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.)
I have recently come across a couple of caterpillars during my wanderings. One of them was in the parking lot at work while another was out on a trail. Caterpillars are strange creatures because they only have a few “legs” which are bunch up together with one other at the other end of the body. No doubt, a specialist would be cringing right now at the inadequacy of my description. The result is that the motion of the body is quite complex. Video is the best way to demonstrate this so I used the phone to get some footage including when the sun angle really helped to emphasize the complexity of the movement.
When you look at something like a ferry that can hold 180 cars and a thousand passengers, you don’t immediately think of agility and maneuverability. However, the Wightlink ferries that run between Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight have surprising capabilities. The entry to Portsmouth Harbour is followed by a rapid change of direction to get to the terminal at Gunwharf. From the Spinnaker Tower, you get a great view of how rapidly the ferry can be thrown around. The St Clare is a bi-directional ship so it doesn’t back in like Victoria of Wight. Instead, it looks like it is doing a handbrake turn. The wake ends up almost combing out of the side of the boat!
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.
The salmon that come through the locks in Ballard come in three waves according to the park rangers. There are three types of salmon and each type comes at a slightly different time of year. (I’m sure the sales like this so they get three feeding times!). Within the fish ladder, they have a viewing gallery which allows you to see the fish as they loiter for a while before surging up the next step in the ladder against the flowing water.
It is quite impressive to see how fast they can go when they make an effort. They swim gently against the current in the viewing area waiting for a time that seems appropriate to them. Then they align themselves with the inlet port through which the water is rushing. This needs a dose of acceleration to avoid being pushed back into the gallery and then, once they are stabilized, a surge of effort and they zip up the port. Photos don’t do it much justice but video is a better medium. The reflections off the glass are not ideal but you will get the idea.
This heron was standing around on Juanita Bay when mum and I were there. It wasn’t showing any sign of hunting so I assume it had already eaten well. The sun was out and it was pretty hot so, after a little preening, the heron adopted a pose I had not seen before. It opened out its wings and faced the sun. I couldn’t work out whether this was a position designed to absorb the sun’s rays or whether it provided a mechanism for cooling by maximizing the surface area exposed. Whichever it is, it was curious. I also shot some video of the bird which is below.
I am no specialist on fish (or any other wildlife for that matter) so, if I have got this wrong, please feel free to correct me in the comments. I was down at Juanita Bay seeing what wildlife was out an about. I was on one of the boardwalks and looking in to the water to see if there was anything in there. I saw a black mass seeming to pulse and move. I was confused as to what it might be but the long lens gave me a clearer view of things. It was a massive amount of baby fish.
My previous disclaimer comes in to effect here. I think they were catfish based on the shape of the mouth and the barbs but that could be totally wrong. Let’s assume for now that they were. There was hundreds of them, if not thousands. They were moving around furiously but staying closely packed together for safety. The group would gradually move around and migrate through the plant life. Occasionally, a group would split off into a second section and then later they would somehow find each other again and regroup. They looked almost alien as they swirled and moved. I did take stills, as you can clearly see, but video seemed like the better way to convey the impression that they left.
I was up at Arlington when the Croman helicopters guys were in town. One of the local aircraft is a Seabee. It had pulled up on the ramp next to the S-61 – presumably so they could have a look at the visitor. When they were done, they taxied off. I figured I would shoot a little video of them pulling away. What I hadn’t considered was that they would reverse off the ramp. They backed away before adding some power to taxi north in the normal fashion. Here is some video of them.
I may be stuck in the house during work hours but the view out of the window doesn’t have to be totally ignored. We have had a bunch of changeable weather recently and I have been shooting time lapses of the clouds. The M6 works well for this but I have been using my fisheye lens on the M adaptor to get a wide view of what is going on out there. It has proved to be interesting as a review the footage later. Some of the skies have lots of activity while others don’t.
Sometimes we get the winds pulling the clouds across the sky but the overcast is thick and the lack of heat on the ground means that the clouds are pretty stable. On other days we get almost constant development and dissipation of the clouds. We are on a hill so we can get quite localized development around us. Sometimes you have lower level clouds going one way and higher level clouds heading somewhere else.
I put together a video that includes a variety of clips from these time lapses to show how different things can be on different days (or even at different times of the same day!).
The herons at Juanita Bay are not universally popular. The red-winged blackbirds are not keen on them at all and, since it seems that the herons may have raided one or more of the nests, it isn’t hard to see why. The blackbirds will get quite aggressive at trying to drive the herons away from their nests. I have seen them do this on more than one occasion. At one point, I got some video of a heron getting attacked by two of the blackbirds although it wasn’t keen on leaving its fishing spot. Usually, though, the herons decide to move on rather than take the abuse.