The Anonymous Widower

The Queen’s First Computer System For Her Horses

In The Queen Was Well-Briefed, I mentioned a lunch with a Hewlett-Packard engineer and that he had done some work in Buckingham Palace.

This article on NBC is entitled When Did Queen Elizabeth II Last Visit San Francisco And The Bay Area?, where this is the first paragraph.

Queen Elizabeth’s visit to the Bay Area included a serenade by Tony Bennett, a meal at Trader Vics in Emeryville and a dinner at the De Young Museum with President Ronald Reagan and the First Lady.

The visit was in 1983 and these two paragraphs describes her visit to Silicon Valley.

On March 3, 1983, the Queen visited Stanford University and the Hewlett Packard factory, the technology company based in Palo Alto.

At Stanford Queen Elizabeth dined at the Hoover House with university president Donald Kennedy.

Hewlett-Packard presented the Queen a HP 3000 computer on which to plan and organise the breeding of her race horses, to mark her visit to the company.

I should say, that the engineer, who I’ll call Bob, was well-known to me, as he’d been the engineer, who’d serviced my HP 21MX computer, when I was programming Artemis in the 1970s. He was very good at his job, but hadn’t expected his job to take this direction.

Hewlett-Packard had behaved very professionally and had obtained a licence for suitable software from the Aga Khan.

The installation of the computer in the basement of Buckingham Palace had gone well, with the user terminal being placed in the Queen’s apartment.

When everything was working, the Queen’s equerry, with whom he was dealing, announced they would be going to France to get the software from the Aga Khan’s stud at a chateau to the West of Paris.

The equerry arranged with the engineer to meet him at the VIP suite in the Queen’s Building at Heathrow in a few days time. He was also told he’d be staying one night in France.

So at the appointed time, he gingerly opened the door to the VIP suite and walked in. Almost immediately he bumped into Mrs. Thatcher, who was leaving. Luckily, he was spotted by the equerry, who beckoned him over.

He asked the equerry about the flight and was told that they would be flying in a Dominie of the Queen’s Flight to Beauvais.

I can remember him saying that that was the way to fly.

They were met by a limousine on arrival in France and taken to the chateau.

He was then shown to his room, which he described as an extravagant tart’s boudoir.

After a period of time, the equerry knocked on his door and announced the plan for the visit.

They would have dinner in half-an-hour with the Aga Khan and then in the morning his software guy would show you about the software and hand over a copy.

The engineer did admit to being a bit out of his depth, but the equerry just told him to copy him and he’d be alright.

Thirty minutes later the equerry collected the engineer and they were shown into a room, where the meeting would take place.

There was a curtain across the room, and as it drew back, all the flunkies prostrated themselves on the ground. The engineer was watching the equerry, who just stood there. So he copied him.

When the curtain finally revealed the Aga Khan, the engineer felt it best to just stand there.

However, the Aga Khan approached him and said. “Hello! You must be Bob!”

The rest of the visit went without incident and the software was duly collected.

 

September 10, 2022 Posted by | Computing, Sport, Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

High Speed Two Publish Rural Footbridge Design

High Speed Two have published their rural footbridge design on this page of their web site.

This image from High Speed Two shows an artist’s impression of the bridge.

 

This is High Speed Two’s own thoughts on the design.

Made of weathering steel, the sides of the lightweight bridges will lean outwards to maximise views of the sky and improve the experience of people crossing the railway.

Weathering steel – which ages naturally to a russet brown colour – was chosen to help match the tone of the surrounding countryside, while the plates that form the structure of the bridges will be angled to appear narrower and lighter.

To emphasise the sense of lightness, each span will be slightly higher in the middle so that they appear to leap over the railway. Most of the bridges will consist of just one 42m span, with extra spans added where necessary to create bridges of up to 102m long.

The design of the bridge would appear to be a good compromise between accessibility, cost, ease of construction and installation and practicality.

The article also covers other topics.

Step-Free

This paragraph explains how the bridges will be step-free.

In order to improve efficiency of manufacturing and assembly, all the bridges will have the same basic form, with the approach paths built into the earthworks on either side of the bridge. This also means that all the footbridges will effectively be step-free.

I can see bridges of this type being built at other rural locations.

A Single-Platform Station

These images show James Cook station in Middlesbrough.

High Speed Two’s rural bridge design could be used as part of a design for a step-free station on a rural line.

Bridleways

The footbridge can be used for a bridge on a bridleway.

Designed with guidance from the British Horse Society, the bridges which carry bridleways will follow the same basic pattern, with a recycled, non-slip rubber deck and the structure acting like a baffle to stop horses being distracted by passing trains.

Footbridges will be 2.5m wide, while bridleways will be 3.5m wide to allow two horses to pass comfortably and safely.

It should be remembered, that horses are flight animals and if they are startled they run, so if say a train went under the bridge, when they were on top, they would most likely go forward and cross the bridge quickly.

I would happily have ridden  my stallion; Vague Shot over a bridge like this.

I also think, the design of the bridge in the landscape should allow riders to approach to a safe distance from the bridge and perhaps watch a train or two go through.

Other Animals

I can see other animals like badgers, foxes and hares using a bridge like this.

I also think, that on classic railways, bridges like these could be used to allow farmers to move sheep or possibly cattle over a railway, with some simple design changes.

Conclusion

This bridge has more applications, than the initial one, for which it was designed.

July 22, 2022 Posted by | Design, Transport/Travel | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Aberdeen Unveils UK’s First Green Hydrogen Waste Truck

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on renews.biz.

These are the first three paragraphs.

The UK’s first green hydrogen-fuelled waste collection vehicle has been unveiled in Aberdeen.

While typical waste trucks are powered by diesel and petrol, the new vehicle will use green hydrogen from existing refuelling infrastructure in Aberdeen.

The truck will start collecting waste and recycling around the city from early March and will be the first hydrogen-powered waste truck to become operational in the UK.

I feel, that this is one of the obvious applications for hydrogen trucks.

  • They return to the same depot at the end of the day and if the hydrogen refuelling station is nearby or at the depot, refuelling would be no more hassle than with diesel.
  • The trucks are probably too large for battery power.
  • They tend to work a lot in areas, where there are a lot of people about, like residential streets and shopping centres.
  • Workers will be exposed to less pollution, as they bring bins to the trucks.

Aberdeen Council have provided this video.

I can see lots of Councils at least thinking of following Aberdeen’s example, when they renew their refuse trucks.

Incidentally, I may be only 74, but I can still remember the horse-drawn waste carts that Wood Green Council used to use in the 1950s. They were used around Wood Green town centre, where trailers were parked to receive rubbish from shops and businesses. Horses were used to move them about and to the depot. In the end they horses were replaced by Scammel Mechanical Horses.

February 18, 2022 Posted by | Hydrogen | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Memories Of Althorpe

On The way to Cleethorpes, I passed through Althorpe station.

This Google Map shows the area.

Note.

  1. The River Trent flowing South to North.
  2. Keadby power station at the top of the map.
  3. Althorpe station close to the bridge over the river.
  4. The village of Althorpe is at the South of the map by the river.

C and myself had friends, who farmed much of the land in the curve of river, South of the railway.

These are a few tales, some might enjoy.

Althorpe And Princess Diana’s Grave

I was once told, that regularly tourists would appear looking for the last resting place of Princess Diana.

Sat-navs may be a wonderful gadget for some, but they do lead those with a certain lack of common sense on wild goose chases.

C And The Tug-Boats

C once spent a night in their farmhouse, which was by the River Trent.

She didn’t sleep well, as tug-boats pulling barges were constantly going past and sounding their sirens. The river was actually above the house, due to the embankments to stop flooding.

Princess Anne And The Centrefold

Our friends’ daughter was a very good rider in eventing and used to supplement her variable income in the sport with modelling. At one point, I used her for some promotional shots for one of my companies.

Some years ago, she was competing at an event in Yorkshire. Coincidentally, this was just after she had appeared as the centrefold in a well-known men’s magazine.

The event was a bit of a nightmare for her, as paparazzi were following her with open copies of the magazine.

At one point, it all got a bit much, so she decided to sneak back to the calm of her horsebox, by a circuitous route.

As she walked back, she encountered Princess Anne, who was also competing and using the same route to avoid the paparazzi.

They talked about the pressures of the paparazzi, who were being a nuisance, with the Princess saying, she approved of my friends’ daughter’s modelling and hoped it continued, as it had taken the pressure off herself.

Flixborough

My friends’ farm was not far from Flixborough, which is infamous for the Flixborough Disaster in 1974, when a chemical plant exploded and killed 28 people and seriously injured a further 36.

My friends also lost several thousand pigs because of the explosion.

Wikipedia says this about the cause of the explosion.

The disaster involved (and may well have been caused by) a hasty modification. There was no on-site senior manager with mechanical engineering expertise (virtually all the plant management had chemical engineering qualifications); mechanical engineering issues with the modification were overlooked by the managers who approved it, nor was the severity of the potential consequences of its failure appreciated.

At the time, I had just left ICI and I was still in contact with my former colleagues.

One told me, that he had met a Senior ICI Engineer, who had been involved with the enquiry into the disaster.

The plant had been a copy of a Dutch plant, that had been built to metric units, which were converted to Imperial to build the Flixborough plant.

As ICI had used metric units since the mid-1950s, there was considerable alarm in the mind of the Senior Engineer, that when the hasty modification was made, someone got mixed up.

Would the Flixborough disaster have happened, if the plant had been built as a copy of the Dutch plant using metric units?

 

September 26, 2020 Posted by | Design, Sport, Transport/Travel, World | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Smartphone-Based Testing Device Cuts Time And Cost Of Diagnostics

The title of this post is the same as that of this article on The Engineer.

This is the sub-title of the article.

An inexpensive and sensitive smartphone-based testing device for viral and bacterial pathogens could reduce the pressure on testing laboratories during a pandemic.

These are a few important points from the article.

  • The device has been developed by researchers and engineers at the University of Illinois.
  • They are aiming for a $50 price.
  • They started looking for a solution to look for viral and biological pathogens in horses.
  • Tests work with a nasal or blood sample.
  • Tests take about half-an-hour.

If this device can be productionised, so that millions can be turned out for their target price, this will be a major weapon in the fight against COVID-19.

Apparently, there is a great advantage of using horses in the trials of the device. The horse pathogens are harmless to humans, so it lowers the risk to researchers.

 

April 28, 2020 Posted by | Health | , , , , | 1 Comment

A Sleigh Ride

We went for a ride on a sleigh pulled by two horses.

The more I look at the horses, the more I think that they have a lot of Suffolk Horse in them.

I also took a video.

I’d like the opinion on the horses, of someone, who knows their Suffolks.

The railway bridge is one of many in the area and was probably built by the Germans as part of the Prussian Eastern Railway, that used to connect Koningsberg and East Prussia to Poland and Greater Germany.

January 20, 2016 Posted by | World | , , | Leave a comment

The Kelpies

The Kelpies are best described by these pictures.

I liked them and their setting in the sun was excellent. This Google Map shows their location to the West of the M9 Motorway and South of the River Carron.

The Kelpies And The Helix

The Kelpies And The Helix

The  area to the South has been converted into a park called The Helix. I came on a bus called The Loop from Falkirk Grahamstown station.

September 6, 2015 Posted by | World | , , , | Leave a comment

Two Solutions To Make Crossing A Railway Safe

On the way to football tonight in Ipswich, I went to have a drink with a friend, who lives near Thurston station on the Ipswich to Ely Line, where there is a good real ale and cyder pub. Crossing the tracks at Thurston is via a simple walk across controlled by traffic lights between the two platforms.

Of all the stations I use regularly, this is the only place where such a system is in use. Unless of course you count the trams at Ampere Road by the Croydon Ikea. A few hundred metres to the west of the station a bridle way and cycle path crosses the railway and Network Rail have built this bridge.

There have been reports like this one in the East Anglian Daily Times, which has a headline of Poll: £1.5m ‘monster’ railway bridge at Thurston is dubbed a ‘total waste of money’

This bridge is an interesting case of what to do where there are gated crossings of railway lines.

I think before being too critical of Network Rail we should bare these points in mind.

1. Suicide

This article on the BBC web site talks of a death at a crossing in the Thurston area.  Network Rail get far too many deaths on the railway and it is a sad fact, that stepping in front of a train, is a common method of suicide.

2. The East-West Rail Link

The East-West Rail Link will use this line to get from Ipswich and Felixstowe to Cambridge and Ely. This link will be an electrified 100 mph railway that will run trains between East Anglia and the Midlands and the West. So although the line carries perhaps a couple of trains every hour each way, in perhaps ten years time, this will probably be a few times more. And as the line is pretty straight as the pictures show, the operating speed could be a lot higher.

3, Horses

If you read all the comments about the bridge no-one mentions taking a horse over the railway.

Horses are flight animals and if spooked will run fast away from the perceived danger.

Many horses too, don’t like going under high-voltage cables. Whether it is because they can sense the magnetic field generated by the electricity or they don’t like the whistling sound,I don’t know. But if the crossing is going to be used by horses, it will have to be of the size it has been built.

I’m not sure, but I think this is the only way to get a horse from one side of the railway to the other, unless you go all the way and go under the bridge by Thurston station.

4. Getting The Design Right

This bridge illustrates that getting the design right and satisfying all users and critics who never use the bridge is an almost impossible task.

Aesthetically, I don’t like the bridge, but unless they dig a subway under the railway, there is nothing else that can be done to satisfy all users and critics of the design.

Note that when the railway is upgraded to be part of the East-West Rail Link, Thurston station will have to be rebuilt and I suspect it will have a bridge over the railway, probably with lifts and a price tag well upwards of £2million.

There will be some serious discussions.

August 11, 2015 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Our New Police Patrol

I heard the unmistakable clip-clop and by the time I’d got my camera, they were walking sedately into the distance.

Our New Police Patrol

Our New Police Patrol

I’ve not seen them patrolling here before, but an ex-policeman I used to know years ago, said that horses are not a bad way to show yourself and have a look into residential areas. I know myself, that the view from a horse as you walk around, is times better than the one you get from a car.

I suspect though today, as it was a Sunday morning, it was more about giving the horses a stretch and some exercise.

As I didn’t take a good look, I got to wondering where the horses came from. I found this article from Spitalfields Life, describing the stables of the City of London Police at Wood Street, just South of the Barbican. I would suspect, that they could have come from there, as the distance would be a very suitable walk for a working horse.

December 14, 2014 Posted by | World | , | Leave a comment

Would I Go Back To Iceland?

I think I will go again, as Iceland is a country that appeals to my mind.

But if I do go again, it will be with someone else, as my trip would have been so much better with a companion!

I still want to go over a geothermal power station!

And it would be wonderful to ride one of the sturdy Icelandic horses in some of the amazing countryside.

July 19, 2014 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , | Leave a comment