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.


Tuesday, January 29, 2013


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.

  • 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.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Les Misérables

Well, think this is the film to receive all the hyperbole this month. Well, it is no exaggeration to say that aficionados of drama should go to see Les Misérables.

Russell Crowe, Hugh Jackman, Amanda Seyfried and Anne Hathaway are the obvious stars. However the reality is that almost everything about the film is good.

From the opening chord of music, you get the feeling the the film is going to fly. And fly it does.

I have never been to see the stage production but it was quite evident, as the story progressed, that much of the music and many of the songs have become subconsciously embedded in my mind over time.

While snippets of the singing might be considered a little suspect, the overall musicality of Les Misérables really does take your breath away.

I had no idea of the storyline before I visited the cinema, but that did not matter because the screenplay and characters just sucked me in.

The cinematography is excellent (I thought the lighting was superb) and the pace never really slowed from beginning to end. A very quick 157 minutes.

I suspect that there may be an award or two on the way.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

A First - Along the Central Line

Despite the title of this blog, I have a confession to make. I have never actually been Along the Central Line.

I need my passport to go further East than Stratford. Venturing into Essex requires a visa.

To mark the 150th anniversary of the running of the first underground train, I thought that I ought to put things right. Yesterday saw me set out on what I expected to be a rather dull adventure.It was.

To be clear, I had a rough plan. I had not however sat for hours (or even minutes) working out a detailed timetable.

The plan was simple:
  1. West Ruislip to Epping (34 miles 6 chains)
  2. Epping to Woodford (7 miles 41 chains)
  3. Woodford to Hainault (3 miles 65 chains)
  4. Hainault to Ealing Broadway via Newbury Park (23 miles 27 chains)

  • 11.31 West Ruislip. I seem to recall that West Ruislip to Epping is the longest journey that it is possible to complete, on a single train, on the London Underground. The platform poster at West Ruislip says that the journey should take 81 minutes, so at 11.31 my train set off. Would I be in Epping at 12.52?
  • 12.01 Queensway. Half an hour in. 13 stops into the journey and with a little service regulation at White City. Hopefully that slight wait implied that we had been running slightly ahead of schedule.
  • 1205. Marble Arch. A really rubbish busker gets on the train and gets off at Bond Street. His accomplice collects precisely £0.00.
  • 1209 Tottenham Court Road. All seats occupied for the first time.
  • 1211 Holborn. Man with loud hat gets on train. It is remarkably mild in London at present.
  • 1223 Mile End. Man with loud hat gets off as do lots of other people. Plenty of vacant seats. I suspect the train will now gradually get quieter.
  • 1231 Leytonstone. 60 minutes and 28 stops in. We wait for a couple of minutes again. Possibly a driver switch over. Not a cloud in the sky. A lovely day.
  • 1237 South Woodford. In brackets 'George Lane'.
  • 1249. We've left Debden. Now in proper countryside. I can see the M11 off to the right. Theydon Bois - very rural tube station.
  • 1252 Passing under the M25.
  • 1253 Epping. 82 minutes from West Ruislip.

A very quick walk down the hill and back up again. Epping station car park is full and the entrance is coned off.
  • 1316 Epping. Less people heading back in than there were coming out. Loud hat day strikes again.
  • 1331 Woodford. Cross the footbridge.

  • 1335 Woodford. Platform indicator says Hainault. Train comes out of the siding, the front says Hainault. Driver announces that train calls all stations to Hainault and then on to Ealing Broadway. That was my hope.
  • 1340 Chigwell. There is a lot of paint peeling off the walls. Still more countryside than suburbia.
  • 1342 Grange Hill. Sonia now says that the train is going to Ealing Broadway. Is there anything at Hainault? Past the big train depot. I think I'll take a look. I'll have 20 minutes.
  • 1344 Hainault.

True suburbia. A long straight road. A small parade of shops.
  • 1401 Hainault. Via Newbury Park and on to Ealing Broadway. 65 minutes?
  • 1418 Leyton. Lots more peeling paintwork. Whitewash doesn't seem to work in East London.
  • 1452 Holland park. This Westbound train has been noticeably quieter than the earlier train going in the opposite direction.
  • 1507 Ealing Broadway
 While I was outside Ealing Broadway station a reasonably well dressed man came along, rummaged in a litter bin, pulled out a half-eaten sausage roll, put it in his pocked and walked off.

So that was it. 68 miles 59 chains Along the Central Line! It is fair to say that yesterday's escapade has reinforced in my mind just how large London is.

Happy 150th Birthday London Underground.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

BAFTA Film Awards 2013 - The 2013 Nominations are out

The British Academy of Film & Television Arts have today announced the shortlist of nominations for the 2013 Bafta Film Awards,

The awards ceremony will this year take place on Sunday 10th February 2013 at the Royal Opera House in London.

Some of the films on the shortlist have so far been on only very limited release at the cinema,Many have to all intent and purposes 'been & gone'. I have seen some, I haven't seen most.

The full list of nominations is summarised as.

  •     Argo
  •     Les Miserables
  •     Life Of Pi
  •     Lincoln
  •     Zero Dark Thirty


  •     Anna Karenina
  •     The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
  •     Les Miserables
  •     Seven Psycopaths
  •     Skyfall

  •     Ben Affleck - Argo
  •     Bradley Cooper - Silver Linings Playbook
  •     Daniel Day-Lewis - Lincoln
  •     Hugh Jackman - Les Miserables
  •     Joaquin Phoenix - The Master


  •     Emanuelle Riva - Amour
  •     Dame Helen Mirren - Hitchcock
  •     Jennifer Lawrence - Silver Linings Playbook
  •     Jessica Chastain - Zero Dark Thirty
  •     Marion Cotillard - Rust and Bone


  •     Alan Arkin - Argo
  •     Christoph Waltz - Django Unchained
  •     Javier Bardem - Skyfall
  •     Philip Seymour Hoffman - The Master
  •     Tommy Lee Jones - Lincoln


  •     Amy Adams - The Master
  •     Anne Hathaway - Les Miserables
  •     Helen Hunt - The Sessions
  •     Dame Judo Dence - Skyfall
  •     Sally Field - Lincoln


  •     Michael Haneke - Amour
  •     Ben Affleck - Argo
  •     Quentin Tarantino - Django Unchained
  •     Ang Lee - Life Of Pi
  •     Kathryn Bigelow - Zero Dark Thirty

RISING STAR (public vote)
  •     Juno Temple
  •     Andrea Riseborough
  •     Elizabeth Olsen
  •     Alicia Vikander
  •     Suraj Sharma

  •     Bart Layton (director) and Dmitri Doganis (producer) - The Imposter
  •     David Morris (director) and Jaqui Morris (director / producer) - McCullin
  •     Dexter Fletcher (director / writer) and Danny King (writer) - Wild Bill
  •     James Bobin (director) - The Muppets
  •     Tina Gharavi (director / writer) - I Am Nasrine


  •     Amour
  •     Headhunters
  •     The Hunt
  •     Rust and Bone
  •     Untouchable


  •     The Imposter
  •     Marley
  •     McCullin
  •     Searching For Sugarman
  •     West Of Memphis


  •     Brave
  •     Frankenweenie
  •     Paranorman


  •     Amour - Michael Haneke
  •     Djanjo Unchained - Quentin Tarantino
  •     The Master - Paul Thomas Anderson
  •     Moonrise Kingdon - Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola
  •     Zero Dark Thirty - Mark Boal

  •     Argo - Chris Terrio
  •     Beasts of the Southern Wild - Lucy Alibar, Benh Zeitlin
  •     Life of Pi - David Magee
  •     Lincoln - Tony Kushner
  •     Silver Linings Playbook - David O. Russell

  •     Anna Karenina
  •     Argo
  •     Life Of Pi
  •     Lincoln
  •     Skyfall

  •     Anna Karenina
  •     Les Miserables
  •     Life Of Pi
  •     Lincoln
  •     Skyfall

  •     Argo
  •     Django Unchained
  •     Life Of Pi
  •     Skyfall
  •     Zero Dark Thirty

  •     Anna Karenina
  •     Les Miserables
  •     Life Of Pi
  •     Lincoln
  •     Skyfall

  •     Anna Karenina
  •     Great Expectations
  •     Les Miserables
  •     Lincoln
  •     Snow White and the Huntsman

  •     Anna Karenina
  •     Hitchcock
  •     The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
  •     Les Miserables
  •     Lincoln

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Fiscal Cliff - Some perspective

I am not sure where this originally came from, but it certainly makes you think.

I am not sure that I have anything else to add!

Monday, January 07, 2013

The best laid plans

Yesterday I posted an article giving details of all the Class 67 Silver Train times (and also the old blue and grey train) operated by Chiltern Railways.

At the foot of the article I placed a caveat which might be summarised as 'maybe'.

Today is a maybe day.

The 0744 from Princes Risborough is the old blue and grey set today (more seats for Beaconsfield).

Thiscould mean that the 0845 from London Marylebone to Birmingham Moor Street will be the same old slam door train with no Business Zone, though with other Silver Trains due to arrive in to Marylebone at around the same time I suspect that this will not be the case. Some swapping of trains will probably occur.

The 0750 from Banbury is apparently a 168 'Clubman' today.

Basically - for today, ignore my article of yesterday because the morning Class 67 trains are all over the place!

The Impossible

Boxing Day 2004.

Due to an overflowing family home, I had been spending Christmas as a neighbour's house guest. I was woken to be told that there had been a large tidal wave in the Indian Ocean. It appeared to be a calamity for the area.

"Oh, OK", I seem to recall was my immediate reaction. Of coursse I had not realised that the Boxing Day Tsunami, caused by an under sea earthquake just before 1.00 am London Time, was to be one of the largest natural disasters to have struck our planet in recent recorded history.

I do recall that the disaster became the focus of world attention for the following weeks, with hundreds of thousands of people having lost their lives cross South East Asia.

Eight years later and the New Year Blockbuster (in the UK) appears to be 'The Impossible', a dramatisation of the real life story of a family on holiday in Thailand, who were split up by the phenomenal tidal wave that engulfed vast swathes of coastal areas in that country and many of its neighbours.

Unlike the other films that I have seen this year, the cinema was almost full. The audience was also incredibly quiet, gripped by the powerful drama unfolding in front of us. How they filmed some of the sequences I shall never know. Certainly though, the drama and cinematography may be considered epic.

The headline star is Ewan McGregor, but really, Naomi Watts and Tom Holland steal the show. Having said that, the entire cast and the production quality are incredible.

I have said something similar before, but unless you have a massive television set with a cinematic suurround sound system, do go and see this film while it is on at the cinema. It will enthrall you.

At the end, I left the cinema exhausted - so well does it portray what must be such a small part of what was such an enormous disaster.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Chiltern Railways Silver Train Times (Class 67 Loco Hauled Services)

This blog is now quite Chiltern Railways centric. This means that I can tell from from peoples' search results that they look for all sorts of weird and wonderful things to do with trains, and end up here.

One such popular search is by people looking for when Chiltern Railways timetable the running of their 'Silver Trains'.

The Silver Trains are actually sets of five refurbished Mark III coaches, plus a Business Zone carriage with a small buffet. Each train has a Class 67 locomotive at one end and a Driving Van Trailer ("DVT") at the other. This means that, generally when heading South (but not always), traction power is provided by the locomotive at the back, with the train being pushed to London.
There are three sets of Silver trains currently in use, plus an extra train formed of six un-refurbished Mark III coaches. The old blue and grey train usually runs just two services a day - Banbury to London Marylebone every weekday morning and London Marylebone to Banbury every weekday evening (at 1850).

The weekday service is usually run with just three Silver sets. There were rumours that a fourth Silver Train was to be available by now (in theory a 'spare'), however I have seen no evidence of this, other than a couple of random carriages sat at Wembley depot.  This old rolling stock (not the Class 67 engines) is a mixture of old and new technology, so the trains are quite high maintenance. A spare is often needed and often that one spare set would not be enough.

From the most recent timetable change on 9th December 2012, Chiltern now run Silver Trains seven days a week. I have detailed below the train services that are currently scheduled to be operated as Silver Trains. This timetable currently runs until 18th May 2013.

Monday - Friday
  • 1H17 07:44 Princes Risborough - Marylebone (No Business Zone supplement payable, no buffet open)
  • 1H19 06:09 Kidderminster - Marylebone
  • 1H22 06:38 Stourbridge Junction- Marylebone
  • 1H21 07:44 Banbury - Marylebone (Old Blue & Grey set)
  • 1H44 10:55 Birmingham Moor Street - Marylebone
  • 1H53 12:55 Birmingham Moor Street - Marylebone
  • 1H65 15:55 Birmingham Moor Street - Marylebone

  • 1R16 08:45 Marylebone - Birmingham Moor Street
  • 1R22 10:15 Marylebone - Birmingham Moor Street
  • 1R34 13:15 Marylebone - Birmingham Moor Street
  • 1R48 16:47 Marylebone - Birmingham Moor Street
  • 1K50 17:15 Marylebone- Kidderminster
  • 1K54 18:15 Marylebone- Kidderminster
  • 1U56 18:50 Marylebone- Banbury (Old Blue & Grey set)

  • 1H06 07:12 Kidderminster- Marylebone
  • 1H13 09:10 Kidderminster- Marylebone
  • 1H24 13:55 Birmingham Moor Street - Marylebone

  • 1R25 11:06 Marylebone - Birmingham Moor Street
  • 1G49 17:06 Marylebone - Birmingham Moor Street
  • 1G53 18:06 Marylebone - Birmingham Moor Street

  • 1H31 10:13 Birmingham Moor Street - Marylebone
  • 1R54 18:33 Marylebone - Birmingham Moor Street
Please note that these times are subject to change, particularly if a Silver Train is out of service. As of January 2013, when this post was written there have been a number of days when a Silver Train has been out of service, sometimes two.

This means that until reliability issues are overcome, the times above are the planned schedule - don't necessarily go out of your way to catch a Silver Train, because it might not be one!

**Updated 10th January 2013 with regard to 'spare' train and reliability issues **

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Early Saturday

An early train to work this morning.

Actually, not particularly early, but it always feels like the middle of the night when there is hardly anybody about.

The traffic was light, the road surface dry, the potholes bumpy. The station car par is almost empty.

The ticket office is open. "Good Morning, How are you today?". The coffee shop is open "Good morning, how are you today?".

The train pulls in a couple of minutes early. Oh heck, it's a slow train without wifi. Hmmm, I've left my mobile wifi unit at home. The sky will fall on my head.

Trundle, trundle. Stop. Trundle trundle. Stop. A few stops. The carriage door only opens once. There are only four of us in the carriage.

Suburbia. We stop at the Field of Dreams. The doors again do not open. Trundle, trundle. The 'Light Maintenance Depot' has plenty of trains in it clearly not needed at this time of day maybe different later

Neasden Junction. Rattle, rattle.

Trundle, trundle.

No London skyline to see. Still too dark.

Loop round into the tunnel. Out again, over the West Coast Main Line. Back in to the tunnel. Still trundling.

Out again into the dark. A few seconds wait today at the signal that controls entry to Marylebone. As is often the case, no reason for the wait. Chill.

Joy. Into a far platform ("St John's Wood South"). Chill. Oh, now every platform is occupied. Unusual. Maybe a busy day ahead? Not now.

Out under the electric sky. Gloom lifting.

Deep breath.

The day begins....

Friday, January 04, 2013


My fear before going to see 'Quartet' was that I would have to confess to having been to see a 'Sing-a-long-a-Sound-of-Music' type film. Nothing could be further from the truth.

It is unlikely that a film directed by Dustin Hoffman, and with a cast including the likes of Dame Maggie Smith, Michael Gambon and many other big names wold be rubbish. It isn't.

Filmed on location at Hedsor House, near Taplow in Buckinghamshire, Quartet is a quintessentially English Film. It's got British humour, pathos, some clever cinematography and a fair bit of music (but not too much).

I wondered whether a film set in a retirement home would be a trifle dull, but it isn't. I wondered whether I would be recommending it to my parents as a 'Must See' - I won't. Not because I didn't enjoy it, because I did. Rather however because there is a little bad language and also perhaps because of the ever present reminders of the often worrying inevitability of growing old. Maybe a little close to home.

Funded partly by the BBC, the film is typically short for a British Film (just 98 minutes), and enjoyable. It has the capacity to make you think. There was one thing that I did not like, but to say what it is would perhaps be classed as a spoiler, so I won't.

Quartet possibly won't appeal to the masses, so go and see it soon, because I suspect it won't be on general release for long. Otherwise I suspect it will be coming to a TV screen near you in the next 12 - 15 months.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

The Chill Out Zone

I am on an early morning Chiltern Railways train into London Marylebone. I am sat towards the front. Every seat is taken, but nobody is standing. It is not cold.

It would appear that nobody knows anyone else. Not a word has been uttered within earshot for over half an hour. The only sound is of someones phone keyboard making the odd clicking noise. Oh, and a newspaper just rustled.

There are no blue 'Quiet Zone' stickers on the windows in this carriage. There's no need. This is the chill out zone. Bonus, it looks as though we are about to to arrive into Marylebone five minutes ahead of the Public Timetable.

Have a good day everyone!

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Fare Rise Day

Today is the day of the year when most train fares across the UK increase.

It's all over the news. The BBC, ITV, Sky News, Daily Mail and many other web sites all have very similar stories.

Now, I am no expert on the way our railway system is run, but the way that fares are set does seem to be like smoke and mirrors. There is talk of Regulated and Un-Regulated fares. There are 'baskets'. There are 'average price rises' and 'average regulated price rises'. It also appears that train companies can choose to take pot shots at particular groups of commuters by varying individual regulated fares (ie an annual season ticket) by up to 5% over the average price rise.

It is hugely complicated and I wouldn't like to be the person at a train company who is responsible for running the data that ensures they comply with all the rules.

Anyone who reads this blog regularly will know that I am a commuter on Chiltern Railways. They hold a black belt in making good use of the complex rules and regulations. Despite initially releasing their 2013 season ticket prices almost a month ago, they have been chopping and changing them right up until the beginning of this week.

So far as I can tell (as of last night), season ticket price rises to London across the Chiltern Railways network range from 0% (yes - no price rise) to a whopping 9.2% for long distance commuters. Now you might think that commuters from Princes Risborough would be pleased with their £nil price rise, but the reality is that they've got this because they kicked up such a fuss about the recently implemented timetable. I suspect the decision to not increase their prices today is an acknowledgement that there will be no improvement to train services anytime soon.

Car parking prices are 'un-regulated' which means that Chiltern have also increased their car park charges today. They would probably like to point out that many of their car park prices did not go up last year. All I can say is that the new price of £7.00 a day to park your car at the station is a heck of a lot of money!

Across the country many commuters will see their rail fares go up from today by far more than their net incomes.are likely to increase. That does not make people feel good.

Happy New Year everyone!

Tuesday, January 01, 2013


Always one to follow the crowd, tonight I went to see the latest James Bond film. Me and five other people were all that were there.

Actually, considering it wasn't an Ian Fleming story, I thought it was a pretty good continuation of the genre. An excellent game of Word Association, a young Q (Ben Whishaw from 'The Hour'), all the expected action and characters and a dramatic ending.

Naturally there is a requirement to suspend belief - it is a work of fiction, but nonetheless realistic enough. London's geography (and the underground network) gets a bit screwed up, geographically speaking, but everything is recognisable.

Daniel Craig is as good as ever and Dame Judi Dench is always good on screen. And of course there is Moneypenny. Rather nice.

If you haven't yet been to see the film on the big screen, I recommend that you do. It won't be so good on the rectangle in the corner of your living room.

There seem to be a few interesting films doing the rounds at present, so I may have to tie up a few more evenings in the near future.