The Anonymous Widower

Liverpool Pier Head On A Sunny Morning

When I was a student at Liverpool University in the 1960s, this area was so different.

I can only remember, the Three Graces and the Memorial to those with no known grave.

Incidentally, I talked to one of the volunteers in the Tate Liverpool and he says that Friday is often quiet in Liverpool. The gallery certainly was, but they were between exhibitions.

The statue looking out to sea is of Captain Frederick John “Johnnie” Walker, who  was the most successful anti-submarine warfare commander during the Battle of the Atlantic.

 

 

March 24, 2017 Posted by | World | , | Leave a comment

Electrification Of The Midland Main Line Along The Derwent Valley

As I went to Sheffield yesterday, I took these pictures as the train ran along the Derwent Valley on the Midland Main Line between Derby and Chesterfield.

The river from Matlock in the North to Derby in the South, is the centre of the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site.

And Network Rail want to electrify this line, so that fast electric trains can run between Sheffield and London via Derby!

This map shows the Midland Main Line from Trent Junction, South of Derby and Nottingham to Chesterfield.

Note the following about the route of the Midland Main Line.

It’s certainly all happening around the Midland Main Line between Derby and Nottingham.

This is said in Wikipedia about the future of the Erewash Valley Line.

Network Rail as part of a £250 million investment in the regions railways has proposed improvements to the junctions at each end, resignalling throughout, and a new East Midlands Control Centre.

As well as renewing the signalling, three junctions at Trowell, Ironville and Codnor Park will be redesigned and rebuilt. Since the existing Midland Main Line from Derby through the Derwent Valley has a number of tunnels and cuttings which are listed buildings and it is a World Heritage Area, it seems that the Erewash line is ripe for expansion.

It would seem fairly logical to perhaps make the Erewash Valley Line an electrified one, with a maximum speed, as high as practically possible and just run self powered trains through the Derwent Valley.

There would be two real possibilities for running the services for the London Sheffield services, including those via Nottingham,  up the electrified Erewash Valley Line.

  • Class 801 electric trains
  • Bombardier’s 125 mph Aventra which was reported as possible by Ian Walmsley in the April 2015 Edition of Modern Railways.

Obviously, other manufacturers would offer suitable trains.

For the London to Sheffield route via Derby, the following trains could handle the twenty miles between Derby and Clay Cross, that could be without electrification.

  • Class 800 electro-diesel trains
  • Bombardier’s 125 mph Aventra which can probably be modified with an IPEMU-capability.
  • Voyagers modified as electro-diesel trains, as was proposed in Project Thor, could probably handle the gap.
  • A Class 88 locomotive and a rake of coaches with a driving van trailer.

If all else couldn’t handle it, InterCity 125s certainly could.

Surely though, it would help the train operator to have one fleet, so I think we’ll either see mixes of Class 800/801s or Aventras with and without an IPEMU-capability.

The Class 800/801s could certainly do it, but in his article about the Aventra, Ian Walmsley said this about an order  for Aventras.

But the interesting one to me is East Midlands Trains electrics. As a 125 mph unit it could cope well with Corby commuters  and the ‘Master Cutler’ crowd – It’s all about the interior.

So the same train could do all express routes and also act as the local stopping train.

The maze of lines shown in the map, would be an absolute dream for such a train!

I also think it would be pushing it to run the Hitachi trains through Derby and the Voyagers and the Class 88 solutions aren’t that elegant and would be very much stop-gap solutions. Loved as the InterCity 125s are, after a lifetime of very hard service, they are probably ready for retirement.

As the gap is only about twenty miles, I suspect that Network Rail’s and Bombardier’s engineers have got the engineering envelopes on the table in a local hostelry in Belper to solve the problem of getting 125 mph Aventra IPEMUs to jump the gap, so that services between London and Sheffield, can stop at Derby.

Why are they in Belper? Look at this Google Map of the railway through the town!

Midland Main Line Through Belper

Midland Main Line Through Belper

Note the following.

  • There must be half a dozen stone bridges north of Belper station, similar to ones shown in the gallery of this post.
  • The River Derwent seems to be crossed by the railway, periodically for fun.
  • Get that line right, probably without electrification and their uncluttered design will live for centuries.
  • Get it wrong and they’ll be lynched by the local Heritage Taliban!
  • If Aventra IPEMUs can’t be made to jump the gap, there’s always the reliable Derby-built InterCity 125.

Just as Great Western Railway use iconic photos of Intercity 125s running through Dawlish in their advertising, I think that East Midlands Trains will use video of 125 mph Aventra IPEMUs speeding with little noise and disturbance, through the towns, villages and countryside of the Derwent Valley.

If this could be made to happen, at an affordable cost, everybody concerned will see positive commercial effects.

April 17, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Museum de Cruquius

The Museum de Cruquius is just up the road from The Hague near Haarlem, although our journey up wasn’t the easiest, because the motorway was closed.

It is well worth a visit as it shows a tremendous amount about how the Dutch have kept water at bay.

The enormous steam engine, which sadly doesn’t work, was actually built in Cornwall.

When I see a museum and engine like this, I do think it sad that London’s massive sewage engines at Crossness were just filled with sand and abandoned in the 1960s.

Both sites incidentally, are about the same age!

October 10, 2015 Posted by | World | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Memorials On The Liverpool Pier Head

Liverpool is proud of its maritime heritage and the Pier Head on the Mersey is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site called the Liverpool Maritime Mercantile City.

When Celia and I met in Liverpool in the 1960s, it was a simpler place, where we would walk to take the ferry across the Mersey.

These pictures show the Pier Head today.

I’d never realised that the road across the Pier Head, had been named Canada Boulevard in honour of Canadians, who lost their lives in the Battle of the Atlantic or the war against German U-boats.

Shown in the pictures is the memorial to Captain Johnnie Walker, one of the leading British commanders in the battle.

The scale of the battle is shown by the fact that according to Wikipedia the Allies lost over 70,000 sailors, 3,500 merchant ships and 175 warships, whereas the Germans lost 30,000 sailors and 783 submarines.

One thing that wasn’t there in the 1960s is the canal that links the Leeds and Liverpool Canal to the Stanley Dock, so narrow-boats can visit the city centre.

August 23, 2015 Posted by | World | , , , , , | Leave a comment

What Are We Going To Do With The Palace Of Westminster?

The Palace of Westminster has an iconic status, in addition to its function as home to the two houses of the British Parliament.

It’s well-document problems, as detailed here with their solution in the Guardian are pretty serious, so something drastic needs to be done to either preserve or replace the building. The article suggests complete modernisation of the way we are governed with electronic voting, modern offices and the like. This is a typical paragraph.

Yet the buildings cannot be considered in isolation. The deterioration of the estate is an opportunity as well as a crisis. There can be no question of expensively retrofitting the palace to recreate outmoded working practices, traditions and habits. Parliament must become a workplace, instead of a Victorian club. Few modern offices do or should have bars, let alone subsidised ones. A rethink of the institutions, organisation and culture is well overdue, and it must be reflected in the renovations chosen.

I agree with the first part of it, but in some ways too much change in the way it works could destroy British democracy for ever.

I feel so strongly, that I wrote this letter to The Times.

I spent most of my working life, writing software to support the project management of large enterprises.

This has led me to the conclusion, that often what gets created  is often very different in concept to the original proposals, once engineers and architects apply some innovative thinking.

I have heard so many arguments in all different directions on the rebuilding of the Palace of Westminster, that I despair anything will ever be agreed. So let’s think laterally!

If you go a couple of bridges upstream, you come to the home of MI6. On the river frontage of this building, one of several large junctions for the new Super Sewer is being dug deep into the river.

The most pressing problems in the cramped Palace are space, services and vehicle access and parking.

We could use the techniques of the Super Sewer, to create a building for these urgent needs alongside, but a respectful distance away from the Palace, deep under the river.

The two buildings would be connected by tunnels and if an island garden could be created on top of the new building, by footbridges. Vehicles would enter through tunnels at either end to and from the Embankment. Parking would be solely in the new building, thus releasing space in front of the Palace and freeing up the parking underneath for more important uses.

I believe that creating this second invisible building, would allow the current Lords and Commons to function as normal during the rebuilding. Modern lighting, would even allow the creation of world class offices and perhaps a third chamber under the Thames.

It wasn’t published, as I suspect they filed it under madmen!

But is it so unfeasible and just silly?

Look at this Google Map of the River Thames between Westminster and Lambeth Bridges.

The Palace Of Westminster And The Thames

The Palace Of Westminster And The Thames

The only construction in the river, will be the Super Sewer, that goes underneath it somewhere in the middle. This picture shows the River looking from Victoria Tower Gardens towards Westminster Bridge.

Westminster Bridge

Westminster Bridge

It is a view that must be protected. On the other hand the view on the other side of the Palace, is just a jumble of security blocks and car parking.

In Front Of The Palace Of Westminster

In Front Of The Palace Of Westminster

The whole area is a World Heritage Site and it is not treated with the respect it deserves. In fact, it is a complete disgrace.

This Google Map shows the area of the World Heritage Site.

Westminster World Heritage Site

Westminster World Heritage Site

It needs to be improved by banning all traffic except bicycles and buses from the whole area around Parliament Square, the Palace of Westminster and Westminster Abbey.

Extending my plan to do this would put an immersed tunnel in the river from say Whitehall Gardens opposite the London Eye to Lambeth Bridge.

Whitehall Gardens To Lambeth Bridge

Whitehall Gardens To Lambeth Bridge

It would run through or alongside the new building under the river, that I proposed in the letter to The Times.

Note that there is another building in London, that is built deep down into the water connected to everywhere else by tunnels. It is the massive Lord Foster-designed Canary Wharf station for Crossrail.

The construction of the new building and the tunnels, should be well within the compass of those that designed and built the station.  Incidentally that station was built in six years at a cost of five hundred million pounds., without interfering with the daily life, going on all around. You could even bring in construction materials and take out the large amount of spoil on the river.

Once the building, with its car parks and tunnels is complete and connected to the Palace of Westminster, you could start to refurbish the historic palace.

I think that it is totally feasible,

I would also incorporate the following into the design.

1. Pedestrianise as much of the area as possible, whilst allowing buses and cyclists.

2. Build a modern semi-circular third chamber in the new building, to act appropriately as the Commons or Lords during refurbishment. And why not build it big enough for joint sessions of both houses with all the modern features that most parliaments around the world possess?

3. Put all services, car parking and vehicle access into the new building.

4. The new building would of course contain the extra much needed offices.

5. Perhaps more radically, the top of the building could be covered by a floating island, which could be a viewing garden for the Palace, with access by walkways from Westminster Bridge and Victoria Tower Gardens. It can’t be fixed, as the river is tidal.

I think if we think radically, architects and engineers can come up with a scheme that is workable and turns the Palace into a modern Parliament without any loss of history, and the area into a World Heritage Site worthy of the name.

It won’t happen and in thirty or forty years time, they’ll be another crisis concerning the state of the Palace of Westminster.

June 28, 2015 Posted by | World | , , , | 1 Comment

Petite France

Petite France is an area of Strasbourg, that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

 

I walked around for an hour and had lunch there.

 

 

February 19, 2015 Posted by | World | , , | Leave a comment

Where Europe And America Divide

I hadn’t expected this area at all. It’s a rift valley, where the American and the European plates are dividing.

The lake is called Þingvallavatn and there is a description of the area here.

In the middle of it all, is the place where the Icelandic parliament; the Althing, was founded in 930. For this reason and also because of the geological significance, the whole are of Þingvellir is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

It’s also an area where some of Game of Thrones is shot.

July 14, 2014 Posted by | Travel | , , | Leave a comment

World Heritage Sites

Listening to the warm-up to the Grand National today on Radio 5 this morning, it struck me that none of the UK’s historic racecourses are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Liverpool city centre is but surely one of Aintree, Ascot, Epsom and Newmarket should be listed.

After all Newmarket and the Heath have been associated with horses since the time of Boudicca.  Newmarket is actually a corruption of New Horse Market. And every thoroughbred horse can trace its ancestry back to the small town in West Suffolk. 

And when it comes to other places that should be listed, the Forth Bridge is rightly on the provisional list, but Joseph Balzalgette‘s historic London sewers are not!

April 9, 2011 Posted by | World | , , , | Leave a comment

A Blot on the Landscape

Ironbridge is a World Heritage Site and rightly so.  Go a few kilometres upstream and the gorge opens out and you can see how the Severn meanders across the countryside. Note that meander comes from the River Meander in Turkey.

River Severn above Ironbridge

River Severn above Ironbridge

But turn to the left and between where I took this picture and the Iron Bridge you will see this.

Ironbridge Power Station

Ironbridge Power Station

This is the coal-fired Ironbridge Power Station.  It was built in 1981 and according to Friends of the Earth is the second worst polluter in the UK per megawatt generated.

It just shows how attitudes have changed over time. 

Would anybody in their right mind build a power station there now?

As an aside here, remember that I have a degree in Electrical Engineering from Liverpool University and have spent quite a bit of my working life looking at how large projects, structures and machines are built and managed.

When you burn coal to produce electricity, you turn a tonne of coal into 2.93 tonnes of carbon dioxide.  If you were to use natural gas to get the same amount of electricity, the figure is lower.  This quote from Wikipedia gives all the figures.

This can be used to calculate an emission factor for CO2 from the use of coal power. Since the useful energy output of coal is about 30% of the 6.67 kWh/kg(coal), the burning of 1 kg of coal produces about 2 kWh of electrical energy. Since 1 kg coal emits 2.93 kg CO2, the direct CO2 emissions from coal power are 1.47 kg/kWh, or about 0.407 kg/MJ.

The U.S. Energy Information Agency’s 1999 report on CO2 emissions for energy generation, quotes a lower emission factor of 0.963 kg CO2/kWh for coal power. The same source gives factor for oil power in the U.S. of 0.881 kg CO2/kWh, while natural gas has 0.569 kg CO2/kWh. Estimates for specific emission from nuclear power, hydro, and wind energy vary, but are about 100 times lower.

What I find interesting about these figures is the discrepancy between the first figures for CO2 from coal and the US ones!

But whichever set you accept, the message is simple; Don’t Burn Coal!

August 12, 2009 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Museum Plantin-Moretus

I said in my post, Letterpress Rules OK, that there weren’t that many printing museums in the world.

But in Antwerp, there is the Museum Plantin-Moretus.

Museum Plantin-Moretus

Museum Plantin-Moretus

The actual museum and contents are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

They have a large collection of machines, type and all the other things that proper printing entails.  For example, they explain how printers in the 16th and 17th centuries actually made the movable type.

Printing Machine

Museum Plantin-Moretus - Printing Machine

Note the virtually all wooden construction.

Museum Plantin-Moretus - More Printing Machines

Museum Plantin-Moretus - More Printing Machines

There were six machines in the room.  They were displayed down one wall with desks for the compositors on the other side of the room.

The building itself is immaculate with a vast collection of old books, maps and paintings, including a Gutenburg Bible and several portraits by Rubens.

Museum Plantin-Moretus - The Garden

Museum Plantin-Moretus - The Garden

It is a museum that is well worth a visit.  Allow more time than we did, as the staff were rather hasty in chucking us out.

August 8, 2009 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment