Engineering Beauty!

GoldStar

GoldStar


I still get misty-eyed over my first true scrambles bike and after a recent web-trawl I just had to download this fantastic picture and put it here.
There has positively NEVER been a more beautiful competition bike than a 500 BSA Gold Star.
I bought mine for £149 Quid, raced it for two seasons and traded it in for a trials Montesa.
I got £65 for it against the trials bike.
If you could find a good scrambles Goldie these days you’d pay approximately £10K for one.
Here’s an excessively-happy 18 year-old with his freshly-purchased used Gold Star ready for a season of competition.
The detached retina would come a season later and lead to its unfortunate trade-in.
Ah! well.
All those streets at Balbirnie in Edinburgh have gone now too. Progress…….

Gold Star

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Rotten, Black as Muck…….

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I recently had a fine wee trip to Durham Cathedral and noticed a couple of rather fetching sculptings. The header here is arguably the work of the Creator upon the created work of His creations.
And talking of creations, after a recent Burns Supper I’ve given myself the task of learning that epic creation of Rabbie’s – Tam o’ Shanter.
So I duly downloaded an online version and printed it out. Just recently however I did the same for my mobile ‘phone via a Kindle connection.
I was a bit surprised to find the word “Lord’s” had been KINDLE’d to “L-d’s” but not as affronted as to find further on that four “offensive” lines of Rab’s had been completely censored by the Kindle’s politically/religiously correct version. These are they…………….
“Three lawyers’ tongues, turned inside oot
Wi’ lies seam’d like a beggar’s clout,
Three priests’ hearts, rotten, black as muck,
Lay stinkin’, vile in every neuk……….”
Now Rabbie’s respect for the clergy is well enough known – as was their respect (!) for him. Lawyers machinations too it seems.
But – how to respect a system of publishing which feels the need to censor those four lines from such an epic – so as not to offend the sensibilities of some over-sensitive, litigious, pressure-group bammers who may be lurking OUT THERE. Pathetic.
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Tales of Tailless – Two

Dunne D5

Dunne D5


Is it a Stealth prototype? Not in 1910. It’s the Dunne D5 – the brainchild of Lt. John William Dunne whose first attempts at inherently-stable sweptback flying-wings got off the ground (!) in 1907 at Blair Atholl – and in much secrecy.
After many experiments and a few more Dunnes, officialdom decided the future was in ballooning and airships.
Aye but Oh!

No secrecy involved when this one was in flight though-thanks to the sizeable rammy being created by the Vulcan’s four great Olympus BOI.3s.

Vulcan

Vulcan

What fun we can have in painting! The Vulcan of this era was finished in anti-nuclear-flash white, so I just thought it’d be nice in purple.
But it IS white, no?

Tailless in GAVA

Me163B

Me163B


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Recently I posted this painting on Facebook and folks were interested in something from Forbes that was not Great War. Well – there are more.
For my second ever submission to the Guild of Aviation Artists’ exhibition there were two aircraft – and not a tail between them.
I just love the paintings of Turner and I’d been at his Water Colours exhibition in Edinburgh. There were a few that he’d painted on blue paper which I thought looked especially attractive. So naturally plagiarism raised its ugly head and this Me 163 is accordingly a watercolour on a blue paper….
Not a GREAT pilots’ aeroplane the 163, as you sat between two fuel tanks of corrosive stuff that exploded when mixed. Or melted skin clean off if that unfortunate skin was exposed to it. Plus, it landed on a big skid with a predictable wallop and if the fuels hadn’t been totally drained in the flight they would just explode. Aye – volunteers line up here………..
The other tailless was the more approachable Westland Pterodactyl IV. No short-range, late-war fighting rocket like the 163, this was the second flying experiment of Westland to the designs of the innovative Mr. Geoffrey Hill. It flew in 1931 and in the age of open-cockpit bi-planes here was a glazed-cabin, swept-back flying wing and the wings SWUNG to more suitable angles of sweep for the speed involved. A really amazing machine.

Pterodactyl IV

Pterodactyl IV


The Pterodactyl was my first and only Acrylic painting in an attempt to branch out from watercolours. Acrylic! Bah! Not for me. Far too quick-drying. So onto the oils then…
..and perhaps yet more things without tails.

Grafton Corruption

It’s been an on-going regret for years that although I have one, I am just SO useless at playing the saxophone. That does not stop me loving saxes as engineering pieces as well as listening to little else but sax-featured music on Spotify or even via those ancient-tech Compact Discs.
During World War Two, plastics technologies advanced in leaps and bounds. Aeroplanes, for instance, needed protective covers for installed Radar devices that had to be “transparent” to the waves passing through them and still could stand up to the ever-increasing airspeeds they faced.
Perspex cockpit canopies were growing ever larger as “bubbles” replaced the smaller faired-into-fuselage designs.
At the end of WW2 the techniques for sizeable plastic mouldings were well established but suddenly the military were longer ordering much of anything.
A year after the war saw Hector Sommaruga (honest!) start work on an alto sax that would use the new plastic moulding methods now available.
It hit the streets in 1950 and was called the Grafton after Hector’s studio in Grafton Street – off Tottenham Court Road. The price? 55 Quid! Cheap!
And it looked like this….

Grafton

Grafton

In a world of brass, the cream plastic sax looked pretty neat as well as being half the price of a “real” one.
Charlie Parker played one for a wee while as did Ornette Coleman.
But the keys didn’t feel like sax keys should and the springs were crap and the bodies would just break or things would fall off.
Mouldings couldn’t go bigger than the alto body-size either, so a tenor or – perish the thought! – a baritone were right out.
It was also a bastard for repair-men to handle and most just refused after their first attempt.
Thus ended the short life of the Grafton and you’d be hard-pressed to find a decent working example today.
But my pal Willie has the one shown above which he bought for sweeties from a hard-pressed fellow he worked with – who didn’t know the value of his treasure. There are not many left as unscathed as this. The irony is – Willie doesn’t play either!

The Best Museums ever!

..and both visited in the same week. I DO hope 2014 will be as fine as 2013 was
on the esoteric museums front.
Firstly…..

Wainwright D Class

Wainwright D Class

The National Rail Museum at York included the lovely 4-4-0 of the South Eastern and Chatham Railway. A 1901 class “D” by Wainwright. What a fabulous place and still with six A4s on display.
I like 4-4-0s more though.
Then in two days time it was off to Loanhead for a trip round the very private Speedway Museum.

Speedway Museum

Speedway Museum

This was even more amazing than York! Absolutely stunning and only lacking the smell of Castrol “R” and thankfully the reek of fags!
I hope I’ll get back for a further visit this year too, but if not there’s a nice wee railway just twenty miles from here and they have TWO 4-4-0’s in their museum.
Meanwhile, to both my readers – have a great, enjoyable and successful 2014!