I have managed, at last, to add a couple of pages to the Model section of the site which has been sparsely populated for far too long. Two new pages detail the construction of my version of Elmer’s Standby Engine (No. 19). Elmer Verburg designed many small engines and published his designs in a book “Elmer′s Engines” in 1989. The book is out of print but I have seen copies available through Amazon for £200.00 up. Fortunately most of the book is available online from john-tom.com.
All of the original engines are designed with imperial measurements and the Standby Engine is quite small so I up-scaled it and redrew the plans using metric measurements. I slightly altered a few bits but essentially it follows the original, just a bit bigger. The re-drawn plans are available in the article as a PDF and can be printed onto 4 A4 sheets. I got a bit carried away with the photos and there are about 70 of them so I split the build over two pages so that download time isn′t too slow. I also experimented with HTML5 video for the first time and added a short clip at the end showing the engine running.
Spent Sunday afternoon at the Buckinghamshire Railway Centre just outside Aylesbury. The centre covers about 25 acres and has something for everyone. Part of the site is used by the Vale of Aylesbury Model Engineering Society (VAMES) who have several permanent layouts in different scales from garden railways 32mm up to 7¼”. There is plenty of free parking at the site and a very good refreshments area serving snacks and hot meals. There is of course a gift shop ready to lighten your wallet for the usual selection of must have memorabilia.
There are several “special event” weekends throughout the year and this weekend there was a model traction engine rally organised I think by VAMES. There were quite a few engines about steaming merrily from the main car park along the road to the model railway area about ½ mile. Unfortunately the weather was less than kind and there were very few visitors about to take rides and a few exhibitors dropped the fire and packed up early. Apparently Saturday was much better both weather and visitor wise. Still there were some fine examples on display.
Neatly parked for a photo opportunity three 4″ scale models. Two Foster′s “Lilian” and “Lesley” and a Ruston & Proctor steam tractor. The Ruston looks to be a different scale but the original was only some 12′ long, probably one of the smallest traction engines made.
Providing nostalgic rides for the day were the 2-4-0 Beyer Peacock well tank No.30585 “Beattie” and the 0-4-0 Andrew Barclay saddle tank No.699 “Swanscombe”. It is possible that I have misidentified 30585 as it seems to have been regularly moved about, refitted, renumbered and re-liveried over the years.
Seeking refuge from the wind and squally showers, the main visitor centre building is light and airy and houses a large display area set up like a couple of platforms, the very pleasant restaurant with plenty of seating, the gift shop, toilets and play areas for the the kids. I assume this building was once an engine shed as one of the current displays is a full size loco and tender a GWR castle class engine No.5080 “Defiant” (ex Ogmore Castle). There is a traverser at the rear of the building which explains how the engine and carriage displays can be brought in and out.
Back outside the VAMES area was fairly quiet but still a couple of engines running and the Foden steam wagon had made it’s way there from the car park. The ground level tracks make their way past a pleasant wooded area set out with picnic tables but no one was brave enough to try outdoor dining today.
There are plenty of static displays outside, London Underground District Line stock, South African Railways 3′ guage loco. The 6989 Wightwick Hall Restoration Group are based here and depending on what they are doing at the time you can view their progress on the loco. Also based at the centre are the 7200 Trust restoring one of GWR′s 2-8-0 heavy freight tank locomotives.
The centre also has a museum in the “Buffer Depot” with many interesting displays of rolling stock, equipment and small artifacts. A full size W.H. Smith bookstall set up as it was on the platform at Chalfont and Latimer Station. Just outside the museum are a number of remaining “Romney” huts which were built on site by the Ministry of Food around 1941 as food stores, one of a number of such stores just outside London.
A good day out despite the weather, well worth a visit if you have an interest in railway history and preservation or just like train rides.
I was recently marking out a part to be machined using my version of a surface plate namely an old piece of plate glass. I have had this for ages and it normally sits unused in a dusty corner of the workshop (actually all the corners are probably dusty and some with added cobwebs). I was having particular difficulty seeing the the surface due to reflected light and the transparency and once I had finished decided to look at buying a new surface plate. I was surprised to find that small granite surface plates can be obtained at quite reasonable prices. For example Axminster provide a 300mm x 200mm granite plate for about £40.00. If however you want a real precision job a Mitutoyo plate the same size can be had for £234.00.
However as this would probably end up sitting in the same corner of the workshop and only be used on rare occasions I decided to investigate alternatives. I have read in a few places that bits of granite kitchen worktop can be used to good effect and also that Tesco, Argos and the like, sell small granite worktop savers at reasonable prices.
As I happened to be passing Argos I went in and found a 400mm x 300mm granite worktop saver for £8.00. At that price it had to be worth a go and if nothing else would be big enough to tape a sheet of abrasive paper to for flatening plane irons and similar jobs. Once home and unpacked I cleaned it up and checked it with a couple of straight edges. There appear to be no obvious highs or lows and the surface appears evenly ground and polished. I think with my limited ability to test for flatness it will suit my skill level and sufice until I need something more accurate. The only minor downside is that it is very shiny, I think a matt finish is normal on surface plate. I may be able to cut the glare with some abrasive cleaner but that could make it less flat.
Not I hasten to add a passing Native American but the server software that empowers a good deal of the interweb. Well the new site has been up for a couple of weeks with no major problems detected. I have however had some trouble trying to implement some of the Google Page Insight suggestions to improve the site speed and efficiency. This is mainly aimed at getting the site in a suitable state to use Google Adsense. As you can see I have put ads on the site and the main hope is that these will generate enough income to pay for the hosting. I don’t anticipate much in the way of posh cars or exotic hoidays!
One of the things suggested is to “Leverage Caching”, what they mean is turn caching on. A bit of reading explains that pages cached locally by your browser make for quicker loading times. Unless told otherwise a browser like Firefox or Chrome will download the page and it’s content fresh every time you want to view it. If you set a few commands in your Apache .htaccess file you can tell browsers to save things locally and use them on subsequent visits to the page. There are a couple of different commands to do this one being Mod_Expires, which basically tells the browser how long to keep a file before downloading a fresh copy The other being Mod_Headers which does a similar job but with more options. I am a complete novice in this area and had to read a lot before I got a rough idea what to do. I think I have things set up with some fairly short term cache directives at the moment until I have finished playing with the site.
Whilst setting directives with the .htaccess file is OK for static files – images, css, script files and the like, it will not work for the php files which are of course generated dynamically. To affect caching for these files I discovered that you need to put a header directive at the top of each file that looks something like < ?php header('Cache-Control: max-age=604800'); ?> which must be the very first line on the page. This tells Apache to send HTML headers that allow caching for up to 7 days. In case you were wondering HTML headers are nothing to do with the page that appears in your browser window, they are rather part of the interchange that goes on transparently between your browser and the server (something else I learnt).
Having got caching sorted the next thing Google suggested was compressing pages using GZIP. Apparently all modern browsers are set up to ask for compressed pages, it’s in those HTML headers. The browser asks the server to send a page and says oh if you have it Gzipped I am quite happy to accept that, thankyou. Apache dutifully replies and if it can, squeezes the page before it goes, thus reducing the amount of data flying over the interweb. By this time I am an expert on rewriting the .htaccess file and duly add some Mod_Deflate instructions that are the standard way of telling Apache to GZIP everything it outputs. A quick test and… Nothing and definitely not ZIP. More reading and it transpires that my hosting company, 1 and 1, do not enable Mod_Deflate on their servers. Scratch head and send e-mail to Tech Support who reply quickly and apologetically saying I can use Zlib. Lots more reading.
Zlib is part of PHP and has, in my view, very poor documentation. Eventually I found out how to enable it using a php.ini file and switched it on. A quick check with Firefox Element Inspector showed that it was working. A more detailed look showed that it was working but the caching headers seemed to have switched themselves off. Now I am confused (it doesn’t take much), looking at Google Page Insights also showed I was getting 404 (page not found) errors, now I am really confused. Turn compression (Zlib) off and everything is working again. I did a few tests just to make sure I wasn’t seeing things but with Zlib on pages, except the home page, were still being served OK but with a 404 response and with the wrong HTML headers. I turned Zlib off and e-mailed Tech Support again, this time they seem to have headed for the hills! A couple of days reading, most of which was way over my head, I found one comment in the PHP documentation that suggested there was some vague bug where if you called Zlib with its standard zlib.output_compression = on it could corrupt headers but if you enabled zlib with a buffer size zlib.output_compression = 4096 it would work. I tried this without much hope but to my surprise it seems to have worked. I now have HTML headers with cache control set, Gzipped output for PHP and no 404 errors. Result!. I still need to sort out compressing CSS and JS but these files are already minified so they are not going to get much smaller.
Whilst fighting Apache’s .htaccess I thought it would be a good idea to add some of the WordPress recommended security fixes. This meant playing with Mod_Rewrite. Now I have used this before and never understood it. as far as I can see Mod_Rewrite uses a language that is entirely written in punctuation marks and makes no sense whatsoever. I therefore resort to the time honoured method of finding something similar on the interweb and tweaking it until it works or explodes completely. This isn’t the best approach as Mod_Rewrite is very powerful and a slight error could have a myriad of unseen consequences. At this moment in time I seem fortuitously to have hit the right buttons. There are many articles regarding WordPress security so I wont go into detail save suggesting
An article in Smashing Magazine and the WordPress Codex.
There is still a slight problem with Google having some spurious links recorded but I think these came about when I was in the process of changing the domain name and I had three seperate domain names all pointing at the same site. Not a good idea, hopefully the duff links will drop off soon. I have no doubt that there are still some gremlins lurking in the works somewhere but they will eventually be tamed as per the Apache.
If you have visited before, you will have noticed that the website has undergone a bit of a radical redesign. The old cign.org and cign.net addresses have been relegated and the new address journeymans-workshop.uk is working for the whole site. No information has been lost during the changeover, well at least I don’t think I’ve lost anything and all the original pages and articles still exist. I have no doubt that there are some errors here and there with the CSS but I will track them down eventually. It is a bit tricky as the CSS is shared by both the static bit of the site and the WordPress bit.
The theme for WordPress is all my own work, alright I admit to using the Underscores starter theme but the rest is all mine! It has taken quite a few weeks to get everything working fairly smoothly, even though I am not using any of the complicated bits of WordPress. Knitting a static site and a blog together is not easy when the little grey cells are not used to thinking code.
The new layout is responsive and should work on phone, tablet, laptop or big screen desktop. Unfortunately to get the old pages to work they needed a bit of tweaking which took quite some time but all is now complete. Some of the original images look a bit small but changing those will take much longer! I have also made a switch from standard HTML pages to PHP which made the integration with WordPress a little easier.
The leadscrew gearbox was getting a bit low on oil and as the oil was still the original I decided an oil change was in order. Nothing too complicated but it led on to another small mod to the lathe which I wrote up for anyone who needs new oil.