Friday, March 30, 2007

What kind of week has it been?

Well the night out with work colleagues on Wednesday went a lot better than I expected. I rather enjoyed myself and it was a good humoured and pleasant way to relax over a few beers (or Magners in my case!) and some nice grub. Maybe I shouldn't be so judgemental in future! Yesterday was another work's bash, this time a lunch for one of my colleagues who retired today after 34 or 35 years service with the company. Quite an incredible longevity of service, especially the way things are going and I can only imagine what is changed in that time. I've only done 13 years and the changes I've seen are immense.

Today has been a quiet day at home as I had Sky TV installed this afternoon :-) Been spending a lot of the afternoon channel-hopping and getting used to all these new channels now on offer, although admittedly some of them I am never likely to watch - can't see myself tuning in to the God Channel or all those mindless shopping channels either! My decision to get Sky was really made when Virgin dropped Sky One from their cable service and so went my opportunity to watch new episodes of Battlestar Galactica. Fortunately, Sky One are having a catch up weekend over Easter so I will get to see all the episodes that I've missed. Not only that but the quality of the picture and sound on cable is terrible compared to the clarity of both sound and picture on Sky. It really does make a huge difference.

I've been doing a fair amount of bidding on eBay over the last couple of weeks and selling stuff too. Sold my West Wing individual series DVD's, some books and other similar items, which frankly were just beginning to gather dust. One of my little collecting pursuits at the moment is old railway timetables, both the public ones and the Working Time Tables. The latter are particularly interesting, for a railway buff like me, as these are the timetables used within the rail industry. They're certainly not for the casual interest as they provide complex details about every train that is scheduled to run within a particular area, things like the reporting number, traction type, timing at junctions as well as main calling points, freight and parcels movements, empty stock movements etc. What they do provide is a glimpse at how the railways are run and how they have evolved over the years.

The public timetables are also fascinating - I've recently bought a couple from the early 1970s, one for the Eastern Region covering the East Coast Main Line and mainlines from Liverpool Street and Fenchurch Street into East Anglia and a Southern Region table covering services radiating from Waterloo, Victoria and the Kent Coast termini. What they reveal is just what an enormous and complex system British Rail operated, not just covering trains but also hotels and shipping services - both conventional car ferries and hovercraft - under its Sealink and Seaspeed brands. I recall fondly the Sealink ships that plied the Channel from Portsmouth and across to the Isle of Wight, with their red and black funnels with white BR logo. In addition there are many train services that have since disappeared such as the Motorail service, where you could take your car with you on the train! The cars were loaded onto special trailers at the point of departure and unloaded again when you reached your destination; passengers travelling in standard coaches of the time. Also gone are the through boat trains via Dover and the extensive network of sleeper services to North of England and South Wales. All that remains of the latter is the Caledonian Sleeper from Euston and the Night Riveria from Paddington. And this was the age of local hauled services. Although the Southern Region had converted to multiple unit operation long before the 70s, key trains remained loco hauled, such as the Waterloo to Exeter service. Nowadays the only scheduled loco hauled passenger trains operate on the East Coast Mainline and on services operated by 'one' to Norwich, plus a handful on the West Coast Mainline.

Even station names have changed as the marketing men have had their way. As examples, gone are Portslade & West Hove (now Portslade), Reading General (shortened to just Reading) Tunbridge Wells Central (Tunbridge Wells) , whilst since closed are Holborn Viaduct, Tunbridge Wells West (now part of the Spa Valley Railway), Dover Marine and the through route between Winchester and Alton (although the timetable warns that this service is likely to be closed, which it was! The line between Alresford and Alton is part of the Mid Hants Railway).

Rather confusingly back then weekdays, sometimes included Saturdays as well, with virtually the same service pattern operating six days a week. Sundays were the only day when intending passengers were warned that engineering works may disrupt their journey. How different from today!

Tomorrow I am having another quiet day, especially after my last two weekends seeing me travelling 'up'north.' Easter looks like it could be a quiet one too as thanks to the blockade of the West Coast Main Line between Northampton and Hemel Hempstead, it is the interminable rail replacement service in operation again. At least, I can actually see something happening with all the attention being given to Milton Keynes Central at the moment, where Network Rail are building two new platforms. And a Rugby, where again additional platforms are being built. All this is part of plans for a new timetable being introduced from December 2008, which if it delivers what it promises will see significant enhancements to services along the West Coast Main Line.

Anyhows, so what kind of week has it been? Not bad at all methinks.

1 comment:

jamie said...

see!? i told you you'd have a good time,and enjoy yourself!!!
so these people might not be the kind you'd want round your home but passing a couple of hours in their company isn't so bad.
if nothing else,it's good people watching,isn't it.
i hope this is the start of the new,more confident social animal mark.
i'll even bet that one of them is a closet choo-choo lover!
you just never know.