Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Gas Holders for Dummies

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Isn't it funny when you find out that you know something that lots of other people don't, but you always thought was common knowledge, or when YOU discover something for the first time that everyone else has known about for years?
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I only mention this because, over the last few weeks, three separate people have confessed to me that they don't know what gas holders are. And they didn't even know they were called gas holders and had to refer to them as 'those big, brown, knackered looking, round things in your picture/ over there'.
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You don't know what gas holders are!!? You losers.
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Gas holders are of tremendous cultural importance because they are an essential ingredient for any British photographer wishing to capture the very essence of gritty, industrialised decay. From album covers to movies, you just have to feature a rusty old gas holder.
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Just in case you don't know what a gas holder is /does, yes yes I know you do really, let me explain:
  1. Gas holders (aka gasometers by some oldies) are used for storing gas (easy bit)
  2. They consist of a rusty old tank, open at the bottom and kept in whack by a skeletal metal frame
  3. A deep fluid-filled trench is dug around the frame and the tank plopped into the trench
  4. As the tank is filled with gas, the pressure of the gas makes the tank rise out of the ground
  5. When the gas is used, the tank drops back into the trench
This is why, when I was a kid, I was frequently and seriously perplexed at the magical disappearance and reapparance of bloody enormous, apparently solid structures on a semi-regular basis. Joy of joys, I wasn't really brain damaged, it was actually happening.
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And no, I don't know what stops them flying into the air like huge champagne corks when filled to capacity. Maybe they do sometimes.
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Maybe UK-based Al Qaeda operatives are buying tins of baked beans, plastic tubing and funnels wholesale as I type. Quick! Arrest all brownish people in possession of flatulence-inducing foodstuffs and garden hoses before it's too late.
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Sadly, all gas holders are due to be phased out of service by 2009, so get snapping boys and girls
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PS Apologies for the rubbish diagram. I'm a little bit shaky from a bout of insomnia (my loss your gain) plus my digitiser's brown bread (some slang to go with the gas holder) and I'm reduced to drawing with my mouse on a mat pitted with cigarette burns. I can't see this particular little number making its way into any text books.
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3 comments:

Northun Munki in Oxford Circus said...

What intrigues me is how they are multi-jointed and the seperate pieces corkscrew in and out of one another. I guess each section must have a water trench in it.

What are they planning on replacing them with?

Northun Munki in Oxford Circus said...

What intrigues me is how they are multi-jointed and the seperate pieces corkscrew in and out of one another. I guess each section must have a water trench in it.

What are they planning on replacing them with?

Stef said...

Ah, a connoisseur - you must originate from the North of England

The multi-jointed and spiral based versions are the more advanced ones. I'm not sure how the seal at the bottom works for those kiddies - maybe its just one, wider than usual trench. I suppose one of us could do some Googling but that would make us anoraks and life is far too short, sweet and precious.

Re. the replacement, and I'm guessing here, I don' think they need them any more as they keep the pressure in the pipes up with compressors now, all the way from the coast, and don't need to store gas locally under pressure in gas holders.

Sadly, gas holders are now being dismantled one by one which is a real shame as climactic fight scenes at the end of British TV shows and films will never be the same again - maybe I could make my fortune by inventing inflatable stunt versions ...