This week we saw the Met office actually get something right, despite a number of false predictions this week saw us actually get some snow. It’s when this happens, I actually feel embarrassed to be a Brit.
It started off at the beginning of the week with a weather warning that most of the east coast were going to be hit by a pocket of cold air building up over the Baltic assisted by wind coming from Siberia. Very quickly the media started building the hype instantly followed by the rail companies who were already reducing services despite the fact no snow had fell. By Tuesday my area had received around and inch of snow yet many mainline trains through Harlow were cancelled. My daughter had a nightmare getting to work and getting back home again, despite at this point the snow being no worse than the past couple of years. The daily travel for me which involves 32 of my 38 mile trip on the M25, this was great as most people had listened to the media and decided it was too dangerous to leave home, this remained the same for the next three days. Some of my staff were unable to come in due to railway stations being closed due to snow on the platforms!!! The bus industry struggled on with most operators running a Sunday service. All of my mobile support staff managed to get to work through the week.
God forbid we ever get one of those winters we had in the late 70’s or even the 1963 winter. I don’t think the country has the moral fibre to cope. I remember in 1985 I drove a coach to Westendorf in the Tirol, it was a 24 hour drive, it started snowing on our last pick up in south London and never stopped all the way to Westendorf. When we arrived the hotel owner warned us that it was going to be -32c overnight, I of course, answered in total disbelief that it wasn’t that cold on the Russian front and me and the other driver went off to the bar. It took me 8 hours to get back into the coach (frozen doors) and a further three days to get the coach running again. I left it running overnight for another seven days.
I don’t think as a society we have the energy or brains to adapt when things get rough, it’s a poor state of affairs.
I went out on Thursday for a drive around the local lanes and couldn’t believe the number of cars in ditches, one of which was a 2017 plate top of the range Mercedes. This car would have all the bells and whistles fitted including ABS, EBS and Traction control and still the driver managed to loose control and put it in a ditch. This is another theory I have. Modern cars, trucks and buses have no physical link between the driver and the road. Throttle and Brakes are now controlled electronically, these systems receive inputs from the driver and the vehicle ECU’s carry out the requests. The driver doesn’t actually ‘feel’ that road, I think there should be a way of disabling these controls for this sort of weather. You see so many drivers trying to get up or down hills beaten by the abs or traction control. This is why I love my old Landrover, the second you make a mistake you feel it and can adjust.
Sometimes modernising doesn’t always work. I remember in the 90’s we started seeing a problem with trailer fires in the UK, this was blamed on a change in trailer coupling configurations, not the fifth wheel coupling but the air couplings. What used to happen was that the red line (which feeds the trailer supply tanks) would become unseated during the journey and stop feeding the air tanks. Continuous braking would deplete the tanks so much that the there was not enough air to hold the trailer brakes off, and gradually they would come on. This wasn’t a new phenomenon, it has always happened. What had changed was at the front of the combination, the tractor unit. Years ago you when buying a tractor unit you would specify the tractor with enough power for what you needed, if you were a bread company driving mainly around pan flat London, you would get a small engine, however if you were pulling heavy loads up and down the motorway you would go for the large option, normally 300 bhp. Due to changes in engine technology in the early 90’s when we moved from mechanical controls to electronic diesel control meant that you could squeeze more power out of a smaller engine and vary that output according to the driver/trucks needs. And this is where the problem starts. For instance I am driving a 1985 290hp ERF up Shap on the M6 (a long drag) while I am going up the climb flat out squeezing all the horses from the engine and probably running at 45-50 mph, the brakes start applying I after a very short time notice a drop in speed despite my foot being to the floor, I know something is wrong. Spin that forward 10 years and I am driving an MAN with a 250hp truck which can achive 500hp when needed. Now I am driving up Shap in top gear my foot is on the floor, due to the speed of the truck the engine is supplying around 300hp. The trailer brakes start to apply and the truck ECU starts to slow slightly, it notices that the throttle is still on the floor so starts putting on more power to negate the slowing down, the driver notices nothing. The ECU keeps upping the power until it reaches maximum output, its is only at this point the driver might notice that there is something wrong, by then the trailer brakes are glowing red and as soon as he stops, the brakes no longer get the cooling effect of the wind resistance and up she goes. A prime example where advances in technology aren’t always a good thing. The problem with trailer fires are much reduced now due to an addition to annual test which now incorporates a check on the sealing arrangements of the red coupling.
This has pissed me off this morning. I walk my dog through some woods near me, its a nice spot with deer and farmers fields once you get going. The first part skirts the edge of Harlow cemetery and this is what I came across this morning, if you look in the background you can see the lines of graves. These three balloons never even managed 100yds. I burst them and picked them up and they were in memory of some lads Nan. They probably cost £10-£15, Johnny’s parents should have told him that his Nan can’t see the balloons and if he wanted a memory he should have planted a tree or give the money to a donkey sanctuary or anything other than this. You’ve gotta love this bling generation, all bloody show!
Right, it’s the weekend and I’m off to do some chores, Mrs H is off up her parents tomorrow so its just me and the dog next week.