Wednesday, 14 May 2014

The Victorian (Edwardian, actually) baths

Something that's been hanging around on our 'bucket list' for a while was a visit to Manchester's Victorian Baths, so today we fired up the little bikes and headed north into the urban jungle to take a look.

As ever, please click on any picture for a larger image.

Up Kingsway to the city outskirts, on arrival we locked the bikes to each other and to the stanchion thrice over; us country folk don't trust the Big City! My C90 nearest the camera, then Malc's Townmate, and finally Ivan's SS50.

Malc and Ivan in front of the building. There are three entrances.

Surely this should be our entrance.....  No,it was locked.

...As was this one 

So just as in Ayr the other week, we had to use the Ladies.....

The baths opened in 1906, when civic pride of the City Council ensured they spent the princely sum of £59,000 pounds on the project. An absolute fortune at the time,and far more than a municipal baths building normally cost. Officially, the Victorian era ended in 1901 so these baths are Edwardian. However, the 'Victorian style' lasted well beyond 1901 and that's why these baths are known as 'The Victorian Baths'.

There were three pools related to the three entrances above. This is the Ladies' pool (mixed bathing was a no - no back then), with changing cubicles along the walls. The water was used first in the 'Males First Class' pool, then re-used after filtering in the 'Males Second Class' pool, and finally after further filtering, in the 'Female' pool. 

Malc and Ivan have a donkey ride

Here's a closer look

 The view from the shallow end

We took a 'behind the scenes tour'; here are the filters. They are full of sand and the water is pumped through to allow the detritus to be filtered out by the sand. When the filter is getting clogged, it is 'back flushed' (water sent through the other way) to ensure all the detritus is at the top, where it can be scraped off .

The water was heated by a pair of coal-fired Lancashire boilers. These were later replaced by this pair of more-compact oil-fired boilers. It was the failure of of one of these in 1993, and the lack of funds to repair it, that brought about the closure of the baths.

The boilerhouse chimney 

At the back of the baths is the laundry

On top of the boiler house are two water tanks (one can be seen here) each capable of holding a pool-full of water. As the water was circulated from 'Male First' to 'Female' via 'Male Second' pools, it was held in one of these tanks.

This is the undercroft of one of the pools. The pool walls are three feet thick at the base, eighteen inches thick at the top. 

A genuine 'Thomas Crapper' crapper! Contrary to popular belief, Crapper was not the inventor of the flushing toilet. That honour goes to John Harrington. "Just going for a Harrington" doesn't have quite the same ring though, does it?

There is a multitude of stained glass windows in the Baths, most depicting a sporting scene in line with the health benefits of bathing and Turkish Baths (also provided here). This one, however, shows a pleasant rural scene. 

The rush hour was starting as we headed the little bikes homewards out of the hurly burly of the big city towards the rural delights of home. To wash the dust of the city from our throats we decided a pint at the Bird in Hand at Knolls Green, Mobberley sitting out in the hot sunshine would be nice.

So we called there. And it was!

Thursday, 8 May 2014

When airliners were interesting.....

Today most airliners look the same, with the possible exception of the Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet and the Airbus A380. Almost all of the rest are low-wing twins of various sizes but indistinguishable shapes. It wasn't always so. Click on the image above to see it in detail.

I came across the above picture recently, taken at Manchester Airport probably in the 1970s, and it got me thinking. It shows five airliners typical of the time, and each is distinctive. It's true that even back then there were similarities between some types; the Boeing 707 and the Douglas DC8 might have needed a second glance to differentiate them, for instance. But mostly, airliners of the time were easily identifiable and the variety of designs made 'aeroplane watching' more interesting than it perhaps is today.

The aeroplane nearest the camera is a Vickers Viscount, which with its Rolls Royce Dart engines (remember that distinctive whistle?) was a highly successful short haul turboprop. Behind it is the attractive French Caravelle, a de Havilland Comet 4, a Douglas DC8, and finally perhaps the most graceful airliner after Concorde, the Vickers VC10.

It's interesting that three of the five are British designs (we don't build any airliners at all these days) and all except the DC8 have Rolls Royce engines. And look at the front end of the Comet and Caravelle - they are the same. Sud Aviation used the de Havilland design of nose when they built their pretty twin-jet, yet in spite of having identical nose sections the two aeroplanes are of completely different appearance. These two aircraft also share the Rolls Royce Avon engine, and all of them except the Viscount were incredibly noisy on take off!

In the background can be seen the Jodrell Bank Radio Telescope standing sentinel over the Cheshire fields then, as it still does today.

Friday, 2 May 2014

To Robbie Burns country!

Time for the Mid Cheshire Rail Users' Association (MCRUA) special spring train! Today it started at Hooton and as usual picked up along the Mid Cheshire Line, and, since Compass Tours now operate the service on behalf of MCRUA, places beyond. We joined at Mobberley not long after six o'clock this morning. Our destination was Ayr in Scotland, via Kilmarnock.

All pictures except the one at Altrincham are by Ivan (so his copyright - do not use without his permission via me). Please click on any of them for a larger image.

Early morning at Mobberley, waiting for our train; Malc, me, Peter 

The train, provided by Carnforth-based West Coast Trains, comprised a Class 47 diesel loco at front and rear (Roy Castle OBE on the front), and thirteen ex-BR Mk2 coaches. Here it rolls over the crossing to enter Mobberley station, one of its many pick up stops this morning.

The picture below is taken from Charlie Hulme's excellent 'North Wales Railway' site ( and is by Greg Mape, so it's his copyright. His original caption is most informative, so I have reproduced it beneath the picture.

A busy early-morning (06:48) scene at Altrincham on 2 May. A West Coast 47 departs with the Hooton to Ayr excursion run by Compass tours / MCRUA, while a Northern Class 142 pacer heads for Chester with the 06:18 from Manchester and pair of Metrolink trams led by 3017 arrives (Greg Mape).

The train routed via the Mid Cheshire Line to Stockport, picking up passengers there, before turning right at Heaton Norris junction just north of Stockport viaduct, along the route via Denton and Ashton Moss to Manchester Victoria. Having picked up there it continued to Bolton, Chorley and Preston picking up passengers at each of those stations. From Preston, it was non-stop to Kilmarnock and then on to Ayr, our final destination.

We made good progress up the West Coast Main Line from Preston, through Lancaster, past Carnforth of 'Brief Encounter' fame and the home of West Coast Trains, through Oxenholme where the Windermere branch peeled off to the left, and began the climb of the infamous Shap bank. Roy Castle OBE (our leading Class 47 locomotive) was hauling thirteen coaches plus a 'dead' Class 47 (equivalent of at least two more coaches), so felt the gradient. This was reflected in our speed dropping until we were put into the loop line south of Tebay to allow a Virgin Voyager to pass us. Once out of the loop and over the summit the train swept down to Carlisle and into Scotland.

We'd booked first class (well worth it) so had four comfortable reclining seats around a table, and aligned with the window (not the case in second class, which not only has narrower seats to get 4-across instead of first's 3-across, but all seats don't align with windows as they pack more rows in!). Malc and me above.

On the other side of the table, Ivan and Peter

Just north of the Solway Firth we turned left at Gretna Junction onto what for me were new metals, those of the former Glasgow and South Western Railway. Annan, Dumfries, Sanquhar, and several smaller station passed the windows before we arrived at our first set-down stop, Kilmarnock where some of our passengers alighted. The train diverged left over a single line to join the electrified Glasgow - Ayr line at Barassie Junction. Troon and its celebrated (by some!) golf course passed by our train, as did Prestwick Airport. Out to sea the strange humpy shape of Ailsa Craig came into view, an island about ten miles off shore formed from a volcanic 'plug' and the source of stone ideal as the raw material for curling stones.

Minutes later, we drew into Ayr and decided it was time to go to church!

On leaving the railway station in Ayr we immediately made our way to the West Kirk (Malc, me, Peter above). One shouldn't forget one's priorities on such days out, and so we came to this place of reverence.

Ivan preaches from the pulpit while I raise a glass to his praising of the great beers and the superb fish & chips served in this place! You can't beat Wetherspoons (for that is where we are) for an excellent pint and a good lunch at the right price.

Suitably refreshed Malc and I celebrate finding a loo on the way back to the railway station (the Gents was locked due vandalism, but the Ladies did us just fine).

Seen from the platform at Ayr station, our train lurks in the sidings before entering the station for us to board

South West Scotland is largely cattle country as this picture taken soon after we set off on the return journey shows

Here begineth the feast (those Mk2s ride well, as the level of wine in Malc's glass with no spillage testifies). It's traditional on MCRUA outings to bring 'posh snap'; good quality food and plentiful wine to wash it down. So we did. In fact such was the enjoyment of this feast that Ivan took no more pictures after this!

The next MCUA trip is in September, to Berwick. Can't wait!