Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

A82 emu – that’s not usual

Pity WordPress deletes embedded BBC video.

Odd, as it shows it as being embedded and visible.watchable in preview mode, then it disappears when the post is saved/published.

So, not only odd, but very, very irritating.

You’ll have to follow the link to enjoy this one…

‘Road Runner’ emu filmed sprinting along A82

I spent a lot of my life driving the A82, but never saw anything as funny as this, so it earns a mention.


18/04/2019 Posted by | Civilian, Transport | , , | Leave a comment

A82 Tarbet to Fort William upgrade survey announced

Contractor surveyorI can never make up my mind about the announcement of upgrades to Scotland’s roads, in particular where these lie in areas described as popular or attractive.

Part of the attraction is the existence of little roads that provide a sensational view, and are not huge intrusions on the land they pass through. However, it is also the case that many of Scotland’s roads are vital links, even though they pass through places. This means essential journey are being carried, for people who live and work in the area. It also means non-essential journeys occupy the same space (and one might argue that tourists are essential nowadays, with Scotland’s tourist trade being a growth industry). Trouble is, this means mixing people driving with a purpose along with distracted tourists, and it’s no fun trying to get between clients while sharing a road like the A82 with people more interested in the scenery than their driving. They aren’t paying attention, aren’t looking where they are going, and aren’t looking at their speed. I used to wonder what was wrong with some drivers I found myself stuck behind on this road, as their speed wandered from below 30 mph, to more than 60 mph – then I learned about… tourists!

I can (just) remember the A82 along Loch Lomondside in the days when it really did follow the edge of the loch, and it was glorious. In time, the narrowest and most convoluted section were all bypassed, and the road was made ‘better’. On the one hand necessary, on the other depressing, as much of the beauty was lost as the route moved inland.

After many years, it looks as if the rest of the A82, north of Tarbet (towards the northern end of Loch Lomond) is to be upgraded, with the announcement of the start of an engineering survey of the road leading to Fort William.

There doesn’t seem to be any indication of the overall time-scale yet, but it’s not going to come cheap, with the aforementioned survey costing some £500,000:

This vital work, worth half a million pounds, takes the first steps in designing an upgrade on the route that balances the needs of travellers with the environmental and engineering challenges of this spectacular area of Scotland.

First Minister Alex Salmond.

Level crossings

Coincidentally, another story appeared around the same time, this being about a call by the railway regulator for more than half of Scotland’s open level crossing to be fitted with barriers, and for those that could not be so modified to be closed, in order to make them safer. This followed a review which had been prompted by an accident in Caithness in 2009, where a number of members of the same family had died on such an open crossing.

It was noted that at the time of this review, Scotland had 23 open crossings, 21 of which were in the Highlands.

The regulator said more than half of these, including the site of the 2009 crash at Halkirk, posed a high risk to drivers and should be fitted with barriers.

31/07/2011 Posted by | Civilian, Transport | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Canal ice-breaker Scot II to be restored

Originally featured back in December, when we ran a small story on Henry Robb’s Shipyard, the restoration of the Scot II has since received wider publicity.

It seems we were slow off the mark, as the BBC had already mentioned the move some weeks earlier, Ice-breaking tug Scot II being towed home. (Must type faster 🙂 )

Built at Robb’s Leith shipyard in 1931, Scot II operated on the Caledonian Canal from its home berth at Fort Augustus, and later served as a pleasure cruiser, and a floating bar and restaurant for some thirty years, before being abandoned near a boatyard on the Isle of Bute.


Scott II 2005-2010

Scott II 2005-2010

The BBC has now featured the project in a video report, where the father and son team at the heart of the project are interviewed. Former skipper of the Scott II, Jimmy Clark, sat his boatman’s license on the craft, while his son Dan is now working on the restoration.

They have started an appeal to raise some £375,000 towards the cost of the work, a sum which has been slashed from an original value of £750,000 thanks to the assistance of Babcock at Rosyth, and Carnegie College, who have offered to provide labour for project, with apprentices ready to get started on the work.

There is now a dedicated web site for the project:

Save the Scott II

And the restorers can be contacted as follows:

Fort William road
Fort Augustus
PH32 4DW

Telephone: 07801 372 006


16/02/2011 Posted by | Appeal, Civilian, Maritime, Transport | , , , | 1 Comment

We know where you are

dishThe BBC usually manages to make a reasonably good effort when reporting, and descending to level where the word drivel is brought forth is generally a fairly rare occurrence, but they did manage to do it when reporting the events surrounding the rescue from Glen Etive, near Fort William, of a Danish tourist in his 60s, after he suffered acute abdominal pain.

The Beeb tells us that “A distress signal sent by a Danish tourist from a Scottish glen was picked up in Texas”, and that ” The man, who felt unwell, sent a Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) text, which was picked up 4,000 miles away.”

Forgive me for being an engineering pedant, but both statements triggered the drivel alarm, and I had to go check the facts. Unfortunately, the Beeb omitted to give any details of the device involved, other than to describe it as “an emergency beacon the size of a TV remote control”, suggesting it was a PLB or Personal Locator Beacon. What they did get correct, hopefully, was the system used, known as GEOS which allows subscribers with suitable mobile phones, or satellite personal trackers, to subscribe to an emergency monitoring system. Using either the cellphone network (fine for populated areas), or a constellation of LEO (Low Earth Orbit) satellites for the personal trackers (which means they still work in places blessed with freedom from cellphone coverage), when an emergency alert button is pressed on them, these device send a message to the GEOS control centre using either the cellphone network, or through a data link to the LEO satellites. LEO satellites can be orbiting at a height of anywhere from 100-1,240 miles, but given we are considering small, hand held devices, the lower end seems more likely. Once triggered the device keeps sending, since the orbiting satellites can take up to 20 minutes to reach a suitable reception point.

So, that’s the first drivel alarm cancelled. Nothing was “picked up 4,000 miles away”. Our unfortunate visitor triggered a signal that either had to travel no further then the nearest cellphone mast, or to an overhead satellite, and it was managed 4,000 miles away.

I won’t dwell on the “sent a Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) text” howler for too long, sufficient to say that the GPS system (currently) is owned and operatedby the United States Department of Defense, and (as far as civilians are concerned) only transmits positional data for reception by GPS or SatNav receivers. The DoD is most definitely not in the business of passing civilian text messages, and civilian GPS equipment does not, and never has, transmitted anything back to the system. I imagine anyone that tried would be considered to be engaged in GPS-spoofing, and probably find a large party of US Marines or Navy SEALs on their doorstep if they did.

Assuming it was a PLB, then what would have been sent was the data transmission mentioned above. Although they can be mated with GPS receivers to provide positional data to identify the location of the the person in distress, the system used with PLBs is able to operate in complete independence of GPS. Using sophisticated analysis of the communications signal linking the PLB to the LEO satellites, examination of the signal’s Doppler Shift allows the tracking station to identify the ground location by triangulation. At about 5 km this may not match the smaller error of around 5 m associated with GPS based system, but is still impressive given the method – apparently originally developed by the Russians.

The tourist was removed to Fort William, where he received hospital treatment.

Main thing is… everything worked.

12/05/2008 Posted by | Civilian | , , , , | 2 Comments


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