Archive for June, 2009


Farewell Postman Patel

Sunday, June 28 2009


Edward Teague

25 January 1943 – 9 June 2009

Edward Teague, aka Postman Patel, aka Lord Patel was one of Britain’s finest bloggers. At times a botanist, industrialist, writer and artist he was also a railway enthusiast and offered encouragement to our sister blog BTWT during its early days. He was the great grandson of LB&SR Chief Mechanical Engineer, William Stroudley. The latter was the designer of Gladstone, the first railway engine ever put in a museum, which can still be seen today in York.

Edward Teague had excellent sources and his UK TOP SECRET Postman Patel blog maintained a long tradition in British journalism of exposing corruption and misjustice. It carried many stories which others were afraid to publish or knew that they would never have seen the light of day in the mainstream media. In this he was walking, perhaps without knowing it, in the footsteps of investigative journalist and Internet publishing pioneer Simon Regan.

Teague’s writing style was unique – blunt to the point of rudeness he took spelling mistakes to new heights and turned them into an art form. Here is a short extract from one of his last posts. His subject is the relationship between Whitehall mandarins and Britain’s top scientists –

Scientists – “OK on tap but not on top”

For some odd reason there is a spate of comment about the fat old fraud , wannabe novelist and colossal bore.

Apparently by indentifying the intellectual Luddites in the Civil Service (as Basil F would say – statement of the bleedin’ obvious)and identifying 2 Cultures he has reached the status of some 20th Century stooge sage.

Apart from maching my arm ache reaching for my gun when I hear the phrase 2 Cultures it has been evident since Queen Victoria died and the little incident in Sarajevo that the Rolls Royce minds of the upper echelons have always regarded scientist like an unpleasant luxury like a water flushing closet.

Which is just as well as even today they are regarded as a sort of uber plumber – or more recently a “techie” to be kept under wraps incase they frihten the horses and run off with the women

We have a lengthy list of scientists / technical geniuses who have been ignored …

A generous obituary was published last Thursday by The Independent.

Always at the forefront of understanding and appreciating the changing industrial and commercial world (to the extent of establishing a software company which developed programs for textile manufacturers), he was also adept enough to become a constant thorn in the side of government as he witnessed the collapse of the industry and the futile attempts to pour money into factories which were soon to be shipped wholesale to India.

Edward Teague had a love of the North-west and knew, for example, where to find the old charcoal pits beside the M62 in the Pennines. He could readily, and engagingly, explain the workings of the pneumatic/hydraulic system which existed in the warehouses alongside the Bridgewater Canal in Manchester (these explanations recur in his blog). He never tired of the region’s industrial archaeology and could name all the mills which still dominate a few of the towns to the north of Manchester.

Never a political activist in the traditional sense, he was a genuine libertarian with no time for the humbug and rhetoric of the left and right. The blog he ran as Postman Patel/Lord Patel became a port of call for anyone seeking to unravel what was really going on behind the headlines. His scientific training made him ask questions, and seek answers, where others feared to tread. Never daunted, though sometimes dismayed, by a changing world, he throve upon challenge, to which he brought a perspective which spanned two centuries and drew upon many contacts – whether he was discussing the De Menezes shooting, the fact that the US brought greater firepower upon Libya in 1986 than the English had done in the Falklands…

Read the complete obituary here.

Here are some ‘Postman Patel’s’ posts which I thought BTWT readers might particularly enjoy:



Gordon likes to travel by train

Sunday, June 21 2009

“If you could run No 10 from a train, getting round the country, that would be the best way.”


Gordon Brown and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev stand in front of 10 Downing Street on April 2009. Photo Presidential Press and Information Office (

(Click picture for details of licensing.)

As part of the UK Prime Minister’s campaign to soften his public image he allowed the Guardian’s Katharine Viner shadow him for a morning and an afternoon last week. The resulting article is quite revealing,Tunnel Vision readers will be particularly interested in Gordon Brown’s admission that

I’ve tried to get around the country more, it’s much more interesting … It’s been very difficult to focus on [strategic planning] because you have to deal with immediate events like if a bank’s going to go under. It’s difficult to be running around the country if you’re dealing with that… If you could run No 10 from a train, getting round the country, that would be the best way.

I’ve Googled “gordon brown train” and come up with a score of pictures showing the UK prime minister travelling by train, including one of him on a Eurostar train to Brussels. So it’s true, Gordon recognizes the advantages of travelling by train. What a pity that when he lived at 11 Downing St he did nothing to persuade the Treasury of the advantages of building a railway network in Britain fit for the 21st century!


Ritual burial at Armdale?

Saturday, June 13 2009


Still from time-lapse photography film shot by Network Rail at Bathgate during July 2008, when the Bathgate and Edinburgh line was closed for 16 days. During this time 200 staff, shifted 12,500 tonnes of ballast, laid 3,000 metres of track and fitted 12 points.

(Click picture to view video.)

The £300m Airdrie to Bathgate Rail Link Project is one of Network Rail’s flagship investments in Scotland. The project will reinstate the Bathgate and Coatbridge Railway between Airdrie and Bathgate, which was closed to passengers in 1956 and to freight in 1982. It will link the North Clyde Line of the Glasgow suburban railway network, which currently stops 2km beyond Airdrie at Drumgelloch, to the Edinburgh to Bathgate Line.

The line will be double-tracked and electrified from Edinburgh to Glasgow and passengers will be able to travel from Edinburgh Waverley station to Glasgow Queen Street Low Level in 74 minutes. It will provide a fourth rail link between Glasgow and Edinburgh, complementing the existing 50 minute “shuttle” services which run via Falkirk.

The project also involves a £7.3m diversion of National Cycle Route 75. After the Airdrie-Bathgate line was closed in 1982, 16 km of  railway line became a public footpath and cycle track. This section was closed on 19th October 2008 to allow work to begin on the reinstatement of the line. It is planned that by the end of 2010 a new cycle path will run alongside the reopened railway line, connecting local communities to new stations along the route.

Although the new railway is being built on the track of the old, a £ 3.8m contract was awarded to Norwest Holst Soil Engineering to carry out ground and site Investigations. Given the need to minimise risk and comply with modern environmental legislation – a not unreasonable decision. So it is with some incredulity that we read an article in the Daily Express that Network Rail contractor Carillion – who won a £80 million contract for works on the line – lost a £40,000 mechanical excavator in a peat bog near Armdale!

It is reasonable to ask the question, how did Norwest Holst’s soil engineers manage to miss this little bog? Perhaps they were running late and decided to skip forward a bit? Or were Carillion just too busy to read Norwest Holst’s report?

However, accidents do happen and, faced with a 20 ton excavator buried up to its roof, not many of us would know what to do. Carillion’s workmen have to be congratulated for coming up with an unusual solution. They covered the remains with branches! Unfortunately the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency does not see things the same way and has now launched an investigation over fears that pollutants inside the machine could seep out.



Who do you believe?

Wednesday, June 10 2009



The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, comments on the tube strike. Part of the Mayor of London’s website.

(Click to view video.)

or Bob?

— On Wed, 10/6/09, rmtmail <> wrote:

From: rmtmail <>
Subject: RMT News Alert – LUL
To: “rmtmail” <>
Date: Wednesday, 10 June, 2009, 5:52 PM

Dear Colleagues

Please find below a letter I have today sent to the London Mayor.

In response the Mayor has refused face to face negotiations and London Underground are trying to deny an agreement was reached.

The Mayor even walked out of a TV debate today rather than deal with me directly. City Hall and TfL seem to be in disarray.

I have again told the Mayor that an agreement was reached last night but was then vetoed and as such the Mayors management team last night clearly did not have the authority to conclude an agreement and have said I am available for direct talks with him and / or his Transport Commissioner.

I am very confident that thanks for your magnificent support for the strike that we are in a position soon to reach an agreement. Let’s keep up the pressure to protect jobs conditions and for a decent pay deal.

Yours sincerely

Bob Crow

RMT General Secretary

An open letter from Bob Crow to Boris Johnson

10th June 2009

Boris Johnson

Mayor of London

City Hall

The Queens Walk



Dear Mr Johnson

This is my 31st year as a member of the RMT and a worker on London Underground and in all that time I have never experienced such dishonesty from any management that I have dealt with.

I am writing to you as both Mayor and Chair of Transport for London to urge you to agree to direct face to face talks with myself to resolve this dispute and to also address the pack of lies that have been fed to media.

The facts are that yesterday the RMT negotiating team and myself attended nearly seven hours of talks at ACAS and the end of which I was confident we had the basis of agreement which could settle this dispute.

On the question of pay your management made a revised offer of a two year deal or four year deal. It was agreed that would go away, speak to our members and representatives and come back to them. We said it didn’t need to be decided immediately and that we would suspend the action on this issue.

With regard to disciplinary procedures it is an out and out lie that we were only interested in the two sacked drivers, instead there have been widespread and prolonged abuse of the procedures. It was therefore agreed that ACAS would look at all cases and we said that we would be able to suspend the action to allow this to go ahead. Simarly we agreed an end to management abuse of sickness procedures.

In respect of redundancies we were simply asking for your management to honour a longstanding agreement reached in 2001 that there would be not compulsory redundancies. You will be aware that this agreement was borne out of well founded fears that the part privatisation of the tube would be a disaster for tube users and workers alike.  At 6 o’clock last night and an hour before the strike was to begin, this issue was also agreed with Acting Managing Director, Richard Parry. In fact I signed a document to this effect and this was to go back in front of RMT Executive immediately so that we could suspend the strike.

Then astonishingly at 6.35 whilst awaiting the final typed agreement we were told by management that they had made a phone call and that they could no longer abide by the agreement – they reneged before the ink was even dry. We were stunned that management could be so dishonest.

I have no doubt that the phone call made was to the Transport Commissioner or City Hall who instructed the management team to pull the agreed deal. It is an absolute disgrace that we should reach an agreement in good faith only for that agreement to be sabotaged.

Either your senior management are completely dishonest or have no authority to negotiate.  Or it is the case that you have personally intervened to scupper the deal in the belief that a confrontation with tube workers will serve your political agenda.

Londoners will be appalled that you are playing politics with the tube and will be entitled to ask why you, not only as Mayor but also as Chair of Transport for London are running away from face to face talks.

It is absolute nonsense, as some are trying to suggest, that there is some personal animosity between us. I am prepared to meet you anytime and anywhere to resolve this dispute and look forward to hearing from you by return.

I am copying this letter to members of the Transport for London Board, members of the GLA and London MPs.

Yours sincerely

Bob Crow

General Secretary


Strike mystery. Press silent.

Wednesday, June 10 2009


Deserted platforms at Greenford station. Behind the bushes is the spur from the GWR mainline at Old Oak Common to the GW&GCJR extension from South Ruislip to High Wycombe. It is here that Dyspozytor used to see Kings and Castles speeding to Birmingham in the 1950s. Photo by Sunil060902.

(Click to see original and details of licensing.)

The reason for the tube strike paralysing London is something of a mystery. London Mayor Boris Johnson says,

It is utterly demented of the RMT leadership to proceed with this strike when two thirds of their members did not vote for it and when real progress had been made in the negotiations…

See Mayor’s statement.

Bob Crow RMT general secretary counters –

RMT negotiators spent all afternoon and early evening at ACAS putting together a deal which could have settled the dispute only for London Undergound to bring in lawyers at the last minute who pulled the rug from under a workable agreement…

See RMT press release.

Without more information it is difficult to make a judgement, the national press is generally hostile to the RMT and coy on their reasons for calling the strike. Some commentators have noted that Boris’s tactic of calling the RMT leaders ‘demented’ is a rather unusual dispute resolution procedure. Meanwhile there is some confusion as to what Londoners can do with their Oystercards. Hat tip to the Fact Compiler. TfL says,

Oyster pay as you go is being accepted on National Rail journeys in Greater London.

Only on certain routes…

reply the train operators. See below for a very informative thread.

More on the background to the strike. The link should work for seven days.


Making your dream come true

Sunday, June 7 2009

Picture 30

The GWR in 4mm to 1 ft scale EM gauge. Photo Pete Waterman.

(Click to see many more pictures of this amazing model railway on pete’s blog.)

Although Behind The Water Tower concentrates on 12 inches to 1 foot modelling, we do occasionally make an exception when we come across world class model railways like Pendon and Rowland’s Castle. We were going to run a story on the National Audit Office’s report on the Metronet fiasco (scandal?), but after seeing Pete Waterman’s photographs of Robert Cook’s amazing model railway, we decided that our readers would prefer to look at these instead. So click on the links and then click again on the thumbnail photos and marvel on what Robert has built single-handly over 30 years!

Permanent links:


Three cheers for Prince Charles!

Sunday, June 7 2009


HRH, The Prince of Wales, Zac Goldsmith and others at the launch of the Revolve Eco Rally at Hampton Court in June 2007.

(From a photo by RevOlvin, click to see original and details of licensing.)

Three cheers for the way The Prince of Wales responded to the D-Day crisis, and with scant regard for protocol, obtained an invitation from President Sarkozy to honour the British soldiers who gave their lives on the Normandy beaches. We have no private source of information whether the absence of an invitation to the Queen was the result of President Sarkozy’s determination to keep the commemoration an American-French affair or whether the cause was Gordon Brown’s wish not to be up-staged. In the event, Prince Charles’s performance was regal and dignified, in stark contrast to the political posturing going on elsewhere.

Prince Charles suffers from a hostile press which mocks his beliefs and regularly ignores the valuable work that he carries out through his charities such as The Prince’s Trust and PRIME. While some of this may mirror the drop in the Prince’s popularity following his disastrous marriage to Diana Spencer, and the manner of the Princess’s death, in fact the hostile press articles started well before his marriage got into difficulties. It difficult to escape the conclusion that the Prince’s espousal of causes such as organic farming, holistic medicine and traditional architecture has upset major vested interests who have manipulated the media in an attempt to clip the Prince’s wings and limit his influence.


TRH The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall, with A1 Trust chairman, Mark Allat, looking on, name brand new Peppercorn A1 class pacific, Tornado, 19 February 2009.
Photo A1 Trust

For lovers of Britain’s railway and industrial heritage, the Prince plays a vital role as a national figurehead. He fills the space vacated by the death of stalwarts such as Sir John Betjeman and Fred Dibnah. These days, there’s scarcely an important heritage railway event which the Prince does not personally support, whether it is the reopening of the Severn Valley Railway after major flood damage, or the naming of the A1 Trust’s Peppercorn pacific Tornado. The Prince helps to provide public recognition of the amazing achievements of British railway enthusiasts. This recognition helps them with their negotiations with all the official bodies who have to be brought on side before a railway project can be nursed to its ultimate success.

We have it on very good authority that when Howard Jones was collecting his MBE, the Prince congratulated Howard on all the good work he was doing to preserve the Polish narrow gauge railways. Howard was understandably somewhat miffed because his amazing achievement was in persuading PKP to leave at Wolsztyn as the last steam shed in the world servicing standard gauge locos rostered for regular mainline passenger traffic. Perhaps, the Prince – a keen supporter of the Welsh narrow gauge – had in mind the extent to which Howard’s Wolsztyn Experience helps to cast an international spotlight on Poland’s minor railways as well?

In Poland the future of the country’s railway heritage hangs on a thin thread – the victim of a shock transition from communism to Latin-American style capitalism, Poland’s burgeoning bureaucracy, the lack of official recognition and absence of public support. Perhaps it may be unrealistic to hope that on his next visit to Poland the Prince might find time to visit Wolsztyn and travel on the footplate (or even drive!) one of the Ol49s on the Wolsztyn – Poznan turn and maybe even drop in to see the Smigiel Railway next door. Wishful thinking or not, in a country which lacks a powerful national advocate for its railway and industrial heritage, such recognition would give the Polish railway preservation movement the shot in the arm it desperately needs.




Sadiq Khan takes Adonis's old job

Saturday, June 6 2009

Picture 29

Sadiq Khan, the new Minister of State for Transport

In the latest move in Gordon Brown’s reshuffle, Sadiq Khan has been appointed Minister of State for Transport, filling the vacancy caused by the promotion of Lord Adonis to the post of Secretary of State for Transport. Because Adonis is a member of the House of Lords, he cannot speak in the House of Commons, so Khan will speak on behalf of the Government in the Commons. He will also be a privy councillor and will attend Cabinet meetings.



Lord Adonis replaces Geoff Hoon

Friday, June 5 2009


Lord Adonis (2nd from left) talks to Swanage Railway staff on 14 April 2009. From a photo © Andrew Wright, Swanage Railway

(Click to read the full story behind the picture on the Swanage Railway website.)

Lord Adonis, until a couple of hours ago Minister of State at the Department for Transport, has been promoted to Secretary of State for Transport replacing the Rt. Hon. Geoff Hoon who has resigned from the Cabinet.

Lord Adonis will be the first Secretary of State for Transport who believes passionately in the future role of the railways since the railways were nationalised in 1949. Sadly, with the Labour Party in turmoil and the Government extremely unlikely to survive the next election, he may not be in the post for long enough to make any impact upon the Department for Transport’s anti-rail policy.

In a move that will send shivers down the spine of those who remember how – despite the outward trappings of democracy – in communist times Poland was really ruled by a succession of ‘first secretaries’ of the Communist Party, Gordon Brown has just announced that Lord Mandelson is now ‘First Secretary’.



In praise of… Greenford!

Thursday, June 4 2009


GWR autocoach at Greenford, August 1952. Photo ©Dewi Williams

I’m not very good at the ‘stream of consciousness’ style of blogging.

What is it that bids me to seek out spirit of place (platzgeist in German, mirroring the word zeitgeist or ‘spirit of time’)?

And why am I so happy having found a specific spirit of place here in Jeziorki? Being in a place brings on spiritual contentment? Can one have a metaphysical attachment to place?

I leave this sort of thing to Michael Dembinski from whose latest post on the Wwa-Jeziorki blog the above quotation is taken. Mike does this very well and in fact Wwa Jeziorki – although completely different in style – provided the inspiration to start Behind The Water Tower.

There are places that have a peculiar magic about them; these can be urban, suburban or rural, mountains, coast or plains, but they differ from places that lack any atmosphere or klimat. Greenford or Hayes in Middlesex – ghastly places. Vast swathes of outer London – identical high streets, traffic, crowds, lacking in character.

But what’s this? Greenford or Hayes… I’m prepared to take Mike’s word for Hayes, but Greenford, I strongly protest.

From the age of three upwards my parents used to take me for walks up Horsenden Hill half-way between Sudbury Hill and Greenford. It was here I caught frostbite. Friends used to ask my parents, I suppose he caught it in Siberia? and seemed rather disappointed when they replied, No, Horsenden Hill, actually. At first our walks didn’t get much further than the Ballot Box pub. (By the way have you voted yet?)

The whole area was a magic portal that lead to a strange foreign land. The southern edge of Horsenden Hill was skirted by the Grand Union Canal. As I grew bigger the walks grew longer and continued along the canal. The towpath lead to Greenford! Here was the largest factory for miles around, Rockware Glass, which at its height employed 900 people and had its own railway network.

A couple of years later and we were walking as far as the J Lyons tea factory – which had its own canal basin and railway network, and was the first factory to apply computing to managing a business.

A short bus hop from where we lived was Greenford Station. Here I saw my first ‘push-pull’ train consisting of an ex GWR 14xx and autocoach. Occasionally dark green ‘Kings’ or ‘Castles’ flew past on the main line with expresses to Birmingham and beyond. Sadly J Lyons and the Rockware glass factory are no more, but Greenford remains the last place in London where you can see GWR style lower quadrant signals still in operation. Greenford lacking in character? Never!


where perfect food products are made by happy workpeople in healthy rural surroundings
Postcard from the website

My grateful thanks to Dewi Williams for helping to bring the good times back with his brilliant railway photographs. You can see more of his pictures from the early 1950s here.