The Anonymous Widower

The Updating Of Newcastle Station

Newcastle station is one of the most important stations on the East Coast Main Line. I took these pictures of the station redevelopment as I passed through.

My memories of the station usually involve how blustery it can be. The glazing of the front of the station, may not be as dramatic as that at Strasbourg, but it did seem to make the station entrance a lot more civilised. The position of the ticket machines and information screens under the portico, is an idea that could have been borrowed from the French station, with which it shares a lot of operational characteristics, like fast trains to the capital, an extensive regional network and a below-ground metro or tram.

Newcastle has now joined Kings Cross and Liverpool Lime Street, where you can walk straight outside the station and be in a partly-pedestrianised area, where you can get your bearings of the city, that might be unknown to you. As the pictures show work is still continuing in this area.

Newcastle is one of six operational stations in the UK, that is a Grade One Listed Building. The others are Bristol Temple Meads, Huddersfield, Kings Cross, Paddington and St. Pancras. I can see Manchester Victoria joining this elite group, when it is completed.

March 13, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

Serial Cooking – Chicken, Spinach And Tomato Stew

This is another recipe from Lindsey Bareham in The Times.

It was certainly worth cooking.

Note how to avoid cutting the chicken, I used some chicken chunks from Waitrose.

The only tricky bit was skinning the tomatoes in boiling water. But I’ve done it twice now and it’s not that difficult.

March 10, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

Could Tram-Trains Be Used To Advantage In Blackpool?

Blackpool tramway is unique in the United Kingdom in that it runs a mixture of modern and heritage trams, which I’ve only seen done on a big scale in Lisbon, where like Blackpool, the heritage trams are a tourist attraction.

Blackpool’s trams have two major problems.

The obvious one is that the trams do not serve the main railway station at Blackpool North.

The second is that the trams don’t connect well to any of the stations served by the Blackpool South to Colne service. The best connection is  a two hundred metre walk between Squires Gate station and Starr Gate tram stop.

The branch to Blackpool North is being electrified and this should be completed in 2017. The final report of the North of England Electrification Task Force has also recommended that the lines from Burnley to Colne  and Kirkham to Blackpool South be electrified in the Tier Two group of lines to be wired.

So it would be reasonable to assume that in a few years Blackpool will have two stations with electric trains to Preston, Liverpool and beyond.

This is a Google Earth image of the area between the two stations.

Blackpool North and South Stations

Blackpool North and South Stations

Blackpool North is indicated by the red arrow and Blackpool South at the bottom of the image, about five hundred metres or so from the sea front and a short walk south of the football ground and extensive car parking for visitors. Neither the football ground or the car parking are well served by the current tramway.

Blackpool South

This Google Earth image shows the area north of Blackpool South to the football ground to a larger scale.

North of Blackpool South Station

North of Blackpool South Station

I feel that it should be possible for a tram to start northwards from Blackpool South station, go past the car parks and the football ground and then thread its way through to the main tramway route along the sea front.

To the south of the station the rail line is single track all the way to Kirkham and Wesham station, where it joins the main Blackpool branch to Blackpool North.

As this line is now slated for electrification, there are probably cases to electrify it to either main line standard or make the line an extension of the tramway.

If tram-trains successfully pass their trial between Sheffield and Rotherham, then surely using tram-trains to work the services between Blackpool South and Colne, will be looked at seriously.

One factor that could come into the discussion about upgrading of the Blackpool South branch is the important golf course at Royal Lytham and St. Annes, as Ansdell and Fairhaven station is adjacent to the course and is used to transport spectators for important tournaments.

So when will the next Open Championship be staged at Royal Lytham?

Blackpool North

At Blackpool North station, the tram extension is now funded and is being planned.

But will the announcement of electrification to Blackpool South and hopefully successful trialling of tram-trains in Rotherham, add extra possibilities to how the extension to Blackpool North station is implemented?

This is the Google Earth image of Blackpool North station, which is indicated by a red arrow, to the sea front.

Blackpool North Station

Wikipedia also indicates that the spur to the station will join the main tramway north of the North Pier, which is the pier shown in the image.

One possible way of building the spur, would be to make it compatible with tram-trains so that some trains arriving at Blackpool North could transfer to the tramway.

The Karlsruhe Model

If both Blockpool stations were to be served by tram-trains that then ran between the two two stations, then would be an example of the classic Karlsruhe model that has been successfully working in the city since 1992.

Between the two stations, they would work as trams and once clear of the tramway, they would work as normal trains.

Advantages Of Using Tram-Trains Between The Two Blackpool Stations

The tram-train services would probably be on a simple loop between the two stations, with tram-trains turning back at either Kirkham and Wesham or Preston stations. Alternatively, services could be something more substantial serving the wider area. Certainly some tram-trains would go all the way to Colne to replace the current service.

But whatever is done, if tram-trains are used to link the two stations, various advantages will be seen.

1. Long distance services into Blackpool North would have easier access to the tram network, which would probably be step free.

2.As Preston would probably have more trains to Blackpool, this would give Blackpool better access to other long distance services to say Glasgow, Edinburgh, London and Birmingham.

3. Local services running tram-trains from perhaps Preston and Colne would have immediate access to some of the central tram stops in Blackpool, as these stops would be on the link between the two stations.

4. Blackpool South station would become a simple tram stop.

5. Space might also be released at Blackpool North station, depending on how much space was needed for the tram-train stop.

6. Extra trams would be running on the busiest central section of the tramway.

7.If the football ground and the main car parks were on the central loop, this would improve transport links to the town.

Probably the most difficult thing to get right would be the ticketing method, which London has shown must be based on a contactless bank card.

Implications Of Tram-Trains On Services To Colne

With the announcement that the East Lancashire Line is to be electrified to Colne, there would be no problem running tram-trains through both Blackpool stations and then through Preston and on to Colne.

The line from Rose Grove to Colne appears to be mainly single track, with some stations looking like tram stops, with a pile of bricks at the track-side.

If tram-trains were to run on the Colne Line as trams, this would actually be a service upgrade, despite the apparent downgrading of the line from trains to trams. If the powers-that-be thought that more stops were needed, these would be simple affairs, with a low platform on one or both sides of the track, with perhaps a simple shelter and a ticket machine. As on other tram lines in the UK, passengers would walk across the line rather than use an expensive footbridge. To see what is possible on a good tramway, look at this post about good stop design for trams and tram-trains.

But the two biggest improvements would be a much more frequent service, that probably ran at least twice an hour on weekdays and hourly on Sundays, that used new comfortable electric low-floor tram-trains something like the Class 399, being used for trials in Sheffield.

As to speed, the increased acceleration of the tram-trains would mean that stopping wasn’t as time-consuming as on say a Class 142 train. also outside of urban areas and some way from stops, they would be able to run at a more appropriate speed using the railway rules currently in force on the line. Incidentally, some UK trams like Croydon and Edinburgh go faster than you think when the track allows.

Tram-trains would appear at a cursory glance, to be a simple and affordable way to improve services in this neglected part of Lancashire.

Improving Transport In Burnley

Burnley is one of those places most famous outside the local area for football, but it is a market town of over seventy thousand people. The town probably needs improved transport connections, despite having four railway stations, the most important of which; Burnley Manchester Road has recently been rebuilt.

A big improvement will come by electrifying all of the lines, which will mean that Rose Grove and Manchester Road, will be on an important electrified artery between Leeds and Preston. The other line is the Colne Branch of the East Lancashire Line and this has three stations in the town; Rose Grove, Burnley Barracks and Burnley Central.

This Google Earth image shows the four stations as they relate to Burnley.

Burnley And Its Stations

Burnley And Its Stations

Rose Grove is at the West, just to the south of the M65 motorway and is served by both lines. The Colne Line curves to the north with the two stations at Barracks and Central to the western end of the town centre, which is indicated by the red arrow. Manchester Road station is at the southern edge of the image, a steep walk up the hill from the town centre.

If the Colne Line were to be run by tram-trains, would this create a better and more accessible railway for Burnley.

As an example of what could happen, north from Burnley Central , the Colne Line follows the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, so are there possibilities to use a tram-train to give better access to the countryside above the town?

Using tram-trains on the Colne Line could improve public transport in Burnley and the other towns like Nelson and Colne, without laying a metre of new expensive railway.

But why stop the trains at Colne?

The final report of the North of England Electrification Task Force has also recommended that the lines from Skipton to Carlisle via Settle be electrified in the Tier Three group of lines to be wired.

The Skipton – East Lancashire Rail Action Partnership is also campaigning for the line between Colne and Skipton to be reinstated. This map of the missing part of the line is taken from the Wikipedia entry.

Skipton To Colne

Skipton To Colne

Would the missing link be easier and more affordable to build, if it continued as a modern, single-track tramway?

This type of line would also be less visually intrusive, if it used 750 V DC overhead wires, which are all that would be needed for the Class 399 tram-train.

Building this link between Skipton and Colne would further connect the electrified lines in the Leeds area, with the soon to be electrified ones of North Lancashire. As the map shows, Skipton is on the iconic route through Settle between Leeds and Carlisle, which is also in the queue for electrification.

Skipton is the key to the success of any scheme to improve the Colne Line and link it to the town. The town is known as the Gateway to the Dales and already has direct services to London. This section in Wikipedia shows that there are impressive plans for services in the future.

But that was written before the North of England Electrification Task Force reported that Skipton to Carlisle through Settle was an electrification scheme for Tier Three. This was probably included more for freight reasons, as it creates a new route for electrified freight trains from Yorkshire, the East Midlands and the Electric Spine from Southampton to Scotland.

And to think that the line was nearly closed, but a certain Michael Portillo didn’t sign it off!

So will we see electrified passenger services from the South coming up via Leeds and Skipton to Carlisle? I think we will and if the Borders Railway is a success, then I think in perhaps 2040, these trains will reach Edinburgh.

So I think this all means that the tram-trains to Colne, should be used to create a link to Skipton.

Services Between Blackpool And Liverpool

Currently there is just a measly single train each hour between Blackpool and Liverpool.

Ormskirk to Preston is another line that could be chosen for electrification and it is likely that under the Liverpool rules it will be served by four trains per hour.

So I think it is reasonable to assume that when electrification to Blackpool North is complete, that the frequency of Liverpool-Blackpool services will be increased. After all when electrification is complete various routes via Ormskirk, Wigan, Newton-Le-Willows and St. Helens will all be possible.

But the possibility also exists for the use of tram-trains on this route, which will then go round the loop in Blackpool.

Obviously, passenger numbers will determine what services are worth trialling.

There is also the possibility of linking Royal Lytham and St. Annes with the other high-quality golf courses south of Southport.


The Blackpool tramway could use tram-trains to connect the electrified stations at Blackpool North and South, and over a wider network, especially over the Colne Line and its possible extension to Skipton.







March 7, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | 1 Comment

Custom House Station – 25th February 2015

I took these pictures today.

The works are showing how long the Crossrail stations will be. As a Crossrail engineer said to me a few months ago, you may get complaints about all the walking the two hundred metres from one end of the train to the other. As she was female, I suspect she was thinking high heels and not her sensible work boots.

February 25, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

Petite France

Petite France is an area of Strasbourg, that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


I walked around for an hour and had lunch there.



February 19, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized, World | , , | Leave a comment

Could This Be From Where Crossrail 2 Is Dug?

As I trundled along the Gospel Oak to Barking Line (GPBlin) between Blackhorse Road and South Tottenham stations, I took these pictures.

As the reservoirs to the east of all this dereliction are going to be turned into the new Walthamstow Wetlands, could this be used as the site from where Crossrail 2 is dug?

This image from Google Earth shows the area.

East Of SouthTottenham Station

East Of SouthTottenham Station

The orange line is the GOBlin and the light blue is the Victoria line. The red arrow indicates South Tottenham station.

The area I photographed lies south of the GOBlin. Note how it is bordered by railways, with the West Anglia Main Line in the east and the double-track curve that connects the two lines in the south. Slightly to the south of where the two lines join at South Tottenham Junction, the River Lee runs close to the site in a south-westerly direction.

So the spoil from the tunnelling could either be used to help create the new wetlands or barged down London’s other navigable river to the Thames. When I worked for Enfield Rolling Mills at Brimsdown in the early 1960s. their supplies of copper wirebars were delivered by barge from London Docks using this route. In those days, the river wasn’t as clean as it is now, and there was quite a lot of commercial traffic.

Britain From Above has some wonderful pictures of the area from the 1930s here. This image shows the River Lee as it goes under the railway.



This modern picture from Google Earth gives a good comparison.

Note how the tracks on the West Anglia Main Line have been reduced from four to two by the closure of the easterly pair of tracks. Proposals for the line include four-tracking from just south of here to Broxbourne.

The large East Warwick Reservoir is just off the picture to the right and the timber yard is now housing.

The GOBlin is shown in orange on the second image and you can just pick it out on the 1933 aerial photo.


February 4, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | 1 Comment

No Contactless Cards On The Emirates Air-Line

This is the welcoming sign you get at the Emirates Air-Line.

No Contactless Cards On The Emirates Air-Line

No Contactless Cards On The Emirates Air-Line

As there is talk that contactless cards are gradually taking over from Oyster, not accepting them, is a really good way to discourage ridership.

January 25, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

A Gallery I Wish I’d Missed

I regretted going to the Musee D’Orsay, as I was tired after my walk and it wasn’t a gallery that was easy to visit, if you were in your sixties and showing the odd sign of wear and tear.

Compared to the Louvre, it was very second rate, with no working lifts and no escalators, and steps everywhere, which would make it probably a no-go for many.

In some ways if your compare it to the Louvre, the four Tates, the Royal Academy and the Louvre, the layout is very 1980s and the Musee D’Orsay desperately needs an update to bring it up to modern standards.

It also annoyed me that photography is not allowed, so I was unable to take pictures of the building, which was one of my reasons for going.

I also felt that the Sade exhibition was rather pretentious, long winded, cramped into a too small exhibition space and badly presented.

It certainly wasn’t good value at I think eleven euros with no senior discount.

January 13, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | 5 Comments

Would Reorganising Cross-Channel Freight Cut Illegal Migration?

People can argue about the advantages and disadvantages of migration into the UK.

But in my view one of the reasons for the high level of illegal immigration into the UK, is that it is a rich source of income for criminal gangs and probably money lenders in countries like Syria, Ethiopia and Somalia, which transport these migrants to the French ports. Never underestimate the role of money-lenders in these sort of enterprises!

Once in the ports, they probably only have reliable way to get into the UK and that is to sneak or be welcomed aboard a truck. I have only heard very occasionally of an illegal immigrant trying to get into the UK in someone’s car.

So could we reorganise cross-channel freight to cut illegal migration?

It would be a good exercise to analyse truck movements through the Channel Tunnel and see how many could be replaced by a direct rail container transfer. It could be argued that jumping on to a train going at over a hundred kilometres per hour is not easy and this alone would cut the number who try to enter the UK illegally.

Could we also run the truck-shuttles from a dedicated truck terminal at a remote location perhaps fifty kilometres from the tunnel itself? I’ve heard drivers complain of bad facilities and not being able to stop before the tunnel, so this could be a lot better for the drivers. I’m sure the French have a really isolated spot close to the autoroutes. If someone thought about this sort of terminal, it could be made into a very secure and comfortable facility.

Obviously, we’d need a similar facility on the UK side! Manston?

December 21, 2014 Posted by | Travel, Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

How To Be Scientifically-Correct For A Greener And Better World

Matt Ridley’s article about eco-toffs got me thinking. So if I was the world dictator, what would I recommend as a greener lifestyle that was scientifically-correct and hopefully gave you benefits as well!

Cook From Scratch

I have a list of quick delicious nutritious recipes, that I can cook from a series of staples kept in my fridge and store cupboard. I also experiment.

One thing I don’t use is a freezer, except to store frozen peas, although with some dishes I make enough for two and put the one in the fridge for a couple of days later.

Don’t Live In Two Houses

I’ve lived in two houses twice in my life. Once we lived between London and Suffolk and at another we had a second house in Antibes.

Never again! It’s just so much hassle and eventually C and myself got fed up with it all.

So either rent the second house or sell it and invest the money. Any income could be used to have holidays in your favourite hotels!

Don’t Smoke

I look forward to the day, when you don’t see any signs of this filthy habit.

I feel very strongly about this, as our longest son died in part because he smoked.

Don’t Use Lifts For A Couple Of Floors Unless Someone Younger Than You Is Also Riding

We’re all lazy and climbing a few stairs is a good exercise.

But do use a lift, when a lazy soul is using it. And make them feel guilty about their lack of exercise.

Feed Your Mind

Nothing improves your inner self, than seeing exciting events or places you’ve not seen before.I travel a lot and even when I’m at home, I use my Freedom Pass to explore new places in London and the area around.

Go Gluten-Free

I have to be gluten-free as I’m coeliac. But it is a diet choice with a bonus. According to Nottingham University, those on a gluten-free diet are 25% less likely to get cancer.

Invest In Peer-To-Peer Lending

Choose a reputable peer-to-peer lender with the right rate and risk profile for you. Not only will you be getting a better rate on your savings, but you’ll be lending money to individuals and businesses at a rate less than the banks. You’ll also be giving that wunch of bankers a good kicking.

Keep Your Body At Its Ideal Weight And Fitness

I am virtually the same size as I was when I left University in 1968. One doctor told me that the main reason, I recovered from the serious stroke so quickly, was because of the good state of my body.

Smart Meters and Thermostats

I have smart thermostats for my heating that I can set precisely, but despite trying hard, I haven’t managed to get a smart meter fitted for either gas or electricity yet, so I can see my usage on my computer.

Think Seriously About Your Car Usage

Too many households have car ownership that is poorly matched to their needs.

I for example, don’t have a licence any more and don’t have a car. My eyesight is getting better and I suspect that in a year or so, I could get my licence back with ease. But I don’t want the hassle of car ownership, especially as I have so many bus routes everywhere.

My son has also decided he doesn’t need a car and if he wants one for a few hours, he uses something like a Zip-car.

A friend too, had their car stolen and hasn’t replaced it.

So as a car costs several thousand a year to own and run, are your current car arrangements the best and most capital efficient?

In many cases the answer is no!

Traditional Terry Nappies

C and I were very keen on these, especially if they’re paired with a nappy service, which takes away the dirty ones and then delivers the freshly-laundered ones. I can still see C burying her face in the clean nappies and luxuriating at the experience. I have heard mothers of my generation, say that their babies almost begged to be put back in a cloth nappy when they were put in a disposable one.

I’ve also seen in the sewers how many disposable nappies end up there, before being sent to landfill.

We shouldn’t force parents to use traditional nappies by increasing taxes on the disposable ones, as there are people, who for various reasons have to use disposable ones. But we should get the water companies and councils to encourage traditional ones, as they are the major commercial beneficiaries of such a product.

I wonder if I can still fold and fit a traditional nappy.

Use Contract Cleaners

I have a three-bedroomed house and I use contract cleaners, who send two girls once a week for two hours, at a price comparable with what I’d pay for a lady to do say a whole morning.

But the big advantage of this type of cleaning, is that I don’t have to have any cleaning equipment or materials.

So other than food, I have to buy very little in the supermarket. I think it’s just soap, washing-up liquid and washing tablets for clothes.

Walk In Cities

Cities are very interesting places to walk, as there is always something to see and you might just find a nice cafe for a coffee or see a jumper that goes with your favourite trousers or skirt.

Cities should encourage walking by putting up maps and information.

November 7, 2014 Posted by | Health, Uncategorized, World | | 1 Comment



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