Blog : Posts tagged with 'trains' : Page 1

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Photo post of the week

In which we go out in the snow


Another day with no morning bus services, and the roads gridlocked. I walked K to work, taking the camera with me, and watched a lorry get stuck on the hilly part of Bedminster Road. Trying to get towards Ashton, it stopped in a queue of traffic, then realised it couldn’t get started again without risking sliding back down the hill. It sat there, impotent, with its hazard lights flashing, as everyone else tried to drive round either side of it.

And then, I nearly broke a leg trying to take photos of the local station. Slipping at the top of the stairs, I grabbed the handrail frantically as my feet disappeared from underneath me. Best to stick to taking photos from the bridge, I thought.

Snowy industrial estate, Bedminster
Parson St station in snow

At least the train that came was – to a train geek – quite an interesting one. 2D04, from Taunton to Bristol, one of the services on the Taunton-Bristol-Cardiff route that runs with retro 1970s carriages restored to their original condition, although the engines are rather newer.

Class 67 no. 67016 hauling Mk3 carriages at Parson St station
Class 67 no. 67016 hauling Mk3 carriages at Parson St station

And finally: I’m sure it says in the Bible that the last shall be first and the first shall be last. Before we went to bed last night, we looked out of the window to see it snowing again, the street covered in a fresh pristine carpet. We couldn’t resist getting dressed again, and going out for another walk with the camera.

Night snow scene, Bedminster

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Photo post of the week

In which I spot a train


We discovered, the other week, that occasionally, just sometimes, if you drag yourself out of bed early on a Saturday morning and get down to our local railway station (1 train an hour if you’re lucky, to Weston-super-Mare), you can see something a bit more interesting than normal…

"Torbay Express" passing Parson St Station "Torbay Express" passing Parson St Station
Two "Torbay Expresses" passing Parson St Station Two "Torbay Expresses" passing Parson St Station

If one of the trains had been travelling a few seconds later or earlier, I’d have got a great photo of the equivalent 1930s and 1970s express engines passing each other.* As it was, the modern train is a blob in the distance. Ah well. Maybe I’ll get up early tomorrow too.

* With the added, slightly confusing detail, that both of the trains involved (not the engines) have the same name.

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Photo post of the week

In which we visit the Bodmin & Wenford Railway


This week: it’s mostly trains.

Bodmin General engine shed, Bodmin & Wenford Railway Bodmin General station, Bodmin & Wenford Railway 4247 running on to its train, Bodmin General, Bodmin & Wenford Railway
4247 leaving Bodmin General, Bodmin & Wenford Railway Cab of 4247, Bodmin & Wenford Railway 33110 on shed, Bodmin & Wenford Railway

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Memories

In which we visit Bristol


A fortnight after our holiday, I’ve finally managed to start uploading our holiday photos. We went to Bristol, and photographed outlying parts of the large and rambling railway station.

Street furniture, Bristol Temple Meads Station, Bristol Temple Meads Station, Bristol Temple Meads Station, Bristol

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Steam trains

In which we visit Levisham


A spare weekend: we went wandering, in the car, and on foot. We drifted through the moorland village of Levisham, as untouched a village as you’ll find in Yorkshire, with one road wandering through it across a broad green. Ambling downhill, we reached the railway station. We watched a train pull in, and shunt about, great clouds of steam rising in the December cold.

Prowling around the station, we discovered its Artist In Residence, Christopher Ware, in his studio. We chatted a little while, and studied his prints of bucolic trains. He can’t have many visitors on a day like that; hopefully we were a welcome distraction for a few minutes.

Levisham station Levisham station Levisham station
Levisham signal box Pulley wheels

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Review Time

In which music and trains make us happy


Every month I promise myself to start Blogging Properly again, and every time I’m tired.

I still haven’t mentioned much about last Saturday: a mysterious midwinter pop festival, somewhere on a train between Ambergate and Pye Bridge.* We arrived early, and lurked around the railway station warming our hands by the fire.

First band. The Deirdres are some of the most enthusiastic people I’ve seen on the stage for a long time; they haven’t become cynical enough to hide their enthusiasm yet. They bounce about between different instruments, fight over the percussion, banter with each other and put themselves down, but their joyfulness comes through in the music. They’ll accidentally start Demo Mode on their Casio and apologise for it sounding better than they do; and Russell Deirdre has a picture of a steam train on his glockenspiel case, which has to be a good thing.

Second band. The Poppycocks have applied a lot more polish to their work, and have turned the amps up a bit whilst the audience weren’t looking. They’re bright and cheerful, with a hint of 1960s bubblegum and brocaded jackets; and waste no time getting The Deirdres to work on a few organised dance moves. “This song’s called The History Teacher, it’s about, er, a history teacher … so maybe for this one your actions can be books, turning pages, things like that.” Miles Poppycock had a badge on his lapel that he’d snaffled from somewhere around the railway station. Finding myself stood by him later on, I sneaked a quick look: it said “I’ve been on the Santa Special!”**

Headliners: The Icicles had come a long long way, indeed, so much so that everyone in the audience was invited to sign a Christmas card for them. As we were lurking around the gig early (see above), we got to sign it first! So if any Icicles are reading this, we’re the couple who had plenty of space to write long messages like “Thanks for coming so far”.*** Their tour manager, on the merch stall, is a very friendly chap too. We walked off the train into the empty marquee, to find them in place and almost bursting to play. “Do we just start? Is anyone else coming?” “Nah, everyone else is staying on the train,” I said, and after a few seconds’ confusion they kicked into their first track.

As for the music: it’s the sort of thing that I’d never say no to, sweet vocal harmonies over jangling guitars, and good enough for me to buy the albums straight after the gig. The song about Gretchen’s cat***** was a bit too sweet and romanticised, at least if her cat is anything like mine, but you might call it a kind of romantic lullaby. I wanted to mention the music first, because every other review of the Icicles probably mentions their matching and home-made stage outfits first – in fact, I enjoyed myself during the first two bands by spotting members of the Icicles, by spotting the hems of their stage outfits peeking out under their winter jackets. That’s not important, though – it’s important as part of the experience,****** but not compared to the music. The whole experience – dark winter cold, the 1950s steam train, the fire-lit footplate – gives the festival an amazing atmosphere; but the music is what we were there for.

Other people who were probably there: The Autumn Store, and this chap on Flickr.*** I was planning to take the camera myself – but discovered too late that all my batteries were dead. Arse.

* It was Kim’s idea to go. Thank you!

** This is a British railway museum, and it’s December. Of course there’s going to be a Santa Special.

*** Or words to that effect

**** I checked very thoroughly to see if he’d caught either of us in the background anywhere. He hasn’t.

***** I was a bit misled, as I saw a song called “Gedge” on the setlist and thought: “ooh, a song about The Wedding Present.” But, no, Gretchen Icicle’s cat is named after David Gedge instead.

****** The Deirdres, too, had themed stage outfits, customised appliqué t-shirts with their names on; and they make them to sell to the fans, too. The Icicles sell badges made from their fabric offcuts.

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Cemetary Gates

In which we find Bouch’s grave


From the recent search hits: “sir thomas bouch blog”. Somehow, I doubt Sir Thomas Bouch is likely to have a blog. For one thing, he’s dead.* Secondly, he was always more interested in building railways than writing about them, or about anything.

If you’ve never heard of him: Thomas Bouch was an English railway engineer, and some of the time he was a rather good engineer. Some of the time. He built the highest railway in England, the South Durham & Lancashire Union,** and with it the highest railway viaducts in England. He also invented the first modern train ferry, on the Edinburgh, Perth and Dundee railway, which would otherwise have been in two separate parts.*** Unfortunately, he was also rather fond of cost-cutting, building routes on the cheap, and that led to his downfall and infamy. Because he’s now best known for building the Tay Bridge – the one that fell down. There’s even an urban myth that the word “botch” is derived from his name. It isn’t, of course, but the rumour is hardly good for his reputation.

One day, a few years ago, I was ambling around the west end of Edinburgh. Away from all the expensive tenements,**** there’s a picturesque gorge, with a river running through the bottom, wooded sides, and grand buildings poking out from behind the trees: the back of Donaldson’s College, and the National Gallery of Modern Art. If you go up through the art gallery grounds, as I did, and through past the Dean Gallery, you can wander through the Dean Cemetary. Doing so, I randomly found: Bouch’s grave.

It’s a very bare, imposing grave. A bust of the man; the name “BOUCH”, nothing more, and the dates. It’s a very nice spot to be buried in.

* although this isn’t necessarily a bar – both Sam Pepys and Geoffrey Chaucer manage it.

** It closed in the early 1960s. The A66 road roughly follows its route, and runs closely parallel to it at Stainmore.

*** It was originally two separate railways, one in Edinburgh, one in Fife, which merged.

**** think Shallow Grave

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Readers’ letters

In which the readers speak up and demand photos


Here at Symbolic Towers, we pay attention to our readers. If they send in tips, we pass them on. Mr E Shrdlu of Clacton writes…

The Plain People of the Internet: You say what? You had a letter? From a reader? Whose name is E Shrdlu? Honestly?

Me: Shush there. Be quiet and listen.

The Plain People of the Internet: If you say so. But don’t expect us to believe it.

… E Shrdlu of Clacton, who writes:

People who liked Friday’s post may be interested in…

The Plain People of the Internet: You mean, people who like long posts about the history of the London Underground? When posts like yesterday’s get a much better reader reaction? What are you thinking about?

Me: Come on there, stop interrupting. And since when have I been bothered about reader reaction, in any case?

The Plain People of the Internet: We’re only saying. Offering a tidbit ourselves, you could say.

… may be interested in the book London’s Secret Tubes by Emmerson and Beard, which goes into all that stuff. At book length.

The Plain People of the Internet: Now, we wouldn’t mind seeing photos of that beautiful Yorkshire scenery you were wittering on about. That “unutterable beauty” stuff.

Me: It was “unassuming beauty”. And I don’t have any – the car would have rolled down the hill. Carnage.

The Plain People of the Internet: My god, that’s terrible. The joke, we mean.

Me: If you’re so plural, shouldn’t that be “our god?”. The best I can do is photos of trains down in the mist-filled dale. And why shouldn’t there be real people called E Shrdlu, from Clacton?

The Plain People of the Internet: Flann O’Brien would sue, were he still alive.

Grosmont station Grosmont loco yard Inside Deviation shed, Grosmont Train passing Grosmont yard

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Facing Points

In which we delve into railway history following a recent accident


Some notes on the Lambrigg rail accident (also known as the Grayrigg crash in the media).

Facing points are a bad thing. Facing points have always been known to be a bad thing. This has been known ever since the railways were first created.

A facing point is, essentially, a junction, where one line of rails splits in to two. The opposite is a trailing point: a junction where two lines come together to become one. You will quickly realise that a facing point becomes a trailing point if you stop your train and reverse it, and vice-versa.

Facing points are dangerous; trailing points are safe. You can drive through a faulty trailing point, or a trailing point set the wrong way, and you’re unlikely to have your train come off the track. You’ll probably wreck the point, unless it’s designed for you to do that to it,* but your train will be unharmed. Do that with a faulty facing point and your train is going to end up all over the place.

Now, this was never a problem, because for years main-line railways only ever had tracks in pairs, one track for each direction. Going the Wrong Way was strictly against the rules. The main reason for this was to stop trains meeting head-on, but it had a secondary benefit: it meant that engineers could get rid of as many facing points as was possible. This was partly an expense issue. Anyone who’s ever had a train set will know that if you switch a facing point whilst a train is on it, Bad Things will happen as different parts of the train try to go in different directions. This isn’t what happened at Lambrigg/Grayrigg, but it has the same result; and when the government realised, they quickly insisted that all facing points be fitted with a complex arrangement of locks and train-detectors to make sure you can’t do that. Back then, that involved mechanical locks which needed a lot of careful and regular maintenance and adjustment. Now, most of it is done electrically, but there is still a mechanical lock somewhere in the point’s machine that holds the various moving parts of a point fast when a train is nearby. Of course, that’s only any use when the rest of the point is mechanically sound too.

So, anyway, as I said, if all lines are one-way only you don’t need facing points. Not until you get to big junctions, at any rate, where you have to live with them. Freight lines didn’t need the expensive facing point locks, so freight trains always backed into sidings. And the railways happily ran like that for a hundred years or so, and facing points rarely caused accidents. In modern times, though, it didn’t really work.

(continued here)

* Lots of points on rural lines, nowadays, are what’s called “sprung points”. They’re not controlled, they just sit there. Use them as a facing point, and they’ll always send you the same way.** Use them as a trailing point, and you can approach them from either route without problems.

** Left, usually

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Photo Special (part one)

In which we go by train


Time for a winter holiday photo special, as I’ve spent the day with The Parents, looking at steam trains. Much like I did last Christmas, in fact; except last Christmas I was still using a film-powered camera, so the pictures didn’t make it online for quite a while.* It’s high time I did more photo posts purely for the sake of posting photos. Future ones will not all be of steam trains, I promise.

Winter sunlight Steam Valve gear Platform scene Evening Under the bridge

* and I don’t think it was ever even mentioned here.

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