Carousels and Cab Rides

Earlier this year, I bought a first class adult one month Interrail pass for a ridiculously small sum in the 50th anniversary sale. I’m now using it, to visit interesting museums and niche transportation. I’ve been shooting video throughout, and have put a few on YouTube.

First up is this massively steampunk carousel at a festive market in Brussels:

I’m currently in Koblenz, where there’s lots of interest, not least a branch of the DB Museum. They were having an event on Sunday which included an opportunity to take a ride in the cab of a shunter.

A Short of the loco arriving
The raw, unedited, unstabilised footage of the return ride.

I have material I’m saving till I can edit it at home, and more to come – my plans for today include an inclined lift and a cable car.

The Chemin de Fer Glissant in Chicago

At the end of my old post about the “Chemin de Fer Glissant”, I mentioned a failed attempt to build one, renamed the Sliding Railway, along the Midway Plaisance for the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago.

A map of the Midway Plaisance attractions in 1893.
Map showing the “Sliding Railway” along the Midway Plaisance (bottom)

Up until last week, I was convinced it had not been built at all. I had seen no photographs, or any descriptions of the ride, even though it was shown on maps. So, despite this, I took myself for a walk along what would have been the route. Here’s a better map, the one I was using to work out what was where I was:

Continue reading The Chemin de Fer Glissant in Chicago

St. Margaret’s Works

Meadowbank Stadium has recently been rebuilt, partly funded by selling off adjacent land to developers. The site has plenty of archaeology, and last Saturday, there was an open day to let us see the remains of the turntable pit from one of the engine sheds. It’s the round one towards the left of this map.

The remains will be incorporated into the new development. Nearby is the site of St. Margaret’s Well, a holy well. The stonework was moved to St. David’s Well in Holyrood Park where it remains, stinking of rats and hidden behind boarding. The archaeologists hope to be able to excavate the area later.

The First Schwebebahn

As mentioned earlier, today is the 200th anniversary of the first monorail patent, granted to Henry Robinson Palmer on 22nd November 1821.

His was not the first monorail to be built. Russian inventor Ivan Elmanov built a prototype a year earlier, a horse-drawn sled which was pulled along a single rail with wheels set in it. There wasn’t much interest in Elmanov’s monorail, so he abandoned it and worked other inventions instead.

Engraving of a horse-drawn monorail built by Ivan Elmanov in 1820. A wood and canvas sled straddles a single rail with wheels on it. The horse is not shown.
Elmanov’s 1820 monorail

Henry Robinson Palmer was for several years Thomas Telford’s chief assistant, and while he does not have the legacy of giant projects that his boss did, he invented a couple of things still in wide use today – a type of sliding door, where the door has wheels mounted above them which run along a rail, and corrugated iron. It was the sliding door that led directly to his monorail.

Newspaper notice of a patent grant: "To Henry Robinson Palmer, of Hackney, Middlesex, civil engineer, for his improvements in the construction of rail-ways, or tram-roads, and of the carriage or carriages to be used thereon."
Notice of patent grant
Continue reading The First Schwebebahn

Happy Birthday to the Monorail.

Today is the 200th anniversary of Henry Robinson Palmer being granted a patent on what became the first passenger-carrying monorail. It wasn’t the first monorail – Russian engineer Ivan Kirillovich Elmanov had a working prototype in 1820 – but Palmer got the patent. His design had a lasting legacy in the form of those giant sliding doors you see at factories, etc.

Tim Dunn has an amusing take on it.

Crystal Palace Railways

The AdventureMe channel on YouTube usually concentrates on disused railways and interesting heritage around Leeds, but Darren went to London recently and has produced a magnificent three-part series looking at what remains of the Crystal Palace and the attractions there.

Part three is the most interesting to me, looking at the various railways that served, or were demonstrated, at the Crystal Palace. Alas, the Chemin de Fer Glissant only gets a passing mention, but he covers the pneumatic railway in some detail, including excellent use of LiDAR to try and locate the entrances to the tunnel.

Also contains a monorail 🙂

Going under the Firth of Forth

The Scottish Green Party has just announced an interesting new proposal – to cut journey times between Edinburgh and Fife, and relieve the bottleneck at Haymarket, by building a rail tunnel between Leith and Kirkcaldy. It’s an ambitious idea, involving a new underground station at Leith, and one I rather like.

This is not the first proposal to tunnel under the Forth. There have been many over the years. The first one I know of was a proposal for a foot/cart tunnel, put forward in a report by Messrs. Taylor and Vazie in 1806.

Engraved map showing a number of possible routes for a tunnel under the Firth of Forth. The northern end is at Rosyth for all the options shown. The southern ends are in South Queensferry and at a point exactly between South Queensferry and Hopetoun House.
Map showing 1806 proposal for a tunnel under the Forth. National Library of Scotland
Continue reading Going under the Firth of Forth

A world’s first in 1850s Edinburgh

The Edinburgh, Newhaven, and Leith Railway was short lived, but their line from the centre of Edinburgh to Granton was very much real steampunk. The cable-hauled gradient wasn’t a new idea, but at the other end, was something very new indeed. The first roll-on roll-off train ferry in the world. In this video, I look at the history of the line, and hunt down remains of tunnels, stations and, yes, the train ferry. I also get distracted by a wonderful thing that was built next to the railway line.

This video suffers from being made during lockdown, with limited access to the outside world or the library. I also acquired a gimbal not long after I started editing the footage for this! You’ll see why 😦