Monday, 25 May 2015

A Sombre and Sorrowful Memorial

The Princess Royal and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon were among those attending a Memorial Service on Friday last to mark 100 years since the worst accident in UK railway history. Quintinshill is an unassuming non-event of a place just north of Gretna Green.
You would take this unmade-up road from just outside Springfield, so remote that Google Streetview does not venture along there!
Just a few farm buildings and a bridge under the West Coast main line are all that bears that fateful name. The actual Quintinshill bridge and farm are at the other (Carlisle) end of the loops.
Amazingly, the two passing loops are still in use and it was the fact the both loops were occupies by goods trains waiting for fast passenger expresses to pass that set the scene for the horror to some.

Three railway employees broke the rules and were subsequently arrested and tried in the Scottish Courts.

So what happened?

The sorry tale centres round Quintinshill signal box, no longer in existence.
Signalman Meakin was due to come off shift at 0600. But the signalmen had an "arrangement" whereby the morning shift man (in this case Signalman Tinsley), instead of walking from Gretna, would cadge a ride on the local passenger train if it was due to be stopped at Quintinshill. There was no station there, but the local was often required to get out of the way of a fast Glasgow expresses, especially if they were running late. Meakin would write details of all post 0600 trains on a piece of paper and Tinsley would copy them into the official log book. That way no-one would ever know!

Because both loops were occupied, the northbound local was reversed on to the southbound line.
In these diagrams, Glasgow (north) is to the left.

This apparently risky manoeuvre was quite safe if everybody followed the rules. The signalman would place a collar on his signal lever ...
... so he could not physically release the signal and allow a southbound train to pass. He would inform  the preceding signal box  (by bell code) that the line was occupied. In addition, the driver of the local train was required to go up into the signalbox and ensure that these actions were done; his presence would be a reminder that his train was blocking the line.

Inexplicably none of this happened and signals were cleared for a southbound troop train ...
... which, of course, collided at speed with the stationary local. The troop train consisted of old wooden coaches lit by gas so fire was inevitable.

The reasons for this slackness have never been fully explained. The signalmen were busy copying the information into the official log; there was a goods train in the way visually which may have confused them and other staff from both goods had popped into the signal box to keep warm and/or have a cuppa (also against the rules).

Then the northbound Glasgow express appeared on the scene, also travelling at speed hauled by two locomotives.
It collided with the wreckage as those fit enough worked to rescue the injured.

The pictures of the accident are harrowing and painful. The fire was intense ...
... and four hefty locomotives were written off.

The trial of the three men started on 24 September 1915 in the High Court in Edinburgh. The Lord Justice General, Lord Strathclyde, presided over the trial; the Lord Advocate, Robert Munro KC prosecuted and the three men were defended by Condie Sandeman KC. Tinsley, Meakin and Hutchinson (driver of the local) all pleaded not guilty to the charges of culpable homicide and breach of duty against them. The trial lasted a day and a half; after the prosecution had concluded their case, Sandeman submitted to the Lord Justice General that there was no case to answer by Hutchinson. This submission was accepted by the Lord Justice General and the jury were instructed to find him not guilty at the conclusion of the trial.

A simple nameboard at the side of the track marks the site today.
It was the telling of this story, using extracts from L T C Rolt's book ...
... that saved fbb's teaching career and was referred to in a blog on  Saturday 1st September 2012, See "L T C Rolt and a Teaching Career" (read again).

 Next bus blog (Cornwall at last!) : Tuesday 26th May 

Sunday, 24 May 2015

The Annoying Case of Annie and Clarabel [2]

Watson Returns from his shopping expedition.
Well, Holmes; in the limited time afforded to me, I have been able to purchase several versions of the Annie and Clarabel railway carriages. I have listed the features that you considered to be of utmost importance and, using a pot of fish glue from my medical bag, I have collected available illustrations.

Well done, Watson. Pray adumbrate.

Take and Play: four wheels, four compartments
Fisher Price:  four wheels, four compartments

Trackmaster:  four wheels, four compartments

Unknown manufcturer:  four wheels, four compartments

Tomix "N":  four wheels, four compartments

Bachmann "G":  four wheels, four compartments

And the designation "N" and "G" Watson; do you have an explanation of these mysterious one-letter epithets?

I understand from the salesmen concerned, Holmes, that these refer to the size of the reroductions; "N" being minuscule, "G" being huge. But there is more, Holmes. I have persuaded an acquaintance well versed in the photographic arts to repoduce a new sort of daguerrotype from a moving picture! We have an example of the kinematographic versions of Annie and Clarabel.

Kinematographic: four wheels, four compartments

You have done well; an excellent effort my good friend. Now join me for some of Mrs Hudsn's tasty hot muffins and an infusion of tea and I will reveal the results of my humble investigations.
It is now crystal clear that the Annie and Clarabel purchased by our client, fbb, to entertain his young friend Archie (see yesterday's article - read again) are heinously ill-conceived impostors. Whilst they have the usual four wheels, they only have three compartments!
Good grief, Holmes, what an appalling act of mischievous misdirection.

The models which, quite rightly, shock your sense of moral rectitude, are simply standard carriages ...
... painted orange in a pathetic attempt to deceive.

I confess that I am shocked to the quick by this deceit.

Prepare to be shocked again old chum! I have discovered in my files a recent copy of one of  The Good Rector's stories ...
... which does appear to confirm the four wheel four compartment structure of these ferro-equinological females.

So the case is solved?

Not so fast, impetuous friend. Take my glass and examine this illustration.
Ye gods, Holmes; eight wheels and six compartments!

And two further pieces of this fiendishly complex jigsaw of crime. Firstly, an older edition of a "Thomas" story ...
... clearly showing eight wheels on two bogies with an indeterminate number of compartments, but possibly five.

Curiouser and curiouser, Holmes?

An unfortunate and near illiterate phrase, Watson, doubtless innocently quoted from the Reverend Dodgson's "curious" writings. But we need to look further. As you are aware, I have published a detailed monograph on the subject of "The Criminal and Model Making", the contents of which enabled LeStrade to apprehend the Terrifying Teddy Bear Thief of Theobalds Grove.

Pray continue; my dander is, as they say, up!

An illustration therein included from the December 1959 "Railway Modeller" periodical shows the original Annie and Clarabel as created on the revered ecclesiastical Wilbert's own model railway.
I must confess that you are perfectly correct, yet again, Holmes. From the gas light ventilators on the roof, I infer that these vehicles are of eight wheel construction and with five compartments.
So one big question remains, my friend.
This simple pictorial and monochrome representation proves, beyond the slightest doubt, that, at some stage in the recent past, the real Annie and Clarabel with five compartments and eight wheels have been abducted, spirited away to a location unknown and two four wheeled four compartment impostors have been substituted.

So what next, Holmes; the trail is cold, surely?

We must persevere, Watson. This dastardly deed has all the hallmarks of the arch-evil railway modeller Moriarty. Tomorrow we must pursue our inevitable enemy and release the true ladies of the track back into the shining light of their carriage shed. 

In the meantime fbb would be well advised to prepare for "tears before bedtime" when young Archie Fearnley realises the extent of the deception.
The carriages so recently acquired are indubitably doubly deceptive. Never, in their tortuous literary history have Annie and Clarabel had three compartments!

A sad day, to be sure ...
But here's an idea:

This tale will conclude on Wednesday 31st June.

 Tomorrow 24th May, a sorrowful wartime centenary 

Saturday, 23 May 2015

The Annoying Case of Annie and Clarabel [1]

A Three Pipe Compartment Problem for Sherlock!
You have a perplexed air, Holmes. Today's lunchtime postal delivery is providing you with undue anxiety?

Indeed it is Holmes. This letter, under the obvious pseudonym of "The Fat Bus Bloke", presents me with a case of international import; a case upon which rests the strength and character of future generations; a case that is so complex that it will be utterly beyond the mental capabilities of LeStrade and his team of incompetents from Scotland Yard. It concerns the whereabouts of Annie and Clarabel.

And who are these tragic young ladies; assuming, Holmes, that they are young and thus in need of your intellect and wisdom. And in what way is your correspondent involved with them?

Pray excuse my slackness, Holmes, but I will abbreviate the compiler of this epistle and use the acronym "fbb". Our client fbb writes:-

"My dear Holmes,

I have recently welcomed Annie and Clarabel into my humble Devon home but I feel most strongly that they may be imposters. Their youthful and gay appearance belies an undercurrent of deception. These are not the real Annie and Clarabel."

Then we must, Holmes, take the midday train from Waterloo, change  to an omnibus at Axminister, visit this fbb and question the two ladies concerned.
You may be surprised to learn, Watson, that the two ladies under discussion are, indeed, not the real thing; they are but representations.

That is a sorry tale, Holmes. Do you infer that this fbb collects dolls, toys exclusively manufactured for small girls. I fear I would be uneasy in such a person's company.

Steady on, my good friend. Let us be patient until we meet fbb, Annie and Clarabel.
Holmes, yet again you have mocked me. I am cut to the quick! Annie and Clarabel are toy trains.
Watson, your ignorance oft astounds me. They are not "trains", they lack the celebrated "Thomas", their life-long hauling locomotive.
Our new-found friend, fbb, has purchased these to entertain an expert on lady railway carriages.
Young Archie Fearnley's chosen bedtime reading is oft from the oeuvre of the late and much lamented Reverend Wilbert Awdry. fbb would be utterly mortified if the young lad observed inaccurate representations of Thomas' two lady friends!

So what now Holmes?

Out with your trusty notebook, Holmes, and pen an accurate description of fbb's recent purchases. Pay specific attention to the numbers of wheels, the total number of compartments, the livery and lettering style.
Any minuscule detail may prove crucial in this vexing and challenging case. Then we must return to the Capital for further investigation.

But, Holmes, we have not dined. My internal organs are complaining of a serious lack of comestibles.

Have no fear, Holmes. Sir Brian's excellent train service will offer us the benefits of an at-seat service of recently developed light meals as developed for Sir John Montagu, Earl of Sandwich. This delectable delight will stave off the rigours of daytime hunger until we dine at the Club this evening,

If you say so Holmes.

As soon as we arrive at Waterloo, you are to take a Hansom Cab and visit any purveyor of childrens' toys, Messrs Hamley's for example ...

... therein purchasing as many versions of Annie and Clarabel that you can obtain.

I will return post-haste to 221B Baker Street to engage in further research. My trusty fiddle will be an essential aid to thought.

Then I will not hurry back, Holmes.

So, to Axminister, Watson; the game's afoot!
Make haste, there is no time to lose!
to be continued.
Decker Delightfully Domiciled
Hot news is that Aberdeen's wandering cluck-meister has been found a new home. Hopefully, says First, his wandering days are over, but should he fancy an outing, his staff pass is still valid. See "Positive Firsts from First" (read again).
 Next Annie & Clarabel blog : Sunday 24th May 

Friday, 22 May 2015

Re-linked by Rail at Ebbw Vale ...

... from 17th May
Don't  press buttons; there's no sound! But this is the first train to leave Ebbw Vale Town station at 0845 last Sunday 17th May.

In May 2013 the Welsh Government announced that the Ebbw Vale line would be extended from the existing terminus at Ebbw Vale Parkway to the new station at Ebbw Vale Town. At total of £11.5 million has been agreed, not only to fund the station but also for the surrounding areas as well as the line. Two weeks later, funding was also agreed for Pye Corner railway station, also along the line.

Most of us remember Ebbw Vale for its vast Steelworks.
But somewhere in there was a railway station.
The line was opened by the Monmouthshire Railway and Canal Company and the Great Western Railway (GWR) operated a passenger service from 1852 between Newport and Ebbw Vale. (The station was later renamed Ebbw Vale Low Level) Passenger services were withdrawn in 1962 however, the route continued to be used to carry freight to and from the Corus steelworks in Ebbw Vale, until its closure in 2002. Passenger services were restored to the line in February 2008.
But trains only ran to Ebbw Vale Parkway station (map extract, bottom) well short of the town centre.
Google Maps has been quick to add the new terminus which is some 400 yards short of the original Low Level station site.
The High Level Station was a branch from the Heads of the Valley line and carried passengers from 1867 to 1952.
Very little remains of the two stations.

A new bus interchange has been constructed, seen here in an architect's "visualisation".
But where is the railway?

The former steelworks was down in the valley whereas the town was up the hill a bit. The former industrial site is being developed ...
... and, to link town with the new stuff (and the new station), a "mechanical lift" has been installed. Think of it as a normal automaticand unstaffed lift, controlled by passenger buttons, but running diagonally.
The single car will carry up to 22 passengers, so think of it as quite a big lift or, alternatively, as a small one-track funicular.
And don't confuse it with the much bigger "real" funicular that ran during the Ebbw Vale Garden Festival.

Ebbw Vale was chosen as the last British Garden Festival site (1992) because of the waste land which had been the British Steel (Corus) steel and tin works, part of which had been demolished in the early 1980s. The festival began on 1 May 1992 and ran until 4 October 1992. As well as gardens, plant exhibitions and fairground-style attractions the festival also featured a funicular railway.
For the record, trains on the new line to Ebbw Vale Town station run every hour Monday to Saturday and two hourly on Sunday.
Because of line-speed improvements, Arriva Cymru will be able to operate the service without extra stock. It is hoped to extend a passing loop on the line in preparation for a half hourly service in 2018

fbb did attempt to research bus services at the new station, but Traveline Cymru was not admitting its existence as of yesterday at 1500.
Clicking on Ebbw Vale Railway Station (i.e. not Parkway, you might think) still found the map for the former terminus.
The Traveline National planner seemed to know about the station ...
... but wanted you to walk 14 minutes from Ebbw Vale Town Station to ...
... ahem, Ebbw Vale Town Station.

Ateb Yn nodweddiadol dwp gan Traveline!!
And has fbb forgotten those incomprehensible Cornwall timetables? Not at all. Starting on Tuesday we attempt to unknit this one. For a little bank holiday weekend intellectual stimulation, our readers may like to unravel this delightful piece of easy-to-understand publicity. (click on the timetable to enlarge it) It included service 66 (part), 69 and 69A.
Only three colours of shading this time;  BLUE  is for schooldays,  PINK  is for school holidays & Saturdays,  YELLOW  is for Mondays to Fridays only. All unshaded trips run Mondays to Saturdays. There is no Sunday service.

Enjoy. Oh, yes; there is no detailed map, just these bits of the on-line network diagram.
Enjoy indeed!
 Next mystery blog : Saturday 23rd May