Saturday, 19 November 2011

London Midland’s Farewell to 150

On Saturday last the 12th November I with many others spent the day saying farewell aboard a Class 150 train travelling many areas of the Midlands including the Severn Valley Railway. The head code we carried was 1Z50. The trains have almost finished running on the Snow Hill Lines now having been replaced by the excellent up to date 172 series.

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It was an excellent day out with London Midland Staff donating there wages for the day and London midland its diesel for the train , Network Rail donated their services and its thanks to Simon from London Midland who co-ordinated it all. The charity that has benefited from the overall amount achieved of £10,000 is Railway Children. More details can be found on this worthy organisation at http://www.railwaychildren.org.uk/

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We travelled to Worcester, Walsall, Kidderminster and Severn Valley Railway, Leamington and Stratford along some lines that see very little or no passenger use. We even went to the absolute end of the railway at Bridgnorth and the Station Announcer even said that the train was from Shrewsbury. Shrewsbury of course would have been where the Kidderminster line would have ran to at one time.

See below the picture of the 150 and Steam engine of a bygone era

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Pictured below are the Operations Directors of London Midland (Wallace Weatherill) and Severn Valley Railway (Phil Brown)

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An excellent day was had by all and everything almost ran to time on what was a complex arrangement across the network in-between the normal schedule of trains in and out of the various stations.

Below are some more pictures I took on the day, hope you enjoy.

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And the very nice gentleman Alan who I believe managed to sort the schedule out and agree it with network Rail.

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All pictures © Dave Cresswell

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Turn back Time - Why?

Well its November, the clocks have gone back to Greenwich Mean Time or Railway Time which some people still refer to it as.

The arguments as usual abound about more energy used, more accidents, dark when leaving for work and leaving work for home. There are as many for as many against and personally I think we should just stick to GMT throughout the whole year. After all its one of the few British things left that we can say is our own.

Don’t get me wrong I’m all for saving energy, reducing accidents etc but isn’t some of it psychological. After all if the clocks remained on GMT or for those who argue against stayed on British Summer Time all year round then there wouldn’t be any sudden change in the day/night light hours as it would all be gradual.

Although many clocks are now self-changing aligned with pulses from an atomic time clock here in the UK or maybe Germany or elsewhere in Europe there are many that have to be manually changed. Think of all the person hours this takes to reset them as well as the wear and tear of the mechanism advancing them through 23 hours to get them back to GMT. Yes I am aware clocks can be turned backwards but have been told by experts you should never do this as they were not designed to reverse.

In this day and age of digital clocks whether analogue or digital faces it’s still good to see and admire the good old fashioned style of clocks in public places. And of course there’s nowhere better to see some of them but in the great railway stations. Many a courting couple have arranged to meet under or near railway station clocks in the UK and around the world. On my recent travels on a London Midland Great Escape ticket I went to Liverpool and there was a wonderful looking one there.

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Just look around wherever you go and try and spot some really nice public time pieces as there are many out there. And at this time of year since the clocks have gone back and it’s a bit darker many of them are illuminated.

Just take your time to see the time

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Autumn is upon us

Well looks like the days of the unexpected late summer has passed and we are back into typical October weather of rain, wind, maybe frost and general mixed bag of the Autumn season. Therefore I've changed the blog background to something more cheery.

The leaves are being blasted off the trees together with other items of crunchiness under foot. Leaves falling on the railway lines are already causing some problems with poor adhesion which in contrast to a few days ago when temperatures were high that trains had to be speed restricted for safety reasons due to expanded rails etc. 

The nights are drawing in and it will soon be time to put the clocks back one hour on the last Sunday of this month for the end of British Summer Time. Its that time of year of course when those people who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD Syndrome) are affected the most and can be exacerbated by the lack of daylight.

Its the time when the energy companies and  shareholders will be rubbing their hands as more gas and electricity is consumed to lighten our days and warm our homes and with it the more money they will make from their recently increased prices.

It’s the time of year when the Xfactor Live shows start and what a choice has to be made amongst some excellent as well some not so good people. Big Brother must surely be coming to an end soon so not all depressing.

Shops are beginning to put up their Christmas wares if not already done so and the last holiday before Christmas is looming in half-term for schools and colleges.

Apple as promised for the Autumn have come out with their long awaited IPhone 5 err no a revamped IPhone 4 called the uninspiring IPhone 4GS,  same exterior revised upgraded interior and have supposed to have fixed the aerial and signal issue. To many people whether you have the IPhone  4 or the IPhone 4GS the operating system is going to be the same when it launches on October 12th known as IOS5. Over 200 extra features so will it be worth it any IPhone 4 person  actually upgrading to the GS with so few extra features. And will Apple and Samsung sort out their differences over patents and the tit for tat issues which really only make lawyers rich. I note with Sadness on Wednesday 6th October it was reported that the founder of Apple Steve Jobs passed away. More on his life and apple can be found on this link http://www.wired.com/epicenter/2011/10/jobs/

So welcome to the last quarter of 2011 where I do not know where the time has gone but I do know 2012 is going to be an exciting year for some as we have the Olympics in this country and all that entails, the arguments will go on for high-speed rail and the economy will go up and down like the proverbial yoyo I’m sure. Politicians will come out with what they think we will want to hear in the hope that we will think we are well off, that financial restraints will be eased and that there will be light at the end of the tunnel. I’d love to know which tunnel it might be as the longer they are the less light you can see from the end.

Well autumn is truly upon us and will take us through until the winter season whenever that may start in this crazy environment we live in.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Annoyances


Some of the things that get on my nerves from time to time are as follows.

  • People using umbrellas without awareness for those around them.
  • People with wheeled suitcases dragging them all over the place like a caravan going too fast on a motorway. 
  • People suddenly stopping causing other people to almost crash into them.
  • People with supermarkets trolleys who seem to think everyone else is invisible or block the aisle when others are trying to get past.
  • People dropping litter when there is a perfectly good rubbish bin within line of site.



I’m probably not the only one who gets annoyed by the above and many others. I’m sure readers of this blog will recognise the above and have many annoyances of their own. Well there is another annoyance now and that is a well know supermarket seems to think it’s against their store policy to allow customers to write down prices of items sold in their stores. They claimed originally to a guardian journalist that  it was illegal but since when has putting ink to paper been illegal in the UK. I wonder what they would have done if he had been recording it on an Apple Ipad (many other media tablets available) or into his mobile phone. 

Still I bet many of the other supermarket marketing companies will jump on the bad publicity this major supermarket has had and turn it to their advantage. Maybe even issuing small notebooks and pens as customer enter their stores. Well as someone’s slogan says “Every little helps”, well maybe not at the supermarket in question.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Mobile Technology

Technology changes in leaps and bounds these days and especially with mobile telephony. How many people these days actually have a landline? As BT announces increases in call charges and line rental yet again this year I am sure that many people will consider whether  they still want a landland. Many mobile operators have inclusive packages of minutes and texts for a fix sum which in some cases works out cheaper than actuially having a landline.

A long time ago the General Post Office (GPO) as it was called then had a monopoly on fixed line communications although there was a separate entitity in Hull which was non GPO/BT then deregulation  and the likes of Mercury Communications came along and the start of choice began.
Similar things have happened with mobile communications as I believe Vodafone was the one of the first together with Cellnet (an arm of BT at the time). Landline telephones have evolved but more or less have stayed similar whereas mobile phones have shrunk from large brick type devices with heavy batteries to really small one now.


Im sure when Dr Martin Cooper,  the inventor of the cellular phone and worked for Motorola didn’t envisage when he made the first call in 1973 that there would be a massive explosion of devices. Dr Cooper got his inspiration from the handheld flip communicators used by Captain Kirk and others  in Star Trek.

And of course the original phones were analogue and could only make and receive calls. They were the forerunners of todays digital networks and now handsets can do all sorts of smart things. And they are now more secure as they have to operate with a SIM (subscriber  identity module) inserted which the mobile network provisions your services. 

Mobile phones can be so complicated  now with so many features but are a lifeline as well as able to deliver to you almost anywhere information  at the touch of a button. Much critism of late has been made of the Blackberry devices because of their secure messaging system but as the after-math of the riots proved also be used for the good.
SIM cards as mentioned earlier are used in todays smartphones but all sorts of devices from Apple Ipads and other lightweight tablet devices to TOMTOM Navigation systems brining you realtime traffic information as well as being in smartmetres forwarding your electricity and gas readings to your suppliers. The NHS are also using wireless communication health devices with SIM cards to send critical information back to them so that a patient isnt always stuck in a hospital and is being able to live a bit more of a normal life.

One mans vision of wireless communication between two people has developed into a worldwide success story having implications and positive benefits across a whole spectrum of uses. However we still get very annoyed by some peoples mobile phone ring tones. I know people tell me I have annoying ones to.

Still if we didn’t have people having unique visions we wouldn’t have the medium of the internet, the likes of Twitter and facebook, Apple devices (which I have started to love) or world wide mobile wireless communication .

We have a lot to thank one man for as has I have recently discovered he is on Twitter @MartyMobile so continues to move with the digital age and as part of a company called DYNallc. http://www.dynallc.com/#/Martin_Cooper/



Thursday, 4 August 2011

Railway Matters and London Midlands Lastest Investment

In May 1978 the Cross City Line opened with various new stations to form a through route between Lichfield in the North and Redditch and Longbridge in the South. I was one of the first to travel to both ends of the line.


In the Mid 1980’s I purchased a weeks rover ticket called the Midland Railtourer which is similar to the London Midland “Heart of England” Rover of today and visited many places including Matlock where you see I’ve taken this picture of sprinter 150 001. (This is significant).


When Snow Hill re-opened Southwards in 1987 I was one of the first passengers to leave Snow Hill as well as to arrive back by train. I did that by the grace of the timetable in getting out at the newly re-opened Moor Street, sprinting over the footbridge and getting on the first one into Snow Hill. BBC Radio WM’s own Ed Doolan was broadcasting his breakfast show from Snow Hill and we were given Bucks Fizz to celebrate. 


I with many hundreds of others as part of a charity walk, walked from Birmingham Moor Street station through the Snow Hill Tunnels to Handsworth Station prior to the tracks being laid which would see the through route again to Smethwick West station and on towards Stourbridge.


When the work was completed the services commenced again In September 1995 and formed a new cross city route between Leamington and Dorridge to Stourbridge and Worcester. Most Worcester services were then scheduled to depart from Snow Hill to ease the congestion at New Street and a new interchange was made at Smethwick Galton Bridge. Later of course the Midland Metro route was created from Snow Hill to Wolverhampton only deviating at Priestfield from the former GWR route. Again I managed to be both on the first train out of Snow Hill northwards but also on the first Metro Tram out.

A quarter of a century later, after having been a passenger on sprinter 150 001 which replaced the aged DMU slam door units, have had the honour of being an invited guest of London Midland to ride their brand new 172 unit which will replace the class 150 trains on the Snow Hills lines between Worcester and Leamington Spa.



Tuesday 2nd August saw the inaugural launch of the Class 172 and this was a circular journey starting at Stourbridge Junction (the farthest point of the original South Staff Railway line (www.southstaffsrail.co.ukvia Birmingham Snow Hill to Leamington Spa and Stratford. The train called at Birmingham Snow Hill, Tyseley, Solihull and Leamington and returning via the same stations.

The first thing that hits you when you get on the train is the air-conditioning which was most welcome on what was the warmest day of the year. Then as you look around the interior, wide spacious doors which I’m sure will allow quick entrance and exit from the train. The toilet area is also much larger so wheel chair users will not have to struggle. 



London Midland have obviously been listening to the passengers as the seating has changed and the three by three seating arrangement has gone and been replaced by the two plus  two arrangement. Litter bins are more in your face as you walk through the train and having observed how many people just drop litter on the floor maybe this will give them encouragement to use them.

And for those who know me and technology you wont be surprised to learn they have the latest technical equipment not only for our safety but for information as well. With a forward facing camera on the outside of the train which to me is a long time coming so that any incidents can be picked up for future viewing by British Transport Police and other parties.


The ride was smooth and comfortable and when an announcement was made between Dorridge and Leamington that we had reached and were cruising at 100mph I was amazed. It didn’t feel like we were going that fast and for a commuter train at that speed the external noise was not at all intrusive.

Overall I’m impressed by this new vehicle and as it was so shiny and new I didn't feel that I should put my empty bottle of water kindly given out by London Midland in the litter bin but retained it till I got off the train.

I believe the London Midland £93 million investment is worthwhile and that passengers will love and  hopefully respect these new trains. I for one can’t wait for them to be in service, and who knows maybe I will be on the first revenue earning passenger service when they are launched next month.

Thank you London Midland, now lets hope Network Rail don’t have problems which delay them on the tracks

A publicity Video that London Midland have made can be seen below.




Sunday, 17 July 2011

Co-incidences

I decided to go and visit the cemetery where my mom and dad are resting this morning to tidy up their place and also my step-sisters.

As Ive been neglecting the Family Tree lately I decided I was going to wander around and look at the headstones to see if their were any familiar names. I was rather surprised and  in a sense shocked that I came across today of all days the stone of my Auntie Doris who passed away exactly 28 years ago today. The stone was relatively new as my Uncle had passed away a few years ago. This auntie played an important part in my younger days when my mom was expecting my step-brothers and sisters as well as she wanted to adopt me due to various unpleasant things to do with my step-father. She was like a second mom to me in those early days and I always looked forward to going to see her in Great Charles Street Brownhills.

Was it a co-incidence that I decided to go to the cemetery today or something in my sub-conscious telling me to. Or maybe if you believe in these sort of things a spirit guiding me into deciding to go today.

Whatever it is a bit spooky and got me thinking do other people have these sort of moments like the telephone ringing or receiving a text message just after you have thought about someone or something.

Are these co-incidences or some yet to be determined hidden spiritual force that could be part of our lives guiding us along lifes ups and downs?

I wonder if the Euro- Millions winner who this week one £161 million had a premonition when they brought their ticket. Not that I think they will be too bothered now as their mind will be on other things especially since they went public. I put a quid on this weeks National Lottery and just cuz I thought about it. And that money is now in the Camelot pot of good causes.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Summer and the British Weather

Well we are in the middle of July now and the time when you expect the weather to be warm and sunny. Then again this is Britain I'm talking about and our weather is pretty erratic. We have had some nice and sunny warm days between April and now but more rain I think than anything. We British are typical in going on about the weather when it comes to conversation but doesn't the weather make a big difference to the way we feel whether its a good mood, bad mood, emotional or not.

I can remember how good I was feeling two years ago at this time when we must have had one of the hottest summers ever. Sweltering in the car when waiting around, getting my head burnt (losing hair must be my age) and jsut the general cool breeze of the evening. I also remember a particular Saturday two years ago this  weekend when  I climbed a very unsteady ladder against a fern type tree to rescue a kitten which had managed to get  stuck up there. It took ages to get it down as it was very scared but I think I was probably more scared as I don't like balancing on shaking ladders at heights. But the thought of a young kitten stuck up the tree overcome my fears at that time. It was a very mixed emotional day that Saturday and one that I will never forget. Coming across a creature in distress or experiencing a change in an important friendship can happen suddenly just like the British Weather when its all going okay one minute and the sun is shining and all is happy in the world and then the heavens open and the downpour begins and all manner of things happen we dont expect.

We can't change the British weather as this is a natural phenomenon but we can make the most of what we do and how we do it whether in hindsight or otherwise  come rain or shine we are only human after all and just like that rescued kitten we have to hope that lives improve for all of us. Thank God for small mercies and hope the sun shines out within our lives and beyond

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Observations and groans this month

Observations this month and one of my main ones is “Has health and safety rules gone mad and actually causing more accidents?”

Nearly everyone these days seem to have trolleys and bags on wheels with pulling handles. All innocent you may think at first until you realise how dangerous they can be in some people’s hands. The owners of these perambulating accidents waiting to happen do not seem to care what’s happening behind them as they pull them along.  They suddenly stop or turn without regard for anyone behind them and I have seen many near misses recently where followers have almost fallen victim to their prey. Some of these menaces on wheels are so small I’m sure the weight of the trolley mechanism is more than the items inside. Has it gone so far that people would sue their employers for putting too much in a work bag if they didn’t have wheels or is there some form of hidden message from the makers of these contraptions taking up valuable pavement and public transport space.  I don’t want to appear sexist but I see more women pulling these things behind than men.

Moving on to what has seemed an age old problem of parents with pushchairs, since when has it been alright to test the traffic situation by pushing your young child out between parked cars or elsewhere to see if its safe to cross the road. Do they think that magically by pushing the pram/pushchair out its going to achieve the same thing as Moses raising a staff across the water and it parts to allow him to cross. No I just think it’s irresponsible and very dangerous to the child concerned.

That’s two different gripes about wheeled things and now to make a hat-trick Supermarket Trolleys, love-em or hate them they are essential when it comes to doing a “big shop” as the Comedian Peter Kay puts it. They stop in the middle of an aisle and block the way for you or anyone else to get past. They push and shove their way through as though they are driving a tank and not bothered about what other people are doing. Or you see young children actually sitting inside the trolley instead of walking beside this so very little shopping can be put in it. Whilst there is no right and wrong way to push a trolley around a supermarket there is a sort of etiquette that you walk on the left and watch where you are going as you go around corners but this is devoid of some peoples thoughts and they are all over the place like a drunk who thinks he is walking a straight line down the street on the way home after a good night out.

Some people today seems to totally disregard people and the environment around them as though they are in a bubble. Still if we put wheels on the bubble maybe we can push them out of the way more easily and give them a taste of their own medicine.  

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Memories of the past.

Was passing the time with an older generation couple the other day whilst waiting for a bus that's usually late.

They were talking about how the old old Concrete Bus Station in Walsall was much better in their opinion than the new one is now. Trolley Buses came up and with it various things about conductors, better behaviour on buses from everyone and community spirit. People who travelled used to know and look out for each other.

And somehow we got on to other things and it got me thinking about some things in my childhood as I was growing up.

There weren't many places with hot running water or even bath rooms. Just a tin bath that was fetched out once a week and put in front of the fire whilst water was boiled in whistling kettles and sauce pans. In my house several clean house bricks were put in to raise the water level so less water was needed. There wasn't the shower gels we have now but Carbolic soap usually green or white to get us clean. Was terrible if you got it up your nose or in your eyes as it stung for ages.

We had a Black and White 405 line TV with two channels BBC and ITV, the radio was valve and took time  to warm up and we were lucky has it had VHF (FM as we know it now) so we had a bit wider choice of listening. Although Sundays whilst eating breakfast it was "Ed Stewpot Stuart" doing "Junior Choice" which I always remembered he played "3 Wheels on my wagon". Funny how I got a Three wheeler later in life but those wheels didnt fall off. Lunchtime we were listening to "Two Way Family Favourites" as request were exchanged across the commonwealth" and after that comedy in the form of "The Clithero Kid" A bit like the Krankies of the 1970's then tea time was "Sing Something Simple" with the Cliff Adams Singers". Then at bedtime "Sunday Half-hour" a religious slot which is still running today.

Doors could be left open and once a week my Mom polished the step with Cardinal Polish (Red step) and on Mondays went in to the outhouse and did the washing using a dolly tub and Mangle to wring the water out of the clothes before putting them on the line. She then scrubbed the outside toilet out. It was the only toilet for us in those days as it was before modernisation.

It seems an age away now but was the norm then and of course places like the Black Country Living Museum  (http://www.bclm.co.uk/) and the Birmingham Back to Backs (http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/w-birmingham_backtobacks) are now showing the younger generation how life used to be.

Now we have hundreds of TV channels many in high definition compared with the original 405 and then later 625 line TV sets.

Music is no longer sold on 8 track tapes (in car players) casettes, reel to reel tape recorders (remember Grundig machines)  or vinyl (some specialist stuff still on vinyl). Everything is now digital and available for download.

We have hot running water and central heating in most places so no more raking the ash out of the fire and getting one started with firelighters and coal.

We have showers replacing a lot of peoples bath times so to speed things up and then there are microwaves, electric kettles, There was only one electric company (MEB in my case) and the Gas and Water Board.

I could go on but to some it may be boring but lets say we are more reliant on energy than we ever were. Things have certainly improved lifestyle wise over the years and technology has played a great big part in that.

Local neighbourliness has to be worked on more these days and its not safe to leave doors open so neighbours can just pop in as uninvited guests would take advantage.

Streets arnt filled with the same amount of children's laughter as they were because of the danger of cars and other vehicles as well as undesirables

But would I go back to the way things were? Not really as I've experienced that part of my life some good, some bad and some things in between.

I think the younger people around today will have their own unique experiences of what life is like now and although they can look at what things were like when I was younger, things move forward and you have to look forward cuz if you don't you will fall over and also miss the things that are around us and right under our noses in some cases.

Life is a challenge, our lifestyles and technologies will be talked about by future generations and to every generation there will be the so called "Good old days"

And I've now rambled on for far to long just like the bus I was waiting for the other day and then it went round the houses. Now thats a topic I will leave  to another blogger Phil Tonks (http://philtonks2.blogspot.com/2011/04/round-houses.html)

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Local Elections

As this is my first Google Blog thought I would keep it simple. Yeh right.

Today is Local Council Election Day in the UK as well as us deciding on a possible new parliamentary Voting system in the UK. I will leave AV alone as its complicated enough compared with "first past the post".

All of us from time to time moan about our local councils and usually we say "What is our Councillor doing about it" Councillors are elected by the people in the area that represent. its funny how at election time we suddenly get all this paperwork through our doors telling us what a candidate plans to do and in some cases how long they have served in that Electrol Ward. They may be the named person because some people have bothered to go out and vote for them but how many people even know who their local councillor is or was.

Just like a Business, prospective councillors (whether old or new) are out their to sell their services to us the electorate. In return we may choice to go and Vote for them. But if that service they have promised is not delivered what do we do? Sit on our backsides and moan that they are all the same or words to that effect. If a business then you would go elsewhere but certainly would consider complaining to them. The same should be for councillors once they are elected as they represent the people of the area in which they have been voted to serve. It maybe just for a year or in some local authorties like Birmingham it could be up to three years.

As in the slogan used by a very well known supermarket "Every little helps" and your vote could be the difference that makes a change in the political representation of your area.

Therefore your Vote absolutely counts so make full use of it, as politics whether we like it or not affects all areas of our lives to some extent.