Tuesday 11 August 2009

The embarrasing thing we must never mention

Colin Long mentions in IA Memories, in GLIAS News 243, an automatic Car Park that never worked. The following notes add some detail (though it may not be wholly accurate):

This was called an Autostacker, and was designed for 256 cars to be parked 16 on either side the building on eight floors. A car would be driven onto a pallet at the entrance, then taken by lift and conveyor to a free bay within; drivers would be saved the difficulty of manoeuvring and less space was needed as cars could be packed more tightly. (One would hope it would all still work on ones return.)

Automation was by Standard Telephones & Cables (STC), not from their nearby works at North Woolwich but at Footscray. This used relay circuitry and worked. However, the building suffered from settlement, preventing the conveyor system, by John Brown, from operating - they tried to get part of it going for the opening by Princess Margaret in 1962. But settlement continued and eventually the building was demolished.

Woolwich is one of those few places along the Thames where high ground reaches through the marshes that existed before the river was embanked. Woolwich has two pieces of high ground, the one to the west with St Mary's Church on it, overlooking the site of Woolwich Dockyard, and the easterly one where the Woolwich Power Station was. Archaeological investigations, when Power Station was built, and more recently when the adjacent area between Warren Lane & Beresford Road was cleared for development, showed that the Romans had a settlement on the eastern eminence, around which they dug an enormous ditch (about half the size of the moat at the Tower of London).
I think the Autostacker was built partially over the ditch.
Richard Buchanan

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