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PostPosted: Sat Jul 25, 2020 8:35 pm 
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UKASTLE is much quieter nowadays than it has been in years gone by. There are some obvious reasons for this, but I'd like to gauge other's feelings on the interest at present, from their own perspectives.

My street lighting interest is currently muted. I have a street lighting collection, and it still brings me joy every time I see it. But that's about as good as it gets. I don't post on UKASTLE much anymore. What would I say even? In my area, nothing much is changing. We have had a PFI which has wiped out virtually everything in favour of something very uniform and standardised. See one lighting installation and you've seen them all, you could say. Many neighbouring authorities have also had PFIs that have standardised their appearances too, and where there haven't been PFIs, there has been the onslaught of LED replacement schemes, and private installations have also been renewed bit by bit into something less interesting. Street lighting is simply not as interesting out and about anymore, and installations that generate interest are increasingly rare. Dare I say it, it's all a bit boring compared with the old days. So, what is there to say? Nothing really, and it's a shame. The interest is still there, but it's not at the forefront.


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PostPosted: Sun Jul 26, 2020 3:26 pm 
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Pretty much the same for me! My local borough is now all LED, so the only bit of variety you get is the very occasional straggler that's been left behind by LED replacement schemes, or private/car park installations. There is also a bit of LED variation on A-roads, which are owned by TfL. My nearest non-LED lanterns now are these two MRL6s from the mid-90s, which are owned by TfL but installed on a council-owned road. The A12 behind was lit with these starting from this junction going east, but all but these two have now been wiped out with Orangetek AriaLEDs from TfL's LED replacement scheme in 2015. The AriaLEDs are now the definitive standard for TfL-owned roads (mostly A-roads) all across London, although, as you'll see a bit later, this can vary in places! The MRL6s been dayburning now for several years and the (unnecessary) confusion over their ownership, plus the fact they are on a narrow piece of road right next to a busy junction (which would probably make them hard to maintain) is my guess as to why these are still surviving. Behind the MRL6s is the uniform standard now for my local borough - TRT Aspects installed on some rather odd brackets which were originally used with Urbis Furyos and have been the standard bracket now for about 12 years.

Going in the other direction, towards London, there are these SON high mast installations, installed in 2009/2010 when the roundabout had traffic lights added to it, replacing WRTL SR200s which were installed on the kerbside all the way around the roundabout. I'm not sure if there's such thing as an LED high mast, which is probably why these have survived the LED replacement scheme, but I wish a more eco-friendly way of lighting the roundabout could've been found! Behind the high-mast, you can see the first bit of variety in LED. Instead of side-entry AriaLEDs installed on the existing columns, post-top Urbis Amperes have been used on the A1400 Woodford Avenue. The first few columns on both sides of the road were installed the same time as the high-masts, with post-top Iridiums used, while the rest of the columns were installed in 2015.

There are three SOX stragglers near me too, at the next roundabout along from the high-masts, which I think is for the same reason as the MRL6s above. There's a single gear-in-shoe MA90 lighting the entrance of a residential side road coming off the roundabout and diagonally opposite this, on the other side of the roundabout, is a double-bracket installation with two gear-in-shoe MA50s. The A406 on the flyover behind was lit by MA60s until 2007 and the roundabout lit with MA60s until 2015. If you zoom out, you'll see the MA60s have now been replaced on the roundabout by post-top Urbis Teceos, another bit of LED variety!

In terms of private installations, there aren't very many of those left now! My nearest ones are these SGS203s in varying conditions on these CU concrete columns on an industrial estate. Needless to say, they don't work at night, and this has necessitated the installation of the floodlight on the column in the foreground!

The most interesting car park installations in my local area are both owned by Sainsbury's. My local Sainsbury's is lit with these 35-year-old SGS203s installed on side entry adapters, which were the standard all over the country for Sainsbury's and some Homebase car parks built in the 80s and 90s. If you look around, there are also quite a variety of casual replacements, with flat-glass black ZX3s, a Kingfisher Lunoide, and another unusual lantern I've never seen before, installed only about 3 years ago. My second nearest Sainsbury's also has some very interesting installations on its deliveries access road -a GEC Z5678 and what look like a couple of Skye Vandalite post-tops.

So, as you can see, that's about it in terms of variety in my immediate locality! I am still trying to maintain my interest in streetlighting, but with such little variety now (and also much bigger things in the world to worry about right now), it's getting harder and harder to keep engaged with streetlighting!


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 29, 2020 4:20 pm 
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This is an interesting topic, a sad portent for the future perhaps - although I do hope not?

My interest in street lighting (and lamps) has 'for the most part', gone on the back burner over the last few months. The ability to get out and about has been decimated, due to the Covid 'shielding' measures still in place. Even my recent lantern purchases have been affected, as I am unable to collect them at the moment.

I would agree that Ukastle is pretty quiet at the moment (I've not posted anything  mainly because (sic) "the board attachment quota has been reached". I could upload my pics to Flickr, but I don't know how (and would anyone be interested?).

That said, I did have a brief splurge on my collection and managed to get a bit of organisation into my storage. I also mounted my Alpha 3 on the back wall which certainly looks impressive. I recently managed to acquire a couple of BNOS Philips MI55s (still in boxes) too.

Whilst my interest in this field is currently flagging a little, the extra time released has allowed me to revisit some of my other hobbies. The big one at the moment is my collection of bus related items, including ticket machines, destination blinds, models etc. I even have the instrument panel and a steering wheel off an old Atlantean.

My wife is convinced I'm trying to smuggle a real bus into the house 'bit by bit'.

As for the news in my own neck of the woods, there was a major push for the Vmax in the Tameside area, whilst Stockport seems to be moving away from the Cosmops in favour of LED. The once huge Beta Five stronghold is steadily being eroded there, although as I've not been out for the past 4 months I wouldn't know what other parts of the borough have been conquered over that time.

It might be that a surprising appreciation for those 'standard and banal' streetlighting installations will entice new members to Ukastle, who may have never grown up with SOX and mercury like we did.

Perhaps it is about time we shared what we have in our collections, our memories, rather than a roll call of everything that has been lost.

I would certainly agree though that with the current situation, there have understandably been more serious things to worry about.

However, that is no reason to drop those things which we have held dear in the recent past.

Let's get posting again! ;)

_________________
"As we moved along in a little procession, I was delighted with the illumination of the streets. So many lamps and they burned until morning, my father said, and so people did not need to carry lanterns."
Mary Antin - US author & activist. 1881-1949.


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PostPosted: Fri Jul 31, 2020 12:56 pm 
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It is not clear if you have reached your personal image hosting allowance or its a forum limitation. We no longer recommend using the forum gallery area for hosting of images. It's always best to resize to 640x480 pixels for better viewing and faster page loading.

The best way to upload an image is to use a 3rd party provider such as Imgur or ImgBB and then post the direct URL using the Img buttons in the reply window.

For me, much of the thrill of finding old and unusual installations has rapidly diminished following the widespread LED roll out and the end of SOX lamp production. These 2 factors probably did more harm than the widespread PFIs of the early 2000s. Concrete and old steel installations by their very nature and age (over 50 years old) are now sparse. Lighting became much more utilitarian after 1980.

It takes a lot of effort and travel to search out rare installations which takes time and money. I now usually find installations of interest when I visit a new location usually on holiday or leisure trips. Dedicated trips to specifically visit installations are now a thing of the past due to the limited number of installations of interest still left.

CVD19 has added a further dampener to travel and it looks like further restrictions maybe on the way. It has meant that meet ups with other collectors has been out of the question during 2020, and this may extend into 2021.

I still collect lanterns via swaps and the occasional gem turning up online, but the supply of new collectables is becoming increasingly scarce.

Younger collectors seem to have changed interests as they have got older, settling down and starting families means they are less on the lighting scene.

I still have a huge collection of lanterns awaiting restoration, and my long term aim is to build a museum to house them in, but as you get older, life tends to get more in the way.  Work patterns change, often career development results in more responsibility - and stress, which leaves people less inclined to "dabble" in the evenings or at weekends - whether that's in the workshop or online.

I have hundreds of photographs of relics both home and abroad that need to be uploaded online, but after spending most of my working day sat in front of a computer screen - or travelling along congested motorways to attend deeply specialised technical meetings for work, I'm often exhausted at the end of the day and don't feel inclined to spend yet more time in front of the laptop.

Hopefully the streetlighting community will stay together, but other hobbies and interests are also having a hard time, exacerbated by CVD19.

In the music world, Q magazine has just published its last issue after 34 years. The Argos catalogue, something I grew up with as a kid, and very much the "book of dreams" has also had its last print run after 48 years and will be online only from now on.

Even a specialist publication for Aviation, which was printed weekly for over 100 years was forced to go bi weekly due to CVD19, and has now announced it will go monthly.

The "we live in interesting times" strapline so often used at the start of the CVD19 pandemic, really needs to be replaced with uncertain or even worrying times.


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PostPosted: Sat Aug 01, 2020 12:07 am 
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I think that if it wasn't for the existence of Ukastle, I would have most likely took almost zero interest in the street lighting developments that have taken place in and around my area, be it the first LED lighting installation on the Queensway part of the A18 in Scunthorpe, to the widespread installation of the Urbis streetlights starting from 2017 and the very random lighting column replacements on various streets.

I'm probably in the minority here who is glad to see the almost extinction of various SON and SOX lighting, although I do feel a slight twinge of sadness when on any road that has but a single SON or SOX light remaining suddenly gets replaced as I saw in April, a nearby road with a single SOX light remaining get replaced. To the best of my knowledge, unless you count three non working SOX lights on a roundabout for a road in an industrial area, SOX lightning is extinct in Scunthorpe and the rest of North Lincolnshire and only three roads in Scunthorpe still have one or two SONs clinging on.

I think once Scunthorpe and the rest of North Lincolnshire is 100% LED, the only interest I'll have is how long the remaining concrete posts will last before requiring replacement.


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 05, 2020 6:45 am 
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I was asked to write a personal piece for a street lighting art installation. I think Covid-19 has delayed it, but it neatly sums up my position on the current state of street lighting:


Street lighting used to be interesting.

It’s all functional and modern these days: angled LED slices mounted on grey, steel, undecorated poles. It has that whiff of uncompromising efficiency where the bottom line is king, where the light on the street is all that matters, and the daylight appearance is of secondary consideration. But there was a time when it was diverse, artistic, oddball, historical, mysterious and, indeed, interesting. And my interest in the subject was piqued by the street lighting in 1970s Beckenham.

I grew up in this London suburb and some of my formative childhood memories were the damp, foggy, Autumnal evenings. The wide, leafy main roads were lit by the eerie blue-green glow of the borough’s idiosyncratic street lighting, and in the twilight, as the mist fell and one shuffled through the leaves, the lighting gave the scene a new aesthetic.  The lanterns pierced the fog like miniature eyes of Sauron, their vertical irises suspended above the roadway, floodlighting the road and pathway with an otherworldly blue glow. Colours were distorted, the hues shifted, the world now rendered in black and blue. Yet it wasn’t the oddly coloured landscape which intrigued me, but it was the streetlights themselves.

The allure of these municipal placements was not just restricted to the night, as they held an equal fascination by day. The columns were rough concrete, obliquely triangular, raising to a lattice work of vertical concrete slats, supporting a graceful arc which held the lantern aloft. The whole unit had an elegance, the vertical angular column combining with the sweep of the bracket, ultimately suspending a fragile cat’s eye luminaire over the carriageway. And they were planted with regimented care, placed in staggered formation along the straights and swung into wild arcs across the bends.

And then there were the “Butterflies”. Even at my young age, I could appreciate that these smaller units, used for the lighting of the borough’s residential side streets, were older and more antiquated than their neighbouring, brutalist main road examples. Usually installed on decorative cast-iron columns, complete with swan-neck brackets with embellishments, scrollwork and finials, these lanterns resembled the open wings of a butterfly, fitted with an integral mosaic of mirrored glass. At night, their semi-circular facetted faces gave a beautiful, warm, tungsten glow, which was entirely in keeping with the gravelled roads and 1930s mock-Tudor architecture of their surrounds. It was just so fitting.

This style and variance of street lighting was not just limited to Beckenham. Every borough in London at that time had its own individual lighting. Every local lighting engineer had his own favourites, styles and colours. The local maintenance crews made up their own vernacular, calling the lanterns “Butterflies” or “Sugar Bowls” – the original manufacturer’s names either wilfully forgotten or discarded for more natural nouns. At night, the differences were more profound with roads lit up with bold orange, zombie blue-green, warm tungsten and the harsh white of fluorescent. The whole of the UK was a patchwork of unique street lighting combinations thanks to different ideas, different styles, different materials and ancient old legal acts that allowed individual councils to conduct their own affairs.

Navigation around the various boroughs of London was easy. Just look at the streetlights. So, if the main roads were lit by tall, silver painted steel fluted columns, with simple angular brackets with a supporting flange, and a deep, angular orange lantern with a criss-cross patterning on its end faces, then you were in Croydon. Similarly, a residential road lit by silver painted “Butterflies” on large swan-neck brackets with “flower” finals, suggested you were further west in Sutton. Not only did every lighting engineer pick his own preferences of lighting equipment, but he also stipulated the colours, normally the borough’s own, adding to the diversity and interest. You could, in theory, determine the borough by the colour scheme of the streetlights alone, although that became more difficult with concrete.

My family moved from the area and all the old schemes and installations were gradually swept away. Their replacements were less interesting, more uniform, more common. But it didn’t stop me wondering about these old streetlights, the ones that so fascinated me. And so, I found out more.

Beckenham’s concrete columns and brackets, those massive monoliths which made such an impact on the road scene, despite being shielded by trees in some of the leafier streets, were the result of 1930s technology and styling. The concrete column and bracket were a new technology at that time, born in the 1920s, and they were slowly evolving into ever more graceful and slender styles. This transmutation was helped by the Fine Arts Council, who were the official government sanctioned arbiters of taste, and who passed manufacturer’s designs. The rough concrete was embellished with art-deco grooves and scallops, the column was filleted triangular in cross-section, and it tapered to accept a lattice bracket on its capital. Concepts of style and proportion were adhered to, the two parts designed as one unit. Even the names harked back to a more innocent, typically British age, with the column called the “Avenue” and the bracket dubbed the “Shakespeare”.

The pendent lanterns, suspended over the road like levitating disembodied cat’s eyes, came from another time together. These were post-war, when form followed function, embellishments were gone, and the mettle of judging taste had been passed to the no-nonsense Council of Industrial Design. This futuristic glass concoction had the wonderfully futuristic moniker of “Dioptrion”, which gave it a space-race vibe. One could imagine multiple units mounted in frames at the Festival of Britain, their beams boldly illuminating the huge elevating space needle, the brochure pointing out how the Dioptrion was illuminating the Skylon. The fact that these two components, being the concrete column and the glass lantern, straddled the war years, and arose from different design methodologies, and yet came together as a coherent whole, was fascinating.

The little side-street “Butterfly” lanterns which had also captivated me, were even more ancient, the result of experiments in optical control by the wonderfully named Lieutenant Commander Haydn T. Harrison, in 1923. His facetted mirrors covered concave reflectors, designed to redirect the limited light from the tungsten lamp onto the road surface where it was most needed. It was one of the earliest attempts at optical control, and his firm, Electrical Street Lighting Apparatus (ESLA), produced a combination of reflectors for every road alignment. There were multitudes of 2-way versions for varying angles of road, 3-way variants for T-junctions, 4-way styles for cross-roads, and rare octagonal versions for roundabouts. It was called the “Bi-Multi” system of street lighting, and versions could be found in Beckenham, Sutton, Cheam, Wimbledon and all over the UK, all mounted on differently decorated swan neck brackets, all decked out in the borough’s liveries. Beckenham had the purest examples, as the swan necks, and all their chunky 1930s embellishments were also by the same firm, fuse box covers proudly bearing the “ESLA” name, all painted in dark borough green.

Manufacturer’s names and rough installation dates offered an initial mooring point and helped to position the borough’s own street lighting history, and the history of those boroughs surrounding it. But there was also the science underpinning the construction, the optical, electrical, and mechanical engineering, which had been brought together to create these units. Going this extra step revealed more of the theory underpinning street lighting, and answered more questions concerning their design.

Reinforced concrete for columns and brackets had slowly gained in popularity since its introduction in Liverpool in 1931. The selling point was durability of the material, and the savings in maintenance, as concrete didn’t require constant repainting like its cast iron and steel counterparts. And there were extra twists to the Avenue and Shakespeare’s design which was probably not immediately apparent: the odd triangular cross-section was angled to reflect car headlights; the sweeping bracket was perfectly balanced as the back end of the elegant arch was a disguised counterweight; rebars through the concrete ensured its continuing structural stability after a collision; and the inspection cover in the base, which gave access  to the lamp controlling electronics and time switch, was positioned so a workman would be facing oncoming traffic.

The oddly shaped double oval Dioptrion was a master class in optical engineering, the glass refractors forming two beams designed to obliquely strike the road surface at a shallow angle. This ensured the limited light from the fixture was used to its maximum effect and rendered the road surface bright and all obstacles upon it appeared in silhouette. This lighting technique was known as ‘silhouette vision’ or ‘negative contrast’, a concept discovered and developed in the early 1930s. The eerie blue-green light was the result of using a mercury discharge lamp, which was far more efficient than a household tungsten fitting, and colour was not considered important. (Its sister technology, the orange sodium discharge lamp, was developed at the same time, also appearing in the early 1930s, and became the mainstay of British street lighting for many years).

The Second World War was also a major contribution to Beckenham’s lighting. The combination of concrete for the columns and bracket, and glass for the lantern, harked back to necessity and austerity, and was not a cosy armchair selection made by the borough’s lighting engineer. Erected in 1951, Beckenham’s main road installation was typical of post-war requirements: concrete and glass were used because metal was in such short supply. But it made for a rugged, efficient and, in some ways, beautiful installation which was expected to last 25 years.

Most of these streetlights lasted well over 30, with the final remnants clinging on into the early 1990s. The rugged little ESLA Bi-Multis fared a little better: most were swept away in the 1970s, when the energy crisis necessitated more energy efficient lighting and the warm tungsten lamps being used were simply too costly. They were replaced by modern sodium lanterns, but some Bi-Multis clung on, still to be found on private roads in the borough, kept because the residents appreciated their looks. But they are exceedingly rare now.

In the end the vast majority of this idiosyncratic, deeply peculiar and oddball street lighting was confined to the skip: the lanterns smashed and discarded, the cast iron and steel columns melted down and recycled, the concrete cracked and reduced to hardcore and rubble. But I saved what I could: salvaging items from friendly lighting engineers, rescuing examples from demolition sites and negotiating bits and pieces from salvage yards. My back garden is now filled with a selection of “butterflies” and “sugar bowls”, a graveyard for Britain’s post-war lighting, a small history of twentieth century street lighting technology. I even have a Dioptrion – not one of Beckenham’s alas – but rescued from a car park in Worcester. It is probably my favourite lantern in the collection.

One night, when it is misty, I will fit it with a mercury lamp, fire it up and bathe in nostalgia, remembering the foggy nights of 1970s Beckenham.

Back when street lighting was interesting.

Simon Cornwell
Great Chishill
April 2020


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 06, 2020 9:48 pm 
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Fantastic post Simon.

The heyday of UK street lighting really was in the 1950/60s and we led the world in the development of the technology from the 1930s.

Sadly like so much else linked with engineering or manufacturing in the UK, its all gone.


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 06, 2020 9:55 pm 
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Simon Cornwell wrote:

Street lighting used to be interesting.

My back garden is now filled with a selection of “butterflies” and “sugar bowls”, a graveyard for Britain’s post-war lighting, ...


Well done, Simon.

This is a wonderfully evocative (almost poetical) piece of writing. I think pretty much every member of Ukastle, can relate to most (if not all) of what has been written here.

The only thing I would probably comment on, is the notion of your back garden being a 'graveyard for Britain's postwar lighting'.

A graveyard is reserved for the dead (or dismembered as in the case of street lantern recycling). Interestingly, one of the leaders in this field has a very informative (new) video on their website, explaining their processes (Nb: this can be hard to watch in places, especially if you are a fan of SON lanterns).

But I digress...

A nice, well considered piece, which should spur us all to remember what it was that got us 'hooked' in the first place.

Why be glum about what has been lost (and what has replaced it), when we have our own lanterns (and more besides) which are far from 'dead'.

_________________
"As we moved along in a little procession, I was delighted with the illumination of the streets. So many lamps and they burned until morning, my father said, and so people did not need to carry lanterns."
Mary Antin - US author & activist. 1881-1949.


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