The Longleat Miniature Railway

Longleat House

On a recent visit to Longleat Wildlife and Safari Park we rode on the Miniature Railway. It reminded me that we, as a family, had done this quite a few times over the years. So when we got home I looked over my photographs and it bought back lots of happy memories.

The 15 inch railway was established in 1965 and expanded in 1976. The track has changed over the years, but currently skirts the lake before heading back to the station through the trees. There is a tunnel and a halt which is used at Christmas.

My first visit to Longleat was in the early 1970s, of which I don’t remember much, and I am not even sure if we went there. What I do remember was going to sleep, having an amazing dream about going to a Safari Park and getting a safari themed Land Rover in the shop.

Corgi Longleat Safari Land RoverWhen I woke up in the morning, I was astounded to find the Land Rover in my room.

It looked a lot like this one.

Was it a dream, was it reality? No idea if I travelled on the railway, it was just a dream…

Myself and my wife visited in 2002, but I don’t think we travelled on the train, as we only did the safari park. Back then the train was an extra cost, as were most of the other non-park attractions.

As a family we took my son to Longleat in 2005 and as well as going around the Safari Park, we also travelled the railway. He was really into trains.

The Longleat Miniature Railway

We were pulled by the Ceawlin, locomotive number five.

the Ceawlin, locomotive number five

In this photograph you can see the Lenka Railcar, the only engine built at Longleat. It was sold to private owner in 2017.

Lenka Railcar

We went again in 2008, but I have no photographs of the train, but I am pretty sure we must have had a ride on the train back then.

Between 2011 and 2017 the railway was known as the Jungle Express, with the station and carriages given additional theming.

Longleat Jungle Express

We visited in 2012 and travelled on the Jungle Express.

Longleat Jungle Express

This time the train was pulled by the Flynn Locomotive.

Flynn, Longleat Jungle Express

I do remember that the station had a model railway shop, but by our visit in 2012, it had stopped selling model trains and now sold toy trains, wooden trains and stuff.

On our most recent visit the Jungle Express theming had gone, as had the shop.

The Longleat Miniature Railway

The railway has fifteen carriages, all built at Longleat between 1976 and 2013 and are now wearing mock British Railways crimson and cream livery The railway also has several permanent way wagons.

Longleat Miniature Railway

This time our train was pulled by the huge John Thynn.

John Thynn

We enjoyed our most recent visit and I expect we might go again some time in the future.

Airport photographs

I started to realise that this week that when I fly I usually post a photograph to instagram of the plane I flew on. But not any old photo, usually I have taken it from a process using the Snapseed app.

This was the photo I took this week in Edinburgh.

Looking from my archives I found these other photographs on my Instagram feed. Continue reading “Airport photographs”

Some things change, some things don’t…

I spent five days at Butlins in Minehead in 2016 I was curious then about the history of some of the rides and attractions. One of them was the electric railway in the kiddies fairground. Over the years my children had ridden on the ride, when they were younger even I was “forced” to ride it. It looked like it had been there a while and was consistently revamped as and when required. It had been a Noddy toytown train at one point and then part of Bob the Builder land. In 2016 it was just part of the fairground.

I knew that at one point there had been two full size steam engines at the resort, as Billy Butlin purchased redundant steam engines as a on static display at the camps to provide a novel and relatively cheap attraction.

Butlins in Minehead had the LMS Duchess of Hamilton arrived in 1964 and left in 1975. It is now on display at the National Railway Museum in York where the streamlining has been added back.

Duchess of Hamilton at the National Railway Museum
Duchess of Hamilton at the National Railway Museum
cooldudeandy01 [CC BY 2.0]
There was a smaller engines at the camp as well, an 1880 Brighton Terrier called Knowle 32678.

As well as the big steam engines, Butlins also had a Peter Pan Railway ride Peter Pan Railways were once a common sight at seaside resorts, travelling fairs, holiday camps and amusement parks around the UK. It was this ride that I was curious about. I was quite surprised to find that the electric train ride was over sixty years old.

Butlins Minehead - Peter Pan Railway

They first appeared in the 1950s and were built by the Warwickshire company of Supercar Company Ltd and utilised regular railway technology with 2ft gauge track, 12lb rails and normal flanged wheels. The center rail was energised at 110 volts DC. The trains had a fixed back axle (chain driven) and a short-wheelbase bogie in front and could negotiate some pretty sharp and exciting curves. In later years some of the trains were fitted with new fibreglass bodywork of various different styles.

Though using a much smaller track (and some minor cosmetic changes) they are still running at Minhead Butlins in 2016 and is still there today.

Butlins Minehead - Peter Pan Railway

It’s nice to see that though some things change, some things stay the same.

Visiting Chepstow Castle in 2009

In 2009 we visited Chepstow Castle which is just over the original Severn Crossing. It was a beautiful sunny day and we really enjoyed walking around and exploring the castle.

Chepstow Castle

Chepstow Castle is the oldest surviving post-Roman stone fortification in Britain.

Chepstow Castle

Construction began in 1067, just after the Norman conquest by the Norman Lord William FitzOsbern.

Chepstow Castle

In the 12th century the castle was used in the conquest of Gwent, the first independent Welsh kingdom to be conquered by the Normans.

Chepstow Castle

By the 16th century its military importance was diminished.

Chepstow Castle

The castle saw action again during the English Civil War, when it was in the front line between Royalist Monmouthshire and Parliamentarian Gloucestershire. It was held by the Royalists and besieged in both 1645 and in 1648, eventually falling to the Parliamentarian forces on 25 May 1648.

Chepstow Castle

Although re-garrisoned during and after the English Civil War, by the 1700s it had fallen into decay.

Chepstow Castle

It has been used for filming TV and films including the Day of the Doctor when David Tennant’s tenth Doctor was “wooing” Queen Elizabeth I.

Chepstow Castle

View from the Cheesegrater Bridge

The view from Mead Reach Bridge looking towards Valentine Bridge in Bristol.

The view from Mead Reach Bridge looking towards Valentine Bridge in Bristol.

Photograph was taken with an iPhone 8 and then edited in the Snapseed app.

The bridge was closed on September 18th in 2017 after a lorry tried to cross it. After 20 months it was re-opened in May 2019.

Small HSTs

In 1976 when they were first introduced I always wanted to ride the new British Rail HSTs. I eventually got the chance in 1979 on a school trip to York.

I guess I must have ridden them a few times in the last few decades, but over the last few years I have been a frequent passenger on the Western main line between Bristol Temple Meads and Paddington. First on my regular commute to Oxford and then on my frequent visits to our London office.

On May 18th 2019 they were withdrawn from the main line, however though many were sent off to Scotland, GWR did shorten some for use on commuter routes in and around Bristol and South Wales.

HST 2+4

These trains are being converted so that the original slam doors are replaced with automatic sliding doors and the toilets will now be contained rather than flushing straight onto the track. They are also being painted in new GWR green,

Certainly interesting, but….

Hastings Castle

One of the things I learnt when I visited Hastings Castle in Sussex, was that this was the site of the first Norman castle, where the building pretty much started after the initial Norman invasion. Everyone has probably heard of the Battle of Hastings in 1066, though the actual battle was some miles away, as was the initial landing of Normal soldiers.

We took the West Hill Lift to get to the castle. There are two “lifts” in Hastings, the East Hill Lift is the steepest funicular railway in the UK.

If you are interested in the history of Hastings, then Hastings Castle has a lot to offer in their video presentation on the history of the castle. The remains of the castle are only some ruins, most of which have not just fallen down, but due to a combination of sea erosion and demolition, most of the castle ground are “missing”.

Hastings Castle

The video presentation does provide a lot of context about the castle and after watching it is worthwhile to walk around the ruins as you can see them in a wider context. I found it fascinating that after the castle fell into disrepair it was pretty much buried in soil and undergrowth, and forgotten about until Victorian times.

Some of the castle material were used to build a church which comprises most of the remaining ruins.

Hastings Castle

The main walls were used to protect the castle, but most of them have either fallen into the sea, or were inadvertently (or was it deliberately) knocked down in the Victorian era.

Hastings Castle

Compared to the view form the inside of the castle, you can see the ruins from the neighbouring hill, but you don’t really get a full feel for the place.

Hastings Castle

So why is the blog title, Certainly interesting, but…. well the castle is certainly an interesting place to visit, but the price of entrance, to me seemed rather steep. At £15.80 for a family four.

Sunny Oxford

I took the time to take some photographs on a visit to Oxford. I had a presentation to give at a recent meeting which was taking place in Oxford. The weather was beautiful and as it was relatively early the roads and pavements were not as crowded with tourists as they can be.

Walking in from St Clements Street by The Plain I walked down the High Street across Magdalen Bridge, taking a photograph of the Magdalen Bridge Boathouse.

Magdalen Bridge Boathouse

There were already quite a few people waiting to hire out punts and boats.

The crenellations of Magdalen College looked impressive in the sun.

Magdalen College

My meeting was taking place in the Oxford University Examination Schools, however Apple Maps on the iPhone took me down Merton Street to the back entrance, however I was lucky enough to be able to sneak in, and make my meeting.

Merton Street

I took the slightly longer route back to the car, as I wanted a quick nostalgic visit to the Covered Market. All Souls College looked rather magnificent in the sun.

All Souls College

Hiding behind the tree on the high street is All Saints Church which is now the Library of Lincoln College. In 1971, All Saints Church was declared redundant and the City Church moved to St Michael at the North Gate. All Saints was thus deconsecrated and offered to Lincoln College, located immediately to the north of the church. Since 1975, after conversion, the building has been Lincoln College’s library.

Library of Lincoln College

With any city the side street often offer interesting buildings and architecture. Oxford has a range of these side streets of which King Edward Street is just one.

King Edward Street

Another view of Magdalen College, it is one of the wealthiest colleges in Oxford.

Magdalen College

Magdalen College

Looking the other way on Magdalen Bridge there were a range of punts, I expect in the summer holidays and weekends these will be heavily used.

Magdalen Bridge

The Plain includes a small but prominent building facing Magdalen Bridge, Victoria Fountain. The fountain is protected by a roof on stone columns. On top is a small clock tower. The fountain was a gift to the city by G. Herbert Morrell.

Victoria Fountain

Though it was a quick visit to Oxford it was nice to be back.

The Routemaster

The Routemaster

Though there are many new buses in London, it still gives me a warm nostalgic fuzzy feeling when I see an old Routemaster still in service, usually as I walk down The Strand in London. These classic old buses epitomise London and though the new modern flash ones are more environmentally friendly, accessible, and “better” I still have a place in my heart for these old red double deckers.

A bright sunny day in London

Whitehall

It was sunny, I had a little more time until the train, so I decided to walk from Whitehall to Paddington.

Usually I am rushing so catch the underground, so it was nice to have an extra 30 minutes, so I could walk from the conference venue in Whitehall to Paddington station.

It was cold, but the sun was out and walking in the sun was very pleasant.

Some of the buildings are incredible on Whitehall, but then again it was once a Palace.

Whitehall

I left 61 Whitehall and crossed the road to Horse Guards Parade. Outside Horse Guards were two horse mounted guards getting harassed by tourists who were taking selfies of themselves with the horses in the background.

Guard

To think it wasn’t that long ago the tourists would merely take photographs of the guards or would stand next to them as a relative took the photo. The selfie phenomena has changed all that as everyone holds their phone at arm’s length and attempts to get themselves and their family and the horse into the photo. It’s difficult, but much much easier than trying to do that with a 35mm film camera which had no screen to preview the image!

Horse Guards

I have walked through Horse Guards a few times and though I am sure I noticed the Turkish Gun before, this was the first time I went up close to get a picture.

Turkish Gun

The gun was made by Murad, son of Abdullah in 1524. It was captured in Egypt by the British Army in 1801. Now it sits outside Horse Guards the home of the British Army.

Horse Guards

Next to Horse Guards is a huge incongruous building that can only be described as a bunker. Compared to the Georgian magnificence of Whitehall this bunker is a very crude and brutal.

Admiralty Citadel

Looking up online on the train I found out this was the Admiralty Citadel. It is London’s most visible military citadel, and is located just behind the Admiralty building on Horse Guards Parade. It was constructed in 1940–1941 as a bomb-proof operations centre for the Admiralty. Winston Churchill called it in his memoirs as a “vast monstrosity which weighs upon the Horse Guards Parade”.

Admiralty Citadel

What is interesting that it was built with the plan that in the event of a successful German invasion, it was intended that the building would become a fortress, with loopholed firing positions provided to fend off attackers.

Admiralty Citadel

I did think about walking through St James’ Park, but in the end walked down the Mall towards Buckingham Palace.

Passing by Clarence House there were two guardsmen, who appeared to be playing a marching up and down the road game, not sure what they were trying to do, but no one was watching except me and a couple of Americans. Maybe they were stretching their legs after standing for too long in their sentry boxes.

I was then in front of Buckingham Palace. I was reminded by how effective the CGI was in the Netflix series The Crown. Their recreation of the 1950s Buckingham Palace is very accurate. It was only after watching this video that I realised how much the series was using computer graphics to recreate 1950s London and other locations.

After passing by the palace I entered Green Park and walked up to Hyde Park Corner. Now I have to admit I did think about catching the tube for the final stretch, but no decided to walk through Hyde Park.

I realised I had never seen the Serpentine before, now I have.

It was a really nice walk.