Cameras and bicycles, part 3 ”Fujifilm X100”

It is time for part 3 in my series about cameras and bicycles.

After using old analogue cameras at the bicycle photo session. I started to use my main camera since 2 years back. The first version of the Fujifilm X100.
The X100 was introduced in 2010 at the Photokina show in September 2010 and become a huge success, both because of the amazing image quality. But also because it was one of the first “retro” cameras that combined a modern thinkiong with a stylish design. But they started to make the camera in larger series first in 2011. I got mine from England in early 2012, it came in a great looking box with original strap, some cables, charger for the battery and so on, of course the camera itself was included.

Now, why did I choose this camera? There are other cameras out there that are equally good or better, more “camera” cameras, with changeable lenses and all that extra everything. For me first of all, the X100 has a fixed prime lens (digital 23mm, that equals to about 35mm in the AOV system). So there is no zoom or anything like that. Second it uses the range finder system. That is when you are taking a photo, you are not looking at the object via the lens. But there is a separate window where you need to adjust the focus in and can compose the image in. It is just like my old Leica M camera, and other earlier 135 small frame cameras (including the Zorki 4K ).

The X100 has a unique feature of being able to mix the view finders real optical vision with a electronic information/frame that also creates a frame for the image, just like old the Leica. So you get all information of the digital camera, but you see the objects in real. Like a heads up display on fighter planes.
There are 2 settings for the view finder:
1, optical and digital. You see everything as a old camera but with the extra digital information
2, pure digital on the screen that pops up in the view finder when flicking the lever on the front of the camera. The extra screen shows the image that the information from the lens gives it also adds the histogram and , just like the regular back display on a digital camera battery status and remaining space on the memory card. With that view you see exactly what you get when pressing the release button.

There is settings for different classical Fujifilm films programmed into the camera. You can choose normal, black and white, different versions of Fuji colour films. For example I have always used the settings in digital cameras that gave me more richness in the colours. In the X100 settings there is an option to simulate the “Velvia” film that Fujifilm developed as an alternative to Kodaks Kodachrome 25 film back in the 1990’s. With this setting the colours are becoming richer and there is more power in the photos. To be honest I am not a big fan of pre-production/editing of photos. Once there was a famous photographer that once said that” he crops the photo in the view finder instead of cropping the photo in the development process”. That quote got stuck with me since I started to take photos and I always tries to take photos like that. What I see, is what I want the image to look like. With the possibility of different colour settings in the camera I most rarely need to adjust the colour tones in the post production.
I only edits the photos when I want a black and white photo. Then I convert the image to black and white, raise the contrast quite a bit. Just to get the feel of grainy b/w photos. The old Kodak TRI-X feeling (witch is impossible to mimic).

Back to the X100. One of the other main advantages with the camera is that the aperture and shutter speeds are placed on knobs that are just like a “real” camera. That is the shutter speed is set with a knob beside the shutter release button. The aperture are set with a ring on the lens, like a real camera. I can very easily choose the settings as I like them and also change then in a quick manner. Both on the aperture and the shutter settings there is an “A” mode, so I do not have to think as much. Of course there is also the other digital advantages like menus, settings and a digital display on the back of the camera.
But for me that have been using a Leica M camera for many years, I used a Pentax SLR camera for a short period. But I used mainly the range finder cameras Leica, Zorki and others. I am used to how they works and all that. It feels comfortable for me.

I remember when using the X100 for the first time, realizing that the zoom is in your feet again. The way I had to bend my knees and crawl on the floor to get the image I wanted. It was just like the olden days, except my knees hurts now, must be of not using them. It can’t be the age showing?
It was a way of taking photos that I had forgotten, but quickly got back to. Sometimes I wish there was a possibility to change lenses. Or even be able to fit my old Russian lenses on the camera, it would be fun. But a classical 35 mm lens is good for so many different things, portraits, landscape, everyday life.
I like the X100 very much, but there is a X100s out there that is even better so I heard. It even got the old focusing prism style range finder so I am told. Did I mention that you can focus by turning on the focusing ring on the X100 lens? It is a great camera!

One of the huge advantages with an digital camera is the storage for the photos. As I mentioned the the 2 earlier parts in the series. The Kodak box had space for 8 photos on one roll of 120 film. The Rolliecord had 12 photos on the same type of film. The digital camera uses a memory card, if you use one with 8 GB space and the settings on the camera are set to medium image quality. Then you can fit 4000 images or there about. There is no need to look at every photo you take, just fire away. Take 3-4 photos more than just one, then save all. You never know when you are going back and looking at the ones that was bad at first look, they might be really good at a second look or when looking at them in the computer. That brings us to the second huge advantage, that is the possibility to look at the images at once. Just press the play button to watch what you just took a photo of. Perhaps when having a photo session with a model, you can show the model straight away the look and your visions of how the result would be. After all, the model never knows what you “see”. With a digital camera you can show in a easy way. So the model understands you and can help you to get that perfect image that all photographers are searching for.

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The “old” look of the Fujifilm X100 is very genuine, especially after I added an twinned leather strap and my soft release button (the big red dot on the top fo the camera). Also on the top you can see the shutter speed selector know, there is a compensation knob to. That ones allows you to force the camera to create darker or lighter photos. Back in the old days you had to calculate that by yourself. On the front of the camera is the lens and a small lever. That lever controls the digital display in the view finder. But it looks like a old rewind lever. On the back there is buttons for the digital menus and an large display.  As an option I bought an UV filter so the lens would be protected against dust and fingerprints. I do not want to cereate scratches on teh lens, so I have always used UV filters. Some say that using a filter like that is distorting the image. If it does, I do not know. But I am not selling my photos, so for me it is no big difference. Then I bought an lens hood. That is one more thing that I always have used, also to prevent scratches and accidental damages to the lens. The camera looks way more cooler too with a lens hood….

After using the vintage cameras I brought out the X100 camera out of the back. The girl was standing by the bicycle waiting. The camera was set to auto on everything. Now there is a silly thing with the camera. I think it is because of a thing I heard a while ago. In Japan it is illegal to take photos with out a shutter sound. So in the menu of the camera there is an option of 3 different settings of shutter sounds. It is not the shutter itself that makes a sound. It is a pre-recorded sound than mimics a shutter. So there are three sounds, all slightly different. “click”, “clock”and “clack” sort of. Very strange. Since the digital camera has no shutter in that way. The only sounds you can hear with taking a photo is the silent whisper when the aperture sets. But it is so silent it is silly, I think a flies cough is louder.

Anyway, I started it up, looked in the view finder and composed the image and pressed the release button.

“click”, or something like that.

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Cameras and bicycles, part 2 ”Rolleicord”

Welcome to part 2 of my series of camera tests.

This time we dive into the 1950’s. The German made Rolleicord camera. Really well made with good optics and very reliable. The Rolleicord is a bit less advanced and valuable version than the more advanced and expensive Rolleiflex. One of the main differences between the two is that the Rolleicord got a winding knob instead of a winding arm, less advanced lenses. But it is still very good quality camera.

This camera was made by Franke & Heidecke in Braunschweig south of Germany back in 1952 and was most likely to be exported to Sweden at that time. Round about 1967 my father bought it because at that time he was going to work as a photographer, so he thought. The idea never came true, but he used the camera on vacations and other occations. In fact he used the camera right up to early 80’s. So all early photos of me is taken with that camera. Then in the 80’s when he bought an East German Practica SLR camera of some sort. By then the old Rollei was put in a cupboard and was soon forgotten.
Many years later on when I started to take photos I asked if I could borrow the old camera. That was no problem. Sadly after all years in the drawer the had been a coating of “fog” between the lenses. But since I was repairing cameras for fun at that time I thought it was a fun project to get his old camera working again.

The camera got two lenses, one that takes the photo and one that you compose the image with. You fold the top up of the camera and looks down on a piece of glass (the view finder) where you see the motive that is in front of you like in a mirror. With the focus knob you adjust the image until what you see in the view finder is sharp. Then you simply take the photo, but first you need to cock the camera before you take the photo. That is done simply by sliding a small lever underneath the bottom lens to the right. Then you hear the shutter mechanics and springs work. To take a photo you press the lever to the left. There is also an mount for a cable release. Back then there was an accessory to the Rolleicord cameras, it was an small trigger that you could mount in the cable release mount so you could use an proper release button instead of sliding the lever back and forth (I had one of these buttons laying around so I mounted that on my fathers camera). Sadly the mirror inside the cameras view finder, the one that projects the view on the glass piece, is so bad that it requires a very bright sunshine to be able to see what you are looking at. Below is an example. I am taking a photo with my iPhone in the view finder. That is what you see on a bright sunny day.

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After fixing the camera up I took many great photos with that old camera, it was with that camera I discovered the fun in taking photos in a medium format. Since I developed and made prints myself it was also cheep and fun. I think I took over 50 rolls of the classic “120” film with my fathers old Rolleicord.  I always used the classic Kodak TRI-X film. In the previous post I mentioned that the standard film in the 30’s was at most ASA 100. The TRI-X was introduced in 1954 (60 years ago this year) and was a mind blowing ASA 400! It became reporters favourite film, it did not need bright sunlight or flashes to produce great images, it was easier to work with. Photos could be taken in low light settings, corspondents found the film very useful and forgiving in harsh enviroemnts. Then the artists discovered the wonderful feeling of the film, the slightly grainy look, the contrast and so on. It became one of the most used black and white films ever used. Sadly it was replaced by other brands and then Kodak changed the formula of the film. But I used TRI-X for a long time. Both in  the”medium” 120 format and the “small frame” 135 format.
Walking around in the city with some cans of TRI-X in my pocket and with my old Leica M2. Just take photos of everyday life. It was fun! But for portraits and more serious photos I used my fathers old Rolleicord until I one day placed the camera back in the cupboard.

 

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Here you can see the two lenses, the top one are for viewing, the bottom one is taking photos. The knob on the side towards the back of the camera is the film advancing knob. The knob in front of that one is the focus knob. Beside the bottom lens is a small lever, that one sets the shutter speed on the opposite side of the lens is the f stop lever. Just underneath the bottom lens is the cocking lever of the shutter and beside that one is the shutter release button. The round hole on the side of the front is an jack for the flash. The entire top of the camera flips forward and reveals the view finder. To change film you simply unhinge a locking device underneath the camera and flips the entire back of the camera open. Then you can load the 120 film and wind the film until the markings on the film displays the stop markings, you line up the films markings with the markings on the camera. Close the lid, secure the locking device. The advance the film until there is a small “1” turns up and it stops to wind. Set the shutter sped, f-stop. Cock the shutter, open the view finder and there you go. The Rolleicord is reddy for action.

 

After using the camera this time, about 15 years since last time. I find it a bit difficult to work with. Not that is is an old analogue camera. But I remembered why I stopped using it back then. The film advancing know is an menace. I have big fingers so every time I advance the film I scrape my index finger against the mount for the strap. One can get rather irritated after doing it 20 times in one photo session. Also the cocking of the shutter. After advancing to the next frame you need to also cock the shutter. When having a model in front of you that makes a move or an pose. You need to get a new frame reddy quick.
So to make a long story short. I bought a Rolleiflex. That was the best medium format camera I ever had, and I have used many different brands. All with their advantages and disadvantages. But the Rolleiflex was the best. Small, compact, accurate, quick to reload. Sadly I sold that camera to a friend. But that is a different story. But I still have my fathers old Rolleicord, but just like my father. It stands in a cupboard, in the case. I even got a set of filters and a lens hood in a case.

On the bicycle photo session I found the Rolleicord to be a good camera. Easy to operate and worked really well. Unforutunate I did not have the old TRI-X film. But as I mentioned earlier I had to get hold of some ASA 100 film with short notice from a friend.
The photos are good, but again like the photos that was taken with the Kodak box camera, the negative is scanned in and digitally printed. This time I only got the less quality JPG format on the images. I ordered an CD record as an backup on both occasion. On the Kodak box CD I got two sets of images. One set in JPG format and one set in TIFF format. But this time I got only the JPG format. That is a strange service attitude in my opinion. But I guess that is what happens when there is no services for development or printing of old photos for the everyday amateur.

On the day of the girl with bicycle photo session. I took the camera from the cupboard, took it out of the case, loaded it up. Went to the photo session. Brought out the camera out of the bag that I had all four cameras in, glanced at the light and then adjusted the shutter speed and f-stop as i estimated the light to require. I adjusted the f-stop after the ASA 100 film (I know the ASA 400 settings better). Opened the view finder, adjusted the focus…

“click”

 

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Cameras and bicycles, part 1 “Kodak box”

Here it is, the first part about the different cameras I used on my bicycle photo session and my thoughts about the cameras I used.

In this the first part I will talk about a an camera that are from the years around 1929-1931. It is a Kodak box camera, most likely to be an “No.3 Brownie”. Kodak made many different models of the “box” and  “Brownie” over the years. So I am not 100% sure what model I used so to make it easy I will only call it the “Kodak box” in the text. After all the model name is not so important, the important part is the camera itself.

It is made out of pressed cardboard with a sort of vinyl cover with a leather handle on top that got the brand stamped into it. The lens is a simple glass lens that is covered by the shutter. The shutter itself is a very simple made device. It is a sheet of metal that covers the lens and when pressing down the release, the metal sheet that is held back with a small spring simply slides pass the lens and creates an small gap for the light to enter the camera and be caught on the film making an exposure. This simple shutter got two speed settings. One is the time the spring loaded metal sheet takes to cross the lens when activated by pressing the lever. The other speed is what we today call “B” mode, or “bulb” as it is also known. To engage the “B” mode on the Kodak box you simply slide up a small metal hinge/stop that stops the shutter in fully open setting when pressing the release lever. It is open until you press down the metal hinge/stop. Very simple, very easy to operate, very fool proof.

To see what you are taking photos of there is the view finders. They are two small windows with an small mirror inside the creates an 90 degree angle, one on top of the camera and one on the side. They are constructed more like an “aim over there” windows. You line up the camera on the subject looks in down in the camera and sees what is in front of the camera. The you press the shutter release lever. A discrete click is one of two noises the camera makes. When taking a photo with the Kodak box there is no way of knowing of you have pressed the release lever or not. So the best is always as soon as you taken a photo advance the film to the next frame. Look at the red window in the back of the camera and wind to the next digit and that is where the next noise appears. The scraping sounds of the advance lever.

This version of the Kodak box camera uses the classic “120” film (120 is the Kodak number of the film, they introduced it in 1901). When loading the camera you simply pull out the film advance lever and releases the two hinges, one on top and one on the side. Then you slide out the front of the camera, on the front plate are the film carriers mounted, like a big cartridge. The camera is made in two main parts. The front part with the lens, shutter, viewfinders and film carriers. You load the film, the insert the entire cartridge in the box again. Fasten the hinges and press in the advance know. Then on the back of the camera there is an red little window where the information on the film is visible. You wind the advance lever until you see the digit “1” being visible in the red window. Then the camera is ready for action. Easy!

The loading and also the unloading of the camera is no major problems. Operating the camera is no problem either. After all it is one of the first cameras for the everyday person. The box cameras was made in huge amounts over a long period of time. I think it was close to 50 years, different upgraded models of course. But still the same general concept, a box. Anyone can use a camera like this. But back then in the early 1900’s there was only a few selections of films. They where often in need of a good light surroundings when taking photos. This 120 film I used was a ASA value 100. That was considered in the 1930’s to be an high speed film. The regular brands was down to ASA 25 and there about. When loading the 120 film it comes winded up on a spool and sealed with an small paper tag. First you remove the paper tag, then you take the end of the paper cover that is shaped as an arrow and slide in it to the receiving spool. Gently wind the receiving spool so the film is wounded up securely on the spool. Then you close the camera and wind it until there is a “1” in the red window. The Kodak camera exposes the negative in an 6X8 centimetres large frame. So there is only room for 8 exposures on one roll 120 film. You really have to think when taking photos with a camera like this. 8 exposures, that is it. Then you need to insert a new film. Film are expensive. So you have to make sure that every photo counts.

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On the photo above we can see the Kodak box “No.3 Brownie” camera with the viewfinders visible as the two small squares on top and on the side of the camera. The two small holes in the front is where the viewfinders are “looking”. You can see the hinges that secures the two main parts together. One on top and one on the side. There is also the film advance lever on the bottom part of the camera, just below the hinge on the side. The shutter release in located in a slot in front of the bottom hinge. There is also a roll of 120 film beside the camera were the paper tag is visible. Beside the film is the original pick-up spool made of metal, today they are made of plastic.

After taking the last photo on the film. You wind the film until you feel there is no resistance when winding the advance lever. Then it is uploaded on the receiving spool. Then you gently open the camera and with a firm grip on the roll remove the film. There is a small paper tag on the end of the paper cover of the film, you fold a small bit of the paper cover and lick the paper tag, it has glue like an envelope on the back, to secure that the roll is kept together. When you glued the tag on place you can let go of the film. If you do not do that there is a possibility that the film will unwind and then the negative will be exposed by light and all photos you have taken is ruined. On that paper tag you just licked and glued on, it often says “exposed” or something like that. Just so you know what film that has been used or that is unused. You have not used your first 120 film in a vintage camera. Now you have to find a developer that can develop 120 film for you and possibly make some prints of the negatives. That is easier said than done.

Today the shops with develop service are few and far apart. It is not cheep to have a roll of 120 film developed and have prints, I found a place that charges  €24 for one roll of 8 photos, develop + prints + CD backup. I wanted to have the negatives scanned into a CD record as an backup. It is good to have backups in this digital world. After all I must get the photos into the computer somehow and the shop offered a CD service at an additional fee. The sad thing is that they printed the copies (photos) from the digital scanning, not a analogue print from the negative. So the images are flat and have no feeling at all in my opinion. I want to have developed copies, on dull paper with a white frame, having a small smell of chemicals. I use to make those copies my self in the bathroom in the olden days so I am kind of used to the smell of photo chemicals. That was a bit of turn down for me. But on the other side, it is the development of everything. No one use shops to develop and print copies today. Everything is digital and simple. So even the shops are digital and simple these days.

But can the digital age beat the feeling of standing there with a Kodak box camera and pressing the release lever to hear a small “click” from when the metal sheet rushes past the lens?

Here is the photo I took with the Kodak camera. Notice the unfocused photo due to the distance to the bicycle and the girl. The sharpness is focused on the grass behind the girl. If I had take 2 steps back the photo would be in focus. But over all, it is not to bad. It is a cheep camera made in 1930, never fixed never serviced. Last time it was used was in the 1950’s when my father and his brother used it as a toy. I took it out of the drawer at home, loaded it with film. I aimed the camera at the girl with the bicycle and pressed the lever.

“click”

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Development of cameras, prologue

I was out and taking photos of a friend posing with Lady Blue a while back, as seen here.
Usually when taking photos like that I use my Fujifilm X100 camera. It is a good camerae for those kinds of photo sessions, small but very powerful. But this time I was going to do something special. I was going to take photos of an bicycle made in 1930’s with a camera made in the same era. The model was going to use clothes that was inspired of that era. It was a good opportunity to use my grandmothers old Kodak box camera that also originates from the 1930’s. It all could be a fun and interesting experience.

In the end it all ended up that I used 4 cameras. I got the idea of comparing the images and see what is to prefer, what is easiest and cheapest or even what camera got the most “feeling” in the end result. Some sort of consumer guide in a way. Not a valid guide in any way, since hardly anyone uses those old cameras today. In general, the persons that are using film cameras today they know what they are doing, they are using professional cameras. No one uses old Kodak boxes. But since it was an matter of keeping the originality and the spirit of 1930. Also to have fun while doing it I got some “120” films from a friend. He sponsored me because he thought it would be a fun project (120 film is the description of the kind of film that was/is used in old middle format cameras). We both used to take lots of photos back then with analogue cameras.

At this session I used the following cameras:
1, Kodak No. 2 made around 1930.
2, Rollecord IV from 1953
3, Fujifilm x100 from 2012
4, iPhone 5s from 2013

My intentions are now to write what my experience was when using these cameras. Advantages, disadvantages, thoughts and feelings. In short the general feeling of using them again after all these years. When I started to take photos I used those old cameras all the time because that was all that existed, then the digital era came along and put an end to the analogue era in one blow. Perhaps a bit like old vinyl records, a many years ago there was entire shops that sold vinyl records. But when the CD came along it all changed over a short period of time. Same with cameras. When the digital era came the entire usage of old cameras changed over a night. Of course there is people that says, whit cameras as well as vinyl records, that the digital era can never replace the “real” thing. I like to say yes and no at that statment. There is advantages with digital photography. As well there is disadvantages. Same with vinyl records. There are huge advantages, but also huge disadvantages it all depends on what you want to achive.

First of all we must think of what kind of differences there are between analogue and digital cameras.There is of the camera it self, then there is the quality of the image and lastly the “mojo” or feeling of it all combined.

An digital camera can never replace the feeling of winding the film forward to the next frame. But the analogue camera can never be as easy handled as an digital one. With the old cameras you took a photo and hoped that it would be good. With a digital, you find out the result direct.
With an 120 film camera you got 8-12 espousers, or an 135 film camera 36 exposures. With an digital camera you can take photos until the memory card is full (and today the memory cars are enormous in capacity), at least 300 photos. Or until your finger gets sore.

With the digital camera you have pixels. Back then it was film grain. It all depends on what your intentions are for the image. If you want to make a HUGE blow up of your favourite photo, then you need as fine grain as possible or as high pixel rate as possible otherwise it all would look really bad, all grainy or big squares instead of fine lines. But for an everyday user, or as me an happy amateur photographer. I am totally fine with the average pixel level in a modern camera. The largest print I aver made was an A3 format, with that size a standard digital camera is just fine.
Then we can mention the iPhone, or any smart phone today (I use an iPhone so that is why I am keep referring to it). The camera on the phones today is really, really good. The lens is of an good quality, the sensor is good. Then phones of today take as good as, if not better photos than the digital cameras 10, or even 5 years ago. Speaking in an user friendly price range of course. I am not thinking of the professional equipment, but the regular cameras for us every day users and amateur photographers.  Today can take a photo with your phone. Then simply select from an enormous range of editing programs that made for your modern smart phone, some are free others costs a small almost symbolic amount of money. There is even a few basic editing possibility in the phone itself as default. But whit a rather simple and cheep program (or “app/application” as they are called) you can edit and tweak the photo as an professional laboratory or at home with your computer while standing in line at the bus stop.
In your hand you have a phone that has over 150 years of taking photos experience. You can swipe and pinch a regular photo until it looks simply amazing.

With an old vintage camera you set the exposure, set the shutter, the f. stop, compose the image, set the focus. Then press the release and “click”, that is an image, perhaps. You have to wait and see when you get back the photos after them being developed. Then the photos are as they are, out of focus, the person is blinking and so on. If you want to have a paper copy of the image, the you have to go to an developer with your negative and choose the size and glossy or dull finish on the paper. You can develop and enlarge at home to, but then you need all sorts of gadgets and things. Fluids, water rinse, developer machine, filters for different light effects, photo paper and so on. I know, because I used to do all that before.
Standing hunched over deep trays and breathing in chemicals in the red light of an dark room all nights long. It was fun to see your photo own develop.

With an digital camera you can compose the image and the just fire away. The result is direct, if the person blinks. You simply take a new photo or even 10 new photos. When you are done taking photos you connect the camera to your computer and transfer the images you like to the computer for extra editing or even sending them to the person you was taking photos of. If you want to make prints of the images you like, you simply send the images to one of many internet based developers, you pay a small fee. Then within a week you have your images in your hand in the size and format you chosen.

With an phone you can take a series of photos then while sitting on the subway you can choose the best image, edit and tweak it. Then you can text the image to friends, upload on social media or upload them to one of those internet based developers I mentioned earlier. There is even sites that are specialist on images taken with phones that have special formats on the prints. More of that later on.

Now, this will be an series of 6 sections. This, the first is only an introduction or prologue of it all. Next topic will be about the Kodak and my thoughts about that one when using and I will write about the results I got. Then I will talk about all 4 cameras I used during the photo session I had. The last section will only an epilogue to wrap it all up with final thoughts from me. Sounds that like something you like to read?

Stay in tune for the first section of the series in “camera thoughts”.
As an teaser here is the 4 cameras that was used during the photo session.

 

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No breaks and a sticky chain

After having problems with the breaks on the red bicycle, the Greek god Hermes (you know, the god with wings on his feet). I decided the last weekend to take a look at the breaks condition on the bicycle. After all, when you think about it. Breaks can be useful sometimes when cycling in traffic or cycling in general. As I mentioned in a previous topic about the breaking capacity of the Hermes bicycle and that leaves some things to wish for. In short, the breaks on the bicycle were there. But were there only in a pure theoretical way. Physical, they were not so much there, or even not at all, to be honest.
The break was perhaps well used, old, worn or simply broken. Something was wrong with the break in the rear wheel hub and it needed to be fixed.

A while back I bought an very old, very worn, black metal box that contained vintage bicycle tools and parts at an internet auction. In that box there was among other things an old Torpedo non-geared hub, complete with an break cylinder. So I thought that I got the tools, I have dismounted and remounted Torpedo hubs before. Why not take a look at the hub, and see if I can fix or change the break cylinder. It could be a fun project a Saturday afternoon.
So I took out the bicycle out of the storage room in the basement. Put some rags on the floor to protect the wooden handlebar grips and the saddle. Turned the bicycle upside down and then I started to lay out the tools, almost like a surgeon before an operation. I had a small can of fine oil, one can of regular oil, one bucket of grease, a big bottle of cleaning agent, a regular slotted screwdriver and three special tools. One was a multi tool to loosen the bolts that holds the wheel in place. The second tool was a Torpedo multi tool, special made for the Torpedo hubs back in the olden days.  The last tool was to be able to loose the locking bolts on the front wheel hub.

With the slotted screwdriver I loosened and removed the four screws that hold the chain guard in place. With the same screwdriver I removed the chain lock and removed the chain, it was due to be cleaned anyway. After all, oil and grease from 1954 is not so lubricant these days. Perhaps more an stale layer of dirt and “stuff”. The chain needed to get cleaned then greased up with new fresh grease and oil. This fixing the breaks operation, turned out not to be an total cleaning of the rear hub only. But also a cleaning of the front hub and lubrication of the moving parts there. I took a look at the crank for the pedals, well… To be honest… I must save something to do this winter, I can not do everything now. I must save some work for those long and cold winter nights. After all, the pedals spins around rather well as they are. So they will stay so for a few more months. No need to tear down those parts just yet. But the front wheel needed new lubrication and a good cleaning since it was a bit friction in the hub.

Back to the rear Torpedo hub. After loosening the bolts to the rear wheel, removing the wheel. Loosening the bolts and washers with the special tool I started to clean the parts I took apart. The colour of the grease/oil/dirt that I wiped from the bearings and axle, well. It was not looking healthy to say the least. I started to clean all parts carefully. I put them in a jar of cleaning agent, then after a while I took the parts out one by one and wiping them clean, drying, re-grease and placed them on a cloth. After inspecting the parts so see if anything was broken. I found that on the rear cogwheel one cog was missing, broken off. That would explained the crackling chain noise when cranking before. I remounted everything together again,  it fitted well together and then I mounted the hub parts in the hub casing of the wheel. I noticed that the casing was worn inside, where the break had been eating away a little bit of the surface of the metal. I tightened it all together with the tools and then I put the wheel in the frame again. There I tried to see if the wheel was spinning in a good way. No problems at all. I added some drops of fine oil into the fill cap on the hub. There is a small cap for refilling oil on the hub, at the same place where all information about maker and year are located on the Torpedo hub. They knew what they did back then.

Then I did the same with the front wheel. Sadly no oil cap there. But still, new grease and a drop or two of oil. It was needed. Original grease since 1954.

Then it was the chains turn to get cleaned. I let it soak in a cleaning agent for a while. Then with a old tooth brush I brushed away all the dirt and oil residue. Then wipe, clean and repeat again. After a few passes the chain looked really good and did not crackle or had any stiff joints at all. I used the thicker old oil and lubricated the chain. In the same style as my father did, and my grandfather did.
When I was going to mount the chain on the bicycle again. I noticed that the chain’s every joints had become worn during all the years of usage. The chain had become longer than it was from the start. If a joint adds 0.5 mm it do not seem like much, but when that happens  to 40-50 joints it is a becomes quite a bit longer. So, I needed to shorten the chain. Now days they use an special tool that is easy and quick, with a few turns you have shortened the chain. But since the methods I use and every tool available are from the 1940’s. I simply shortened the chain as they did back in the 1940’s. I used an steady bracket with an hole in it. I placed the chain flat on top of it with the joint positioned over the hole. Then grab a punch and a hammer. Find the joint stud that are the match for the chain lock link. Give the punch a good whack with the hammer and there you go. A shorter bicycle chain.

I fitted the chain to the bicycle after the adjustments, a perfect match! Now I can even adjust the chain tension by moving the wheel forward or backwards. Before I cleaned up everything the wheel was as stretched as could be, still there was a 5 centimetre play on the chain (it should only be about 1 centimetre flexibility). There is a  reason why only there should be an about 1 centimetre play on the chain. It is because the risk of the chain jumping cogs while riding the bicycle. When stressing the cranks-chain-cogs. Some thing is bound to happen, like the chain jumps a couple of cogs. Or worse the chain jumps all cogs or even jumps away from the cogs so suddenly there is no tension at all. If you are pressing hard on the pedals, perhaps even standing up in a up hill and the chain jumps. Well, it can end up really really bad. But also the wear on the cogs is greater with a chain that do not fit the cogs properly.

Now the chain was in place with good tension, the wheels where in place all cleaned and lubricated with grease and oil. It was like brand new bicycle! I tested to crank the pedals while the bicycle was standing upside down. Not a sound. I tried the break. It worked, everything was in place. Time to take the bicycle out for a test run. Out on the street I jumped on and tested it. Not a sound, squeek or crack from the wheels and chain! I even tried to hit the break hard. The rear wheel stopped at once and made a tire scream!

I have breaks again! Now I can use the bicycle in traffic again with out having the special feeling of bad or even non-existing breaks. After all, there is some advantages with breaks and having the choice to stop when I want.

Back in the basement again, I decided to also clean up the chrome/stainless steel mudguards and the other details while I where at it.
There is something therapeutic with a chrome polish a rag. Sitting and listening to jazz and polishing metal, seeing the before dirty and spotted metal becoming all shiny and clean again. I got carried away of course so I polished the handlebar, headlight and so on. Now it is only the frame left to clean. But as I mentioned earlier, I will save something to do for the long cold winter.

One thing that is amazing with this bicycle. That is the way how it is made. All parts and so on, there is a thought behind it all.
1955 is the perfect bicycle year in my opinion. For example, there is a handle on the frame placed so when you lift the bicycle in the handle it is perfectly balanced. Regular front wheels use to turn when lifting up the bicycle. But here they made a small spring loaded steering guide, that keeps the front wheel straight while on a stand or being lifted. Genius!
Then we have the tool box under the luggage rack. It contains tools and an air pump for the tires and got a small compartment for an tire repair kit. When you apply the lock on the bicycle when parked. Even the tool box is then locked in place by the lock. So you can not open the box with out the key! Also, the chain guard is mounted on special mounts that are pre drilled and welded onto the frame. No need for a nut or fiddly brackets, only the screw. Unscrew 4 screws and the chain guard is removed, easy as 1, 2, 3.
I got hold of some tools earlier. With these tools I can take the bicycle down in small pieces. Multi tools from an era where they used real grease, not the stuff you use in your hair or on modern mechanical parts. The tools are amazing. With those special tools, I can unscrew the most things.

I mentioned above in the text that I have an special key to the Torpedo hub. There is nothing I can not do with that key. Well, at least when it is about Torpedo single gear hubs from 1930-1950’s. But now I at least can mend and fix vintage Torpedo hubs. I am not to sure that is an skill that counts when applying for work today. Who knows…

But those simple tools made of metal works today as well as they did back then. It is fun to repair and fix things when you got the tools for the job.

Even if the tools are over 60 years old.

 

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Lady blue and the girl with the white dress

During a photo session I attended to a few weeks back. By coincidence one of my friends on that photo session and I started talking about taking a new sets of photos with her as an model. I mentioned the old bicycle I had been renovation during the winter and that I wanted to take photos of for this blog. The idea of an photo session with her as an model and having period looking clothes came up. We both thought it could be a great and fun idea. After all, I had my favourite place in the forest nearby, where it is a good place for photos in an neutral place regarding when era the photos are taken in. We decided a date when we would meet and take photos of her and lady blue. All just for fun.

The day had come. I made a quick service on Lady Blue, checking that all nuts and bolts where tightened and that the tires where filled with air after being standing unused for a few weeks. But now it was time for Lady Blue to see the sunlight again. To feel the road underneath her new tires rushing by. Feeling the fresh air and leaping forward like an deer. I took a ride to the meeting place on the bicycle. I was surprised on how smooth and quiet ride was. No rattling what so ever. Everything felt so perfect, like a brand new bicycle in a way.

I have mentioned this before, but I can mention it again. The things I have done so far on the bicycle is that I first had the bicycle down in small parts. They were cleaned and greased up with everything what that includes. I also  got “NOS” (new old stock) parts, to either replace the parts that where damaged or that were missing. First of all I got an very old and worn Brooks saddle along with a new made saddle post that fitted the bicycles old frame standard and the saddles mount. On an auction I found a 1930’s headlight made by the Swedish brand ASEA. I also found the dynamo that is from that era and the same ASEA brand on an different auction.

The brand new grey tires are really looking like they are from that period, sadly there is a yellow makers brand on them. But they are only visible from one side. So I decided to mount the tires so the maker brand was facing the opposite way as the chain guard. That was only because to get the clean look on that side. I also got valve caps in metal with an small chain that are fastened on the valve it self. It is an small and silly detail, but it gives a great touch and looks just so great in my opinion.

For pure decoration I got a spring that holds the electrical cord from the dynamo to the headlight. It was a very typical thing they had in the olden days.
An unused chain guard was won on an auction. The guard still had the price tag in place. I polished up the chain guard up so it matched the other polished parts on the bicycle. In an bicycle shop I found handlebars with the right curvature as in the 1930’s. One more auction gave me a set of NOS wooden grips for the handlebars and an bicycle bell from the same era. The sound and chime of that bell. It is out of this world, so crisp and clear. After all years, it still works and are no problem with not getting attention.

But that amazing skirt guard that I found long before. That I also have been talking about in earlier posts. It sure is looking really great on the bicycle! I must say that all the colours are really lovely in the sunlight, far greater than in the florescent lighting in the basement that I have been seeing it in so far. The net is shimmering in different colours and gives the bicycle a complete look. The frame, the mudguards and the polished parts, it all shines and have a depth in the colours. In short, Lady blue still got it. She is still a beauty, the grace and finesse is still there. The old bicycle rides as well as it looks after the renovation and are simply in great shape for being 80 years old.

The girl I met for the photo session, saw the bicycle and liked it a lot. She tried it and took the bicycle for a ride, she really loved it. We went to the place for the photo session and took  lots of photos. Included in this post is one of the photos.

It was great to see the old bicycle being used once a again as it once was meant to be. But not as back in the days with rain, snow and hard work. Now in 2014 the old bicycle will only being used on sunny days and going out for some nice rides. Lady Blue needs the rest. My intentions where to enter the Bike in Tweed race in Stockholm with Lady in Blue this year. Sadly I can not join the Bike In Tweed event this year due to reasons that I could not adjust in anyway.

But if there will be an Bike In Tweed event in 2015, I will ask the girl with the blue dress if she wants to borrow Lady in Blue and join the event. I honestly think it will be an great combination and an very appreciated display by the other participants and the bystanders. Also the girl in the blue dress like the idea of dressing up and having fun. Who knows, she might even have a tweed dress in her closet… That would make it simply perfect.

Fun in a tweed on a bicycle.

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Me and my cameras

When I was a kid my father had an old camera that he took the family photos with, it was a big black block in a big brown leather case. Even today I remember the smell of the camera and leather. My father used to bring the camera out on special occasions, then he measured the light with an device, set the levers at the right numbers, sit still aaaaand “klick”. That was a Rolleicord from 1952 he bought back in the 1960’s.

Later he got a more modern camera, but still the same procedure measuring the light and setting of all controls correctly. I saw how he worked with the camera and got interested. So when I was in school and got the possibility to try taking photos I tested it out and liked it very much. But sadly nothing came out of that because the school just wanted the kids to try, not lo learn. Then I got to borrow my mothers cheep instamatic camera that was only a “point and shoot” camera. Really useless photos, all blurred and of focus. But it was fun to take a photo of the everyday life back then. A photo that I could decide the motive on.

When I started to work I finally got around to buy me an real camera. I started to read about all sorts of models and makers. My choice was of course on the camera that my father used. An used Rolleicord 6×6 frame camera from late 1950’s. It was using film type that is called “120”, regular cameras uses “135”. The “120” film only had 12 frames per film, but the 135 film had 36 frames. So right from the start I learned to be economical with taking photos and on what. It was fun to use an old camera, it taught me a lots of other things to. Like how to looking at the light, deciding on what zone of light I would base my photo on. How to compose the photo, save frames on the film to the good photo opportunities. Learning to see the situations sop to speak. Not to just fire away and use all film at once. While I was walking around the city with this camera I became an regular visitor at the camera stores where I bought film, and left the rolls for development. In many of those shops they had an vintage shelf filled with dusty old cameras. Of course, the natural development for me was to get a new modern camera with all new gadgets to aid me in taking photos. But that was not the case, among all those dusty cameras was one standing that was looking really great. The design, the look. After I was allowed to feel it, I was hooked. The camera was an Leica M2 from 1959, the first type with a button rewind release. Now this might not mean anything. But it is one of the most sought after cameras, they where the natural choise for reporters and photographers back in the day. I bought it. It was mine! I bought some lenses for it and after a few weeks I retired the Rolleicord that I had bought earlier, I started to use the Leica everywhere. It was so smooth in operation, handling like a dream.

After some time I bought other cameras, older, more obscure brands. I found it relaxing to try and repair the cameras, and why not try them out after repairing them. There was a shop in town that sold old vintage science items, test tubes, gadgets, typewriters and he also had an entire shelf filled with old cameras and accessories. He had no clue of the value of things, he was just interested in making good money fast. He had bought up en entire photo store from the 1950’s. Old cans with film, filters, cable releases, cameras, lens caps and other things. I bought my cameras there cheep just to repair and service them. It was fun! It was at that time I met an old gentleman that collected cameras. He told me about the history behind some brands and he showed me easy tips on how to repair cameras. I bought an Russian camera from him, I thought it was so odd to have because it was an serial made copy of an Leica II from 1930’s. I was amazed by this copy and the entire process behind the development of the copying back then. It turned out that the copy was not an exact copy. It was more of an version that was heavily influenced by the German Lecia cameras. But after using the camera I found that it was so simple and fun to use so I started to look for different models but also to read the history behind them.

The Russians started to make the FED cameras around 1934 and they developed that copy into an new brand in 1948, the Zorki. There was a Zorki camera made in 1970’s that was an version, of an Leica M. But instead of the delicate design and operation, the Russian version was more build like an indestructible tank. But at the same time, precise in operations and handeling. Nothing like my Leica, but still. There was something special, something that I really liked with the Russian camera. I really started to like that camera both the idea behind it and the way it was made. I decided that I was going after a special model. One day I found one, the right model in good condition. The one I was found was an Zorki 4K mid 1970’s model. In my opinion the final and ultimate development. Neasy to handle but still has the things that are needed for a good reliable camera. I started to look after lenses that was made in the same era and looking like the camera just to get an complete set.

But then one day it happened. Digital cameras came along and over a period of 6 months, the old cameras became obsolete. Now you could take a photo with an camera and having it in your computer in 5 seconds. No more developing the film, rinse it, dry it, copy the negative to an photo with developer, fixer and drying, heat pressing semi-glossed photos. All that replaced with a press on a button. No need for huge photo developer machines. With in 2 years all small photo labs that you walked to and handed over your roll of film for development had disappeared. A few years later the mobile phones could take better images than my fathers old top of the line Rolleicord. The Leica I had was an dinosaur.

Sadly in that depression and sense of being lost I sold almost everything of my camera collection, the German cameras, American, Japanese cameras with accessories. It all went away to other collectors. Including my old Leica that had been with me for so many years. Of some reason I saved the Russian Zorki 4k camera. Why I still have no idea. I regret selling the Leica, but the Zorki is a odd one. It still is there, looking as exiting as before. An monument over an era that never will come back. The era of amateur photography with film. Today everyone has a great camera in their phone, along with an entire photo lab with filters, and different setting for moods and colours. I do not say anything about that, quite the opposite. I love digital photos, I have taken over 20000 photos with my phone. I also have digital cameras that are almost professional. But the feeling of developing the photos in a darkroom. Looking at the white paper that develops an image in different fluids. Hanging the photos on a line to dry. Trying to get the right contrast, exposure. The feeling in every photo.

Not quite the same when sitting by a computer pressing a button. Or standing on the tube, adding filters to an photo and between two stations editing, cutting and developing an excellent photo. back then you had to wait for one good image. Today you can take photos all the, one of them is most likely to be great. But there is no digital camera that can simulate the feeling of loading up a camera with a new roll of film, the smell of chemicals. Feel of the film on your fingers, and when winding the camera. The action and sounds. That is an camera should sound. Not like my Fujifilm X100 where you can set the shutter sound from 3 different sounds. A shutter should sound like a shutter. The Leica M2 had a silent shutter, the Zorki 4K has an shutter that reminds of an car door being slammed shut (with some broken window glass inside).

Today I never use the old analogue cameras, only the digital ones. It is easier, quicker and with only one memory card you can take over 800 photos. Not 36 images as on the old cameras. Also on a digital camera you see the results right away no need to wait for 2 weeks.

But the Zorki 4K is still around. Waiting, waiting for the perfect photo.
The search never ends.

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The tandem is ready

Yes! The Rex Tandem Duplex bicycle is finished. It has come out of the basement after all this time.

It was a long and interesting experience to tear it down to pieces and putting it back together again. As I mentioned in a earlier post the bicycle has really been used. Many miles along roads, paths and grass fields. The bearing shell for the crank in front was shattered due to enormous forces. During the renovation I noticed that even the rear hub was really worn. Made strange noises and did not spin smoothly. But where to find a replacement rear wheel to an 1940 Rex tandem? Rather impossible sadly. So I decided to fix it as good as I could. The front wheel was a real pain. It was missing an entire bearing. Only a bunch of loose marbles that rolled out on the floor when I took the front wheel apart. Then we have the front break. Well It was good back in the -50’s. With the original handle for the break. I have a regular handle now, comparing to the original handle that was a huge rod. So the amount of breaking needed way less with the original handle. In short, now there is no break on the front wheel. Almost.

The condition of the frame was as the rest of the bicycle. Well used, to say the least. In the long run that is nothing to think about. It is all put together, all parts are there. Only the double stand that are missing. There is one now, but it is wrong. It is to modern so I am looking for an vintage one. The all is set for bike in tweed 2015.

I could search for new vintage parts, like rear wheel and new hubs and so on. But I think it might be better to search for a Rex Tandem in a better condition all togehter is that is the case. This one is used, well used. It is to much things to mend and replace if I want it to be in some what original condition. It is better for it to be in the used and “real” condition. It looks genuine now. After all what use is a bicycle just standing still, and never be used?

One thing I am really proud of is the numberplate, a vintage one from Stockholm. Complete with a mount for it and all. I will keep that number plate no matter what. I am even thinking of tracking down, if possible, the original owner. Could be fun!

After filling the tires with air it was time for the test run. It went splendid! But I noticed a cracking noise from the rear wheel. It turns out that the chain is a worn so it is stale in some joints. I will try to fix a new chain and try if that helps. Then I got two used brow Brooks saddles. They match the bicycle perfectly and are a real pleasure to sit on. Even my grandfathers old bicycle bag looks like it belongs there. We took a ride, downhill at first. No problems, it is riding smoothly and breaks great (with the rear break). But it is heavy! 2 adults and a bicycle that is up there around the 40 kilo mark. Single gear. Now that is some weight you have to pedal. You can do it, but there will not be any racing along the delivery boys in the city. On the other hand, if a car crashes into us when riding the tandem. I am sure the car will break. The tandem bicycle is made of the same material as the first armoured tanks. Or at least railway rails. It would last riding around the world.

It is not a bicycle for everyday usage it. More of a fun thing to have, to ride on special occasions. Like bike in tweed for example.

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A ride in the night

It is summer over here. The nights are long and bright. It is the perfect time to ride around on a bicycle and just feel the warmth of the summer night embracing you. No need for a tweed jacket or an cap. Besides soon it is winter and we all need studs on the tires not to slip and slide along the streets on all snow and ice. But that is not the case now. No, only the breeze and I on the road.
But after riding for a bit I noticed some strange sounds from the rear of the bicycle. A sort of squeaking and rattling. It turned out that I need to adjust the rear wheel, the hub has become a little un-tight after all rides I have made this year. It is an easy fix, and a sign of usage so nothing to be concerned about. Old bicycles are like old cars and motorcycles, it is an need of constant maintenance, tightening, adjusting and fixing.
If you got the tools and the know-how it is not a big deal.

So now I got plans for the weekend, repairing and adjusting an old bicycle. A nice weekend!
The question is, should I clean it too? I have not done anything to it since I got it. It still have dirt on the mudguards since the previous owner used it. The previous owner was an elderly gentleman how really was strict with things. It was really interesting to look over the bicycle the first time. The owners little personal things and ideas are clearly visible. I tried to keep so much of the original as possible. Let me explain.

The bicycle in question is an Swedish made Hermes, made in the town of Uppsala. It is made about 1956, at least that is what the rear hub says (German made Torpedo). The bicycle over all is in fairly good condition. All parts are there, they are used and fixed along the way but not abused. The frame has been repainted in some sort of rustproof colour at some point in time. The bicycle has been used daily for a long period of time, standing outside in all weathers. The handlebars is rusty, the original grips where missing and replaced with typical 1970’s plastic grips. The stand was broken and was held in place with a piece of string. In the late 1950’s there was a law in Sweden that said all bicycles must have a rear light. This one have an after market tail light mounted, with the typical “let us make this work” cable montage. That includes lots and lots of electrical tape. The glass on the head light was broken. But the tires where good and kept the air good.

First thing I did was to take a look at the stand. I guessed it was the spring that holds the stand in place where either gone or broken. Sure enough, it was broken. So I simply extended the spring one loop more, adjusted it with a pair of pliers. Removed the string that hold the stand in place. That was fixed. The broken headlight glass, well I had a replacement. Fixed. The headlight brand is Robo and was mounted with a Robo dynamo, they still work perfect. The electrical cord that was hanging around on the frame to the rear light. Removed and saved. Now it looks better, cleaner. Still need to remove the rear light casing and all the traces of the tape. The wheels where turning fine. It seemed to work just fine. The bell on the handlebar is an original “pearl” Swedish invention, they use to be loose and rattle. Not this one works perfect.Last thing I did was to remove the plastic grips. They came of easily only to show that the ends of the handlebar was badly rusted. I removed the rust as well as I could. In my drawer with old parts I had a pair of original grips, the kind that sits with two studs/nails and one screw. Amazing that a pair a grips can do such a huge change. Now, even in the used condition, the bicycle looks much more original and vintage. It is just having polished shoes. You can be dressed in top hat and tails, but if your shoes are dirty it makes a sloppy appearance. If you have polished shoes and regular pants, the look improves plenty. A small trick we learned in the military. Back to the bicycle.

After fixing all the small things I decided to take it for a spin. What a nice ride it was, quick and smooth. But suddenly a girl on a bicycle on the road appeared in front of me. I applied the breaks to lower my speed not to crash in to her. I applied the breaks! THE BREAKS!!! BREAAAAK!

The old bicycle had no breaks. It had been standing so long that the break in the rear hub was not in so good shape. It all turned out well, a couple of hard cranks of breaking. The break slowly started to work again. It is at 50% strength now. No need for more actually, you have to plan the ride more now. Besides you are not supposed to ride full speed into crossings and so on.

I am thinking of tearing it down in to small pieces and having an professional painter refinish the frame. Perhaps paint it black, an black frame with chrome details. What a looker! Hunting down parts to replace all parts that are rusted and so on, it is a fun detective work. It could be a really great looking bicycle after that. But on the other hand, it is in a good shape as now. It is only in need of some road service. I will fix the rattling rear hub and change the saddle (the original one is a bit to squeaky). After all I have an old Brooks B67 saddle in the drawer for bicycle parts.

Riding a vintage bicycle is a ride of style, not speed. While riding along in the summer night, there is no rush at all. You can always stop and take a photo.

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Schneebremse

Who is Schneebremse? Or better, what is Schneebremse?

This is the story, as unromantic and slightly dull as it seems, behind the name of this blog.

Schneebremse is an German word meaning “snow break”. What is a snow break i hear you ask. Well, there is many different kinds of snow breaks, for example one is the on on a sledge a sort of shovel that operates in the way of when you pull a lever on the sledge an shovel digs down in to the snow underneath and by doing that, breaks the sledge with friction. There is also the type of break used on trams and other rail road engines. In general, trams all over the world has containers with sand on board, so when the driver feels it is necessary, the driver presses a button. Then an amount of sand is dropped in front of the wheels. With that, the sand is making the wheels grip the rail when the rail is slippery of some reasons, rain, oil, grease, snow and so on. It prevents the tram to skid at start and breaking, because after all sometimes it is good thing to stop an tram in time.

In the Stockholm subway we have an electrical break system, meaning that the engines that powers the train can also break the train. But when the train rides at 10 km/h or less there is mechanical breaking with breaking pads. Just like cars and bicycles. Because Sweden is way up in the northern parts of Europe, we have lots of snow in the winter time.
When the trains drives along in a snowy environment there is snow and ice building up underneath the cars. They call it “snow smoke”, you know the fine particles that gets in everywhere in your clothes. Tiny, small snow/ice crystals. Those small crystals can cause huge problems. When the snow and ice get in between the wheels and breaking pads they heat up of the hot metal and then cools down right away due to the wind and temperature outside. The the layers of ice starts to build up. When it has became to much ice the problems stars to become clear.

At 10 km/h the pads, which is now covered with ice can not get a grip on the wheels. So the train get a reduced breaking capacity. That is when they invented the electrical “snow break”. When driving and you feel that the breaks might have snow and ice on them, even water. You simply engage the “snow break”. Then the break pads engages at any speed at all. Imagen the friction that causes at an speed of 70 km/h. The heat from the friction starts to melt/dry up the wet and icy parts. Suddenly from no breaking at all you can feel the entire train slow down with out the driver using the regular breaks.

In the old subway cars there even was a “snow break 1″ and “snow break 2″. The driver could decided what degree of pressure on the break pads the driver thought was necessary. The newer stock of trains only has a button that lights up with a yellow light when engaged. But with the older stock there is no warning light. Only a switch each for 1 and 2. On or off, yes or no, up or down.

Once there was a driver driving into the second last station of the line, he was calling the traffic control about his old stock train. “It feels like it loosing power,the breaks screams and the train is very slow”. That is a very common problem with the older trains in general. Often there is some relays that has jammed. It usually helps by pressing a button to reset the relays. The control tried to help the driver, trying all sorts of tricks and things. Nothing helped. But later when the driver changed cabin and direction for driving back to the city again (the trains last car becomes the first car so to speak). The traffic control called on the driver and asked how the train was behaving in the other direction. The train worked all fine. Everything was A-OK!

Later when the driver had changed the direction of the train again at the other end-station. The driver called up to the traffic control again. This time he said that the train had stopped in the small hill climb up to the big central station. The control asked the driver to check the fuses, perhaps there was a fuse that had broken? Did the train release its breaks when the driver was giving the train power? In short, something was very wrong with the train. Nothing seemed to be wrong with the train, the driver reported.
The control then told the driver to change direction, try if it works from the other end. If it does, drive back to the station that the train just left. Take the train out of service, drive to the extra track behind the station and wait for an repair man.
When driving back the train to the station, the drivers called and said it worked just fine. But traffic control did not want to take any chances. Park the train at the extra track and wait anyway. We do not want to take any chances by having a train in service that might break at any point. Stand by the train and wait for the repair to arrive.
After a while the repair man came walking along the track to the train. He climbed up in to the cabin, glanced at the switchboard, smiled at the driver. Leaned over to the switchboard and switched of “snow break 1″. Then he called to the control and said that the trains was ready for traffic again.

The silence on the radio was total.
Later on I met the driver, the first thing I said to him was “snow breaks”? He laughed and said to me “ahhhh doctor Schneebremse!! You knew it all the time”?!
So, to make a short story even longer. The name Schneebremse is from the an event in Stockholm subways including old stock of cars that has the snow break function and an driver who instead of switching on the windscreen wipers, accidental turned on the snow break. Not so romantic I guess. But at least there is an personal story behind it.

That is how the name was made up. One persons own mistake made one other persons nickname. I liked it, it has a nice ring to it. So I decided to use it as a alias and it works.

After all, there are not so many Schneebremse’s out on the internet so far.

 

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