Sunday, April 26, 2009

The devil is in the detail

There is detail and there can be too much detail.

Charter trains seem to fit into these categories as well - detail means an excursion train trip with friends and family to somewhere different. Too much detail, for me, means a rail enthusiasts tour to somewhere really obscure with strange engines and annotated notebooks along the way.

Yesterday was a pleasant fudge between the two. Our souvenir brochure included a detailed itinerary with waypoint markings and a map. I saw only a couple of notebooks and I got the distinct impression that more people visited Carlisle Castle during the afternoon than didn't.

I have spent many years traveling up and down London's Central Line, which has as its Western most terminus the station of West Ruislip. A small number of Chiltern Railways trains (typically one an hour in each direction) also stop there. It struck me as rather a strange sight to see the platform indicator at Carlisle with the ultimate destination of our train accurately described as West Ruislip, albeit that it was not the only stop.

The train was, I think thirteen carriages long. Very few stations can take trains that have thirteen carriages. So at all stations south of Banbury (most of which have platforms that will take trains with a maximum length of six or seven carriages), a member of the train staff had to sweep along the train from the back to make sure that everyone who wanted to get off had indeed moved far enough forward to find the platform. Not a procedure that would work well during a peaktime weekday service.

I originally come from the Yorkshire Dales. While I moved down south a number of years ago, I do still love the countryside of the dales. The Settle to Carlisle railway passes less than 25 miles from where I still have family.

This picture shows just how bleak and remote the line is (imagine it in bad weather). The hill directly in front of the train is the edge of Whernside (one of the 'Three Peaks'). It is about 25 years since I walked up that particular mountain.

For me travel is about understanding contrasts and appreciating differences. I am lucky enough to live in rural Buckinghamshire, a lovely part of the South East of England. But to be able to get on a train at a local station and to travel to the other end of the country, through some of the most fantastic scenery that it has to offer, was really very enjoyable and a good day out.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Day Trip

Today was a rather long day.

At not long after 6am I boarded a train, with some friends, at a local station in Buckinghamshire. After a change of engine and a carefully planned diversion up the scenic Settle to Carlisle railway line, we arrived in Carlisle shortly after 2pm.

We then spent the afternoon visiting Carlisle Castle and the Cathedral, before having 30 minutes to spare to find something to eat, before boarding the train back home. So, almost 600 miles and 17 hours later, here I am.

The picture is of the engine that pulled us to and from Carlisle - it is black and shiny because it usually pulls the Royal train. The crowd are passengers watching it being swapped over for another engine.

The train was a charter train trip organised by Pathfinder Tours.

More to follow. Sleep beckons.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Oystercard Deposits

Transport for London announced today that, with effect from 17th May, a £3 deposit would be charged on all Oystercards. Currently deposits are charged on only a few cards.

The press release contains some startling facts;
  • a third of all new Oyster cards issued with a 7 Day Travelcard or bus & tram pass on them are discarded after a week
  • seven million Oyster cards have been issued to 700,000 Travelcard and 300,000 bus & tram pass season ticket holders. If I'm understanding this correctly, that means each season ticket holder has gone through an average of seven Oystercards.
I am on my second Oystercard - the first one developed a fault and I use the second one only for some journeys at the outer extremities of the Metropolitan Line. This is because I now have a cardboard Travelcard issued by Chiltern Railways (living as I do in rural Buckinghamshire).

I had always thought that the £3 deposit on pre-pay cards was to stop people exiting through gates (putting their cards overdrawn, which I think can happen up to £3), and then throwing the card away.

Given the facts as outlined by tfl, I think that the £3 deposit has to be a good idea. There is some shocking waste going on.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Don't Shout at Me!

Yesterday afternoon I was walking along the side of Dorset Square, between Baker Street and Marylebone Station.

A squirrel was sat in a tree, just above my head, who got extremely upset when I stopped to look at it. Growling and snarling would be an understatement.

I am not sure what would cause an urban squirrel to get so upset at this time of year. Unfortunately the photograph I took with my mobile phone (increasing volume from said mammal) was totally rubbish, so I am unable to share with you an image of bared teeth aimed at me.


Monday, April 13, 2009

For no particular reason

Should it be holiday time for you, I hope that you had a good time and a very Happy Easter. Here in the UK we have had a four day weekend, so it is, thankfully, only a four day week at work for me before another weekend begins.

It has been quite busy - I spent a couple of days with family, had a good result at the rugby yesterday and have been just pottering today.

While looking for a particular picture, I found this image that I took last August. I didn't even walk out of my fromt door to take it. I like it and hope you do to.

The weather in rural Buckinghamshire has been a bit changeable over the last few days, but it has got out quite nice this afternoon.

There really isn't much going on, though trouble may be brewing a couple of miles up the road. Maybe more on that to follow....

The long weekend draws to a close.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Get off this train!

A couple of weeks ago a woman got on the train at High Wycombe. She turned round to the two youths who were making their way to follow her on.

"Get off this train!" She said, with some authority in her voice.

They made as if to argue... She repeated herself and said "... and you can get on when you have bought tickets." She pointed in the direction of the ticket office.

The youths slunk away. The woman had seen them jump over the fence onto the platform.

Good to see.

+The first post from my mobile+

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Classic View

It is usually a complete waste of time to even attempt to take a photograph from a moving train, particularly through a window. The image is usually spoilt by dirt on the window, by unwanted reflections, by outside obstructions and a general inability to control most of the factors that contribute to framing a half decent image.

Friday evening saw me traveling on SouthWest Trains from London Waterloo to the Twickenham area using South West Trains.

As I'd had a bit of time to spare I was on a slow train, the one that leaves Waterloo and travels round the Hounslow Loop eventually arriving back at Waterloo. The automated train announcer started off by saying it was the train to Whitton. By the time I got off it was announced as going to Barnes Bridge - I suspect by the time the train had left the next station, it would have been announced as going back to Waterloo. I like the Hounslow Loop, it has a strange quirkiness to it!

Anyway, I digress. Because there weren't many people on the train by the time we were approaching the River Thames, I didn't feel too self conscious in whipping my camera out and snapping this picture. Given all of the aforementioned constraints to taking pictures from trains, I don't think it's come out too bad.

I also ought to mention that South West Trains' timekeeping, at both ends of the day, was impeccable. The trains were clean and the seats comfortable although I imagine that commuters closer in to town than Twickenham must get a bit fed up with never getting a seat.

Friday, April 03, 2009


I spotted this yesterday on the wall of a railway foot tunnel. (Click image to enlarge.)

Oh, I see - a Fraud? And Hanging Chads weren't?

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Bloody Argos!

I see something I want to buy, my local branch of Argos has one of it in stock, I reserve it on-line.

The store closes at 18.00.

I jump on the train, I walk to the shop and I get there at 17.55.

The cretins have locked the doors and the lights are dimmed.

Anybody who went to their bank to find they had closed five minutes early would be justified in complaining. I am pretty annoyed at Argos in High Wycombe.

I have complained to their Customer Services department. It won't achieve anything, but it reduces my ire slightly.