HPMRS Raildate Roundabout

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by Howard Sprenger (unless otherwise credited)

More things culled from RAILDATE MEMO, plus anything extra that's come my way.

Report from RTP

Thanks to Lawrence for the following:

 No real rail involvement on my RTP Trip, but a few snippets:
 1) There is a railway shop on the lower level of Crabtree Valley Mall,
    which seems to have a good stock of LGB, Lionel HO, Brio wooden
    railway etc, plus a few familiar names like Woodland Scenics, and a
    few unfamiliar items like US train whistles made out of local
    cedarwood and sounding very realistic in spite of that!
 2) And talking of whistles, the railway through Durham appears well
    used in spite of the fact that I've never SEEN a train on it!  I've
    heard them several times, including last Sunday when I was walking
    round the Sarah P. Duke Gardens (well worth seeing in their own
 3) AND FINALLY - there is now one train each way each day from Raleigh
    to Charlotte in the west and Washington in the east.  Might be worth
    taking the trip some time.  Two caveats though:
    a) You might wish to take a taxi to Raleigh station.  I get the
    impression that while the trains are fine, the station leaves a bit
    to be desired in its ambience (haven't been there myself)
    b) Beware if you are a smoker.  A smoking wife of an RTP Colleague
    of mine was put on the train by her husband, and as it pulled out of
    Raleigh she asked the conductor "Where's the smoking car?"  He
    replied with a smile, "There isn't one - so what are you going to be
    doing for the next four hours?"  "Thinking of murder", she said...
    which apparently caused the whole car to fall about laughing!

Commuting with a Difference

From Lawrence Hanney:

- One new line, two railway companies, three routes, four journeys and five pounds!

A few weeks ago I had 2 consecutive days' business in London, so I thought I'd stay with some friends in Crowthorne and travel up from there, rather than travelling from Winchester each day. Apart from saving *** money, it was an opportunity to see some new railways.

Crowthorne is an unstaffed station on the North Downs line, and a train service is operated by Thames Trains approximately hourly from Gatwick Airport to Reading via Guildford.

                        Victoria O     O Waterloo
       O Reading                  \   /
         \ Wokingham               \ /
          O------O------------------O Clapham
    Crow- !    Ascot               /!\
    thorneO                       / ! \
          !                      /  !  \
   F'bro  O F'bro               /   !   \
   Main   V North   Woking     /    !    \
   --O----------------O-------o     !     O East
          A           /            /      ! Croydon
          !          /            /       !
          !         /            /        !
           \       /            /         !
    Alton--)\(----/            /          !
             \   /            /           !
              \ /            /            !
       Guild-  O------------O-------      !
       ford    !           Effingham      !
               !                          !
               !   Dorking DeepDene       !
               !                          !
               V Portsmouth               V Gatwick

Thus, if you want to get from Crowthorne to Waterloo, you either go north to Wokingham, reverse direction and travel on South West Trains via Ascot and Staines to Waterloo, OR you go South to Guildford and in from there via either Woking or Effingham Junction. The line crosses under the South Western main line at Farnborough, but unless you want a walk of over a mile from Farnborough North to Farnborough Main, a change here is not an option.

This has some interesting implications when you arrive at Waterloo and have to decide which of the three routes is the quickest - the only way to answer the question is to know the timetable! Either way, the shortest time journey takes 10 minutes longer than the journey from Winchester!

The first day, I caught the 7.30 from Crowthorne, bought at ticket for $17.30 at Wokingham, and got to Waterloo at 8.40. On the way back the Effingham junction route was fastest, with a good connection at Guildford just missed by the train which came via Woking!

The second morning I made exactly the same journey - and was charged $16.80. So I wrote to both train companies about it, and got a brush-off from Thames Trains and a confirmation of the correct fare and $5 in vouchers for train tickets from South West Trains! At least SOME people in the privatised railway know how to look after customers!

Footplate Experience Course

Mark Dyche writes...

For those who have only ever read about driving a real steam engine and would like to try, but don't feel happy with the thought of controlling 50+ tonnes of loco, how about a half ton version?

I have recently taken the course offered by Narogauge on the Moors Valley Railway in the Moors Valley Country Park, near Ringwood. The track is 7 1/4-inch gauge but the locos are big enough to ride in (if you remove the roof in my case!). The courses occur on Saturdays and there are two students and one instructor only, so you get half the time driving.

Starting just after 9am, you help light up, oil, and have a chance to practice in the yard before going out onto the main track and coupling up to three open coaches. Your instructor sits in the first with a second vacuum brake control in case of problems.

The track is about a mile round, with sufficient gradients and bends that you have to drive the loco most of the time. The one we were using, TALOS, is an 0-4-2T so is one of the smallest there, but it has the full complement of controls: manual brakes on the engine and vacuum for the coaches, two injectors, normal (walchearts?) valve gear, and coal firing.

The track has two stations and fully-interlocked, track-circuited colour lights so if you follow the train used for paying passengers, which you do after a couple of circuits, you have operating signals to obey.

I estimate that we went round the circuit about twenty times so each student must have covered ten miles driving during the day. At the end, we ran the engine back to the shed to drop the fire, empty the boiler and put the engine into the shed.

The price is 65 pounds each, which includes a sandwich lunch and tea at intervals. Thoroughly recommended!

I have a handout with some more details and the phone number if you would like a copy.

QE2 and the Orient Express

My thanks to former member Jeff Wiles for sending me a copy of a brochure put out by Cunard listing times of connecting trains from Victoria to the QE2 Terminal in Southampton docks. Briefly, the trains run from and to Victoria to meet the QE2 on days when she is in port. The cost is $120 single, and $180 return, and I believe the trains are deisel-hauled. However they do give an opportunity to see old-style boat trains running into the docks. If anyone would like a copy of the brochure giving dates and times - let me know.

Letter from Iberia (1)

I was delighted to see former HPMRS member, Ken Lunn, when he popped in a couple of weeks ago on one of his visits from Spain. He is currently doing some work for Hewlett-Packard, and has an Internet e-mail userid:


so the poor chap is receiving copies of RAILDATE again! After I sent him the last one, he sent the following:

 Thanks for RAILDATE.  It seems that nothing changes!  Still Steam
 Days at Didcot and the Gauge O Guild meeting in Winchester.
 I haven't yet discovered the secret of printing from the mail window
 in Unix, so I had to transfer the file to my PC.  (Don't worry,
 though, that was fairly simple of even me.)
 I haven't been using the trains here much recently.  When I started my
 contract with HP a year ago, I commuted in by train and it took me
 two-and-a-half hours each way.  So now I use my car.  And I'm still
 planning to spend a few hours logging activity at Barcelona Sants
 station and also at my own local station, Sant Vicenc de Calders.
 One thing I did last year was to take a trip on the new Line 2 of the
 Barcelona Metro (they already had lines 1, 3, 4, and 5 open for many
 years).  I even took some photos, with permission.  (Well, the man on
 the platform at Sagrada Familia station turned his back when I asked!)
 Please say hello to all fellow  HPMRS  members and ex-members,
 especially those I missed last month when I was over in England.

Letter from Iberia (2)

Ken Lunn writes:

  In the bad old days when I was at HP (i.e. Hursley Park), we had some
  PC software that simulated operations at various places.  I seem to
  remember that Paddington was one of them.  As I'm thinking of getting
  some for my Aptiva, I wondered if you or any other  HPMRS er could
  recommend any particularly good ones.  If you've got the supplier's
  address, that would be great, so that I could order them.  I don't
  particularly want to order them blind from the small-ads in Railway
  Modeller, which I picked up when I was in the UK.
  We've seen several "Channel-Tunnel Express" trains recently, passing
  through Coma-Ruga.  They consist entirely of closed freight wagons
  bearing the Ford motor company logo.  Presumably they are transporting
  car components between the UK (Dagenham or Halewood, I guess) and the
  Ford plant near Valencia.

Our simulations are by SIAM, and I've sent their address to Ken. If you can recommend any other PC games or simulations, please let Ken know.

Letter from Iberia (3)

Ken Lunn writes:

  An item of news spotted in last Sunday's La Vanguardia.
  Starting in January next, RENFE are to run high-speed trains (similar
  to Eurostar and the French TGV) between Barcelona and Valencia.  The
  journey time will initially be reduced from 3-1/2 hours to under 3,
  coming down to 2-1/4 in 2002 when the work will be complete.  RENFE
  have been upgrading some sections of the track to take the new trains,
  though there will be no upgrades between Barcelona and Coma-Ruga where
  I live. Our local station is Sant Vicenc de Calders and we have an
  intensive commuter service; it would be all but impossible to fit in
  any more trains, let alone any running at higher speeds.
  Six units will operate the service.  They are identical to the 18
  units currently working between Madrid and Sevilla, except that they
  will use the standard RENFE gauge of about 5'6" (the Madrid-Sevilla
  line is 4'8-1/2" gauge).  They are built by GEC-Alsthom.  Because the
  new trains will be running on "normal" track, their top speed will be
  limited to 220 kph.

If anyone wants any more details, contact Ken at:


Letter from Iberia (4)

Ken Lunn writes:

 I've just got back from a week's holiday in Washington DC.  The metro
 there is rather drab: stations lined with concrete blocks and no
 adverts or significant other brightenings.  And no graffiti!  I was
 told that the trains are all stored in secure depots, and CCTV
 effectively deters vandalism.  Personally I find some of the graffiti
 in London and Barcelona quite attractive, but perhaps that's the
 anarchist in me!
 The Union Station in Washington is quite magnificent, a huge white
 stone building with great arches and colonades.  Inside is a
 magnificent hall with lots of good shops, cafes, etc.  I didn't see
 any trains, though.  The arrival/departure board had quite a few
 indicated and mostly "on time", but they were way out of sight, a bit
 like Euston; you have to have a valid ticket to gain access to the
 platforms.  Amtrak has made vast strides in the last twenty years,
 though from a very run-down base.  However the U.S. railway system is
 still principally geared to freight.

Letter from Canada

From Lawrence Hanney...

 There's a Prototype for Everything!
 In the Don Valley, barely a mile from the Toronto Lab, an offshoot of
 the Canadian Pacific crosses an embankment.  There are arches
 penetrating the embankment at irregular intervals, and one of these has
 been painted the colours of the rainbow!
 It certainly attracts your attention as you drive up the neighbouring
 Don Valley Parkway, and would definitely make a "different" model.  And
 when someone sees it and says "You'd never find that on the prototype"
 one could have the smug satisfaction of saying "Oh yes you can!"

An Historic Day

Friday 27th September was the very last day that Royal Mail items were carried by scheduled passenger train. From the following Monday, all mail started to be carried by dedicated RES-operated trains (including the new Class 325s - I think that's the correct number!) The main hub of the operation is now at the newly-opened London Distribution Centre (LDC), to which access can be gained from all points of the compass. This is the first main line terminus to open since the Great Central Railway built Marylebone, but it will never see a passenger.

All mail is "containerised" in York trailers, which are specially made to fit into the dedicated trains. Onward distribution from railheads is, of course, by lorry, but the complete rail/road distribution system has been created from scratch to cater exclusively for Post Office traffic. Even the platforms at the LDC are higher than normal to aid the loading of the York trailers - one very good reason why passenger trains will never use the station!

So, no more will the "Night Mail" stop at Crewe and await the arrival of the Holyhead train. Gone will be the hectic slamming of doors at dead of night as, for a brief period, stations fill with trains, and platforms bustle with electric tractors hauling trailers full of sacks with labels proclaiming "Gloster" and Lester".

Well, maybe that all went a long time ago, but the level of investment in the new system is encouraging, to say the least, and arose out of the old BR working with the Post Office to provide the service that the customer actually wanted. Now there's a novelty!

Guest Speaker - 14th October

A good crowd welcomed Kevin Robertson when he came to talk about Signalling on 14th October. Accompanied by several slides of signal boxes (exterior and interior) together with shots of various other bits of signalling-related equipment, Kevin described various aspects of the subject. As well as the historical and technical side of signalling, Kevin's many anecdotes (a lot of them personal) contributed to a very interesting evening.

After the talk, there was an ad-hoc bookfair, with "Rod Blakeman's Second-Hand Bookshop" complementing a range of books brought by Kevin (who even bought some of Rod's books!)

Sincere thanks to all who attended.

Web Pages

Harvey Saunders writes...

 I was told of the following railway website:
 This turned out to be just a routing site - providing links to a few
 other sites:
 - Video/CD retailers
 - Preservation sites
 The blurb says that there are all sorts of other things, but there
 aren't, yet.
 The preservation links include ones to the Isle of Wight and the Severn
 I tried the Isle of Wight, but gave up after 10 mins waiting for the
 file to finish loading.  It looked interesting, but the url indicated
 that it was actually a student's ID at Exeter University.  As with so
 much on the net, you need the patience of Job to actually get anything

I shall be adding a link to this page from the HPMRS pages, and although it may be a bit limited at present, it's nice to see a UK page added to the Web. It has potential, so keep an eye on it...

And Harvey Saunders writes again...

 Have you checked  http://www.rail.co.uk lately?  The various operating
 companies (except SWT) are getting their web sites going, and most of
 them are planning to put their timetables online - Great Western's is
 there already.

RAILDATE and Private Eye in Merger Talks

Well, not quite, but as you know, I've been running an occasional feature in RAILDATE called "Off the Rails", and most of the stories have been unashamedly recycled from the "Signal Failures" column in "The Eye" - except one. This was the story about South West Trains rail-link services that had been put out to tender, and awarded to Hampshire Bus - both companies being owned by Stagecoach, of course. This was (as mentioned at the AGM) a "RAILDATE scoop". Anyway, I decided to return the favour and sent the story up to "Private Eye". A week or two later, the phone rang at about 10.00pm. It was Private Eye columnist and left-wing campaigner and journalist, Paul Foot, who'd rung to say he was interested in the story, wanted to check it out (reassuring), and asked me whether I had any more dark tales about Stagecoach!

Anonymity is assured (I'm told) so when the piece finally appeared in the magazine, I'm afraid HPMRS didn't get a mention, and neither did I (thank goodness). But remember - YOU READ IT HERE FIRST!

The Midland Railway Society

Interested in the Midland Railway?

Then join the Midland Railway Society...

The society caters for all who are interested in the Midland, including its predecessors, successors, joint lines, and working arrangements.

It produces a journal three times a year, newsletters, and other occasional publications, as well as organising visits and meetings of Midland interest.

For further information and application form, contact:

The Membership Secretary: Barrie Fitch, 4 Canal Road, Yapton, West Sussex, BN18 0HA.

The Chairman: Glynn Waite, 113 Green Oak Road, Totley, Sheffield, S17 4FS.

HPMRS Library

Since Mike Williams' departure, all the books, magazines, videos and PC games have been moved down to the Railway Room. Back numbers of the magazines are stacked under the layout (hopefully to be sorted into some meaningful order some time in the future) and books, videos and PC games are locked away in the blue chest.

If you wish to borrow (or return) books, videos or games, just help yourself, BUT...



SIGN IT AGAIN to show what's COME BACK.

You can get into the room by borrowing the key from the Club Office.

To get into the trunk, you will have to exercise your dexterity and patience with the combination lock, which is now fitted. The combination is 12-22-18. To unlock, follow carefully...

 - Turn clockwise at least one full turn to 1st number
 - Turn anticlockwise a full turn PAST 1st number, stop on 2nd
 - Turn clockwise again just as far as 3rd number
 - Pull open.

I shall include the numbers permanently at the bottom of RAILDATE as a reminder (but with no clue as to what they mean).


I don't know how many of you follow postings to ***'s COMPTRN FORUM, but there has recently been some correspondence on a computer control interface for model railways by J-P Maniquaire, a French ***er.

Mark Dyche has printed the hardware description of the interface, so if you think you might be interested in this form of control, and you would like a copy, please contact Mark.

Calling All Train Spotters

Brian Carter - Waterloo - 16th October 1996:

 I caught the 8.52am from Eastleigh and we had an uneventful run up to
 Waterloo, except for arriving 2 mins late (reason unknown), but as we
 approached the South end of the Covent Garden complex I observed what
 I think was Clan Line (but it may have been Taw Valley, as I was unable
 to see the number) on the line that went under the SW main line.  It was
 moving light engine, albeit very slowly under its own steam.  I wonder
 whether this was a positioning or turning move out of Southall, or was
 it returning to base following a run on a special?

Brian Carter - Hursley - 18th October 1996:

 Ref my siting of a loco on Wednesday, my assumption as to which locos
 were a possibility was correct, as I have just read in the Sept Railway
 Magazine railtour roundup, that 34027 was booked to work a Victoria-
 Portsmouth-Victoria steam tour using the VSOE stock on the 16th Oct.
 However their is a rider that 35028 may be used in place of 34027, as
 either will work the VSOE bookings subject to availability.
 So I guess when I saw the loco it was making its way to Victoria to pick
 up the stock.

From Graham Mackenzie...

 I have just spent a very enjoyable week cruising the Grand Union Canal
 from Braunston to Milton Keynes and return.  For a large part of the
 time, it follows the WCML very closely and I was able to witness the
 local railway scene.
 During daylight hours, most of the trains are passenger with a class 87
 or 90 in push-pull mode, with between 8 and 10 coaches.  There is an
 occassional HST125 on an inter-regional and a very few EMUs.  One
 regular working was on of the new Royal Mail EMUs which passed
 mid-afternoon, daily.  There were also a few container trains with
 class 90 power and a few other freights.  Anything other than electric
 power seems to be rare.
 Probably worth a visit during the summer, if overhead electrics are your
 scene.  At least they still have locos!

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