BOOK REVIEW: ‘Adrian Shooter: A Life in Engineering and Railways’

95. ADRIAN SHOOTER 7 1118

Reviewer:  Michael Keith

Title: Adrian Shooter: A Life in Engineering and Railways

Author: Adrian Shooter

No. of Pages: 240

Rating Scale (1: very poor, 10: excellent): 8 ½

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To quote this volume’s Dustjacket, ‘This book is the tale of a small boy from Surrey who had a fascination with anything on wheels and, also, loved to learn about people and what motivated them’. While so-doing ‘He describes his upbringing and…takes the reader on a voyage of discovery into the world of 1960’s engineering before he joined British Railway [sic] in 1970’. The narration of his experiences with that organisation ‘…Presents readers with a whole new picture of what was really going on within British Rail at various levels’. It is an accurate summation of a very readable and interesting volume.

The volume itself consists of nine Chapters. These take the reader from the author’s childhood to approximately 1992 (the exact date is not stated).  As already noted, these detail his experiences in the world of mechanical engineering and within British Rail; the latter during the ‘Transition-era’ when steam was being replaced by both diesel-electric and electric locomotives, and new rolling stock was entering service It was a change of immense proportions and the author’s narrations of his experiences during that time make for always interesting reading. The Chapters are followed by a single-page Index. The volume contains numerous monochrome and colour photographs and newspaper-based images from a variety of sources. These are all relevant to the larger narrative and indicative of the author’s ever-upward progress through the British railways hierarchy. The Contents and Index pages contain no reference to their existence. No Maps are provided, and although numerous acronyms and abbreviations appear throughout the book, there is no master Glossary to provide a quick reference and so jog the reader’s memory

This is a very entertaining book, but this reviewer was disappointed by the person-centric nature of its Index. With but three exceptions (Bletchley TMD, Crewe Works and Derby Loco Works) the focus of the Index is entirely on individuals that appear within the volume. Regrettably, even that coverage is, at best, ‘Patchy’, with many of those named within the book being omitted, and in some instances (Beeching, Richard for example, referenced on pages 22 and 68) only given a single Index entry (page 22 in this example). As many railway-enthusiast readers rely on a book’s Index to learn if their favoured locations appear within it and purchase accordingly, by not including such information this volume’s Index has effectively eliminated a potential readership of considerable size. With little interest in searching for a possibly non-existent location, many potential ‘enthusiast’ purchasers will forego that privilege. The volume’s lack of maps only serves to compound the difficulty.

As it gives a ‘Management’ perspective on activities within the British mechanical engineering and railway industries during the 1960’s and ‘70’s, this volume may be of interest to transport and social historians with an interest in that time. The contents of some of the photographs may also be of use to railway modellers and to railway enthusiasts with an interest in British Railways during the same period. As an example as to how things might be done, those involved in Business Management may also find it of interest.

On a Rating Scale where 1: very poor, 10: excellent, I have given this book an 8 ½.

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BOOK REVIEW: ‘Adrian Shooter: A Life in Engineering and Railways’

AN IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT!

My fellow blog readers, you will have noticed tat recently there has been little activity on this page.

No doubt some would say, ‘Who cares’, but for those wh DO care, there is a simple explanation: My health!

Unknowingly I have for many years been operating on onl 30% of my heart, a situation which has only recently come to light, and even then only through a series of unusal and seemingly-urelated events.

Suffice to say that as I write this Blog, I am resident in the local district hospital, recovering from a quadrupple (4) heart bypass.

Thanks to the brilliant efforts of the local hospital staff, the amazing support of my incredible wife and children, and the support of numerous marvellous friends, I am well, and recovering by the minute.

AND I WILL RETURN!

Rest assured, blog readers, I will come back; just not immediately.

Thank you.

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AN IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT!

UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES (1)

Dear Reader

What follows is a long story with many parts, and as a result I have broken it down into smaller sections.

Due to the nature if the tale, its end may take a while to  arrive, but I trust that you will bear with me.

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In February 2019, I had reason to believe that I was in the throes of a heart attack, and accordingly took myself to my local Doctor.

That worthy and his staff responded very quickly and professionally, and I was soon being given an ECG test and being asked numerous questions. They were VERY good.

Frustratingly, the symptoms faded away, leaving no residual traces for further exploration.

On the basis of that, and with no reason to think otherwise, the Doctor concluded that what I had experienced was the result if an Intercostal Muscle spasm (a phenomenon with which I was well acquainted), and, as this was not unusual, sent me on my way.

However, he also arranged for me to visit the local hospital (located some 20 km away) for some extra tests ‘Just in case’.

Fast forward a month and a letter arrives from the hosoital requesting that I present myself for a test  on 5 April 2019.

So far, so good.

In the interval, family matters involving the repatriation of my late father-in-law’s ashes, had resulted in our booking a flight to a small coral island in the middle of a very large ocean, the intention being to both return the remains to his home island and, when the necessary formalities had been completed, to gave a few days holiday.

In this we had little choice as the island only receives two flights a week. We could get on, but until the next flight, we couldn’t get off!

We were scheduled to depart for the island on the 13 April – plenty of time to pass the test and prepare to fly out to the island.

EXCEPT IT DIDN’T QUITE WORK OUT THAT WAY!

The 5 April duly arrived and I presented mysekf to the test site. I had been told to bring a change of clothes and comfortable footwear ‘for test purposes’ and had duly done so. As a result I was carrying a bag containing a clean shirt, a clean pair of jeans, a pair of socks and  a pair of sneakers. Because I had been told there could be a long wait before the test I was also carrying a second, over the shoulder-type, bag containing such diverse items as an ipad, mining-related research notes, a reference work on the same, sketchbooks and a railway magazine.

Unknowingly, all of these items were to be important in what was to follow.

We (My wife and I) duly drove into the hospital and, after parking our vehicle in the hospital car park building, presented ourselves to the Test Room.

The test started…

(Part Two to follow…)

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UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES (1)

FIDERO RESOURCES (NO LIABILITY)

As any reader who has been following this blog for a while will be aware, I have a certain interest in model railways and underground ‘Hard rock’ gold mining, and that at times these interests have a way of combining. What follows is the latest iteration of this interest; a small 1:43 / 7 mm: 1 ft scale model railway layout which I have christened Fidero Resources (No Liability).

The layout represents a departure from my previous modelling efforts in that it is in a larger scale (‘O’ scale; 1:43 ; 7mm: 1 ft) as opposed to my previous, long-held, enthusiasm for ‘N’ scale (1:148 ; 2 mm: 2 ft), with the latter-scale having reached the limits of its possibilities.

As with the other layouts that have appeared on this blog, it is again set in New Zealand and, once again, located in that  part of that country known as the Coromandel Peninsula, specifically ‘Somewhere North of Karangahake, Somewhere South of Port Charles’, and deep within the remote ranges of that part of New Zealand.

The layout is in the early stages of its development and it is hoped that as it evolves and develops over time,  this particular Blog will be updated.

However, by way of background, what follows is an introduction:

Back Story

It is 2018 and Fidero Resources (N.L.) is a small Auckland-based gold mining company employing 20 men and extracting profitable ore from several small reefs (lodes).

The Mine is located at the upper end of a valley and a small, 18 inch (457 mm) gauge tramway (aka ‘Tram’) is used to convey the extracted ore to the processing plant located some distance away. To do this battery-electic locomotives (Both built by PastaeSpghiti SPA of Bologne,Italy c/n’s 002 and 003) are used, and they perform their humble tasks efficiently.and reliably.

The tram itself has little to distinguish it from others of its ilk, with the only feature of note being a centre-rail brake installed on the line immediately after it leaves the mine. The severity of the gradient necessitated such an installation and it works well and without any problems.

Locomotives

Currently two are owned by the company. Both are battery-electrics.

No.1 (also by PastaeSpghiti SPA of Bologne,Italy c/n 002) has recently returned from a rebuild, and while leaving No.2 to do the majority of the work, is being ‘tweaked’ prior to re-entering service. .

Rolling stock

The tram’s rolling stock is exclusively of the 4-wheeled side-dump type, with the locomotive (aka a ‘Trammer’) taking empty wagons underground to the working faces then, after they are loaded, taking them back outside and along the tramway to the processing plant.

Utilising the wagons in this manner avoids double-handling and enables an increased volume of ore to be worked.It is also quite prototypical.

The Reality

The layout baseboard was constructed to operating stage by Bonjing Valley Group (P. Smith Prop.) on my commission; woodworking and wiring not being part of my skillset. It was received into my care on 27 January 2019 and I have had the pleasure of creating the scenery, locomotive/s etc. which appear in the images.

 

Scenery

This has been the most interesting aspect of this layout; my use (for the first time ever) of pre-formed plastic vegetation specifically intended to replicate local fauna and flora. The ‘plants’ are made by a local organisation and although nominally OO/HO scale (1:87) in scale, seem to be ideally suited for my purposes. Although it is in fact possible to purchase the key items separately, as used on Fidero, the vegetation has come in ‘mat’ form, needing only to be cut to fit. As such it has proven very useful, and as it takes acrylic paint well, has proved suitable for its task.

Vehicles

Because it is set in the Twenty-first Century, motor vehicles form an integral part of the layout. As a result several Landrover 4-wheel drive vehicles have made their appearance as support vehicles for the operation. They can be seen in various places.

Staff 

The Company has ben fortunate in being able to acquire and retain the services of ‘Bill’ a very amiable and competent Large Lizard (aka ‘Dinosaur).  He holds the position of ‘Curator in Residence’ and closely and carefully supervises what is being done by the layout’s  builders. He is not averse to Landrover rides…

Structures

As with all my models, these are mainly constructed from discarded Picture Matte Board (aka Picture Framing Card ) and are layout specific. As the layout is evolving,  at the time of writing they are at best ‘temporary’, and may change as more information comes to hand.

 

Technical Details

Title:  FIDERO RESOURCES (NO. LIABILITY.)

 

Type: Gold-mining tramway (light railway)

Location :Coromandel Peninsula, New Zealand

Scale: On18 (1:148 / 7mm= 1 ft)
Track gauge: 18 inches (457 mm)

Dimensions:

Length: 42 in (1066 mm)
Width: 23.5 in (596 mm)

Track Geometry:

Distorted oval rising at both ends.

AS RECEIVED 27 JANUARY 2019

FIDERO RESOURCES (NO LIABILITY)

Baseboard as received 27 January 2019

H. 24 March 2019

FIDERO RESOURCES (NO LIABILITY)

As at 25 March 2019

 

20190216_120311

FIDERO RESOURCES (NO LIABILITY)

Trammer No.2 descending the Centre-rail section. Locomotive shed on left.

TRAMMER (2)

FIDERO RESOURCES (NO LIABILITY)

Trammer No.2 ascending the embankment to the processing plant

Part of cyanide plant visible in background

(vegetation has since been added to this area; see next image)

TRAMMER 2 ASCENDING GRADE TO MILL 24 MARCH 2019

FIDERO RESOURCES (NO LIABILITY)

General view of Tramway and Processing Plant. Trammer No.2 is on gradient

Note vegetation, including Gorse (‘Furze’) in bloom.

20190307_075510 (2)

FIDERO RESOURCES (NO LIABILITY)

Image showing Company  Landrover (Series I), Managing Director (in front of vehicle) and Curator in Residence (to right of image). 

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FIDERO RESOURCES (NO LIABILITY)

BOOK REVIEW: ‘Yearbook of Astronomy 2019’

93. ASTRONOMY X

Reviewer: Michael Keith

Title: Yearbook of Astronomy 2019

Editor: Brian Jones

Total No. of Printed Pages: 328

Rating Scale (1: Very Poor, 10: Excellent): 7

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When introducing this volume to the reader, its Editor notes that it is ‘…The latest edition of an indispensable publication, the annual appearance of which has been eagerly anticipated by astronomers, both amateur and professional, for well over half a century.’ With its provenance thus established, he also notes that it is ‘…Aimed at both the armchair astronomer and the active backyard observer’. It is an accurate summary.

The volume opens with an Editor’s Foreword. Placed immediately after the Contents page this precis’ the volume’s content, outlines intended future developments and acknowledges those who have contributed towards its creation. It concludes with a summary of the title’s recent history. A Preface follows. This defines both the parameters which have been followed in respect of the Monthly Sky Notes (Star Charts) which are a significant part of the volume, and provides the titles of publications which might also be of use. The Preface is in turn followed by a two-page section titled About Time. This gives both a history of the development of time and clocks while also detailing Standard Times in operation in various parts of the world. A section titled using the Yearbook of Astronomy as an Observing Guide now appears. Its title is self-explanatory. The main part of the volume now appears. This is divided into four Sections (analogous to Chapters), each devoted to a specific aspect of astronomy. Within each section, subsections carry both maps and articles relevant to the larger narrative. While some articles carry page-specific Footnotes, these provide additional information specific to the page and do not carry citations. A separate section now appears. While the title (Articles Section) is seemingly self-explanatory (and perhaps even contradictory as ‘articles’ have also appeared within preceeding sections), the articles appearing  within this section are less section-specific than their predecessors and cover a wide range of astronomy-related topics. A Miscellaneous section placed after the Article section, while containing even more articles, also lists Astronomical Organisations and profiles the volume’s contributors. A Glossary completes the volume. The book contains numerous Maps, Photographs, Tables, Diagrams and Drawings. These are informatively captioned, although not all carry source-indicating citations.  The Contents page carries no mention of their existence. No Index is provided.

For this reviewer (possessed as he is of limited knowledge about ‘Astronomy’), the volume’s complete lack of an Index is its major failing. With literally no way of knowing what is within a Section or Subsection, a casual reader (of which the reviewer is but one) has no alternative but to stumble their way through the volume. With no familiar words such as might be found an Index to guide him, such a reader can have no idea of what he will find.  Many searchers will simply give up; a loss to both astronomy and the retailer. On that basis, this reviewer would strenuously suggest that the creation of an Index be given priority for any subsequent editions of this publication.

This is a well-written and very informative compilation, and (the Editor’s comments notwithstanding), is likely to be of interest to both professional and amateur astronomers alike.  Some readers with a passing interest in ‘things in the sky’ may also find it of interest.

On a Rating Scale where 1: Very Poor, 10: Excellent, I have given this volume a 7.

Had there been an Index, the rating would have been higher.

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BOOK REVIEW: ‘Yearbook of Astronomy 2019’

BOOK REVIEW: ‘The Analogue Revolution: Communication Technology 1901-1914’

92. Analogue Technology

Reviewer: Michael Keith

Title:  The Analogue Revolution: Communication Technology 1901-1914

Author: Simon Webb

Total Number of Pages: 158

Rating Scale (1: Very Poor, 10: Excellent): 7 ½

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In this volume’s Introduction, the author observes the ‘The roots of our modern Information Revolution are to be found in the Edwardian Era’. With that pronouncement made, he then proceeds to provide reasoned and well-considered argument to support his case, using the Twenty-first Century’s Digital Revolution as a reference point for what follows. The result is a well-written, well-researched, highly informative and eminently-readable volume

Within the volume, a List of Plates immediately behind the Contents page lists, in abbreviated form, the captions carried by the 20 images appearing within an eight page images’ section in the book’s centre. The ‘List, is in turn followed by an Introduction. Within this the author precis’ what is to follow within the 10 Chapters which form the bulk of the volume.  The Chapters take the reader from the Victorian-era to the start of World War I and, in Chapter 10, to The Enduring Legacy of the Analogue Revolution, in which he discusses the ‘The astonishing durability of the physical manifestations of the information technology perfected during the Edwardian period’ and the reasons why such machinery is still ‘earning its keep’ over a century after it was originally constructed. An Endword follows. In this the author considers the similarities and differences between the current Digital Age and its Edwardian predecessor, and presents his thoughts as to what the future might hold. A two-page Bibliography follows, and is in turn followed by the Index; the volume’s final section. As previously-noted there is a small (eight page), ‘images’ (Plates) section at the centre of the volume. In addition to the usual photographs, the images appearing within it include postcards, advertisements, plans and etchings. All are monochrome, informatively and clearly captioned and are alluded to within the volume when appropriate to the narrative.

As already noted, this volume is well-written, well-researched, highly-informative and eminently readable. For this reviewer however, it is let down by its Index. While reviewing a volume, this reviewer randomly looks in its Index for words which interest him. When reviewing this volume however, he found that, in many instances, the words being sought did not appear within the Index. While numerous examples could be presented, those found on page 52 will suffice.  With words such as Port Arthur, Alan Moorhead, St Petersburg, and Petrograd appearing on that page it would be reasonable to expect to find them in the Index. Such was not the case, while the omission of Frederick Lee (on page 57, and despite appearing in the same sentence as Edward Turner; his fellow patentee) is even more curious. The omissions were both widespread and random, to the extent that this reviewer eventually ceased to rely on the Index as a reliable source of information. He now has serious reservations about the Index’s authority and veracity. Unsourced Quotes have been used throughout the volume. In the absence of verifying citations, they have little research value and authority and, indeed, could well have been written by anyone.  How important such things might be will, of course, depend on the reader / purchaser’s requirements.

Due to the width of its research, and despite the ‘limitations’ previously described, this volume bids fair to become an authoritative work on its subject. As it combines both technology and social history, this volume is likely to appeal to Historians with an interest in either or both of these subjects, particularly in the context of Great Britain in the Nineteenth and early Twentieth Centuries.  Those with a specific interest in the invention and use of such things as Cinema, the Telephone, Radio /Wireless etc. may also find the volume of interest, while due to its easy-to-read style layman-readers wishing to learn more about the origins of both ‘Digital’ and Analogue’ technologies, and their inter-relationships, may also find it worthy of their attention.

On a Rating Scale where 1: Very Poor, 10: Excellent, I have given this volume a 7 ½.

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BOOK REVIEW: ‘The Analogue Revolution: Communication Technology 1901-1914’

BOOK REVIEW: ‘Steam In Scotland: a Portrait of the 1950s and 1960s’

91. Scottish Steam

Reviewer: Michael Keith

Title:  Steam In Scotland: a Portrait of the 1950s and 1960s

Author:  Kevin McCormack

Total Number of Pages: 168

Rating Scale (1: Very Poor, 10: Excellent) 7

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In the opening paragraph of this volume’s Introduction,  the author states: ‘’This colour album covers steam in Scotland…and uses, to the best of my knowledge, images which have not previously appeared in print’. With that established, he then states that ‘Most of the pictures used have been sourced from the Online transport Archive’ and that ‘…There are even some of my colour slides included…’  He concludes by saying: ‘I hope readers will enjoy this nostalgic glimpse of the Scottish railway scene…before the Beeching axe was wielded…’  As a precis it cannot be faulted.

The volume contains no Contents page, its first section being a three page Introduction. Within this the author details his personal railway-related story, introduces the reader to Scottish railways (the subject of this volume), and provides details about the origins of the photographs that have been used within it. The 159 pages of colour images which comprise the majority of the volume then follow. The author notes that ‘The pictures…have been arranged on a roughly geographical basis, starting on the eastern side of Scotland upwards from the English border, proceeding around the top of the country and ending on the western side near the border’. Unfortunately the absence of any Maps makes the statement rather pointless, especially to those readers who are neither local residents, or who live off-shore. All images are in colour and, as indicated by the title, the volume is predominantly of photos of steam locomotives of varying shapes, sizes and classes in a variety of Scottish settings and conditions. Sometimes the locomotives are attached to trains, but most of the photographs are of single units. Curiously, two stations (Broomhill and Arrochar and Tarber on pages 108 and 138 respectively), make appearances in their own right sans steam. The photographs are from a variety of sources, are largely single-paged in format and have informative captions placed underneath. However, and where appropriate to the narrative, smaller images have been inserted into the larger and two or three smaller images appear on a single page. The sources of the images are acknowledged. A single page Index completes the volume. As previously-noted no Maps are provided.

In this reviewer’s opinion (and given the book’s title), this volume’s Index is woefully inadequate.  Although the volume is (supposedly) concerned with Steam In Scotland, the Index carries absolutely no mention of either locomotives or trains within its entries. It is totally ‘station focused’. As a result, were the Index to be the first section consulted by a potential reader, it would be easy to conclude that steam locomotives and trains were not present when the volume’s photographs were taken. Yet even with that focus, not every ‘caption’ mention of a specific station is recorded. Boat of Garten (for example), while mentioned on page 106, according to its Index entry appears only on pages 102-104. All and any references to such items as Railway Companies, Events and Geographical Entities (despite being mentioned within the captions) are also absent. The lack of Maps has already been noted. A Glossary providing quick interpretation of the various ‘Company’ acronyms within the volume would have been helpful.

For readers seeking ‘Pictures of British steam trains in a Scottish setting’ this volume will be a delight, as they are there in quantity. Due to the Index, those seeking photographs of specific Scottish railway stations are also likely to find their desires met. Enthusiasts and railway modellers seeking images of specific locomotives and / or classes (and assuming that these have even been included) may also find this volume of interest. It should however be noted that, due to the previously-noted inadequacy of the Index a lot of searching may be required with no guarantee of success. Some may not deem it worth the effort.

On a Rating Scale where 1: Very Poor, 10: Excellent, I have given this volume a 7.

Had the Index been more indicative of the volume’s content, the rating would have been higher.

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BOOK REVIEW: ‘Steam In Scotland: a Portrait of the 1950s and 1960s’