Tag Archives: transportation

Car Transporters Are So Elegant

Having grown up by the sea, I always like looking at passing ships.  However, there are some that are just a little bit harder to like.  Car transporters are that type of ship.  While on the Isle of Wight, I saw this one passing by.  I was going to take a shot of it because when don’t I take a photo but this is a prime example of just how lacking in grace this type of ship is.

The Most Unpopular Bridge

I spent a lot of my childhood in a town called Cowes on the Isle of Wight.  Cowes was on the coast by the outfall of the River Medina.  The other side of the river was East Cowes and the two were connected by a chain ferry known to everyone as the floating bridge.  I remember as a small boy when the previous floating bridge got replaced with a newer and larger version.  This same one was in service until relatively recently.  A new one was ordered and its introduction to service has not been smooth.

I see the content of some Isle of Wight Facebook groups and complaints about the new bridge are widespread.  Like most people, I don’t know the actual details of what is behind the problems, but the online experts know everything, and the accusations of corruption are widespread.  In my experience, the most likely problem is just a screw up.  People make mistakes a lot and looking for a deeper reason is usually fruitless.  I don’t even know if it is all working properly now, and everyone is rehashing old stories or whether it is still problematic.

We did take a trip on it though.  It was working and we needed to get from East Cowes to Cowes so we gave it a go.  Everything was fine.  However, it was busy and the car in front of us was the last one to get on.  That did give me some time to get some photos of it and I also took a little video too.  As an aside, while we were in Portsmouth, I saw the old bridge laid up awaiting its fate.

Slotting A Large Ferry In A Narrow Space

The car ferry terminus at Portsmouth has moved locations over the years.  The current Gunwharf location is tucked in quite a tight spot and the ferries are getting ever larger.  It requires some skill to get a boat that big in to the berth frequently and quickly.  I had multiple opportunities to watch them do this when in Portsmouth and when waiting to board so I got stills and video.  A little video of them working is below.

We also were close to the terminus when we had our lunch on Spice Island.  The ferries actually come around Spice Island and in to dock and the view along the shore looks almost continuous so, when the ferry goes in or comes out, it looks like it is emerging from the land.  For some reason, I don’t tire of watching this happen.

MV Royal Iris Decaying Slowly

The Thames is a busy waterway for commercial shipping and has plenty of docks and wharves along its shores.  Seeing boats tied up is no surprise but seeing one that is sinking is not what I would have expected.  That is exactly what I found, though.  This old ferry was sitting at an awkward angle and looking very unwell.  I came upon it from the stern and then had to go inshore as the path deviated away from the river but it was soon back on the water and I was able to look back at the sad vessel.  A little research when I got home told me it is the MV Royal Iris, once a Mersey ferry.  She is not looking at her prime now!

Woolwich Ferry

I last used the Woolwich Ferry around 1990.  At no point since then have I needed to do so.  However, on my exploitation of the eastern parts of the Thames (at least while still in London), I started out in North Woolwich and needed to get to Woolwich.  The foot tunnel was an option but the ferry runs frequently and is free so it was my preferred option.  From what I have read, they replaced both ferries relatively recently.  One of them has an obvious name – the Dame Vera Lynn.  The other one is named Ben Woollacott in honor of a young crewman who lost his life on duty a few years ago.  I think that is a nice touch.

The two ferries run at the same time with each loading on opposite sides of the river and then departing at the same time.  There is an odd “dance” that they do with one going upstream  and one down as they cross each other before then sliding in to the dock to unload and repeat the process.  When I boarded the ferry, I didn’t know how this worked so was quite confused as we headed up river.  However, it all became clear quite quickly.

The ferries are very maneuverable.  They was in which the crews can put them wherever they need to while operating on a river that has some strong currents is quite impressive.  They seem to slide into the berths sideways when coming from one direction while they approach the northern side in a more traditional way.  If you haven’t heard of a Voith Schneider drive, I suggest you look them up.  Very clever stuff.

I made the crossing and got some shots and video while doing so but my interest was now piqued so I ended up spending a little longer on the south bank of the river watching them repeat the process to see how it looked from the outside.  A slick operation.  As I got off, I saw the holding area for the vehicle traffic that was waiting to board.  It seemed that there was a lot more going south to north than in the other direction at that time of day.

Watercress Line

The UK has a large selection of preserved railways.  The cuts in the second half of the twentieth century that closed many branch lines provided opportunities for the preservation movement to get going and the result is a lot of lines that you can visit and ride on.  They are usually very well run operations.  The Watercress Line runs from Alresford to Alton in Hampshire.  We wandered past the station in Alresford when we were visiting with some friends there but it wasn’t operating that day.

However, since we were nearby and staying for a long time, I did take the opportunity to nip back out at some point to see the trains in action.  I got to see one of the services departing from the terminus at Alresford but, I was a little thwarted on that occasion because the locomotive was billowing steam forwards and almost totally obscuring the view of it from the bridge I was on.

I also stopped off at an intermediate station which had a passing location which allowed trains operating in opposite directions to pass each other and continue on their way.  A steam locomotive is quite an impressive thing to watch as it works and a little video does a better job of conveying the impression than stills.  Neither will give you the full sensation, though.  The smell and the feel if it passing beneath you is hard to replicate.

Our schedule was pretty full and didn’t leave time for playing with train rides but it might be fun to have a ride on this line or another like it when we are next in the area.  I’m sure it would be quite fun.  However, watching one of these old things at work seems better from the outside than the inside.  (The line does run along a ridge that parallels the main road and I would like to go back at some point to try and get some shots of this location too.)


Back To The Island So Back To The Hovercraft

We left plenty of time to drive to Portsmouth to catch our ferry to the Isle of Wight so, naturally, traffic flowed smoothly and we got there with an excess of time.  Nancy wasn’t in the least surprised that I decided to park up on the seafront at Southsea to kill some time.  Oh, was this next to the Hovertravel terminal?  Well, that’s lucky.

We had just enough time for one arrival and one departure before it was time to head to our ferry terminal.  That wouldn’t be all though.  The hovercraft passes the car ferry during its crossing so I was able to get some shots of it in operation from the deck of the ferry as we left Portsmouth.  We also took a walk along the front at Ryde after lunch with Mum.  Just enough time to see the hovercraft arriving and departing there too.

One interesting addition was Solent Express.  This was used on Hovertravel’s services a few years ago but was withdrawn when the new hovercraft were commissioned.  I had understood it was stored somewhere.  Apparently, they needed space wherever that was because it is back at Ryde but still looks stored.  There is plenty of seaweed around it making it look like it hadn’t gone anywhere for a while.  I wonder what its future holds?

Kitsap Ferries

A variety of ferry operators have made their way on to the blog over time.  Today I get to add a new one for me.  I was taking a WSF ferry to Bainbridge Island and, as we were departing Seattle’s Colman Dock, some Kitsap Ferries services were also arriving and departing.  The light angles weren’t ideal but I figured I would add to my collection of ferry shots anyway.  Maybe I will go back deliberately at some point in the future to get some better shots.

The Tehachapi Loop

When I first started planning to trip to the Mojave Desert for the Edwards AFB show, a friend of mine in the Midwest was also planning on being there.  He said he was also going to visit the Tehachapi Loop.  I was vaguely aware of it but decided to look it up.  While he ended up not making the trip, I took some time on my last day to go across to see the loop for myself.  The Tehachapi Pass is a steep climb for a train to make and, in order for it to climb sufficiently in one section, the engineers that laid out the alignment put in a special configuration.

The trains make a 360 degree climbing turn and, given the length of the trains, the leading part of the train will pass over the top of the back end of the train as it climbs.  It is quite something to have a long train twisting around on itself as it climbs the grade.  Of course, descending is the reverse but that is less dramatic because the train is braking whereas the climbing trains are working flat out to make it up the hill.  The sounds of the locomotives at high power reaches you long before they come in to sight.

When I got there, I had no idea whether I would see a train or not.  I had plenty of time but I didn’t know whether the trains were regular on a Sunday.  Fortunately, it wasn’t long before a train came into the loop heading down the hill.  I watched it negotiate the curves and the parts of the train appear and disappear.  The interesting news was, as it got a little further down the hill, it stopped.  This looked promising in that it was probably holding for a train coming up the other way.  Sure enough, it wasn’t long before the sounds of multiple locos pulling hard came up the slope.

There were four locos on the front of the train dragging their load towards the summit of the pass.  The cars were stretched out behind them down the grade and, at the back (long after the lead locos had gone), another pair of locos were bringing up the rear.  With the train safely by, I decided I wouldn’t hang around to see if there was more traffic.  I had a drive back to the airport to do and didn’t need to wait around just in case.

A Retired Ferry In Storage

I am known to take the occasional photos of ferries.  I have even been known to search them out from time to time.  However, I recently got a photo of one purely by accident.  We were on Whidbey Island and in the town of Langley.  We drove down a side road to a dock area to see what was down there and we came across a retired Washington State ferry.  The MV Evergreen State was in the WSF fleet for decades but was finally retired from service in 2015.  Apparently her disposal did not go smoothly and she was in Olympia for a while before a new owner bought her and moved her to Langley.

Supposedly, the new owner is in the process of converting her to electric power.  Working on a vessel as old as she is sounds hard enough as it is but converting it to new technology seems like a major undertaking.  Maybe it will all work out well but I have a feeling that another troubling time could be ahead.  Meanwhile, she is moored in Langley and this is where I shot her.