Then This!

Having never been near a submarine in my life, in the last month or so they seem to be popping up everywhere. My tour through Malmö’s Tekniska Museet threw up my third encounter in almost as many weeks.

The U-Boat was horribly cramped and I can’t imagine what it would have been like to have served in one but, more pressing at this particular moment was that the only way out of this exhibit was through the hatch in the bulkhead….

… which revealed the ladder to the top of the conning tower. Then, struggling through the next hatch (I’m 6’1″ and not as flexible as I might be) brought me into the engine room where there still seemed to be a faint whiff of oil. What the air inside the hull must have been like in service, I can only guess at.

I banged my head a couple of times but fortunately no one was around to witness my inelegant gymnastics; I was glad to get out.

A Thulin floatplane. The early aircraft and car manufacturer, Thulin, is not well-known outside Sweden but this wasn’t my first encounter with the marque. An airshow chum, Mikael Carlson, owned and operated (with considerable gusto) a rotary powered Thulin scout of first World War vintage.

We met up on several occasions, this above was at Johannistahl in Berlin, and Mikael enjoyed a couple of trips in my Avro. I seem to recall that he was at the time building a 2-seat Thulin which resembled the 2-seat Sopwith Camel in some respects. My father designed, built and flew scale models of both – I think the plans are still available through one of the model aircraft magazines.

This experimental car was powered by a heat engine and reached a speed of nearly 125mph.

Closer examination revealed a Burman type motorcycle gearbox, probably from a small Triumph and which brought to a close my stroll though the Malmö museum.

Kristianstad Museum sounded interesting and we had plenty of time the next day (and the day after that and the day after that!) to explore. It was largely set up for children, even the exhibits seemed to be at knee height and the only thing of interest was the setting of the Film Museum. Alas, its content didn’t really deliver.

So, the next day I persuaded my long-suffering fellow Magneteer that it was important for us not to miss the Konsthall at Ronneby; it was only 30 minutes away. Lasse Skarbøvik, a contemporary Norwegian artist and designer living in Sweden, had an exhibition of his work in the Kulturcentrum, a fabulous building which must have once been a factory.

The interior is one of the biggest exhibition spaces in Southern Sweden but there was too little work in too big a space and I felt a bit at sea in the middle of it all. I checked Skarbøvik out on Google and his politically orientated work had more of an edge to it; it was a pity that none of it was present.

His fabrics were very corporate – big-business-foyer sort of thing – but great fun.

And with this – Skarbøvik’s show – our cultural ramblings in Sweden were almost at an end.

Then What?

Well, there had to be some more galleries and museums somewhere?

Courtesy Karlskrona Kommun

In fact, I’d missed a trick in Karlskrona; there was a konsthall that I’d not heard about. The permanent exhibition displayed the work of Erik Langemark, a local artist who had recorded the changing face of Karlskrona from the late 30’s onwards. His portfolio – pen and ink sketches, occasionally with a coloured wash – certainly merited attention for its sheer volume and as a social record but his oils were the star turn though they were only to be seen as postcards.

Although not part of the exhibition, this projector couldn’t help but be noticed.

Then on to Malmö which was a good 130 miles away. The city boasted a castle and an art gallery plus the bonus of a technical museum just next door. The castle was, well, like most castles but a picture of this trio was alone, worth the trip.

The art gallery had an impressive interior – all the more effective for the absence of visitors – and the painting at the end of the hall….

… a modest work about 24″ x 24″, was the sole occupant of the vast back wall. I was a bit suspicious – I felt the curator was hedging his bets; if you weren’t particularly enamoured with the artist Carl Kylberg’s work, your disappointment would be compensated for by the spectacle of this splash of colour in the middle of an expanse of magnolia. I wasn’t convinced on either count.

The Malmö Tekniska Museet was more up my street and though not overflowing with fabulous treasures, a few exhibits caught my eye. This 17th Century silver bowl had a very Arts & Crafts feel to it and it was hard to believe it was made in 1690.

This chair was a master class in simplicity and creative genius – all from one piece of plywood. Because of the chair’s context, I didn’t think that it would be anything but Swedish – Scandinavian at least; wrong. British, designed by Gerald Summers in the early 30’s and available through Heals and Harrods.

I must have been half asleep because I didn’t record any of the details of this painting. I think I’ve seen this before somewhere or else it was a painting very much like it. Although not obvious here, the dappled sunlight is the arresting part of the work; it shouts at you from the other side of the room. It’s the sort of painting I’d quite like to copy and have on my wall at home. Unfortunately there isn’t a square inch of wall left in my house, mostly for that very reason.

I’ve always had a soft spot for the lightweight motorcycle ever since I used to whizz around the lanes of Kent on a Solex moped; that was before the helmet law in the early 70’s. I once tracked down and pulled a New Hudson autocycle out of a well. I was after the reversed brake levers that fitted in the ends of the handlebars to complete another New Hudson and, as they were nickel-plated brass, they hadn’t rotted away like most of the rest of the machine.

Anyway, what’s that got to do with anything? There was more to see in the Tekniska Museet.



That Was The Plan….

…. but it didn’t quite go like that. We had hoped to be on our way home in time for the Easter hol’s but magnetising is always a bit of an open-ended contract; you never know when you’re going to start – until it starts – and it ends when it ends.

We continued our appreciation of the local culture but were fast running out of things to see and places to go – we were reduced to looking for shapes and colours to keep ourselves amused.

A glass museum in Växjö sounded promising (we stopped to take a snap of one of the many lakes on the way) but, despite following all the signs, no evidence of the attraction could be found. The only museum building at the end of our trail didn’t mention glass and was, in any case, shut.

I don’t know if I’m completely bananas or there’s something odd about the way I see things, but in defence of my comments vis-à-vis Frank Hornby, there’s without doubt a surreal, model-like quality to the image of this siding in Växjö.

Likewise this station vignette, if reproduced in a model railway magazine (you might have to add bases to the people’s feet) might pass easily for an example of the modeller’s art. When I was first sent to boarding school, in my trunk my father had packed a copy of Railway Modeller – I’m not sure why; aeroplanes were more our thing but, I can recall as if yesterday the comfort derived by the escape from my new and completely alien circumstances into the miniature world created by the master modellers of the day. Every night, in the 15 minutes reading time before ‘lights out’, I would immerse myself in the pages of that issue – the only issue I ever had; where would I get another from? – and whatever I took from them then, remains with me to this day.

Passing a building down by the docks, I saw this very encouraging poster but a phone call was to disappoint. Out of season, parties booked in advance only were admitted. That’s quite a nice drophead Volvo on the right – I’ve not seen one of those before.

So it seemed that the Marine Museum was the only show in town. I’d been there before and marvelled at the 17th and 18th Century models but the Submarine Hall had been closed.

This time it was open and the submarine ‘Neptune’, decommissioned in the late 90’s was on display. It was a very difficult thing to photograph both inside and out but careful examination revealed the periscope going up through the roof of the building. I was able to see if there was anything going on at the cable factory across the bay – there wasn’t; not anything that would involve us anyway.

On the walk back to the hotel I noticed an old friend from my last visits to Karlskrona – the Topaz Installer. I think she’s in for some planned maintenance.


With Janecki to Kalmar….

… has the ring of a Boy’s Own Paper adventure; a stirring story of a campaign in the Polish – Swedish wars of the 1600’s, derring-do and so forth (Henty missed a trick here) but it isn’t. Janecki was, on this trip, my fellow magneteer.

Everything was going swimmingly at work until Bjoggs put his socks in the toaster and the whole operation ground to a halt – result: a couple of days of R&R for the Magneteers; time for a bit of culture.

We didn’t have far to go. Just like Karlskrona, Kalmar, some 40 miles north, boasts architecture in the Classical style. In the old town, the Domkyrkan (Cathedral) sits at one end of Stortorget, bordered by handsome buildings and facing the Rådhus (town hall – the building on the right).

Continuing our tour south past the Rådhus, brought us to the marina and turning right to get to the Tourist Information Office (usefully closed on this Saturday morning) afforded a view of Kalmar Castle which, for us tourists, proved irresistible.

It was a good walk in a brisk wind coming off the Baltic – I could still taste the salt several hours later – but well worth the effort.

Gaining the courtyard by way of the drawbridge and a tunnel with a painted ceiling, the Swedish taste for trompe l’oeil was first revealed and continued throughout the castle.

It was once used as a women’s prison and there was a gruesome exhibit showing several methods of punishment handed out to transgressors. Part of the display comprised contemporary re-enactments of these punishments captured on camera; the photo’s were extremely powerful.

The streets of the old town were charming and (obviously) distinctly Scandinavian in style. There’s something particularly homely about wooden houses; a warmth and coziness lacking in most bricks and mortar constructions. I remember remarking about my trip to Drammen in Norway that it felt like Mr Hornby had had a hand in the laying out of the countryside; just as easily he might have contributed to Sweden’s vistas – there’s something perfectly modelled about them. For some reason I keep expecting to encounter some brutalist style of architecture imported as a result of Sweden’s proximity to Russia. So far, I remain happily disappointed but, thinking again, although Finland (not strictly part of Scandinavia) hasn’t fared so well, maybe the hotel we Magneteers stay in near Pikkala, which resembles a Soviet style airport building, will one day achieve the status of Trellick Tower.

Back in Karlskrona I revisited the railway which runs right under the centre of the town. Long since abandoned and rather sinister, I read that it was built in 1887 to supply the Naval dockyard and was expanded to include a network of bunkers during World War II. I haven’t discovered if you can get down there to have a look round – I’m sure there’d be plenty of people who’d like to visit.

All too soon, our impromptu break came to an end and we were back in the dark satanic soup again….

……. and then with Janecki to Luton Airport.

Doesn’t have quite the same ring.


More Things To Do.

Yet another project, albeit a small one but even so, not without its complications. Four or five years ago, our village pub was closed and sold to a developer whose ideas didn’t really sit comfortably with the locals; a stale-mate ensued. Eventually the pub was sold to a local resident, restored and re-opened last year. One evening I was asked if I could give the landlord a hand lifting a barrel onto the stillage in the rather cramped cellar. It was an awkward job and really, some kind of hoist would have made the task much easier and, more importantly, independent of volunteers from the bar; a drink is the customary reward for these exertions. I said I would design and build something to fit in the space available but, more anon.

I haven’t started on the handbrake ratchet release system yet as I’ve been called away to Sweden. There’s 60km of cable to magnetise and so everything else has been put on hold. In the past we magneteers have driven to Karlskrona but this time the kit was sent on ahead and we took a flight to Kastrup, Copenhagen and hired a rather swish BMW to take us the rest of the way.

Very nice but, surprisingly, less refined than my 13 year-old Mercedes – no cruise control for instance, something a car of this calibre might certainly have – especially the automatic version. Of course, there’s every possibility that I just haven’t found it yet.


We’re working with the Maersk Connector; a giant of a ship complete with helicopter platform and, I’m informed, a flat bottom which, with its thrusters retracted, enables it to run up onto the beach to complete part of the cable connecting process. The downside of the flat bottom is the ship rolls about like a good’un in heavy seas..

She was a day late arriving so I had a bit of time to explore and drove up the east coast to see what Sweden had to offer. There were some charming little villages with harbours though I suspect most of the houses were holiday homes; they had that recently-abandoned-flip-flop air about them.

Before I left for Sweden, Learned Counsel and I aligned and welded the two parts of Project ‘Z’ to the frame of one of my workshop benches. Learned Counsel’s partner in this scheme, The Racing Driver, saw to it that the Kawasaki engine was removed to make way for a Honda 600 CBR, all the suspension components and the MX-5 diff came off and the work of rebuilding the cockpit section could begin.

Apparently, by the time I get back, the welding will be complete and then it’s up to me to get on with the body design as quickly as possible. Not knowing anything about fibre-glassing, I went with The Racing Driver to a place not too far away where all sorts of fibre-glassing activities were taking place – from car bodies to panels for (static) DH Mosquito’s. It was only about 10 miles away, next to a shop that built racing cars and I hadn’t a clue that either of them existed! Chap was very helpful and gave me a few pointers on building the buck.

On my return I shall first complete the stillage hoist; I know – shooting myself in the foot – but these things must be done.


So, Which Is It Then?

When I started on the 1906 Rover gear lever and brake quadrant, there were a couple of things that I had to assume, one of which was that the main casting that attached to the bodywork and supported the mechanism, was correct for the car.

It wasn’t. Further research threw up a couple of pictures from period Rover catalogues….


… both of which were different. In the first picture, the gear lever (the one with the knob on the end) appears on the outside run of the quadrant. In the second, the handbrake has taken its place and is most likely the result of some confusion on the part of the touch-up artist. The next problem was a picture purportedly from of a 1906 Rover control arrangement that had been reassembled in the order that it had come off the car.

This shows the gear lever on the inside and with the return spring holder (the short tube at the base of the lever) facing outwards. Then another picture – this time a known 1906 car….

…  with the return spring holder facing inwards. This is the one I decided to replicate with a little help from another set of pictures which included better detail of the gear spacing on the top of the quadrant.

I won’t cut the slots for the gear positions until the quadrant is on the car and we can determine exactly where the gears are – they’re bound to be different to this example.

With the laser-cut kit of parts, I was ready to start the assembly with the tricky bit – bending the base of the quadrant. The 5mm steel was easy to bend with the aid of a press but it needed to be right first time and the two arms, with a datum taken through the centre of the body attachment lugs, were effectively of different lengths putting the bend lines in different places on each arm but still requiring them to be joined with the cross plates in the same plane – if that makes sense.

The operation went smoothly and whilst I remembered in what order I did things, I bent up the spare base plate to match. Then it was just a question of getting everything to sit in the right order and to make sure that there was enough clearance between the two levers.

I had a set of spacers to play with and they proved extremely handy in determining how long the final one-piece spacers would be.

In the end, although the assembly may not be exactly as it came out of the factory, the controls will look right and pass muster. The handbrake ratchet release is the next bit to create; it works by pulling towards you an aluminium handle on the end of the brake lever which in turn disengages a stop from the ratchet teeth. It’s all a bit backwards at first glance but it’s simple and effective.

I’ve forgotten what the second thing was that I had to assume but it most likely would have been wrong in any case.



Project ‘Z’.

Learned Counsel turned up the other day with the chassis of a racing car on a trailer.

I’ve been invited to help design the body – that’s nice – and I was just getting the pencils out when the call came for me to leave for Nordenham in Northern Germany. NSW have a very big cable-making factory on the banks of the river Weser and needed a kilometre of cable magnetised. Fortunately for us, all the hotels in Nordenham were booked up so I and my fellow magneteer had to stay in Bremerhaven on the opposite bank, in a spanking new hotel – beastly luck, what?

There’s a lot of building work going on in Bremerhaven; new marina’s, hotels and so forth and I gather that the town is gearing up for the tourist industry and hoping to persuade the smaller cruise ships to visit.

There’s a lot going for Bremerhaven and I would have liked a bit of time to explore the Maritime Museum which looked incredibly well stocked. The dock had a variety of vessels of all ages; tug-boats, sailing ships, a submarine and this interesting hydrofoil…

Even the shopping centre was shaped like a boat…

The hotel ‘Im-Jaich’ was excellent and I was delighted to see that the bathroom designer had taken note of my comments regarding shelves above basins…

… the perfect set-up but – there’s always something that’s not quite right. The water was luke-warm and no amount of running it produced the slightest increase in temperature. I had a particularly brief shower in the morning but noticed a control knob set into the wall under the sink. That evening I turned it to full and voilá – or rather, hier, hot water.

The dining room hinted at Hopper’s ‘Laundromat’ and the painting in the foyer was one which I would have quite happily hung in my house.

Someone on the interior design team had done their homework and it showed. It was the briefest of visits and I was looking forward to a couple of days R&R when I got home but the Silk Finishing Machine was needing further attention so I had to wait for the weekend before having a bit of time off.

A Special Builder’s Breakfast Club run with the Ambassador’s Daughter was planned but we got only 20 miles before the Hillman faded on a roundabout and, not wishing to tempt fate, I turned around and headed for home. We stopped at the West Suffolk Motor Club’s trial and watched a lot of people having fun in the mud before going home – it did look fun but something the Hillman is entirely unsuited to – too long and no turning circle to speak of. Later, I remembered that I’d removed the manifold to put the new copper gaskets on and hadn’t re-set the idle so we could have got to Southwold but, having never been to a trials before, it was a happy omission.

I saw that Learned Counsel had been at work while I was in Germany; I’m sure everything’s under control.