Musings on Tube Transport   Man in a Shed Biography   Tube Transport Problems   Tube Transport: my concept The Hyperloop: my thoughts  

Potted History of A Man in A Shed

(with a fascination for Tube Transport and The Hyperloop)

I suppose I am lucky to be still alive and over 60 (only just!) following my early experiments with homemade explosives in the shed of my early teens. It was a wonderful dilapidated forgotten wooden hut in the fields behind my suburban Kent home. Between the ages of 12 to 17 it was the scene of creation and invention in the manner of Heath Robinson although on a schoolboy's budget, but with a schoolboy's imagination. The sky was the limit, quite literally when the futuristic War Canon - otherwise a bent pipe and gunpowder - nearly took the roof off.

Andy Marks Tube Transport enthusiast with early creation

My lifelong obsession with vehicles was also born here with the manufacture when aged 12 of the Chariot made from a tricycle and pram wheels. This was closely followed by an improved version Chariot 2 which used three old bicycles; a motorised bike with a lawnmower engine and a pedal helicopter!

Aged 17, the distraction of girls slowed the progression through Morris Minors and old motorbikes. I left home to study engineering for six years ending with a special interest in hydraulics and thermodynamics and a completed apprenticeship with the Dowty Engineering Group, based in Gloucestershire.

Andy Marks with first vehicle a Morris Minor

My engineering training helped as I rebuilt the engines of various cars, and kept them going on a shoestring budget in my new Shed in Cheltenham. Nowadays the Morris Minor, Velocette motorbikes, TVR and others are considered classics but at the time these old vehicles were all I could afford. I am particularly proud of the Lotus Twin Cam engine installed and working perfectly in my TVR and was delighted when a current owner tracked me down years later to talk about the installation.

Happy years passed at Dowty including a spell on exchange working at Aerospatiale in Toulouse on both Concorde and the first Airbus. Then I was headhunted to Aeroquip, a Birmingham seal manufacturer, as UK Marketing Manager where I learned a lot about seals and other elastomeric products.

I left Aeroquip in 1983 to follow a dream. I had bought and sold houses well and so rented my current house, bought a 36 foot yacht lying at Menton, south of France, and sailed off to the Greek Islands with my future wife. We had intended to run a charter business but after 12 months it was clear new regulations would inhibit our plans.

Skyscan Balloon Camera in operation at Gisborough Priory

Skyscan Balloon Camera in operation at Gisborough Priory

Gisborough Priory from the Skyscan Balloon Camera

Gisborough Priory from the Skyscan Balloon Camera

We sold our yacht Skram and with the proceeds started an aerial photography company based around an innovative airborne camera platform carried beneath a tethered barrage balloon or blimp. This vibration free system had decided advantages over other aircraft. At the end of each flight, we reclaimed the helium gas using a compressor and storing it in pressurised cylinders for subsequent re-use. This reduced costs and preserved a finite resource. Skyscan started in business in 1984 and today is a leader in aerial photography in the UK with an international reputation for excellence ( although sadly the blimp has been overtaken by later technology.

My Shed of the last 30 years has been used to design, make and modify the Skyscan Land Rover and equipment and all our vehicles but always in the background have been my Pet Projects. Inspiration often strikes in the middle of the night and my bedside notebook contains the stuff of dreams as well as rational thoughts.

Over the years this eclectic mix has included amongst others :-

..... and of course thoughts and solutions of the problems associated with my pet fascination of Tube Transport, see my earlier musings.

Tube Transport is an old idea, used by the Victorians to deliver mail in tunnels beneath London in the 1800s but which sadly fell into disuse. Now, 150 years later, Elon Musk is bringing the concept to the fore with his Hyperloop and I for one, am cheering him on. Over the past few decades, in my own modest shed and bed, I have been pondering the problems and had the occasional Eureka moment when I found solutions. Without the resources and, more importantly the time, to develop prototypes the ideas have been slowly building and I look forward to Mr Musk's forthcoming announcement about the Hyperloop.......

........ I wonder if we have been thinking along the same lines?

Text and photos © Andy Marks 'A Man in A Shed'

Andy is also a partner in Skyscan a British aerial photography company.