Wednesday, August 31, 2011

1955 MG TF, not quite

For details see the book Alternative Drivestyles: New Zealand custom built cars

e-books begin to mutate...

a good piece by Harry Mount on :

The last bastion of silence in Britain has been breached. As today’s Telegraph reports, publishers are now producing the first “enhanced e-books”, where soundtracks are provided along with the text. The first one, The Adventures of the Speckled Band, a Sherlock Holmes story, came out last week, complete with driving rain, thunderclaps and blood-curdling screams.
Perhaps the most powerful advantage a book has over any other medium is in sparking and expanding the imagination. When you read, you fill in the gaps – your own internal soundtrack, how things look, how the emotions feel. Soundtracks are that much more prescriptive and precise, with little room left for your brain to improvise. Your own inner version of a scream may be that much more blood-curdling than the one laid down in the sound studio.
Eventually, if enough effects are added to a book, it stops being a book. Throw in a soundtrack and it becomes a radio play; add images on top, and it’s a film.
Booktrack, the people behind this venture, suggest that soundtracks improve literacy and something they call reader retention. Underlying that suggestion is the idea that books are essentially dull things that need to be given all sorts of bells and whistles to catch the attention of the ADHD generation.
Well, if people don’t want to read books, that’s their prerogative. But there’s no reason on earth why books should have to prostitute themselves as something shiny, gaudy and ultra-relevant, in order to please people who don’t like reading them in the first place.
And that’s without thinking of the new, fresh Hell that will come with people reading soundtracked books in public. It used to be the case that the one bit of the train where you could be guaranteed a quiet journey was where people were reading books and newspapers. No more.
Of course people can listen to these things on headphones, not that that doesn’t stop the hiss of the blood-curdling scream seeping through the carriage. And, more and more, I’ve noticed, people don’t bother with headphones on trains as they play their electronic games or watch their DVDs; the same will happen with these new books.
There are few moments when the brain is so receptive as when it is engaged in silent absorption from the page (printed or electronic); any added effects are a demeaning detraction from that precious process.

Afghanistan's first major railway opens

Hayratan (David Brice)
Yes, even in Afghanistan new railways are being built.  Freight services began running on Afghanistan's first major railway over 20-21 August. This followed the signing on 4 August of a three-year agreement for Uzbek national railway UTY to operate the 75 km 1520 mm (5 ft) gauge line, which it built at a cost of $US 165 millon using Asian Development Bank funding.

The line starts at the Hayratan freight terminal on the Afghan side of the Uzbek border, which handles around half of Afghanistan's imports and is served by a Soviet-built rail spur dating from the early 1980s. It runs though an empty landscape to a freight terminal near Mazar-i-Sharif airport.

UTY has been appointed to operate the line as its only international connection is through Uzbekistan, and the lack of an indigenous rail industry in Afghanistan means it will take time to train local operations and maintenance staff.

Afghanistan's only other main line railway is a short spur across the border from Turkmenistan. However, an Iranian-funded 1435 mm gauge line is under construction from Iran to Herat, and studies are underway for the creation of a northern rail corridor from Herat to Mazar-i-Sharif and Tajikistan. This would provide the Central Asian republics with a route to the sea; studies are underway for a link from Atamyrat in Turkmenistan to Andkhoi which could link with this corridor.

A north-south line to serve the Aynak copper mining development is also being studied by Chinese mining firm MCC.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Norfolk (Virginia, USA) light rail line opens to large crowds

With the proposal for a Light Rail system in the rebuilt Christchurch (see earlier post), here is a news item about "The Tide", a new light rail line in Norfolk, Virginia, opened on Friday, 19 August.  Also reproduced below it are some comments from another website which will make a good counter to the objections we can expect Steven Joyce to make about the Christchurch proposal.

"More than 46,000 people took advantage of free rides during the first two days, far more than anticipated. The 7.3 mile/11.8 km line runs from Eastern Virginia Medical Center through central Norfolk to Newtown Road, with 11 stations serving locations including cultural, financial and entertainment facilities. Siemens has supplied nine S70 light rail vehicles for The Tide, which is predicted to have an initial weekday ridership of 2,900, rising to 7,200 by 2031.
'The start of light rail service in Norfolk is a game changer,' said Philip A Shucet, President & CEO of operator Hampton Roads Transit. 'It marks the return of regular train service to downtown Norfolk and offers commuters the first new transportation choice in a generation."
The first plans for what became The Tide were developed from the mid-1980s. Construction began in 2007, and after 18 months of delays and a $106m budget overrun, the final cost of the project is put at $318·5m. Mayor Paul Fraim told The Virginian-Pilot that, at less than $27m/km, 'if it is not the lowest on a per-mile basis of any light rail, it is at the very bottom of the list'. Light rail numbers continue rocking the grand opening of Norfolk’s new mode of public transportation."

Doug Smith from Wisconsin said:
The trouble with simply adding more road capacity is that it quickly fills up and is only a temporary solution to the problem. The advantage of rail is that over a given route, trains take up less space than the equivalent amount of automobile traffic. How much more property do we condemn in our urban areas to increase arterial highway flow? Why not use a good alternative to an overused method of transportation and not have all our eggs in one basket? Besides, I've always thought that if any other transportation system killed and maimed as many people as our highways do per year, the government would have shut it down ages ago. Instead we write it off as the cost of doing business. Sad, don't you think?

James Meyer from Missouri said:
For those who insist that all transportation functions be a profit generating enterprise, How much money (profit) do you make driving your automobile in everyday commuting? My guess would be nothing. And this is in spite of the motorist and non-motorist paying a hefty tax burden to provide paved streets and highways.
In a nutshell, no form of transportation makes money, it costs money and lots of it.

David Pressley from North Carolina said:
Hooray...... another light rail system with ridership exceeding expectations.
Will the opponents of efficient, light rail transportation keep jousting at windmills forever?

Tolaga Bay wharf

The impressively long wharf (660 metres or 2,165 ft, widely regarded as the longest concrete wharf in the Southern Hemisphere) in Tolaga Bay, 56 km northeast of Gisborne. The coastal trade dominated the business of these outports where small steam coasters brought in supplies and general cargo and exported farm produce, mainly wool, grain and meat.

The development of a local freezing works, in competition with the large one at Gisbome, was often the factor that gave the promise of a substantial shipping trade. The opening of the Tolaga Bay Wharf on 22 November 1929, complete with a railway track along it, enabled larger coasters to load alongside and for many years the Richardson and Company coaster Kopara (1938) called regularly. Other coastal traders to call included the Pukeko, Koutunui and the Patek.  For details, see the book The Era of Coastal Shipping in New Zealand.

But as is often in case in small rural communities, things slowly declined and the wharf closed to shipping in 1967. Unused, the wharf has deteriorated in recent decades and efforts have been instigated to save it. Its history is on this webpage

KiwiRail freight volumes, operating profit up

Two DXBs at Patea with the 'milk train' (Andrew Hamblyn)

The announcement yesterday made by KiwiRail that its operating revenue for the 2010-11 financial year was up on the previous (+2.6% to $667 million), despite Steven Joyce's efforts to put as much freight as he can onto roads, is encouraging news.
This was 2.6 per cent under the projected $685 million, however, while ebitda (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) fell short by about $20 million."This was almost entirely due to the impact of the Christchurch earthquakes and loss of Pike River Mine volumes and the provision for restructuring," the company said in its statement. Revenue from freight, its largest operation, was 3.8 per cent under target and Tranz Scenic revenue undershot by 27 per cent. Overall, freight revenue climbed 8 per cent to $397 million, sales for the Interislander service rose 2.3 per cent to $122.9 million. Tranz Metro revenue rose 4 per cent to $65.5 million, property and corporate rose 5.4 per cent to $31.8 million and network jumped 46 per cent to $20 million.
Mechanical's revenue tumbled 68 per cent to $9 million and Tranz Scenic's fell 24 per cent to $21.5 million.

This marks the first year that KiwiRail hasn't received an annual $90 million operating grant from the government. Instead it receives funding for specific projects. In the latest year, grant income fell 24 per cent to $344.6 million.

1912 traction engine

Used more as mobile machines particularly for farms, than for transport as such, steam traction engines are, like railway steam engines, a very appealing pioneering technology. This example was manufactured by Cliff & Bunting Pty Ltd of North Melbourne about 1912. It is a single-cylinder two-speed 8 nominal horsepower general purpose engine with locomotive style multitubular boiler; its weight is put at 8.5 tonnes. It has 4-shaft open spur-gear transmission, a steam dome, radial-arm single- eccentric reversing gear, belly tank, flat-spoked steel-rimmed wheels and Ackerman steering gear with fixed front axle. A winch drum is fitted to the rear axle between the lefthand rear wheel and firebox.

It is believed to be the only surviving example of between 6 and 12 traction engines built by this firm between 1907 and 1912. The acknowledgement line states it was "Purchased with the assistance of the Sunshine Foundation and the Australian Government through the National Cultural Heritage Account."

hot enough in the car to bake cookies?

Although if it's this hot, it may melt some of the fittings.  In any event it is a reminder not to leave children or animals inside cars on hot summer days.

Monday, August 29, 2011

an historical highlights tour around Dunedin

A matching volume to Graham Stewart's book on Christchurch (see post last week), this pictorial volume takes a similar approach although it is shorter (64 pages) and has more emphasis on street transport.  It's easy to empathize with this, though, as Dunedin's cable trams were really identity symbols of the city until they were finally removed in March 1957 (see posts on here).  And there were ordinary trams as well, which had all been closed by March 1956.  Wouldn't it be great if as in San Francisco, the cable trams were still operational...

As well as his own photos of trams there are several old postcards and a number of nice slides by Reginald McGovern (see sample).  There are also present day photos, presumably taken earlier this year, which in some cases contrast the older scenes with what is there today.

Like the Christchurch book, it is a nice collection; some photos seem to suffer from gamma or contrast problems, but these are a minority.  And in contrast to Mathew Wright's effort, it's refreshing to read a book put together by someone who knows his subject.

Mazda MXA

A Mazda MX5 that has been given the Custom Shop treatment.  For details, see the forthcoming book Alternative Drivestyles: New Zealand custom built cars.

Db days

One of the goofs in Mathew Wright's new book is his caption for the photo on page 126, which he states to be a DA class loco: it is actually a DB, road number 1001. The NZR DB class were 17 diesel-electrics designed as a lighter (and less powerful) version of the DA, built in 1965-1966 to operate on secondary North Island lines on which the DA was excluded because it weighed too much. One of the principal lines which the DB class dominated was the line to Tauranga via Paeroa, until the Kaimai Tunnel was opened in 1978.  In this Trev Terry photo, a pair is seen with a goods train passing through the site of the former Karangahake station, just before the Kaimai deviation was opened.


Put into service on 30 June 1893, Z-Class No. 526 was the first locomotive built at the Newport Railway Workshops, Melbourne. Classified as a 0-6-0 type Side-Tank Goods Motor Engine, this locomotive was stationed at Princes Bridge Depot and the North Melbourne Depot in the mid to late-1890s. It also has a boiler inspection stamp indicating it was at the Sale Depot in May 1896. In 1903-04, No. 526 was converted to a locomotive type steam crane at Newport Workshops to a British Dubs & Co. design. It left Newport Workshops on 23 January 1904 with a new identity as 'No. 3 Steam Crane'. The crane operated by steam from the boiler had a lifting capacity of 5 tons. For most of its working life it was stationed at the North Melbourne Locomotive Depot where it was known by the affectionate name 'Polly'.

As a steam crane, Polly attended the scene of accidents and derailments. It is known to have been present at the 1908 Braybrook Junction-Sunshine accident, accidents at Riddell and Beveridge and the 1911 Harvey Creek derailment near Molesworth. It was equipped with a J-Class tender carrying 2000 gallons of water and 65 cwt of coal, and later a K-Class tender. It was officially withdrawn from service on 16 June 1978, having been based at the South Dynon Diesel Shop for the last period of its working life

Between 1980 and 1985, the locomotive was restored at Newport Workshops to its 1893 Side Tank configuration by a team of VR apprentices, staff and members of the Australian Railway Historical Society Victorian Division including Gerald Dee. The restored locomotive was donated to the Museum of Victoria in 1992. (from Museum of Victoria)

"NZ On the Move"

Father's Day (marked in NZ on the first Sunday in September) usually sees a jump in our book sales as most of of them are "male interest" subjects.  Multi-national publisher Random House also must be aware of it as this latest book compiled by Mathew Wright is a collection on our theme.  Like the previous volume on engineering works, which this matches in format, it is a pick 'n' mix pictorial selection: a whole page photo on the left hand side of a page spread with an extended caption on the right hand side, although this time the pics are fortunately printed in colour where the originals are in colour and often duotone otherwise.

Clearly from the modest retail price of only $50 ($6.50 of which now goes to Bill English) for an A4 landscape book of 232 pages, albeit softcovered, Random House print a lot of copies, expecting the downmarket chainstores to put a pile in each shop, which they probably do.

With this approach and with Wright as the compiler, you shouldn't expect much other than a disparate gathering of nice big photos, and you won't get much more.  It would have been better to have made the whole book nice big photos with shorter captions: more enjoyment and less chance for Wright to make goofs.  Most of the photos are good, but there are some where Random's book designer has literally stretched things too far.

As to whether all the subjects chosen are "icons" is very debatable: we concur with some, but not others.  And if you're a fan of that form of transport that has actually been the most important throughout our history--ships and other marine craft--sorry, the only thing you get is a picture of a Maori waka (canoe) on page 11.  Available in our shop, like most NZ published books.

"bucket seat" given a new meaning

See the post "crazy transport scenes in Asia".

Da days

The New Zealand Railways DA class was the NZ version of the General Motors EMD G12 export diesel-electric loco of the 1950s, which were sold to numerous countries.  The dimensions for NZ were reduced a bit because of the country's tight loading gauge. All up NZR bought 146 of the A1A-A1A type and by the 1960s they became the standard mainline locos on the North Island system, steadily replacing steamers.

This NZR publicity view from the early 1970s shows a pair with a freight train on the NIMT central section, what looks like the Mangaweka area.  For more info and pictures, see our books.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

the Republic of Whangamomona

The above two photos are from this webpage
Photo in the NZR magazine of November 1937
Hidden in in the Taranaki Hill Country, this isn't a township that has many residents or much claim to fame, apart from the annual 'Republic Day'.  It is on the 'Forgotten World Highway', SH43, as well as on the Stratford-Okahukura Line which links Taranaki to the North Island Main Trunk, although naturally Steven Joyce would love to take his sharpened railway destroying axe to it.  It last saw regular passenger trains in 1983, but there are frequent excursion trains run over it.

For more history and pictures of the railway, see our books.

Melbourne railway tracks, fin de siecle

A somewhat arty view by Thomas Beckett taken on 17 September 1899 of Melbourne's main Flinders Street railway yards from Flinders Street Station, looking west towards Spencer Street, and with the Sandridge Bridge across the Yarra River on the left. This still exists but is now used by pedestrians instead of trains.

not our bookshop

Although it would be good. It is one of the facades of the Kansas City, Missouri, Public Library.

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Greater Winnipeg Water District Railway's Mack Rail Car Number 31

That is the title of this postcard view dated Spring 1975, taken at Waugh, Manitoba.    Acquired from the Winnipeg Electric Railway in 1953, it was built in 1928 and re-engined with a Cummins Diesel in 1947.

1939 Scania-Vabis 850 bus

Its origin is fairly obvious in this view from wikimedia!

REO Speed Wagon logging truck

A William Hall Raine photo taken on top of the Paekakariki Hill Road of a 1941 model REO Speed Wagon hauling three massive logs.  You wouldn't want to meet this oncoming, and definitely not want to follow behind it!

an unintended but very appropriate portrait by Fox News of their boss

(from a viral e-mail)

Saturday, August 27, 2011

1941 REO Speed Wagon bus

A REO Speed Wagon with a bus body seen on 14 March 1941 at Harvester House, South Melbourne. (International Trucks Australia)

Tokyo metro station

Evidently the stationmaster is into roses. (

1933 Morris Commercial pick-up

A scene at the Beamish Museum (see earlier posts).  The "carriage drive on right" sign probably means "don't drive on the tram tracks".  Red posting boxes like this one were common in NZ too.

1932 Chevrolet Six (cylinder)

An advertisement in France.

KO at the Rodeo

"I'm Steven Joyce the Minister of Transport and I'm here to have my picture taken opening your railway for my re-election campaign."
"You hypocritical son of a bitch -- you've opposed the railway all along! Take this!"

Friday, August 26, 2011

mystery train

A pair of AB steam locos head a mystery train into the countryside.  During the 1930s Depression these were organised as a means of giving people something to look forward to.  At the unspecified destination there would be a hike, presumably accompanied by a lunch.

how logs are transported in Sweden

By rail with an electric locomotive. What would be hauled by at least a dozen logging trucks in NZ is hauled by a Tågabs RC2 locomotive past the Rälsverkstad (railway workshop) in Sannahed on 24 February 2009.  (Michael Erhardsson pic)

Ford GT40

Well, it is and it isn't -- for details see the book Alternative Drivestyles: New Zealand custom built cars by Patrick Harlow.

old days in Eketahuna - 2


Three photos by Frederick G. Radcliffe showing motorcars and trucks in the Main Street in the 1910s.  The interesting thing is the width of the street--were the planners anticipating it would become a big city with a need for three lanes on each side?

old days in Eketahuna - 1

A little town on the North Wairarapa railway line, Eketahuna currently has a population of a bit under 600.  Passenger trains ceased on the North Wairarapa Line in July 1988, so the town hasn't needed a station for a while.  But here is the entry about it in the The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Wellington Provincial District] from the 1890s:

"The Eketahuna Railway Station, eighty-eight miles [142 km] from Wellington, which is situated on the fringe of the town of Eketahuna, is the present terminus of the Wellington-Woodvile line of railway, so far as traffic is concerned, although the line is completed for some distance further north. This station, which was opened in 1889, is constructed of wood and iron, the stationmaster being assisted by two clerks, three porters, one guard, and a telegraph messenger; three engine-drivers, two firemen and a cleaner are also located in Eketahuna. In the season the traffic is very heavy, the principal freight being timber, wool, and butter. The business of the post, telegraph and money order offices is conducted at the station, and is under the charge of the stationmaster. Eketahuna is also in telephonic communication with Masterton, Pahiatua, and Alfredton."

the Daffodil

A brochure for Germany for a 1964 model
As the ANZ National Bank is holding its annual Daffodil Day for cancer research fundraising today, here is a bit about the Daffodil (DAF), a car from the Netherlands.  DAF's first production passenger car was the 600, presented at the Amsterdam Motor Show in February 1958 and in production by 1959, although the firm had published the first details of the car at the end of 1957. It was available until 1963.

Specifications for DAF 600 DELUXE Model year: 1958
Doors: 2
Traction: rear-wheel drive
Engine type: spark-ignition 4-stroke
Fuel type: petrol (gasoline)
naturally aspirated
Valves per cylinder: 2
Engine displacement:
590 cm3 / 36 cui
Bore: 76 mm / 2.99 in
Stroke: 65 mm / 2.56 in
Compression ratio: 7 : 1
Power net:
14 kW / 19 PS / 19 hp (DIN)
/ 4000
Power gross: 16 kW / 22 PS / 21 hp (SAE)
/ 4000
Torque gross: 45 Nm / 33 ft-lb
 / 2500
Dimensions & capacities
Length: 3600 mm / 141.7 in
Width: 1440 mm / 56.7 in
Height: 1380 mm / 54.3 in
Wheelbase: 2050 mm / 80.7 in
Front track: 1180 mm / 46.5 in
Rear track: 1180 mm / 46.5 in
Fuel: 28 litres / 7.4 U.S. gal / 6.2 imp. gal
Turning circle between curbs: 8.5 m / 27.9 ft
Trunk cap. claimed: 355 dm 12.5 cu ft
Top speed: 95 km/h (95 mph)
0-30 km/h : 5.3 seconds
0-40 km/h : 8
0-50 km/h : 11.4
0-60 km/h : 16.6
0-70 km/h : 22.7
0-80 km/h : 31
0-90 km/h : 49.4

new corporate speak

David Mitchell of England looks at a few of the entries in our book The New Gobbledegook.  For many more examples, see the book.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Pan Am poster - Visit Cuba

A lovely poster from the mid-1930s featuring 3 forms of transport, although the airplane was Pan Am's offering.  Since the beginning of 1959 of course there have been no direct flights to Cuba from the US.

Opening of the railway through the Karangahake Gorge

A picture published in the Auckland Weekly News of 9 November 1905.  For more info and pictures, see our books.

a tent for VW fans

Porsche advert, 1950s

"Threefold Porsche victory on the Nürburgring". Sportwagen = sports car.

late-1940s Mack fire truck

A Mack fire engine from 1948(?) that belonged to the municipality of Salinas, California.

France increases taxes on rich

The opposite of Bill English's tax cuts for the rich in NZ last year, as part of steps to reduce France's deficit the French PM has announced that income and capital taxes on those who make more than 500,000 Euros ($NZ 875,000 / $US 720,000) a year are going up 3%.

The announcement on France 2:

Le gouvernement va créer une taxe de 3% sur les revenus du travail et du capital dépassant 500.000 euros par an, a annoncé mercredi le Premier ministre François Fillon. Il a fait cette annonce en présentant le plan anti-déficit de la France.

Gare de Cambrai Ville

An old postcard of this rather appealing old station in France (département du Nord) which is still in use today.

Cambrai was connected in 1858 to the Paris-Brussels main line by a branch from Busigny and rejoining at Somain, near Douai. A single track line winding between Cambrai and Douai was opened in 1878.

Other lines of intérêt local appeared in the 19th century, notably in 1880, the Société des Chemins de fer du Cambrésis that operated three lines between Cambrai, Caudry, Saint-Quentin, Le Cateau and Denain. A line for agricultural use from Cambrai to Marquion, now out of service, also opened in 1898.

The Station of Cambrai was also the terminus of a standard gauge secondary line connecting Marquion and Boisleux-au-Mont.

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Meccano for the toy shop

Pure nostalgia for many -- a Bedford truck, oops, lorry, delivers Meccano and Dinky Toys for the toy shop on a typical British high street.  A 2-door Morris Minor is parked in front and a Morris van behind.

This is a painting by Malcolm Root, an English artist whose forte is historic transport in Britain.  We have three of his books of paintings in our library.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

la Flèche rouge

This is a paperback book we came upon in France recently, and even though it is ficton, the Red Arrow was and is a real overnight train running from Leningrad Station in Moscow to Moscow Station in Leningrad (nowadays Saint Petersburg). It started regular service on 9 June 1931, and has only been interrupted between 1941 and 1943 during the Siege of Leningrad. In 1949 a deep red color for the cars was adopted and nowadays, being relatively prestigious, the locomotives are in a matching livery.

The book's storyline?  Here it is from the publisher's website, the text being French you're going to need to read French.

Fierté des chemins de fer soviétiques, la Flèche rouge reliait Leningrad à Moscou. En cet hiver 1937, ils sont huit cents passagers à bord, dont Pierre, jeune mineur vendéen à qui son syndicat a offert ce voyage, et Maïa, élève du Kirov qui va danser pour la première fois au Bolchoï de Moscou. Lui a dix-sept ans et aspire à s'installer un jour dans ce paradis communiste ; elle en a seize et rêve de fuir ce régime qui a broyé sa famille et d'aller triompher sur les scènes d'Europe et d'Amérique. Ils ne se seraient jamais rencontrés si une terrible tempête de neige n'avait bloqué le train et ne les avait coupés du monde pendant plusieurs jours. Le froid, les loups, la faim, la suspicion de leur entourage et les violences de l'histoire : tout va concourir à exacerber les passions dans ce huis clos improvisé...

Westpac bank screws young couple on insurance

Tonight's episode of TV One's Fair Go dealt with a young couple who along with a mortgage on their investment property, got their house insurance from Westpac Bank.   The house got burned down by an arsonist -- but Westpac/Lumley won't pay out because it was unoccupied at the time. It's best to watch the clip for the story.

Regular readers of this blog will remember the story about Westpac's lack of concern about fire safety in its own premises when its Paraparaumu Branch burned out last year.  Why would you want to entrust your insurance to an organisation like that?

There are more general lessons, however :-

* Don't buy your insurance from a bank, they are only adding a mark-up and their clerks know/care little if anything about insurance--deal direct with a reputable insurance company.

* Check what the continuous unoccupancy clause in your homeowner's policy says.

* If you are going to be away for more than a few days, ask a neighbour to clear the mailbox and be vigilant (you will of course reciprocate) and shut off the main water valve in case of bursts or leaks.  A monitored burglar alarm and a motion sensor-activated camera is a good idea. Timer devices that turn lamps on and off at night are a handy burglar fooling method, but they have been known to catch fire, so wrap them in a fireproof material.