32X – Mushroom Clouded Memories

I was never much of a gamer. I had a Mega Drive and a few games, and I loved reading Digitiser on Teletext, and picking up Mean Machines every month, but I was never CRAZILY into gaming. I never progressed into getting a Saturn, or a PlayStation, or an N64. I was given an N64 as a birthday gift around 2010, so my finger has never been on the pulse.

It was this lack of pulse-awareness that led me into owning a Sega Mega Drive 32X.

Image from Games Asylum

The 32X was a black mushroom-shaped add-on that plugged into a standard Mega Drive (or a Mega Drive 2, with the supplied adaptor, which was utterly useless to me), and upped the Mega Drive’s power from 16 bits to 32 bits. I doubt this was really the case, but it did give the aging war-horse much better polygon graphics handling and a much bigger colour palate.

Yeah, yeah, I know, I should’ve bought a SNES. I digress.

Anywho, upon receiving my 32X on Christmas of 1994, I got to experience the blistering power of NEXT GENERATION games on my NOW GENERATION console! I also got to experience the FINGER-SLICING power of placing FIDDLY METAL PLATES inside of my Mega Drive’s cartridge slot to let the 32X sit in there! I got to see first-hand the potch of USING TWO POWER SUPPLIES at once! I got to marvel at the  SHODDY CARDBOARD BOXES the game came in! Yes, it was flawed. But to my teenage, naïve mind, it was brilliant.

As I’d had the machine at launch, I had two of the launch titles – Virtua Racing Deluxe and Star Wars Arcade. I played Virtua Racing Deluxe to death, it was a cracking version of the arcade game, with more tracks and vehicles, but admittedly inferior 3D. Star Wars Arcade held my interest for a far shorter period, being a fairly substandard on-rails space shooter.

Over the months I picked up Doom (the only version I’ve ever played, so I was happy with it), and then a much more open-world space shoot-em-up called Stellar Assault. Stellar Assault was an unexpected gem on the 32X, and to my mind, what I wanted from Star Wars Arcade.

The final game I picked up for the magic mushroom was Virtua Fighter. Again, as playable as it’s arcade big brother, but graphically lacking, it was a solid yet sanguine swansong for the console.

SEGA had realized that it had run out of decent expansion ports on the Mega Drive to further upgrade it, but crucially failed to spot that the 32X and the Mega CD before it were fragmenting their market. The lack of any sort of backward compatibility with the forthcoming Sega Saturn was the final nail in a very sad looking coffin.

Image from Last Level Tech on YouTube. An example of the pinnacle of SEGA’s plug-in lunacy.

I was just starting college by the time SEGA had pulled the plug on the minimal life support they were giving the add-on, and my console was abandoned in my folk’s spare room for years soon after.

After a stint living abroad and one failed marriage later, I found myself moving stuff from my parent’s into my new home about a decade later. I dusted off the console, and fired it up. The 2D bitmapped backgrounds and sounds worked fine, but the system stubbornly refused to display any 3D polygon graphics anymore.  Eventually eBay’d for parts, I eventually settled for using emulators to play the occasional game of 32X Virtua Racing, or Stellar Assault.

But for that brief year of 1995, I raced angular cars, shot at angular spaceships, punched angular bad guys in the face, and shot Martian demons in their pink heads, all from my humble 32X. I have a huge amount of fond memories of my time spent gaming on the Mega Drive, and the 32X served as my epilogue to the machine, giving me one final balls-to-the-wall action-fest before I ‘grew up’.

In the mocking words of Virtua Racing…. “GAME… OVER!”

 

 

 

Retracing The Cardiff Railway – Completed

After a somewhat leisurely pace, I’ve completed my retrospective look back at the route of the former Cardiff Railway. Here are some links to all the related content on this blog.

Preface: From Treforest to Rhydyfelin

Part One: Rhydyfelin Halt

Part Two: Upper Boat

Part Three: Nantgarw

Part Four: Glan Y Llyn

Part Five: Tongwynlais

Part Six: Coryton

Part Seven: Whitchurch

Part Eight: Rhiwbina Halt

Part Nine: Birchgrove

Part Ten: Ty Glas

Retracing the Cardiff Railway, Part Ten: Ty Glas, and Llanishen Royal Ordnance Factory

Opened on the 29th April, 1987, Ty Glas is by far the most recently built of the stations on the Coryton Line, it’s construction taking place long after the operations of the Cardiff Railway and it’s successor, the Great Western Railway, had ceased. Unlike other stations on the Coryton Line, Ty Glas has entrances at both the north and south of the station; access from the south requires passengers to cross the track to reach the platform sited on the north side of the track. Of course, with no Cardiff Railway or GWR lineage behind it, there’s not much else to say about the station itself.

Ty Glas in 2009. Image from Wikipedia.org

Ty Glas in 2009. Image from Wikipedia.org

That isn’t to say there’s no history at the site of the station – just north of Ty Glas station lies another bit of lost trackbed. Although not part of the Cardiff Railway or the GWR itself, the track connected the line to Cardiff’s Royal Ordnance Factory, No. 17.

Aerial view of Llanishan Royal Ordnance Factory, approx. 1948. The former Cardiff Railway line can be seen running left to right, just above the centre of the photograph. The spur off to the ordnance factory can be seen centre left, and Birchgrove Halt centre right. (image from http://www.britainfromabove.org.uk)

Aerial view of Llanishan Royal Ordnance Factory, approx. 1948. The former Cardiff Railway line can be seen running left to right, just above the centre of the photograph. The spur off to the ordnance factory can be seen centre left, and Birchgrove Halt centre right, just past the bridge over the track. (image from http://www.britainfromabove.org.uk)

Cardiff’s Royal Ordnance Factory No.17 opened in 1940 and focused on the construction of field guns and other weaponry to be used during World War 2. At it’s height, over 3,000 people were employed at the factory. The works suffered a tragic incident on 27 March 1943, when a shell from one of the anti-aircraft batteries exploded and killed nine people.

The small locomotive shed, with the factory's diminutive Peckett shunting loco posed outside. (image from http://lightmoor.co.uk/books/archive-issue-33/ARCH33)

The small locomotive shed, with the factory’s diminutive Peckett shunting loco posed outside. (image from http://lightmoor.co.uk/books/archive-issue-33/ARCH33)

 

Aerial view of Llanishan Royal Ordnance Factory, approx. 1948 (image from http://www.britainfromabove.org.uk)

Aerial view of Llanishan Royal Ordnance Factory, approx. 1948. The former Cardiff Railway can be seen to the right, which would later be the site of the newer Ty Glas station. (image from http://www.britainfromabove.org.uk)

It remained in operation following the end of the war, manufacturing for civil aviation, until it was repurposed in 1960. At that point, it became part of the Atomic Weapons Establishment and was rechristened as AWE Cardiff, and the production lines switched to the manufacture of components for the British nuclear weapons programme.

The facility produced non-fissile components for all United Kingdom nuclear warheads. Nuclear weapon component production started in 1961-63 and continued until the facility closed in 1997. Workforce had dwindled to 400, but the facility now specialized in high precision components and complex assemblies, including thermonuclear weapon components and beryllium/U-238 tampers for fission primaries. From the late 1970s to the mid-1980s, approximately 7,000-10,000 lb of Beryllium a year were processed in Llanishen, but this number reduced dramatically throughout the 1990’s.

Aerial view of Llanishan Royal Ordnance Factory, approx. 1948 (image from http://www.britainfromabove.org.uk)

Aerial view of Llanishan Royal Ordnance Factory, sometime after 1950. (image from http://www.britainfromabove.org.uk)

All production ceased at the plant in February 1997. The site has since been demolished and was cleared of remaining minimally radioactive material in 2002. New housing now exists on the site, with Ty Glass station just south of it.

The historical journal ‘Archive’, (nos. 33 & 34), contains a two-part article on Llanishen ROF. ( B.A.Malaws, RCAHMW, 24 March 2003).

And that concludes the route of the former Cardiff Railway. The next stop along the line is the Cardiff Queen Street hub (which I’ve talked a little about here). I hope everyone has enjoyed this ten-part piece on a lost bit of South Wales railway infrastructure. I’ve certainly enjoyed looking into the history behind it all.