Life at the end of the road

October 16, 2012

A day at the museum

Filed under: boats, daily doings, South Shields — lifeattheendoftheroad @ 8:11 am

Not such a nice day here on Sunday, with yours truly’s plans of a walk north of the Tyne scuppered by the frequent showers. Of course I should be used to that living where I do but I’m most definitely getting soft in my old age. So instead I spent the morning plonking away on here and making the best of what to most folk would be a reasonable internet connection. Compared to my pathetic satellite ‘broadband’ system at home this ‘Three Network’ 3g dongle is ‘warp speed’ and a whole new avenue of internet delights are out there for me to discover.

I can watch YouTube at home, on a good day if it’s not raining or between 18:00 and 21:00, I can even watch ‘I Player’ and the like if you don’t mind the buffering. However on the whole it’s not a pleasurable experience and the bandwidth required eats into my pathetic 8GB monthly allowance that costs me £50!!!! This mobile broadband dongle thingy however is ‘the dogs’ but then you’re probably used to that anyway in the ‘real world’ Smile The net result of all this extra and extremely fast data is that I’ve been getting distracted, and on Sunday I got waylaid by the ‘English Electric Company’ 

English Electric logo

Not having seen my dad for a month I’ve been kind of missing him, not that he’ll be reciprocating bless him, for he has dementia, but for many many years, long enough to get a gold watch he worked for them.  They had a huge factory near Accrington where we lived and pop was an engineer there and managed to retain his job despite the ups and downs of the defence industry in the 1960’s and 70’s. Every time there was a major contract scrapped like the ‘tactical, strike, reconnaissance’  plane  or gloom would set about the household as hundreds of workers would be laid off. Fortunately we always seemed to be lucky and pop stayed there through the GEC and BAC incarnations until he took early retirement.

In truth he probably made as many parts for ‘diesel electric’ trains as Lightning, Canberra and Harrier aircraft but as a child it was always the airplanes that I bought as ‘Airfix’ kits Smile


Well I never, I just found that on ‘Google images’ and it must be an artists impression of the only time the TSR-2 went ‘supersonic’, for if you look at the rear of the both planes you’ll see that the Lightning has engaged both ‘afterburners’ and the TSR-2 only one. In a recent interview the test pilot said that when he engaged the afterburner on just one of the Olympus turbojet the plane went supersonic and left the following EE Lightning behind despite the pilot engaging both of his. The EE Lightning was (and still is) the fastest British plane ever built.

Whole books have been written about the TSR-2 debacle in which £200, 000, 000 worth of development was reduced to £50,000 worth of scarp in a matter of weeks but that’s another story. Me I was just reminiscing about my dad and the little alloy and magnesium nick nacks he’d bring home and say, ‘this is off a ???’ Smile I still have some now, who knows I may even have a bit of TSR-2 Smile

Where was I???

Sorry, got distracted there, anyway, during my surfing of the net I discovered that the ‘North East Aircraft Museum’ was only a few miles away and they had both a Canberra and Lightning



Vulcan B2





Lightning F53



Canberra TT18 and that’s just outside, in the three hangers and one set aside for vehicles there are many more.

At £4 admission it’s a bargain and I had the whole place to myself for a couple of hours enabling me to get intimate with some of the exhibits Smile


I think this is the cockpit section from an Armstrong Whitworth Meteor



and that would be my only criticism of the place in that not everything was labelled


015 016

like this Daimler Benz DB601 V12 which I’m guessing is from this HE111 bomber, or what’s left of it.


014 013

These aero engines are pure ‘works of art’, thirty years on a Scottish hillside and just look at that aluminium casting with its polished webs and the ‘cross bracing’ high tensile bolts through the main bearing caps. German engineering at its best, this would be a similar engine to what went into the ME Bf 109g fighter.


And this would be the British equivalent, the every bit as impressive Rolls Royce Merlin V12, this one belonging to a Hawker Hurricane but the same engine powered everything from tanks to bombers. I think the DB had the edge on it, but not by much, the German engines extra capacity (33 as opposed to 27lt) and fuel injection gave it  slightly better performance.

  017 018

It’s not just aircraft and vehicles either, there’s a lot of weaponry and even some field kitchens Smile



Now that’s what I call a shed Smile


and I’d love one of these on the croft Smile



A great day out, though if you do go make sure you time it so as not to hit traffic from the nearby Nissan offices.

That was me there right up until closing at 17:00, after which it was back home to ‘The Village’ for some much needed grub. There is a cafe there but I’m kinda off canteen food for the moment Smile



Once back at Sandhaven I was just in time to catch the diving support vessel ‘Reef Despina’ who was just departing the harbour. With her distinctive ‘Ulstein X bow’ this design seems to be catching favour amongst offshore supply vessels due to its excellent sea keeping qualities.  You can just see the pilot boat Collingwood going to pick up the pilot.



Hardly a pretty looking ship but this type of bow reduces fuel consumption and pitching in a head sea greatly.


I know which vessel I’d rather sail on Smile

‘From our own correspondent’

Meanwhile back on Raasay the aurora blazes

 Aurora 2

and the snow falls



Many, many thanks to George Rankine for that little reminder of home Smile



  1. Glad your enjoying your course, less the down time being under the weather. But your still keeping us informed of what’s going on around you. The photo of you in the cockpit looks like your really in your element and why not, maybe you can learn to fly on your next break. Hope everything is keeping up to your standards back home and looking forward to your updates when you get home. Enjoy the rest of your course.

    Comment by Polite Scouser — October 16, 2012 @ 10:37 am

    • ‘ENJOYING THE COURSE’!!!!! what gave you that idea Walter 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — October 17, 2012 @ 6:31 am

      • It’s in the detail that you give.

        Comment by Polite Scouser — October 17, 2012 @ 6:36 am

  2. You do get out and about, (it makes me think I’v got it wrong working all the time) still never popped into the air museum (something about those Vulcans), bit of history as you seem to appreciate such things, You will have noticed the massive Nissan plant nextdoor to the air museum, that was the site of Sunderland Airport. Story is their were some old planes left (probably for scrap) so this guy got them and set up this museum (basically in his garden). which I thinks a really cool thing to do.

    Trivia time then, “Sand Dancers” my understanding is its linked to the areas booming glass industry in the 1800’s, the fine sand on those beaches was key to glass production.
    The other theory is linked to the town old maritime links with arabia and its arabic community (I prefer the glass story)

    If your board and in Sunderland you can visit the national Glass centre (its has a freaky glass roof, and nice view of the river area) but if you not into glass…..

    So easier one for you Paul, do you know why they call people from Sunderland “mackems” more maritime related ?

    U got any plans for the weekend, looks like I’m in work on Saturday….

    Comment by mike — October 16, 2012 @ 11:09 am

    • My Lancashire roots found that one easy Mike(assuming it’s ‘make them’), but it would seem that the ‘jury is still out’ 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — October 17, 2012 @ 6:30 am

  3. “Many, many thanks to George Rankine for that little reminder of home ..”

    A pleasure to send them to you, Paul, you give us a lot of pleasure (not to mention a few laughs) on your blog.
    Oh and I’m having oysters tonight and fresh mussels from the beach…what a life!!

    Best, George.

    Comment by George — October 16, 2012 @ 4:22 pm

    • I thought your Northern Lights/snow picture was wondrous 🙂


      Comment by San — October 16, 2012 @ 4:50 pm

      • Thanks a lot, San, it’s been a beautiful few days up here, the light is just amazing at this time of year!!

        Comment by George — October 16, 2012 @ 5:27 pm

      • Keep em coming George, it’s better than looking out of the window 🙂

        Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — October 17, 2012 @ 6:18 am

  4. Our local aircraft museum,RAF Cosford, has a TSR2 on display.Certainly is an impressive bit of kit.A book called “Empire of the skies”is an excellent read about the post war British aviation industry, if you have not already heard of it.

    Comment by Andy — October 16, 2012 @ 4:24 pm

  5. scottish is not my native tongue, a thousand pardons sir, but i am wondering if by “anorak” is meant what you’re doing here?????

    love the pic of the pretty yellow plane with the scudding blue skies, and the lights over raasay. hope you’re still feeling well.

    Comment by jeannettesmyth — October 16, 2012 @ 8:16 pm

    • Definitely ANORAK Jeannette 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — October 17, 2012 @ 6:17 am

  6. Great photos. The Lightning has got to be the sexiest thing that ever took to the skies.

    By some strange coincidence a couple of summers back I was talking to a visitor in the local bar who’d been part of the team that was developing the TSR2. Bumped into him again a couple of weeks ago when he was back up this way again.

    Comment by Gary Sutherland — October 16, 2012 @ 9:02 pm

    • “The Lightning has got to be the sexiest thing that ever took to the skies.”

      Oh yes indeedy! That TSR 2 may have been able to outpace it on the level, but point the nose of a lightning at the sky and watch it go!

      Comment by Phil Cook — October 16, 2012 @ 9:38 pm

      • Morning Phil,

        That TSR 2 may have been able to outpace it on the level, but point the nose of a lightning at the sky and watch it go!

        sadly, we’ll never know 😦 I think the lightning can still out climb just about anything, in fact I think it was credited with intercepting a U2 spy plane at something like 87,000 feet.

        Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — October 17, 2012 @ 6:13 am

    • Morning Gary, small world innit 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — October 17, 2012 @ 6:16 am

  7. The TSR2 and the Lightning – icons from an era when our aerospace industry led the world. I’ll never forget watching the Lightnings take off at RAF Leuchars airshow and going vertical seconds after take off – just awesome. Didn’t the engines from TSR2 end up on Concorde?

    Comment by Alan — October 17, 2012 @ 7:38 am

    • Morning Alan, one rumour has it that the TSR-2 was ditched as a condition of a US backed IMF loan as it was such a threat to their aircraft industry. Probably not true but it was certainly years ahead of it’s swing wing rival the F100 and yes I think you’re right about the engines.

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — October 18, 2012 @ 6:01 am

  8. Paul, if you’d joined the RAF as an engine fitter anytime from WW2 up until the late eighties, you’d get through Basic then go to RAF Halton in Bucks, where you’d have had a month of fitting, followed by eight months of working on all these planes and engines. They had hangers and hangers full of ’em. Amazing. Rows of the Lightnings engines, for instance, one engine for each two trainees. Then you’d go out to the squadrons and work on these great planes for real. Probably one of the best practical engineering trainings in the world.

    Comment by mick — October 17, 2012 @ 9:11 am

    • Lightning what a plane, I remember one at an air show at an airfield north of London at an air show during the 70s came screaming across the airfield tilted its nose straight up went onto afterburners and just disappeared after about 10 seconds unbelievable. I believe that they were built for high level interception of Russian planes entering British airspace I think that Lossiemouth was the last place they were based which makes sense. As for the Vulcan bomber pure poetry in motion. I remember in the 60s they used them as flying test beds for the concord motors,used to hang a concord jet engine underneath the bomb bay used to fly regularly over North Derbyshire where I lived at the time using just the Concord motor, they seemed to hang in the air. I used to know a Vulcan pilot, used to drink with him in the local pub told me I don’t know how true it was that they used to train with a patch over one eye. The reason being if they were blinded by a flash all they had to do was take off the patch and continue flying with there good eye.

      Comment by Yorkshire Miner — October 17, 2012 @ 9:01 pm

    • But Mick, if I’d joined the RAF I’d have missed out on all the fun I’m having in South Shields 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — October 18, 2012 @ 6:02 am

  9. Did you spot the Bloodhound missile in the picture behind the Vulcan? They have one at RAF Hendon, at the gate. They were the beesknees in the 1960s. I remember building an Airfix version, not quite as much fun as the real thing though.

    Comment by Charles — October 17, 2012 @ 2:33 pm

    • Hi Charles and welcome, it was the bloodhound missile that got me started on this trail last week 🙂 I heard on the news about some car called the bloodhound that was using rockets so wondered if it was related. It wasn’t but it did lead me off on a tangent, as I too built that Airfix model 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — October 17, 2012 @ 6:02 pm

  10. glad to see you are over the stomach bug, not very nice the “D” word. i hope the hinges on the closet are still hanging :-). the republic is fairly near to where all manner of aiecraft practice electronic warfare. it was also the home of the blue streak missile test ground, (if you click the link you can see the test bed). i remember as a youth, the noise was immense at my parents house over 30 mile away. i also remember the vulcan flying over us to spadeadem. awesome,,,

    Comment by Steve b — October 17, 2012 @ 4:21 pm

    • Morning Steve, certainly going to have to check out that place, wish I could bring the Dude down here, he and his pals would love it.

      blue streak test be

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — October 18, 2012 @ 6:05 am

  11. Paul,
    Excellent blog as usual, the lightning was before my time but just watched the clip. What a plane. I was sorry to hear the Vulcan will fly no more, remember watching it at Biggin Hill one year in the 1980’s, amazing plane with an even more amazing sound, you felt the ground tremble as it took off. Keep up the good work & excellnt pictures by George of life at home.

    Comment by Arthur T Bomber Harris — October 25, 2012 @ 1:52 am

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