Members can see more detail of talks in the minutes of meetings in the members' section.
On Monday 8th January 2024 Dr John Wibberley entertained us with a humourous talk on technology in farming at home and abroad. John was instrumental in founding the Farming Community Network - a volunteer body helping farmers with pastoral and practical issues. John is an agriculturalist engaged in rural development in the UK and overseas with tropical experience stretching from Nigeria (mid-1970s), to some forty African, Asian and Latin American countries. He talked about how technology has changed and improved farming practices and management of the rural environment and chatted about the pros and cons of technology in farming with illustrations from around the world.
On Monday 11th December 2023 John Dike gave us a fascinating and humourous talk on the history of photography from the earliest images, and camera obscura to the mobile phone. The talk was followed by an excellent Christmas lunch for members and guests in the Duckworth Suite.
On Monday 13th November 2023 Member Mike Sheehan stepped up to replace the scheduled talk. Mike talked about 100 years of land speed records, starting with the very first set in Paris. In 1898, Chasseloup-Laubat hit a speed of 39.24 mph in the electric powered Jeantaud Duc. The early records were set under different standards with world records not always being recognised by everyone. As the Association Internationale des Automobile Clubs Reconnus (later to become FIA) began to be recognised as the authority on the records, their standard began to become used. Their regulations required two passes to be made in opposite directions. This meant that they could rule out any wind assistance. The maximum wheel driven speeds reached just over 400 mph in the 1960's when jet propulsion took over from internal combustion engines.The current record was set in 1997 by Andy Green driving ThrustSSC. The twin Rolls-Royce Spey powered car went supersonic reaching an average of 760.343 mph over the two passes. Mike Sheehan was involved in the structural design of the car.
On 9 October 2023 Steven Pinkerton-Clark gave us a fascinating talk entitled "Innovation in Networks - National Grid". His division's responsibility is to anticipate future network needs not just by enlarging the grid but by delivering innovative solutions to meet net zero carbon targets - and to ensure that appropriate funding can be authorised by the regulator.
On Wednesday 27th September 2023 several members and guests went to the Kelly Mine near Lustleigh. This was a fascinating visit to a former micaceous iron oxide (MIO) mine where the whole process of extraction of the ore, its crushing, washing, drying and packaging process was shown. The MIO (so called because it is silvery looking and flaky, like mica - but does not contain mica. MIO was, and still is, used in protective paint for bridge structures, warships etc. The mine is looked after by a preservation society and is often open on a Sunday. For more details see the blog page.
On Monday 11 September 2023 Brian Fernley gave a talk entitled "Hunting the Hunter -USAF at Dunkeswell". Centred on RAF Dunkeswell this talk featured the Battle of the Atlantic, the only battle that continued throughout the six years of conflict. The effect of Germany's submarines on Allied shipping required immediate defensive action and required the cooperation between RAF's Coastal Command and the USAAF and then the US Navy. Life on the base was documented by an American magazine providing a wealth of visual material which coupled with the personal anecdotes of people who were there provides a fascinating insight to the life of the submarine hunters. One of those hunting was Joe Kennedy, brother of JFK.
On 14 August 2023 Alan Rosevear gave a talk entitled "18th and 19th Century road developments". Alan is a retired research scientist with a lifetime interest in the history of road transport. He has been active in the restoration of roadside heritage and research into the development of turnpike roads and is currently part of a project using digital mapping to understand the development of road transport up to 1840. His talk concentrated on the evolution of the turnpike trusts as a means to fund road development. For more details go to one of Alan's web sites on the subject.
On 10 July 2023 Graham Tombs (member) gave us a fascinating talk entitled "The Ghazi-Barotha hydropower project-North West Frontier Province of Pakistan". The scale of this project was truly mind boggling, especially the power channel that took water from just downstream of the Tarbela Dam. This required the diversion of the River Indus in order to build a new barrage from where the water was carried in the power channel more than 50 kilometres to the hydro power station in order to get the required head to run the turbines. Graham covered the design and construction with total memory recall of statistics of water flow and construction details without using a single note. Details of the project can be found on the internet. The project is so vast that it is difficult to show pictures and plan on this web site. A fuller description of the talk can be found in the minutes of the meeting in the members' section.
On 12 June 2023 Richard Holladay gave us a talk entitled - "A History of Garton and King, Exeter". Richard's family owned the Garton and King ironmongery business for many years.
On 15 May 2023 we held the AGM, followed by a talk by member Mike Pillidge. Details of the AGM will be posted separately. Mike's talk was about his experiences in Romania following its accession to the EU in 2007. Mike's job was to implement the requirements of EU directives related to water supply and wastewater treatment in Dolj county. His slides clearly showed the problems involved. Dolj county is bordered to the south by the River Danube - at that point not the cleanest of rivers. Unfortunately Mike's talk was rather curtailed by the overrunning of the AGM, so that there was little opportunity for questions. The meeting agreed that isf Mike is willing, he could expand on his talk at a later date
On 10 May 2023 twelve of us met at the Gorst Energy plant at Clyst St Mary. This is an anaerobic digester plant that produces gas which is exported to the grid. The digester is fed with pig slurry from the adjacent pig farm, and crop and waste crop such as reject wheat, reject apples from cider makers. It does not use food waste. The solid digestate is supplied to farmers to replace artificial fertilisers. CO2 that is presently vented will shortly be captured and sent in liquid form to the cider manufacturers. other interesting potential projects are the rearing of prawns in conjunction with Exeter University to reduce imports from Thailand. Another potential project is to capture hydrogen from the output gases (mainly methane). We saw the digester tank and its feed tanks, the CHP plant, and the gas cleaning plant. Thanks to Gorst for a most interesting and informative visit.
On 17 April 2023 Barry Hayden gave a most interesting talk entitled - "Pyrolysis and the alternative Carbon Economy". Pyrolysis is a process for breaking down waste materials including plastics and biomass using heat without oxygen. This produces gases and oil for fuel and also a solid called biochar. After explaining the carbon cycle, Barry concentrated on the uses of biochar, which are many from soil improver to additive in building materials to animal food supplement. Interestingly the speed and temperature of the pyrolysis has a significant effect on the ratios of gas, liquid, and solid products from the process. Biochar soil improver is available from garden centres so you can try it for yourself.
On 13 March 2023 John Davidson gave a talk entitled "Landslides". John is a geographer and geologist and former teacher who has spoken to us before. As usual his presentation was superb, well illustrated and interesting. He covered the mechanics of slopes and how landslides can occur. He covered landslides at home - Lyme Regis, IOW,etc and abroad - Hong Kong, Nepal, Vaiont Dam. The Vaiont Dam didn't fail, it was the rock slide into the reservoir that had almost been filled that caused the water to overtop the dam and destroyed several towns. John discussed all types of rock, hard and soft, and mudslides - common on the Dorset coast, as well as manmade such as Aberfan where the waste tip was built on a known spring.
On 13th February 2023 Peter Hill of Heathcote Fabrics, Tiverton, gave a talk entitled - "Delivering a soft landing on Mars". Peter described how Heathcote supplied the parachute for the landing on Mars of NASA's Perseverance rover vehicle. Heathcote's involvement with NASA started after a Parachute Industries Symposium in the USA, around 15 years ago. At the time Heathcote were making the lightest, strongest parachute fabrics available anywhere and were keen to prove it. For the 2020 Mars mission Perseverance’s parachute would have to survive deployment at a speed of 13,670 mph. Not only that but it had to be ultra heat resistant as space parachutes have to be baked at high temperatures to eliminate micro-organisms that might contaminate the destination planet. Peter's talk was most informative, full of humour and much appreciated by our members. Perseverance landed without a hitch on Mars on 19 February 2021 after a 9 month voyage.
On 9th January 2023 Rodney Battey gave a talk on The Survival of Ancient Buildings which focussed on showing how the original choice of construction materials influenced the buildings' survival against such forces as invading tribesmen and social changes as well as natural forces of fire, weather (wind, rain, the freeze-thaw cycle) and earthquakes. Rodney also considered the manner in which a structure, or discrete elements of it, resists loads applied in compression, tension, torsion or shear as a result of its normal use, or of extreme environmental factors. Rodney’s talk was illustrated with some magnificent photos of ancient structures Such as the Pyramids of Gaza, Petra, the Mosques and Madrasas of Samarkand and Bukhara and the Indian Step Wells. Rodney discussed the reasons why some ancient monuments survived and others decayed. Some survived through luck, by being buried in the sand others were overgrown by jungle. Others were revered and protected while others were repurposed. The more resilient the building material the more survival was likely but natural forces and man were successful in destroying most ancient buildings.
On 12th December 2022 Geoff Pettinger stepped in at the last minute to gave us a talk entitled "The Spy in the Sky - Surveillance - advances and uses from Balloon to Satellite". The first recorded aerial surveillance was the use of a balloon at the battle of Fleurus in 1794. However from contemporary accounts the balloon was deemed rather useless. Geoff went on to look at WW1 and WW11 aircraft, then to the 1960s onwards when spy planes such as U2 were deployed. Next came satellites and drones for both military and civilian purposes such as the GPS system that we are all familiar with.
On 14th Novemebr 2022 Mike Williams of the Environment Agency gave us a talk on the Lower Otter Restoration Project. This aim of this project is to restore the lower reaches of the river Otter to the original natural estuary that prevailed prior to the construction of dykes to create farmland. Mike started his talk with an explanation of the fuding of the project through PACCo (Promouvoir l’adaptation aux changements Côtiers), a collaboration with France on estuarine problems. PACCo funds two projects, the Lower Otter and a similar estuary in France (the Saane, near Dieppe). The total funding is 26m euro, with 17.8m euro coming from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). Mike then explained the work on the Otter estuary using drone flypast video that is taken monthly throught the project. See our blog page for aerial photos and descriptions of our visit on 26th July which are also in the news archive.
On 10th October Dr Sue Knox gave a talk entitled - "Stringer Lawrence and the Belvedere Tower". On her retirement as a doctor in RD&E hospital Dr Knox became a Red Coat Guide for the city of Exeter. She is a Trustee of the Stringer Lawrence Memorial Trust which owns the Haldon Belvedere. Robert Palk built the tower in 1788 as a memorial to General Lawrence who had been a friend and fellow employee of the East India Company in the 18th century. During Robert Palk’s lifetime the Tower served as a venue for elaborate entertaining, including a Royal visit, but sadly his descendants did not share the business skills. The vast estate, including most of Torquay, was gradually sold off. The Tower came into private hands in the 20th century and was eventually taken over by the Stringer Lawrence Memorial Trust. Dr Knox described Gereral Lawrence's time at Fort St George (now Chennai) in India and his friendship with Robert Palk. The tower is now used for functions.
On 12 September Darren Stockley of Ixora Energy gave us a talk on anaerobic digester (AD) plants. Commercially viable AD plants have been around for a few years now. You can see gas storage domes in farm complexes in various locations in Devon and elsewhere. The plant that was described is at Clyst St Mary near Exeter. This plant uses maize which is macerated to speed up the digestion process, and pig manure. The useful product of the digestion process is biogas, primarily methane and CO2. AD plants can also use food waste and other organic waste. The gas produced in the digester can be used in various ways - through an engine and generator to produce electricity for the grid or local use, or through a cleaning/scrubbing system to produce gas suitable for export to the gas grid. The cleaning system is modular and individual units can easily be replaced. The plant produces heat (although less than aerobic digestion) that can in some plants be used for district heating. Heat energy can also be produced by a heat exchanger linked to the gas powered engine. Darren had stepped in at short notice to give this talk, which was much appreciated by members.
On 8th August 2022 Richard Offer talked about bearings, specifically ball bearings. Richard's career started with Rolls-Royce in Derby through Wiggins of Sheffield, Carpenter Technology and Barden Corporation who were taken over by FAG Kugelfischer in 1990, and latterly in 2001 by Schaeffler Gruppe. He started by discussing the RB211 engines, showing a grapic illustration of a failed engine, then moved to nuclear submarines. We were told about fluid film lubrication technology, and had some history thrown in with bearings on turntables on Caligula's pleasure barge in 1st century AD, and of course Da Vinci's drawings circa 1500. However the first proper ball bearings were designed by Philip Vaughan in 1794 for wagon axles, followed by the bicycle pioneer Philip Moritz Fischer (born in 1812). His son Friedrich Fischer developed the ball bearings for general use and formed a manufacturing company in 1891 to make this precision product. The company became Fishers Actien Gesellschaft -FAG in 1905. Richard went on to describe the techniques required to produce very high quality bearings and their applications.
On 26 July we had a brief site visit to the Lower Otter Restoration Project (LORP) at Budleigh Salterton. From the Lime Kiln car park we walked along the dyke (built some 200 years ago by French prisoners of war) to White bridge over the Otter then towards Granary Road where Kier site office is situated. The purpose of the project is to introduce salt marshes where there are presently agricultural fields and a cricket pitch. There will be a new glass fibre (GRP) pedestrian bridge over the Otter slightly upstream of the Lime Kiln car park which will shorten the inland detour for coast path walkers. The road from Granary road to White bridge will be raised by building a new road alongside on an embankment. This embankment is currently surcharged by about 2.5 metres and the settlement is continually monitored. At the west end of the embankment a new bridge is being constructed to allow water to pass below the road.
On 12 July 2022 Robbie Sillars gave a talk on Marine Refrigeration. Robbie gave an informative and interesting account of the development of refrigeration starting with the use of ice houses (China 1100B and London1660). Then, with the development of the compression system by Perkins in 1834, Robbie explained the development of refrigerants to get colder temperatures and improved safety as many refrigerants were poisonous eg Ammonia and Sulphur Dioxide. In the late 1920’s Du Pont developed safe CFCs which rapidly replaced many other refrigerants. R-12 was commercialised in 1931 for refrigerators and R-22an HCFC in1938 for freezers. However by 1976 the destructive effect of CFCs on the ozone layer was identified and replacement HFCs were developed and introduced starting in 1990 when CFCs were banned. However, the greenhouse gas effect of these refrigerants is now unacceptable and a further set of refrigerants is being developed as environmentally friendly alternatives. These include Ammonia, carbon dioxide and propane/isobutane all with safety implications. Robbie went on further to explain how marine refrigeration is legislated. Finally Robbie addressed the problems of disposing of fridges and foam insulation which was blown with CFCs.
On 13th June the speaker was Peter Wade who talked about the Ventiford basin on the Stover Canal at Newton Abbot. This was a fascinating glimpse into the history of the canal which was built primarily for the ball clay industry to facilitate the movement of clay to the port of Teignmouth from where it was sent to the potteries at Stoke on Trent. The canal was also used for the transport of granite from Haytor quarries where the granite was hauled on the granite tramway by horses to the canal then onward to Teignmouth and London.
On 9th May 2022 we held our AGM. Much of the discussion was around the increase in subscription level required to ensure that we have a room with disabled access. There were minor changes to the committee. Following the AGM member Peter Haines gave a humourous account of his early years in khaki
On 11 April 2022 Natasha Luddington gave a talk entitled "Recent improvements to Network Rail infrastructure in the South West Network Rail". Natasha is Project Director (Enhancements), Capital Delivery Wales and Western at Network Rail, Swindon. She began with a description of the new station at Old Oak Common which is a super hub set to be the best connected rail station in the UK. The station will have fourteen platforms, a mix of six high-speed (HS2) and eight conventional service platforms. She also described the major improvements around Oxford which will also facilitate links to Milto Keynes and Bedford, and eastwards to Cambridge. Natasha covered many more developments, including Bristol metro, Dartmoor line and associated environmental problems, and Dawlish protection work.
On 14th March 2022 member Rob Petts gave a talk entitled "Diaries of a Postcolonial Highway Man". Rob told us that although he trained as a mechanical engineer his career evolved into one of building and maintaining roads in developing countries. It was an excellently presented talk with great illustrations that conveyed the full flavour of the challenges presented in developing countries.The talk was live at the Exeter Golf and Country Club but was also transmitted by Zoom to several members who could not attend in person. Those interested in rural roads in developing countries should look at Rob's web site https://ruralroads.org/
On 14th February 2022 our meeting was held by Zoo at the request of our speaker Tony Kirby who gave a talk on "Art and the Industrial Revolution"
On 10th of January 2022 we had a good turnout for our debate on the Government's 10 points to deal with climate change. The form of the bebate was that 4 members spoke for 12 minutes on on of the 10 points. After each speaker there was time allowed for questions and comments from the audience. Andrew Webb kicked off with electric cars, Peter Phillips followed with green public transport, walking and cycling. Geoff then spoke about greener buildings and, to round up, Barry covered carbon capture. The weather was mild so we had the windows open and all wore maks.
On 13th December 2021 we met at the EGCC, fully masked and socially distanced, with windows open. John Davidson talked about HMS Terror, built in Topsham at the end of the Napoleonic Wars. HMS Terror was built specially strongly for bombardment, with two massive mortars on board. These were used notably, but unsuccessfully, against Fort Henry at the approach to Baltimore. As large scale war diminished, Terror was essentially laid up until the Admiralty decided to use several ships for expeditions (and so get government funding) to the Arctic and Antarctic. Terror was strengthened further and John gave us fascinating details of the construction including the packing of the sides of the hull with compacted coal dust to aid flotation. Terror made several successful expeditions around Antarctica. John finished his talk on the ill fated voyage of Terror and Erebus to find the North West passage of which few details are available. The wreck of Terror has at last been found, and diving on the wreck is being carried out by Canada. The cause of the deaths of all the crew is still unknown but tuberculosis, and scurvy have been considered the most likely cause.
On 8th November 2021 Lucy Mottram of Devon County Council gave us an interesting talk on waste management in Devon. Lucy discussed the waste statistics and described how the council is aiming to go from a linear to a circular waste economy. She told us about the history and operation of the Energy from Waste plant at Marsh Barton. Lucy illustrated her talk with an excellent Powerpoint presentation, including photograpths of the plant and process diagrams.
On 11th October 2021 Leigh Edwards gave a talk "All about Colour" copiously illustrated with slides. The slides introduced an understanding of colour, but it’s a wide and sometimes more complex subject than people realise. Colours play a vital role in our everyday lives and affect us more than we know - colours can alter our mood and influence our choices. Sight and colour perception is probably our most important sense, but to many animals smell is equally or more important than vision. Colours help us stay safe, avoid danger and even poisoning. Colours add immeasurably to our lives – imagine a world in just black and white! Leigh's excellent presentation also included many optical illusions.
On 13th September 2021 Professor Richard Cochrane gave us a fascinating talk on commercial Geothermal Energy and domestic heat pumps. Richard started by showing graphs of global temperature and Co2 levels over the last 400,000 years. The correlation is remarkable except for the last few decades where CO2 level is so high that we are now in uncharted territory. Richard explained his work on deep trial bores at United Downs. These trials ended in June 2021 with promising results, basically performing as predicted. More drilling is now being carried out at the Eden project to provide heat and power for commercial use, such as heating the biomes, a potential distillery and a spa resort. Richard stressed that the drilling now is in areas of naturally fractured rock such as folds or faults. He mentioned that during the United Downs trial, local schoolchildren were involved in measuring vibrations at distant locations using seismometers based on raspberry Pi mini computers. This showed that any seismic vibration was not from the drill site. The second part of Richard's talk was on domestic heat pumps - air source, ground source and water source. Air source pumps are the cheapest units, basically a reverse refrigeration process with fans and heat exchanger contained in external units similar to air onditioning units. Noise can be a problem with these units. Ground source pumps can either utilise boreholes, or pipelines laid coiled in long trenches. Water source can be rivers or the sea. All of these sources only produce low temperature gains, but particularly air source in winter. It is therefore essential that buildings are insulated to a high standard and radiators may have to be bigger than is currently the case with gas boilers. This means that retrofit will be expensive and these forms of heating are more suited to new build.
On 9th August 2021 we held our first face-to-face meeting since early 2020. The meeting consisted of the delayed 2020 AGM followed by a talk by member Andrew Webb. The venue within the EGCC has changed to the Bridge room which is in the original building through the portico entrance and up the grand staircase. Andrew's talk was "The Story of Coffee" Andrew told us about the origins of coffee, how it spread to our shores and where and how it is grown and turned into the beverage we enjoy. Andrew's interested in coffee began when he was asked, as a project manager, to produce a report on management for an international coffee organisation, which turned into a 10 year contract. In his retirement Andrew runs the Crediton Coffee Company, roasting small quantities of speciality coffees. The AGM elected a new Vice Chairman, Alan Bullock, and Rodney Battey was elected President. Minutes will be shown in the members' section of the website, with the treasurer's report, in due course.
On 12th July 2021 member Graham Tombs gave a talk entitled "The Kyhber Steam Railway". However it was much more than that - Graham talked about his experiences in Pakistan in the 60's and the 90's, with many photographs of people and places from Peshawar to the Afganistan border. Graham was initially involved on the Tarbela Dam and was also engineer on irrigation projects. To give the idea of scale of the irrigation canals the flow was more than 100 times that of the River Exe at Exeter quayside. Basically the irrigation project enabled crops to be grown to feed 60 million people. Graham described the route of the railway from Peshawar on 1 in 33 gradient to 3600ft above sea level. The anecdotes were so intersesting but too numerous to mention all here. One was that despite all the warring tribes there had never been any vandalism on the railway, put down to the fact that all residents along the line had free travel to Peshawar 3 times a week and were warned that this perk would be withdrawn if any damage occurred. Let's hope Graham writes a book about it.
On 14th June 2021 our talk was given by Bill Harvey of Bill Harvey Associate. Bill talked about the engineering assessment of masonry bridges and llustrated his talk with a 3d virtual model of a masonry arch bridge in Cornwall. Prior to the meeting members had been sent a link to the model and a pdf file on hidden defects in masonry bridges. Bill stressed the need for investigators to have wide experience in masonry bridge construction in order to be able to interpret the visual clues.
On 10th May 2021 we were given a talk by Martin Young (retired meteorologist) and Jonathan Smith (former IT specialist and research chemist) about "Chernobyl and its impact on the local environment". Martin and Jonathan talked about their visit to Chernobyl in Ukraine. Martin covered primarily the technical issues of the reactor explosion, while Jonathan showed pictures of the surrounding exclusion zone, much of which is densely forested and includes the city of Pripyat, whose 50,000 inhabitants were evacuated days after the explosion. The city remains eerily deserted to this day; its infrastructure now totally overwhelmed by nature.
On Monday 12th April 2021 We were given a talk by Brian Banks entitled “Meet the Antecessors – the Story of Human Evolution”. Brian was voted college lecturer of the year in 2019, and certainly hasn't lost his touch. He started with the discovery of "Lucy" in Ethiopia in 1974. Darwin and Wallace made people realise that species are not static and that all living things are a work in progress. Brian demonstrated the timeline of evolution of the earth and life on eart using a 2020 calendar where life started about March but humams appeared at 23.36 on the 31st December and the industrial revolution was about 2 seconds to midnight. Brian pointed out that our evolution is down to genes and that desognation by "species" is rarely used now (although convenient). Race also is undefinable, with people in Europe having more in common with a particular African tribe than it has with a neighbouring tribe. Brian also pointed out that Stone Age people fashioned stone tools, but used these to fashion things out of wood and fibre, and were much more sophisticated than many of us believe. Brian pointed out that archaic DNA can now be compared with modern DNA, using DA samples from soil which can tell us who built or made a certain artefact.
On Monday 8th March Geoff Pettinger presented a talk, titled “A Short Career in Aerospace”, about his work in Aerospace in the USA in the late 60’s and discussed environmental control systems in planes and spacecraft, including their history and development. He covered the manufacture and testing of these systems, explained how they work and how aeroplane passengers and astronauts are kept safe and comfortable at high altitude or in space. He worked for Garrett Airsearch in Los Angeles. He was involved in the design of ventilation and refrigeration units for aircraft, particularly aircycle refrigeration, invented in 1845 and still used today due to its low weight and efficiency. He was involved in the design of the water separator in the centrifugal separator, and in the testing of the unit on a shaker table. Geoff also talked about the way the engine oil in the 747 was coooled by using cold fuel from the wing tanks. He later worked on the evaporative cooling system for the Gemini spacecraft, before moving to work with Bechtel on nuclear plants - a subject for another talk perhaps?
On Monday 8th February 2021 John Davidson gave a talk entitled – Living with Volcanoes – how well can we manage volcanic eruptions? John has travelled extensively studying physical geography and writing articles on landscapes and natural hazards. He is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and a member of the Geographical Association.There are over 1500 active volcanoes in the world, and over 500 have produced significant eruptions in historic times. Volcanic eruptions can vary from predictable lava flows to cataclysmic explosive events. Recent estimates suggest over 500 million people live within range of active volcanoes, and several major cities are potentially at risk. This talk looked at different types of volcanic eruptions using examples from around the world,including Iceland, Hawaii, Japan, Montserrat and Etna, and some of the ways in which eruptions can be managed to reduce impacts on people and property. 23 members attended online.
On Monday 11 January 2021 Alan Bullock gave an excellent talk on health and safety in the china clay industry in Corwall, which he has been involved with from 1967 to 2008 when he finished as global production manager. The china clay industry involves so much in the way of processess and plant that there are innumerable H&S problems. Some of the problems were particular to the loaction in Cornwall, where most of the workers were brought up in agriculture and the size of the quarries made safety more problematic. Instances included sheep triggering cut-off wires on conveyors, lock codes broadcast over radio to all and sundry. Chlorine gas is used for bleaching clay, magnetic separator causing potential pacemaker problems and even radioactive waste from redundant plant due to the particles in granite from which the clay is derived. All electrical equipment was locked off by individual maintenance personnel but in a group of 3 pump starters a fourthe pump starter was installed out of sequence i.e 1243 (because there was a space) and the engineer locked off no 4 when he thought it was no 3.
On Monday 14 December 2020 Rodney Battey gave a talk about three concepts, Camouflage, Disguise and Impersonation, that are distinct but closely related, with examples from the military and natural worlds illustrating the potential effectiveness of camouflage and their limitations in 'fooling' radar and infra-red technologies. Examples of impersonations span Shakespeare's fictional and scarcely credible Twelfth Night, Bonnie Prince Charlie's 1745 real life evasion of George II's troops after Culloden impersonating a socially 'invisible' servant, the strange case of Dr James Barry, to the classic 1944 military deception in the run-up to "Overlord". Rodney would make a great TV presenter - what a lot of talent we have in the club.
Our next zoom meeting will be at 10.30am on Monday 14 December 2020 when Member Rodney Battey will give a talk titled "Camouflage, Disguise and Impersonation" which sounds fascinating. Don't miss it!!
On 9th November 2020 the club held a regular meeting online for the first time. 20 members attended. After the usual attention to club business, Martyn gave an interesting presentation on his life as a highway engineer, with particular emphasis on maintenance of the M4 in South Wales. Martyn illustrated his talk with slides, and quite a few amusing anecdotes including a rugby player on the maintenance team tackling (literally) sheep on the central reservation. Another included a police car pulling in front of a gritter to stop it, with unfortunate consequences for the police car. There was much more, and Barry will no doubt cover it in his next monthly report. As before, thanks to Ken for facilitating the meeting.
On 12 October 2020 the club held a Zoom meeting to discuss the possiblity of regular monthly virtual meetings with presentations or debates. There were 17 attendees for the meeting. Ken facilitated the meeting and Geoff chaired. Participants were asked to mute their microphones when not speaking, and to indicate when they wished to speak by raising a hand. This eliminated extraneous sound and kept the meeting under control. It was agreed that there will be monthly virtual presentatons, with Martyn giving one on 9th November. On 14 December Rodney will host a "Balloon" debate, and in January and February there will be talks on the china clay industry and on the bronze age. Ken has offered to help speakers with practice sessions. The committee will meet on 19th October to review the Zoom meeting.
The PECE committee met online on 14 September 2020. The committee discussed how the club could meet again and agreed that in the current COVID situation (which may last until early 2021) it will only be possible to have virtual meetings. The committee will therefore organise talks and wider meetings via Zoom, on a monthly basis and perhaps fortnightly if successful. The committee agreed that Geoff would act as Chairman/coordinator.
An informal picnic was held for members and partners at King George V park in Exeter on Monday 10th August. Thanks to Rodney who organised the venue, social distancing, and supplied hand sanitiser. We were fortunate that the forecast rain held off and allowed us to have a pleasant hour despite Covid-19. Photograph by Geoff.
The PECE committee met online on 13 July 2020. The committee decided that we would try to hold an informal outdoor meeting of the club in August, and this has been set for Monday 10th August at 10.30. Barry has already emailed members with the information, and those interested should contact Rodney who will be coordinating the event. The newsletter covering May and June has now been emailed by Barry to all members. A third presentation, on church organs, has been added to the members' section. Well worth a look!
The PECE committee met online on 8th June 2020. Items discussed included the participation of members in the next online meeting in July and ways of members getting together outdoors when Covid19 rules permit. Barry will be sending out the newsletter soon and will be asking members for their views on online meeting. He will also identify members of the committee able to assist those members unfamiliar with Zoom. It will be helpful if you can let Barry know what browser and operating system you have. Ken will be investigating possible venues for an outdoor meeting - if members know of anywhere suitable please advise. There are now two presentation links on the Presentations page, GP's Photography, and PP's Projects. More are sought from members! GP's is a video in YouTube, but PP's is a video uploaded to the web site. If you are not keen to use YouTube your video or slideshow can be sent to the webmaster by Dropbox, Google Drive or similar.
The committee meet by Zoom online meeting on 11th May. 9 members participated. Items discussed included the Flux award, membership subscriptions, continuation in office, presentations and a newsletter. Barry has made useful contacts with the University for the Flux award, and he will be sending out the newsletter in two weeks time. It was agreed that the AGM should be postponed until we are back in EGCC and make the first meeting the AGM. Current committee members will continue in office, but understudies are sought for webmaster and treasurer. Membership subscriptions will be reduced pro rata during the lockdown period. Barry will send out the accounts with the newsletter.
Members are asked to try their hand at presentations of between 10 and 30 minutes. This could be on your hobbies, or career or anything else you fancy. Our first presentation is by Geoff, which you will find on the Presentations page in the members' section. If you have forgotten the sign in details contact Barry. There will be a guide on the presentations page on how to put tgether a presenation using freely available software.
CORONAVIRUS UPDATE 13 March 2020 - The committee has consulted with members and has decided to cancel future meetings for several months, until further notice. Six members of the committee met on Monday 6th April by video conference. The committee decided that a newsletter will be distributed to members on the 3rd Monday of each month by email. any contributions from members should be sent to the secretary by the preceding Friday. The AGM will be postponed, and members will be given 21 days notice of a new date (after consultation). The committee also intends to produce presentations to members, either from members themselves, or from already contacted speakers. Various options are being considered, such as slide presentations, videos, or a combination. If any members have media experience please contact the secretary
On 9 March 2020 John Davidson gave a talk on Earthquakes and their Effect on Structures. John Davidson taught geography, geology and world development at Exeter School until 2018, and was a member of the school’s senior management team. John has travelled extensively studying physical geography and writing articles on landscapes and natural hazards. He is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and a member of the Geographical Association. His talk used examples of earthquakes from different parts of the world to show how hazardous they can be, and why some structures survive and others fail. Every day the earth experiences over fifty measurable earthquakes, and over a thousand a year have a magnitude of 5 or more, making them potentially hazardous. Earthquakes are hard to predict but property and infrastructure can be designed to reduce the impact of earthquakes. John showed many examples from around the world and included the effects of tsumnamis. Liquefaction of alluvial soil and made ground is amajor cause of building failures, and ground lowering, by up to 2 metres can reduce the effective height of sea defences against tsunamis, as happened in Japan with disastrous effects. The talk concluded by looking at methods of predicting earthquakes from seismic waves and providing warnings to areas at risk.
On 10 February 2020 Graham Andrews gave a talk entitled “In the National Interest - Recollections of a Test Pilot” given by Graham Andrews. Aged 18 Graham Andrews went to Cranwell and became a RAF pilot. He eventually became a test pilot with the RAF before moving on to Rolls Royce. He was made Chief Test Pilot for Rolls Royce in 1976 and flew everything from the Harrier to the Phantom and Concorde. In his career he has had 27 engine failures and one hairy ejection, and has flown 178 types of plane. There is too much to record here so do look up https://www.pilotweb.aero/graham-andrews-test-pilot-1-6049802
On 13 January 2020 Bill Harvey of Bill Harvey Associates gave us a fascinating talk on the behaviour of masonry arch bridges, and a brief resume of his career in bridges, including the Humber Bridge, and the worlds largest plastic bridge. Every civil and structural engineer involved in bridges should be able to learn from Bill's experience, as a formulaic approach to masonry arch bridges and viaducts does not work. Detailed measurement of bridge behaviour under load is essential to the understanding of how they support loads. These bridges can have very different internal structures and as a result stiffness which affects the bridge behaviour. Bill also showed details of bridge roller bearings on a box girder bridge, where temperature variation due to sun on the vertical side/web of the box girder caused extreme wear and fracture of high tensile steel in the bearing.
On 9th December Dr Clare Maudling gave a most interesting talk on "The Rebuilding of Exeter after the Blitz". She described the Sharp plan for the replanning of the city, which showed a garden city with a northern ring road between Northernhay Gardens and Central Station and many parks around the perimeter of the city wall. The planned northern road was never built due to the cost involved, but the start of Western Way could be clearly identified. One proposal to take traffic along Southernhaywas fortunately re-situated in the current location of Western Way. Clare explained how the rebuilding of the city was constrained on cost grounds by the government, and illustrated her talk with old photographs
On Thursday 21st November members and partners met for the Chairman's Lunch at the Langstone Cliff Hotel, Dawlish Warren. Once again the hotel did us proud with an excellent menu and impeccable service.
On 11th November 2019, Hamish Hall of WSP gave a talk on "Moving the River Taw at Colleton Mill". In 2017 the River Taw was dangerously close to the railway line between Exeter and Barnstaple (Tarka Line) near Colleton Mill. Part of a mass concrete wall had collapsed due to scour at a sharp bend in the river adjacent to the railway, and the remaining wall was also close to collapse. The remedial work adopted was to move the river Taw back into the flood plain, to create a backwater channel for wildlife in part of the original channel, and with the excavation from the new channel to backfill the old channel adjacent to the railway line to provide permanent long term support. The project was remarkable for its short duration and relatively low cost due to the close collaboration of client Network Rail, designers, contractor, and specialist advisors on wildlife fisheries and ecology. Although the Environment Agency was consulted at all stages, the short project timescale was only possible as the whole works were within the Network Rail curtilage.
On 14 October 2019 Alan Bullock who is one of our members gave a talk entitled -Engineering Equipment used in the China Clay Industry. Alan described his career with English China Clays and illustrated the equipment used to extract the china clay from the huge deposits around St Austell. Alan told us how prior to the construction of the Tamar bridge, Cornwall was isolated from the rest of the country and ECC had to be totally self-contained, making and maintaining its own equipment (which wore out in days or weeks due to the friction from the pumped material). He also described how the company looked after its staff and pensioners
On 9 September 2019 Alison Langmead gave a talk entitled- ‘The Legal Aspects of Securing Water Resources’ Alison deals with Town & Country Planning law. She has been an in-house lawyer for 31 years, but for the last 5 years a private practice lawyer in the niche subject of water supply. Her client list includes Devon County Council and Dartmoor National Park, the Pennon Group, SW Water, and Viridon Waste Management. The major impact is with housing, where services are always in second place to the development. Under planning law the developers look for the necessary permissions to be in place, but don’t think about the needs that require many other orders, powers and privileges to be satisfied. There are penalties for not considering such requirements. Penalties were revised in 2015. There is now no maximum fine, the Court taking into consideration any advantages to the Defendant. See minutes of meeting for a more complete decription.
On Monday 12th August Professor Richard Handy gave a talk on nanotechnology. Professor Handy has spent the last decade researching and writing about the science of nanomaterials and how we use them. He is an elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology, and one of the world’s leading experts on the dangers of new technologies. He has travelled extensively including North America, the Arctic, India, China and Africa. He holds a chair in Environmental Toxicology at Plymouth University. Nanotechnology is finding its way into every aspect of our daily lives including our food, clothing, and household goods; but it is also pushing the frontiers of science with revolutionary new medicines, imaging technologies, electronics, robotics, industrial materials, and synthetic biology. Nanotech offers many potential benefits, but what are the dangers of going down this ‘high tech’ road? Professor Handy's work has focussed on the hazards of nanomaterials. He works on many different organisms such as microbes, invertebrates, fishes and mammals including humans, across disciplines involving biology, medicine, dentistry, computing, engineering and material science. The dangers of nano materials become clear when their effect on algae and plankton is revealed, and these nano materials have to be designed to avoid these effects.
On Monday 8th July 2019 Robert Crawley of The West Country Historic Omnibus and Transport Trust gave us a talk on the restoration of a 1929 Exeter Corporation Bus, registraion FJ 6154 (Ex Exeter Corporation 5). This Maudslay / Northern Counties bodied bus was one of seven vehicles that the council purchased that year to supplement the tram system. This particular vehicle was withdrawn from service in 1939 and sold to a local farmer for use as family accommodation in Woodwater Lane. It later ended up in a barn at the top of Telegraph Hill where it remained until 1965 when it was purchased by a coach operator in Northampton. In November 2011 ownership of the bus changed hands and it was immediately placed in the care of the Trust (WHOTT) since when a lot of research into the original livery and interior design enabled a full restoration to take place. Robert described the restoration in details with the seating being the most challenging. On 2nd May 2015 the bus returned to the streets of for the outgoing Lord Mayor’s final charity coffee morning at the city’s Guildhall. FJ6154 is believed to be the oldest surviving Maudslay bus in running condition and carries the oldest surviving bodywork by Northern Counties Engineering of Wigan. The 32-seat interior is arranged in two compartments, the rear one allowing for smokers. Full details can be found at www.busmuseum.org.uk, and a video of the bus on its trip to Exeter can be found on YouTube.
On 10th June 2019, Neil Harris gave a talk entitled "30 Years of Wind Power". This was his personal account of his experiences in wind power generation, starting off in geotechnical engineering in Cornwall, and covering his work in various countries with ever increasing sizes of turbines. He particularly highlighted the problems encountered, and showed us images of turbines that had failed. Various types of foundations were discussed including concrete pads, deep foundations, and caissons. Pads are by far the most common type and seemed surprisingly small for such large structures. Neil also touched on vertical axis turbines but these are less common. Neil's profile can be found on LinkedIn or on https://intouchnetworks.com/member/18779.
On 13th May 2019, John Smith gave a talk entitled - "Roman Army in Exeter, Finds, Facts and Fiction" John Smith is an archaeologist, specialising in Roman Military History. His commitment to Archaeology started in 1971, participating in excavations that covered sites from Iron Age to World War 2. He has worked on Roman Villa Heritage sites, ultimately as Curator at Bignor Roman Villa. John presented Roman military equipment used and, in some cases, made in Devon and discussed its practicality, construction and uses. He illustrated the different types of armour, showing that the chain mail was the most effective and flexible type of armour. Lances were cleverly designed to deform or break on impact so that they could not be used by the enemy. In the process John debunked some popular portrayals of the Roman Army. The 2019 AGM followed the talk
On 8th April Peter Marsden gave an informative talk entitled "Cesspits, Cemeteries and Sewers - Adventures in Archaeology" Peter was formerly an archaeologist from the Museum of London, but has now retired to the Exeter area. He brought with him examples of artifacts that he has discovered in cesspits and rubbish pits. He is the author of several books on archaeology which can be found on his website https://petermarsden.net/
On 11th March Mark Maynard gave a talk entitled “Repairs and Strengthening Works to the M5 Bridge Over the River Exe”. Being a local structure, driven over by most members at some time, it was a fascinating insight into the problems encountered in a post-tensioned concrete structure. Some of the strands had failed due to corrosion adjacent to the anchorage. Lane closures were required to reduce the traffic load while emergency repairs were carried out. These repairs consisted of new strands external and internal to the structure to give an acceptable factor of safety. Eventually all of the original strands will be replaced.
On 11 February 2019 Andy Robinson gave an interesting talk entitled- Voyager: The Vision, The Achievement, The Legacy. The twin Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft are now in interstellar space moving faster and further than any other man-made objects. They entered interstellar space in 2012 and 2018 respectively. The primary mission when launched in 1977 was the exploration of Jupiter and Saturn. After making a string of discoveries there — such as active volcanoes on Jupiter's moon Io and intricacies of Saturn's rings — the mission was extended. Voyager 2 went on to explore Uranus and Neptune, and is still the only spacecraft to have visited those outer planets. The current mission, the Voyager Interstellar Mission (VIM), will explore the outermost edge of the Sun's domain, and beyond. Andy answered the many questions in great detail./p>
The lunch on Thursday 28th February at Lamb Inn Longdown was well attended and enjoyed by all.
On 14 Jan 2019 Michael Pitkeathly gave a very humourous and interesting talk entitled ‘Living in a nuclear submarine". He described the living conditions and equipment needed to sustain life on board HMS Courageous. This submarine operated from 1971 to 1992, and can be visited in the Devonport Naval Heritage Centre. See website https://devonportnhc.wordpress.com/warshiptours/ for information.
On 10 December Dr David Kernick gave a most interesting talk on rationing in the NHS. David started his carreer in chemical engineering and then moved into medicine. He has been a GP in Exeter for and has been involved with NICE and health service projects, including the Exeter Headache Clinic. He recommended that members should view a 6 minute video on YouTube made by Kings Fund -"An alternative guide to the new NHS in England". The link is https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=8CSp6HsQVtw.
Members of the Club enjoyed an early Christmas celebration when they and their guests met at the Langstone Cliffs Hotel for a very pleasant lunch on 22nd November, where the Orchid Room proved an excellent venue. The Past-President, Neil Macaulay, proposed the toast to the Club and its Guests, and the Chairman, Rodney Battey, replied by taking as his theme some of the problems of attempting to stereotype the role (and personality) of engineers.
On Sunday 25th November a group of some 10 Engineers and partners visited Coldharbour Mill for a “Victorian Steam Day”. The mill opened in1799 and ceased commercial operation in1981. It is now restored and operates as a working museum. On offer were tours of the working woollen mill including the engine house where a beam engine was operating on steam. We were given demonstrations of how the fleeces were carded and spun into yarn and then how the yarn was woven into cloth or carpets. Production continues today by a team of volunteers who produce yarn and cloth or carpets for sale to visitors.
On 12th November David Pilkington gave us a fascinating glimpse into his time maintaining very expensive classic racing cars for the owner of the Mulberry fashion group. There was a good turnout for our first meeting in our new venue, the Exeter Golf and Country Club, and everyone seemed very satisfied with the arrangements.
On 17 October 2018 club members and guests enjoyed a visit to the Lidl Distribution Centre. Our thanks to Lidl for an extremely interesting and informative visit.
At the 8th October meeting the members showed a clear preference for a new venue with onsite free parking. Exeter Golf and Country Club, which the club has used in the past, was a clear favourite as it is well served by public transport and is close to the M5. Arrangements have therefore been made with EGCC for the next year, starting in November 2018. The meetings will not necessarily be held in the same room every month. The events page indicates the room we will use and has a link to a map.
At the September meeting our secretary said that the year book will be published with members names only unless permission is given to include details similar to those in the 2017/2018 yearbook
The Robert Flux Memorial Prize is awarded annually to the Exeter University engineering student who, in the judgement of the Department, has made the best oral presentation of a final year project report. The 2018 Winner is Ms A. O'Riordan, an MEng student in Engineering and Management, for her work - from initial concept to prototype manufacture - in the design of an encapsulating shell for an endoscope: of particular concern was the stress analysis of a component subject to peristaltic forces within the gastro-intestinal tract. The Award Certificate, prize cheque and letter of congratulation will shortly be sent to the successful student.