Blog

Since 2012 I have sought to operate a blog, presently hosted by Wordpress. I have sought to integrate the blog as far as possible with this website but it is not possible to do this fully. The link below will take you there and open it in a new window.

Index

I maintain below an index to the various blog items. If I haven't removed the item, then by clicking the 'Yes' entry (in 'stll avilable' column) you will go straight to that entry. Significant updates are also noted.

Comment

Wordpress doesn't make it clear beyond doubt that readers can comment on blog items, but you can. I read comments and (unless they are advertisements) generally approve them, after which they are visible, though a certain persistence is needed to find them. The only way I can fix this annoyance it to host a blog myself: that is a matter for another day.

Emerging Historical Articles

A few blog items have got out of hand during writing and have morphed into short historiacl articles. One day, when I have a moment, these are likely to be pulled out and re-drafted as proper historical articles on the main website. I the meantime, it is better they remain available here.


Blog Index

Date Posted Title of post What it was about Still available? (click) Archive status Updated
4 June 2017 Railways and the 'N' Word The election has brought forth proposals to 'nationalize' Britains railways. Time for some observations about this and a look at what happened last time. Yes   Blog  
16 May 2017 57 year old train retiring amidst unprecedented crowds On 19th May 2017 the class 121 'bubble car', a traditional diesel-mechanical multiple unit dating from 1960, is being withdrawn from the Aylesbury-Princes Risborough service. I went to have a look. Yes Blog  
21 December 2016 All Change for Oxford Street The TfL consultation material is now out for what is probably the first wave of changes to bus routes along Oxford Street to thin them out by 40%, perhaps preparatory to pedestrianization, if that is achievable. Some details and observations about what is proposed. Yes Blog 25 December 2016
22 September 2016 Battersea and the Slow Death of a Giant Battersea Power Station has not fared well since closure. It has sat for 33 years, deteriorating majestically before our eyes as those those with the power to stop things do battle with those who are expected to pay for things, during which time that which it was hoped to save was very nearly lost, and maybe in reality has been. As the real chimneys come down to be replaced by replicas, the situation is reviewed. Yes Blog 3 October 2016
18 September 2016 A Line to Nowhere Time spent investigating the local area has caused several visits to Chessington South and some bits of railway built but not opened. After some investigation, findings in the blog. Yes Blog 1 October 2016
13 September 2016 Don't Mention the R Word A journey by Virgin East Coast trains took an interesting and, on the whole, unimpressive turn, and again on the way back. Don't think the managers are able to get a grip on handling passengers during this type of incident, as I demonstrate from the statistics. Yes Blog 28 September 2016
3 September 2016 Time to Sort Out Kensington Various Underground stations are (or have been) named after London streets. This blog looks at the strange case of High Street Kensington and notes some other curiousities in passing. Yes Blog 5 September 2016
29 August 2016 Much Ado About Not Very Much (Croxley Rail Link) The Croxley Rail Link project has been around for decades. One might wonder why so much fuss about a link that doesn't seem to offer much and disadvantages some. The route has been walked and the blog includes various photos looking at the existing derelict alignment - a line closed for 20 years and not much missed. Yes Blog 1 September 2016
17 August 2016 So What is so Special About Sutton (and other exciting loop railway journeys) An attempt to make a simple rail journey drew attention to the peculiar (and unhelful) way Thameslink's Wimbledon loop trains are styled, for some reason timetables insist they are Sutton-only. The blog speculates as to why this might be and looks at a couple of other loop services to discover something even more odd. Yes Blog 25 August 2016
31 July 2016 Sir Albert's First Holiday (the later Lord Ashfield chooses an interesting destination) Sir Albert did not like taking holidays and when he took one he nearly didn't come back. Would history have been different? Yes Blog  
8 June 2016 Scrabbling for Letters in Hampstead Hampstead is a place full of interest for the observant. Here is a short piece, inspired whilst passing through recently, about its characteristic name-signs and some unexpected features. Yes Blog 19 June. Minor corrections
25 April 2016 Pedestrianizing Oxford Street is Addressing the Wrong Problem The Mayoral candidates are keen to pedestrianize Oxford Street and get shot of the polluting buses and taxis, but this is simplistic and raises a whole host of issues that do not seem to have easy answers. Some of these are examined here. Yes Blog 10 June. Images altered and captions adjusted.
10 April 2016 No Turning Back – around north side of Circle The track layout of the Underground has been inherited from many generations ago and is often not fit for today's requirements yet change is hard to justify (apparently). The route along the top of the Circle Line is considered, with examples of failed proposals. Yes Blog  
7 April 2016 London’s Getting a New Mayor – but don’t get too excited In London an election looms for its next mayor, someone who will take charge of London's transport system. Having now read the transport manifestos I think the kindest description is mundane. There are really big challenges out there. Are these candidates really the best London can manage? Yes Blog  
1 April 2016 Corporate Amnesia Good or Bad Corporate Amnesia is where a company (usually unintentially) lets expensively-gained knowledge drift away negatibely affecting business, but some out of date processes can also hold companies back. An interesting BBC radio programme examines the issues and ought to give companies something to be concerned about. Yes Blog  
25 March 2016 Unaccountable The Metropolitan, District and Hammersmith & City Lines should have had new fully automatic signalling by 2014 but after a disastrous procurement process for which nobody is prepared to hold themselves accountable completion is nine years late, it is more expensive and so much money has been wasted one could have bought a whole fleet of trains with it. In the meantime passengers patiently put up with an inferior service and daily signal failures. Yes Blog  
16 November 2015 Rayners Lane Ticket Office Closed After 99 Years The station ticket office at Rayners Lane has just closed, after 99 years of operation. This item reviews the station history, what the closure programme is all about and why there are doubts about how this will deliver an improved service to passengers. Yes Blog
3 August 2015 New signalling contract signed - but at high cost. At last there is news of the new signalling that is to be installed on the Metropolitan, District, Hammersmith & City and Circle Lines. It is probably good news that it is to be a variant on a system already installed on the Underground, but it is much less good news that it is going to take much longer to install than had been hoped and is going to be a lot more expensive. This is now the third attempt to resignal these lines and some observations are made about why things went wrong and whether we are actually much worse off than we would have been if the original plan had been stuck to. Yes Blog
17 May 2015 No new signalling yet – and no 4-minute Circle Line service either. A bizarre press release that repeated all we already knew, with added ambiguities, caused me to think we needed an update of the horrendous delays to the Sub Surface Lines resignalling programme where there is still no contract let but we are being softened up for longer implementation and higher costs. It really isn't very good. Yes Blog
6 May 2015 The Establishment Owen Jones has given us all something to think about in his book 'The Establishment'. The thesis that is that there is an all-seeing and all-pervasive 'clan' of the rich and powerful who manipulate events to serve their own interests is not new. This book brings this thesis up to date and offers a multitude of recent examples to show how it has adapted to the new world. The extent to which it is 'conspiracy' or merely a tendency that naturally flows from the kind of people who reach particular positions I shall leave the reader to judge. That it is there at all, though, I think the book makes a plausible case. Yes Blog
27 April 2015 New Bus for London – some further observations Now that the new LT bus (New Bus For London) has entered fleet service in large numbers it seemed to be time for a quick review. Still not a bad bus, but clearly there are some interesting problems. Yes Blog
25 April 2015 Scotland Yard Move - A bit more than redecorating Having posted a blog on 21 May 2013 about the proposal to move Scotland Yard to its old home it seemed time for an update, and an observation that there is a bit more to it than suspected. Yes Blog
16 March 2015 The Folly of Crocker's Folly Fascinated by the improbable story connected with Crocker's Folly (a rather interesting building in St John's Wood, previously a highly-decorated pub) I have investigated the matter and find, as expected, it to be a crock of rubbish! Yes Blog
11 February 2015 Update on 'unstaffed' train operation I have added some information about the latest plan for unstaffed trains. In addition I draw attention to the way the DLR operates, where the roving staff arrangement (suggested by some as the way to operate the Underground) is found not to apply in rush hours as the crowds make such operation impossible (and the Underground would be far more challenging). I suspect those pushing for such operation are not frequent public transport users or they wouldn't make such far-fetched suggestions. Yes Blog
3 February 2015 Fine Wines and Civil Servants - a toxic cocktail Another book review - this time a handy work devoted to the destruction of the British Transport Hotels chain, once owned by British Rail. With it, went a rather fine wine club. The book is, I am afraid, another depressing example of the dead hand of government, once more seizing a poor outcome from internal proposals to make a far more profitable sale as a going entity. The book was written by the man who ran the hotels at the time and provides a useful insight into how manipulative government officials were in the way our railways were run (but all was done at a sufficient distance to be able to say 'this was a British Rail decision...'). Yes Blog
29 January 2015 What's ado at Walthamstow, and will it see 36 trains an hour? A visit to Walthamstow made me wonder what is going on there, for traffic levels have shot up. No matter, train service improvements have been made, and further improvements are due which will see most, and perhaps all, trains serving Walthamstow, with no more peak Seven Sisters reversers. The blog also considers the proposals to intoroduce a 36 tph service on the Victoria Line and whay I am just a little dubious that this is possible at the Walthamstow end. Yes Blog
16 January 2015 All Change at Tottenham Court Road A new entrance and ticket hall has opened at Tottenham Court Road as part of the Crossrail project. A look is taken of the station as it was; its earlier alterations to cope with increasing traffic having faltered 70 years ago, with not much changing after that. Yes Blog
13 January 2015 Kings Cross to High Barnet - An Illuminating Update The wonderful lightwall subway at Kings Cross receives my contemplation, followed by a journey to High Barnet and back to see what has happened to improve the way the automatic trains behave. Yes Blog
6 January 2015 1915 - Events on the London Underground a Century Ago Events on the Underground in 1915 are reviewed. This includes extension of Bakerloo Line trains to Willesden, the closure of two of the Underground's power stations, completion of the Metropolitan Line's 4-tracking between Finchley Road and Wembley Park, the rebuilding of several stations and the Common Fund, which began transforming the separate Underground lines into a single network. Yes Blog
28 December 2014 Extending the Underground - the numbers game The first of an occasional series reviewing why various extensions to the Underground do or do not get built. This one explains why it relates to the expected financial return an extension would make and why this is so important on a network where until recent times no government money has ever been invested in the Underground. Yes Blog
28 December 2014 "The Blunders of our Governments" - the name says it all This is a review of new book that considers, through several alarming case studies, how government policies and there implementation can be so wrong, why lessons are rarely learned and how nobody is held to account. The financial cost of a number of failed policies are astononomically and frighteningly high. A well researched and thought provoking work that voters might do well to read in an election year. Yes Blog
12 December 2014 London Bus Services - A Route to Perfection? Despite the superb bus services we have in London there are still some minor annoyances that just take the edge off them. These include issues with the bus map, getting trapped on buses in traffic, unscheduled diversions, non use of the public address and so on. Observations are made. Yes Blog
1 November 2014 Quainton Road: What is a train service and other observations. This was an attempt to get the record straight about an apparent extension of Metropolitan Line services between Aylesbury and Quainton Road during the Second World War. Inevitably it uncovered a few other things about this remote area that seemed to me sufficiently interesting to mention. Yes Blog
29 October 2014 What's in a name - Driverless, it seems. A visit to London Underground's display about the proposed new deep tube trains is reviewed, together with incompetent or deliberately misleading press coverage about the 'driverless' concept. What on earth does this term mean? Some observations. Yes Blog
26 August 2014 The hole just isn't big enough - End in sight for 12ft tube?. The system is getting very crowded, people are getting bigger, they carry more personal luggage, they are distracted by mobile devices and slow down themselves and everyone else. Are station planners taking this on board and can the 12ft tube survive its second century without reconstruction? Yes Blog 10 Oct 14
21 June 2014 Wembley Central - Things can only get better. Glacial-speed improvements to this unloved station are at last in hand. A few words are said about this unfortunate but important station. Yes Blog
21 June 2014 Wembley Central - Things can only get better. Glacial-speed improvements to this unloved station are at last in hand. A few words are said about this unfortunate but important station. Yes Blog
8 June 2014 Celebrating 150 years since the opening of the Hammersmith & City Railway This month celebrates the opening of the Hammersmith & City Railway between Green Lane junction and Hammersmith, The background to this railway and some historical features are explained. Yes Blog
1 February 2014 Historic February - events 150, 100 and 50 years ago this month. This month celebrates Electrification of the East London Railway, new Met Railway offices at Baker Street and resume of old offices, closure of Northern Line goods yards. Yes Blog
1 January 2014 Historic January - events 150, 100 and 50 years ago this month. This month celebrates new Met Railway offices at Baker Street, new junctions at Earls Court, Met Railway widening progress and introduction of first automatic ticket gate. Yes Blog
3 December 2013 Historic December - events 150, 100 and 50 years ago this month. This month celebrates 100 years of the Paddington extension, the quadrupling of lines through Willesden, the completion of the reconstruction of Baker Street and the placing into service of the last A stock train in 1963. Yes Blog
25 November 2013 The Police Telephone Box The celebrations surrounding 50 years of Dr Who has drawn our attention to his time machine, disguised as a police telephone box, but what is a police telephone box and when did the earthly ones come and go. Yes Blog
1 November 2013 Historic November - events 150, 100 and 50 years ago this month. This month celebrates 100 years of West Harrow station, the quadrupling of lines from Finchley Road to Kilburn and the closing if High Street Kensington goods yard. Yes Blog
14 October 2013 The LGOC Division of the Metropolitan Special Constabulary The London General Omnibus Company was so big that during the First World War it populated an entire division of the Metropolitan Special Constabulary, set up to help the regular police cope during the emergency. Here are some notes I have drawn together in the hope people might have more to add. Yes Blog
1 October 2013 Historic October - events 150, 100 and 50 years ago this month. This month celebrates 150 years of the Metropolitan's first carriages, 150 years since the GWR and GNR began running through trains, 100 years since we've had 'network' season tickets and 50 years since the Railway Training Centre at White City opened. Yes Blog
23 September 2013 An unusual surviving railway pier Only a few piers were built specifically for railway use, and this apology for a pier is one of them, dating back to 1858. I thought something should be said of it. Yes Blog
1 September 2013 More tales from Watford Met More stories from my days at Watford drift into my mind, so I've written them down. Yes Blog
13 August 2013 New Reflections on Old Marylebone I have known Marylebone since the very early 1970s and that thought inspired a few recollections Yes Blog
1 August 2013 New Bus for London - What the Users Actually Think The new bus is a political animal and subject to barbs really aimed at its initiator. But what about the bus as a bus? TfL research offers us an insight. Yes Blog
11 July 2013 Hot air on the 24 Observations about the New Bus for London on entering service on No 24 Yes Blog
11 July 2013 Overground and Goblin under stress Observations about the overloading of stations and of Goblin overcrowding and poor connectivity at Gospel Oak. Yes Blog
11 July 2013 Return to High Barnet by Northern Line Second visit on the newly automated section of the Northern Line to look at the new automatic system after disappointing first visit. Yes Blog
7 July 2013 First Class Mystery on the District Railway Delving into the mystery of the District Railway's First Class and Special Cars evidently used when line was electrified, and how they were used. Yes Blog 20 Jul 13
2 July 2013 Mal de Mare on the Northern Line (and Jubilee Line Seating) A visit to the newly automated part of the Northern Line and observations of what I found. Additional remarks about decayed Jubilee Line seating Yes Blog 10 Jul 13
30 June 2013 Jubilee Line constraints History haunts the Jubilee Line with its west end reversing facilities quite unsuitable for today's intensive service. Yes Blog 5 Jul 13
22 June 2013 Ladies Only Compartments This accommodation was available on most British railways for about a century but are curiously badly documented. Yes Blog 24 Jul 13
20 June 2013 Iain Banks and the wee dram My personal thoughts about Iain's contribution to the whisky mystique with some thoughts about a rival book Yes Blog
21 May 2013 The Police HQ at Scotland Yard - and the inevitability of going round in Circles! Some historical observations about the former 3-building police complex on the Embankment, and the irony that it is there to which the HQ returns after nearly half a century. Yes Blog Some additions made 10 Nov 13
19 May 2013 Escalators, inclined elevators and myths This started out as an attempt to put right a few long-standing myths about early escalators, but seems to be evolving into a mini-history. A huge amount of twaddle is talked about these early machines, but this is partly the fault of contemporary reporters who confused inclined walkways with machines that formed steps. Yes Blog 3 Dec 2015 - some editing done.
2 Nov 13 (photos added). [latest update of about fifty].
11 May 2013 On the 55 Broadway Labyrinth This famous building is about to shut down as the London Underground headquarters and words must be said. The TfL press releases go on (and on) about Pick's 1929 creation but the site was a transport HQ in Victorian times so the record needs putting straight (again). Yes Blog 20 Jun 13
5 May 2013 Metropolitan Railway Demonstration and Trial Trips The spur for this was the reproduction of a very well known photo of Gladstone and others in a truck inspecting the Met in 1862 prior to opening, and the suggestion the photo was 'a mystery' as no inspection 'is recorded' on the day suggested. It took ten minutes to find a newspaper report, but so much other information tumbled at me that there seemed to be a story to be told. Yes Blog 2 Jun 13
14 April 2013 Wembley - an interesting kind of place History happens in the oddest of places and when one begins to delve it is sometimes surprising how much of it turns up. Wembley Park is largely the creation of the Metropolitan Railway, which had several interests there, and as a by-product tried out some electrification experiments. Then there is the mystery of the buried locomotive. And more. Yes Blog 1 May 13
14 April 2013 Not first Royal presences at Baker Street Inevitably, the royal visit to Baker Street by Her Majesty received wide press coverage, with detail drawn heavily from fairly fact-free press releases. Royal presences on the Underground were once not quite so unusual, and a bit of delving has dug up some little known information about Edward VII. Did he actually drive a train? Did you know the company managed to drop him - literally? Yes Blog 1 May 13
9 April 2013 Watford Met isn't what it was I spent some years at Watford Metropolitan and on revisiting the station nearly thirty years on found some things about which to comment. It's changed! Yes Blog 20 Apr 13
30 March 2013 Beck is a four letter word - Underground diagram myths Perhaps it is because there is so little true innovation today that we overly revere certain of those in the past who have made a contribution? Maybe it is slack research, or just loss of communal reason. There are, though, a few, of whom Beck is one, where rational considerations are now all but impossible. I think Beck was a good chap, and I do not criticize him or his work (actually I'd like to know a lot more about his work, but that would involve research assistants doing a proper job and not copying and pasting press releases and wikipedia). What I object to is some of the utter twaddle that is said of him, now elevating him virtually to a state of sainthood. What rubbish. So I wrote about it. Yes Blog
23 March 2013 Traffic Lights - An unusual use for a railway signal frame Electric or electro-pneumatic power signal frames were commonplace on railways by the 1920s, but to find one installed in London's Piccadilly (St James's Street) is surely a very unusual application. It was needed to control early traffic signals, and with few precedents to follow perhaps it was natural to use railway signalling as an example. I thought it should be better known about. Yes Blog
20 March 2013 Mind The Gap for beginners The term 'Mind The Gap' is now so closely associated with the Underground it has become a cliche. In fact there is a great deal of twaddle associated with it. Time to put the record straight and put down a few facts. This process rather overwhelmed the blog so it has been set out in article form. Yes Article on Metadyne website
16 March 2013 33 trains an hour - but why not 40? This item was inspired by my discovery of a Hampstead Railway working timetable of 1910 that offered a service of 40 trains an hour on part of what is today's Northern Line under difficult circumstances that included multiple train lengths and uncoupling. This is contrasted with the recent introduction of 33 trains an hour on the Victoria Line. Yes Blog
26 February 2013 Why is good customer service so under-rated? The self explanatory title was initiated by continuing junk mail from Virgin Media trying to woo me back having lost me as a customer when called NTL. It costs a great deal of money to get new customers, or get old ones to return, so why don't these monoliths do more to keep the ones they have already. Customers don't want gimmicks, they want good customer service and a product that works. Conclusions are suggested. Yes Blog
24 February 2013 Victoria Line Train Indicators and Train Despatch As the Victoria line begins operating at 33 trains an hour, some alterations are made to train despatch methods. But what is happening to the train indicators on the platforms, which are slowing down? Yes Blog
26 January 2013 Gladstone's final railway journey Every now and then I hear stories about Gladstone's body being moved on the Underground. This half-truth is explored and the full story made known. Yes Blog 1 Mar 13
2 January 2013 The Clandestine Story of Electricity Supply The impending closure of the Christchurch Electricity Museum highlights an appalling lack of interest in the history of Britain's electricity supply, surely one of the main transforming technologies in this country. Why doesn't officialdom care? Yes Blog
15 December 2012 London orbital completed at last The London Overground is complete. The author takes a ride on the new section to Clapham Junction and reflects on what he saw. Yes Blog
1 December 2012 No change at Earls Court? The track layout at Earls Court requires the eastbound Edgware Road service to cross the main eastbound service on the level, constraining ultimate track capacity. The Earls Court redevelopment provides a once-in-a-century opportunity to correct this shortcoming. Will the opportunity be seized? What do you think? Yes Blog

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