musings while allatsea

Musings of a curious individual

Category: South Africa

Farewell Oriana

*Update: 16/08/2019.*

Today Oriana sailed from Southampton under her new name “Piano Land”. Stripped of her new P&O corporate branding she headed off to an uncertain future in China. It is possible she will be very successful in her new role and only time will tell. Fair weather and safe seas for your future Oriana. You will not be forgotten.  

The images below are all courtesy of Steve Carrett and are used with permission. 

Destored and with her new name on her bows, Oriana is ready to leave

Aurora is berthed behind Oriana as she makes ready to sail

That last glimpse of a great ship

Steve Carrett shot this video of her departure.

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* end update*

Ships are strange things, they  are sometimes regarded with fondness by those who sail in them, and there are plenty of examples of that affection. I am sure that nobody really gives a hoot about a mass produced airliner, but a classic ship is a whole different ball game.  Sadly this month sees the withdrawal of one of the few remaining classic cruise ships left. It was announced that the Oriana was to be withdrawn and had been sold for service in China in August.

What makes her special is that she was built as a replacement for the legendary Canberra and incorporates aspects of her design in her structure.  While she does not have the wonderful curves of the Great White Whale, she was a worthy successor, becoming more popular each year and building up a legendary following.

Canberra in Durban

The logic behind her disposal is a puzzling one, and there are a few possible scenarios: she could be mechanically troublesome, she does not fit in with the Carnival Cruises group “image”, she is getting on in years (she was launched on 30 June 1994), there are not enough balcony cabins in her, etc. We are not privy to these decisions, but we sure as heck can condemn them. 

My own association with the ship dates from 1997 when I undertook a short hop from Durban to Cape Town on her and I was also able to work on her as a baggage handler back in 2013. It was never fun to work on board her when doing baggage because you literally worked yourself to a standstill. 

A VOYAGE ON THE ORIANA.
 22-03-97 to 24-03-97. Durban-Cape Town

The announcement that Canberra would be replaced by a new ship was greeted with much dismay by everybody. The concept vessel shown to the media was criticised as being too much like a wedding cake and too little like Canberra. She was built by Joseph Meyer of Papenburg, Germany and entered service in 1995. Soon it was announced that this ship, known as Oriana, would be calling in Durban during her 1997 world cruise. The time had come for us to sail again. I was one of the first South Africans to book the short Durban to Cape Town trip, I phoned as the voyage was made available. Needless to say I took what I could get! The berth that I chose was a shared 4 berth inside cabin. This berth was guaranteed but I would only know my cabin number once the ship arrived, something that would play in my favour once she was in Durban.

Then it was time to wait and watch the exchange rate. The ship was due in Durban on 22 March, arriving in Cape Town on 24 March, a short 1 day and two night hop. By now Rudi had booked as well and we started counting the days.

Postcard view of the Oriana shortly after she entered service

As the sailing grew closer I decided that I would return to Durban on Symphony just for fun and went ahead and booked that as well. Now I had two ships to look forward to and an empty bank account.

Early in the morning, on Friday the 21st we departed on the long drive to Durban. Howard was at the helm and for once we made the trip down in daylight! The problem was that the grotty weather was coming too and we hit the usual rain at Van Reenen and all the way to Durban. Duly arriving we headed off for lunch on board the 40000 ton container ship, MSC Samia. before dropping Rudi and his girl friend off at their sleeping place. The rest of us made for the tug Jannie Oelofsen where we would be spending the night. There were not too many movements on the go and yet they were all very interesting.
 
Our last movement was to a ship which seemed really decrepit, its lines could not reach the quayside and she was having engine problems. On arrival back at the tug jetty we found Ken Malcolm, who joined Neville and Clive Bush on the pilot boat while Howard and I hopped on to the tug. The pilot boat headed out to sea to drop off a pilot at Symphony and one at Oriana. Our tug was allocated to Oriana, and with the weather finally clearing, we awaited our first glimpse of this great ship. Symphony waddled in first, looking as great as ever but she was soon to be overwhelmed by what was astern of her.
Our first sight of Oriana was of a huge white ship which really was not attractive when foreshortened. However, once she was in view and had turned completely then only could we appreciate her. She was huge, dazzling white and perfectly trimmed onto her waterline. Equipped with three bow thrusters, twin screws, twin rudders and a stern thruster, she berthed herself while the tugs stood off in awe. As far as I remember she was the second biggest cruise ship to enter Durban (QE2 was the biggest)
 
Dropped off by the tug we quickly collected the guys and we headed for the ship. There was no doubt that she was big, she towered over everything in sight and made Symphony look like a toy. We headed down to the gangway where I attempted to get the guys on board as Rudi had not organised a ship visit. There was no luck in that department, however I was taken on board to get my cabin number and booked in as well. I now had a boarding pass and could come and go as I pleased. I got off again and we all went around to Symphony to look at her, alas there was no visit organised either. Time was passing, and the smell of food was rather urgent so I said my farewells to everybody and headed for my newest ship….
 
The entrance is on F deck where the reception desk and bottom of the 5 deck atrium is situated. The carpets are a light green colour and a fountain gurgles behind the staircase. One deck up are  the shops with the Peninsular restaurant midships and Oriental restaurant aft. The next deck has a spectacular wrap around promenade as well as the Pacific lounge, Lords Tavern, Harlequins lounge, the casino, Andersons with its club like atmosphere, and the really spectacular Theatre Royal. D deck houses the children’s playrooms, Chaplains Cinema, library, The Crichton complex and passenger cabins.
 
The next three decks are devoted solely to cabins with the Lido deck right on top of all of these. Here is found the conservatory where the buffet is served. The two pools are on this deck as well as the gym. The deck surrounding this area has a jogging track around the ship while the entrance to the Crows Nest is found forward. There are three sets of lifts in the ship and they all work!. The terrace pool is situated on the promenade deck aft and the view from the sun deck down to the stern where this pool is, is really spectacular. The massive buff funnel crowns the whole package and is easily recognisable for miles.
The images below were taken in 2013 with my cellphone and I make no excuses for quality.
Surprisingly enough, the ship, in-spite of its size is relatively simple to find your way around. My cabin was on E deck and the number two staircase was just around the corner. Inside, the cabin was small but neat. There were three other guys in the cabin, one of whom was on his sixth world cruise and who had been on since Southampton. There was a fridge, TV, mini-safe and every other amenity imaginable in that cabin. The missing porthole was not really a problem. Once on deck, I watched Symphony sail and as she passed I could almost look down her funnel. By the time we sailed it was late and the light was failing and it looked like rain was brewing again. The wind howled us off the decks and we all headed below. There was very little vibration or motion on board and it was very difficult to think that you were on board a ship.
 
Being such a big ship, there is never any feeling of crowds of people, in fact I wonder how full she really was? There was quite a bit to do on board, bars to visit, shops to ogle, movies to attend and of course food to scoff. I had eaten lunch at the conservatory and if it was any indication of the standard of service on board then we were really in for a treat. I was not disappointed as we sat down for supper in the Peninsular restaurant.
The service was brilliant with two very articulate and polite stewards catering for our every need. There was food galore, in fact too much food for one sitting as far as I am concerned. However it was dispatched with great gusto and we all retired that night feeling somewhat bloated. More food awaited us at breakfast, again in the conservatory. The place was so big that It never really was crowded and the queues were quite small.
Our next visit was to reception where we enquired whether it was possible to present our World Ship Society plaque to the master. After some phone calls we were told that we would be informed, so off we scuttled, meeting at the jacuzzi. We spent the morning eating ice cream in the jacuzzi with a howling wind around us. On arrival back at the cabin I discovered that our visit to the master was scheduled for 11H30 and it was 11H20 already. Needless to say I could not find Rudi and I had some quick explaining to do to the captain’s secretary. The visit was rescheduled for later that day and off we went for more food! Lunch over, we were introduced to the master and presented our plaque. I was also able to grab a pic from her bridge wing, and as you can see the weather was improving. 
Once we finished off there it was as if we had accomplished all that had to be done and the rest of the time I spent on a deck chair on that glorious promenade watching the sea go by. After all, isn’t that what sea travel is all about?
 
The next morning it was up early to watch the approach to Cape Town. We passed Cape Point around 06H30 but there were clouds around everything and we could not see very much. We entered Cape Town harbour about 08H30, the tugs were spraying water and on the quayside a band played stirring nautical type tunes.
This time Oriana had lines on the tugs and she did not berth herself. A mediocre crowd awaited us as we slowly started our disembarkation. Once off the ship I met up with my lift and we went to drop my luggage before heading out to town. The ship dominated everything and we could see that huge funnel for miles.
That night in cold weather the Oriana took her leave, sailing slowly past us as we stood at the quayside, her lights were all burning and the funnel glowed in the spotlights. As she dropped the pilot I could see the tiered decks that overlooked the terrace pool. I had stood there not too long ago, now it was over and Oriana was on her way home. I had another ship to catch the next day, but would anything ever compare? somehow I doubted it. The Symphony may be a great ship, but she is not in the same league as Oriana was.
 
Southampton 2013.
I saw Oriana many times in Southampton, and the biggest difference that I saw was a “ducktail” that had been added to her stern. It did not enhance her looks at all and you could see it was an afterthought. I worked baggage on her one day and snuck away at lunch time and took the pics you see above. It was like visiting an old friend, she was familiar, but not as familiar. I never thought that I would see her leaving P&O at such a young age and I really hoped that one day I would be able to do another short voyage on her. My shipwatch entry for Oriana may be found here.  
 
Farewell Oriana, long may you still be with us and may you care for those who sail in you the way you always did. Safe harbours and fair weather in your voyages. You will be missed. 
 
 

(1500×797)

DRW © 2019. Created 25/07/2019. Updated 17/08/2019.  Last sailing images courtesy of Steve Carrett. 
 
Updated: 17/08/2019 — 07:09

We’ve landed on the moon!

Today (20 July 2019) we celebrate that “Giant Leap for Mankind” that happened on 20 July 20, 1969, at 20:17 UTC.  Conspiracy lovers please leave now as this post may offend. 

It is hard to believe that 50 years ago Neil Armstrong trod boldly where mankind had never been before, and since the cessation of the Apollo program we have never been back. 

I was 8 years old when this amazing event happened around me, and unlike most of the world we never saw it happen live due to the “verkrampte” policies and mindset of the National Party who “governed” South Africa at the time. TV had still not arrived in the country so we really had to rely on the print media and the newsreels at the bioscope if we wanted to see footage. Like most kids back then I wanted to be an astronaut (Actually I wanted to be a sailor but that’s another story), little knowing what an astronaut was or did. All we knew was they rode in ginormous spaceships and popped into space and occasionally rescued scantily clad women from tentacled aliens. That was the theory at any rate, and poor eyesight, mathematics and citizenship ensured that I stood zero chance of making it anyway. 

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From a technology point of view the moon landings were one heck of an achievement, and I think global citizens thought that colonisation of the moon and outer space would follow in short thrift. Unfortunately the Apollo program only ran until December 1972 and once it ceased so our exploration of the lunar surface ceased too, and the success of the Space Shuttle was almost an anticlimax.  Apart from the men who were killed in Apollo 1 (Command Pilot Virgil I. “Gus” Grissom, Senior Pilot Ed White, and Pilot Roger B. Chaffee) and the near disaster of Apollo 13,  it was a successful program, albeit a very expensive successful program.

Apollo 11 crew: left to right are: Neil A. Armstrong, Commander; Michael Collins, Module Pilot; Edwin E. “Buzz” Aldrin, Lunar Module Pilot

The list of things that could go wrong is a long one, and we are fortunate that everything worked and that we are all alive here to celebrate. There were schools of thought that considered that the moon would crash down on earth if we landed on the moon, or that we would bring back some strange microbe from space and let it loose on earth by accident. Science fiction is a wonderful genre to read and watch, but nothing like our reality. We never did colonise our moon or launch manned missions beyond the moon, although there have been many successful unmanned missions that have exceeded their original parameters and continue to provide tantalising glimpses of our galaxy. 

The question is often asked whether we would/should go back to the moon. Personally I think we have more important issues to solve on our home planet, and climate change is the biggest of these. Our spaceship Earth is a  small fragile place  when viewed from the “magnificent desolation” of the moon, and we really need to concentrate on fixing it for the billions instead of expending vast amounts of money to send a few men or women to the moon.

View of Moon limb with Earth on the horizon, This image was taken before separation of the LM and the Command Module during Apollo 11 Mission.

Technology-wise we could probably build the hardware but the paperwork, risk assessments and amount of managers and bean counters needed would make the Apollo program look small.  Besides, it is easier and cheaper to send probes and drones to do the dangerous work for us, piloted by some hotshot gamer geek who can “make the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs”. Let’s face it, landing man on the moon in in the 2000’s just does not have the same impact as it did 50 years ago. 

Let us remember this achievement for what it was and ignore the conspiracists who say it never happened. Let us remember the courage of those 3 men who were so far from home and help that they were certainly doomed had too many things gone wrong. Let us remember the day the world stood in awe as we took that giant leap. And let us hope that one day long in the future people will see that landing site once again and I suspect that selfies would happen, like buttons would be pressed, statuses would be updated and vapid celebs will realise that in the grand scheme of things their contribution to our planet is zero, and that walking on the moon is way, way cooler. 

DRW © 2019. Created on the 50th anniversary of the moon landings.  Images are property of NASA and are not copyrighted but freely available for use. Images from https://www.nasa.gov/specials/apollo50th/index.html More information from  https://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/guidelines/index.html

Updated: 21/07/2019 — 06:58

Scalex Pretoria Castle

It is about time I posted about my newest toy boat. I mentioned her briefly on my other toy boat post some months ago,  and in between then and now I have acquired another one, albeit in a poor condition too. 

The new boat is missing a funnel, masts and some of the lifeboats. The forward bulwark is also broken and that has damaged the foredeck. However, I suspect this ship may be a newer iteration because it does not suffer as much from the warping of the superstructure like the first one does. The funnel and deck in the foreground come from the 2nd boat and it is badly warped so I will remove the deck area and replace it.  The new funnel has been glued but needs more coats of paint.  

So, I have 2 ships that are in need of work, and sailing, although at the moment our weather is as such that there is a lot of water but no way to access it (that may change as flood warnings are in force for Tewkesbury as of today).

This is the clockwork motor (prop shaft leads off to the right), and is wound though the shaft in the centre of the image which comes up into the funnel. 

You can see a slight colour difference in the 2 ships below, which really supports my theory that the one may be much older. 

I may just repaint one of them in UC colours and leave the other in an assembled stated but unpainted. It’s a lot of hull to paint and I do not feel up to doing it. So, at this moment this is where I am at. Once I get some sun I will take more pics. but till then I will continue to work on them both. I will be honest, I really like this pair, they may be somewhat out of scale and warped and generally quite tatty, but they are wonderfully quirky models and I would have loved to have had one as a child. I believe that they were available in SA, but apart from that information know nothing further. 

Alongside a 1/1250 Albatros model of the Pretoria Castle

The real ship looked like this:

The big flood never happened thankfully, although I did get to try out my new ship in the flooded field where I live. Unfortunately the water was full of grass clippings and they kept jamming the prop. It was also very difficult trying to juggle the ship, camera, string and myself so I gave up quite quickly.

Afloat on my local puddle:

And there you have it, a pair of interesting models from a different era. The real Pretoria Castle was acquired by Safmarine and entered service as SA Oranje in 1966 and she went to the breakers in 1975. The models date from either the 1950’s or mid 1960’s. They are almost as old as I am. 

Pretoria Castle box art

DRW © 2019. Created 13/06/2019

Updated: 27/06/2019 — 17:44

Retrospective: Newtown Municipal Compound

In 2011 I  did a number of photowalks in and around Newtown in Johannesburg and blogged about them, and as a result I started using the blog more and more as I found even more uses for it. The end result in 2019 is quite large but I never really utilised it as much back then, and during one of my periodic searches for images I rediscovered the images from the Newtown Municipal Compound and decided to do a retrospective of them. Once again I am not an expert in this field, and I really want to show what I saw back then because it is quite important to acknowledge our heritage (as horrible as it may be) if we want to understand more about the present and why we are where we are. I am afraid that things were very different back then and our sense of right and wrong really changed over the years as people began to recognise that even the lowliest needed consideration.

I recall walking though this complex and was horrified, however, had I been walking through here in 1950 what would my attitude have been? Sadly the African labourer employed in the mines and in industry where labouring was done on a large scale probably faced these sort of conditions as a matter of course, it was the norm rather than the exception.  Remember that back then pass laws were enforced too. No pass could result in arrest and a stay in Number 4 Jail.

The complex forms part of the area around Newtown that encompasses Sci-Bono, Museum Africa, the Market theatre and the former old market in Johannesburg. This area has been extensively redeveloped since 2011 and I did not recognise it when I passed through in 2016. 

Stitched image of rear of compound (1500x 393)

The image below was stitched from 2 separate images and shows the layout of the compound.  This image and subsequent key were on an information board at the compound. 

Compound layout (1500×527)

Key:

1. Domestic quarters

2. Compound manager’s house: the manager had to be available at all hours and was housed directly behind the compound. 

3. Sleeping quarters: the compound was designed to accommodate 330 workers. No mattresses or lockers were provided. Rooms would be strung from side to side by clothing, washing, and other possessions. Each room had a small coal stove for heating

4. White staff houses

5. Lock-up room: Used to lock up workers who broke the rules, they were often chained to the wall and the only toilet was a bucket.

6. Ablutions: the toilet room had 16 squat holes. No partitions or doors separated the toilets

7. Induna’s room: the Induna was the compound manager’s right hand man.

8. Showers: there was 1 cold shower for every 165 workers, and one latrine for every 55. Hot water was only available in buckets.

9. The courtyard: space provided where social interaction could happen

10. Gantry

11. The Tree: if the lock-up room was unavailable unruly workers could be chained to the tree.

12. Compound manager’s office: the compound manager kept control administration and law enforcement from this small office. He was assisted by the Induna, an admin clerk, and the municipal police.  

13, Veranda: There were no cooking or eating facilities in the compound. Workers could go eat at eateries catering for black workers or use the counters for food preparation. Sinks were provided for washing clothes and dishes. 

14. Stables and Kennels: over 750 draught horses were stabled here. The horses pulled the wagons used for refuse and sanitary waste removal. Cart drivers and animal keepers were also housed at the compound. The stables were demolished in the 1930’s. 

The interior is grim, and was probably much worse when it was occupied by men who came from all around the country, sleeping in dormitories, sharing communal ablution facilities and exposed to diseases such as TB. The record states that at one point there was 1 shower for every 165 workers and 1 latrine for 55. 

Communal showers (8 on layout image)

Urinal (6 on layout image)

I do not know what era the building represents, but it is probably quite close to what it may have looked like to those luckless migrant workers who ended up here.

A reproduction of a pamphlet issued in 1946 paints the following picture:

Extract from a pamphlet published by the Communist Party in 1946

The paragraph above is an extract of a speech presented by Hilda Watts at a meeting of the Johannesburg City Council in November 1946, reproduced in a  pamphlet published by the Communist Party.

Sleeping area

One of the sleeping area upper levels has a display of “luggage and possessions” which I thought spoke volumes about the men who lived here.

Naturally fights would break out and there was even a handy “lock up room” (marked 5 on the layout image above). How much abuse of power happened in that small room is unknown.

Just image a place like this after a long days work with primitive facilities and a lack of privacy. From what I read this particular compound was much better than some that were in use by the council.

We are fortunate that places like this still exist so as to give us a glimpse into a different era and an almost invisible group of workers who swept streets, emptied dustbins, collected night-soil and performed other menial but important work for a pittance, often supporting wives and children far away. They were the faceless and nameless that helped make Johannesburg what it is today. Inside the compound is a statue of an orange clad worker launching his spade up high with arms outstretched, almost reaching for the sky. It is quite a fitting tribute to those workers who eked out a  living in such a deplorable place.  I am glad I saw it, but am ashamed at what I saw.

DRW © 2011 – 2019. Created retrospectively 13/05/2019. Some information from the information board and displays at the compound. 

Updated: 15/05/2019 — 17:25

A brief burst of pink

Last week I posted about Spring and one of the images was of an ornamental cherry tree (aka “Sakura“) that was flowering. I had never seen any of these until I came to the UK, and this seemingly normal tree shows its true colours when Spring finally comes around. 

The clusters of pink blossoms are very beautiful, and I really look forward to seeing them probably because the sakura is a very common theme in anime. It pops up in many of the series I watch and I am currently reading a fanfiction about Clannad, where one of the characters is intent on becoming the student council president so that she can save the sakura that are due to be cut down. It does sound corny but the Japanese do hold the sakura in esteem. 

Today when I came home the tree was loosing its blossoms and the area underneath it was becoming a pink carpet as the blossoms fell.

The wind was clustering the many petals into hollows in the road and the drizzle ensured that they stayed there, it was really something to see. By next week the sakura will be back to its normal summer foliage and the cycle of rebirth will start again. Such are the ways of nature.

Of course it is not only the Sakura blossoming, but every other tree that is capable of producing blossoms has done so. This beauty was close to where I work.

In South Africa we have a similar situation with Jacaranda trees. These were planted in the pavements of Johannesburg and Pretoria probably during the 40’s or 50’s and every year they undergo a similar burst of colour as they bloom and then loose their blossoms, coating the area underneath them in a carpet of purple. 

You can really see the effect in the image I took on Northcliffe Ridge a few years back.

Jacarandas in the Northcliffe/Fairlands area (1500 x 811)

Trees really can surprise one, we live with them all around us, and generally do not pay too much notice of them except when they undergo change; loosing leaves, blossoming or falling down are all part of the life cycle of a tree. Their advanced age is interesting because many of them outlive us, and some survive for centuries. The world would be a boring place without them, so hug a tree today. 

DRW © 2019. Created 25/04/2019

Updated: 27/04/2019 — 07:09

Commemorating Annie Munro

Being involved with photographing war graves you often find that you are drawn to some graves, or individuals, or you feel that you need to remind the world of a life that was cut short by the tragedy of war. One such grave is that of a young nurse called Annie Winifred Munro.

I do not recall how I got involved with this particular grave, all I know is that I felt that a plan really needed to be made to commemorate her loss, and some investigating was done. She is buried in the Glasgow Western Metropolis and her casualty details may be found on the corresponding CWGC page. Glasgow is far from my usual stomping grounds, and while we knew that there was a headstone we had no photograph of it. I decided to ask around and by luck one of the members of the South African Branch of the Royal British Legion was able to go to the cemetery and photograph the grave for us. It was winter, and snow lay on the ground. 

Annie was no longer forgotten, her record at the South African War Graves Project was just that much more complete now that the grave was photographed. Incidentally her headstone was designed by Sir Herbert Baker and “was erected to her memory by the South African Comforts Committee, under the personal direction of the Viscountess Gladstone”. 

But why was Annie buried here in the first place? It is difficult to understand so many years after the fact, but the information that exists is as follows: “… on arriving in England she was sent to France, where she contracted pneumonia which obliged her to return to England. After having partly recovered from the effects of pneumonia, she desired to visit Scotland, the home of her father, but was unable to travel farther North than Glasgow. There she was taken under the care of those who had known her father; and although she received all the attention that medical skill could give her, complications set in which it was impossible to combat. She died on 6th April, 1917, at the age of 25 years, and was buried with Military Honours in the Western Necropolis, Glasgow.”

Annie had previously served in the German South West African Campaign, transferring to the hospital ship “Ebani” on 26/11/1915.

Record card for Staff Nurse Annie Munro

She is also recorded as serving in Gallipoli and eventually was sent to France where she contracted pneumonia. She was shipped back to England to recover, but after having partly recovered she desired to visit Scotland, the home of her father. 

She is noted as having died from “Phthisis” (pulmonary tuberculosis or a similar progressive wasting disease) on the 6th of April 1917, although her record card shows her as being “very ill, progress unsatisfactory” on 07/04/1917. It is very likely that the date is incorrect as death is accepted as having occurred on 06/04/1917.

What drove Annie to visit the home of her father? was she invited over? was there some other underlying reason? She was a qualified sister and was probably well aware of how ill she had been and that there were risks attached to her travelling so far from where she was staying.  Sadly she died in Scotland and in time would eventually become just another name on a headstone in a cemetery.  Renewed interest in the First World War saw more and more people researching those who fought or died in that terrible war and there was a reappraisal of the role of women and nurses in the global conflict that touched everywhere on the globe. In 2012 Our own War Graves Project was already busy with the record card project that would reveal more details about  the almost forgotten part that South African Forces played in the war. Annie is amongst those many names on the Roll of Honour.

She was visited by Louise Prentice Carter in July 2018 who laid flowers on her grave and paid her respects to this nurse so far from Pietermaritzburg where she was born.

William and Ellen Munro lost not only their daughter in 1917, they also lost a son in the war;  Sergeant  William Alexander Munro was killed at Delville Wood on 15/07/1916.

Many people have contributed to this page, although I did rely on our South African War Graves Project for most of the information. Special thanks to Louise and the Legionnaire who photographed the grave for me in 2015. There is not a lot of information to add to this story though, and the one source I did find that is new to me is from The Evening Times of 13 May 2014.  

DRW © 2019. Created 12/04/2019

Updated: 16/04/2019 — 05:56

Retrospective: By train to Magaliesburg 12AR-1535

One of the more obscure centenary celebrations coming up is that of 12AR-1535 “Susan”. This steam engine is the only remaining member of the SAR Class 12AR in the world, as well as being Reefsteamers’ oldest operating locomotive and the second oldest operating main line locomotive in South Africa.  
She was built in 1919 by the North British Locomotive Works in Glasgow and joined her sisters in South Africa for service on the Germiston-Witbank line moving heavy trainloads of coal. She first entered traffic on 15 March 1920. The sisters were all reboilered at some point in their lives, and 1535 was reboilered in 1944, although her existing boiler was commissioned in 1955. 

Boiler plate of 1535

I first encountered her in 1985 when I was posted to the Germiston Telecommunications Depot. At the time she was the “station pilot” for Germiston Station, and she shone so much that she could blind you in the sun. She never really retired from service and was not restored from scrap or in a derelict condition. Fortunately her original service in Germiston means that she is really back home in the depot where she worked for so many years. I have a soft spot for her and enjoyed linesiding this small wheeled “4-8-2 Mountain” as she spent her retirement running heritage train for Reefsteamers. 
According to the EXIF data on the image below, Susan was brought back into steam on 28 March 2009 and I was present for a photography session with the people who had walked with her to that point.

(1500×1092). Back in steam. 28/03/2009

You can read more about her history on the relevant Reefsteamers page. Special thanks for Lee Gates for his work on that page and his continued posts on social media. 
 
It is not very often (especially in South Africa) that a steam working steam engine reaches her centenary, and with this in mind I am reposting the blogpost about the trip I did 10 years ago on 4 April 2019.  

By train to Magaliesburg. 12AR-1535

I got the opportunity to travel with Susan on 4 April 2009 from Maraisburg Station to Magaliesburg. The same consist as before was used and the schedule was almost identical to my previous trip with Elize. Some of the images used here were taken linesiding or when I intercepted other trips at Magaliesburg.


The two images above were taken on another trip that she made on 27 April 2009, I would definitely not stand here taking pics if I had been travelling on the train.
 
And then we were off,  eventually passing through Roodepoort Station where the plinthed 10BR slowly moulders away in the parking lot.

Through to Krugersdorp where we could pick up any passengers that had wanted to join there,

Past Millsite and the rows of derelicts that were not as fortunate as Susan was, and any goods wagons that were being shunted, 

and then past the disgrace that was Sanrasm.

And once that was past you could really relax and enjoy the ride for awhile and listen to the loco in front. At some point you would start the long climb towards the grain silos,

and then power along towards the end destination,
although the cutting really was the first sign that we had almost arrived.

This time around I had opted for lunch at the hotel, but I did not bail out there, but hung around at the station for awhile to watch them turn Susan. 

 

I then had to make a mad dash down the hill for my belated lunch at the hotel.
 
Arriving back suitably satiated, I discovered that Susan had been turned and was now on the opposite end of the train in readiness for our trip back.

And as usual, there was brightwork to be polished. These preserved loco’s are always turned out very well because they showcase our proud steam heritage. Susan, as station pilot in Germiston, was always in a supershine condition, there was a lot of pride in these machines, and that is still true today.

The sitters were empty as the passengers did their thing at the picnic area, quite a few were already tanked up before we arrived and they would sleep the return journey away. 
The passing of some Class 34’s really provided a photo opportunity, although I know which is the more handsome engine out of all those in Magaliesburg on that day.
Then the passengers were roused and the whistle blew and we were off, pausing at the hotel to collect a few more errant people before attempting the level crossing on our way out of the town. 
In 2011 I was in the area and stood at the level crossing watching this spirited departure which is available on Youtube, and it amazed me how even though the loco had started moving drivers still try to get across in front of her! You do not tackle a steam engine with a car because you will loose. 
Unfortunately though we literally crawled through the cutting and the hills, and I asked some of the guys why this had happened, and it turned out that the coal was of poor quality so she was really struggling. Susan is a freight loco with lots of power, but even poor coal can turn a steamer into a snail. I did take some video of the climb and pullaway, so all is not lost
 
And even today people wave at steam engines going past, because it is just something that is done. I feel sorry for those who have never experienced steam trains because they have lost a little bit of magic. Fortunately most people opted to relax on the trip home, and the kids stopped with the “pooop pooop” imitations and I was able to get some peace. I was not really in a mood to take too many pics, besides, everything you see here is very similar to what you saw in the other trip post. 
Even the desolate landscape that we passed just after Millsite was devoid of life, but then that area has been ravaged by mining and will take many years to rehabilitate, assuming that even happens in the first place.
And eventually we were home. The sun was low on the horizon and the people who climbed off were much more subdued than those that had climbed on this morning. Even Susan seemed tired, and she still had a long way to go before she could be bedded down for the night,
 
 
 More video: 
 
DRW © 2009-2019 Created 04/04/2009. images recreated 07/03/2016, edited and reposted as a retrospect on 04/04/2019
Updated: 07/04/2019 — 13:05

Scanning the Slides

When I was still photographing ships in the pre-digital days I was shooting with slide film. There were many advantages to it at the time. The large images displayed on a screen were amazing to see and much better than the standard small prints that were the result of shooting with film. Pricewise it was slightly cheaper to shoot and process 36 slides than it was to develop and print 36 prints. And of course the prints were only as good as the operator of the printing machine. When the digital era arrived I really wanted to convert my slides into a digital format and the first results that I still have is a contact sheet that a friend of mine made on a professional film scanner at his work in 1999. Unfortunately the resulting images, while excellent copies were only 640×480 in size.

A few years later I bought a “Genius” flatbed scanner that could scan slides, and the results were mixed. Because many of the images had vast expanses of blue water in them I could not get a semi decent outcome because the scanner lamp had a slight blue tinge to it and rendered the images less than perfect. The scanner wasn’t faulty either because I even sat with a technician from the company and we were just not able to get a perfect result, or one as good as the contact sheet above. 

I never gave up though and at one point I bought a high end Epson scanner and it could scan slides and negatives but the interface tended to be somewhat iffy. The end result was much better and in some case I had a lot of success with the scanner, so much so that 90% of the ship and cruise images on my blogs were created with that scanner. I did not scan everything though, some images just came out badly and and others I skipped because there was too much to do. 

The scanner did produce some amazing results from negatives, and while I did not even tackle them as a project I really should have, although I never used an SLR for prints.

The images above are both scanned from the 1986 negatives. 

In 2010 I bought a dedicated slide/negative scanner that had just come onto the market and frankly it was a waste of time and money. Surely there were other ways to convert slides to digital? 

Since the advent of the digital camera (and high end cell phone camera too) there are other possible ways to scan slides and when I was in South Africa I did some experimenting. The end results were interesting although some images were a disaster due to focusing issues. My “rig” looked something like this:  

I have a small battery powered pocket slide viewer that I bought in the USA, and it formed the display part of my machine.

I also have a cut down enlarger head stand that enables me to get up close and personal with a document (or slide viewer) parallel to my camera.

 

And of course my digital camera forms the last part of it all and I initially set the camera on the “Macro” setting and set this up in a dark room with the only illumination coming from the viewer screen. The reality is that I was taking a very close up shot of a displayed slide. 

The output.

It was mixed. Some images came out so well, while others were lousy. The focusing being the biggest issue and that may have been a problem with camera shake or me misfocusing or in some cases the slide is slightly bowed.  I am still sorting the 1331 images that I photographed, so cannot comment on whether this was a success or not. The biggest problem I had was not being able to see the output on a monitor after I did it and now that I am back in the UK I cannot redo the images as the slides are in South Africa. I do however feel that the theory is sound, and I would have liked to have seen what a cell phone camera does under the same conditions, alas I did not have a way to mount one with me so could not try it out. 

I am not done yet and will reserve my verdict till after I have sorted and culled. But it is worth considering as an option if ever slides need digitising. 

To be continued.

DRW © 2019. Created 21/03/2019

Updated: 24/03/2019 — 13:57

Toy boat, toy boat, toy boat.

** Updated 27/05/2019**

Last month, when I was in South Africa, I bought a small plastic tugboat at the local el-cheapo shoppe. It was a simple bathtub type boat with waterjet style propulsion, and stickers stuck on it and with the propensity to listing and sinking. It does not have enough of a draught to stay upright without batteries in and it leaks like crazy. It is not a very successful tugboat, it’s more of a typical cheap and nasty toy designed for a few days enjoyment and then a swift final voyage to the dustbin or under the bed.

Now you may ask what this has to do with the price of eggs? People who know me are aware that I am a ship enthusiast, and once upon a time I used to have a large fleet of ships, of which two were radio controlled. 

My first RC boat was a “Damen Stantug” made by Veron and she had a 29″ fibreglass hull and was quite a large vessel with lots of space in the hull for a small model engine of the glowplug design. Naturally these were not available on my budget so a large electric motor was substituted instead. I also purchased a 2 channel radio and a set of motorbike batteries to run the motor off. Unfortunately a reliable speed control was very difficult to find and I ended up with a large wire wound potentiometer affair that used to run very hot and tended to be somewhat unreliable. 

Once the motor, prop shaft and bulkheads were installed I was ready for a test run and a friend and I headed off to the Blue Dam in Mayfair late one evening with the hull ready to launch. I had installed simple navigation lights and a search light on it so we could see it in the dark and we launched the hull with much trepidation. If something failed I would literally be up the creek without a paddle because retrieving the boat would have been very difficult. Lo and behold everything worked and the hull tore across the water at maximum revs. It was working remarkably well and so far no leaks had shown up although the speed control was running very hot. 

Wind forward many moths later and my tug was finished as per the plans. And, by some strange miracle I have pics of her. She carried the moniker “Dildo” and I am not even going to try explain it. She also flew a small red flag with “Enjoy your pizza” on it, just another quirk that I added. 

Unfortunately the speed control was a major bugbear and charging arrangements for the motorbike batteries were less than ideal. The big motor drew a lot of current and the bike battery worked well enough. The hull was buoyant enough that I ended up adding extra lead ballast in it to bring down the draught. I also managed to score 10 model truck tyres that I wired as fenders along the rubbing strake, and later on I added a small crane, zodiac, electric searchlights, internal lights and navigation lights. I was proud of my tug, she was awesome. 

I also bought a small centre island container ship that could be converted into a superstructure aft configuration made by Graupner under the unlikely name of Neptun. She too was radio controlled and was very fast on the water, too fast in fact and she really had to be reigned in or she would try to imitate a speedboat. Her motor was much smaller and more efficient and I had better battery life with her, although the limitation of both boats was the life of the penlights that were used in the radio receiver (4) and transmitter (8); back then rechargeable batteries were not as readily available as they are now.  

Superstructure midships configuration

Superstructure aft configuration

Of course back then I was living close to a large body of water, albeit a very polluted body of water, so could put a boat under my arm and head out for a quick sail. When I moved from Homestead Park in 1985 I no longer had anywhere to sail my boats and of course not having a car meant that their days of sailing had come to an end, I used the tug once or twice when I was involved with the disastrous attempt at restoring the models ships at Santarama, Alas the person in charge was more of a hindrance than anything else so that all came to nought. Interestingly enough Santarama had a number of radio controlled ships that were probably in operation when the place opened, but they had been laid up and became scrap.  

At some point I had managed to pick up a very nice trawler by Veron too, and sort of completed her but the wood was very dry and the superstructure cracked badly. It was a nice model though and it would have made a nice conversion into a short seas trader. She too was sold in a semi rebuilt state. I recall using her as a demonstration model on navigation lights at a meeting the Titanic Society of South Africa under the name SS Lamptest. 

I sold my large ships in 1999 and I like to think that my tug is still out there somewhere and that she occasionally hits the water and has a blast. I always regretted selling her as she was an awesome boat, but at the time it was more or less a sound idea. I still collect ships though and have a large collection of 1/1250 and 1/1200 waterline vessels, although none can float. And, I have just gotten this poor imitation of a toy boat that I am tempted to refit, although fittings appear to cost more than the boat did. Much to my dismay there is not much of a selection of toy boats suitable for the bath out there, and that is quite sad because occasionally you really need to mess about with boats. 

**Update**

Yesterday while browsing the local overpriced antique emporium I chanced upon a model I have been after for quite some time. Produced by Triang I have seen these on ebay, usually at a horrible price and a poor condition.

The one I picked up is reasonably intact but is in need of attention (and a hair dryer to sort out the warped hull). It has a clockwork motor in it and the key comes out the funnel.

As far as I can see there were 2 in the ocean liner series: Pretoria Castle and Orcades although the only difference between the two was the paint job and Orcades may have been battery powered. I wanted the UC ship because of my interest in Union-Castle. Sizewise it is 50cm long, and surprisingly heavy. The warped superstructure seems to have been common problem with them though and many Triang products from that era suffered from the same problem. Triang also produced a tanker, police launch, tug boat and a drifter but I have not seen them on ebay as yet.  I may have to fabricate masts and booms for her and unfortunately the 1 set of lifeboats is missing, however the motor works and that huge prop spins like mad. As a curiosity this ship is really great, and I believe you could get them in South Africa too and they have outlived the real ship by many years. Nowadays they are really relics of a bygone age of toys. 

DRW 2019. © Created 14/03/2019, updated 27/05/2019

Updated: 28/05/2019 — 10:29

Back home in England.

It is now 19.30 on the evening of the 7th and I am back home, surrounded by washing, empty suitcases, clothing, postcards and heaps of other odds and ends that I brought back with me. My flight left last night at 9 pm, and we landed just after 6 this morning. I have spent the time between then and 4 pm in queues, trains, buses and Paddington Station. 

A lot happened between my previous post of the 24th of February and now. I split my time between my brother’s house and my friends on the West Rand, although was not as active in the local cemeteries as I was previously. My mother is surprisingly strong, but I fear that she is trapped inside her body and is probably hating every minute of it. Unfortunately we had to make the decision that we made in 2017, there were no more options available to us.  Sadly she is surrounded by other elderly women of various ages, many never get visited and lead out their lonely lives in the home. I am afraid that in some cases they have outlived their children, or their children are no longer in the area or in the country. 

Menu from my return flight

There is a lot I can say about South Africa. Corruption has seriously damaged the economy, and the continued demand by Eskom for higher tariffs is met with disgust as the public recalls how easily Eskom and the corrupt in it seemingly burnt money with impunity. To this date no high profile crooks have been arrested for corruption and  they continue to lead the high life, safe in the knowledge that they got away with it.

The few malls that I visited were also showing the effects of the economic downturn, with empty shops and fewer buying customers visiting them. Generally though I had good service from 99% of the people I encountered in my travels in and around the West and East Rand. The petrol price continues to bite though, and of course the traffic jams in Johannesburg are even worse as a large portion of the one freeway has had to be closed to repair some of the supports and bridges that are part of it.  

Muffin the cat continues to amuse, at this moment he is thinking of entering politics and is trying to register his own political party called “The Fishycookie Party”. By his reckoning he could be the chief poohbah in the next election because at least he wont be corrupt, although is liable to sleep in parliament. 

Again I got to enjoy the pets of my brother and friends during this trip, and it is amazing how they enrich our lives; there is never a dull moment when you have a cat or a dog.

The weather back in South Africa was hot and very uncomfortable as I really prefer the relatively cooler summers of the UK. I do not do heat well! We did have a typical highveld thunder/rain storm in my last week, and I had forgotten how much water these could dump and how bad the thunderstorms can get in Johannesburg. Back in the UK it was overcast and drizzly where I live, but the march to Summer continues.  

Suburbia (1500×671)

Prices.

Food prices continue to rise and I did quite a few comparisons with the prices I gathered way back in 2017.  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 and East Rand. Petrol was R14.08 pl 95 octane and R13.86 for 93 octane (02/03/2019)

6 Eskort Gold Medal Pork Sausages: R44.91

Kellogs Corn Flakes (750gr) R49.99

Beef Biltong R320/kg

Oreo 16’s R14.99

Sedgewick’s Old Brown Sherry 750 ml R44.95 (R39 in duty free at ORT airport)

Milo 500gr tin R51.99

2 Litres Coke R16.99

Cadbury’s Chocolate (80g slab) R19.95

Oral B electric toothbrush R499.95

Jungle Oats (1kg) R26.99

Weetbix (900 gr) R38.99

Wellingtons Tomato Sauce (700 ml) RR18.99

Baby Soft 2 ply toilet rolls (18’s) R124.99

Lipice (4.6 g) R22.99

Sunlight dishwashing Liquid (750 ml) R32.99

Joko Tea (60 bags) R32.99

Milo (500 gr) R54.99

Ricoffy (750 g) R79.99

Mrs Balls Chutney (470 g) R28.99

Douwe Egberts Pure Gold coffee (200 g) R119.99

Crystal Valley salted butter (500 gr) R47.99

Nature’s Garden mixed veg (2,5kg) R25.99

30 Large eggs R49.99

Stork Country Spread 1kg R29.99 

Dewfresh milk 6×1 Litre R69.99 (R11.99 ea)

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

Huletts white sugar (2.5 kg) R39.99

Lipton ice tea (1,5 litre) R17.99

King Steer burger R64.90, Regular chips: R15.90  2019

95 Octane petrol R14.08, (/02/03/2019)

4 Finger Kitkat R8.99

48 Beacon Mallow Eggs R79.99

Tabasco Sauce (60ml) R38.99

 

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DRW © 2019. Created 07/03/2019

Updated: 24/03/2019 — 14:03
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