of todays eco-friendly wi-fi enabled people carriers.

The first buses I saw (apart from one which I messed the pic of) was this pair, and the blue BOAC liveried one was really quite odd, I would have liked to have had a better look at her, after all, when last did you see something with BOAC on it?. 

The museum is next to the field where the aircraft are housed, and a line up of three generations was waiting for passengers (or munchkins?). 


The museum itself is in a very good condition (and free), and you just follow the arrows to discover the history behind the ubiquitous red London bus, or rather, the London bus, because not all of the London buses are red.

And some were not powered by diesel either. This one was marked Camberwell, and I lived very close to Camberwell when I was living in London in 2013, and the bus service there was excellent.
Fortunately the horse driven bus was replaced by the motor bus and things have never been the same since, although the pollution is very different between a horse and an engine. 
I suspect this one started its career as a single decker, and was modified into a double sometime in its life.  
I really liked the 1968 Bedford Ambulance they had on display, it carries a London Transport logo and was used as a staff ambulance at the Aldenham Bus Works. 
and of course this 1959 mushy pea green Ford 300E general purpose van
Although this interesting minimalist bus below does seem to take cost-cutting a bit too far. I expect it is some sort of driver training vehicle, or maybe some sort of big boys toy? 
And yes, if you are not careful they will gang up on you.
It is not my intention to show every bus in the museum, that is what the museum is for, but my one gripe was that very few of the buses was open so that you could have a look at their interiors, although most buses probably look very similar on the inside. 
And those that I did get on board were very similar to what we had back in South Africa when I was a child. The modern London bus is a different beastie altogether, with a lot of the lower deck taken up by areas for prams and wheelchairs and lots of scowling women or people talking loudly on their cellphones.  
In fact I was looking through my pics and could find very few images of new buses that I took in London, although I do recall doing walking speed one rush hour on board one, and there were more buses in that street than I had ever seen at any one point in my life.
What of the future? the “Borisbus” seems to be the new face of buses in London, although it does lack a certain charm and businesslike appearance. If anything it looks politically correct.
I was only able to get up close to one in Salisbury and I asked at the museum whether there were any plans for acquiring one, but the reply was in the negative. It takes many years for an object to become a classic, and the red Routemaster buses in London have been classics for many years. In fact, when you think of London you think of red Routemasters rounding Trafalgar Square.  Its not a bad museum, but not the sort of place to spend a lot of time in. Kinda like a bus, in peak hour traffic.
© DRW 2015-2018. Images migrated 25/04/2016
Updated: 22/06/2018 — 12:45

Visiting Brooklands Museum in Weybridge – Everything else

Carrying on from the first part….

I was now ready to “see everything else”, because Brooklands was not only a hub for aviation, but also a hub for motor racing. It is also home to the London Bus Museum. When the track opened in 1907 it was the world’s second purpose-built motorsport track, it was also the first purpose-built banked motor race circuit in the world. 
There are a number of features of the old race track on the site, and it must have really been something to experience in its heyday. Unfortunately I am not a car buff, so I really did not appreciate it as much as  dedicated motorsport enthusiast would. 
The old club house building is spectacular, although for some reason I thought it was part of the airfield. Right next to the clubhouse is the building with the Stratosphere Chamber, and this was yet another Barnes Wallis project.  It is a mammoth machine, and it must have sounded even better.

There were also a number of interesting aircraft engines there, including the iconic Merlin.

 Now if only somebody had put one of those in a racing car!
The Munchkins were still following me around so I headed off to take a look at some of the classic cars on display in the Malcolm Campbell Shed. Now I must admit my dream car is probably one of those great big green open top Bentleys with large headlights. But I did see a few oldies here that I liked, that three wheeled  Morgan was especially nice.
There is also a display of vintage motorbikes and an interesting Raleigh cycle display. To my amusement one of the cycles on display was a Raleigh Chopper! These come from my childhood and these were THE bike to ride (and fall off from), but alas I ended up with a sensible Raleigh Rapier and was not not the doyen of the playground after all. This particular example is dated 1979 (and is probably worth a lot of money).

I was curious to see what some of the items on the map were so headed to the area where parts of the old racing circuit were, the hill was horribly steep too, and I was bushed by the time I got to the top. But what a surprise it was to see this remnant of an era gone by… 

The next time I am here this is one area I do want to investigate. The one thing about this museum is that there is a lot to see, and I had really only breezed through a lot of it. I really needed to revisit the Concorde, and investigate some of the other exhibits in the Wellington Hanger, I also missed the museum shop, and of course I wanted to take a better look at those olde racing cars and vehicles. There are also a number of period buildings on the site that are interesting in their own right, and they are worth investigating too. 



There were also a few olde vehicles that amused me parked outside, and if anything you could have probably have found similar ones like this in South Africa way back when.
My time was almost up and I started to head towards the station, a quick pass by the Hawker Hunter to photograph the Supermarine Swift Fuselage, 

And then I was on my way, leaving this really nice museum behind. It had been a very enjoyable trip, and one which I would make again if I get the chance. The London Bus Museum pics I will paste under a separate post.  
© DRW 2015-2018. Images migrated 25/04/2016
Updated: 31/12/2017 — 09:44

Visiting Brooklands Museum in Weybridge – Aviation

On my way home from West Norwood on Tuesday I was staring out of the train window, minding my own business, when I spotted aircraft! and one of them was a Concorde! Stop the train!! The worst part was the train was an express and I could not read the name of the platform where the aircraft were. I had to grab my handy computer to do a quick lookup and found that my next day trip destination was Brooklands Museum in Weybridge, Surrey.
The weather was lousy on the Wednesday, but on the Thursday I was on my way. Heading out on the stopping service, disembarking at Weybridge and then taking a swift walk to the museum. There is a lot to see there, but my chief goal was that needle nosed beauty. She would be the 3rd Concorde that I have seen, although my first was in 1973 and I have no pics of that. My second was in Manchester (G-BOAC)  and here was number 3.
The first aircraft I saw was a Hawker Hunter (My 2nd Hunter BTW). And my heart fell because there was a group of munchkins (young school children) clustered around the aircraft. I would definitely have to get back to the Hunter. I headed towards a handy sort of building that had an aircrafty look about it, and it was called “The Wellington Hanger”. I had read that there was a Vickers Wellington here, and I was hoping she was inside.  Unfortunately, aircraft hangers are like a giant jigsaw puzzle, and the item you are after is always in a space where you cannot get to photograph it easily. Why don’t they supply ladders? 
The first aircraft to catch my eye though was the venerable Hawker Hurricane IIA (ZS389), currently undergoing restoration and sans engine.
Of course my roving eye kept on going towards the back of the hanger where the Wimpy was standing. Everything else really seemed insignificant next to that bomber, while the Hurricane is rare, the Wellington is even rarer. There are realistically only 2 of them in the world, and this particular example (1A N2980) actually saw service during WW2.
It still amazes me how men climbed into these aircraft and flew them and carried out a mission to carry the war to the enemy. They were brave, you can never take that away from them, and those who built these aircraft did a fine job. The Wimpy was designed by the legendary Barnes Wallis, and its strength came from its geodesic design. The aircraft has no skin (which was fabric btw) so you can see a lot of the internals, although getting close enough to see them was difficult. 
I was really impressed by this aircraft, but just wished there was a way to get a better look at her from the inside. No wait, there is a way….
It’s not the real thing, but at least they tried. I have to admit that the guide I spoke to knew his onions, and was passionate about his subject too. In fact that was really true of all the guides that I met at the museum. And these people are volunteers, they do not get paid to do this.
The other aircraft in the hanger of interest was the Vickers Vimy which was built as a replica and which flew to Australia many years ago. I recall watching the documentary on TV about this aircraft and thinking that at some points she was probably going as fast as I could walk. Unfortunately she is very difficult to photograph and to get any real sense of. 
And, hiding in the one corner of the hanger was the remnant of another of my favourite aircraft, the Vickers Valiant. 
It was now time to go outside and find the needle nosed beastie, but first, a VC10 fuselage. I remember the VC10 from when I was young, it was always being used for glamorous cigarette adverts, or travelogues. It was that kind of aircraft; sleek, good looking and a gas guzzler. That distinctive tailplane, 4 engines aft and wings set far back just made it look good. The old maxim of “if it looks good it should fly good” was definitely true. 

In the distance I could see the sleek figure of Concorde, as well as a horde of munchkins clustered around the landing gear, so I decided to head across to the other VC10 which was parked on the other side. This particular one operated in the Sultan of Oman’s Royal Flight, based at Muscat. It was built at Brooklands and initially delivered to British United Airways in 1964. It is fitted out as a private jet, and is very nice inside.


I even got to sit at the controls! Seriously though, British passenger jet aviation is really about three aircraft: The Comet, The VC10 and the Concorde. All three of these aircraft were all aesthetically pleasing in their looks and they were record breakers in their own way. Seeing something like a VC10 is a thrill because you have read about them, and as a youngster saw them flying overhead (they were regulars at Jan Smuts Airport), never realising that one day they will no longer be there. Museum pieces are all that is left.

In the meantime, the munchkins were coming my way and I encountered them in the narrowest part of the fuselage of the VC10. There were heaps of them, a squirming mass of youngsters who may or may not remember their day at the museum. They have never seen these aircraft in flight, and hopefully the seed will be planted in their minds to one day become an engineer, or a pilot, or a volunteer at a museum such as this.

Next on my list was an aircraft that I was not familiar with, the Vickers Vanguard, of which this is the only surviving example.
And next to it, the famous Vickers Viccount. I have never seen one of these up close and personal, and only while I was speaking to the guide did it strike me that these were the aircraft that were shot down over Rhodesia in 1978 and 1979. (A memorial to that dastardly act was recently unveiled in South Africa.)  The Viscount was a very successful aircraft, and 444 were built, and they had an excellent safety record.

Oddly enough, seeing as there was a pre-dominance of Vickers aircraft here, I was not surprised to see a Vickers Viking. The Viking rang a bell because many years ago there was a garage in Johannesburg that had a Viking on its roof. It was called “Vics Viking Garage”, and the aircraft was eventually removed and swapped with a Shackleton. The intention being to restore the Viking. That never happened.

The museum also has a Vickers Varsity  on display,

and a BAC 1-11

In all there is a really nice selection of aircraft from the glory days of British Aviation. And, the best was still to come (checks to see if munchkins are anywhere in sight)

What can I say about the Concorde? This particular aircraft was one of three Concordes built for evaluation testing and final design. It made its first flight in 1974, wearing BA’s colours and it last flew in December 1981 and was bought by BA in 1984 for spares. It moved to Brooklands in 2003. There were tours available to go on board but I did not get around to it because it would have taken too long. Time was not on my side.




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 Concorde and its history, and I do recommend Heritage Concorde as a source for all things Concorde.

It was time to go look around the rest of the museum now, and there was that Hawker Hunter that I wanted to look at too. You have to admit they were beautifully graceful looking aircraft. almost too good looking for an aircraft built to kill.

And, there was a Hawker Harrier too (my 3rd).

In fact there are a lot of other aircraft that I have not mentioned, and that is probably because they are overshadowed by those that are famous. The Wellington Hanger is wonderful, and they have a really nice Barnes Wallis collection on display. His influence was huge in British Aviation, and thanks to my maths teacher in tech I have a great respect for him and his achievements. One of his more destructive weapons is also at Brooklands, and I am glad that I was not on the receiving end of it.

And having not gone out with a bang I shall pause for breath and continue my exploration over the page.

© DRW 2015-2018. Images migrated 25/04/2016  
Updated: 31/12/2017 — 09:46

West Norwood is complete (2)

Continuing where we left off,

 I had entered “Ship Path” and now found out where it got it’s name from:

There is just so much to like about this memorial, but then I am biased. Looking around me I spotted a mausoleum in the bushes” and went to investigate.

The area around this memorial is very different to many of the areas in the cemetery, Ship path is a well defined path and it passed through an area of heavy undergrowth on one side and sloping grass with graves on the other. Both hold their attractions, and the heavy undergrowth can have many beautiful memorials in it.  The mausoleum in the undergrowth above belongs to Christopher Pond who helped pioneer railway catering to the UK amongst other things.

Time was marching, and the clouds that had been quite sparse when I arrived were starting to arrive too, so I decided it was almost time to head off back to the station. I really wanted to be out of there by 14H00 so that I could get a train back home before rush hour. I had more or less seen most areas of the cemetery, but you never really get to see everything.

As for war graves, I had photographed what I saw, and will know how many I did get once I have sorted and labelled the images that I have. (it appears as if I missed 81 graves). A funeral had also  started to arrive, and I am happy that this place does see burials and cremations, it is a new lease on life for an oldie like this, and while it may just be a cemetery, it is really a history book for everybody to read if only they would take the time.


I will leave you with a small selection of images, but they cannot convey the beauty of this cemetery, and I am glad that I have seen it. But before we get there, some images of St Lukes Church which was quite interesting in itself. 

West Norwood Misc images.

Back to the first part of West Norwood.

© DRW 2015-2018. Created 21/01/2015, images migrated 22/04/2016

Updated: 31/12/2017 — 09:47

West Norwood is complete (1)

Today I finally did it. I visited West Norwood Cemetery in London, thereby completing the final cemetery of the 7 Magnificent Seven cemeteries in London. To say that I am chuffed would be an understatement, especially when I consider what a beaut this one turned out to be.
West Norwood station

West Norwood station

I was blessed  with a clear morning for my trip, although the frost lay heavily on the ground (which made for stunning images too). The trip was via Clapham Junction and then onwards to my destination. Clapham Junction is quite a place too,  but surprisingly easy to navigate if you know where you must be. Oh, and know which train to catch. The local I caught here was a Southern Trains local, and the trip to the station was quite a quick one. The walk to the cemetery was also a quickie, although I kind of got distracted along the way by a church (which also had a war memorial).  Still, I am glad I did not have a long walk because I really needed my energy for the cemetery (as well as a full complement of batteries). 

West Norwood Cemetery is on the right with the brown fence.

West Norwood Cemetery is on the right with the brown fence.

Immediately after entering the gate you come to the Cross of Sacrifice and the screen wall. There are 136 Commonwealth burials of the 1914-1918 war and 52 of the 1939-1945 war here and an additional 18 cremations of the 1939-1945 war. There is 1 Belgian war burial. 
 I was not after any specific grave, in fact this was more of a touristy type trip, any CWGC grave that I saw I would photograph, but I was not there with a list and a predetermined route. 
The first breathtaker is very much the first thing you see when you enter the cemetery, and it is the Edmund Distrim Maddick Mausoleum of 1931. 
Spectacular is not the word I would use for this structure. It is truly magnificent, and what really makes it memorable is just how light and airy it was with its big windows and panels in the roof. There are a lot of mausoleums in West Norwood, and this was just the beginning! 
I could probably foam at the mouth about the mausoleums and statuary, I walked away from there with nearly 500 photographs, and I could show every one, and it could never really explain what this place was like. Like many of these Victorian cemeteries it was really an exercise in contrasts,  the rich and titled competing with soldiers, children, ordinary people and a host of vegetation, wildlife and stone. Parts are wild and overgrown, and others are pristine, like the avenue above. 
In parts it seemed almost empty, but I remembered that an empty space does not mean that there is no grave there, it can also mean there is just no headstone. I also believe that quite a few memorials were removed, which could explain some of the empty areas. Naturally I watched out for angels and statues, I cannot help it, they tend to draw your eye with their magnificent and often decaying splendour. And there were lots to see too, and some I had not seen before in other cemeteries, while others were like old friends. 
The Green Boy

The Green Boy

Kneeling Angel

Mother and child

Mother and child



The leaner

The leaner

The pointer

The pointer

Yes, I admit it, I am a sucker for a statue. Moving onwards I came to a very large area dominated by mausoleums, although I decided to not be lead into temptation and rather come back to it once I had done my circumnavigation. However, it was hard to walk past this area without looking.

Speaking of circles: what does West Norwood look like from above? I did not have a handy plan with me, but it is not really a very complicated layout. I am pretty sure I walked the while thing flat though.

There is a slight hill in the middle and the highest point is probably where the Crematorium is (the small building slightly off centre in the map).  The cemetery is home to a working crematorium and burials are still held here.  The cemetery was consecrated in December 1837 and has 164000 burials in 42000 plots.

The standard of maintenance was good, grass was trimmed,  paths were neat and generally the cemetery had a good feel about it. Parts of it are really wild though, at times almost impassable, but I had seen that in a number of the old London cemeteries and it is sometimes part of the ecology of the cemetery. I did get to see a fox on this visit, and I expect there is quite a lot of wildlife and birdlife here.
I could not help but think that in our urban jungle these cemeteries are really very valuable green spaces, and at times they may seem to be overgrown, but just maybe that is a good thing too, because it allows for populations of small animals to exist in our crowded world. I did see a feral cat running around, as well as the usual squirrels, and of course you could hear the woodpeckers and see the many birds that live amongst our dead. I also noticed bee hives in the cemetery, and tried my best to avoid those, but the idea that we can utilise spaces in this way is a very attractive use for a dynamic cemetery such as this. 
I was now in the area around the crematorium which used to be the site of the Dissenters chapel. Both chapels were badly damaged during the war, and the current building bears no real resemblance to the original. Its not an ugly building, its just not a pretty one.


There are two gems in the area of the crematorium, and they were both built by the architect Harold Peto, using terracotta. They are outstanding mausoleums, the one being for the Tate Family (of Tate and Lyle Sugar cube fame, as well as the Tate Gallery), and the other is for the Doulton Family. 
The Tate mausoleum was built in 1884, while the Doulton mausoleum dates from 1889. There is a similar one in Nunhead Cemetery too, and I managed to photograph it when I was there in 2013,  but it did not seem to be as well maintained as this pair. It was time to head back towards the exit and I walked along the road surrounded by all manner of headstone, it was really difficult to keep in a straight line because I kept on dashing off to photograph a grave. My shoes were sodden from the wet grass, and I was already getting flashing lights from my battery meter. 
The cemetery has two gates, and the one I came to now was not the one that I entered from, although from this one I could see St Luke’s Church which dominates the crest of the rise. It had an interesting war memorial which I would return to photograph on my way home, but it was realistically time for me to turn around and head towards that gathering of mausoleums that I had seen earlier. 
This area was fascinating because in 1842, a section of the cemetery was acquired by London’s Greek community for a Greek Orthodox cemetery, and was this soon filled with many fine monuments and large mausoleums. The images of the statues above marked “Kneeling Angel” and “Mother with child” is from of the tombs in this area.  Unfortunately a work crew were close by doing something mysterious with a grinder so I tried my best to look inconspicuous while in this area. 
There were a number of family vaults here that had a staircase leading down into them chamber underneath, and I was able to get a good look at the insides of one of them. We do not have this sort of thing back in South Africa, so my curiosity was piqued when I first found out about these vaults. Unfortunately though, the vandalism aspect for something like this is very high, and there was evidence that people were interfering with these resting places.

There is a large columned chapel building here too and I suspect it ties into this Greek Orthodox area. It is a beautiful building, but again I did not have answers to my questions. 

In this image you can see the entrance to one of the underground vaults in the bottom left hand corner. Unfortunately the door has been broken (or was removed) and parts of the interior seem to have fallen in. Leaving the Orthodox section I headed across to an area that had scaffolding on it, and I believe this may be where the catacombs are.
There wasn’t anything to see under the scaffolding, so I turned around and headed into the bushes behind the container. It was a good decision too when I look back on the pics I took.

This beaut is the Alexander Berens Mausoleum, and it is fantastic. Entrance is through the front, and next to it is a smaller mausoleum is that of Thomas de la Garde Grissell.

Slightly overwhelmed I found myself in an area that I had seen previously with the enticing name “Ship Path”. Being of a nautical bent myself I had to investigate it, and shall leave a tantalising clue on this page and will continue on the next page.   

© DRW 2015-2018.  created 20/01/2015 Images migrated 22/04/2016
Updated: 31/12/2017 — 09:48

Radnor Street Cemetery Swindon

Following my visit to the Museum of the Great Western Railway I headed for the Radnor Street Cemetery in Swindon. Theoretically it was not too far away, and I had a scribbled map with some of the streets marked on it. 
On my way I quickly stopped at St Marks Swindon to have a look at the graveyard. The church is magnificent, and also a handy landmark if I ended up getting lost. The church was dedicated on 25 April 1845. 
The graveyard was quite large although there were not too many headstones, however, those that remained were really in an excellent condition, and some were really beautiful. 
Then it was time to open my map and get lost! I have not been using the gps function on my phone lately as it can be very hard to read because the screen displays everything but where I must go. Besides, the cemetery wasn’t too far away? I eventually found what I was after and went inside. There are 86 World War One casualties and 14 from the 2nd World War buried in the cemetery.
The cemetery did not endear itself to me immediately, it is built on a slope and very uneven in places, and the ground was very soggy. It was heading towards mid afternoon so the sun was getting lower and was behind and to the south of the graves I was after, so the light varies depending on where I was.  
And, as usual finding those familiar white headstones was reasonably easy, although I was behind the inscriptions so could not really check for private memorials. The first 25 graves completed I crossed to the opposite fence from where I was and bumped into a local who knew the cemetery reasonably well. He was under the impression that there was a Victoria Cross grave in the cemetery although the grave he thought it was proved to be that of two RAF pilots.
We walked and talked while I shot of pics, time was not on my side and I wanted to be on my way by 15H00. There was no way I would get all the graves I needed to, or even try out my new fangled selfie stick.
 The chapel and Cross of Sacrifice are situated in the middle of the cemetery and the chapel is a very pretty building. Unfortunately I did not get the images of the chapel that I wanted a bit later as a car came along and parked in front, ruining any potential images.

The cemetery dates to the 1880’s and a local architect, William Read, designed the lodge, mortuary and chapel.  The mortuary has been boarded up and the lodge has found another use.

The one grave my unofficial guide pointed out was that of Trooper Cecil Howard Goodman of the 1st Co. Imperial Yeomanry who died in South Africa during the Boer War. This iconic monument was erected by “his fellow clerks at the GWR staff in April 1901″. My contact in South Africa informed me that Trooper Goodman is buried in Winburg (JAC Coetzer Str) Cemetery, and that the cemetery had been vandalised since his last visit there.

It is strange to encounter these graves so far from South Africa, and to read that he died while fighting for his country. Unfortunately too many of the Imperial deaths in South Africa were from Enteric fever as opposed to enemy action. 

The museum that I had visited earlier in the day did have a number of commemorative plaques on display for works members who died during the wars. And it would be interesting to know how many of the graves in the cemetery are in some way connected to the Great Western Railway and its works in the town. The works was probably the biggest employer in the town, and I am sure most people were connected to it in some way or other, it is also probable that when the works shut down many people moved from the town for better employment prospects elsewhere.

I continued my photographing, pausing to look at the grave of Doreen, who had died in a cycling accident in August 1938, aged 14 years.  It is a very pretty memorial, and definitely not an off the shelf purchase. But, who had damaged it? was this an act of vandalism? or just something in the design of the memorial that it shed limbs? There is also the possibility that this was damage from bombing. It is really one of those questions that there is no real answer to.

All I know is that I very rarely find the missing bits of these memorials. Where do they go to? 

The time was marching, and I had planned to leave by 14H10 so as to get the train at 14H49. It was not too far to the station, but I was probably only half way done with the CWGC graves. I had to start getting a move on and stop admiring the view.

I was starting to enjoy this cemetery a lot, there are some really nice old headstones in it, and while the going is rough it is not totally impassable. Unfortunately the white CWGC headstones do not weather very well and most were in badly weathered state, although you could see that quite a number had been replaced not too long ago.

I was ready to leave, later processing would reveal that I had missed 28 graves, and I think that is reason enough to return one day.  I did decide to go via the lodge as I had missed that when I had arrived.

Like so many other cemetery lodges I have seen it is a very pretty building, and the cemetery is a great one, although I did find it tiring to walk around because of the slope and the uneven ground. But, if ever I come this way again I shall go find my missing graves, and visit with Doreen, and appreciate this little 11,5 acre plot with its 33000 burials just a bit more. 

And what of Swindon? I did not see too much of it considering that I was really there for the museum and had limited time available. But here are some general pics anyway. Bear in mind that the town really revolved around the loco works. 
© DRW 2015-2018. Created 17/01/2015, Images migrated and new images added 22/04/2016
Updated: 27/08/2018 — 07:56

The Steam Museum in Swindon (2)

Continuing where we left off, this part deals with some of the other odds and sods that I saw at the Steam Museum of the Great Western Railway. The reproduction station that was erected at the museum is really a glimpse of something that no longer exists. Small rural stations and branch lines met their ends with the Beeching Axe, and that is still being debated long after it happened. 

And when we lost the rural station we also lost the rural signal box. The station was an important part of the community, and when the trains stopped many communities stopped too. A similar thing happened in South Africa, although the axe was wielded by neglect and bad planning

I do suspect this guy may be waiting for a train that never comes.

I do suspect this guy may be waiting for a train that never comes.

The museum also emphasizes the role that the railway played in holiday travel, a trip to the seaside by train must have been something that all youngsters dreamt of, just like we did in South Africa when I was young. The GWR played its part too, and there were lots of travel posters that played on this urge to grab your picnic basket and dash off to Cornwall or Fishguard or similar.

The trains still run to Cornwall, but the romance of it has gone, and the modern snazzy airplane style coaches do not have that appeal, and neither do diesels for that matter.
Interior of current First Great Western carriage stock

Interior of current First Great Western carriage stock

The museum also shows the role that the railways had during the wars, and it is difficult to fully explain just how the war affected the railways, and how much they contributed to the war effort. Women were brought into the workforce in large numbers and they did the job with enthusiasm and pride, and their own lives were changed forever. 
Our lady with the tea trolley made a contribution that may be seen as something really small, but to those servicemen and women who were trying to get home, or who were en route to bases, knew that it was just as important as those who were out there getting killed in battle. 
Like many industries, the Swindon works were involved in munitions and equipment production, and  a large portion of their male workforce would have joined the forces. And, as I expected, there are Remembrance Plaques and Rolls of Honour in recognition of those who never came back.  I have posted images of the ones I photographed at allatsea 
Britain was a very different place back then, and the war really made it what it is today.  
Then it was time to head out, I had to find graves from that war in a nearby cemetery, and my missing hour had cut into the time I had available to do this. I had enjoyed this little march through the past, like so many of these museums this one is a gem, and I can’t help but wonder how many working and static steam locos I had seen in Britain compared to the masses of derelicts that I saw in South Africa. I was also fortunate enough to visit Mid Hants Railway in 2013 and the glimpse of the country station there was just as fascinating. I may return here one day, because I am still missing 28 graves from the cemetery, so maybe there will be a part three to this blogpost somewhere down the line.
Random pics. 
The goods yard

The goods yard

Scammel delivery van

Scammel delivery van

Railcar drivers position

Railcar drivers position

Fishguard? lets go!

Fishguard? lets go!

Working loco model

Working loco model

GWR Brakevan

GWR Brakevan

Carriage works

Carriage works

Track inspection vehicle

Track inspection vehicle

© DRW 2015-2018 Created 17/01/2015, images migrated 22/04/2016

Updated: 27/08/2018 — 07:59

The Steam Museum in Swindon (1)

After much vacillating and excuses I finally got my butt in gear and headed off to Swindon to visit Steam. Museum of the Great Western Railroad.
I was looking at doing a trip to the museum since last year, but doing it from Salisbury would have been a mission, whereas from Basingstoke it entailed a train to Reading, and then another to Swindon. This is Great Western territory as opposed to my usual South West Trains that I have been using regularly on my travels. This is also the furtherest North that I have traveled since coming to the UK in 2013.
The train trip was a bit of a disaster though; I had left a bit later in the morning than I should have and it put me in Reading just after 10am. I had two visits lined up for the trip and theoretically had enough time to do both. Unfortunately the train before us had problems with its central door locking at Didcot Parkway, and was stuck in the station while we ended up stuck not too far from the station as a result, and I sat watching the time march from the comfort of the inside of a train. We sat for almost an hour and by the time I hit Swindon I had seen my plans take somewhat of a dive. The museum is not too far from the station, in the former engine works of Great Western. Looking at images from there you cannot believe that all that engineering is gone, and in one case it has even been replaced by a yuppie fashion house. These works and Great Western are also closely associated with the famous engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, The Museum is housed in a former machine shop, and the last steam locomotive that came from these works in 1960 was the Eastern Star, which is the last steam locomotive built by British Railways. (Tornado was not built by British Railways). Hopefully there would be some steamers still inside the building, and that was what I was after. 
The traverser and 4 wheeler were a good sign,  and I eventually found my way into the museum. Schools were open so theoretically it should not be too crowded. 
The first surprise was a set of driving wheels for Brunels broad gauge loco, Lord of the Isles.
These wheels are 8 foot in diameter, which makes Brunel look short. It is worth remembering that Brunel was using the “broad gauge” which is 7 ft (2,134 mm), later eased to 7 ft 14 in (2,140 mm) which meant his rolling stock was very big. The gauge they use in the UK now is 4 ft 8 in (1,422 mm), now eased to 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm). (South Africa uses what is known as “Cape Gauge” 3ft 6 inches). There is quite a good explanation on track gauges on Wikipedia
The first major artefact which caught my eye was a boiler with all the complications that it entails (including a woman sitting in the smokebox). This is a representation of the boiler works
The one thing I have learnt is that steam engine boilers are very complex devices with a lot of engineering that often does not make sense. However, when you consider the energy that steam is able to generate then you can see why the boiler has to be so strong and designed with so much inherent strength and flexibility. The locos that were coming out of these works would be in service for many years and works like this produced some fine machines that would still be running had it not for the demise of steam traction. 
Just around the corner I discovered one of the many intact steam engines in the museum,  GWR 4073 Class 4073 Caerphilly Castle.  The nice thing about her is that you can actually walk underneath her and see those hidden bits that are all taken for granted.

She was built in 1923, and withdrawn from service in 1960. I was going to wait for the person in the wheelchair to move before I took the last pic, but then I realised that he did give a sense of scale to the machine.

Around the corner I came to a replica of  the 1837  “North Star”, and it is really a comparatively simple loco when compared to the machines that rule the rails 100 years later.

The original was purchased by GWR and ran one of the first trains between Paddington and Maidenhead in 1837. There is no consideration for crew comfort in this machine, although I am sure these locos did not break too many speed records.

2516 is a Dean locomotive, built in 1897 and used on freight services. It has some resemblance to a cab, but has been split away from her tender.  She is the only survivor of her class of 260 built at Swindon.

9400 is a relatively new machine, having been part of  a class that was built between 1947 and 1956. She is an 0-6-0 Pannier Tank loco, and her class really had very short lives as the diesel made more inroads into their traditional roles. She is one of two survivors of her class

At this point we come to a replica station and the trains pulled up at the platforms. There are two locos here, namely 4003 “Lode Star”:


She was built in 1907 and is the only remaining GWR 4000 Class locomotive. 

And  7821 “Didcheat Manor”  She is a reasonably new loco too, having been built in 1950. 

And that really concluded the collection of steam engines at the museum, The other interesting piece of motive power at the museum is a GWR diesel railcar.


The art deco styling of this railcar must have really been a sight to see as it trundled along the route between Birmingham and Cardiff, and they were really the precursor to the DMUs that I travelled on so often in Salisbury.  Unfortunately the railcar was not open so I could not see the interior except through the windows, and it did look really nice inside.

The museum also has a Buffet coach on display, and its green interior must have been very comforting to somebody having a cuppa and a sticky bun inside.

There is also a Great Western Royal Saloon on display, and it formed  part of Queen Victoria’s Royal Train. Unfortunately part of the vehicle is closed off and I was not able to get much of an impression about the coach, which is a pity really because this is quite an important exhibit.

The rest of the museum has a lot of very interesting exhibits, in fact it is overall a very nice museum, although I would have liked to have seen more rolling stock and coaches, but then beggars can’t be choosers either.

The station is particularly interesting because it really shows most aspects of what stations may have been like so many years ago, and in the  follow up to this post I shall add in some pictures of the other exhibits.Please turn the page to go to Part 2

© DRW 2014-2018. Images recreated 22/04/2016
Updated: 31/12/2017 — 08:30
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