Flanged wheels and steel rail in the UK

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Flanged wheels and steel rail in the UK

Post by Greg_Lewis » Thu Jul 18, 2019 12:09 pm

Here we are in Canterbury, and those of you who follow the forum probably know that my wife and I are nearing the end of our month-long journey in England and Ireland. The UK is Mecca for those of us who like flanged wheels on steel rails. Their system of public transport, using every available means, is exceptionally well designed, despite what the locals may claim.

Upon our arrival three weeks ago, we were scheduled to catch a train from London to Birmingham to meet up with friends who live there. We were supposed to enter our reservation number into a ticket machine at the station to receive our pre-paid tickets. The machine rejected our number so we presented it to the agent at the window only to have him tell us it was not a valid number. I was concerned because this was about $100 worth of tickets. He suggested we contact our travel agent to straighten it out. It being 2 a.m. in California, that wasn't a possibility. I told the man behind the glass that we couldn't reach our travel agent and that we'd just have to buy new tickets. He took another look at the printout, looked at me, and gave us a pass. I don't think that would happen in the U.S.

The trip to Birmingham was unlike any Amtrak trip you will ever take, for something that would never happen on our trains: Due to a signal malfunction, we left London nine minutes late, and the conductor came on the p.a. system, explained the cause of the delay, and apologized profusely. He said we'd make up the time on the 120-mile trip. Unfortunately, we failed to do that, arriving six minutes late, accompanied by another through and sincere apology. I told our friends who were waiting at the station that we are grateful when our Amtrak is only an hour late, and consider that to be well within the norm — no apologies or explanations to be heard.

Near Birmingham we went for a ride on the four-mile Chasewater Railway and after chatting up the engine crew about the quality of their coal, I did get a short cab ride. I find that the railroad museums here, of which there are many, are much more relaxed about this than those in America. If you strike up a conversation and tactfully let the crew know you are not just another tourist, you can often get a special treat like that.

I've posted in another thread here that my stories of the London museums of steam and machinery will have to wait for another time; suffice to say that you will not see such phenomenal gear elsewhere, and if you are planning a visit, send even the most accommodating wife off to the Victoria and Albert museum to marvel at 5000 years of other kinds of stuff while you get high on antique steam and oil.

Our London visit has ended and we zoomed down here to Canterbury on the Southeastern line and again, unlike Amtrak, the train arrived at the Stratford station only 8 seconds late, and pulled into Canterbury, about 50 miles distant, exactly 60 seconds early. I asked the conductor what the maximum speed was on this line and he said it was 140 m.p.h., and that some trains on other lines get to 220. The ride was smooth and fairly quiet. Oh that we could do as well.

Tomorrow we'll chuff along England's south coast on the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch railroad, the 15-inch gauge line that runs 14 miles along England's south coast. We've been assured that steam will be in service; the enjoyment of which will be the last on this trip. After attending the Sunday service at the Canterbury cathedral — built in 1077 — we'll be heading back to the dry heat of the raisin capital of America and our less interesting chores.
Greg Lewis, Prop.
Eyeball Engineering — Home of the dull toolbit.
Our motto: "That looks about right."
Celebrating 30 years of turning perfectly good metal into bits of useless scrap.

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Re: Flanged wheels and steel rail in the UK

Post by Harold_V » Thu Jul 18, 2019 4:13 pm

Thanks for the very interesting report, Greg. Travel home safely.

Wise people talk because they have something to say. Fools talk because they have to say something.

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