On Sunday 9 October I found myself back in Newtown at the Gizmos and Gadgets display at the Sci-Bono Discovery Centre in Newtown.
Following my previous tour of Newtown I really wanted to attend because it was an opportunity to grab more photographs and to support Reefsteamers who had a small stall there. Unfortunately having a full sized steam engine on display is not an easy task, but now that I think about it, a steamer would make a wonderful addition to that permanent exhibit. The locos exist, all it takes is money, initiative, a crane and a flatbed. One of the ex Eskom locos would be perfect.
The one thing that did bug me though was trying to find the exhibit, it’s a very complicated and confusing structure. But when I did find my goal I was pleased to see that a live steamer was gracing the display.
I also found N and HO gauge layouts to oggle, and a lot of the educational displays that I had seen previously in Hong Kong in 2010 were present too. Electro-toto rules!
The one item I kept on being drawn to was one of those glorious old electrical machines that are very rare to find. This old beaut was an AC Slip-ring induction motor, coupled electrically (and mechanically) to a DC Generator. The blurb informed me that it was to provide DC to some of the customers in Johannesburg who were still using DC to run lifts and motors; a throwback from when DC was in use in Johannesburg so many years ago (1905). This supply from here was discontinued in the 1990’s.
My old electrotechs lecturer would have loved that machine, in fact he would have given us some massively complicated maths to do to discover some obscure electrical property of that device.
I love these old machines though, the quality of workmanship in them is amazing, and when you consider how old that unit is, it would probably work if you had to start it up today, over 100 years later. For those that are interested, this is how that machine is connected internally, as well as some handy specs.
There is a lot more to see at Sci-Bono, but it is definitely geared more towards school children than old toppies like myself.
Having completed my Newtown sojourn I headed towards the Rissik Street area to try get better pics of the Cenotaph and see how much progress was being made on the Rissik Street Post Office and the Oppenheimer Fountains area. The fountain area seems to be a sore point with many people. I remember it when I was young as a nice open space in town with its fountain of Impala that never seemed to get to the other side. That fountain has now been relocated to Main Street and the park has been redeveloped.
The Post Office is looking even worse than it did when I saw it last in 2008, a fire in 2009 destroyed so much of it, but hopefully as a result we will see something being done about restoration. Its a sad building, and the clock tower really caps it all. I just hope that when/if they do restore the building they remove the stupid pyramids in the middle of Rissik Street that were erected by the idiots in power in JHB at the time. That whole “Civic Spine” idea was a lot of claptrap and everybody with half a braincell could see that. Unfortunately the fools that decided to create it in the first place just threw money away on what became a load of sheds and a glorified car wash.
One of the signs I saw said that Johannesburg is always re-inventing itself and what I see at Newtown and Main Street proves it. These are centres of excellence and they are spaces that cry out for people to inhabit and enjoy. As I dash about grabbing my pics though I am always conscious that this is not the Johannesburg I knew when I was young, but it’s a new Johannesburg and I am now a bystander as opposed to a participant. There is so much to find in that crazy city, and I keep on finding it in the oddest places, there is a lot of character in the city, and its much better than those soulless chrome and glass monoliths in the Northern suburbs.
DRW © 2011-2019. Images recreated 19/03/2016