Sir Nigel Gresley

LNER A3 Pacific 60103 Flying Scotsman

Best known for designing the A4 steam locomotive, Sir Nigel Gresley, The Chief Mechanical Engineer of London North Eastern Railway, sadly passed away 5 April 1941. He was Born 19 June 1876 he became one of Britain’s most famous steam locomotive engineers, rising to become Chief Mechanical Engineer (CME) of the London and North Eastern Railway (LNER). He was the designer of some of the most famous steam locomotives in Britain, including the LNER Class A1 and LNER Class A4 4-6-2 Pacific engines. An A1, Flying Scotsman, was the first steam locomotive officially recorded over 100 mph in passenger service, and an A4, number 4468 Mallard, still holds the record for being the fastest steam locomotive in the world (126 mph). Gresley’s engines were considered elegant, both aesthetically and mechanically. His invention of a three-cylinder design with only two sets of Walschaerts valve gear, the Gresley conjugated valve gear, produced smooth running and power at lower cost than would have been achieved with a more conventional three sets of Walschaerts gear.

LNER A4 Pacific 4468 Mallard

Gresley was born in Edinburgh, but was raised in Netherseal, Derbyshire, a member of the cadet branch of a family long seated at Gresley, Derbyshire. After attending school in Sussex and at Marlborough College, Gresley served his apprenticeship at the Crewe works of the London and North Western Railway, afterwards becoming a pupil under John Aspinall at Horwich of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway (L&YR). After several minor appointments with the L&YR he was made Outdoor Assistant in the Carriage and Wagon Department in 1901; in 1902 he was appointed Assistant Works Manager at Newton Heath depot, and Works Manager the following year. This rapid rise in his career was maintained and, in 1904, he became Assistant Superintendent of the Carriage and Wagon Department of the L&YR. A year later, he moved to the Great Northern Railway (GNR) as Carriage and Wagon Superintendent. He succeeded Henry A. Ivatt as CME of the GNR on 1 October 1911. At the 1923 Grouping, he was appointed CME of the newly formed LNER (the post had originally been offered to the ageing John G. Robinson; Robinson declined and suggested the much younger Gresley). In 1936, Gresley was awarded an honorary DSc by Manchester University and a knighthood by King Edward VIII; also in that year he presided over the IMechE.

During the 1930s, Sir Nigel Gresley lived at Salisbury Hall, near St. Albans in Hertfordshire. Gresley developed an interest in breeding wild birds and ducks in the moat; intriguingly, among the species were Mallard ducks. The Hall still exists today as a private residence and is adjacent to the de Havilland Aircraft Heritage Centre, with its links to the design of the famous Mosquito aircraft during World War II.In 1936, Gresley designed the 1,500V DC locomotives for the proposed electrification of the Woodhead Line between Manchester and Sheffield. However The Second World War forced the postponement of the project, which was completed in the early 1950s. Sadly Gresley did not live to see the result, tragically dying after a short illness on 5 April 1941 he was buried in Netherseal, Derbyshire. Gresley was succeeded as the LNER CME by Edward Thompson. There is a statue of Sir Nigel Gresley at Kings Cross in London, complete with duck although there are moves afoot to have the duck removed and the new statue without the duck was unveiled 5 April 2016.

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Charles Collett

GWR 6024 King Edward I

The great Western Railways’ Chief Mechanical locomotive Engineer Charles Benjamin Collett sadly passed away 5 April. Born 10 September 1871. He was chief mechanical engineer of the Great Western Railway from 1922 to 1941 and designed (amongst others) the GWR’s 4-6-0 Castle and King Class express passenger locomotives. Collett’s predecessor, George Jackson Churchward had delivered to the GWR from Swindon a series of class leading and innovative locomotives, and arguably by the early 1920s the Great Western‘s 2-cylinder and 4-cylinder 4-6-0 designs were substantially superior to the locomotives of the other railway groupings.In 1922 Churchward retired, and Charles Benjamin Collett inherited a legacy of excellent standardised designs. But, with costs rising and revenues falling, there was a need to rationalise the number of pre-grouping designs and to develop more powerful locomotives

Collett was a practical development engineer and he took Churchward’s designs and developed them – the Hall from the Saint class, and the Castle from the Star. He was also responsible for more humble locomotives, such as many of the pannier tank classes. He has received criticism by contemporary engineers and later railway historians for undertaking very little innovation in his designs, instead sticking with Churchward’s style in every case. Arguably this meant that by the time Collett retired the superiority of Great Western locomotives was lost to more modern designs, particularly those of William Stanier, who worked at Swindon before moving to the LMS in 1932, and took Churchward’s style with him but developed it in line with the progression in steam technology. By 1926, something bigger than the Castle class was required to haul heavy expresses at an average speed of 60 mph. Great Western’s General Manager Sir Felix Pole told Collett to proceed with the design and construction of a “Super-Castle”. The result was the King class 4-6-0 design which emerged from Swindon works in June 1927. This had dimensions never previously seen, and represented the ultimate development of Churchward’s four cylinder concept. It was the heaviest (136 tons), and had the highest tractive effort (40,300 lbs.) of any 4-6-0 locomotive ever to run in the United Kingdom. However Because of its weight, the King class was restricted to a limited number of routes.

Agnetha Faltskog (ABBA)

Swedish singer Agnetha Faltskog was bjorn 5 April 1950. She found fame as a member of Swedish pop group ABBA. Formed in Stockholm in 1972, ABBA comprised of Agnetha Faltskog, Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus and Anni-Frid Lyngstad. ABBA being an acronym of the first letters of the bjand members’. They became one of the most commercially successful acts in the history of pop music, topping the charts worldwide from 1972 to 1982. They are also known for winning the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest with the song “Waterloo”, giving Sweden its first victory in the history of the contest and being the most successful group ever to take part in the contest.ABBA have sold over 370 million records worldwide and still sells millions of records a year, which makes them one of the best-selling music artists of all time. ABBA were the first pop group to come from a non-English-speaking country that enjoyed consistent success in the charts of English-speaking countries, including the UK, Ireland, the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa.

ABBA enjoyed significant success in Latin American markets, and recorded a collection of their hit songs in Spanish. During the band’s active years, Fältskog and Ulvaeus were a married couple, as were Lyngstad and Andersson, although both couples later divorced. At the height of their popularity, both relationships were suffering strain which ultimately resulted in the collapse of the Ulvaeus-Fältskog marriage in 1979 and the Andersson-Lyngstad marriage in 1981. These relationship changes were reflected in the group’s music, with later compositions including more introspective lyrics.After ABBA broke up in late 1982, Andersson and Ulvaeus achieved success writing music for the stage while Lyngstad and Fältskog pursued solo careers with mixed success.

At the end of 1982, Fältskog duetted with Swedish singer (and former ABBA backing vocalist) Tomas Ledin on a song called “Never Again”, the song was also released in a Spanish-language version, entitled “Ya Nunca Más”. In the summer of the same year, Fältskog had a leading role in the hit Swedish movie Raskenstam. In May 1983, Fältskog released her first post-ABBA solo album, Wrap Your Arms Around Me Containing the singles “The Heat Is On” and “Can’t Shake Loose” and Fältskog was voted by the readers of Aftonbladet as Best Female Artist of the Year in the Rockbjörnen music awards. Fältskog’s next studio album, Eyes of a Woman, produced by Eric Stewart of 10cc, was released in March 1985 And contained the single “I Won’t Let You Go”.In 1986, Fältskog recorded another duet, “The Way You Are”, with Swedish singer Ola Håkansson. In early 1987, Agnetha recorded an album “Kom folj med I var karusell” (‘Come ride with me on my carousell’) with her son Christian. The album contained songs for children and was sung in Swedish. For the album Agnetha recorded duets with her son and with a choir of children. She also recorded a few solo songs including The single ‘Pa Sondag’ . In the summer of 1987,

Fältskog recorded her fourth solo album (after ABBA), I Stand Alone, produced by Peter Cetera (formerly of the band Chicago) and Bruce Gaitsch, who had collaborated on Madonna’s La Isla Bonita. Containing the single, “I Wasn’t the One (Who Said Goodbye)”, on which Fältskog duetted with Peter Cetera. Two tracks were also recorded in Spanish for the Latin American market; “La Ultima Véz” (“The Last Time”) and “Yo No Fui Quién Dijo Adiós” (“I Wasn’t the One (Who Said Goodbye)” In 1996, her autobiography Som jag är was published in Swedish (and in English the following year titled As I Am), followed by several compilation CDs of her Swedish and English recordings, including one called My Love, My Life for which Fältskog picked out the music herself. The book was updated in 1998 and released worldwide.

In April 2004, Fältskog released a new single, “If I Thought You’d Ever Change Your Mind” (a cover of the song originally recorded by Cilla Black). Followed by the album My Colouring Book, a collection of Fältskog’s covers of 1960s classic oldies Like “Sealed with a Kiss”,And, “When You Walk in the Room”and “Sometimes When I’m Dreaming”.In 2004, Fältskog was nominated for Best Nordic Artist at the Nordic Music Awards, and released lavishly produced 6-CD boxed set comprising Fältskog’s Swedish solo career, mostly before ABBA, with five original solo albums: 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, and her 1975 album recorded and released during her time with ABBA) – plus an additional compilation disc with bonus tracks. In January 2007, Fältskog appeared at the final performance of Mamma Mia! in Stockholm (as she had at its opening in 2005). She also sang a duet, “True Love”, with Tommy Körberg of Chess. In October 2008, a new compilation album, My Very Best, was released in Sweden. The double CD contains both Swedish (CD 1) and English-language hits (CD 2) from her whole solo career, from 1967 to 2004. On 4 July 2008, Fältskog joined former colleagues Anni-Frid Lyngstad, Björn Ulvaeus, and Benny Andersson at the Swedish premiere of the film version of Mamma Mia!.

In January 2009, Fältskog appeared onstage together with Lyngstad at the Swedish Rockbjörnen Awards to receive a lifetime honorary award for ABBA, and in February 2010, ABBA World, an extensive exhibition, debuted at London’s Earls Court For which she recorded a light-hearted opening film together with former ABBA colleague Benny Andersson. In May 2013 ), Fältskog released a new album called “A” Containing the single “When You Really Loved Someone,” The One Who Loves You Now” dance your PainAway and included a duet with Gary Barlow of Take That, called “I Should’ve Followed You Home” A’ has earned Agnetha 3 Gold Records in UK, Australia and Germany, and Platinum in Sweden., Fältskog was awarded the SKAP 2013 Kai Gullmar Memorial Award at the Stockholm release party for “A”.On 12 November 2013 Fältskog sang live on stage for the first time in 25 years at the BBC Children in Need Rocks concert in London; she sang a duet with Gary Barlow, the organiser of the event. On 18 November 2013 in order to promote the song, a video for “I Should’ve Followed You Home”. ABBA’s popularity was revived by several films, notably Muriel’s Wedding, Mamma Mia and The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, spawning several tribute bjands. In 1999, ABBA’s music was adapted into the successful musical Mamma Mia! that toured worldwide. A film of the same name released in 2008 became the highest-grossing film in the United Kingdom that year. The group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on 15 March 2010

Kurt Cobain

Best known as the lead singer and guitarist of the Seattle grunge band Nirvana, the Late great American singer-songwriter, musician and vocalist Kurt Cobain tragically committed suicide 5 April 1994. Born 20 February 1967 Cobain formed grunge band Nirvana with Krist Novoselic in Aberdeen, Washington in 1985 and established it as part of the Seattle music scene. Nirvana’s debut album Bleach was released in 1989. Nirvana’s classic second album Nevermind was released in 1991 and contained the songs “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, “Come as You Are” “In Bloom“ and “Lithium“. A 20th Anniversary edition of the album was also released in 2011 which in addition to the original album also features a second disc full of rarities, Alternative versions, outtakes and accoustic versions.

Following the success of Nevermind, Nirvana was labeled “the flagship band” of Generation X, and Cobain hailed as “the spokesman of a generation”. Cobain however was often uncomfortable and frustrated, believing his message and artistic vision to have been misinterpreted by the public, with his personal issues often subject to media attention. He challenged Nirvana’s audience with its final studio album In Utero (1993). During the last years of his life, Cobain struggled with heroin addiction, illness and depression. He also had difficulty coping with his fame and public image, and the professional and lifelong personal pressures surrounding himself and his wife, musician Courtney Love. However it was not until 8 April 1994 that Cobain was found dead at his home in Seattle, the victim of what was officially ruled a suicide by a self-inflicted shotgun wound to the head. The circumstances of his death have been a topic of public fascination and debate ever since.

Nirvana, with Cobain as a songwriter, have sold over 25 million albums in the US alone, and over 50 million worldwide. Cobain has been remembered as one of the most iconic rock musicians in the history of alternative music. He was ranked by Rolling Stone as the 12th greatest guitarist and 45th greatest singer of all time, and by MTV as 7th in the “22 Greatest Voices in Music”. In 2006, he was placed at number twenty by Hit Parader on their list of the “100 Greatest Metal Singers of All Time”. Reflecting on Cobain’s death over ten years later, MSNBC’s Eric Olsen wrote, “In the intervening decade, Cobain, a small, frail but handsome man in life, has become an abstract Generation X icon, viewed by many as the ‘last real rock star, a messiah and martyr whose every utterance has been plundered and parsed”.

In 2005, a sign was put up in Aberdeen, Washington, that read “Welcome to Aberdeen – Come As You Are” as a tribute to Cobain. The sign was paid for and created by the Kurt Cobain Memorial Committee, a non-profit organization created in May 2004 to honour Cobain. The Committee planned to create a Kurt Cobain Memorial Park and a youth center in Aberdeen. Because Cobain was cremated and his remains scattered into the Wishkah River in Washington, many Nirvana fans visit Viretta Park, near Cobain’s former Lake Washington home, to pay tribute. On the anniversary of his death, fans gather in the park to celebrate his life and memory. In 2006, Cobain took the place of Elvis Presley as the top-earning deceased celebrity, after the sale of the Nirvana song catalogue. Presley reclaimed the spot in 2007. There is also A monument to Cobain in Aberdeen along the Wishkah River, and The monument and bridge have both become popular places for fans to leave tributes. Gus Van Sant loosely based his 2005 movie Last Days on the events in the final days of Cobain’s life. In January 2007, Courtney Love began to shop the biography Heavier Than Heaven to various movie studios in Hollywood to turn the book into an A-list feature film about Cobain and Nirvana. A film entitled Montage of Heck about Cobain was also released.

Night School by Lee Child

I would also like to read Night School, the twenty first exciting thriller by Lee Child. It takes place in 1996 and features former Special Services soldier turned Private Detective Jack Reacher, who is fresh from a successfully completed secret mission, and is sent on an assignment with an FBI Agent and a CIA Agent for what appears to be classroom training in some unspecified and presumably terminally boring military sub-specialty. This takes our hero back to his army days, but this time he’s not in uniform and Once again trusted sergeant Frances Neagley at his side,

However their true assignment is to identify an American who had requested $100 million from certain Middle Eastern contacts in return for unknown merchandise or information. They discover A Jihadist sleeper cell in Hamburg, Germany, has received an unexpected visitor—a Saudi courier, seeking safe haven while waiting to rendezvous with persons unknown. A CIA asset, undercover inside the cell, has overheard the courier whisper a chilling message: “The American wants a hundred million dollars But For what? And who from? Reacher and his two new friends are told to find the American, and eventually learn that he is a chap named Horace Wiley from Sugarland. Texas, but what is he up to?

The action moves From Langley to Hamburg, Jalalabad to Kiev, like a bullet through a treacherous landscape of double crosses, faked identities, and new and terrible enemies, as Reacher maneuvers inside the game and outside the law in order to stop a threat to international security and a potential act of mass terrorism.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Twenty Three by Linwwod Barclay

Having read Far from True, Broken Window and A Tap on the Window I would like to read The Twenty Three. This novel is the concluding part of Linwood Barclays exciting Promise Falls thriller series.

It starts quietly in the troubled town of Promise Falls Suddenly A dark cloud of suspicion and fear hangs over Promise Falls when people suddenly start inexplicably dying in the street. The local hospital and Emergency Services, are soon overwhelmed by the influx of patients and are baffled by the cause and don’t know wether it is mass food poisoning, a virus or something more sinister. This series of bizarre ominously threatening incidents suggest that someone is plotting revenge on the town but despite the Police best efforts the perpetrator remains unknown.

Enter Detective Barry Duckworth, who is already investigating two murders and an explosion at the Drive In Cinema in Promise Falls. He is tasked with investigating the attacks and starts to wonder whether they are somehow connected to the mysterious incidents currently occurring in Promise Falls, which all seem to be somehow connected to the number Twenty Three.

Avatar

I have recently rewatched the epic science fiction film Avatar starring Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Stephen Lang, Michelle Rodriguez, and Sigourney Weaver. The film was directed, written, produced, and co-edited by James Cameron. It is is set in 2154, humans have depleted Earth’s natural resources, leading to a severe energy crisis. So The Resources Development Administration (RDA for short) mines for a valuable mineral – unobtanium – a room temperature superconducter on a densely forested habitable moon named Pandora which is orbiting the gas giant Polyphemus in the Alpha Centauri star system. whose atmosphere is poisonous to humans, is inhabited by the Na’vi, 10-foot tall (3.0 m), blue-skinned, sapient humanoids who live in harmony with nature and worship a mother goddess called Eywa.

To explore Pandora’s biosphere, scientists use Na’vi-human hybrids called “avatars”, genetically engineered Na’vi bodies with the mind of a remotely located and genetically matched human which are used to interact with the natives of Pandora. Jake Sully, a paraplegic former Marine, replaces his deceased identical twin brother as an operator of one of the Avatars. Colonel Miles Quaritch, head of RDA’s private security force, wants Jake to secretly gather information about the Na’vi and the clan’s gathering place, a giant tree called Hometree. So Jake joins Dr. Grace Augustine, head of the Avatar Program, and fellow scientist Dr. Norm Spellman as they collect biological data. However Jake becomes seperated when his avatar is attacked by a carnivorous predator called a thanator and flees into the forest. Luckily he is rescued by Neytiri, a female Na’vi. Who after Witnessing an auspicious sign, takes him to her clan, whereupon Neytiri’s mother Mo’at, the clan’s spiritual leader, orders her daughter to initiate Jake into their society. They discover that Hometree stands on grounds containing the richest deposit of unobtanium in the area. Over the following three months, Jake grows to sympathize with the natives. After Jake is initiated into the tribe, he and Neytiri choose each other as mates, and soon afterward, Jake changes is allegiance.

Sadly The expansion of the mining colony starts to threaten the continued existence of the Na’vi and things come to a head when they threaten to destroy a sacred Na’vi site. Then Selfridge orders Hometree destroyed. Despite Grace’s argument that destroying Hometree could damage the biological neural network native to Pandora, Selfridge gives Jake and Grace one hour to convince the Na’vi to evacuate before commencing the attack. While trying to warn the Na’vi, Jake confesses to being a spy and the Na’vi take him and Grace captive. Quaritch’s men destroy Hometree, killing Neytiri’s father (the clan chief) and many others. Mo’at frees Jake and Grace, but they are detached from their avatars and imprisoned by Quaritch’s forces. However Pilot Trudy Chacón, disgusted by Quaritch’s brutality rescues them both.

Jake tries to regain the Na’vi’s trust, By connecting his mind to a fierce dragon-like predator feared and honored by the Na’vi. Jake finds the refugees at the sacred Tree of Souls and pleads with Mo’at to heal Grace. Supported by the new chief Tsu’tey, who acts as Jake’s translator, Jake unites the clans and shows them how to battle against the Resources Development Association and fairly soon all hell breaks loose as the Na’avi try to regain control of Pandora and evict the human invaders who just want to strip-mine Pandora’s resources regardless of the Na’vi or the health of the planet.