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Monday, 12 September 2011

In Manchester & broken down again

Jenson Button blasts down Deansgate

Castlefields is not the quietest place to stop with railway lines high on viaducts close by alongside the trams but road noise is not too bad. There is a useful little shop under the railway arch and the basin is right by Deansgate Station for rail and the Deansgate tram stop. Also useful nearby is the “Green Bus” stop for the free eco friendly bus that is one line of three that loop around the city. For bus pass holders there are other routes served from stops close by.
Overlooking the arms near the YHA is Manchester’s Roman fort, but these are very much remains with walls built along the lines of walls revealed during excavations, but much better is MOSI, the Museum of Science & Industry that is right by the YHA. 

The YHA has very good washing machines (£3 a go) & dryers (£1 a go) & I was told the food they offer is very good & very reasonable. If you need a shower, and why Carol did will come later, for £3.50 you get access to their lovely gym.

A trip by tram from the Deansgate stop takes you to Media City in Salford, the new home for the BBC, it cost us £2.40 return, though we did buy tickets to Salford Quays, reckoning that this would be where we wanted to go, but was the same reasonable cost. Media City is reasonably impressive, but the Outlet Mall is poor. 
Lift bridge by the Lowry, incredible glazed
building on other side of MSC

The Lowry Centre certainly is impressive, it looks interesting, and the Lowry Gallery is tremendous. We arrived just as a guide was about to start a guided talk.....except that without s he would have been talking to no-one. We had a really interesting talk, possibly better because it was 2 to 1, but when you go do take one of these free talks. Then there is a really interesting film about Lowry & his life, but best of all is the lovely collection of his works, and it showed he didn’t just paint “matchstalk men”. 

Across the Ship Canal is set the Imperial War Museum North in an interesting looking building that I will visit next week, and there are two wonderful bridges across the canal, one a lift bridge, the other a swing bridge, but I doubt they operate very often.

Swing bridge over MSC from Lowry forecourt

We had previously visited the Manchester Art Gallery on Princess St where there were several Lowry’s but a large display by one of his tutours, Adolphe Valette. This gallery also has a large collection of Pre-Raphaelite paintings and a good general display. To find your way around the city, go to Princess Gardens & visit the Information Centre & pick up a useful map, across the tram lines is the Greater Manchester Transport info office with all the details of buses & trams.

I had a rather disturbing visit to what was UMIST when I was a college & we were deadly rivals to “Owens”, Manchester University, just along Oxford Road from our Whitworth Street centre. UMIST (University of Manchester, Institute of Science & Technology) is no more and all the buildings are labelled University of Manchester now. Worse still, the Civil Engineering Building I inhabited for 3 years is now the Paliser Building, teaching I know not what. Still, a walk along Oxford Road to visit the Whitworth Art Gallery (a long walk) showed just how much building has been done to the University since I left in 1968, with the Metropolitan University intermingled it is an absolutely staggering place........not so the displays at the Whitworth.

During our stay I made several visits to the Museum of Science & Industry and I still have not covered all the galleries. This incredible light bulb is around 150 years old and this replica of one of the first railway engines gives short rides. The MOSI is based in what was the terminus of the Liverpool to Manchester Railway for which the engine speed trials won by Stephenson's Rocket.

I always meant to go to the Whitworth when at uni, as I did when daughter Clare was there too. What a disappointment it was. Neither Carol nor I appreciate modern conceptual art, and quite why a large gallery was given over to large slide projections of 1960’s tower block housing we don’t understand. The Textile displays were of interest and  perhaps other displays they put on will be better, but we certainly will not be wandering along to see them!

Otherwise, Manchester has some wonderful buildings that reflect the wealth that the cotton industry brought to the city in Victorian times. As always you have to look to levels above the shop fronts, but do so & you will not be disappointed, though I found it odd to see a building that I knew as The Refuge Assurance building has now become the Palace Hotel.

Tuesday morning & we were up early for Carol to take a train to Leicester to go to a friend’s 70th birthday lunch. We were running the engine to charge the batteries when suddenly there was a horrible noise at 8am, and the domestic alternator mounting had sheared again! After seeing Carol onto her train I took the alternator off to find one of the two mounting bolts had sheared and the bracket nearest the pulley had broken, just the same as a few weeks before. I put the back deck down & too the tram to Media City & went to the Imperial War Museum.

I had been to the original museum in London & this one is very different, covering many more recent conflicts and with some very atmospheric slide projections around the main display area. Very interesting is the “War Correspondent” displays that is moving around the country and highlighting the dangers these reporters are exposed to. One point made in the displays was that the Falklands Conflict exposed the press to possibly the greatest level of censorship ever. Reports passed through 5 or 6 layers before publication, aggravated by the difficulty in getting reports back from the South Atlantic.

Imperial War Museum North, over the MSC from The Lowry
Over lunch I met my godson, Steve, for a coffee and then he took me to his work base, driving an incredibly complex desk for 5live at the BBC. He is loving his transfer up to Salford from London, but it was interesting when he joined us for supper on Thursday night that he was grateful for our copies of bus and tram maps, surely Greater Manchester should be issuing welcome packs to the 3000+ new people that will be arriving in the next few months. Back to Lily and having completely removed the domestic alternator I was able to run the engine to give us hot water before meeting Carol back from a very enjoyable day, and then to make up our packed lunches for an early start on Wednesday.
Lovely old Victorian decoration at Victoria

We had to be at Victoria Station for 7.20 to catch a train to Blackburn, fortunately the tram aided our journey, but being us we were up and ready well before time. The weather as we climbed to Blackburn was poor, fast drizzle and very poor visibility, just what we didn’t want as our day was on a steam hauled train over the fabulous Settle to Carlisle railway. Pulled by The Sherwood Forester, built by Armstrongs in 1936, our carriage was built in 1962, sadly not a corridor coach, and the train extended to 14 carriages. The train is called The Fellsman & operated on Wednesdays through the summer till the end of September, operating from Lancaster in a long loop to Carlisle & back, and pulled by steam all the way.

Climbing hard

The weather improved, we had sun, lovely scenery and good company on the train and one of the volunteers saw my Lily Pad embroidered sweater and asked about it. His boat was built for his father in the early ‘60s and he will be doing the Ribble Link later this week. More amazing still, it used to be in Debdale at the time we had Lily 1 there!!! All in all a great day out. We didn’t do the First Class deal, & certainly not the Dining Deal, and considered it was a good value day out. We enjoyed stopping in Appleby again as it used to be the nearest town to our first home and I recalled having to collect a package my father sent Red Star to the station in 1969! I heard that the water tower & delivery device (it has a name but I have forgotten it!) are the only working set left in the country, maybe that is on a Network Rail line.

On the way we had filled twice each way, and at the other water stops a road tanker provided the water. For quite a lot of the run to Carlisle there was a steady 1:100 uphill haul and the engine was working hard. All that hard work was fired by one incredibly fit chap in his ‘20s! It was a really good day and we would thoroughly recommend it if you are in the area.

After these two days it was time to sort the alternator. We had joined RCR after the last problem & on Thursday Paul came to see the problem that I had tried to describe to him on Tuesday. Not being able to do anything himself, he put us in contact with Stuart Hamilton at Hesford Marine at Lymm and we arranged to see him around mid-day on Friday. On Thursday night Steve, godson, joined us for a spicy Thai style meal, using the prawns that had thawed through in the switched off freezer. It was good to hear all he had to say and great to spend time with him.

We then used the facilities at the YHA, before setting off at 8 on Friday after topping up & emptying at the Castlefield facilities.
Lily at services, Beetham Tower in background

On our way to Lymm we stopped in Sale to get a few groceries before dashing to meet Stuart. I had expected a lot of head scratching and a bit of whistling between clenched teeth, but no, he came up with what I had thought we should do, & what RCR Paul also recommended, which was to replace the two short pieces of mounting tube with one long one. He duly sorted one out and welded it on and used a really strong bolt, this one a proper “shoulder” bolt rather than the totally threaded one used before. The most amazing thing was that it took him barely an hour to sort it out. A really great chap and an engineer who really knows his stuff, and he said that what he had done is exactly what he did when fixing a mounting for his identical alternator on his boat!

We waved him farewell around 3 saying we’d return on Monday to top up with fuel (& perhaps to check the mounting!!) and headed off to find a winding hole to enable us to return to Sale where we moored up near the rowing club and barely 100 yards from the home of two good friends with whom we were going out to have a curry to celebrate their 42nd anniversary. I had lived in digs in Sale whilst at UMIST and the world of great coincidences came up again. Our friends had a friend who used to live on the short road where my first year was spent, and then as we turned into the very short cul de sac where I spent my 2nd & 3rd years Jane said that they had nearly bought a house on it, one of only about 14 houses, incredible.

It’s a GP weekend so we haven’t moved much, only about 18 miles and no locks, but from Monday we head off back towards Leicester, but with water levels around home I suspect we will not be getting back to Debdale for quite some time.

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