musings while allatsea

Musings of a curious individual

Category: Retrospective

Curse this war!

Its that time again… Wartime in the Cotswolds with the GWSR (Gloucester Warwickshire Steam Railway). The theme? The Battle of Britain. So grab your gas mask and tin hat and follow me….

Last year I attended a similar event and it was amazing and I was really hoping for the same on this day. The weather has been changeable this whole week, but there was the promise of sunshine for later in the day with no rain in sight. I headed out early in the morning to grab a bus to Cheltenham and another bus to Cheltenham Race Course station. On the way I spotted Captain Mainwaring on his way to the station too!

I just hope that Private Pike isn’t lurking in the bushes somewhere.

Although the Americans had set up camp outside the station and that can only mean silk stockings and chewing gum for the locals. 

ARP had set up their barricades too and were checking tickets and dishing out ID cards. Naturally they were looking out for Fifth Columnists too. 

Unfortunately our train was the class 117 diesel railcar  that I always seem to end up travelling on. http://www.gwsr.com/planning_your_visit/what_to_see_and_do/DMURailcar_1.html She is not my favourite rail vehicle. I would have preferred a steam engine, but this was wartime after all, we have to make do with what we have.

The train was full, and many of the passengers were dressed in period clothing or military uniforms, it never ceases to amaze me how the British tackle something like this with so much enthusiasm, and I would really like to thank them for paying homage to a bygone age with so much enthusiasm.

And then we were off….  Our destination: Gotherington

The view out of the window was Britain in Spring, it was really beautiful, especially the huge fields of Rapeseed.

Gotherington was like a military camp, and I expect will remain like that until tomorrow when the event finishes.

It is a very quirky place and one day I must really bail out and have a look around. 

The next stop on the line is Winchcombe, I had visited the town in May last year and I was considering doing it again today, although it really depended on train timings and my own energy levels.  At Winchcombe the train to Toddington stops and waits for the train from Toddington. It is single line working between stations and a token system is used to ensure that accidents don’t happen.

It too had been taken over by the military who were cleaning their rifles and doing what soldiers have done since the days of yore.

Curse this war! how much longer must it go on?

As an aside, there was even a military dentist in his own private rolling surgery, just ready to declare you dentally fit in 7 days!

And then we heard a whistle in the distance and the oncoming train appeared around the bend.

The loco in charge was 4270, a  “42xx” class tank locomotive. She was running bunker first to Cheltenham Race Course, and would carry on with her journey once we had departed. 

The next stop was Toddington, which is really the current endpoint of the GWSR, although they do run trains to Laverton halt further up the line, and in a few years time there will be another station on the line as they extend the rail network closer to the mainline all the time.   Toddington is also where the loco shed is and the majority of displays were being held. There were a few that I had my eye on too..

As usual there was a mixed bag of cars, military vehicles, squaddies, GI’s, airmen, sailors and all manner of uniform on display, along with the usual bag of stalls selling militaria or hobby-est items. There was even a tank just in case there was an invasion.

I had seen her last year at the Welland Steam and County Fair, and just in case I need a reminder, she is a M18 Hellcat Tank Destroyer.

The jaw dropper however was the reproduction Spitfire that was on display. I am struggling to find a definitive identification of the aircraft, but it appears as if she is based on the aircraft that Johnnie Johnson flew (MKIX EN398). More information on the “Spitfire Experience” may be found on their website. 

And yes, the engine did run while I was there and it was awesome. Unfortunately it did not run at full power, but it was really something to experience.

Meanwhile, back at ground level, I strolled down to the workshops to see whether there was anything there that interested me. Fortunately it was not a wasted trip because there were a number of diesels in the yard.

GWSR has a number of heritage diesels and they are quite handsome beasties, although against a steam engine they are reasonably insignificant.

Class 47376 (D1895), a Brush Type 4.

Class 37 no: 37215

Class 26043 (D5343)

Class 45/1 45149 (D135)

At the Toddington Narrow Gauge Railway they too had a train at work, although I did not go for a ride this time around. They were using “Tourska” , a 1957 Chrzanow build with works number 3512.

There was still quite a lot to see so I did the rounds once again, hoping to find a few warships for my collection, but there were lots of distractions.

It was really time to head towards Winchcombe, the train at the platform was headed by the 1950 built 7820 Dinmore Manor, a Manor class light mixed traffic locomotive.

We were supposed to leave at 11.30, but somewhere along the line the timings of the trains went haywire and we sat for an additional 20 minutes. I know there is a war on but….  

Winchcombe was crowded, and our altered timing meant that we had to wait for the train from Cheltenham Spa to arrive before we could leave. 

Fortunately ENSA was at hand to provide some wartime melodies, but I think seeing Laurel and Hardy really made my day.

And then I got suspicious because I spotted Oliver Hardy on the cellphone!  It was another fine mess he got Stanley into.

I had decided to not continue into Winchcombe because the messed up times just didn’t fit in with my plans. Remember, Cheltenham Race Course is not the end of the line for me. I had to get back into Cheltenham, catch a bus to Tewkesbury and then hoof it to where I lived. It was a long stretch ahead of me and I was tired.

Then the air raid siren went off……

and once again I could not help think of what it was like living in wartime Britain. The ever present threat of aerial bombing, rationing of food, the long lists of casualties, propaganda, soldiers, aircraft overhead, overzealous ARP members, children being evacuated, family that never returned home. This was the reality between 1939 and 1945, this small experience that I had was nothing like the real thing, and I am fortunate that I did not experience it. When I see the people dressed in their period uniforms and glad rags I cannot help but think that these were the sort of people that took it on the chin and gave it back 100 times more. I suspect the British enjoy these re-enactment events because they are reminded of what their parents and families went through in those dark hours of war. It is their way of saying: “We have not forgotten, and never will.”

And as the Home Guard peddled along the platform on his way to the NAFI, I felt a tinge of pride because I understood what Churchill meant when he said….

“Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and if, which I do not for a moment believe, this island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.”

And then the train departed for Cheltenham Race Course with me on it.

The War was over, the Battle of Britain won. 

The event was great, although last years was definitely better, there was much more to see and experience than there was this time around. The delayed trains were an irritation because you do not want to be stuck in a place like Winchcombe of Toddington with no way of getting home. And of course my own stamina is not as good as it used to be. I tire very easily nowadays and that’s not a good thing at all. Still, sign me up for next year if I am still around. Now where did I leave my tin hat?  

© DRW 2017. Created 22/04/2017

Updated: 27/04/2017 — 18:07

Watches and things

In 2012 I posted about having fun with my overpriced watch after travelling though various time zones. However, in my Looking Back post on allatsea I added in a section dealing with clocks and watches. It is quite an interesting retrospect and worthy of being duplicated in here too.

Way back then wrist watches had “winders” (I believe they call them “crowns” in the trade), every day you wound your watch, or, if you had an “automatic” it wound itself as your arm moved. The beauty of those manually wound watches is that they actually ticked!

My first watch was a hand-me-down and I got it at quite a young age and proudly wore it even though I did not know how to tell time. However, the movement in that watch would occasionally come loose inside the case and would then have to be sent back to a jewelers to be reset.

You were loathe to take any watch to a jewelers for repair because rumour had it that they would “steal the jewels” inside (referring to the “jeweled bearings” (many watches were advertised as having “17 jewels”). My parents eventually bought me a replacement when I was in high school and the watch on the left is that self same watch. Made by Lanco it went to the army with me and was a windup watch. I finally disposed of it in 2017. It probably still worked. 

Casio Wrist Calculator

My father, being an early riser, used to have a manually wound alarm clock (I seem to think it was a “Zobo” or “Westclox”) and every night before he went to sleep you would hear the familiar “croink croink croink” as he wound it up. You barely heard it go off though because he would instinctively wake up before the alarm went off.  

Travelling alarm clock

Then the LED watch came out (as opposed to the LCD watch) and everybody wanted one, even though they were kind of lousy when it came to battery life. My brother had an LED watch but I never bought a pure digital faced watch and even today I still have a watch with “hands” even though it has an electronic movement. My personal preference in watches includes a day and date function as well as an easily adjustable strap because I have thin wrists. I woke to the sound of a battery operated alarm clock for many years but nowadays I do not even need an alarm clock as I wake up at least an hour before I have to get ready for work. I DO NOT subscribe to the habit of using a cell phone to tell time with.  

And, amongst my stuff I still have a manually wound el-cheapo pocket watch and I am kind of proud of the cheapness of it (Only R5.00). When this thing ticks you can hear it and it’s cheapness really makes it one of those strange collectables from an era gone by. 

Whether we like it or not, the wristwatch is really here to stay, although nowadays it is laden with all manner of features that really have no place to be on a wristwatch. And of course the mania for really really overpriced tickers escapes me completely. I know a certain political figure in South Africa that has been criticised for wearing a watch that costs more than a car, and the irony is that he still does not understand the concept of being on time for a meeting. But, that’s a story for another day.  

© DRW 2012-2017. Created 01/04/2017

Updated: 15/04/2017 — 11:55

Return to the UK

On the 6th of April I packed my gear and prepared to go home from South Africa. I still struggle with the idea that South Africa is no longer home, and that I really was doing things the other way around. I was flying Virgin Atlantic again, and would use the Gautrain to get to the airport.

The weather had been typical summery weather (even though it was Autumn), but rain was forecast for the later that week, although by the 6th the rains came.  

Driving in Johannesburg is a challenge, the roads are crowded, potholes are large, idiots abound and law enforcement is usually absent. The highways are really a free-for-all and at times a giant parking lot. After having lunch it was time to go and my friends took me to Marlboro Gautrain station where I caught the airport link to Oliver Tambo International Airport. It started raining just as we left and fortunately we were heading east as opposed to west where the traffic was bumper to bumper. I did attempt photography from the front seat but the combination of rain, vibration and everything else rendered the images useless.

Once at the airport things got really slow as we queued to go through immigration. So much so that by the time I got through it the gates for boarding were open and I was not able to take any images in and around the international departures. The one thing I do recall was the exorbitant price for half a litre of  water (R35), at one vendor and R10 at the duty free.

The flight was scheduled for over 10 hours and we took off at 8.30ish and it wasn’t too awful and there were just over 250 people on board. It always amazes me how some people consider 5 items of luggage as being perfect for carry on luggage.  Service was much better on this return flight than it had been on the departure flight and I didn’t watch too much though. A rewatch of Rogue One was in order and I also took in Hacksaw Ridge and Arrival. Those two were really good watches and I recommend them both. 

I had an aisle seat in the centre aisle and for once I actually remembered to show what food was available on the aircraft and the menu is to the left of the text. I had the Bobotie and the eggs for brekkies and they were not great. 

I managed quite well during the flight and my bladder did not make a nuisance of itself for once, and I did not sleep at all as we headed North with the longest stretch over Africa.

We landed around about 6.30am and after a long queue at immigration I had my baggage and was on my way to the Heathrow Express station to catch my ride to Paddington. I had used the Heathrow Express to get to Heathrow initially, but wanted to use the Heathrow Connect for this trip so that I knew it for the future. The Express does not cut too much time off the trip to Paddington, but is more than double the price of the Connect option. The first time I landed in the UK I had used the Tube to get me to my destination, although that made more sense considering I was heading to South London whereas now I had to get to Paddington Station.

The train is comfortable and got quite crowded as we got closer to Paddington and it appears as if it is used by a number of locals to commute with. The cost for a ticket is £10.30 (or thereabouts)

At Paddington I finally stopped and grabbed a breather. I had almost 3 hours to kill before my next train to Cheltenham Spa was due. It was too short a time to go into London but very long if you have time to spare. If I had not had luggage with me I would have spent the time in reckless abandon in London on what was a really nice Spring day. I had deliberately planned the train time to be able to deal with any eventualities or delays along the way.

Paddington Station is an interesting space, especially when it comes to the roof. And, while there is not a large variety of trains in it you do get unique images if you look for them.

I am quite proud of seeing 4 HST’s under one roof on the same day!

The new shopping area is also open and I found that they had installed a Paddington themed shop in it too. 

I also found a neat Paddington shaped collection box in the shop and was able to donate some of the heavy change that I was accumulating along the way.

Paddington Station can be very full at times, and there is a constant hussle and bustle as trains arrive or depart. My 11.36 train appeared on the board at roughly 11H10, and was listed as “preparing”. 

They put up the platform number roughly 10 minutes before scheduled departure and then there was a mad rush as we all headed to the platform for our train. 

I arrived in Cheltenham Spa close to 13H30 and managed to grab the bus to Clarence Street Bus Station and then a bus to Tewkesbury where I found that there was no real way to get home with my luggage unless I hung around to 15H45 for a taxi or 15H17 for the local bus that goes through the area where I live. It was too far to hoof it with luggage though so once again I waited. 

It was all done and dusted. I had used 8 trains, 2 aircraft and 3 buses on this trip, I had covered a lot of kilometres, and discovered that even though I had last driven 3 years ago, still knew how to drive. Unfortunately my trip was not about pleasure and more about reality, it was not a holiday either, although I did get to renew acquaintances with friends I had last seen in 2014. 

South Africa has changed and is constantly changing as people get more cheesed off with the powers that be. At some point something is going to have to be done. The events of 7 April show that more and more people are getting very unhappy with the status quo. Whatever happens I just hope that it does not involve violence. 

And, to make matters worse it is back to work on Monday.

Random Images.

© DRW 2017. Created 08/04/2017

Updated: 19/04/2017 — 19:35

Those last few days

Monday 03 April.

I am now in my last week in South Africa, and it has been an interesting trip with a number of things changed and different paths considered. My flight leaves on Thursday evening but between then and now anything can happen, especially given the political situation in South Africa.  I will not comment on what is going on, I do not have too much interest in it, instead I will concentrate on the aspects of the trip that are relevant. 

Amongst the changes that I saw were the decline in shops at what used to be my local shopping malls. A lot have simply closed their doors and no longer exist, while some have probably moved elsewhere. However I would like to put on record that in most of the places where I had to deal with staff behind counters the service that I received was excellent, smiles abounded and staff really went out of their way to help me. The other thing that I noticed was the increased cost of basics in shops. When I left in March 20132 we were already feeling the spike in prices thanks to the exchange rate, increased transport costs and overall greed and lack of ethics. Petrol was sitting at R13.31 pl of 93 octane, although it was supposed to drop slightly on Wednesday.  I tried to make some comparisons with prices that I could remember and frankly I was shocked. Once I get the images off my cellphone I will post some of the more drastic ones that I encountered. 

I revisited three cemeteries in the time I was here, (Brixton, Florida and West Park), and of course I visited my mother whose condition is of major concern. Unfortunately I do not have an answer to her situation, it is beyond my experience, I do not know what can be done. The plus side is that somebody has cracked the whip at the place where she lives and the disgusting corruption that has gone on there has hopefully been stopped and some heads will roll. That is long overdue. It is very sad to see how the corruption thrived there, almost everybody knew about it but nothing was ever done because it was rotten all the way down.

And, during my last few days there were a number of things that happened that may be worth remembering: a series of earthquakes happened, one being centred in Botswana and another in Klerksdorp, the finance minister and his deputy were recalled and fired by the president and a new (and more compliant?) one appointed. Consequently South Africa was downgraded to “Junk” status by S&P Global Ratings. and naturally the Rand has started to wobble, and at the time of writing (04/04/2017) it was  R13.80 to the $, R17.21 to the £ and R14.72 to the €. There is a mass protest planned for Friday, and I like to think it will bring about change, but already I am hearing the voices of those who have been “captured” or are just too plain stupid to read the writing on the wall. Who was it that said “May you live in interesting times”? (Fitch has subsequently downgraded South Africa to junk status too).

I also moved the remaining bins of my possessions to a new storage area, and took pics during the drive there and back. As usual Johannesburg was traffic laden, something made worse by the metro police who should spend less time holding roadblocks or sitting behind cameras and more time policing the roads.

I also revisited the shopping centre where I used to work, formerly a Drive-In it used to still have a screen in the parking lot. That is now gone too.

There have been a number of superficial changes to the public side of the centre, but it was like a morgue on the day I was there. 

I went around to the back of the centre and it was quite sad to see the building where I worked from 2005 till 2011. It is now part of the Action Cricket industry, and the Bosch Service Centre is no longer there either. I remember how much time, money and effort we put into making that building a safe and better workplace, but once we were bought out it was obvious to us all that our days there were few. I specifically recall how we had that section of fence erected but with hindsight it was really a dumb idea. 

I revisited my friend in the building where I used to stay and am happy to report that I finally saw the Rietbok in the Kloofendal Reserve. Unfortunately my flat used to face the street instead of the reserve.  

 The nitty gritty of prices.

As I mentioned before, prices were crazy, and I noticed it already in 2014 when I last visited SA. Unfortunately I did not write down the prices of items back then and this time around I photographed a lot of advertising leaflets to keep if one day I want to make the comparison. I drew R1000 at an atm in SA and it cost me £64.60.

Old Gold Tomato Sauce R22.79/700ml

Sedgwicks OBS R34.99 750ml

2 litres Clover milk R29.79

Eskort streaky bacon R33.99

 

Forex (06/-4/2017)

 

Rama R32.99 (500gr)

 

Butter: R84.99 (500gr)

 

Beacon Easter Eggs R68.99

These are just a few examples that I spotted, and some items may have been on sale. The items are not indicative of my own personal preferences and are sourced through leaflets and shops I visited in the West Rand. The prices below come off leaflets and have no illustrations: (I will be adding to this list as I go along)

Enterprise Bitso Bacon 200g R29.99

Stork Country Spread 1kg R29.99

Dewfresh milk 1 Litre R14.99

Gordons Gin 750ml R99.99

Hunters Dry 12x440ml Cans R129.99  

30 Extra large eggs R44.99

Ultra Mel Custard 1 Litre R22.99

Enterprise Back Bacon 200gr R23.99

Fresh chicken breast fillets R59.99/kg

Nature’s Garden Cuntry Mix frozen vegetabkes: R24.99  (1kg)

Sea Harvest Oven Crisp fish portions (6 portions)  400gr R35.99 

Sea Harvest Haddock fillets R59.99 500gr (4 portions)

Pot o’ Gold garden peas 400gr tin R9.99

Black Cat plain or crunchy peanut butter R24.99 (400gr bottle)

Selati white sugar 2,5kg R64.99 

Snoflake self raising flour 2,5gr R29.99

Hisense 299 litre fridge/freezer R3999

Defy 196 litre chest freezer R2599

Parmalat 6×1 Litre long life milk R69.99

Coca-Cola 2 litre bottle R13.49

Frankies old style root beer 500 ml R15.99

Sansui double solid hotplate R249

Bakers Romany Creams R17.99

Cadbury chocolate slabs 80gr R10.99

Lipton ice tea 1,5 litre R15.99

Ferrero Rocher 16 pack R59.99

Joko Tea 100 tea bags R26.99

and finally, an indication of prepaid data prices from a service provider.

20MB? gee, you can do so much with it, even Telkom dial up was more affordable.

 

© DRW 2017. Created 08/04/2017 

Updated: 11/04/2017 — 06:53

Photo Essay: Return to Florida Cemetery

Florida Cemetery was one of the many that I went to when I was photographing war graves in and around Johannesburg. There is one CWGC grave, one Border War grave, and two private memorials in it. It is also not too far away, and while I was in the area I decided to stop for a quick visit to rephotograph those graves.

It is a pretty cemetery with a mix of headstones and a number of family plots. It is hard to know when it opened, but it was certainly busy in the 1920’s. I photographed two graves that date from 1889 and 1891 respectively, both headstones were of slate and very legible.

Sadly the little office at the gate was vandalised many years ago and when I was there it was being used to stash some of the tools of the guys cutting the grass. 

There are quite a few children’s graves in the cemetery, and the small china statues that are often used on those graves are broken. Some of those small graves are very old, and the mortality rate for young children was very high in the era when this cemetery came into being.

This particular example dates from 1948.

The one thing I did not like seeing was the detritus from people; litter, tins, broken glass, paper etc. Even though the cemetery is fenced it is reasonably easy to climb the fence or just open the gate. The area around it has deteriorated too, and that leads to all sorts of undesirables using the cemetery as a place to do what they do best. 

Florida was also a mining area many years ago, and I am certain that many of the graves here will tie into the mining industry, although there is no real way to extract some sort of data on who is buried here. The odds are that there are graves that are reserved for family members although who knows if they will ever be filled.

And, like so many cemeteries there is a population of birds and small rodents that live in and around it. I think the bird is a “Spotted Thick Knee”, and I encountered them in most of the cemeteries in South Africa that I visited. They are quite aggressive during the breeding season and given the haphazard scrapes that they build I can see why. Unfortunately they are easy prey to marauding cats, and there are quite a few around given that this is a residential area.

And then it was time to go…

Florida will always stick in my mind as it is such a unique cemetery in an area of ever changing demographics. How much longer it will remain relatively intact remains to be seen, things can change very quickly in South Africa, hopefully it will all pass by and leave no impression on this small haven of tranquility. 

Random Images.

Private memorial in a family plot

CWGC grave

Marklew family plot

1902 grave

 
 

1891 grave

 

1889 grave

© DRW 2017. Created 03/04/2017

Updated: 06/04/2017 — 06:20

James Hall Museum Of Transport

One of the better museums in Johannesburg is the James Hall  Museum of Transport in La Rochelle in Southern Johannesburg. It is the sort of place that is always worth visiting even if you have been there many times before. The museum was founded in 1964 by the late James “Jimmie” Hall and in conjunction with the Johannesburg City Council. The oldest motorcar on display is a 1900 Clement Panhard, but there are other items that are much older.

I have spent many hours there, meandering through the exhibits and I really enjoy seeing so many vehicles from my past. However, it is very difficult to present a balanced view of the museum because it has so many exhibits, and they are really a feast for the eyes. The museum consists of a number of exhibition spaces. Entry is at the doorway on the image above. This part of the museum does not really interest me because it is really about the days when the petrol engine was but a dream.

From this hall you move into the open courtyard area where many of the vehicles are stored or displayed. This is also where the majority of the traction engines are housed behind a fence. Many exhibits move around within the museum so some of my images show the exhibit where it was at the time and it may no longer be in that position at the time of writing or reading.

This is supposedly the largest collection of traction engine and steam powered vehicles in the country. However, I do not know how many of them can actually run. Many of the exhibits are related to transport in Johannesburg, so you will find the Christmas Bus, travelling Library and a number of ex-council vehicles in this space 

This is also where you can find the toilets and a small refreshment concession. The entrance to the next hall can be found in this courtyard and it leads into the hall where the majority of the exhibits are fire engines. 

This space leads into the blue tinted hall that houses the classic cars and motor cycles from many eras. It is a fascinating space and I remember many of those vehicles from my own childhood.

The door to the outside shed is to the right in this hall, and to the bus hall in the corner on the left of this image. The outside shed is where the agricultural machinery and steam engines are stored. I photographed the steam engines many years ago and their history may be found at old Steam Locomotives in South Africa (4 pages)

You get to the last exhibition space through the motor vehicle space and this hall is used to exhibit buses from various places in three lines. It also has the last tram that ran in Johannesburg. Unfortunately, the nature of the hall precludes effective photography because it is a very narrow space.

The exit to the museum is through this hall (image below)

 

That is the museum in a nutshell.  Do not take my word for it though, it is an awesome museum and well worth a visit. The museum does not charge for entry but a donation is always helpful, and always check the opening times so that you are not disappointed.

Many years ago the Transvaal Branch of the World Ship Society was given an area to exhibit nauticalia in when they held an open day. There are almost no aircraft or ship related exhibits. All the images in this post were taken at the museum over 4 different visits. 

© DRW 2017. 03/04/2017

Updated: 11/04/2017 — 06:56

Return to West Park

My very first war grave photography for the South African War Graves Project happened in 2005 according to the file information that I got from the images that I took. 

It is hard to believe that so many years later I would be standing in front of the CWGC Plot in West Park Cemetery ready to do it all again. 

I was never really happy with my original images, my camera back then was not the world greatest, and to be frank I messed the first row up badly and ended up redoing it at least twice. I now have over 10000 war graves to my name and am probably much better at taking war grave images now.

The layout of the plot has not changed and my map from back then is still relevant today.

The major difference was that I was going to photograph the whole plot in a morning instead of over a few days. 

L/Cpl Lucas is grave number one in the plot.

And once the first image is taken it is really a continuous process that is only interrupted when a shrub gets in your way.

The plot is looking very beautiful, the grass is cut and the beds are planted and tended, and that is very different from when I was first here in 2005. Back then the grass was dry as it was winter, whereas it is now April and heading into Autumn in South Africa. Make no mistake, it was a hot day! In fact the weather on this day was very similar to that predicted for the rest of the week, although by Friday I will hopefully be back in the UK.

There is something about the symmetry of this plot that I find fascinating,  

There is also a cremation memorial behind the Cross of Sacrifice and it commemorates those who were cremated.

And behind the plot is a small SADF/SANDF plot where a number of soldiers are buried. You can see the memorial to the right of the big tree. There are quite a few Border War casualties that are buried elsewhere in the cemetery, and I spent many hours over the years looking for them. 

You can see the original graves as well as the newer additions to the plot of graves of members of the SANDF. Once the graves were photographed I moved across to the Police Plot which is a bit deeper into the cemetery. Sadly there have been a few new additions to the plot, and that is never a good thing, especially when a the policeman is killed in the line of duty.

However, before I photographed the war graves, I had stopped at the “Heroes Acre” area of the cemetery to see if there had been any changes, and of course I was curious to see the grave of Ahmed Kathrada and Joe Mafela. They had been buried 3 days prior to this so the odds of a headstone were small.

Admittedly, many of the names on those headstones are not known to me, but some are, and a number of them touch a chord. None more so than Nkosi Johnson. At the time of his death, he was the longest-surviving HIV-positive born child, and the furor that was created when he tried to attend school really opened many eyes in South Africa.

Right opposite that area is the Westdene Bus Disaster Memorial and graves. In 2012 I had photographed them all and was saddened to see how they had been vandalised. It was the anniversary on 27 March and yet there is still a very raw wound around the disaster. I was able to get new images and shall process them and pass them onwards to eggsa for updating. 

The last bit of graving that I did in West Park was to re-photograph some of the graves in the EC section (English Church). It was really a case of having better quality images because my early images were not as good as they are today. Does a new camera make a difference? certainly, and of course the right lighting does help too. Unfortunately I now struggle with getting down to take the image, actually, I struggle to stand up. 

It was time to go home and I bid the cemetery goodbye and drove out the gate. I have 800 images to process, and they will show the difference between 2005 and 2017, assuming that there is one. Will I return one day? if I am in the country and I have transportation I probably will. It is important to monitor the condition of the graves, although CWGC does tend the graves under their care, and City Parks does look after this large space. And while the cemetery does have its moments it is not a great one like Braamfontein and Brixton where the weight of ages is heavy. In the almost 3 years I have been away quite a few open spaces have been filled, and technically the map that I drew many years ago has changed quite a lot since I started it. 

Maybe one day I shall complete it, but not today. 

© DRW 2017. Created 02/04/2017

Updated: 06/04/2017 — 06:21

Photo Essay: Brixton Cemetery

On my way home on the 29th of March I detoured to Brixton Cemetery and took a quick ride through it. I did not have any real purpose, I just wanted to see it again. 

Following the recent rains the cemetery is looking beautiful so this post is really just a photo essay.

I spent many hours looking for the CWGC graves in the cemetery and in the course of my meanderings passed many really beautiful headstones.

There are a number of Angels from Brixton Cemetery in my Cemetery Angels pages on allatsea.

Left or right? Actually if you go straight you will encounter the Police Plot, left will take you to the one pedestrian gate and right will take you to the back of the Jewish Cemetery.

I took the path to the right because I was interested to see changes.  Just before I left for the UK in 2013 a lot of gravestones in the Jewish section had been vandalised and since then it has been fenced off. This image was shot over the fence.

The area to the right is a small Salvation Army plot, and the heavily wooded area is where I had my first bee sting. Bees are really just one hazard that you face when you are exploring a cemetery. Brixton has vast swathes of fencing missing and this patch of road is one of the many thoroughfares that people use to get to the other side. I never felt safe in Brixton and tended to remain close to my car all of the time.

My mini tour was coming to an end and I needed to go home, it was interesting to see a place that is so familiar yet so unfamiliar at the same time. Cemeteries are in a constant state of change thanks to nature, and they are beautiful spaces in their own right.

The cemetery is over 100 years old, having been opened in 1912 when nearby Braamfontein started to get too full, and it was in use until West Park opened in February 1940. These places are a glimpse at Johannesburg’s past, and as such should be preserved for all to see, and to provide a green lung for the city. 

My final image is of the Cross of Sacrifice that looks onto the entrance of the cemetery. It was one of the reasons why I went into there originally. The cemetery contains 124 Commonwealth burials of the Second World War and 153 from the First World War, and I am proud to say I photographed them all.

Brixton Crematorium

In 1908, Gandhi was approached to help find a suitable plot for a crematorium. He negotiated with the town council and the land was allocated in the North Western corner of the New Cemetery (later renamed Brixton Cemetery). The wood burning crematorium was built in 1918 and still stands today, although not in regular use. It was the first brick built crematorium in Africa and was built by Messrs Damania and Kalidas. It was declared a National Monument on 24 September 1995. 

 

Random images from the past.

I have seen Brixton many times before, and some of my images have never seen the light of day. Here are a few of them.

© DRW 2017. Created 30/03/2017, more images added 16/04/2017  

Updated: 16/04/2017 — 09:15

Where I am now

It is 29 March and I am midway through my trip to South Africa. It has not been a very busy time but I have had to do certain things that needed sorting.

My mother was doing very badly when I first saw her, her situation is complicated, and there is no hard and fast solution, At this moment the best we can do is try to find some way to ensure that she is safe and cared for as best we can. After typing this I will be heading out to visit her. The traffic in Johannesburg is still a mess; that never changes! and as a result I have to wait until rush hour ends before venturing forth.

The roads were very quiet on the morning I landed because it was a public holiday, on a normal day this area is like a madhouse with the rules of the road being ignored by all and sundry. The tallest building in this image is the Carlton Centre and at the top of that building is the viewing deck where I took pics in 2011

The image above is taken from the top of the Carlton looking East in the direction where the first image was taken from.

I stayed with my brother for a day before heading to the West Rand where my friends stay and my storage unit is. I will stay on the West Rand until I fly home on the 6th.

The West Rand is not as bad as it is made out to be, and parts of it are very pretty. I used to live on the border of the Kloofendal Nature Reserve where the Confidence Reef is situated. It is a very unspoilt bit of land and my one friend has a wonderful view of the area from her flat.

There are a number of small mammals in the reserve, although all we could see on that afternoon were “Dassies” (Rock Hyrax).

There are also a lot of Guinea Fowl, and we often used to find them foraging in the parking lot of the building.

I did have a few places that I wanted to see once again, and I was keen to take a look at the Reid Tenwheeler that had been plinthed at the Rand Society of Model Engineers in Florida.

Of course I also got to see my favourite cat… Unfortunately he thinks he is a catfish that is trapped inside a cat’s body and that leaves him very tired and prone to wearing odd things on his head.

I was also re-acquainted with Niknaks. There are Niknaks in the UK but they do not come close to the ones that are sold in SA.

Talking of prices: Petrol is R13.31 a litre for 93 Octane. From 1 April it will decrease by 22 cents, however there is a 30 cent increase in the fuel levy and a 9 cent increase in the Road Accident Fund levy. 

The political situation in South Africa is of concern as the corrupt battle it out with the non corrupt and there were some interesting developments during this past week. Two famous South Africans passed away so far: Ahmed Kathrada,  a politician and former political prisoner and anti-apartheid activist.  As well as Joe Mafela, a popular TV star and entertainer. Both are being buried from West Park Cemetery this morning (Wednesday). Unfortunately my plans for the day involved a visit to West Park, and those plans have now been changed.

I am also going to try get to as many memorials as I can to see what condition they are in. The Ferreira Deep Memorial is a bit of an awkward one to photograph and I only managed a quick pic while we waited for the robot to change.

I also went to take a look at the war memorial in Rotunda Park in Turffontein. The long missing name plaque was replaced in March 2015 and this was the first time I had seen it after it was restored.

I spent two days sorting through my storage unit and disposing of more of my “stuff” but there is still a lot there and I am moving it to my brother’s house so that the money saved there can contribute to some sort of help for my mother.   

That pretty much sums up where I am now. 

29/03/2017. 15H35. I am at home. It has been a hot day, possibly one of the hottest I have experienced in quite some time. I have had quite an interesting morning, and here are some pics.

After visiting mum I headed to Turffontein Race Course where I wanted to photograph the Hennenman Air Crash Memorial. I had heard about it following photographs by Clinton Hattingh of a memorial in Alberton. The security at the race course were not sure where the memorial was, but they went out of their way to assist me in my quest. The Memorial is situated close to the offices of the race course, but inside a secure area. 

Once I finished with the race course I headed to the James Hall Museum of Transport in Rosettenville Road.

Last year when I did my blogpost about Bubble Cars and Micro Cars  I had two vehicles that I could not identify and I was hoping to rectify that today. However, between when my original pics were taken so long ago, and today the 2 vehicles have been removed and there is now a small exhibition on small cars that features a Messerschmitt, a BMW Isetta, The Enfield Electric Car as well as an Optimal Energy Joule.

At a later date I will do a blog post about the museum because it really deserves a post all on its own. The museum is in a beautiful condition and it is well worth making the trip to see it.

While I was in the area I stopped briefly at Wemmer Pan.  Sadly Pioneer Park is somewhat of a mess, it really seems to serve no real purpose anymore. Surprisingly enough the swimming pool is still open, but I was unable to get into the building.

The station and roof where the Johannesburg Live Steamers club used to operate from are still there, but the trains no longer circle the raised tracks. The tracks have been lifted and club has relocated Rietvlei Zoo Farm.  

Leaving Wemmer Pan I climbed onto the M1 and headed off to Newtown to photograph two items that I had seen at Museum Africa in 2012. I had first been in Newtown in 2011 and revisited it in 2012, and at the time there was a lot of talk about redeveloping the “Potato Sheds” and erection of an office block/mall etc. That has now happened and frankly I think the end result was disappointing.  

I was glad to see that the old railway footbridge still survives, but it was barricaded closed.

Museum Africa borders on Mary Fitzgerald Square and it was a let down, the one exhibit I was after was closed and the other did not have the items I was looking for.  But, that’s how things go when you have after thoughts.  Sadly the museum is not a tourism hotspot and it was very quiet when I was there.

It was time to start heading home, and there are a number of possible routes to the West Rand. The one I chose would take me past Brixton Cemetery and I decided to pop in for a visit.

The cemetery is looking beautiful with its masses of green trees and beautiful light. It is a very pretty place, but I did not feel very secure there as vast sections of the fence have been stolen. Just before I left for the UK a lot of gravestones in the Jewish section had been vandalised and since then it has been fenced off. More images are available at my Photo Essay about Brixton Cemetery

I have spent many hours in this cemetery and it is like visiting and old friend. It is just such a pity that I did not really feel very safe, certainly not as safe as I feel in some of the cemeteries in the UK.

And that was my day. West  Park has been shelved for another day, and on Friday I am going to relocate my stuff from the storage unit so the blog may be slightly quiet for awhile. Once I have returned home I will expand this page and create subposts about some of the things I have seen. But, that is another story for another time

© DRW 2017. Created 29/03/2017

Updated: 11/04/2017 — 07:12

Finding the Reid Tenwheeler

Amongst the many locomotives that stood at Sanrasm South Site was the former 4-10-2T North British Loco side-tank No.23722. She is quite a rare bird as 4-10-2 was not a very popular wheel configuration, many being converted to 4-8-2 over the years they were in service. This particular survivor was fortunate enough to escape the scrap metal thieves as well as the cutting torch. She is a member of the South African Railways Class H 4-10-2T of 1899, and they dated from the pre-Union era in the Colony of Natal. 23722 was in industrial use, and her many sisters served very successfully in the services that they were used in 

I have very few images of her, and these that I do have show her front bogie missing and the loco propped up on a dolley.

Bearing the livery of Witbank Colliery Number 1, she did not seem to be worth preserving, although she is somewhat of a unique loco because of her wheel arrangement.

When Sanrasm was being finally wound up she was not amongst the assets that were scrapped, and when the final disastrous bearing theft happened she managed to survive and was earmarked for plinthing at the Rand Society of Model Engineers (RSME) at Len Rutter Park in Florida (27o 54′ 16″ E, 26o 09′ 38″ S),  and was finally unloaded on 29 June 2014 onto a pre-prepared railbed. Because that happened after I had left for the UK in 2013 I never did get to see her until now.

She stands just outside the small engine museum and has been painted in the livery above, the other side being marked “Witbank”. She is superficially in a good condition, and I suspect that some work was put into her to cover the rusted plating and damaged steelwork.

I was able to climb onto her footplate, and while the gauges and other valuable pieces are missing there were still quite a lot of her original bits and bobs in the cab.

Piet Conradie on his old STEAM LOCOMOTIVES page has the following information on her:

The 137th and final “Reid Tenwheeler” was ordered from North British Locomotive Co in Glasgow and It was delivered as North British No. 23722 of 1928. She was painted blue with white lining and lettered “WITBANK COLLIERY LTD No. 1” on the side tanks. In July 1938 she was reboilered and continued in service hauling coal for another 25 years until last steamed in March 1963.

She remained stored for over 20 years at the South Section loco shed until donated to the Railway Society of South Africa (RSSA) in a ceremony on 1 December 1985. However she remained at Witbank for another nine years until moved to the SANRASM Preservation Site at Randfontein in 1994. She was the only surviving H class in its original condition with the exception of the front bogie that was missing, fortunately it turned up under a heap of “scrap” on site. This was subsequently re-installed on the loco. There is a small chance that she is the only 10 wheeler complete in South Africa.

At this point she is safe, although I would have preferred to see her on the inside of the fence. Long may she be with us, and thanks to RSME who have given this old girl a new lease on life. 

A number of people must be thanked for their work in keeping this loco from scrap, and all credit must go to them. Thanks guys.

© DRW 2017. Created 26/03/2017

Updated: 06/04/2017 — 06:21
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