Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

Combination lock mystery solved (NOT!)

Between the various lockdowns and restrictions, plus what even a Scot considers to be a miserable and cold, wet, summer in 2020, I’ve had a little more spare time than usual.

It’s given me the opportunity to revive my long-standing (as in decades) interest in lock picking. There’s even been time to study and bring myself up to date with more recent developments too.

I’ve got a few old combination locks which catch my eye occasionally, and are generally frustrating as they don’t seem to be susceptible to the usual (non-destructive) methods of picking or decoding., so I keep trying new methods on them whenever I come across them.

This pair of cheap’n’cheerful (or nasty) 3-digit blue items has been bugging me for years. They’re so crappy they offer almost no ‘feel’ as to what’s happening inside when you spin the rings.

Now, while one still spins freely, the other has almost seized completely, and the rings barely even turn.

First, the working one – I’m not sure what has changed inside it, but when I had a go at it recently, as you can see from the pic, I had it open in less than a minute. I honestly don’t know how I did it, but it betrayed the position of its gates as I rotated the rings. Maybe I HAVE earned something new recently.

As the second had almost seized completely, and it took two hand just to make the rings move, I decided it was on its last chance.

With only three dials I decided to allocate the time to open it by working through all the combinations, which shouldn’t take that long, but it did, since the rings could not be spun quickly.

I was less than amuse after completing this to find that the lock would not open, even after trying every combination.

Before deciding to destructively dismantle it (the body is held together by a swaged joint in the end, where part f the casting is formed into an expanded section), I forced a gap between the rings, so I could see where the gates were located on each. I tried lining these up with the cutouts in the shackle, but even then this lock refused to open.

I drilled out the swaged fixing and took the thing apart, but all this did was provide more of a mystery.

Blue Combination Lock gutted

Blue Combination Lock gutted

As should be clear above, a central core provides a support for the discs containing the gates to rotate around, and these discs are press-fitted into the rings carrying the numbers, so the number for each ring is fixed when it is installed. Two steel washers provide further support and gating for the shackle.

Line up the three cutouts/gates in the disc/ring combination with those in the steel washers,, and the shackle can be lifted. If the gates are not lined up, then the shackle is prevented from being lifted as cutouts will bind against the gate discs.

What’s not obvious is why the gate discs were almost seized solid around the lock core, and could not be turned without great effort.

I also suspect at least one may not have been turning at all, being stuck on the core, so the number ring was spinning around it, rather than spinning it around the core, making it impossible to open the lock at all.

Perhaps the shackle was pulled too hard or roughly in the past, distorting the disc, which is only made of aluminium and quite soft. Even so, while that might have made the action rough, I can’t see it resulting in the inner diameter of a disc being reduced to the extent it seized or jammed completely.

Although pointless (since I had drilled out the swaged fixing in the base of the lock), I filed out the centres of the discs until they rotated freely around the central core, then refitted them inside the number rings. By simply holding the lock parts together, it was possible to prove its operation.

While I could drill the centre of the swaged section out and fit some other fixing, it would be pointless, so I’ll just keep this one as it is now, as something to look at and show the interior of one of these locks, which is quite common in these types, so it’s been ‘reborn’ as a demonstration lock.

On to the next – a pair of much higher quality (but still just cheap) 4-digit locks, identical, and with a weird action which spins freely in one instance, or locks tightly into detents on each digit.

Either way, each of these action eliminates any of the usual ‘feel’ used to pick such locks by manipulation, and I haven’t been able to feel anything inside by probing, so I think I’ll have to keep staring at them in the hope of spotting some alternative exploit.

11/09/2020 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

Who’s this mystery photographer guy?

So. since it was a nice night, I decided to take a quick whizz up to Charing Cross, and see how the new ‘Avenues’ project and the cycle path on Sauchiehall Street were coming along.

It’s all quite close to completion now, after months of works, and the only really noticeable work is a fenced of hole in front of the unfortunate o2abc centre, which is the only part of the cycle path that can’t be ridden on.

But, before I got that far, I got a little surprise as headed  past the Savoy Centre – and a guy walking towards me suddenly grabbed a camera took a flash pic as I approached.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with that (unless he’s doing it for some ‘iffy’ reason, when he WOULD need consent) as it’s a public place, and I wasn’t doing anything even remotely wrong, cycling slowly in a pedestrian precinct. I try to avoid people, not point cameras directly at them in public.

But, unless he was using a VERY professional dSLR with an ISO up around 51200 (and this clearly wasn’t, as it was just a camera, maybe even just a phone camera, sitting on his chest), then at the distance the flash fired, it wasn’t really going to illuminate anything. I know, I’ve tried, and still suffer pain from trying not to laugh when tourists use flash to photograph the organ in Kelvingrove, from 20 metres or more,

As you can see, he has actually got a camera with a flash attached, hanging from his shoulder.

I was just taken a little by surprise, and do hope I don’t see myself portrayed as ‘Another damned cyclist riding on the pavement’ on some ant-cycling nut’s blog.

As I noted, cyclists are encouraged by the council to use pedestrian precincts, despite the use of ‘pedestrian’ in their name.

I really shouldn’t try these long shots in the dark, this was around 9:45 pm last night (and I didn’t want to get close, in case he really was a weirdo), so the shutter was never going stop the blur, even if the anti-shake did its job.

Mystery Photographer

Mystery Photographer

15/07/2019 Posted by | photography | , | Leave a comment

Largs Mystery Object revisited

A few years ago, when we still had an active Forum and people who actually took part, the question of an object spotted in Largs was raised.

Seems most people had seen it, walked past it, but never really noticed it, or thought about what it actually was, or how it got there.

Despite much discussion, and a number of theories, nobody ever came up with an answer based on knowledge or fact.

By some strange quirk of nature, I somehow remembered this object when I was in Largs recently, so was able to collect a set of pics I could use here.

As far as I know, it’s still a mystery.

Unless YOU know better.

These pics aren’t in any particular order, nor am I adding any of the past suggestions as I don’t want to influence any thoughts, but I’ve added a few comments.

This adjacent building gives an idea of the scale of the object – some have suggested a connection with the object.

I have my doubts, and you’ll see an adjacent telegraph pole (also suggested as a connection) in later shots, which is a much more likely reason for this building’s existence.

Largs Mystery Object 01

Largs Mystery Object 01

There is a bolted access (inspection?) hatch on the object, together with a hole on the central axis.

I didn’t think to stick a finger in the hole, to learn if it is just a hole, or if it is a cylinder ((pipe or tube) which maintains the sealed integrity of the object, rather than leaving the interior open to the outside world.

I should do that if I get back.

That said, if it is a hole, it may have been added later, and not be original.

It seems odd having that bolted hatch if that is a simple hole.

Largs Mystery Object 02

Largs Mystery Object 02

Age/rust damage on the lower edge.

Largs Mystery Object 03

Largs Mystery Object 03

Similar area of the object, but undamaged.

Largs Mystery Object 04

Largs Mystery Object 04

The central weld.

Largs Mystery Object 05

Largs Mystery Object 05

The object, building, and telegraph pole.

Largs Mystery Object 06

Largs Mystery Object 06


Largs Mystery Object 07

Largs Mystery Object 07


Largs Mystery Object 08

Largs Mystery Object 08

For what it may be worth…

Old OS maps don’t appear to show this building (current mapping does), so I can’t determine its age, usually possible using that source.

There is a legend ‘Cable Beacon’ shown on old OS maps, but there is no specific point indicated for this. It also  appears further inland.

At a guess, this was a marker located on higher ground, to show where telephone or telegraph cables came ashore.

None of the historic mapping databases show any record here.

15/04/2019 Posted by | Appeal, Civilian, photography | , | 6 Comments

Anybody recognise these cast metal ‘characters’?

I came across these two white metal cast items on separate days, but at the same place, while out walking.

For size, they’re about 20 mm along their longest dimension.

I don’t recognise them, and a quick search for various cast metal game characters didn’t come up with anything similar.

I know the Monopoly tokens had a redesign and makeover a few years ago, but these don’t appear in any of the articles I’ve seen about them, although they are about the same size.

The little old vintage racing car is pretty obvious, but I don’t know if the character with the case is a mole, or fat dolphin!

I found the car first, then the other one.

Cast metal car

Cast metal car


Cast metal characters

Cast metal characters

31/01/2019 Posted by | Appeal, photography | , | 2 Comments

Wish I was still passing Stonehaven regularly

One of the advantages of regular calls to visit Aberdeen for work was the option to drop into many of the nice places the road ran past, such as Stonehaven.

The trip home was particularly enjoyable, especially during summer, when the days were long and there was no hurry to get back home.

Unlike my colleagues, my demands were simple. While they would look for restaurants or similar for an evening meal on expenses, I was much happier to be on my own, find a decent chip shop, collect an excellent ‘coastal’ fish supper, and enjoy it in the sea front or harbour car park looking out to sea.

Seems I’d have something interesting to look at inland as well, nowadays.

Stonehaven seems to have attracted a ‘secret sculptor’.

Although the artist’s identity is a mystery, one local has been quoted as saying…

“Apparently the chap stays in Cowie, a village to the north of Stonehaven, but there’s no identifying features [on the artwork].”

The work has a unique style, is carefully made, and shows considerable attention to detail, as can be seen in the sample image below.

More examples can be seen in the news article covering the material.

Who is Stonehaven’s ‘secret sculptor’?

Stonehaven Mystery Art Pic Credit Martin Sim

Stonehaven Mystery Art Pic Credit Martin Sim

The story goes so well, until…

It seems the poor artist is regularly insulted by being referred to as “The Stonehaven Bansky” (sic).

And that’s not MY misspelling – that’s a ‘copy and paste’ of how it appears in the article.

Suits me, I’m really not impressed by any of that pains so-called ‘work’, so it avoids having the name in the post.

Where “Bansky’s” concerned, I like to think of myself as the one asking “Why does the emperor have no clothes?” as everyone else fawns over the stuff he slaps on people’s walls.

16/01/2019 Posted by | Civilian | , , , | Leave a comment

What is this helicopter equipped to do?

Writing the previous post about the Robust Vent reminded me of another pic I grabbed recently.

I was on the west side of the city, mostly lost in a park beneath trees, and had been intrigued by the sound of a helicopter which seemed to be working nearby, but I couldn’t see the sky so had no idea where it was.

Fortunately, when I left the park and broke cover, I also heard the helicopter getting louder (closer), so headed for a clear spot to try for a glance.

It was in transit, so not hanging about, but I did manage to get one shot off, and it was intriguing.

Oddly Equipped Helicopter

Oddly Equipped Helicopter

My first thought was ‘crop duster’.

But, having looked for pics of similarly equipped helicopters, I can’t find anything that matches the hardware attached to this one.

Far from being similar, all the crop dusters I could find followed the conventional patter of a row of nozzles along a frame, with nothing resembling what might be a single nozzle at the end of each arm.

It was also noted that there were no tanks fitted to carry the chemicals or pesticides it may have been delivering.

I doubt any regulations would allow bulk chemicals to be carried internally, in the passenger or luggage/cargo space, where the pilot could be exposed to a leak.

But that may be a red-herring, and it may not fly with the tanks attached if they are not needed, which they would not if it was in transit between sites.

Unfortunately, although the pic came out well for a long zoom of a moving subject, it lacks the detail to examine the kit in detail, or read the registration, so I can’t do any research on this one.

I/we would appreciate a proper identification of the kit if you happen to know, and will share.

22/11/2018 Posted by | Aviation, photography, Transport | , , | Leave a comment

What is this Rutherglen marker post for?

Rutherglen has thrown some interesting features, such as some fairly odd old benchmarks embedded in the pavement/footpath that don’t seem to match any listed on sites dedicated to such things, and even defied an enquiry to the museum service.

This one seems to be the opposite, and is so new (in relative terms) that it doesn’t seem to have been listed or recorded anywhere (at least not that I’ve been able to find online).

I’ve passed it for a few years now, and think it appeared while the ‘new’ motorway works were being carried out nearby, and the roads were being altered to suit.

It is an unidentified stone (or concrete – to my shame I have never looked closely) marker with unexplained writing carved on its face.

As some of the carving is already a little indistinct, I’ll describe what is shown in the pic.

I’m not even sure what is written on it, having first interpreted a ‘/’ character as a slash, then began to wonder if it was a stylised number ‘1’.

The top line is easy, that’s an ‘R’

But the next could be taken to be ‘/85/’ or ‘1851’, so is ambiguous.

There is then a horizontal separator line.

The next could be taken to be ’20/8′ or ‘2018’ – but it’s worth remembering this was placed BEFORE 2018!

Next line is a stylised ‘RHS’.

At the bottom is what I interpret as a stylised thistle.

Rutherglen Marker Glasgow Road

Rutherglen Marker Glasgow Road and Quay Road

Given the thistle, I had thought this might have identified ‘Royal Horticultural Society Scotland’, but a look around their web site does not appear to mention the placing of any markers.

The ‘H’ could also be Historical, but that proved too vague to come up with anything.

And the /85/ over 20/8 doesn’t correspond to anything such as any co-ordinate system that I’m aware of.

I tried the date pair of 1851 and 2018, but again, too vague to find anything with no other clues.

Thank to Google, I can say there was nothing but industrial units on the ground before the motorway changes, and that the spot for this marker was not there back in 2010, was prepared in 2012, and the marker itself was in place by 2014, so the idea of ’20/8′ being 2018 seems unlikely, being at least four years after the thing was put in place, and six years before the spot was set aside.


Does anybody know what this is?

I find it odd that something so obvious should be placed so carefully yet have nothing nearby to explain it.

This is how it looks on Street View, showing its location.

Use ‘View on Google Maps’ to see what this spot looked like all the way back to 2007.

25/06/2018 Posted by | Appeal, Civilian, photography | , , , , | Leave a comment

Glasgow Green’s Penny Farthing Bike Rack (mystery?)

A while ago, I got one of those anonymous ‘hints’ (aka an email with no details) telling of a ‘Penny Farthing themed bike rack’ somewhere on Glasgow Green. I’m not sure if this was offered in light of my interest in Glasgow, or in things related to The Prisoner.

Over the years I’ve probably crawled over most of the Green, yet this came as a complete surprise – so I had to investigate.

After going online, I eventually came up with the following photographic confirmation, captured by the very helpful Thomas Nugent back in 2008 – all of 10 years ago!

Cycle racks in Glasgow Green

Cycle racks in Glasgow Green
Penny farthing shaped racks in Glasgow Green, near the adventure playground.

This at least explained why I hadn’t this rack over the years – I’m a little past the ‘adventure playground’ stage.

But I do know the place, so off I went for a look, TWO looks in fact – BOTH failed, although they were both late evening detours (kind of dark), and covered all the area around the playground.

What’s not clear from the above is that the playground lies adjacent to a Cycle Training Centre

I’d taken a few pics back in 2017, and when I examined them I got a surprise – I already had a pic of the penny farthing rack!

Penny Farthing Bike Racks

Penny Farthing Bike Racks 2017

So, they were still there, but I still couldn’t explain why I hadn’t seen them a few day earlier, hence the hint of (mystery?) in the title – I really did look at the cycle training area, this being the obvious place to look. Maybe it was just too dark, and they couldn’t be seen from the perimeter fence (the place was locked by the time I got there).

I checked the centre’s own pics, and found this view, bear in mind their pics are probably ‘old’ as it opened in 2011.

Detail From Free Wheel North Pic

Detail From Free Wheel North Pic

Note that the two ‘old’ 2010/2011 pics show the racks sunk into the block paving.

Fast forward to 2018, and my third visit – this time directly to the area in front of the Portakabins in the cycle training area.

There was no problem finding the racks this time (or even seeing them from the perimeter fence, which I checked before heading for them).

If not immediately obvious, it’s worth noting that the racks no longer lie in their original location – sunk into an area of block paving.

They’ve been lifted so their base is no longer buried, and now just lie freely on the ground.

That could mean they’re fair game for scum metal thieves.

It also means they may not have actually have been out on show when I was there earlier, and had been stowed in the training area’s containers for safety during the dark evenings.

Let the pics begin…

Penny Farthing Bike Rack Zoom

Penny Farthing Bike Rack Zoom

Penny Farthing Bike Rack Closer

Penny Farthing Bike Rack Closer

Penny Farthing Bike Rack Closer 2

Penny Farthing Bike Rack Closer 2

Penny Farthing Bike Rack Closer 3

Penny Farthing Bike Rack Closer 3

Penny Farthing Bike Rack Closer 4

Penny Farthing Bike Rack Closer 4

Penny Farthing Bike Rack Closer 5

Penny Farthing Bike Rack Closer 5

17/06/2018 Posted by | council, photography, Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

The amazing disappearing lockbox

Well  THAT was surprise.

After two posts about an odd lockbox spotted clamped to a lamppost a few days ago – it DISAPPEARED!

Thanks to an unplanned detour resulting from some unexpected snow that joined the increasingly chilly wind last night, I ended up passing the same spot.

I thought I was in the wrong place after a passing glance at the relevant lamppost failed to show the expected silhouette in the dark, but when I checked the lamppost, it was the same one – but the box had gone, completely, including the hefty clamp that fixed it to the pole.

It didn’t even seem to leave a mark where it had been, suggesting it hadn’t been there very long.

Lockbox Lamppost - No Lockbox

Lockbox Lamppost – No Lockbox

Compare this with the previous view from only a few nights ago.

Between the pics, you should be able to match the clear tape at the bottom of the view, and the little reflective survey marker at the top.

Daytime Lock Box

Daytime Lock Box

So that’s that.

No chance of catching it ‘In Use’ some day.

But now I’ll have to be even more alert, to see if it turns up somewhere else.

Unless YOU know better.

18/03/2018 Posted by | Appeal, photography | , , | 7 Comments

Daytime view of the mystery box

Oops, sorry.

Didn’t intend to make two similar posts on following days, but forgot we had suddenly reached that time of year when ‘tomorrow’ is probably not going to be stormy, snowy, windy, and wet, so I can pop out for another pic without waiting for a week or more.

So, the odd lockbox I noticed a couple of nights ago gets its own daylight pics for a closer look, and no delay.

As can be seen, no indication of purpose or owner, and no sticker or labels.

Only other observation might be that it is mounted just above head height, so you have to reach up to it.

And, it IS locked.

Daytime Lock Box

Daytime Lock Box

There’s a reflective survey target on the pole, but this is unlikely to be related.

14/03/2018 Posted by | Appeal, photography | , , | 6 Comments

Recognise this lock box bolted to a lamppost?

Time for a mystery post.

Spotted last night, on a lamppost I have been passing for years, but never looked at.

It’s just too far away to be noticed as the footpath here is widened by a couple of metres of grass, separating the walking part from the road, and the lampposts installed next to the gutter.

I only spotted the box shown below when it was caught in the headlights of an approaching vehicle, otherwise I’d still never have noticed it.

I’ve looked at some old pics of the road, and these show there was nothing attached to the lamppost back in 2015, so it’s been added fairly recently. And a little more substantially mounted than by a couple of cable-ties, it’s not going to fall off any time soon.

No markings apparent, not in the dark of night at least, so this one needs a daylight visit to check for any details or clues.

Lock Box

Lock Box

13/03/2018 Posted by | Appeal, photography | , , | Leave a comment

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