Friday, 31 August 2018

Great West Aerodrome

This modest brochure introduces the public to the modern miracle of what was then London Airport in the early 1960s. When it opened in 1929 it was known as the Great West Aerodrome, now it is the misleadingly bucolic sounding, Heathrow. We are told that over 4 million travellers passed through each year – today’s figure is 72 million. This was a time when air travel was only available to the privileged few – the days of cheap flights to distant destinations were long in the future. As the brochure makes clear, for most people the best they can aspire to is observe what goes on as a visitor. Facilities for sightseeing have been provided with this in mind and are described in the text. The colour illustrations have a jaunty Mid-century quality to them. Britain’s major airlines at that time were state-owned BEA and BOAC (the former for flights to Europe, the latter for everywhere else) and two examples of contemporary advertising are shown below.

Friday, 17 August 2018

Monte San Salvatore Funicular

Here’s an attractive vintage brochure for a famous funicular railway in the Swiss city of Lugano. To this day it connects the suburb of Paradiso with the summit of Monte San Salvatore, 912 metres in height. Spectacular panoramic views can be enjoyed from the top. Like most funiculars, this was conceived as a tourist attraction and with careful and regular updating it has flourished and survived into the present. Funiculars retain their antiquarian character better than most other transport methods while continuing to be economically viable. More than 50 funiculars are still in operation in Switzerland launching carloads of visitors high into the Alps. For a previous post on Lugano, please follow this link.

Monday, 13 August 2018

Elbtunnel – some postcard views

The Elbtunnel in Hamburg was one of the wonders of the age when it opened in 1911 at the height of the picture postcard boom. This small selection shows how postcard publishers marked this triumph of technology. The cameras have been focused on the tunnel entrance or the tiled roadway and associated vehicle traffic. The second from last is, unusually for a postcard, almost a documentary image foregrounded by two working men, presumably on their way to or from Blohm & Voss shipyard. Most of the other figures and vehicles have been clumsily imported from another source. This applies to nearly all the figures visible in these cards – all victims of slapdash montage and heavy-handed re-touching. The antiquated vehicles enhance the period charm of the images – a charm that is purely retrospective and would have been invisible to contemporary purchasers.

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Tunnel walking in Hamburg

There are two tunnels under the River Elbe in Hamburg. The most important is the Neue Elbtunnel, large enough to carry 8 lanes of traffic on the Bundesautobahn 7. Built in 1975 (and extended in 2002), it can take up to 150,000 vehicles per day. The other is the 1911 Elbtunnel, which although superseded by the 1975 tunnel has been kept in use and still offers pedestrians, cyclists and motorists the opportunity to cross the Elbe. The original Elbtunnel took 4 years to construct and has two large lifts to transport vehicles down to the tunnel entrances. Only one of the two tunnels is in use at present so the traffic flow is regulated to provide for north to south crossings in the morning and the reverse in the afternoon. The principal aim of the tunnel was to enable the 40,000 workers employed at Blohm & Voss shipyard on the south bank of the river to make the journey from their homes in St. Pauli without the need to queue for a ferry.

The Elbtunnel entrance is a grandiose, domed building, designed to impress. The lifts and balances occupy half the volume while a metal staircase winds around and through the cavernous space in the other half. A high level of decorative finish was applied as befits a prestige project. The entrance lobby is lined with mosaic tiling and Jugendstil fonts have been used for public notices. Inside the tunnel, the tiled lining is embellished with terra-cotta panels of marine creatures. Entry is free and the tunnel is well used by pedestrians and cyclists. Motorists must pay €2 per trip and observe a speed limit of 15kph. Many cyclists ride at much greater speeds and frequently display a casual disregard for the safety of those who must rely on their feet for locomotion.

On the southern side are the still busy Blohm & Voss shipyards (now part of Thyssenkrupp Marine) and the suburb of Steinwerder. There’s a viewing area overlooking the Elbe and two bilingual signs that relate some of the wartime atrocities involving the use of forced labour in the shipyards.

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

Postcard of the Night No. 13 – Buffalo, Main Street at Night

We stay in the city of Buffalo for a nocturnal visit. Main Street at Night owes as much to the imagination of the artist as it does to the original photographer. Huddled pedestrians scuttle through the traffic as an incandescent streetcar advances through the gloom. An illuminated clock promoting watches beams its message from on high. More modest signs project over the pavement, including a perennial favourite – the sign that advertises “Signs”. In the other cards, the Electric Building lives up to its name with every window ablaze with light while a high-intensity searchlight radiates into the clouds. Finally the Statler Hotel appears in real danger of toppling over into Swan Street - the unremarkable surroundings de-glamourize the image.