Tuesday, December 24, 2013

All is calm, all is bright

Actually, it's not that bright, but all is calm.

After last night's storm, Chiltern Railways have managed to run most trains, albeit with some quite long delays. 

My train of choice this morning was cancelled - where I live we are often the first to be sacrificed. However I am now sat at the back of the six carriage loco-hauled Chiltern Blue & Grey set. Yes, we are running late, but there are only seven people sat in the carriage, so it is rather soporific. 

Mind you, there is one grumpy old man who ranted that 'They've had all year to check the lines'. Eh? Some people!

South West Trains are running no trains before 10.00 am and other Train Operating Companies are operating very limited services due to various safety / infrastructure issues. 

By contrast, Chiltern started to time and have tried to run the best service that they can. 

Commercially (unlike other TOCs), Chiltern Railways are enforcing ticket restrictions today. Given the paucity of passengers and the worry caused by the Christmas Eve weather, this decision appears Scrooge like, and hopefully will be reviewed as the big chiefs get to work. 

I'll be on a de-restricted Advance ticket this afternoon, on an East Coast train. 

Anyhow, to my reader wherever you are, have a very Happy Christmas!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The view from Canary Wharf this morning

London City airport had a few problems with fog this morning.

This picture was taken from Canary Wharf by a colleague - Usually the runway at the airport is visible. Not today!




Friday, November 22, 2013

A Tough Gig

It's sometimes a tough gig, but I'll take this one.

See you soon. 

CU


Monday, November 11, 2013

Oh. That's different

Currently sat on a Central Line train that apparently has it's destination as Tottenham Court Road. 

Sonia seems confused.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Chasing the Rainbow

In my experience, it is fairly rare to get sight of a complete rainbow. Even more so to get a complete picture.

Late this afternoon, there was a fantastic complete arch of a rainbow in the Wendover area of Rural Buckinghamshire. 

At the time I was sat on a Chiltern Railways train. The windows were fairly grubby and trees and bushes a plenty, as we bimbled along. This was the best I could do, and not even with a proper camera. 



Darrell Jordan has a much better picture of the same rainbow taken at nearby Little Kimble. 

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Dove Holes

A small station in Derbyshire, one stop from the end of the line at Buxton.

Plenty of straight forward walking in the area.

A very pleasant day out.

Home. Pooped. 

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Virgin Trains along the Chiltern Line - Sunday 25 August 2013

Engineering works are taking place today that will significantly affect Virgin Trains Operating out of Euston.
This means that for much of the day one train an hour, in each direction, will be diverted via the Chiltern Line.
Virgin Trains
Sunday
  • Some trains are diverted to run between London Euston and Birmingham International, Birmingham New Street and Crewe via High Wycombe, Leamington Spa and Coventry
  • Trains between London Euston and Birmingham New Street / Wolverhampton and Manchester Piccadilly will run to an amended timetable
  • Until 12:00 trains will not run between London Euston and Rugby
  • After 12:00 trains will not run between London Euston and Milton Keynes Central

For those interested in such things, I have pasted below a snapshot of the anticipated time for all of the diverted trains to pass through Princes Risborough. Thanks to Tom Cairns and the Realtimetrains website.

If you click this link, you will be taken to the live version of the same data - Click away to your heart's content! The data should be retained for 7 days, after which it probably won't work any more.

As a consequence,Chiltern Railways services on their Mainline Route (Birmingham - Stratford-upon-Avon - Banbury - High Wycombe - London Marylebone) will have minor changes to their timetable. There will also be additional carriages on many trains as the planned closure on West Coast Main Line from Euston will mean additional passengers using their services.
___________________________

Sunday 25th August 201
(Click image to enlarge)

Edit: The original image has been replaced with one that shows what actually happened at Princes Risborough on Sunday 25th August 2013.

Friday, August 09, 2013

Alan Partridge : Alpha Papa

Clearly I am showing my age - I find it difficult to believe that Steve Coogan's character, Alan Partridge, first came to life over 20 years ago.

Nevertheless, Mr Partridge clearly retains his popularity, evidenced by the cinema having more people sat in it than for most films I have been to see this year. 

The comedy in this film is pure Partridge, with a touch more drama thrown in compared to when the ageing and irreverent DJ last appeared on our small screens. 

The plot is reasonably interesting, the screenplay not overly ambitious and at 90 minutes the length is about right.

I am not convinced as to the overseas appeal of this film, but I do wish it well. It should do well in it's home market - just don't go to see it if you anticipate having the meaning of life explained to you.


Saturday, August 03, 2013

Red 2

Having not seen the original, I had no idea what to expect from this film.

Views on Red 2 differ enormously - My view is that it is a reasonably OK action film, with a fine cast and some good acting. 

Watch out for the toe curling action from Dame Helen Mirren and (for me) the best acting performance I've seen this year, by Sir Anthony Hopkins. 

Having been brought up in Cold War Germany, there was much in Red 2 to interest me. It is on occasion geographically testing, but that doesn't matter. The film is after all a fiction, and a good thing too. 

This film is not a waste of time - the movie business is an entertainment business and not everyone is entertained by the same things. Please bear that in mind. I would suggest that you go to see this film - just sit back and be entertained.

Friday, August 02, 2013

A busy time of day and no trains

I am currently rather too frustrated to write a well considered and erudite post.

All I really want to say is that there are today a lot of people who have had a rather bad start to their day, courtesy of Chiltern Railways. 

If you click on the image below, you should be able to see a 67 minute gap in train services to London Marylebone. The information is for Princes Risborough station and was extracted at about 0840.

It is the view of many affected that my local station was ignored by those making operational decisions today.

I certainly hope that as many people as possible from Princess Risborough apply for the refunds to which they are entitled. 

Thursday, July 04, 2013

More on Punctuality


I went to bed yesterday evening not long after 11 pm.

Up until I last checked, Chiltern Railways had had 398 passenger trains complete their journeys on Wednesday. Of those, one train had reached its destination more than five minutes late. 

The late train actually arrived at Aylesbury six and a half minutes late, delayed I think by congestion on the Metropolitan Line, caused by a signal failure. 

I didn't wait up till 1.30 am to see the last of the remaining twenty or so trains arrive at their destinations. 

However what I can say is that of the last 830 trains (ie two days worth) run by Chiltern Railways until 11.30 pm last night, just one was officially late. 

In my view, that takes some doing. 

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

A Good Day's Work

Like all businesses, the UK Train Operating Companies have a number of Key Performance Indicators by which their performance is measured.

One of these KPIs is the Public Performance Measure. The PPM measures the percentage of trains that arrive at their destination within 5 minutes (for London & South East and Regional services) of their planned arrival time, or 10 minutes (for Long Distance services).

Yesterday was a red letter day for Chiltern Railways, the train company that I use day in and day out.

Not only did they record a 100% PPM score for the day, but it was on a day when there was a large event on at Wembley Stadium (a Robbie Williams concert), that did not finish until late in the evening.

I think a pat on the back is deserved!

Well done to all at Chiltern Railways.
 

 [Planned post title "Well, Did You Evah?"]

Sunday, June 23, 2013

I wonder how common this is?

Yesterday afternoon, I was heading South on a Chiltern Railways train which had just left Banbury.

After a couple of minutes, the train ground to a halt (in an entirely controlled manner) and we sat there, just North of Kings Sutton.

A quick check of a couple of on-line reference sources showed that, just in front of us was a First Great Western train going from Banbury to Oxford. In front of that was a Cross Country train heading from Manchester to Bournemouth. 

The driver came on the PA and told us that a train in front had broken down and that a rescue locomotive was being sent to assist with moving it. Somewhat erroneously I assumed that the issue was with the FGW train. 

As there was nothing else to do, I let loose on Twitter and discovered something slightly unusual had happened. 

It transpired that the Cross Country Service to Bournemouth (train 1O18, which I had earlier seen pass through Leamington Spa) had actually taken a 'Wrong Route'.

What this means is that the signaller had set the points and signals for the train in the wrong direction. Now, obviously, a train driver cannot actually steer a train but, nevertheless one would hope that the driver would not have knowingly taken the wrong route. 

The reality is that if the train was traveling at say 75 - 100 mph on green signals, the driver would probably not have had time to stop before the incorrectly set signal.

My working assumption is that the Cross Country train diverted off the Oxford Line and, instead started to head towards Bicester North, on the line usually used exclusively by Chiltern Railways passenger trains. I have no idea how far the train got, or what it did to reverse back up the line to resume it's correct journey. 

What I can say is that the incident delayed the Cross Country train by 35 minutes between Banbury and Oxford. It then eventually arrived into Bournemouth 34 minutes late at 1745. From what I can see, the train then set off just 3 minutes later (and 3 minutes late) for a 302 mile trip to Leeds, which it achieved without incident. 

The train I was on eventually arrived into London Marylebone 31 minutes late. 

Given the thousands of train movements that happen throughout the day, over thousands of sets of points, I am amazed that this sort of incident doesn't seem to happen more often. 

I've pasted below the eventual timings of the trains involved / delayed over Aynho Junction, plus a copy of the tweet I received advising of the true cause of the incident. 

Stay happy. Stay safe!

CU
______________

As a footnote, I ought to say that at no time were any men, women, children or animals put in any danger by this incident. The signalling system is designed to ensure that safe gaps are maintained between trains, wherever they may actually be going to. The fact that our train came to a perfectly smooth and controlled stop is evidence of this. 




Sunday, May 26, 2013

Railway Children Special

There is a rather unusual railtour happening today down in my neck of the woods. Why unusual? Well it will be a train full of enthusiasts that will travel through Chiltern Railways depots, pass across unusual sets of points and will generally reach areas of track and infrastructure only usually ever seen by insiders.

It is hoped that the event will raise £10,000 - £12,500 for Railway Children with ticket sales, on board raffle and sales etc.

The train is being provided by Chiltern completely free of charge, the trains crews are donating their pay to The Railway Children and Network Rail are not charging for their work in planning and  running  the train etc. The whole day has been facilitated by the Branch Line Society.

Below is full detail of the Working Timetable for this unique, interesting and unusual trip. In Twitterland I occasionally use the hashtag "#traingeek". Well, looking at today's itinerary I think that today's trip possibly takes train enthusiasm to a new level. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. I hope that a good day is had by all and that lots of money is raised for charity.

Tickets for this event have been sold in advance. If you don't have a special ticket, please do not attempt to board the train.

For operational reasons the timetable for today has been organised into  six different chunks. Hopefully live tracking will be available via the following links, which may act as a historical record just for a day or two.

The timetable data and Real Time Train data has all been extracted using the Real Time Trains web site.
  • 1Z21 (Starts from Maylebone at 1105)
  • 1Z65 (Starts from Gerrards Cross Siding at 1320)
  • 1Z66 (Starts from Aylesbury at 1500)
  • 1Z67 (Starts from Great Missenden at 1710)
  • 1Z68 (Starts from Aylesbury at 1733)
  • 1Z72 (Starts from Bicester North Turnback Siding at 1952)
 =======================================
Working Timetable Information for the Day
=======================================

1Z21 1105 London Marylebone to Gerrards Cross Siding
Operated by CH



STP schedule UID U50894, identity 1Z21

Runs SuO on 26/05/2013 only


TSC 25217004



Unadvertised Express



WTT Working Realtime

Location Arr Dep Dep Dly






London Marylebone formed from 2H19 from Bicester North 1105 1105 RT
Marylebone Up Tunnel Sdgs 1108 1115


London Marylebone 1118 1125 1121 -4
Neasden South Jn pass 1133 1129 -4
Wembley Gcj pass 1135


Wembley Lmd 1137 1227 1220 -7
Wembley Stadium pass 1229 1223 -6
Wembley Siding 1231 1238 1240 2
Wembley Stadium pass 1240 1242 2
Neasden South Jn pass 1242 1243 1
Neasden South Jn Sig Me525 1243 1250


Neasden South Jn pass 1251 1247 -4
Wembley Stadium pass 1253 1252 -1
Sudbury & Harrow Road pass 1254


Sudbury Hill Harrow pass 1254


Northolt Park pass 1255


Northolt Park Jn pass 1257 1256 -1
South Ruislip pass 1258 1256 -2
West Ruislip 1301 1302 1259 -3
Denham pass 1305


Denham Golf Club pass 1306


Gerrards Cross pass 1309 1306 -3
Gerrards Cross Siding 1311

-3






1Z65 1320 Gerrards Cross Siding to Aylesbury
STP schedule UID U50895, identity 1Z65

Runs SuO on 26/05/2013 only


TSC 25217004



Unadvertised Express









WTT Working Realtime

Location Arr Dep Dep Dly






Gerrards Cross Siding 1320 1320 RT
Gerrards Cross pass 1322 1322 RT
Denham Golf Club pass 1323


Denham pass 1324


West Ruislip 1328 1335 1336 1
Denham pass 1338


Denham Golf Club pass 1339


Gerrards Cross pass 1342 1342 RT
Seer Green pass 1344


Beaconsfield pass 1345


High Wycombe pass 1350 1349 -1
West Wycombe pass 1352


Saunderton pass 1355 1353 -2
Princes Risborough 1359 1400 1358 -2
Monks Risborough pass 1406


Little Kimble pass 1413 1410 -3
Aylesbury 1421

-2






1Z66 1500 Aylesbury to Great Missenden







STP schedule UID U50898, identity 1Z66

Runs SuO on 26/05/2013 only


TSC 25217004



Unadvertised Express


This train started from Aylesbury due to a decision by the train operating company (TR)

WTT Working Realtime

Location Arr Dep Dep Dly






Aylesbury 1500


Aylesbury D.M.U. Depot 1505 1537


Aylesbury 1542 1542


Aylesbury (Sdgs 1-7) 1603 1610


Aylesbury 1613 1619


Aylesbury (Sdgs 1-7) 1622 1629


Aylesbury 1632 1633 1626 -7
Aylesbury North Loop 1637 1640 1639 -1
Aylesbury Sig Me302 1642 1649


Aylesbury 1652 1653 1650 -3
Stoke Mandeville pass 1657 1653 -4
Wendover pass 1659 1655 -4
Great Missenden 1704

-4






1Z67 1710 Great Missenden to Aylesbury

STP schedule UID U50899, identity 1Z67

Runs SuO on 26/05/2013 only


TSC 25217004



Unadvertised Express



WTT Working Realtime

Location Arr Dep Arr Dep Dly






Great Missenden 1710
No report
Wendover pass 1718 pass 1710 -8
Stoke Mandeville pass 1720 pass 1714 -6
Aylesbury 1723
1716
-7






1Z68 1733 Aylesbury to Bicester North Turnback Sg
STP schedule UID U50896, identity 1Z68

Runs SuO on 26/05/2013 only


TSC 25217004



Unadvertised Express



WTT Working Realtime

Location Arr Dep Arr Dep Dly






Aylesbury 1733
1734 1
Little Kimble pass 1742 pass 1742 RT
Monks Risborough pass 1745 No report
Princes Risborough pass 1748 pass 1747 -1
Saunderton pass 1752 pass 1751 -1
West Wycombe pass 1755 No report
High Wycombe 1759 1805 1758 1801 -4
West Wycombe pass 1808 No report
Saunderton pass 1811 pass 1806 -5
Princes Risborough 1815 1816 1809 1812 -4
Princes R'boro Ace 1818 1841 1814 1847 6
Princes Risborough 1843 1848 N/R 1847 -1
Princes Risborough Me666 1850 1855 No report
Princes Risborough 1857 1909 1852 1906 -3
Haddenham & Thame Parkway pass 1915 pass 1910 -5
Blackthorne pass 1923 No report
Bicester North 1927 1927 1923 1923 -4
Bicester Signal Me2034 1929 1934 No report
Bicester North 1936 1941 1928 N/R -8
Bicester North Turnback Sg 1943
1932
-11






1Z72 1952 Bicester North Turnback Sg to London Marylebone
STP schedule UID U50897, identity 1Z72

Runs SuO on 26/05/2013 only


TSC 25217004



Unadvertised Express



WTT Working Realtime

Location Arr Dep Arr Dep Dly






Bicester North Turnback Sg 1952
1952 RT
Bicester North 1954 1955 1954 1956 1
Blackthorne pass 1958 No report
Haddenham & Thame Parkway 2007 2008 2006 2008 RT
Princes Risborough pass 2014 pass 2013 -1
Saunderton pass 2017 pass 2015 -2
West Wycombe pass 2019 No report
High Wycombe 2022 2023 2019 2021 -2
Beaconsfield 2029 2030 2027 2028 -2
Seer Green pass 2032 No report
Gerrards Cross 2036 2037 2034 2035 -2
Denham Golf Club pass 2039 No report
Denham pass 2039 No report
West Ruislip pass 2042 pass 2039 -3
South Ruislip pass 2044 pass 2040 -4
Northolt Park Jn pass 2044 No report
Northolt Park pass 2045 No report
Sudbury Hill Harrow pass 2046 No report
Sudbury & Harrow Road pass 2047 No report
Wembley Stadium pass 2049 pass 2044 -5
Neasden South Jn pass 2051 pass 2045 -6
London Marylebone 2059
2052
-7

Edit: While the formating is particularly rubbish, I have now (22:50) edited the WTT above to show what actually happened during the day. All data is drawn from an automated system, hence why some places have no data.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Edgware Road (Bakerloo Line) Station Closed until Late December 2013

To allow the rather antiquated lifts to be replaced, the Bakerloo Line's Edgware Road station is closed from today until late December (2013).

Passengers will be able to use Edgware Road (Circle/Hammersmith & City line) station which is a short walk away (on the other side of the Marylebone Flyover). Using the other station will enable connections with the Bakerloo line at Baker Street and Paddington.

Alternatively, Marylebone Station (which is about seven minutes walk away) is also on the Bakerloo Line.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

HS2 Tunnel Recommended under Ealing and Northolt

Back in the Summer of 2010 I wrote about the impact that HS2 would have on the Northolt area of West London. In particular, there was clearly going to be a huge impact on Northolt's Central Line station.

Well, I've only just noticed that the latest recommendation is that the route be tunnelled from Old Oak Common to Northolt. Given that it has already been decided to tunnel from Northolt Junction through to West Ruslip, this means that HS2 could now have a nine mile (14km) tunnel from Old Oak Common, all the way through to the very edge of London.

I can see why this might be the most cost effective option. It would be interesting to know how deep the tunnels will be. Clearly it's not just country folk who have been getting grumpy.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

National Mills Weekend 2013

Lots of people make themselves constantly busy doing interesting things. Many people don't, but deep down they know that it's probably not that difficult.

I often count myself in the second category. 

This weekend is National Mills Weekend. It does what it says on the tin! Go on, do some research and then take a trip out to do something interesting!

My local windmill is Lacey Green Windmill in Buckinghamshire. It is open tomorrow (12th May 2013) from 11am to 5pm. It is defienitely worth a visit if you are in the area. 

My 2011 visit report is at the end of this link (click and scroll down).

Have an enjoyable weekend!
________________________________


Weather on Sunday 12th May 2013
At the time of writing, 8 pm on Saturday 11th May, the weather forecast for Sunday 12th May is not good.  A wind of 14 mph with gusts of 28 mph (Force 6) is forecast from 10 am to 1 pm.  Heavy rain is forecast from 2 pm until 7 pm.  It has therefore been decided, for the safety of the windmill, and those working on it, that we would be unwise to fit the sailcloths.  We may be able to let the wind turn the sails without the sailcloths.

Friday, April 26, 2013

An Unexpected Surprise

This afternoon I caught a Chiltern Railways train from London Marylebone to Banbury.

There was something unexpected waiting in the Up Goods Loop when I got there.

Oh, and the weather wasn't particularly nice.

video

For those interested in such things, the steam engines in the video are GWR 4900 Class 4965 Rood Ashton Hall and GWR 4073 Class 5043 Earl of Mount Edgcumbe. Both trains have been featured on this blog before, but never at the same time.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Farewell Inspector Gadget

I for one will am very sad to see you go.

I've read the book.

I've read every post.

I've read the cretins, and ignored them.

A day the Blogosphere will do well to remember.

Inspector Gadget, I wish you well.

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Parker

It's Jason Statham. What do you expect? A fairy tale.

It's a 15 certificate for a reason. Lots of wincing in the cinema. Plenty of blood on screen.....

Jennifer Lopez does the totty well.

There's a reasonable story line. Worth a couple of hours of your time.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

The 1750 Train - My, was that a Mistake

I am lucky in that my job is relatively flexible. This means that I usually catch a reasonably early train to work and a reasonably early train home.

Today I was a little later than usual leaving work, so I had to catch the 1750 Chiltern Railways train from London Marylebone. I also had a party to go to to wish a friend 'Bon-Voyage' on a trip to Australia. She leaves tomorrow.

Problems, problems, problems.
  • The train is supposed to be a six car train. Tonight it was three carriages long. That is a significant reduction in capacity on a busy train. The train was absolutely rammed more than five minutes before it was due to leave.
  • We did not leave on time. In fact we left eleven minutes late. Apparently the driver was delayed on an in-bound service and a replacement had to be found.
  • The slower 1753 train (bound for Aylesbury) left in front of us, two minutes late. The 1750 Sardine Special (which left Marylebone at 1801 and which terminates at Bicester North) caught up the slower train before Denham. A quick analysis showed that we would be a minimum of 19 minutes late from High Wycombe. It would not be possible to overtake the slow train.
  • In the event the train left High Wycombe 21 minutes late and arrived into Princes Risborough the same number of minutes late.
  • This is where it got annoying.
  • Someone took the decision to hold the late running train at Princes Risborough to allow the 1815 & 1818 Marylebone departures to overtake it.
  • The original 1750 then left Princes Risborough 32 minutes late. It then left Haddenham & Thame Parkway 35 minutes late and terminated at Bicester North 34 minutes late, according to the Working Timetable.

If the train had been allowed to leave Princes Risborough without being held, It would have arrived at Bicester at about 1906. It would not have delayed any Southbound trains, but would have delayed each of the following two trains by a few minutes. This is a potential problem approaching Banbury - a freight train and a Cross-Country train to York might have been delayed.

The reality is though that passengers for High Wycombe and Princes Risborough would have been better off if they had caught the 1753 from Marylebone.
Passengers for Haddenham & Thame Parkway and Bicester North could have caught the 1818 train and got home earlier.

All in all, catching the 1750 was a bad mistake tonight if punctuality was your aim. The train was badly overcrowded and deeply unpleasant for many. Passengers for Haddenham and Bicester would have been deeply dischuffed to see two trains overtake them.

To rub salt into the wound, the train, while 34 minutes late into Bicester according to the Working Timetable, was actually 'only' 29 minutes behind the Public Timetable, meaning that Charter Claims for late running might be declined, while claims for Haddenham & Thame Parkway will be valid and honoured without quibble.

I have said before that running the railway involves make many tricky decisions with often conflicting priorities. I do not claim to know how to run the railway better than those that do, but instead simply present a passenger's view. Many passengers will however have been deeply hacked off this evening.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

More Research Required

I travel a lot by train, but this was different.

The train travelled underground and was just one carriage long.

One station was at ground level, while the other was accessible only by lift.

I need to find out more, but does anyone know what sort of train this is?

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Yucky yuck yuck

It was all go at the hotel.

After issues with the accounting system, there then followed an announcement that Norovirus was in the hotel and that some staff and residents had been affected.

Not good.

Breakfast was no longer a self-service buffet. Room cleaning regimes were changed and the toilets in public areas were closed.

All sensible things.

For our part, we used new plastic cups to serve the drinks at our nightly parties.

Nobody in our group got sick.

Phew!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Innocent!

Apparently the CCTV showed me paying for the wine.

Well that's OK then.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Well that's a first

I was recently staying with a group of friends in a hotel. Each evening we had wine with our meal.

We were offered the choice of adding the cost of the wine to a room bill or paying by cash. We opted to pay by cash.

On the first evening we paid by cash.

On the second evening we paid by cash.

On the third evening I was told that we hadn't paid for the wine from the previous evening.

The hotel staff were mistaken as I had paid the bill on each occasion on behalf of the group.

I went to bed, apparently branded a criminal and being told that the manager would be checking the CCTV.

Now that's never happened to me before!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

We are all doomed

Based on what happened last night:

Snow = Rain
Bargain = Expensive
Eating Out = Rubbish
Cold = Cold

Yes, I am all Lemsip'd up. Grrrr.

Friday, January 25, 2013

A Busy Time of Year

Today I have been running round like a blue arsed fly.

The day started as usual at about 0510. I've lost track of the number of meetings I've had and have just finished travelling.

Hopefully the days ahead will be more enjoyable, though it is currently raining - and it's cold.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Does anyone have a shoe horn?

The 0744 Silver Train from Princes Risborough, supposedly provided by Chiltern Railways,was cancelled again this morning.

The 0715 from Bicester North ran 10 - 15 minutes late and Chiltern Railways got it to stop at Princes Risborough to fill the long gap that would have been caused by the cancelled train.

The 0744 is usually full and standing (calling at just High Wycombe and Beaconsfield).

So today we had all the passengers from the Bicester Train, plus all the passengers on the Princes Risborough train. To say the train was full would be mild understatement.

There were probably about 150 people left on the platform at Gerrards Cross.

Train currently due into Marylebone at about 0831. Lots of annoyed commuters. Not a good start to the day.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Somewhere revisited

Over the weekend of 20/21 October 2012 I was in Brussels to see Saracens beat Racing Metro at the King Baudouin Stadium on the North West edge of the city.

While queueing to get into the metro station after the match, I spotted through the gloom and the security fence the silver balls of the landmark Atomium.

Efforts at taking photographs were a complete waste of time. I tried, but the pictures never made it off the camera.

Yesterday on a crisp winter afternoon, without a cloud in the sky, I had the opportunity to rectify the photographic omission. I didn't actually go up the 'building' as I had been forewarned
 that the top sphere was closed for maintenance. I was also a little tight on time.

Having just looked at the website, I may have to go back again! It is a good thing that Brussels is not on the other side of the World from where I am...

It really was a lovely day, provided one dressed appropriately!


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Choices choices

Currently sat in a bar.

"A small beer please."

... "Which one sir? We have forty six."

Ooops. Eeeek. Hick.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Missing in Action

On Saturday evening I suggested that Chiltern Railways might have a problem this morning with their Silver Trains.

Here is exhibit number one:

Hopefully all the Princes Risborough passengers will be able to board the extra train at 0755 (the 0749 from Haddenham & Thame Parkway). It is usually packed to the gunnels, but a lot of people are not travelling today due to the icy roads.

I shall now slink back to my work and carry on. Stay safe.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Racing Metro 28 - Saracens 37

A week ago I was waking up to the morning after the night before. That was when Saracens had beaten Racing Metro in the Heineken Cup by 37 points to 28. The match was on 12th January 2013. Certainly a night to remember.

I am no expert on rugby but can say that it was probably the second most exciting rugby match that I have ever seen. No prizes for guessing which match takes the top spot!

Before leaving the bar the night before, I had said that I would post a few photographs of the match on-line, so here they are.

I should say that my experience of taking sports photographs is extremely limited, so this is the best you get from me. Enjoy.

Oh - Today is Saracens last ever match at Vicarage Road in Watford. As I look out of the window it is currently snowing, so hopefully everyone can get to the match safely, to say goodbye to Chateau Grim in style.












Saturday, January 19, 2013

Class 67 Problem Tonight at Bicester

Traction power for the Chiltern Railways Silver Trains(and for the old Blue and Grey set) is provided by Class 67 Locomotives.

Tonight the 1706 Silver Train from London Marylebone left London three minutes late. It trundled through North West London and even took the scenic route around the South Ruislip Loop.

The train was booked to run non-stop to Bicester North, before calling at principal stops to Birmingham Snow Hill. The train is then supposed to run empty from Birmingham to the depot at Stourbridge Junction, arriving there just after 2000.

Well, tonight the train eventually limped into Platform 1 at Bicester North just before six o'clock with a technical fault, and the service was then cancelled. Northbound passengers were transferred to either the following Statford-upon-Avon service which left Bicester at 1824 or the next Birmingham service which left at 1837.

Neither the original driver, a replacement driver or a fitter sent to repair the problem were able to fix the train, so Platform 1 (the Northbound platform) at Bicester North was blocked for some hours. Fortunately the track and signal layout allows trains to use platform 2 in either direction, so that is what happened for every Northbound train until just before eleven o'clock this evening.

Eventually a rescue locomotive was sent up from Wembley Depot, attached to the front of the broken down engine, and the train was hauled up to Banbury, leaving Bicester at about 2150.

Apparently DB Schenker who lease the engine are to send a couple of engineers down tomorrow to try to fix the problem, hopefully in time for the start of the working week on Monday.

So, currently there is a set of Silver Train carriages not where they should be (though they could be en-route to Stourbridge, I don't know). There is a Class 67 locomotive out of action, and the Blue & Grey set of carriages sat at Wembley without an engine.

It'll be interesting to see what Monday morning brings.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Les Machines de l'île

I was in Nantes last weekend to see Saracens play Racing Metro 92 in the Heineken Cup. More on that on another occasion.

While in the bar after the match on Saturday evening, I was talking to some other travelling supporters and mentioned that I intended to visit the castle the following morning, before catching my train home.
"Oh, don't do that," I was told "... go and see The Elephant".

Eh? Why would I want to go to the Zoo? A quick explanation followed and so just after nine o'clock on Sunday morning I headed off to Ile de Nantes to see the giant elephant which is possibly the main attraction of Les Machines de l'île.

The Machines of the Isle of Nantes project has been set up in a former run down shipyard area, a twenty minute walk from the city centre, partly I suspect simply to become a tourist destination in its own right.

First of all, the project is shut during 2013 from 7th January through to 15th February. From a practical perspective, this meant that I didn't pay anything to see a distinctly sleeping giant elephant, but also had the place pretty much to myself - I saw two other tourists wandering around and a solitary security guard sat near the elephant's rear end.

The elephant itself is an impressive beast, though during it's winter maintenance it did appear to have the mechanical equivalent of elephant snot coming out of it's trunk. Probably of slightly more interest and fun on a Summer's day rather than a foggy winter morning with everything locked up

The trip to see The Elephant helped fill the morning before I caught my train back to Paris. It wasn't a waste of time, but I suspect that a visit to Les Machines de l'île will be slightly more interesting when the site isn't closed for its winter maintenance period. For more ideas on things to do in Nantes, you could do worse than read this article from 2009.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

No horseplay here

I spotted this sign in the window of my local butcher's shop window yesterday evening.

"100% BeefBurgers - £8.00 per KG - Only available after 2.30 at Haydock!!!"

We are lucky to have such a good butcher in the area, particularly one with a sense of humour.

If you buy your meat at such an establishment, I suspect that they have a pretty good idea that the food chain is reliable and that they know where your meat comes from. It is also likely to cost more than buying 'value burgers' from a local supermarket.


Apologies for the quality of the picture. My camera phone is very old.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Jack Reacher

I first went to see Tom Cruise in a film over 25 years ago. It was Top Gun and it was in one of the smaller screens at a cinema in Leicester Square. I guess the film must have been out a short while by then.

Over a quarter of a century later and I think Mr Cruise has weathered a little better than me. I suppose the money and the lifestyle probably helps a bit in that regard.

Anyhow, a few weeks ago Mr Cruise was doing the chat show circuit plugging his latest film, Jack Reacher. I didn't pay a huge amount of attention, but with a spare evening on my hands last week, I decided to give the film a go.

I am pleased that I did. It was on a very large screen (always good for action movies) and actually has a plot with a proper storyline and some semblance of believability.

I don't tend to read high brow books or go to see arty films. I like John Grisham, Ian Fleming and Tom Clancy. Mock me if you like, that's fine.

Anyhow, this is an action thriller that I enjoyed going to see. Yes Mr Cruise is good (he does all his own car stunts in the film) and the supporting cast are all OK. There are some funny scenes. There is some tension, but not to much as to want to hide behind the sofa.

Go to see this film if you like action adventures with a reasonable plot. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Westway: A Portrait of a Community

If you ever do run out of ideas for something different to do in London, IanVisits is always able to provides plenty of food for thought. His whole website is a treasure trove of information - for the latest updates and snippets of news, you could do worse than follow him on Twitter. Plenty do.

So, having heeded my own advice and with a little time to spare, I headed down to The Crypt at St Martin-in-the-Field in Trafalgar Square to take a peek at 'The Westway: A Portrait of a Community' an exhibition by photographer Paul Wenham-Clarke.

First of all - The Crypt

What an outstanding piece of architecture and use of space. Go visit if only to experience the building. The Café in the Crypt underneath the nave of the church must be one of the largest in London and well used. Anywhere slightly hidden away and this well used is worth a try.

The Exhibition

It's about the community underneath The Westway, the A40 flyover in West London. There's a bit about Crossrail too.

At first I was underwhelmed. A few photographs in the foyer area and I thought that was it. To be fair, many of the pictures are really rather good. Photography is, quite literally, painting with light. The quality of the light in some of the photographs is quite mesmeric. However there is more...

I thought I was done, so wandered into the Café to have a look at the vaulted ceilings. There, to the right, I found the bulk of the exhibition, hidden away in what seemed to be the Café's overspill area. There are a small number of pictures about Crossrail but most of the exhibition is about the travellers that live in the area and the local school & it's community.

Don't be rushed. There are plenty of pictures to grab your attention and a number of story boards that really make you think about what really goes on under and around The Westway.

The exhibition is open until 28th February 2013. There is no charge for entry.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Pitch Perfect

I am not sure why I chose to go and see this film. Actually, I do know  - the train times were broadly convenient.

From my perspective, convenient train times were one of the better point about the evening.

Pitch Perfect is a 'feel good' film about an A Capella singing competition at  a US university. There is an interesting mix of characters, a predictable ending and plenty of humour along the way.

The film was released in the UK on 21st December 2012 and appears to be doing reasonably well at the box office. I didn't recognise any of the cast and, to be honest, am struggling to bubble in a particularly positive manner about the film.

Many wll disagree, but the dissenters will probably be a generation or two younger than me. Nothing to write home about.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

FYI - Twitter can be useful

It was a Thursday morning, just over a week ago. While on the train to Marylebone I noticed that Saracens had ticket availability for their upcoming match against Racing Metro 92 in Nantes.

Hmmm. Might be worth a peek to see if I could pull together a trip at short notice

So, while walking down the road to work, I sent a tweet;
"Lazy question. Does anyone know the best site to book a train ticket from London to Nantes? Thinking of going to the @Saracens match. Thx."

To my amazement, by the time I got to my desk five minutes later, three different people had replied with recommendations.

The first (and only) site that I tried was Loco2. I'd never heard of it before.

It was very easy to use and the ticket prices seemed on par with what I had expected. I suspect that there is a little bit of white labeling going on in the background, but that's OK, isn't it?

The credit card charges seemed a little steep, so I paid by debit card.

Ticket delivery was 'collection only'.

Tbe purchase confirmation suggested that I should collect my Eurostar tickets at London St Pancras, and my French TGV tickets upon arriving in Paris.

What actually happened was that when I collected my tickets in London, all four of my train tickets popped out. Easy peasy.

All four reservations over the weekend worked just fine - bonus was First Class on this morning's TGV and 'Premium Stzndard' on this Eurostar train. It was the cheapest way. Fine by me.

So, loco2.com
  • Easy to use
  • Credit card charges a bit steep
  • Ticket Collection a doddle
  • Ticketing engine upgrades you if it's cheaper.

A happy customer.

Thank's Tom for the recommendation (and the other couple of tweeters as well!).

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Expect the Unexpected

Sometimes things go wrong on the railway. Signals fail, trains develop faults, passengers do silly things (or become ill) or weather may mean that the infrastructure becomes unusable.

I note that the weather forecast currently suggests that there may be a cold snap on the way. This could mean snow and ice, either of which in quantity can cause operational difficulties.

All Train Operating Companies have contingency plans in place for adverse weather conditions. My local TOC, Chiltern Railways, has generally coped fairly well with snow and ice in the five years that I have been using them. Let's see what next week holds.

Surprisingly, one of the biggest challenges when dealing with snow is not infrastructure or rolling stock related, but is in getting train drivers to their trains. It's a bit like schools closing because teachers cannot get in, many train drivers travel quite some distance to get to work.

Anyhow, imagine it's early on a Saturday evening. A busy time at London Marylebone. Several hundred people are on the 1736 train to Birmingham. The train is seven carriages long so the railway company clearly expected the train to be busy. No Chiltern Railway train ever has more than seven carriages.

The train develops a fault and all the remaining passengers are turfed off at Banbury, when the service is cancelled. It's about a quarter to seven and a couple of hundred people are affected, the train had already called at four stations, so the train wasn't rammed full.

The train is blocking Platform 2 at Banbury, which is a busy interchange station.

Fortunately, there is another Chiltern train to Birmingham just 20 minutes behind. It's one of the flagship Silver Trains. There is just about room for everyone waiting to get on board. A few people have to stand.

The Silver Train arrives and leaves from Platform 1. It has an old style semaphore signal.

The cancelled train is still in Platform 2. I notice that some of the doors are open.

Eventually the failed train gets a green signal, indicating it is going some distance. The signal would display something else if the train was to be shunted into the siding.

The train moves off, the signal turns red. Suddenly the train grinds to a halt. It has passed the signal and is half in and out of the platform.

Great. That means that Platform 1 us now blocked as well, as the starting signal from that platform will now be locked out.

A train to York is due in it may have a problem if it cannot get a green signal to travel North.

The driver of the failed train then emerges onto the platform, at the far end. He's talking to colleagues and doesn't look happy. I wonder if the train is now totally kaput and about to cause travel carnage for many...

No, the driver gets into the back cab and reverses the train without problem back into the platform. Actually, there was a problem. The driver released the doors and an elderly couple got off the train.

The train clearly hadn't been checked properly for passengers, before leaving as Empty Coaching Stock to who knows where.

Anyhow, the York train was now free to leave from Platform 1 and the failed train had a change of heart and was shunted into the siding.

All's well that ends well - But remember to always Expect the Unexpected.