Wednesday, May 31

A meeting with a Baseball Bat

... Before you ask, no, Rog hasn't been threatening me with violence! Bank Holiday Monday saw Woody, Rog and myself heading off into Birmingham to attend the Two Museums Day at Aston Manor and BaMMoT - an excellent day out I thought, despite the weather. I managed to achieve one of life's greatest ambitions by finally having a ride on the Baseball Bat, which was doing the car park shuttle amongst the showers at Wythall. It is a peculiar beast, just hope the photos prove usable.

Updates might be slow on WME for the next few days - am trying to sort out some of the older photos in the archive, so it'll be a bits and pieces diet for the forseeable future before I launch into preparing some of my more recent stuff. I might however be persuaded to update the Rog Files with some shots from Monday, will see how it goes...

Saturday, May 27

WME Solihull is Go!!!

West Midlands Exploration has a new member of the family! Yes, WME Solihull has now launched and is now ready to showcase the local area and its transport network.

Sorting out the new gallery wasn't as tricky as I was expecting - I just had to set the shell up, then transfer the relevant photos and collections across from WME Birmingham, nothing too complicated as it turned out. The new gallery has given me a chance to try out another of Fotopic's gallery skins - called 'white on black', it does what it says on the tin and I actually rather like it.

There are 7 collections in all - including new splinter collections Solihull by Bus and Stops & Stations branching off their WME Birmingham counterparts. Not too much variety yet - the bus collections concentrate on Shirley and Solihull, the rail collections are four familiar stations and there is only one local area section, Exploring Marston Green. I'll need to do some more Solihull area outings before Marston Green gets some company, as I don't think there are many more areas of Solihull waiting to be extracted from my existing archive.

Anyway, a start is still a start and you can visit the new gallery at

Friday, May 26

Setting Solihull Free

I am seriously considering giving Solihull its own WME gallery. Up to this point, Solihull has been lumped in with Birmingham - mainly because I hadn't done many outings in the area and didn't have enough material to launch a solo Solihull site.
Things change, and having explored the area a few times now (including some outings with Rog) I now might have the foundations to set Solihull free. Besides, WME Birmingham is starting to look a bit bulky and there is plenty more to add where that came from!
It'll take a bit of sorting out to get WME Solihull off and running - I'll have to slot the site somewhere appropriate in the WME sequence, probably around WME Coventry - this might mean that some WME galleries change URL slightly. I'll also have to sort out which collections and photos will move across from Birmingham - hence a study of the borough boundary may be required (oh joy!)
All of this should help make my galleries more accurate and give Solihull its independence! Watch this space...

Wednesday, May 24

More update action

Yes, the WME Updates Machine has slowly creaked into action once more, with WME Dudley and Exploration Extra being the recipients of an injection of new additions.

Exploration Extra has had only a little tweak of an update - I've added a couple of bus photos to the Cornwall holiday collection, whilst a train at Saltburn has found its way into the North Yorkshire selection. To view the additions, see

On WME Dudley, things have been a little more substantial. The Birmingham Main Line Canal collection has received 3 photos from my March 2005 visit to Coseley Tunnel. Dudley by Bus now features photos of the 9 at Stourbridge (one of my personal favourites, and Rog must like it too because he put it in the SBI Calendar), and the 228 at Brockmoor (one of my most recent photos, and another bus location to add to the mix). Finally, I've started a collection to showcase local photos of Oldswinford. I had a quick look around the area prior to visiting BaMMoT ealier this month, which means I now have the minimum 2 photos I need to start the collection, with the potential to add a few more. As it is, the Oldswinford pub and the Oldswinford Fish Bar are the lucky features that get to make an appearance. See the updates at

Tuesday, May 23

Another small step...

The smallest of updates has tonight been made to WME Birmingham, with a new 'Exploring Perry Barr' collection making an appearance. As with all new collections, it only comprises a couple of starter photos with the intention being to add more as and when I manage to do so.

It is a small step in the right direction, and I hope to make more a substantial update to WME Birmingham (and the other WMES for that matter) very soon. At least it means another local area collection gets off and running, closing the gap on the proliferation of Birmingham by Rail collections that currently feature on the gallery.

Monday, May 22

WME Development So Far

The WME local galleries have been going for a few months now, so it seems like a good time to pause and reflect on how the site is developing.

I currently have 11 operational galleries, with 2 (WME Warwickshire and WME Shropshire) currently under development. The galleries altogether add up to about 1000 photos, the majority of which are on WME 1, the testing zone. I am generally pleased with the way the local galleries have taken shape - its slow progress but my WME vision is now starting to become a reality.

A few coments on the local galleries

  • WME Wolverhampton: taking shape nicely. There are a number of local area collections which I can build on, and the gallery isn't as transport dominated as some of the others. Rail won't feature so much here because the city only has one operational station.
  • WME Birmingham: the gallery seems to be dominated by rail-related collections, so I don't think I've got the balance right, although this is a reflection of the number of local stations there are to explore in Birmingham. I want to include more local area photos, particularly for the north of the city if possible. The gallery is the biggest of the local sites, and I am considering the possibility of splitting off some sections into a new WME Solihull.
  • WME Walsall: A useful start, with some starter collections that need a bit of fleshing out. The local area collections tend to concentrate on Bloxwich and Willenhall, reflecting the fact that I visit these areas of Walsall most frequently.
  • WME Dudley: Again, just a start but the gallery does seem quite well balanced. Dudley by Bus does seem to focus on buses in Halesowen or Stourbridge though - I would like a few more locations in there. I'd also like to include more on the canals in Dudley, but i'll have to explore them first.
  • WME Sandwell: I'm pleased with how the Sandwell site is developing, some useful local coverage. Sandwell by Bus only features 4 locations (West Brom, Wednesbury, Princes End and Great Bridge) so this needs looking at, as does the total lack of canal representation as things currently stand.
  • WME Coventry: its been a bit of a struggle to get this gallery going as my visits to Coventry are quite rare. The gallery is dominated by transport collections, with only Radford offering any local area interest. Coventry by Bus is also concentrated very much on the City Centre, so it would be nice to represent the outer locations. I did a couple of visits to Coventry in March so there is the prospect of developing the gallery when I get round to editing those photos.

As well as the local WM galleries, I have also developed some surrounding area galleries to showcase photos from further afield. The main West Midlands regions are my priority areas both in terms of outings and site development, meaning the other WME galleries don't get as much attention.

  • WME Staffordshire: there is some substance here, although the gallery does avoid some rather significant chunks of Staffordshire, such as Stafford, Stoke on Trent and Leek - the focus is more on South Staffordshire really. All collections need more development, although the canal collections are building up into a useful archive.
  • WME Worcestershire: Just a handful of photos and collections at the moment, presenting a few of the bus and rail photos I have managed to prepare. I will need to do further Worcestershire outings to start addressing the total lack of canal and local area photos in my archive.
  • WME Telford and Wrekin: Another starting point but nothing more. Telford by Bus is looking handy, already capturing some of the local routes. The vast majority of photos on the site come from one outing back in August 2004 and I'll need to get back across to Telford before I can offer much more in the way of further progress
  • Exploration Extra: just 8 photos so far, I'm keeping the site in the background until I get round to adding to it. Not quite sure what direction this gallery will take in the long term.

As I said, WME galleries for Warwickshire and Shropshire are under development. I only began to photograph these areas during my Rail Rover explorations in March, so I haven't got that much to work with. I might be able to launch Warwickshire some time soon, but Shropshire will need a lot more substance before I can consider a launch date.

Keep your eye on WME1 as I continue to develop and test my photos before transferring them to the appropriate gallery. There are some interesting looking photos in there at the moment which I hope to move onto their local WMEs soon. There could be exciting times ahead...

Sunday, May 21

Easy Pheasey...

Pheasey seemed like an intriguing Walsall outpost - a little detached from the rest of the town, on the fringes of Birmingham. I'd been through on the 451 and 997 before, but never stopped off to explore the estate. With the 34 route being withdrawn soon, it seemed like the ideal opportunity to finally investigate the area whilst sampling the route before its replaced with the 934 later this month. See, there is some logic behind my outings - well, occasionally at least!

I often think that walking round these local estates is proper exploration, getting to know the areas concerned and taking photos of the pubs, shops and other facilities. Its the kind of exploring I really enjoy, and Pheasey didn't disappoint - my first target was the Deer's Leap pub, across the road from where the 34 terminates and something of a local landmark. Next I head along Chantry Avenue into the centre of the estate at Collingwood Drive for a look at the shops and the library, and another handful of photos. Compared to some of the places I've visited, Pheasey rates quite highly as a place to walk around and photograph.

The bus stuff wasn't bad either. The ride on the 34 was surprisingly enjoyable considering it went through Newtown and Perry Barr, neither the most attractive of places, and then Kingstanding. The terminus is at the top of the estate near the Deer's Leap pub - nothing too fancy, just a simple bus stop next to a hedge where the bus pulls over for five minutes or so, giving me time to get a couple of photos. I like to visit bus locations such as this as they add a bit of variety to my outings to go alongside the major bus stations and interchanges I visit. As if the 34 terminus wasn't enough, Pheasey provides more bus photo opportunites with the 33 terminating outside the Collingwood Centre. I haven't been on the 33 as yet, but I took a couple of shots of the bus on layover anyway. The route runs pretty regularly so there's potential for me to ride the route and get more photos in future.

All in all, it was a good start to the outing, setting me up well for an afternoon of bus rides around Sutton Coldfield. Pheasey was well worth a visit and I might make a return trip some time to check out the 934 and 33 more closely. Hopefully some Pheasey photos will be appearing on WME Walsall at some stage in the future - knowing the pace I seem to update things at, we're probably looking at this time next year!

Saturday, May 20

Trip Log - Friday 19th May

A quick summary of yesterday's explorations of Pheasey and Sutton Coldfield - further thoughts may follow... (you have been warned)
  • Start Smethwick Galton Bridge
  • Train to Snow Hill
  • Birmingham City Centre - quick look around Colmore Row and Bull Street
  • 34 - Dale End to Pheasey, Deer's Leap (via Newtown, Perry Barr and Kingstanding)
  • Explore Pheasey - Deer's Leap, Collingwood Centre, into Kingstanding
  • 996 Kingstanding to Four Oaks Station
  • Photos at Four Oaks then a train into Sutton Coldfield
  • Walk around Sutton, visiting Town Hall and Lower Parade
  • 112 from Sutton to Bull Street (Arriva - nice ride) via Wylde Green, Erdington, Gravelly Hill and the Expressway
  • 104X from Bull Street back into Sutton (my first ride on North Birmingham Busways)
  • 167 Sutton to Erdington via Walmley and the huge Asda at Minworth
  • A quick visit to Erdington Station
  • Change at Aston for a Walsall train
  • A few photos at Walsall before finishing off with the shuttle train to Wolverhampton

All in all, a good outing. Hopefully the photos will come out ok when I finally get round to uploading them!

Wednesday, May 17

WME Wolverhampton Updated

Well it had to happen sooner or later...
It has been a bit quiet on the updates front recently, but I've finally got round to shifting a few photos across to WME Wolverhampton. Park Lane Garage has appeared under Stops and Stations, whilst the Staveley Chippy has been added to Exploring Whitmore Reans.
I've also added a couple of new collections - one for the Birmingham Main Line Canal, and one for the Midland Metro. At the moment, the Metro collection includes any photos relating to the Metro in Wolverhampton, although I may break this down into stop by stop collections in the future, depending on how the collection takes shape. At the moment, its just a couple of tram photos at Priestfield


Welcome to the West Midlands Exploration blogspot. This is where I shall post any ideas, news, comments and other trivial nonsense that I can think of with regard to the West Midlands Exploration galleries at - or at least thats the plan.

Hopefully this will turn into a useful running commentary on gallery updates and recent outings, as well as providing me with another place to reflect upon the many outings I have already done. So, part diary, part personal planner, part memory bank, part discussion board. Enjoy the blog!