HISTELEC NEWS No.28 December 2004
Supplement to Histelec News No.28
South Western Electricity Board Chronology
1948 – 1990
Please send information, articles, photographs or letters to Peter Lamb at 35 Station Road, Backwell, Bristol BS48 3NH or telephone on 01275 463160 or
HISTELEC NEWS No.28 December 2004
Happy New Year
No doubt everyone will have had a gastronomic Christmas, but leave some space for the Annual Luncheon at the Batch Country Hotel on 29th JanuaryNewsletter index
The Open Day That Never Was!
It was very disappointing to all who have worked so hard on the Cairns Road Project, for the Open day to be cancelled at the last moment due to public protests at the site against a proposed erection of a telecoms mast for T-Mobile. There had been demonstrations on the previous Saturday, making it onto Radio Bristol News and we didn't want to get embroiled in a public demonstration with the demonstrators thinking we were WPD staff. After conferring with WPD, it was decided to postpone the event. It will be reconvened in the New Year.Newsletter index
Newton Abbot Test Station
Some of you will be unaware that the Meter Test Station has closed this Autumn, with WPD centering their meter testing at the Cardiff depot (Lamby Way).
Following the notice asking members to sign up for the Sussex Holiday, staying at the Beach Hotel, Worthing, we have only 30 people enlisted. We only had 37 at the Cornwall Holiday this year, so it would appear that the interest in Weekends Away is waning. A further notice will be sent out in the Spring to encourage a few more to come on board.Newsletter index
Bath City Old SWEB Offices
Plans are afoot to redevelop the site at Dorchester Street again. It was first mooted about 14 years ago. Now a group have got together to save the 1930’s building. Interestingly the building seems to go under the title “Churchill House”, after the adjacent bridge presumablyNewsletter index
Centenary Of The Thermionic Valve
In Sidmouth recently an exhibition has been open to the public at the Observatory to celebrate the life of Sir John Ambrose Fleming, electrical engineer of some note, who invented the thermionic valve, and patented it in 1904.
Cairns Road Visitors
Cairns Road Visitor 2
Ted Luscombe visited Cairns Road the other day travelling from Plymouth, since he is unable to visit there regularly: he said “I was surprised at what has been achieved there by the hard work of a relatively few of our members”. He continues “The Museum room contains a fascinating, well arranged, display of all types of electrical apparatus dating from the earliest days of electricity supply. There is a comprehensive collection of archival material relating to the South West; the Library has an ever growing collection of books, Garckes manuals and early electrical journals, any of which can be borrowed by members. There is a large meeting room, kitchen, toilet, all recently decorated by the hard working members. All very conducive for undertaking research!”Newsletter index
Plastic History Society Visit
We were very pleased to entertain the Plastic History Society at Cairns Road recently. It was the first meeting in the new Cairns Road Meeting Room, which was small comfort for the cancelled Open Day there. Peter Lamb gave them a talk entitled “Household Electrical Appliances of a Bygone Age”, which was well received.Newsletter index
Cradle Guards Continued
A response by Andy King of WPD to Graham Warburton's article in issue no 24 :-
The 1961 Master Wayleave Agreement between the BTC and SWEB requires either insulated conductors or a cradle guard to be used for all 11 and 33 kVcrossings. The early PO requirements for protection of their telecomms circuits, which at that time were bare wire, also require the use of cradle guards. I admit to getting the cradle guard removed from the 33 kV line at Holford and Williton - they were getting very rusty! All the 33 kV tower lines out of Bridgwater Main built in 1935 have now been reconductored and should be good for another 70 years service with occasional painting. Recently there were still twin conductors tied at intervals across the WSR level crossing at Blue Anchor.
I hope you are keeping well.
Regards AndyNewsletter index
We were approached recently about a local campaign in South Wales to help save an old hydro-scheme at Newcastle Emlyn. Members Michael Williams (from Nottingham) and Bill Harris (from Penarth) have both sent details. Bill’s is quite a considerable archive. I will briefly give you some details :-
Salisbury Electric Lighting & Supply Company
The Society helped a Mr. Coe of Salisbury to trace the history of the Salisbury Electric Lighting and Supply Company. As with many of the old companies, most of the local records had been lost in the run-up to privatisation. However some useful information was available in our copies of Garke’s Manual and the Edmundson’s Monthly magazine.
John GaleNewsletter index
The Weekend Away in Cornwall at the beginning of October was enjoyed by 37 members and partners. The St. Michaels Hotel was very comfortable, even if the present fashion of minimal soft furnishings did make for some rather high levels of background noise. However, the staff were very helpful and friendly and the meals very pleasant, helped, no doubt by the company and the fact that we had a separate room to eat and socialize in.
Contributions by David Peacock & Roger HughesNewsletter index
Family History Talk
On a very bleak Saturday (weather-wise) some twenty members and guests assembled at Clarence House, Portishead, for a roast lunch followed by a talk on “Family history – fact or fiction” – given by our guest speaker Pat Hase, currently chairperson of the Weston-super-Mare Family History Society. Pat started by explaining the reason for the title of her talk. Whilst family history research involved delving into past records, the dates and other information appearing on birth, marriage and death certificates of long ago often revealed inconsistencies, as evidenced by searches into her own family history. Names often changed over the years, taking a different spelling – maybe because a vicar at a christening was hard of hearing or many people simply could not read or write. In the case of her own surname ‘Hase’, she had a list of over 20 variations.
Chris BuckNewsletter index
There must be something special about electricity and the Portuguese, since they seem pretty keen on electricity museums. Member, Bill Tincknell visited Lisbon and found an incredibly large museum centred around a disused power station. Peter Lamb visited Madeira and found a large electricity museum right on the front in the capital Funchal.
Lisbon Electricity Museum
Madeira(Funchal) – First supply was given in 1897 using steam engines. Later in 1923 the prime movers were replaced by diesel engines, which are on display. These are two Mirrlees, Bickerton & Day Ltd (1188BHP & 1548BHP) and one Ruston Hornsby Ltd. 114kW Set, all driving Brush alternators. All the plant and instruments on display are British. The Museum is on the site of the first generating station, and this has been replaced with an office block incorporating the Electricity Museum.
Both Museums are well-worth visiting. By coincidence Peter and his wife were accompanied on the plane by two other ex-SWEB engineers, Roger Neck and Roger Clouter. Roger N found the Museum, but Roger C did not – surprising since he’s a regular visitor. Since then, John Coneybeare has been to Madeira and found the Museum.Newsletter index
Member, Eric Clapton has been visiting Australia and since he is very interested in the history of electricity generation and supply, has found a few things of interest. He visited the Jenolan Caves in the Blue Mountains and down a nearby valley were the remains of the first generator (about 1880’s). This was the electric lighting for the caves, which was very popular in Victorian times. This was superseded with a larger system further down the valley in the 1920’s. This has been retained as a museum piece with the original generators and switchgear still there. This with the added attraction of the kangaroos and birds was more interesting than the caves! Also whilst in Sydney, he visited the Powerhouse Museum – which he described as a must! It included a C.A.Parsons turbine/generating set.Newsletter index
Electrical Installation Update
IEE members will be aware of recent developments that will affect those of us who like to do our own electrical installation work. For the benefit of others who may have an interest, I summarise these important changes.
Electrical Installations Update continued :
This change to the Building Regulations takes effect from 1 January 2005. It is a UK government initiative and this time has nothing to do with EU harmonisation. The government case for change is that it will reduce the number of domestic fatalities. Personally, I believe the case for this additional regulation to have been overstated and built upon suspect interpretation of the electrical accident data. By no means are all domestic electrical fatalities due to installation design or construction faults; some are due to inappropriate use of equipment plugged into the installation or the use of unsafe equipment.
In the long term, I suspect that this change to the Building Regulations will rear its head when one moves house. Even now, one of the questions asked by solicitors concerns any work undertaken for which Planning Permission or Building Regulations Approval was required. In responding to such enquiries, evidence will probably need to be produced that any electrical installation work carried out post 1 January 2005 has been inspected and tested.
The above is intended to serve only as a brief summary. For those of you requiring more information, recommended reading is the Part P Approved Document, published by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and downloadable from their website at www.odpm.gov.uk
Chris BuckNewsletter index
Witheridge Electricity Supply
Non-member, David Taylor, submitted the following research, which may be of interest to members, since very little information about West of England Electricity Companies has survived, except that published in our newsletter supplement of April this year.
David TaylorNewsletter index
John Haynes has joined the Cheddar Male Choir.Newsletter index
ERNIE & Ted
Our member Ted Luscombe was one of the original team at the PO Research Station at Dollis Hill, which designed and built ERNIE. This was first used on 1st June 1957 to choose Premium Bond winners. It continued to do so until 1973, when a faster and more modern machine, ERNIE 2, replaced it. This was replaced by ERNIE 3 in 1988. On 17 August this year, Ted and another colleague of that team were at the Science Museum for the launch of ERNIE 4. This can choose entirely random numbers 500 times faster than ERNIE 1, and is needed, since there are now 25 billion Premium Bond certificates; and some 110 million prizes each month. The four machines, which were on view, encapsulate the development of electronics over the past 50 years. They had a great day and Ted had a short slot on BBC News 24.Newsletter index
Member Basil Stockbridge is one of the helpers in maintaining the SS Balmoral, which is moored near to the Industrial Museum in Bristol Docks. He says members are welcome to come and look around the engine room on their working days, which are Tuesdays and Fridays, although Friday is “Poets Day”!Newsletter index
It is sad to report that member Tony Lounsbach has died. He retired from the post of Manager, CEGB Bristol Transmission District. He was a valuable member, who enjoyed contributing to this newsletter.Newsletter index
An interesting sequel to the news on French Electricity last edition – I discussed the issues with a mate of mine, who has a French son-in-law. I asked him to find out what the French think about Nuclear. The reply came back that General de Gaulle decreed that France would only be self-sufficient in energy if she generated electricity by nuclear means and this fact is imbued in the public consciousness.
Peter LambNewsletter index
A couple were in the news recently, since they had lived in a farmhouse in Suffolk for 37 years without electricity. They brought up their nine children without television or any modern appliances, which we all use daily. They believe that not having electricity was a good thing, the children played together and they never got seriously ill! Is there anyone left in the South West without an electricity supply?Newsletter index
With the details of electricity activities in Australia in the last issue, it is interesting to read that Australian scientists have designed a fruit fuelled electricity generator, says the Times (August 2004). It seems Northern Queensland has an abundance of over-ripe, bruised too small bananas (20,000 a year). It is intended to build a plant capable of supplying 500 homes.Newsletter index
XMAS CRACKER Why did the Gardener plant bulbs?
Edison On Thomson
Edison was renowned for his casual attire, but is quoted as noticing the dress of a well-known visitor. “I remember Sir William Thomson (later Lord Kelvin, an eminent British scientist) came to see me wearing a suit of clothes. I tell you his trousers were too short for him, his coat was old and greasy, the collar came up above his ears, and his hat looked as if he had boiled soup in it”!!Newsletter index
Santa Claus was very cross. It was Christmas Eve and nothing was going right. Mrs Claus had burnt the mince pies and the elves were wanting more money for working overtime. The reindeers had been drinking and were paralytic. Rudolph had crashed the sleigh into a tree. Santa was furious. “I can’t believe it! I’ve got to deliver millions of presents all over the world in just a few hours. I haven’t got enough toys, the reindeers are drunk and having sent the angle out to get a Chistmas Tree, I still haven’t got one”. Just then the door opened and in stepped the Angel with a Christmas Tree. He said “ Oi, fattie, where do you want me to stick this Christmas Tree”. And thus we have the tradition of an angel on top of the Christmas Tree!!.Newsletter index
Every now and again an electric car is produced which is heralded as the break through for a non-petrol car, but that usually is the last we hear of it. I read recently that the car of the future is the hybrid. The Toyota Prius has both an electric motor and a petrol engine. I suppose that would reduce the consumption of petrol. However development work is proceeding on a hydrogen fuelled car. It seems that car engines are replaced by fuel cells that convert hydrogen into electricity and steam! Well what do you do with the steam? Presumably waste it. It doesn’t sound very efficient.Newsletter index
Great news that the Nuclear lobby has gained some noteworthy supporters from the “greens”. James Lovelock, described as a “green-thinker” and Hugh Montefiore of “Friends of the Earth” have both come out in favour of building new nuclear power stations. As our existing nuclear stations close, it is essential to start building new before we lose the necessary expertise.Newsletter index