Sunday, October 31, 2010

Fiat railcar to Woodville

This John Bates photo was one of several left out of the book Wellington Transport Memories for lack of space. It shows a Fiat heading out of the Wellington railway yard on its way to Woodville via the Wairarapa on 7 March 1977. This was near the end of the usage of these well designed but mechanically problematic railcars.

A notable book cover design

A few weeks ago we asked readers for comments on their favourite covers. This one is notable not so much for its pictures as for its embossing. The cover is definitely of the "touchy-feely" variety, and as you run your fingers over the "stone" areas the sensation is like you are touching the stone texture. The titles are also stamped into the the thick board, making it look and feel like it has been engraved. Classy.

More posts about worthy book covers will be made from time to time.

Early aviators on Lithuanian banknote

Those who visit the Baltic state of Lithuania will note the 10 Litas banknote (worth about $NZ 5.20 or $US 3.90) that was issued in 2001 pleasingly features vintage transport, specifically the Lituanica, a CH-300 Pacemaker single-engine, six-seat, high-wing monoplane flown by Lithuanian heroes Steponas Darius and Stasys Girėnas in 1933 from New York over the Atlantic Ocean. However, the plane mysteriously crashed in Germany (now Poland). The duo did not survive.

The obverse of the note depicts Lituanica flying over the Atlantic Ocean with visible shores of North America and Europe.

A stamp was also issued in Lithuania in 1943 to mark the 10th anniversary of the flight.

Amtrak orders 70 electric locomotives from Siemens

The future Amtrak family City Sprinter ACS 64 will serve the northeast railway corridor from Boston to Washington at speeds up to 201 km/h and from Philadelphia to Harrisburg with 177 km/h. The locomotives will replace old locomotives with average mileage of nearly 6 million km (3.6 million miles) travelled.

The new City Sprinters are a part of the extensive fleet renewal program Amtrak is launching for the next 14 years, with a special focus on passenger rail service in the Northeast.

These locomotives will be manufactured predominantly at the Siemens plant in Sacramento, California. Last year, this was vastly expanded with a $US 26 million investment. Siemens is currently at the forefront of the American light rail market by providing one of every three light rail vehicles to the market today.

According to UNIFE (Union des Industries Ferroviaires Européennes or Union of European Railway Industries), the world’s largest network of long-distance railroad lines exists in North America. The locomotive market there is currently regarded as the second biggest after Asia and, in the past, represented an average order volume of €1.5 billion per year. Amtrak is the largest passenger rail operator on the North American continent and also operator of the only high speed line.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Locomotives starring in movies

One of our favourite DVD collections is the Hercule Poirot series starring David Suchet as Agatha Christie's fictional Belgian detective. The movies' set designs and cinematography are superb presentations of both the art deco era and the Golden Age of Travel in the 1930s.

Last night we watched the episode Murder on the Links which also features locomotive 231 G 558, one of a series of 4-6-2 steam locomotives of the Chemin de Fer de l'État, operating on La Manche (English Channel) coast.

Supposedly set in 1936, however, it was a pity that the Chef de Gare of Deauville station was shown wearing an SNCF cap, as the SNCF wasn't created until the beginning of 1938. Also the beginning of the episode shows a man supposedly dubbing naration onto a newsreel 10 years earlier in 1926. Sound in movies didn't occur until near the end of the 1920s.

From time to time we will post more details of railway themed movies.

Europe’s Highest Lighthouse Dedicated

Switzerland has dedicated a new lighthouse high in the Oberalp Pass, an amazing 2,046 metres (6,712 feet) above sea level. The lighthouse, a replica of the Hoek van Holland Lighthouse in the Netherlands (replica and original pictured) was built to help promote tourism to the area.

Bookfair at Wellington's Shed 11 next Saturday

Not the Frankfurt type, but a community book sale of donated items. We are always pleasantly surprised at how well attended these are, and even more pleasantly surprised at how quickly the subjects in which we specialise are snapped up. We have donated a few copies of our more literary titles to this event, which is in aid of Bougainville (we're not quite sure why).

Shed 11 is an historic waterfront building, a 1930s view of which (among other interesting things) is on this page.

Soviet tractors in the 1930s

This was a booklet produced in the Soviet Union sometime in the 1930s on the country's tractors. Although he knew nothing about farming, like the party hacks sent into the countryside to manage collective farms, Stalin was a fan of tractors and propaganda films of the time often featured them and at least one showed him driving one.

In the early 1930s the Soviet Union had set ambitious plans to mechanise farming with three major tractor factories, a combine harvestor factory and a large machinery factory completed between 1930 and 1933. But, as with all their other industrial plans, the ambitious output targets were not reached.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Blog statistics

This past month the number of hits on this blog was just short of 2,400 which exceeds the hits on our main website. This probably isn't surprising as this blog covers more subjects than do our books and DVDs. About 40% of page views are from NZ, about 18% from the USA and the rest from a range of countries; the next 8 in order:
United Kingdom; Australia; Germany; Netherlands; South Korea; Canada; Russia; Switzerland.

A recent TV series on the history of the Internet made the point that webpage views as a result of plugging subjects into a search engine is Shortform Learning, whereas reading a book is Longform Learning. We would like to think that subjects worthy of attention are worthy of people reading a book on them!

Aerial views of famous archaeological sites

There is nothing new about the theme of this book, but the 425 x 305 mm page format is unusually big. No doubt the publisher is aware of the trend of people wanting ever bigger and clearer pictures on TV sets and aims to give people that experience in book form.

The grandeur of the world's foremost archaeological sites in their totality, as complete architectural units, is impossible to see on foot - you need to go above them. This book's 192 pages includes fabulous views over the Pyramids of Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East, the sites where the great Mediterranean civilizations arose, the architectural jewels of the ancient Mesoamerican civilizations, the complex structure of the historic cities of the Far East, the Great Wall of China and Machu Picchu.

Before the Maglev there was the Aérotrain

Although conventional steel wheel on rail technology considerably reduces friction compared with rubber tyres on roads, people have long felt that by removing friction completely, the energy efficiency would be even better. After huge amounts of investment, notably in Germany, the magnetic levitation or Maglev train has seen some commercial realisations in recent years.

Inspired by the hovercraft principle, the Aérotrain was developed in France from 1965 to 1977 with lead engineer Jean Bertin.

Although it reached an advanced stage, the project was abandoned in 1977 due to lack of funding, the death of Jean Bertin two years earlier, and the adoption of the Train à Grande Vitesse or TGV by the French government as the best high-speed ground transport solution.

This booklet was intended as an introduction for children to the project.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Paua shell bus

One of the more striking bus liveries around is this one of a trolley bus in the Go Wellington fleet. The paua is a delectable NZ shellfish, and the shells are polished and made into jewellery and ornaments, widely exported.

For those into bus technical specifications, here you are:-
* Make: Designline
* Model: City Bus
* Year: 2007
* Submodel: Trolley
* No of seats: 45

* Assembly type: NZ Assembled/Built
* Country of origin: New Zealand
* Gross vehicle mass: 18 tonnes
* Tare weight: 12,580 kg
* No of axles: 3
* Wheelbase: 6,740 mm

How has your day been?

We know the feeling.

The Prime Minister opens The Rock

It might sound like the name of a radio station, but The Rock is the name of Wellington Airport's distinctively different international terminal.

The Rock, likened by some to a pair of pumpkins because of its shape and copper plated exterior, is the final stage of a $NZ 60 million ($US 45 million) development that began in 2006.

Architect Nick Barratt-Boyes, of Wellington's Studio Pacific Architecture, which designed The Rock, said the terminal was modelled on Wellington's rugged south coast. The 1,600 square metres of copper on the building's exterior would be left to oxidise and turn blue-green as it weathered in the salty air.

Mr Barratt-Boyes said macrocarpa panelling and glass fissures on the interior provided a nice light. Windows allowed selective views of aircraft on the tarmac and the terminal's "sequence of spaces" allowed passengers to explore the area and people-watch.

Wellington International Airport chief executive Steve Fitzgerald said the "edgy" new building allowed the airport to process 1,000 international passengers an hour instead of the current 500. Airport traffic was expected to double by 2030. "It prepares us exceptionally well for the [2011 Rugby] World Cup and then the passenger growth that we expect through the next 20 years."

Though the building was criticised by architects when plans were first unveiled, feedback had so far been positive, he said. The first passengers who went through yesterday had congregated in The Rock, which was "a great first impression".

Goings-on at the Gare de l'Est

A little film from the SNCF showing activities - rather busier than the times we have been there! From Youtube where there are more films.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Amtrak ads - the railway is a better choice

Avoid traffic congestion and stress, reduce your carbon footprint and take time to observe the surroundings by train.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Spring on the Kapiti Coast - 2

Further to our post on the Japanese garden, We thought we would post a couple of pictures taken today of the cherry blossom trees on Belvedere Avenue in Waikanae. These are now rapidly turning into green leaf. There are other streets with these trees, but the stands along Belvedere Avenue are probably the nicest.  Go to the Waikanae Watch website for more nice pictures of Waikanae.

Himmler begins a stage of the 1941 Tour de la Russie!

Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler and the Waffen-SS Cavalry Brigade during the 1941 invasion of Russia, except that the horses are bicycles.

It almost looks like he is starting a stage of a Tour of Russia cycle race: "Auf die Plätze, fertig, los!"

Monday, October 25, 2010

Educating stupid motorists against tailgating

The two second road rule says stay 2 seconds behind the vehicle in front of you at all times - but it's surprising how many motorists fail to heed it, particularly drivers from more primitive societies.

This American billboard attempts to impart the message - when it's a big truck the motorist is tailgating the dangers to the motorist are even greater as that motorist probably can't see what's up ahead.

Tintin voyage par le train

This cover of the Belgian hebdomadaire or weekly from 1946 shows a Belgian "Mikado" type steam locomotive, the name given to locomotives with a 2-8-2 wheel arrangement, only one of which was ever used in New Zealand - a locomotive ordered in 1901 from Baldwin by the Wellington and Manawatu Railway Company (WMR) which lasted till 1927.

The mother asks the driver to "be nice... don't go too fast as it is the first time Louis is travelling by rail". It would be easy nowadays to find people in New Zealand who have never travelled by train, but much more difficult in Europe!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

New Zealand's longest railway bridge

For today's picture, we thought we would stay with the South Island Main Trunk and post a picture from our book Bridges of New Zealand; this shows the construction of the new rail bridge (left) and new road bridge (right) over the Raikaia River in 1938. In the meantime both road vehicles and trains still have to use the old combined road/rail bridge in the centre. A view looking north. At 1.7 km in length this remains New Zealand's longest railway bridge.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

the old road-rail bridge over the Waitaki River

Still on the subject of the South Island Main Trunk railway, here are two pictures taken on the 2 km bridge over the Waitaki River, which as people know, marks the boundary between the Otago and Canterbury provinces.

The earlier picture was taken in 1914 and the later in 1955 (we don't know by who), the year before a new road bridge was built to replace it. Apparently the structure in the earlier photo - visible also in the later photo - is water tanks in case of a fire on the bridge. In steam locomotive days this was always a risk in the hot dry summer months.

South Island Main Trunk, 1874

This painting from 1874 by Eliot Whately shows the Washdyke lagoon north of Timaru and the railway line. The line was soon to reach Temuka to the north, and its central placement in the picture might have been intended to emphasise the South Canterbury region’s progress. The snow-capped Four Peaks Range is in the background. The complete line between Christchurch and Dunedin was opened in September 1878 and from Dunedin to Invercargill four months later. Christchurch and Picton were not linked until 1945 however.

See the book South Island Main Trunk for more.

a case of life imitating art?

The spy who comes into your cold and warms you up? Russian "spy" Anna Chapman has posed in the Russian version of Maxim magazine (cover shown) in the most provocative photographs yet to appear of the secret agent who was deported from the United States in July.

"Anna Chapman has done more to excite Russian patriotism than the Russian soccer team," writes Maxim. No doubt.

Nine other spies were deported from the United States with her. The Kremlin has seized on the Cold War aspects of the case to try to boost the prestige of its intelligence services and avert what has widely been seen as a major disgrace for Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), a successor to the KGB. Although celebrated by the Kremlin and Russian media, the Russian spy ring was reported to have failed to secure any major intelligence before their arrests in the United States. What exactly were they hoping for?

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev awarded the group of spies the country's highest state honors on Monday and Maxim has included Chapman in its list of Russia's 100 sexiest women.

The 10 Russians, accused of being sleeper agents (evidently in more ways than one), were swapped with four imprisoned Russians who were accused of having traded secrets with the West. What secrets were they?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Christchurch railway station clock started again

The former Christchurch railway station clock in the tower of the building has been stuck at 4.36 since the morning of 4 September as a constant reminder of the exact time the city was rocked by a magnitude 7.1 earthquake - until today when mayor Bob Parker started it again.

The clock tower overlooks the city centre from Moorhouse Avenue, one of Christchurch's busiest streets. The building, opened in 1960 as the Christchurch Railway Station, is registered with the New Zealand Historic Places Trust. It is now used as an entertainment complex, owned by the New Zealand Science and Technology Charitable Trust.

The tower remains braced while repairs from the earthquake damage continue.

The inner entrance area of the building had a large map in ceramic tiles on the floor of the South Island railway system as it was in 1960. By the time the station closed and a new passenger station opened at Addington in 1993, the network had shrunk considerably. The Ohai branch is the most recent railway line closure in the South Island.

German Chancellor says multi-culturalism has utterly failed

In a speech to young members of her party, German Kanzlerin (Chancellor) Angela Merkel last weekend broke a taboo: she said multi-culturalism had "utterly failed" ("absolut gescheitert").

Up until now mainstream politicians have largely shied away from "identity politics". No longer. The German chancellor was explicit: "This multicultural approach, saying that we simply live side-by-side and live happily with each other has failed. Utterly failed."

Over the summer, former Bundesbank member Thilo Sarrazin caused a storm of protest with his book Deutschland schafft sich ab: Wie wir unser Land aufs Spiel setzen (Germany Abolishes Itself: how we put our land into the play). His comments about Jews and genetics meant that his views were immediately condemned and he eventually had to resign from the bank.

But the main argument in his book was that Islam did not fit comfortably with Western values. He packed audiences and his book has sold over a million copies. Suddenly Germany was discussing how well its five million Muslims had integrated.

The clear message - and the admission now from the top - is that they haven't.

the oldest flying Boeing in the world

In Spokane, Washington, USA, after 8 years of repair and rebuilding, and 8,000 hours of toil, this Boeing 40C rolled out last winter as a finished airplane, but it took a few weeks for the snow to melt before it was taken out of the hangar. Project personnel received the Standard Airworthiness Certificate from the FAA and completed the engine pre-oil and fuel flow tests for the first of the taxi tests.

Facts about the Boeing 40 project:
221 1/2 gallons [838 litres] of dope/reducer and 120 yards [110 metres] of 102 ceconite fabric.
12 gallons [45 litres] of polyurethane paint for the sheet metal.
The wings have 33,000 individual parts in them.
The airplane weighs 4080 lbs [1855 kg] empty and has a gross weight of 6075 lbs [2762 kg].
It is 34 ft [10 metres] long and 13 feet [4 metres] tall with a wing span of 44 1/2 feet [13.6 metres].
Wing loading is 10 lbs per sq ft and power loading is 10 Pounds per HP. It should cruise at 115 mph [185 km/h] using 28 Gallons per Hour, and 32 GPH at 120 mph. It carries 120 gallons [9454 litres] of fuel in three tanks.

A total of 62 volunteers worked on the project to some degree, 21 of whom performed a significant amount of work and nine of them worked on the plane continuously throughout the 8-year project.

Thanks to Cliff for sending this in.

Pay rises for senior government bureaucrats

The New Zealand State Services Commission thinks top government bureaucrats should tighten their belts by getting fatter. While teachers were told by the Minister of Education that there was no money to give them a 4% pay rise, the Ministry of Education's boss Karen Sewell, however, saw her salary boosted by this percentage, up $20,000 in the last year.

State Services Minister Tony Ryall said the government had asked public servants to "tighten their belts. If anyone at that level of the public service thinks we are going anywhere near the big increases that they had in the past then they can forget it. Things are tough."

But Ms Sewell was among six chief executives whose pay went up in the last year. Outgoing Corrections boss Barry Matthews saw a rise of up to $10,000.
Agriculture and Forestry director general Murray Sherwin saw his wages go up by around $10,000. Ministry of Justice chief executive Belinda Clark also got an extra $10,000 as did Department of Conservation director general Al Morrison. IRD boss Bob Russell got up to $20,000 extra.

Peter Hughes, head of the Ministry of Social Development ["what?"], is the highest paid government head, earning up to $579,000. He did not get a pay rise this year.

But we are pleased to note the remuneration of public sector bosses revealed in the State Services Commission report, released yesterday, saw the wage bill overall fall by $434,000, with five chief executives taking a pay cut. The average wage for a NZ public servant is $59,532 ($US 44,600).

Thursday, October 21, 2010

50 years since the Ford Edsel

In October 1960 the line up of new Ford car models for 1961 notably did not include an Edsel. The model had been introduced with considerable fanfare in October 1957 (see picture) but was a notable marketing disaster and loss maker. Robert McNamara, Ford's chief "bean counter" - and later Secretary of Defense in the Kennedy administration - is credited with getting rid of it.

The front grille design - compared to a fish sucking a lemon and a woman's pudenda - is what most people attribute its failure to, although other factors can also be blamed. The Edsel is often treated as an example of how not to market something.

Nevertheless, the extra production capacity Ford created for the Edsel was used to the max with the Ford Falcon and the Ford Mustang in the 1960s.

Today only about 6,000 Edsels are left and are highly valued

US balance of payments statistics

This extract of a table from the U.S. Census Bureau shows the U.S. annual balance of payments deficits since 1990 - the first column highlighted in yellow is the net, the second column is imported value of both goods and services, the third column in blue figures is exported value of goods and services.

From 1990 to 2006 the deficit steadily increased; in the early 2000s this was due to the high US dollar value and ever more local manufacturing being shifted to Asia. With the drop in the US dollar more recently, export values increased.

But the most telling figure is the huge drop in imports in the latest 2009 year - this is a big indication of recession (as if you needed to be told)!

The Zoo Bus

A rather startling and effective bus paint scheme! This bus advertises the zoo in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Spring on the Kapiti Coast

It looks like a Japanese garden and that is what it is; except that this one is in Waikanae, not in Japan.

Right now the cherry blossom trees on the Kapiti Coast are in full bloom, one of the two most colourful two-week periods of the year, the other is in autumn in early May.

Volkswagen bliss

This was one of the photos that was shortlisted for the book 50 Years of Volkswagens in New Zealand, but didn't make the final selection.

For details of who the woman is, you'll need to get the book. There are no more copies in NZ and Australia but our US distributor still has some.

One of the world's oldest model railway manufacturers

The German firm of Gebr. Märklin, based in the southern German town of Göppingen, goes back to 1859. It rather ignominiously marked its 150th anniversary last year by going into bankruptcy. However, it returned to profit this year.

The model shown above is one of this year's new items, a EMD F7 A+B+A three unit locomotive set of the Pennsylvania Railroad or PRR in the HO (1:87) scale. Its retail price in Germany, however, is a rather expensive EUR 550 (about $NZ 1,000 or $US 750).

Although it is not a particularly cheap hobby, modelling railways has considerable educational value for both children and adults and offers hours of indoor enjoyment. Famous people known to be model railroaders include Rod Stewart, Neil Young and Jools Holland.

The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem in WW2 was a Nazi

A two hour program screened on the History Channel on the subject of the links during the 20th Century between the Ba'aath Party in Iraq and Nazi Germany pointed out that the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem at the time - Mohammad Amin al-Husayni - was an active supporter of Hitler's policy of exterminating the Jews. "Kill the Jews wherever you find them—this pleases Allah." is one of his quotes. And in return for Hitler's military support in removing the British from Iraq he promised to ensure oil supplies for the Nazis.

Based in Berlin for much of the time from 1941 to 1945 he was given the rank of SS-Oberführer and after the German invasion of Yugoslavia in 1941 this leading Muslim organised the formations and activities of the 13th Waffen-gebirgs-division der SS "Handschar" which consisted of Bosnian Muslim volunteers who committed numerous atrocities in Yugoslavia.

Hitler was not keen on German involvement in the Middle East and the Arab world generally (no surprises about that!) and left it to Mussolini, until the Italians' military defeats against the British forced German involvement. No doubt Hitler and his cohorts regarded Arab involvement in Aktionen against Jews as useful for their purposes but probably didn't have a high regard for Arabs either.

After the War political expediency intervened in preventing the Grand Mufti being tried for War Crimes - the French wanted peace in their Arab colonies, the British needed oil from Iraq.

The photo shows a meeting between Hitler and al-Husayni in 1941

Font and typeface reference books

We have long admired German publisher Taschen's ability to produce lavish books on art, design and popular culture at modest prices, no doubt a result of good marketing and distribution.

Another pair of books in our office library is their two-volume Type: A Visual History of Typefaces and Graphic Styles which together provide a great resource reference for the graphic designer, particularly when something authentically old-looking is wanted. The first volume covers from 1628 to 1900 and the second volume from 1900 up to 1938. Each is a big format 360 pages and they don't end there; you get a card with a code to an on-line downloadable library.

To quote Taschen's blurb: "...a novel overview of typeface design, exploring the most beautiful and remarkable examples of font catalogs from the history of publishing, with a special emphasis on the period from the mid-19th century to the mid-20th century, when color catalogs were at their height. Taken from a Dutch collection, this exuberant selection traverses the evolution of the printed letter in all its various incarnations via exquisitely designed catalogs displaying not only type specimens in roman, italic, bold, semi-bold, narrow, and broad, but also characters, borders, ornaments, initial letters and decorations as well as often spectacular examples of the use of the letters. The Victorian fonts, sumptuous and sometimes unbelievably outrageous, are accorded a prominent place in this book. In addition to lead letters, examples from lithography and letters by window-dressers, inscription carvers, and calligraphers are also displayed and described."

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

more arts grant madness

Creative NZ may sound like the name of an advertising agency, but since 1995 it has been NZ's central government arts funding body. We have often wondered what mental requirements there are to be on its panel - an advanced case of insanity seems to be the main one. In its latest controversy - oh yes, there have been others - it has given $40,000 to an out-of-work artist to set up a taxpayer-funded "beneficiaries' office" in downtown Wellington to promote the virtues of being unemployed.

He is part of a $53,000 performance art installation series paid for by Creative New Zealand and Wellington City Council.

Tao Wells, the "artist", 37, advocates the "opportunities and benefits" of unemployment and says it is "unfair that long-term beneficiaries are labelled bludgers for exploiting the welfare system". Oh yeah?

Wells' installation, The Beneficiary's Office, urges people to abandon jobs they don't like rather than suffering eight hours of "slavery".

"We need to work less, so we consume less. The average carbon footprint of the unemployed person is about half of that of those earning over $100,000." Well that's not too surprising if you do virtually nothing with yourself.

His Manners St office is open until Friday 29 at least. Backed by five "staff", Wells plans to promote his unemployment philosophy publicly and debate it with politicians and the gainfully employed.

He described himself as an unemployed artist with a masters degree who had been "off and on" the unemployment benefit since 1997.

Should we have "Creative NZ" at all?

Transport in the Russian winter involves challenges!

Thanks to Bert for sending these in.