Locomotive with viewing gallery

I tried to load the photo here, but it seems that I am once again suffering from photo loading difficulties.

The photo in question is a of an historical (1910) steam locomotive with a carriage piggy-backing on it. It’s not a real carriage even though it looks like one from the outside, because slap in the middle of it, unless I am much mistaken, there is a regular locomotive type boiler. All you can do is stand beside the boiler and look out through the windows.

Would that this blog was a similarly effective viewing gallery. I hope that this will soon be sorted. Again.

Dogs in cars

Still no photos here, but lots of dogs in cars photos at Mick Hartley‘s. Hartley chose fifteen from the forty one which Martin Usborne posted here.

Says Usborne:

I was once left in a car at a young age. I don’t know when or where or for how long, possibly at the age of four, perhaps outside a supermarket, probably for fifteen minutes only. The details don’t matter. The point is that I wondered if anyone would come back. The fear I felt was strong: in a child’s mind it is possible to be alone forever.

Around the same age I began to feel a deep affinity with animals …

When I started this project I knew the photos would be dark. In a sense, I was attempting to go back inside my car, to re-experience what I couldn’t bear as a child. …

Well worth a look, and a read. And worth a look also if you like quite ancient cars, as I do. There are many such cars in these photos. It would appear that Usborne has been photoing these photos for quite a while.

40 Strand

Alastair wondered, in a comment, what this building is, as had I. Today, the weather looked good again, and having nowhere in particular to go, I thought I’d do what I hadn’t done earlier, which was find out exactly what this building is.

Here are nine photos, the first of which I photoed last Tuesday, just before photoing the photo shown in that previous posting, and the other eight of which I took this afternoon:

The first, as I say, taken seconds before that previous night scene I showed earlier, shows the shape of the building, instead of just a pretty pattern. The second photo above is clearly of the same building. The third shows the same building, but with some context, in particular showing where it is in relation to the big arched edifice of offices over Charing Cross Station.

At which point I knew where to go looking, and I soon got right next to the Thing. Photo 4 makes it clear that this is that same building, while photo 5 clarifies that at the foot of it is to be found the Theodore Bullfrog. I took a note (photo 6) of exactly where I was.

But, there seemed to be no very welcoming entrance to the building I was trying to find out about. So I went around to the front of it, which seemed to be in the Strand. Photo 7 and photo 8, are close-ups of the entrance I found. And photo 9 shows the entire building from a bit of distance, from the other side to my earlier photos.

Photo 8 was of a sign saying … “40 Strand”, was it?

A little photo-enhancement …:

… confirmed that yes, this was 40 Strand. But was 40 Strand and the building we saw from the other side one and the same building?

Google Maps gave me the answer to that when I got home:

Yes. 40 Strand is the whole thing, including the bits at the back that I had been photoing so attentively. The presence of the little red balloon in the middle of the building, right next to the more distant of the windows I had been photoing proved that this was job done.

So now you know. More to the point, now Alastair knows. I don’t get many regular commenters here, so the ones I do have get the Rolls Royce treatment. (When I feel like it, I mean. I promise nothing.)

Ferrari sighting

While out-and-about on other business further in the middle of London even than my home is, I photoed this little Thing On Wheels:

This was in Bedford Street (as you can just about make out), which is just off the Strand. So far so ordinary. Some brand of “smart” car, presumably.

But when I got home, I looked more closely at this photo, and could just about make out … this:

I didn’t see this logo at the time. I merely noticed it in the original photo, of which the above is a crop-and-expand.

Unless I was mistaken, the Ferrari logo!. The Ferrari horse. Was this bod taking the piss? Had he stuck this Ferrari horse logo on his little red Dinky Toy for some sort of laugh?

This is the twenty first century, and questions like this can be quickly answered.

Apparently this was indeed a Ferrari Smart Car. (He’s not happy about this either.) Different Smart Car, Ferrari logo in the exact same spot. The cars must have come with this logo attached, and must accordingly be “real” Ferraris. Not real Ferraris, you understand. Real Ferraris can drive under articulated lorry trailers at 200 mph. What I saw and photoed was just a Dinky Toy car perpetrated by the Ferrari company in what must have been a quite prolonged fit of insanity, which I presume still continues. Talk about pissing all over your own brand.

Like I say, I like real Ferraris, which I suppose we must now call Ferrari Dumb Cars, driven by the spoilt children of the nouveau riche. The bloke in my photo looks more like an Extinction Rebel or some such thing. i.e. the sort of person who’d be totally opposed to real Ferraris. Which he may well be.

In the course of my googling, I discovered an entire internet subculture of photo-manipulators eager to take the piss out of this abominable little contraption.

Patrick Crozier and I talk about the Falklands War

As earlier noted, Patrick Crozier and I recently recorded a conversation about the Falklands War, involving both what we each remembered about it from when we lived through it (early in 1982), and what we have learned about it since, which was not a lot in my case but a bit.

It was a strange conversation, because we basically talked only about what happened and what we remembered, and almost nothing about what the war “proved” or “demonstrated”, about life generally or about the libertarianism that we are both supporters of in other contexts. The questions we began with were: What was it? What happened? How did events unfold? And that’s what we talked about. There were a few ruminations about the difference between a country which had fought several recent wars and another country which had not, and what that meant in terms of the differences between the people fighting each other. That difference being a major reason why Britain won. But even that was strictly to try to explain events, rather than to get all grand and philosophical and what it all meant.

What Patrick felt and what I felt at the time, about the rights and wrongs of it, were rather different. He was gung-ho and very clear. The Argies stole the islands and we should get them back, and do whatever that took. I was rather baffled and wanted Britain to win more because losing would be so terrible. Not least politically. Because, as we speculated, it would have been hard for Thatcher to have survived as PM if there had been a British military and naval catastrophe down there in the South Atlantic. (The South Atlantic being where, as so many Brits of my sort were rather unsure about at the time, the Falkland Islands are to be found.) There nearly was a catastrophe. Luck played a scarily big part, far bigger than we were told at the time.

Well, if you want to hear what we said about this strange war, and are not expecting any bigger lessons beyond a small and rather meandering history lesson, here is where to go.

Waiting for the plague to arrive

Life in London and places like it is, just now, strange. It is not now like this:

But will it soon become like this?

That’s a photo taken just over a century ago in Seattle. The Shorpy caption reads:

Ca. 1918-1919. “Precautions taken in Seattle, Wash., during the Spanish Influenza Epidemic would not permit anyone to ride on the street cars without wearing a mask. 260,000 of these were made by the Seattle Chapter of the Red Cross which consisted of 120 workers, in three days.”

Coincidence that they just happened to be posting that, earlier this month? Presumably: not. (Here is a clutch of recent Coronoavirus links.)

Shorpy, one of the many things photographic that I have learned about from Mick Hartley, is now a regular www destination of mine.

“Every educated person in the land knew of the Eder and the Möhne dams …”

I have been reading James Holland’s book about the Dam Busters, which contains some illuminating pages concerning the history of the dams that got busted. These pages (pp. 242-247 of my paperback edition) are interesting in their own right, and they also explain why busting the dams was more than just a materially very damaging blow to the German war effort; it was also deeply demoralising for the German people:

There was another very good reason why the dams were a good target, however, one that was touched upon by Barnes Wallis during his second meeting with Gibson on 29 March. ‘The Germans,’ he said of the Möhne, ‘are very proud of this dam.’ In fact, they were proud of all their dams, although of the Möhne and Eder in particular; they were among the best-known structures in the Reich. Dams, of course, were as old as the hills. It was a German, Georg Steinfurth, who discovered the world’s oldest in 1885 – the Kafara Dam south of Cairo. In Spain, the Roman dam at Cornalvo had been standing for the best part of two millennia. However, although these were ancient structures, they had not been built on the kind of scale that the Germans began building them in the latter part of the nineteenth century.

Although Germany was a new nation, just seventy years old, there was nonetheless a tradition among the German people over the previous 200 years of transforming their landscape, or conquering nature. Germany by the beginning of the war was a quite different place from how it had been just a couple of hundred years earlier, especially its lowlands. At the beginning of the eighteenth century, it was a wild place, full of low-lying marsh and fenland. Travellers likened it to Amazonia and the New World. Wild animals like boar and wolves roamed, while the Rhine, Germany’s greatest river, snaked its way north through hundreds of separate channels, which were divided by endless little islands, sandbars and gravel banks. Along long stretches of its banks were damp forests, not lush farmland and industry. And because this river was so wild, because its flow of water so unpredictable and its depth so varied, it was for large parts completely impassable.

Yet as Prussia’s strength grew, so did its prosperity, and with it the increased need for mobility. What a difference it would make if this wild part of north-west Germany could be tamed. One German engineer, Iohann Tulla, believed he could, and so began one of the most extraordinary engineering feats the world had ever known. Quite simply, Tulla straightened the Upper Rhine. Not only was it an extraordinary achievement, it was also one of the world’s biggest engineering feats. By carving out new channels and damming up the twists and turns, the flow of water improved. The Rhine took on a completely different appearance, and was now shorter by some fifty miles. Moreover, the water now flowed deep enough and fast enough to allow large-scale navigation. The Rhine, by the early part of the nineteenth century, had become one of Germany’s most important arteries.

Now that the Rhine was properly navigable, the population along it rose rapidly. Further to the east, in the Ruhr area, coal seams were developed and through the nineteenth century the area grew with industrial plants springing up all around it. More and more water was needed: for the rising population to drink, and for the rapidly increasing industrial processes. Canals were built, and so too were railways, providing a network that enabled all this industry to be spread around the country.

Suddenly, there was no longer enough water consistently feeding into these rapidly growing areas. The natural cycle of water flow running into the Möhne, Wupper, Ruhr and Eder followed an irregular pattern – heavier in winter, less so in summer, but one that had become more extreme through deforestation and cultivation in their upper reaches.

Dams were the solution, although, as the Germans were discovering, by upsetting one of nature’s rhythms, they were being forced to alter another. Constructing large dams had begun in Alsace as a means of building up a mass of water from the inconsistent flow of rivers running down from the Vosges Mountains. These dams, comparatively small, were so effective they paved the way for the golden decade of dam building in Germany. In the 1890s, dams were the solution to the booming industrial region of Rhineland- Westphalia.

The first large dam was the Eschbach, which provided drinking water for the growing population of Remsheid. This had been designed by the greatest of German dam builders, Otto Intze, and his stamp would be all over many of those that followed: by his death in 1904, he had built no fewer than twelve.

A regular flow of water may have been needed in the rapidly growing area of Rhineland-Westphalia, but it was even more essential a little further north in the Ruhr Valley. The annual flow of water into the Ruhr was heavy, but deforestation in the Sauerland, the mountainous region east of the Ruhr, had intensified the extremes of seasonal variation. These were also exacerbated enormously by the huge amounts of water being pumped from the lower reaches. Water was needed for drinking, not just by the populations of towns on the Ruhr, but by those on the now polluted Wupper, Emscher and Lipper. Water was also needed by the mining, metallurgical and chemical industries, for cooling, cleaning and processing. The Krupps Works in Essen, alone, were responsible for using vast amounts of water both for their manufacturing processes and for their hordes of thirsty workers.

By the turn of the century, the Ruhr Valley was in crisis. In high summer, water levels were so low, it was possible to walk across the river without getting barely wet at all. Dams were clearly the only solution. Intze built two across a couple of small tributaries, but it was not enough. After long arguments about whose responsibility it was to resolve the crisis – after all, building dams was not cheap – the Ruhr Valley Reservoirs Associaton, or Ruhrtalsperrenverein – was formed in 1899. This collection of interested parties collectively funded the programme of dam building that now hurriedly got under way. Seven were built by 1906 – all by Intze – but then came a move to build substantially larger dams. The first was the Lister, which, by 1912, when it opened, had a capacity of 22 million cubic metres.

Its supremacy lasted just a year, for in 1913 a new, even bigger dam, designed by Intze’s star pupil, Ernst Link, was opened. It held a staggering 130 million cubic metres of water – more than the combined capacity of all of the dams built previously in the Ruhr and Wupper region. This vast edifice was the Möhne Dam.

But the Möhne was also about to be eclipsed. Forty-five miles to the south-east, an even taller, though not wider, dam was being built across the River Eder, one that would have the capacity to hold a mind-boggling 200 million cubic metres of water, ten times the amount of the Lister, which when it had been inaugurated had been the largest of its kind. The Eder Dam, when it was completed in that fateful month of August 1914, was the largest dam in Europe. Its waters stretched for seventeen miles, covering a lush, fertile valley where villages and many farmsteads had once stood. Its construction was considered such a profoundly incredible achievement, the Kaiser and his wife had been due to attend its inauguration. That had been planned for 15 August 1914. War had scuppered that plan, but during its construction, the Kaiser had visited the rapidly growing dam wall, as had his daughter, Princess Victoria.

It was no wonder these structures attracted so much attention. They personified the German conquest of nature and were symbols of German identity. Every educated person in the land knew of the Eder and the Möhne dams, as familiar as the Empire State Building became to Americans. They symbolized the emergence of a great and unified power. The Book of Famous Engineers was a popular book aimed as much at a youth market of aspiring young Germans as anyone, and contained a whole chapter on dam builders. Men like Otto Intze were household names in Germany, held as champions of a bright new dawn and an age of technological wonder. On no fewer than three occasions he gave private lectures to the Kaiser, who was, like most of his subjects, fascinated by technological innovations and developments.

Another popular, post-First World War tome was In the Wonderland of Technology: Masterpieces and New Achievements That Our Youth Should Know. And most of them did: radios, Zeppelins, Mercedes-Benz motor cars and the Eder and Möhne dams were all written about, feats from Germany’s proud era of technology.

The large lakes behind the dams became huge tourist attractions. Tens of thousands of visitors travelled to the Möhne, Eder and other dams every year. Hikers walked around the shores, anglers fished, sailors sailed, or rowed on pleasure dinghies, or took steamer trips. Others just stood at the foot of the vast walls of granite and masonry and marvelled at the wonder of such enormous constructions – constructions that looked so solid, so thick. So impregnable.

It is possible that there may be objections to me reproducing such a long excerpt from this book. If there are any objections, either from the author or the publisher, this posting will immediately be removed.

Those thirty-five photoer photos from October 20th 2007 that I promised you

Yes, as earlier promised:

There’s a lot I could say, by way of a photo-essay, about these photoer photos. But, do you know what the best thing about them is, in my opinion? How good they are. Oh, technically, they’re a bit rubbish, but I don’t care about that. I just really like them. Even the one of me. But especially the one of the bloke lying face down on the ground playing a guitar behind his head.

New word


Found this here.

LATER: From where I’m sitting, there is small and unwelcome gap just before where it says, below, “Monday 27 January 2020”. Can any passing WordPress experts explain this, and thereby help me get rid of it? (My guess is: Me asking this will cause this gap to vanish spontaneously.)

And I was right! It did vanish. And me writing the above paragraph enabled me to spot it, because the entire paragraph turned blue. A missing “/” was the problem, following the blue “here”, which, when inserted, abolished the gap. So, WordPress experts, forget about it.

Photo-question answered

There I was, sitting in a window seat of a Ryanair 737-800, trying and pretty much failing to photo photos out of the window. But I did succeed in photoing this photo:

When I looked at this photo again, I wondered just exactly what that elongated rectangular bit in the middle was, surrounded by darkness, that looks like a word spelt out in an unfamiliar alphabet? I cranked up Google Maps, and searched, all around Stansted. Nothing. The key to it was that highly idiosyncratic motorway intersection at the top. Couldn’t find it anywhere, until I started casting the net wider, and I found it, way out west of London, where the M4 and the M25 cross.

It was here:

There really is no doubt about it. All the details fit. The rectangle of weird lettering is Heathrow Airport. At first I thought this was going to be another mystery posting, for Commenter Chuck or Commenter Alastair to solve. But, no need. Already solved.

So, Ryanair planes fly from France to Stansted, right over Heathrow. I guess the airplanes landing at and taking off at Heathrow are way too low to be bothered about airplanes like the one I was in.