Random thoughts from Pencefn

…. an engineer, singer and photographer living in Scotland

Rhiw Goch signalbox in the sun


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Ffestiniog Railway: Working at Rhiw Goch Signalbox – August 2016

For nearly 30 years I have been volunteering for the Ffestiniog Railway in North Wales. Most of my time has been spent guarding trains, and I had a spell of being a Controller. Recently I qualified to operate the Rhiw Goch signalbox, and when it opened in 2014 Porthmadog signalbox.

During my August 2016 visit I spent one day in Porthmadog signalbox and two days in Rhiw Goch signalbox. So what is entailed in working Rhiw Goch ‘box?

Rhiw Goch Signalbox

Rhiw Goch Signalbox
8 July 2016

Chronicling the event of my second day, at 10:00 I arrived at Porthmadog Harbour station. The stock for the train (10:35 – Reporting number F05) that was to take me to Rhiw Goch was already in platform 2 with the Lynton & Barnstaple replica locomotive – Lyd at the front. I said hello to the guards, Jeff and Nigel, leaving my bag and coat in the guards compartment.

Reporting to the Control Office, I booked on for my day’s duty including ti check if there were any extra trains expected (as there has been in the previous days). I had left the water container at Rhiw Goch two days previously, so that was one less thing to remember. I assisted the guard with the dispatch of the train, and checked the tickets in the first class observation carriage. At Minffordd, I reminded the fireman that I wish the train to stop at Rhiw Goch.

Five minutes after the Penrhyn request stop, the train slowed for the Rhiw Goch stop at 10:59. As Lyd took the train on its journey to Blaenau Ffestiniog across Cei Mawr, the dry stone embankment, I called Control reporting my arrival and requesting them to call me when the section was clear.

Double Fairlie - David Lloyd George - hading across Cei Mawr

Double Fairlie – David Lloyd George – hading across Cei Mawr
8 August 2016

Rhiw Goch signalbox is located around 4 miles from Porthmadog midway between Minffordd and Tan-y-Bwlch stations. These stations have loops which are automatically worked by trains approaching and train crew withdrawing the appropriate train staff. The train staff is the driver authority and guarantee that there is no other train in the single line between two passing loops. Rhiw Goch is normally switched out and forms part of the Minffordd to Tan-y-Bwlch long section. When it is opened the long section staff is withdrawn from an intermediate instrument (taken from a train parked within the box limits) and inserted into the level frame.

Rhiw Goch Lever Frame

Rhiw Goch Lever Frame
8 August 2016

So whilst waiting for permission to open, I put the kettle on for a mug of tea. At 11:14, Control called back any gave permission to open. The opening code 5-5-5 was recording in the train register with a time of 11:15.

Shortly, at 11:37, the Minffordd buzzer went when the firemaon F07 (11:25 from Porthmadog to Blaenau Ffestiniog). The buzzer was accepted and the release switch held down to enable the fireman to withdraw the token.

Minffordd section block bell, remote operator and indicator

Minffordd section block bell, remote operator and indicator
10 August 2016

To enable the train to progress beyond Rhiw Goch, the train will need the the Rhiw Goch to Tan-y-Bwlch train staff. I contacted Control requesting permission to withdraw the token. Permission received, I wound the remote operator, received a clear indication and moved to the staff instrument to withdraw a staff.

Tan-y-Bwlch section block bell, remote operator and indicators

Tan-y-Bwlch section block bell, remote operator and indicators
10 August 2016

With the token withdrawn, the route was set through the loop on the signalling panel.

Route set for an approaching up train with TYB train staff (with TYB release key)

Route set for an approaching up train with TYB train staff (with TYB release key)
10 August 2016

At 11:50 double fairlie Earl of Merionith passed through exchanging the Minffordd staff for the Tan-y-Bwlch staff. 14 minutes later Tan-y-Bwlch called requesting the staff to proceed to Rhiw Goch. Both Minffordd and Tan-y-Bwlch are normally operated by the train crew using remote operators, however they are both capable of being manned with a signalman with communication being by block bell. Similar for the up train going to Tan-y-Bwich, I followed a similar process to obtain a Minffordd staff and set the route through the loop for a down train.

Route set for an approaching down train with the Minfordd train staff removed ready for exchanging.

Route set for an approaching down train with the Minfordd train staff removed ready for exchanging.
10 August 2016

On the first day (Monday), it was a sunny, warm day with a gentle breeze. On this day (Wednesday), it was overcast and chilly. Around midday there was a shower of rain. I decided to light the stove, which was installed when the box was rebuilt several years ago.

The lit Rhiw Goch stove

The lit Rhiw Goch stove
10 August 2016

A similar process was followed for trains going past until mid afternoon when in quick succession, I received calls from both Minffordd and Tan-y-Bwlch for a timetabled crossing. This is also challenging in that both trains were too long for the loop. The maximum length of a train that can be put into the main line is just longer than both trains. My plan is to stop both trains at the home signals, with the route through the loop set for the down train. The up train will be brought in the main line and stopped, with the Minffordd staff taken from the train. Once safely inside station limits, the bottom end points set for the loop and by passing the Minffordd staff through the instrument a release is obtained for the signals and the route is completed though the loop. Through the loop passed double fairlie David Lloyd George the train staffs being exchanged. Once the end of the train is clear of the top end points, I set up the route for the Blaenau bound train (F13 – 15:45 Porthmadog to Blaenau Ffestiniog), passing the staff through the instrument to obtain the release for the signals. Once the train staff is handed to the engine crew on Earl of Merioneth the train continues on its journey to Blaenau Ffestiniog.

Getting to the end of the shift, when reporting in the time of the crossing, I ask to be notified when F13 reaches Tan-y-Bwlch so Rhiw Goch ‘box can be closed and operation reverted to long section (Minffordd to Tan-y-Bwlch) operation. Waiting to be called back, I cleaned out the stove, leaving it ready for the next user to lay a fire. Following a call from Control, at 16:32 the code 7-5-5 closing box code was recorded and I request P12 (16:00 Blaenau Ffestiniog to Porthmadog) stop to pick me up. Waiting for it to arrive I collected belongings together putting them back into my bag.

Extract of the Rhiw Goch train register

Extract of the Rhiw Goch train register
10 August 2016

Remembering to take the, now empty, water canister back to Porthmadog I collect my belongings and board the train when it arrived at 16:45. Travelling back to Porthmadog in the guard’s compartment I talk with the guard, when he is not carrying out his duties at the stops of Penrhyn and Minffordd. Upon arrival at Porthmadog, I return the water canister to its storage cupboard and visit the Control Office to book off.

Communion Table and Aspe at East End


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Parish Church of St Cuthbert, Edinburgh – 8 October 2016

After a short break, the blog returns with a visit to the Parish Church of St Cuthbert in Edinburgh.

Located at the end of Lothian Road, next to St John’s Episcopal Church, this church is at the west end of Princes Street gardens under Edinburgh Castle.

East End of St Cuthberts. Edinburgh

East End of St Cuthberts. Edinburgh
8 October 2016

There have been several buildings on the site. The early ones were on the shores of the Nor’Loch (which was drained and filled in during the 19th century when the railway was constructed). The current building was designed by Hippolyte Blanc and opened in 1894.

One of the features of the building is the pulpit. Under the pulpit is the foundation stone and a time capsule with 1890’s items.

The Pulpit

The Pulpit
8 October 2016

At the East End is the Apse with a painted ceiling by Robert Hope RSA. The centre panel features Christ, being worshiped by angels on either side.

Apse ceiling

Apse ceiling
8 October 2016

The font is provided with a bronze statue on its cover. This is a copy of Michaelangelo’s statue in the Church of Our Lady in Bruges.

Font Cover

Font Cover
8 October 2016

The organ was built in 1899 by Robert Hope-Jones of Birkenhead, and having been rebuilt several times, the current setup dates from 1997/8 when it was rebuilt by Walker & Sons. The four manual console is located in the south gallery of the chancel opposite the chancel organ case in the north chancel. The majority of the pipes are located in the North Gallery.

North Gallery Organ Loft

North Gallery Organ Loft
8 October 2016

Llanuwchllyn station


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Bala Lake Railway – 11 August 2016

On the 4 August 1868, the Bala and Dolgelly Railway opened, the last section of the standard gauge line linking Ruabon to Barmouth Junction. The railway was absorbed into the Great Western Railway in July 1877. The line was officially closed on 18 January 1965, with the lifting of the track completed in 1969.

Llanuwchllyn station sign

Llanuwchllyn station sign
11 August 2016

This was not the end of trains between Bala and Llanuwchllyn. In 1972, George Barnes founded the Bala Lake Railway (Rheilffordd Llyn Tegid in Welsh). The first trains ran from Llanuwchllyn to Pentrepiod, with the line extended to Llangower in 1975, with trains reaching the former Bala Lake Halt, now called Bala (Pen-y-bont) in 1976.

Kerr Stuart locomotive Diana at Llanuwchllyn

Kerr Stuart locomotive Diana at Llanuwchllyn
11 August 2016

On the day of my visit, the 1917 Kerr Stuart locomotive, Diana, was in charge of the trains.

Building on westbound platform at Llanuwchllyn

Building on westbound platform at Llanuwchllyn
11 August 2016

Usually there is only one train operating. There is a loop at Llangower which is occaisionally used when a two train service is in operation.

Signal for westbound trains at Llangower

Signal for westbound trains at Llangower
11 August 2016

A major appeal is in progress to extend the line from the current terminus at Pen-y-Bont to the west side of Bala, given the name The Red Dragon Project.

Rollin' Drones in Buchanan Street


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Rollin’ Drones in Buchanan Street – 23 July 2016

On any weekend, a walk along Buchanan Street in Glasgow will reveal the regular selection of street entertainers. Occasionally you come across a gem, which shows that you can find some of the best street entertainers around in Glasgow.

One such is the Rollin’ Drones.

Rollin' Drones in Buchanan Street

Rollin’ Drones in Buchanan Street
23 July 2016

The Rollin Drones are based in Scotland and perform their unique fusion of bagpipes and pop all over the world. Musicians in the band are award winning and world class. As well as pipers there is a drummer and bass players.

Rollin' Stones piper and drummer in Buchanan Street

Rollin’ Stones piper and drummer in Buchanan Street
23 July 2016

Rollin' Stones piper in Buchanan Street

Rollin’ Stones piper in Buchanan Street
23 July 2016

Whilst I was watching them, a large crowd assembled and were kept captivated whilst the musicians went through a wide ranging set.

Rollin' Drones drummer in Buchanan Street

Rollin’ Drones drummer in Buchanan Street
23 July 2016

They have branded shirts and the pipe bags have their logo.

Rollin' Drones branding on the bag of the pipes

Rollin’ Drones branding on the bag of the pipes
23 July 2016

Ship of Dreams


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BFG Dream Jar Trail – 16 July 2016

On the weekend of 16/17 July 2016, the world premiere of the BFG Movie took place, which marked the 100th anniversary of the birth of the BFG Creator Roald Dhal. As part of this a BFG Dream Jar Trail has been set up. Around half of the jars were on display in London, with the majority at Leicester Square.

As with the Shaun in the City trails last year, we started at The Shard.

Up, Up and away at The Shard

Up, Up and away at The Shard
16 July 2016

There were two dream jars by City Hall at More London; the Open Dream suggested by Justin Rose (who was playing in the Open Championship in Royal Troon that weekend) and For the Love of the Hedgehog

The Open Dream

The Open Dream
16 July 2016

For the Love of the Hedgehog

For the Love of the Hedgehog
16 July 2016

As some had not yet been located, and those which had had been moved to Leicester Square for the weekend, we heading west along the south of the Thames to Tate Modern, where we crossed the Millennium Bridge. Heading up to the museum of London we found another Dream Jar – A Whale’s Tail

A Whale's Tail

A Whale’s Tail
16 July 2016

It was then a walk from the relatively quiet weekend City of London to a very busy City of Westminster where we found two dream jars around Covent Garden before reaching the display in the centre of Leicester Square.

Dream Jars on display in Leicester Square

Dream Jars on display in Leicester Square
16 July 2016

This was part of a larger feature in the square marking the premiere of the film later in the weekend.

BFG display in Leicester Square

BFG display in Leicester Square
16 July 2016

The Dream Jars will be on display until 31 August 2016, after which they will be auctioned off in aid of Save the Children and Roald Dahl’s Marvellous Children’s Charity.

Detail at bottom of lamp standard


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Holborn Viaduct – 16 July 2016

During a recent visit to London, our walk took us over Holborn Viaduct. A few years ago whilst we had a flat in London, we had occasion to drive under the viaduct on Farringdon Street on Christmas Day.

The viaduct was built in the 1860s to span the valley of the Fleet River crossing Farringdon Street and the subterranean river (which had been placed in a tunnel in the eighteenth century).

A feature on the parapets are sculptures by Farmer and Brindley, and Henry Bursill.

Winged Lion on Holborn Viaduct

Winged Lion on Holborn Viaduct
16 July 2016

Farmer and Brindley produced the winged lions and the figures – Science and Fine Arts – on the north side.

Science on the North Parapet

Science on the North Parapet
16 July 2016

Bursill provided the figures – Commerce and Agriculture – on the south side.

Commerce on south parapet of Holborn Viaduct

Commerce on south parapet of Holborn Viaduct
16 July 2016

Iconic transport associated with London was seen crossing the bridge, including a preserved Routemaster bus that had been hired for a wedding.

London Black Cab and Routemaster Bus approaching Holborn Viaduct.

London Black Cab and Routemaster Bus approaching Holborn Viaduct.
16 July 2016

The nearby Holborn viaduct Station, which had platforms at the same level as the street was closed in 1990 to be replaced with City Thameslink which is located underground linking Brlackfriars and Farringdon stations.

Planting completed and top dressed with bark


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Project Garden – Front Garden Changes July 2016

Ever since we moved in, we have been considering a change to our drive. The builders created it on a curve. It was just wide for two cars, however when getting out of the right hand car you had to step out onto the grass. We decided to remedy this.

The starting position

The starting position
2 July 2016

Prior to the hard landscape team arriving, the grass was marked out with canes. As well as the widening of the drive, we also put a path across the front of the house. There was also a plan to extend the front border to include the tree that had been planted in the middle of front grass.

Drive widened

Drive widened
6 July 2016

Due to the grass not being level, we have a slight raised edge to match up with the grass which will also provide an edge to keep the new border extension in check.

Our lavender bush was outgrowing the container it was in so it was to be planted into the new bed with a selection of hebes around it. In addition to provide some white flowers, a bridal wreath was added. The hebes selected included Hebe Red Edge (3 plants), Hebe Pewter Dome and Hebe Franciscana Variegata. All the plants will fill out over the years.

Planting completed

Planting completed
13 July 2016

To top it off bark was to be used. When using bark in bulk I have been using a local company – Scotbark – who deliver in cubic metre bags. With the planting finished I ordered the bark at 11:00, expecting it was be delivered the following week. So I was surprised when an hour later the bark was delivered.

Bark delivery

Bark delivery
14 July 2016

Although I had other plans for the afternoon, I did have an hour to move some of the bark, including top dressing the new planting.

Completed drive and planting

Completed drive and planting
14 July 2016

Red Cross Garden


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Red Cross Garden, Southwark – 8 May 2016

Back in May on a sunny weekend, we found ourselves in a quiet oasis in Southwark. In 1887 on the site of a burnt out paper factory, the Red Cross Garden was laid out.

Red Cross Garden notice board

Red Cross Garden notice board
8 May 2016

Octavia Hill established the garden as a shared community space in 1887/8.

Blue plaque for Octavia Hill

Blue plaque for Octavia Hill
8 May 2016

The garden is managed by Bankside Open Spaces Trust.

Pond in Red Cross Garden.

Pond in Red Cross Garden.
8 May 2016

In the mid 20th century, the garden was mainly grass and tarmac, however the Bankside Open Spaces Trust with Lottery funding restored the garden, including some of the original features. The Princess Royal officially re-opened the garden on 1 June 2006.

Housing on west side

Housing on west side
8 May 2016

Trailing Lobelia


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Project Garden Update – 2 July 2016

After a glorious sunny May and a wet June the garden is thriving.

The front garden is full of colour, with the raised bed blooming.

Front Garden

Front Garden
2 July 2016

Honeysuckle flower

Honeysuckle flower
2 July 2016

Yellow Rose

Yellow Rose
2 July 2016

In the coming weeks, we are getting the drive widened, to make it easier to get out of cars without standing on the grass. At the same time the area around the tree is going to become an extension to the shrub bed.

Grass marked out for drive widening and extended bed.

Grass marked out for drive widening and extended bed.
2 July 2016

Around the back the bedding plants are providing a colourful display.

Colour in the back garden

Colour in the back garden
2 July 2016

The vegetables and fruit are thriving. On one side the peas and broad beans now have pods.

Broad Beans

Broad Beans
2 July 2016

At the back of the garden, the second pulling of rhubarb is ready, with the raspberries and blackcurrants showing promise.

Blackcurrant bush laden with berries

Blackcurrant bush laden with berries
2 July 2016

Duck on Bingham's Pond


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Bingham’s Pond – 18 June 2016

I found another hidden gem in Glasgow a week or so ago.

Between Great Western Road and Gartnavel Hospital in the Kelvinside area of Glasgow is Bingham’s Pond.

Bingham's Pond

Bingham’s Pond
18 June 2016

The pond was created on the sire of coal and brick pits in the 1880s. A few years later a boathouse was built. In the late 1950s, the eastern section was sold off and filled in. The Stakis Pond Hotel and a petrol station was built on the site. The remaining part was acquired by Glasgow City Corporation.

The pond is home to wildlife, mainly water birds, including swans, ducks and coots. At the time if the visit Cygnets and Coot chicks were observed.

Swans and Cygnets

Swans and Cygnets
18 June 2016

Coot

Coot
18 June 2016

Duck on Binghma's Pond

Duck on Bingham’s Pond
18 June 2016

Around the pond and on the islands, created to encourage wild birds in 2003, reeds and bulrushes grow.

Bulrushes at Bingham's Pond

Bulrushes at Bingham’s Pond
18 June 2016