You’ve read the start of the story here: https://www.cloudyni...e/#entry9168443
It’s August 2017, and after 40 years of memories of an old telescope, I am now unbelievably driving down the M40 motorway (freeway) with the 8” telescope pieces in the back of a car (see photo) – a telescope I used extensively as a teenager, and since it was taken down over 30 years ago, I had often wondered what had happened to it. Now through a random email by chance, timed with a visit to the UK, the remaining pieces are in my car. I glance back looking at it, thinking this is the first time in more than perhaps 70 years that this scope has left the place it stood for less than half that time, before being dismantled.
I’m staying for a few day’s at my Dad’s house in Tewkesbury. Little known story about me is that when I was about 6 years old I came home from elementary school carrying a metal bed frame I had found between school and home. I explained to my Dad it might come in useful someday! Now, nearly 50 years later, I am arriving at his house with three large pieces of metal tubing. I know these will come in useful, but the immediate task is getting the pieces to a place of storage while I can figure out a plan to renovate the instrument. In the few days, I had few options except to make sure I could keep the components secure.
I made plans with Mark Turner at Moonraker Telescopes to take the telescope components, and crate and ship to my home in Kansas.
An historical aside, I was also interested in a little known amateur astronomer called John Bacon, who was more famous for his aerial photography from hot air balloons in the 1890's. Bacon had been on the 1898 Solar Eclipse expedition with the BAA to India. The book of that expedition is one of my treasured volumes, and inspiration for my own eclipse expeditions. It turns out Bacon was buried near Reading, Berkshire, which was on my way to Mark’s place in Teddington; I was determined to find out where.
There’s a story behind tracking down the headstone but I found the church, searched around the graveyard – couldn’t find it, then stood and took a photo just in case I would discover the tombstone later, then looked at the three graves in front of me and one was John Bacon. By accident, I was standing right next to it.
John Bacon lived in a small village called Cold Ash, 7 miles from the college where the telescope would be located 43 years after his death. I wonder if John Bacon knew about the 8” Cooke prior to being used by its original owner, Mr L. M. Partlett, who attended Bradfield College between 1885 and 1888, and who donated the telescope in 1947 to the college. Bacon and his daughter, Gertrude, successfully filmed the 1898 solar eclipse, but the film went missing. However, it’s unlikely, because Bacon died in December 1904, due to becoming ill while walking in wintery conditions to give a talk about astronomy.
However, on finding the grave, I felt it was appropriate to show his biography written by his daughter that I had purchased from an antique book dealer the same day, plus the eyepiece end of the 8” Cooke refractor. (see photo)
Moving on – after a short wait, in August 2017, the crate arrives home from the UK with two pieces of a telescope tube, a clock drive, and a bunch of irreplaceable screws, and a corroded and dented 4” J. H. Steward refractor. Mark Turner of Moonraker Telescopes (http://moonrakertelescopes.co.uk/) did an outstanding job with the crate. I was away when it arrived at home – my wife kindly had it placed in the center of the garage. It’s presence had an “Indiana Jones” feel to it! (see photo)
So now having rescued the pieces from a potential scrap heap, I unpacked the crate, and kept them in a safe place.
Below is a view of the heart of the scope, its lens (see photo). It needs work, and I wonder if those rusted bolts will come out. Also, I am missing the critical piece – the central part of the tube that attached to the Dec axis. How long was it, could I get one made, what could I use for a mount? All serious questions, so this was going to be a long project. I wrote to the college once more asking if any other parts had been found. “No”, came the answer. (read on!)
After more a year of life taking over, in December 2018 I decided it was time to remove the lens from the tube. This took a while, but I built a support table in the garage to place the tube on, and used some gel Evaporust rust remover – non-toxic – and after an hour or so the bolts easily came loose. The lens was placed in a safe dry place inside the house for future careful cleaning. Photographs were taken and bolt positions marked for easily re-attaching in the same orientation.(see photo)
No rush on this part – it will occur once all studies and careful consultations have been made. (I’m in touch with a few experienced telescope folks, but any friendly comments, suggestions and advice are warmly welcomed).
2019 opens with some plans to clean the parts of the telescope, but still their remains the big questions of how to build the mid-section connecting the upper end of the scope to the lower end.
And then, the GOOD NEWS came! Out of the blue in January, the college emailed me to say they had found the remaining mount sections! Did I want them?
I couldn’t say no, it was critical to have all the parts together for a proper refurbishment. I could not believe the luck, and the timing. After more than a year wondering how this would come together, and having just begun work on the tube, events took over and somehow made this happen.
However, the parts were a LOT heavier than the earlier consignment. Again I contacted Mark Turner at Moonraker telescopes, who very kindly offered to visit the college and come up with an estimate for shipping. The central tube section as there, along with polar and dec. axes, and a cast iron pier!
To cut a long story short, and some very heavy work by Mark (who deserves a medal), the parts arrived last Monday. Four crates between 200 and 400 lbs each.
So after 18 months of uncertainty and being sure the rest of the scope had gone, it’s all back together, about 30 years after it was dismantled, and left untouched.
Attached are pictures as the mount was discovered in early January, and now in a dry, clean and protected environment.
The condition of the setting circle is remarkable – numbers still readable.
So next steps are to make a photographic survey of the newly arrived pieces – it will require a hoist to lift them out of the crates, so that will be a while before I do that. One third of the garage is now dedicated to the telescope.
So that’s the end of Part 2 – thanks for reading this far – it’s going to be fun to share what happens over the next year or X (where X is an undefined number!)
Also in the photos below is a picture of the original scope as set up - the only image I have so far.
Edited by martinr, 07 March 2019 - 10:15 PM.