Forward, never Backwards

Alf, Model Railway, Modern Technology

We have now started lockdown 2, which compared to the last one should be called lockdown light. I am now working for another bus manufacturer which is considerably different to the last company I worked for. There doesn’t seem to be the secrecy that prevailed with Wrights, even after the company was taken over the same management style continued. This was mostly down to the fact that the new owners put the same people in place who tanked the company last time, so within no time I was feeling the same frustrations as before. I expected a great deal of change and pain for the first twelve months as the new owners put their mark on the company, but this wasn’t the case, we immediately went back to the old ways and after 9 months I decided to move on. The change will come for Wrights, but I didn’t want the wait. I have started a different role with my new company, this has it’s frustrations but that is to be expected as I get used to different responsibilities and a change of culture.

During the lock down and lately, I have taken to walking, I am lucky where I live as I only have to walk for five minutes and I am in farmers fields off on the many public footpaths and bridleways that cris-cross the area. It’s funny, I have lived here for the best part of 27 years and I am only just finding these places, I only live five miles from the northern tip of Epping Forest but rarely go there. I have decided that me and the dog are going to get better acquainted with the forest. I have done a few walks over the years but the area has so much history I would like to get to know more about it. Since taking up walking I find it does give me an improved sense of well being.

Alfie Posing 7/11/20 Great Monk Wood, Epping

My model railway is going well, The hobby has changed so much since I last dabbled. The biggest change is the electronic control of locos. Basically the controller turns the track into a CAN line, the locos have individual chips fitted and signals on the CAN tell the loco’s what to do. It gives you the ability to have a number of engines on the the same line and the ability to work them individually. In the old days (and some puritan still do this) the controller varied the speed of the loco by increasing or decreasing the voltage on the tracks, the drawback being that any locos on the live track would also respond to the voltage which wasn’t ideal. The DCC system provide 14v AC to the track permanently and the loco waits for a signal to move, this means you can park trains up on the same piece of track as other trains, which adds to the realism, you can also run trains at the same time and even bank them. There are other features including lamps etc which can stay lit due to the permanent voltage. The biggest addition though is now you can have sound, Engine noises, steam, whistles etc. I have a couple of locos I have fitted this to, I will add a video at some stage. The advances in this area can be put on the mobile phone industry and it’s advances, the best speaker is probably the iPhone speaker which is rectangular and fits perfectly in most diesel engines, the sound quality is also very good.

Alfie and me went went for a walk in Epping forest yesterday. We had a great walk and Alfie had a good swim but I did make a cock up. Last week I reset my samsung smart watch to imperial measurements from metric. So me and the pooch were enjoying our walk and I thought at the time distance wise we didn’t seem to be very slow, by the end of the walk we had done 8.5kms by my watch, I worked that out to just over 5 miles, except it was actually 8.5 miles!!! My dog is really suffering this morning so I am making him take it easy today, I do forget how old he is sometimes, he is eight and must not let him overdo it. We had a great walk and met some good people with well behaved dogs, proper dog owners. I even got talking to a chap on a horse, he thanked me for calling Alfie back to heel as he went past, I said to him he is not used to horses and was very wary. With that he turned around on the bridleway came up to us with the horse and we had a chat so that Alf could take a look and have a sniff, I really appreciated that, how do you get a dog to get used to horses if he’s never been around them.

Alfie doing what he was built for, Swimming and Retrieving. Wake Valley Pond, Epping 7/11/20
Labradors: Part Dog, Part Seal

How about that thing eh?

Allotment, Family, Model Railway, Modern Technology

It’s been a while but I thought with everything going on at the moment and the crushing boredom and frustration I’d release some steam.

The whole Covid-19 thing really has caught us all out. Although considered an essential worker I have managed to stay virus free (touching wood). I am on the very fringe of what could be considered an essential worker, I work in public transport and run a team who help keep Southern England’s bus fleet on the road, luckily I spend a fair part of my time working from home. I think it will be a couple of years before the bus industry gets back to being anywhere near what we now consider normal. With the amount of businesses which wont re-open there will be a greatly reduced number of passengers using buses therefore bus services will be reduced. This will effect bus orders for some time, which will have a knock on effect for bus manufacturers. So my last couple of years of employment will be very shaky indeed. London is currently operating a Sunday service which is around 40-50% of a weekday service.

My long suffering wife is a nurse so really is an essential worker as is my son who works in the operating theatre of our local hospital. That are both at a much higher risk of catching the virus than I am. While operations have been postponed he has found himself working on a Covid ward, I am proud of both of them. We have adhered to the guidelines by not having anyone in our house who doesn’t live here which includes my son and daughter.

I am finding the whole situation stressful and frustrating, but remind myself that this will be over in a month or two.

I have found myself hankering to re-visit one of my old hobbies, Model Trains. Despite having two spare rooms my missus has limited me to my small office for this project. I knew I had some old steam engines and a couple of diesels but while looking for them in the garage I found a box full of diesel engine which I had originally given to my younger brother when he was going to set up a set in his parents loft. I have absolutely no idea how I have ended up with these, but they will be put to good use and what I don’t need will end up on eBay. I don’t have enough room to make a loop so it will be more of a working diorama than a full layout

The back end of the station this is where you enter the platform, which will attach between the railings

It has been many years since I dabbled, it’s amazing how the hobby has changed. Everything is so accessible now with the internet, I even managed to get some signs made up with the fictional station name. Watch this space as the layout progresses.

Allotment

So we start another year, the virus thing has hampered progress a little but I am properly under way again. I have some plant growing in the green house and expect to start planting out in the next couple of weeks. I have planted some potatoes, shallots and onions, I know I said I was not going to plant any spuds but what the hell. My shallots have taken and are pushing up shoots. We had a good show last year of onions and shallots, in fact we were still eating them in December. I’m not sure if I am going to open the complete plot this year, this whole Covid-19 thing sheds uncertainty for the future.

I have now found myself the site agent for our site, it seems to be a Honey thing. Both my brothers and Father ended up running clubs or associations we joined and it has been the same with me. We’ll see how this works out.

Some of the rolling stock I ended up with but didn’t realise I had

 

That’s enough for now——————————————————————————————————————–sk

 

Snowmaggedon!!!!!!

Alf, Buses, Modern Technology

Rant!

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.

Rant Continued!!!

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.

 

Message Ends—————————————————————————————–va