Britain IH Trip Day 3

For my final day of site visits, I travelled a short distance from Telford to Bridgnorth for the Severn Valley Railway which runs from Kidderminster to Bridgnorth.

I was originally planning to just do a straight return trip, however, the guide on board the train recommended an alternative return journey stopping off at Bewdley and Highley.

Adjacent to Kidderminster station, there is a railway museum with free access. I spent the time between arrival and my return journey here. The return journey back to Bewdley was a short 15 minute stop with instructions to sit in the first three carriages as the platform at Bewdley is short.

The village at Bewdley is an attractive village typical of many English villages with a cut stone bridge over the River Severn.

Returning to the railway, I got the train to Highley to visit the Engine House Museum there. This was mainly steam engines and a history of the Severn Valley Railway.

I returned to Bridgnorth by train and drove to Birmingham for my overnight stay. En route, a car in front of me lost one of its wheels whilst in motion! Fortunately the driver was able to bring his car to a safe stop with no injuries.

Britain IH Trip Day 2

Day 2 of my trip saw me visit the Great Orme Mines. This is a self guided tour through Bronze Age mine workings, only discovered because the area in question was due to be redeveloped as a car park ūüôĀ

The passages in the mine are small, given their age this is to be expected, but the displays are good and explain the process well.

Nearby in the town of Llandudno is the Great Orme Tramway. I found free parking near the base terminus in Llandudno and took the tram to the summit. The tramway is cable hauled and in two sections with the control point and change over from the lower tram to the upper tram located at the Half Way station.

The tram climbs steeply right from the word go as it navigates the streets of Llandudno. At road junctions, the tram signals used to indicate whether or not the tram has permission to cross are identical to those in use on the Luas in Dublin.

Adjacent to the Summit station is the Summit Centre which is a tourist venture that could be found in any seaside resort, selling food and knick knacks.

The final port of call of the day was at the Conwy Valley railway museum. This site, which is located adjacent to Betws y Coed station, has both a small museum of railway artefacts (including a GNR(I) sign) and model railway displays. They also have a passenger carrying miniature railway and an electric tram (the latter is currently out of use due to storm damage).

Whilst traveling on the miniature railway, there was something of a minor incident when a young boy on board with his family decided to hop off the train whilst it was in motion. The driver brought the train to a complete stop whilst the boy’s embarrassed mother made him apologise to the driver for his behaviour!

I overnight in Telford before my final day visiting tomorrow as I make my way to Birmingham.

Britain IH Trip Day 1

First day of another IH roadtrip to Britain (before BREXIT kicks in and all that). This time, I took a red eye ferry to Holyhead (d. Dublin 0155, arrive Holyhead 0530). As it is an overnight, I booked a cabin on the ferry. This was more spacious that I had expected and was complete with own toilet/shower/whb.

I was woken by a cabin announcement that we would shortly be docking in Holyhead, so I left my cabin and made my way back to the reception desk to pick up my car keys.

First stop in Wales was at Blaenau Ffestiniog for breakfast. As I had a couple‚Äč of hours to kill, I set my alarm and went for a snooze in the car.

I arrived at Llechwedd Slate Cavern about 0845 for the 0930 tour. After wandering around above ground for a while, I headed down to the Deep Mine Tour entrance. The Deep Mine Tour takes visitors into the mine by means of an inclined railway, which drops visitors off at an intermediate level. The tour through the mine is done well with audiovisual projections of historic characters onto the rock face in each chamber.

The tour is taken down to a lower level within the mine via 61 steps. The final point in the tour is adjacent to a flooded stope, where the water table is visible and the mine operators have developed a spectacular audiovisual presentation that is projected onto the rock above the water level which, with the echo in the chamber, makes for an impressive experience. The underground tour ends back at the carriage on the incline which is brought down to the lower level to allow for exit at the end of the underground experience.

Above ground the tour ends with a visit to the slate workshop where our guide (Catherine) showed us how slate was split.

For £10, a visit to Llechwedd Deep Mine Tour is definitely worth it.

My second trip of the day was to the nearby Festiniog Railway.* This is a preserved railway which took over the derelict Festiniog Railway Company and restored the line. As there was no provision in the company’s Act of Parliament to abandon the railway, the original company (formed in 1832) remains as the owner of the line, with this owned by the Ffestiniog Railway Trust. There is an Irish connection to Festiniog railway in that the majority of the investors in the company were Irish and the registered office of the company was 41 Dame Street, Dublin.

*The 1832 Act of Parliament setting up the company gave it the title “Festiniog Railway” (one ‘f’) whereas the town name has two ‘f’s.

Chinese replica of the Titanic

At what point does it look like whinging? A Chinese theme park’s plans to include a full size replica of the Titanic has “relatives” of those who died on the original Titanic in 1912 upset.

At this remove from the original event, it is safe to say that there is no-one alive who remembered anyone who died on the Titanic, nor are there any survivors of the Titanic left alive. As such, the emoting (as reported by the BBC) that this is inappropriate is just whinging.

I remain with Jeremy Paxman in holding the view that they should have called it the Iceberg Quarter as without the iceberg, very few people would have heard of the Titanic.

Rope ferry in China

The Guardian has an interesting article about a rope operated ferry capable of taking one car at a time across the Chaobai River in Hebei province in China.

There was a similar ferry in operation at Bannfoot in Co. Armagh, near the south western shore of Lough Neagh, up until¬† 1979. The Belfast Telegraph has a brief article about the latter and McCutcheon’s Industrial Archaeology of Northern Ireland has a photo of the Bannfoot ferry in operation.

UPDATE – H/T to Brian Goggin of irishwaterwayshistory.com for sending me a link to a 3 minute video clip of the Bannfoot ferry in operation.

 

Brussels IH Tour Day 2

Second (and last) day of my trip to Brussels as I fly home tomorrow. I visited the railway museum and the museum of mills and food.

As these are on the outer edge of Brussels, I checked out the public transport options, especially as there is both a railway station and tram terminus at the railway museum. The options appeared straight forward. There is a train station near the hotel at which I could buy the all day ticket and get a train to the railway museum. This would also allow me to use the tram back. The theory turned out better than the practice. At the train station, the ticket machine would not sell an all day pass unless you had the Brussels equivalent of the Leap card. The company’s website advised that a paper card version can be bought at railway stations, but no dice.

From the station, I walked to the tram route in order to see could I do the journey the other way around. The tram system in Brussels is effectively a bus on rails and the LUAS is world class in comparison. The tram “stations” are effectively bus stops with no option to buy a ticket and the trams run down the centre of the road with no platforms – passengers have to dodge road traffic to get between the bus stop shelter and the tram. This is how the Dublin city tram operated in the early 20th century, or in other words, Brussels trams are 100 years behind Dublin. As I couldn’t locate a tram stop with a ticket machine, I ended up walking to the railway museum.

The museum is interesting but its name “TrainWorld” gives away its main focus, which is trains and not railways. Most who know me know that the reason I have a site devoted to industrial heritage is that I have an interest in railways, but not trains. As such, Train World had less to offer me than might be otherwise expected.

The museum starts off in the original Schaerbeek station building with a display of scale models of Belgian steam locomotives. At the side of this hall, there is an example of an original ticket office with wood panelling and the windows through which tickets were sold. Behind these in the museum are further displays on tickets and staff uniforms.

A modern building adjacent has further exhibits, including original locomotives and carriages and a glass covered section of track to walk along, which ends at a screen showing a video taken from a locomotive cab, to give an impression of heading along the track. There is also a display of track types here.

Hall 2 is called the “Railway Attic” and contains a wide range of artifacts that didn’t fit in anywhere else in the museum. There is also a locomotive embedded in a sandpit at 45 degrees, the exact purpose of which I couldn’t determine.

Locomotive in sandpit
Locomotive in sandpit

 

After leaving Train World, I headed to the nearby Museum of Mills and Food. The emphasis of this is more the latter rather than the former and like the sewer museum, explanatory displays are in French and Flemish only. It is located in a former windmill.

Museum of Mills and Food
Museum of Mills and Food

On my way to the latter, I passed a tram line and station with ticket machine. I made a mental note of this to allow me to return to the city this way. When I got back to the tram station, the ticket machine, whilst notionally having the option to buy a single ticket, would not complete the sale. After multiple attempts (and losing money in the coin slot) I gave up and walked back into the city. It is a sad day when the public transport system in Dublin can be considered gold standard in comparison.

My last port of call of the day was to track down the Jeanneke Pis, which I did.

Jeanneke Pis
Jeanneke Pis

Brussels IH Tour Day 1

TBH I am running out of places I really want to go and see and in the absence of something of amazing IH interest, I am more likely to hop on a plane across the Atlantic (notwithstanding the recent political changes there) as I am almost guaranteed better weather and they speak English. Having said that, I have never been to Belgium, until today and will be here until Friday.

After a red eye flight from Dublin, the first port of call was to the sewer museum. I am sure that many have regarded a lot of my comments as being in the sewer and I have been accused of having a potty mouth on more than one occasion. Today I visited a museum dedicated to the subject.

The museum is located in two adjacent buildings which were originally city toll houses.* Unfortunately, the museum developers saw fit to have the displays in French and Flemish only, but the museum is interesting nonetheless with a range of artifacts, plans and photographs of the sewerage network in Brussels. There is also a dry sewer culvert that you can walk through and, down another level in the museum, a live sewer that can also be experienced.

The closest I got the the latter was the entrance, from where the stench was overpowering. I would have walked the length of sewer open to the public but there has been a lot of rain in Brussels recently and the level of the sewer had just started to overflow onto the walkway so this part of the tour was out.

The Brussels sewer also had a railway of sorts (now I am interested). Whilst I couldn’t determine what the purpose of the contraption involved was for, it looks like it may have been to declog the sewer walls/floor but effectively ran on flanged wheels guided along the top of the sewer channel (see below).

Sewer Railway Vehicle
Sewer Railway Vehicle

After this experience, I headed off to the nearby “La Fonderie” (Museum of Industry). I couldn’t determine if this was open or closed – its website stated open at 12:00 but there was no obvious controlled access. I wandered into the site which could only be described as akin to an open air scrapyard of historic machinery, as if some poor soul decided to dump it all in prime real estate in Brussels and call it a museum.

Museum of Industry
Museum of Industry

As I am in Brussels and staying nearby, I paid a visit to the Mannekin Pis and rather like the Giant’s Causeway, expectation and reality are somewhat different – it is very small. It was also dressed up in a red cape and baseball hat with extra large peak. When I arrived at the Mannekin, there was a group of English tourists dress in similar style – not that I am saying that this group decided to adopt the Mannekin Pis as one of their own!

Mannekin Pis
Mannekin Pis

I have been told by a friend that there is a more recent, female counterpart, which I will try to locate tomorrow.

* These were not uncommon features in cities historically – they were used to levy a toll for local use on goods coming into the city. Dublin had such a toll house at Stephen’s Green for traffic coming in along Leeson Street.