All Rush ‘n’ Tear

The trip to Nordenham was slightly more convoluted than at first anticipated. Instead of being dropped off on the way past from Sweden, we carried on to the Hook of Holland as there was some uncertainty about when the German job might begin (by the time we’d got to the Hook, the confirmation had come through). We docked in Harwich at 5.00am, I dropped my colleague off and went to the works to collect a different set of magnetising equipment, then picked up another magneteer and was back in Calais (we had to go back the long way round as the Harwich ferry was fully booked) by 5.00pm.


The trip home wasn’t without interest though as we took in the gliding club at Terlet, near Arnhem. The club house was set on higher ground and right on the approach to the landing area – good for pictures – and there was an interesting mix of old and new gliders popping in and out.


When we arrived in the early evening to board the ferry home, this platform was being towed down the estuary by a couple of tugs. It’s quite difficult to grasp that these leviathans can actually float.


After a night stop in Ghent, we arrived in Nordenham late afternoon the following day and set up shop. Our tin hut at the end of the gantry, out over the River Weser, looked at first rather uninviting and with wall-to-wall sunshine had every prospect of turning into an oven. However, a good 10kt breeze and a lowering sky kept us comfortable and although everything swayed about a bit, it was a good vantage point to watch the river traffic.

Tall ship. Copyright C. Rayner

Our Works Manager, in Nordenham the week before us, had the good fortune to see and take pictures of the Tall Ships as they went by on his watch.


And while I was wondering where this railway went, it dawned on me that the whole point of being posted to Germany is so that you can buy a sensible bicycle. My father bought his first bicycle, a Rudge-Whitworth, in 1934 and it’s still in use today at my brother’s factory in Norfolk. It’s a proper job; you sit up straight – no hunching over the handlebars with all your weight on your wrists, and the rake on the steering is perfect for no-hands, free-wheeling. There’s also an old and very comfortable Brooks saddle; a far cry from the dangerous looking affairs on modern equipment.

I don’t know why it is that you don’t see many old-fashioned bicycles anymore. On a Sunday breakfast run in the Specials, we might pass several groups out for a bit of supposedly healthy exercise, all of them heads down, sweating away over dropped handlebars with their backs and necks contorted in an effort to see where they’re going. It looks pretty torturous to me. Many years ago I read that the collective noun for a group of cyclists is, ‘bottom’. If the current a la mode is anything to go by, that’s unfortunate.

Cycle shop

There are two cycle shops in Nordenham and I popped into the smaller one to check the stock. To my delight, a bicycle that exactly suited my requirements was in the window and at half the cost of an identical machine in the UK.


It’s so comfortable to ride, it’s not the sort of thing you want to tear about on.

Time Away.

My occasional trips abroad give me the opportunity to catch up on my reading – something I almost completely neglect when I’m at home. This laxity takes the shape of a steadily growing pile of the London Review of Books (LRB) in my sitting room. I pack four or five issues from the bottom of the heap and always look forward to settling in to the 12 hour shifts knowing that I’ll have something to occupy me in the slower periods when I’m not either…


jellyfish spotting (it’s there, just click on the picture)…..

Grass watching

grass watching…..


or wondering where railway tracks go.

These days and weeks away from home are like semi-colons in my scheme of things; slightly longer pauses, some room to breath and marshal my thoughts. But then, new places, new people and new cultures bring a fresh set of distractions. Karlskrona in Sweden had for me the slightly eerie feel of The Truman Show. Fit, happy, smiley, obliging and friendly, the people appeared contented, their surroundings organised, uncluttered and clean without a hint of municipal oppression. I wandered around, took turnings into what appeared to be the less salubrious parts of the town but never laid eyes on a drunk, a bag lady, a tramp or anyone you might cross a lonely street to avoid.


With a few hours to kill (a violence I can’t imagine being committed here) my fellow magneteer and I took in the Marinmuseum.

Sailing ship

If you’re a fan of Patrick O’Brian’s sea-faring books and you haven’t a clue which rope does what; if you find yourself in Karlskrona, then this museum is a must. It’s stuffed with 18thC models of ships, similarly aged models used at the time to demonstrate the very latest in Naval and merchant technique and a fine collection of nautical bygones to both inform and make your toes curl – the surgeons kit in particular.


The tunnel under the sea (the museum is on the waterfront) was less impressive.


I was not alone in my room. This spider was a constant presence. I discovered it sitting on the bed watching television with me and flicked it onto the floor. The next night it abseiled from the ceiling and arrived in front of my face. I caught its silk and removed it to a standard lamp in the corner of the room.The following night I found it scuttling along the sleeve of my nightshirt and contemplated putting it out of my 3rd floor window, but relented. I last saw my very busy companion in the bathroom as I left the hotel.


Then there was a phone call – could I move on to Nordenham to another cable factory and spend the following week in a tin hut out over the middle of the River Weser. Well, it was on the way home so why not. The downside of all this is that I shall have been away from my various projects for virtually the whole of August and progress is slow. The upside is that I get thinking time. Planning and preparation prevents…. as they say.

A Few Days Clear…

…. is what I thought I had but no such luck.


On our way back from Sweden, we had a couple of hours to kill so we stopped off in Amsterdam for lunch. Unfortunately, following some sort of festival the night before, the place was knee-deep in broken glass, empty cans and left-over food trodden into the pavement – to say nothing of the smell from the over-flowing pissoirs. It was not a good introduction to an otherwise charming city.

Sunset Hoek of Holland

The sun was setting as we left the Hook of Holland..


…. and was coming up as we slipped into Harwich. Since I’ve been away, everything seems to have been taken to bits.

Racing Jowett chassis

The Jowett destined for Le Mans has had its body removed (and the repair to one of the front tubes completed).

Lotus Europa

And the Lotus Europa which turned up in Learned Counsel’s workshop; that’s had its body removed as well. I know ‘adding lightness’ was part of the Chapman creed but I wouldn’t like to roll a Europa; the windscreen pillars are like match sticks. I’d not seen a Europa chassis before and I learn that Learned Counsel and his dad used to build them for Lotus – this might be one of theirs!

Austin 10

The Austin 10 water elbow had only just arrived so we hoped to flush out the system and give the engine a whirl. Alas, less interesting jobs took precedence – a boom on a loader arm needed changing as someone had managed to bend it out of true – I can’t imagine what people do with these things. A trip out in the Hillman was more of a chore than a pleasure as this fading out and refusing to start malarkey is getting worse. I have the fuel pressure regulator ready to fit but I’m beginning to wonder if the electronic ignition is not quite as it should be. Awkward put a spark plug tester on a couple of the cylinders and we expected to see the little neon bulb light up like Blackpool Tower (a zillion volts is meant to be generated by the fancy system) but it all seemed rather dim. There’s a ballast resistor on the coil (I can’t quite remember why but the ignition fitting instructions called for one) so we by-passed that to get a few more volts through the coil which didn’t seem to make a big difference. Maybe the coil’s duff or there’s a possibility that if the ignition’s been left on without the engine running for any length of time, the box of tricks in the distributor might have been damaged but it’s more likely to be the coil.

Avon Special

Anyway, Awkward’s got his own work cut out as the Avon’s engine is out. A new camshaft is being experimented with in the pursuit of more hp. Leon’s Austin 7 Special broke a halfshaft while I was away so no-one’s going anywhere fast for the next couple of weeks.


As for me, I’ve been sent back to Sweden for another 10 days so I’m in the clear.


The Last Time…

… I was in Sweden was with the Avro 504k for the 75th anniversary of the Swedish Air Force. We whipped the wings off and bunged G-ECKE in the back of a lorry for the journey from Suffolk – it was too difficult to fly there because of the Avro’s lack of speed (therefore range) and the requirement for into-wind grass at each fuel stop. The crew jumped on a scheduled flight into Malmo and a Piper twin picked us up for the last leg to Ljungbyhed. There we were issued with bicycles and shown our rooms in one of the military barracks. The Avro had turned up a few hours before us so the next morning we put it all back together again and waited for the wind to die down for the test flights in the evening.

Ljungbyhed 1

It all went very well and we were royally treated by the charming Swedes. Mikael Carlson was there with his Tummelisa – we’d met him in Berlin a couple of years before….

Ljungbyhed 2

and there was a trio of Stieglitz and a couple of Tiger Moths, so enough to keep us all interested.

Ljungbyhed 3

But my abiding memory of the week was a visit to a junk shop in the village. I dug out an excellent painting by Aage Schad and didn’t pay a great deal for it. Naturally, when you find something in a junk shop that’s clearly a lost masterpiece, the first thing you think about is how to smuggle it out of the country. Well, the tailplane of the Avro was big enough to seat 12 for dinner so slipping the painting under it for the journey home on the lorry was the obvious choice.

Schad 1

Aage Schad was known for his landscapes so the portrait might well have been a one-off; certainly its size was unusual for Schad. And all this happened in the days before the internet took off so it was quite difficult to pin him down. Of course, there was plenty about his much more famous namesake, Christian Schad (who I thought initially it could have been) and it’s only relatively recently that Aage Schad’s information has become more accessible. That still leaves me in the dark about the identity of his sitter who, as the painting is dated 1946, looks like he’s been through the wars.

Schad 2

Some research based on a comment that Schad was associated with Bornholm (a Danish island south of Sweden) led me to the Bornholm school of painters and to the wartime history of the island. Occupied by Germany in 1940, the German forces refused to surrender to the Russians at the end of the conflict and there were some pretty nasty consequences for everyone on the island until the occupiers relented. The sitter in Schad’s painting has always looked to me like a prisoner of war and reading about Bornholm’s history supports my initial instinct; Schad might well have painted this portrait while staying there.  Back home, I took the painting to a major auction house and left it with them for a few days. When I got it back there was a fleck of paint missing from the middle of the subject’s forehead. Thanks. And to add insult to injury, not much more than I paid for it was reckoned as its sale value.

Philistines; that’s the last time I do that.

Stairway To Heaven?

It seems not.


It wasn’t the best week to travel what with all the commotion at Calais coupled with the start of the school holidays but, a magnetising job came up in Sweden and the only way to get there at short notice was to drive. As it turned out, the run down to Dover was less fraught than expected and I and a fellow Magneteer boarded an early morning ferry after a night’s stop-over at big sister’s near Ashford.


We made good progress through Northern France, Belgium, Holland, Germany (where we stayed for the night in Lubeck) then Denmark and finally Sweden where the rain at last stopped and the skies turned into a scene from the North Norfolk coast.


Countries with a lot of water around them and made up of islands need a lot of bridges and tunnels. The Danes and the Swedes are naturally very good at these sorts of structures and there was some fabulous ironwork along our route. Most notable was the combination of tunnel and bridge between Copenhagen and Malmo. It wasn’t there the last time I was in Sweden and it made the crossing very much easier. There was a ferry from Puttgarden in Germany to Rodby in Denmark and as the wind was blowing a good 30 knots plus, we looked forward to an exciting trip. I can’t believe I said that; as a child, one look at a boat turned me green and there wasn’t a single trooping flight in a 1-11 or Britannia that didn’t see me sick as a dog. I fought air-sickness to learn to fly and now it seems I’m fine (but aero’s I would still approach with caution).

Kit cars

As we queued for the Puttgarden ferry, several of these kit cars poled up. I don’t know what they were but on their bonnets was written Noordkaap 2015. At a guess I’d have said they were on their way to the Arctic Circle in which case chap in the blue and orange job’s going to need a hat.

Denmark/Sweden tunnel

The tunnel through to Sweden combined with the Oresund bridge…


… was a spectacular piece of engineering. Difficult to get a good picture of the whole span from ground level but it’s clearer when enlarged. We were heading for Karlskrona – an island on the East side of Sweden – and the high voltage cable manufacturer, ABB. Once there, we were to hook up with the Topaz Installer ..

Topaz Installer

… and set up the magnetising gear ready for an early start on Monday morning. It was my turn to do the night-shift which in this quiet little spot wouldn’t be a problem…

Karlskrona marina

… until I noticed that the main road was blocked through the town and a lot of marquees began to appear outside the hotel. It transpires that the ‘Skargardfest’ is on this week so while decent hard-working people are trying to get some shut-eye, there’s going to be a lot of disgraceful behaviour and popular music going on outside my window.

And we know where that leads to.




The Hill Was Alive…

… with the sounds of whining axles, crunching gears and racy exhausts.

I was going to take the Hillman down to Prescott but with the fading problem not yet sorted out, it was easier to load the Austin on a trailer…


… and go and have some fun. The event, ‘Pre-War Prescott’, was organised by the Vintage Minor Register and open to all-comers; it wasn’t a competition so no rules and regs except compulsory attendance at a driver’s safety briefing before going up the hill. There was a map so no-one got lost and the sun had got his hat on making for a very relaxed and jolly day.


The video was taken on our first run – a case of having a look at the course and working out the best lines through the corners. After the sweep through Orchard Corner, Ettore’s Bend was a double apex and needed to be entered wide to clip the second apex and stay out of the gravel trap.

1st corner

Pardons Hairpin was a bit more tricky and also needed to be entered on the outside in 3rd, with a slick change down to 2nd half way round. If you went in on the inside (the steepest part of the corner) changing down scrubbed all your speed. In this respect, the 3-speed cars did better than the 4-speeders – they were down into 2nd on the run up so didn’t have to mess about in the corner.

Learned Counsel

Learned Counsel stayed right out on the flattest bit.


Counsel thought it was better to get round on two wheels…

Second corner

.. and The Ambassador’s Daughter kept my wheels on the ground for a fast exit. The rest of the hill was straightforward – flat through the Esses (a slight lift off for the last left turn as there was some nasty concrete bits to keep away from) then power on up into the Semi-Circle (don’t look down otherwise you’ll instinctively lift off) then roar along to the finish and switch off to coast back down to the paddock.


The following day was a breakfast run to Andrewsfield airfield where Awkward suggested that the fading problem might be the Facet fuel pump pushing too much fuel through, overcoming the float valve and giving me a rich cut. I’ll have to look into that – maybe get a pressure regulator. The water pump seal is, after 300 miles, a great success. I had to take it off again last week because there was still a slight leak and I feared the worst but, it turned out that I’d used the wrong silicone sealant and substituting the Wurth black stuff solved the problem.


And while we were out enjoying ourselves, The Great Collector had been busy and quite by accident, he tells us, tripped over this 1924 Star tucked away in a garage and which hadn’t seen the light of day for a number of years. More pics when we get it home.

Austin 10 water elbpw

We had the idea that we might get the Gordon bodied Austin 10 going but this was the sight that greeted us when having a check round the cooling system. Fortunately we’ve been able to source a replacement but this one’s definitely over the hill.

Been There.

When I swapped the Bayliss Thomas tourer…

Bayliss Thomas

for the Hillman 14…

Hillman 14

… it was a bit embarrassing because at the moment of exchange the BT suddenly decided that with the engine running, it wasn’t going to engage a gear – the general consensus was that something had gone twang in the clutch. I would pop back and investigate as soon as poss. As I drove away in the Hillman I realised that it too had similar problems though not so acute.

On the ramp

Well, it took almost exactly 5 years for Counsel and me to ‘pop back’ to investigate but at least we now had access to a ramp, making the job so much easier.

Rear axle

To take off the gearbox and bellhousing, the propshaft had first to be removed and for that, the rear axle was released from its mountings on the leaf springs and pushed back far enough to allow the centralising cone on the front of the propshaft to drop out of the flexible coupling. Brake rods and other bits and pieces had also to be disconnected.

Gearbox and bellhousing

The gearbox and bellhousing came out easily enough once we’d untangled the brake and clutch pedal from the chassis rail, following which, a loose bolt fell from the bellhousing giving us our first pointer.

Missing bolt

It was plain enough where the bolt had come from but where was the nut and spring washer? The nut, we discovered, was wedged between the outer casing of the cone and a flange on the clutch retaining plate thus preventing full disengagement, which is why it was possible to engage a gear with the engine switched off and then drive away, though subsequent changes would be impossible. We could only hope that the spring washer escaped through the bellhousing drain hole because there was no sign of it in the clutch bay.

Hillman clutch

Fortunately (or unfortunately) the Hillman 14 belonging to Counsel had clutch problems which prevented smooth and silent engagement of gears and I had the gearbox and clutch in and out of ‘KW’ 5 times (Learned Counsel pitched in for the last couple of goes) in an effort to sort it out. So when I got the tourer home, I got it to bits straight away. I can’t remember exactly the nature of the fix but it seemed to be contrary to a period factory advisory that was meant to cure what was obviously a common problem. I recall vaguely that the clearance and alignment of the friction and pressure plates was critical.

Heat shield

I began the construction of a heat shield (actually, this is No.2; I called an attempt on the first go as in hammering out a swage, the metal split) in the hope that this might go some way to curing the fading problem on the Hillman Special.

Heat shield 2

As I cut more and more away to accommodate the various rods, levers and bits that got in the way, the less effective it was going to be and what’s more, the shield wasn’t really addressing the supposed problem at source but merely treating the symptom. So why not get some of that racy exhaust wrap, reduce the engine bay temperature by a zillion degrees and never have to think about it again?

Exhaust wrap

Done that.