Archive for February, 2010


Accrington police arrest photographer…

Saturday, February 27 2010

deem taking photos constitutes ‘anti-social behaviour’.

The PCSO who stopped amateur photographer Bob Patefield. Still from Guardian video.

According to the Home Office website the role of Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) is to

support the work of your local police force and provide a visible and reassuring presence on the streets. It is a paid role, although you won’t have the same powers as a regular officer.

Police Community Support Officers particularly work to reassure the public and to tackle the social menace of anti-social behaviour.

When amateur photographer Bob Patefield was stopped by a PCSO in Accrington and asked for his name and address under section 44 of the Terrorism Act he refused and was permitted to leave. A few moments later he was then stopped by the police and asked for his details again. He refused. Finally, he was stopped a third time, and this time when he refused to give his details he was told that his photography constituted ‘ant-social behaviour’. He was then arrested, held for 8 hours and then released without charge.

The Guardian published a full report, which includes Mr Patefield’s own video of his three confrontations. Highly recommended reading and viewing for anyone who contemplates taking photographs in a public place.



Driver gets it wrong, First Bristol put it right

Thursday, February 25 2010

Congratulations to First Bristol Managing Director, Justin Davies, for taking prompt remedial action when one of its drivers ordered Amy Wootten and her six-week-old daughter Emily to get off a bus because she was breast feeding her daughter. It was raining heavily at the time and Ms Wootten had to spend £8 on a taxi to get herself and her baby home. The company has since sent flowers and a gift to the young mother, and issued a public statement.

We deeply regret the incident which was caused by one individual driver’s actions and we have already expressed our sincere apologies to Ms Wootten for the distress caused as a result of it. We have launched an investigation into exactly what happened. As a company, we fully support a woman’s right to breastfeed in public and understand that when travelling with a small child it may be necessary to do this on the bus. We have already taken steps to ensure that this message is communicated to all of our staff.

Now, if only all public transport companies could clean up their staff’s mistakes so professionally, travelling by public transport would again become a pleasure.



George Bathurst battles tunnel vision

Sunday, February 21 2010

Windsor Link Railway route diagram. WLR Berkshire Ltd.

(Click image to see original on WLR website.)

Thanks to the proximity of Heathrow, Europe’s busiest airport, the area around the Thames Valley towns of Maidenhead, Windsor, Slough, West Drayton and Staines is a busy economic hub. The area’s importance to the UK economy is reflected by two major rail schemes. Heathrow Airport is targeted to have its own station connected to HS2, if and when, the UK’s high speed link to North is ever built. Maidenhead and Slough will be served by Crossrail, always supposing that the project is not mothballed by the Tories after the general election. While these big rail projects reflect the importance of the local economy since the IT boom of the 1980s, the area’s branch line’s are still saddled with the consequences of the Beeching Plan thinking of the 1960s: the Maidenhead – High Wycombe line is truncated at Bourne End; the West Drayton – Staines branch survives only as a ‘long siding’ to the Colnbrook incinerator; the West Drayton – Uxbridge branch has been built over; the west curve of the Slough triangle has now been incorporated into the roads of a housing estate.

Now, George Bathurst, a local businessman, has proposed ‘connecting the dots’ by reversing some of the cuts and plugging some of the missing gaps in the network. At the core of his proposals is a brand new station at Windsor which would link the ex GWR and ex LSWR branches and building a spur from Staines to Heathrow. The proposed links would connect rail-served locations to the West of Heathrow to the airport and save millions of car journeys each year. In addition the new links would strengthen the case for restoring the Maidenhead – High Wycombe link as recommended by ATOC last year.

Because abandoned rail routes have not been safeguarded from encroaching development, Mr Bathurst’s plans would be more expensive to realise than they need be. However, they are not prohibitively so and the financial case is strong. In addition the area which suffers from major traffic congestion and gridlocks completely if there is a major incident on the M$ or M25 motorways. Sadly, 50 years after the Beeching plan, so deeply is the inevitable demise of feeder rail services etched into the national psyche, that even rail sympathetic politicians have pronounced Mr Bathurst’s plans as unlikely to be realised. Here’s hoping that Mr Bathurst and his company, WLR Berkshire Ltd, will prove the sceptics wrong!



Pearls from the BBC

Sunday, February 21 2010

The Ballad of John Axon by Charles Parker.

(Click to purchase the CD or to download digitally from Amazon UK via the BTWT Bookstore)

Like all large institutions, the BBC often stumbles and produces work that is mediocre. However there are moments when its productions are world class. Charles Parker was a BBC producer based in the old BBC studios in Birmingham who produced the amazing Radio Ballads. The most famous of which is the story of John Axon, a steam locomotive driver who, when the brakes failed on his engine, saved the lives of his fireman and passengers at the cost of his own life. In these days of digital editing it is sobering to think that much of the post production work on the Radio Ballads was done with a razor blade and sticky tape! Thanks to the pioneering work of Parker the voices of ordinary working people returned to the BBC. He made the last of his Ballads in 1964 when a new commissioning editor decided that Parker, because his work involved much recording on location, was too expensive! Parker was sacked, but not before he had won the Italia prize for radio documentary. The Radio Ballads can still be purchased either via Amazon UK (click image) or from Birmingham City Library.

The BBC still occasionally surprises and broadcasts radio programs of breathtaking quality. Today’s Saturday Play Murder in Samarkand – was commissioned by the BBC, but made by the independent company Greenpoint. It told the story of how British Ambassador, Craig Murray, took on the Foreign Office mandarins who, faced with his embarrassing reports of human rights abuses in Uzbekistan, attempted to ‘shoot the messenger’. For those who live in the UK it is available for the next 7 days on BBC iPlayer. David Tennant’s portrayal of Murray as a flawed, but principled man, is thoroughly riveting. Highly recommended.



DB orders an end to English kissing

Friday, February 19 2010

“Kiss and Ride” by

The language blog polish2english reports that DB has ordered that the romantic Kiss and Ride signs will be replaced by the more Teutonic Kurzzeitparkzone – the German for ‘one night stand’. In Britain, kissing at railway stations – like taking photographs – is strongly discouraged.



Xrail Alliance to boost wagonload freight

Friday, February 19 2010

The Xrail Alliance

The Railway Gazette reports that representatives from seven major rail freight operators signed an agreement in Zürich on February 18 to establish a new alliance for the development and operation of international wagon-load traffic. The agreement was signed by the chief executives from CD Cargo, CFL Cargo, DB Schenker Rail, Green Cargo, Rail Cargo Austria, SBB Cargo and SNCB Logistics. Britain, which abandoned wagon-load freight just before the Channel Tunnel opened (coincidence?), does not appear on the map of countries where the Alliance will operate.



Tories kick HS2 into the long grass

Friday, February 19 2010

Route of HS2 as prepared by High Speed Two (HS2) Ltd. from Wikipedia

(Click image to go to Wikipedia article.)

I really couldn’t put it any better than the Fact Compiler.


Brussels commuter trains in head-on collision

Monday, February 15 2010

ITN Video of crash aftermath

Two commuter trains have collided head-on near Halle, 15 km (9 miles) south-west of Brussels at approximately 8:30 a.m. local time. One train was running from Quiévrain to Liege, the other was the service from Leuven to Braine-le-Comte.The force of the collision pushed the front carriage of one train into the leading carriage of the other. Some 20 people are feared dead and there are many seriously injured. Overhead power lines and track has been damaged and Eurostar trains between London and Brussels and Thalys trains between Brussels and Paris, and Brussels and Amsterdam have been suspended.



Eurostar review published

Friday, February 12 2010

The cover of the Eurostar Independent Review published today.

(Click the image to go to Eurostar’s Eurostar Independent Review webpage from which a complete copy of the review document (in French or in English) can be downloaded.)

Christopher Garnett’s and Claude Gressier’s review of the Eurostar breakdowns in late December has been published. We will return to the document in due course. In the meantime we recommend downloading and reading the whole document rather than the very brief summaries that have appeared today in the media.


A lament for a once great Britain

Friday, February 5 2010

The photography of Phill Davison

Manchester’s Mayfield Station. Photo by Phill Davison.

(Click here to see details of licensing. Click on image to see the rest of Phill’s Mayfield Station set on flickr.)

Phill Davison’s photographs leave me reeling. He presses all the right buttons. As a kid, if I saw a tunnel, I had to go down it. Slate mine, sewer under construction, disused railway tunnel – it was all the same to me. If there was a way in, I had to explore it.

Phill not only photographs the insides of various long-abandoned tunnels, he also creates stunning photographic essays of railway tunnels that combine his pictures with historic  photographs when the Beeching axe had yet to swing. And Phill’s pictures are very, very, good. His album on myspace of the four Standedge Tunnels is one of the best pieces of industrial archaeology photographic documentation that I have ever seen.

His flickr set of Manchester’s Mayfield Station reminds me of my own childhood explorations of the derelict warehouses at Brentford Dock and the railway works at Woodford Halse. Alas at the time, I didn’t take the photographs that would have been a valuable historical record today.

There is a lighter side to Phill’s work too. His Poppleton railway garden and little trains and the tongue-in-cheek The hunt for the ghost engines of the strategic steam reserve are a welcome injection of Monty Python humour into what otherwise is a very sombre journey.

And Phill’s work can be very black, his myspace album on The Leeds Tramways and his set on flickr exploring Healey Mills Marshalling Yard left me angry and frustrated with the way government officials and politicians have bent Britain’s transport policy to the whims of bankers and oil barons.

Does Phill’s work deserve any criticism? His photography none at all. It is simply stunning. Although I do have a couple of minor quibbles. The graphic design of his myspace albums is a bit garish and while exploring them last night I managed to exceed his bandwidth allowance on photobucket which he uses to host the photographs that he features on his albums. Phill would be well minded to move onto a well tried blog engine like

So how best to explore Phill’s enormous collection of photographs? You could choose the sensible way – go to his flickr home page, then go down a level and look at the index of all of his collections, choose a collection which appeals, see the sets that comprise the collection and finally browse through the chosen set. Or you could do as I did – put on a favourite music album, make a cup of tea, open a packet of nibbles, go to Phill’s home page and press the button marked slideshow. Public health warning – this could blow your mind.

I wanted to give Phill the final word.

The once vast marshalling yard at Healey Mills closed in the winter of 2009.

Healey Mills occupied a 140-acre purpose built site with 57 miles of track. When work began in 1959, it was necessary to bring in three quarters of a million cubic yards of landfill to level the site.
The River Calder was diverted into a new channel to the south of the yard. Four bridges had to be constructed to carry tracks over the river.

The yard contained 120 sidings, at the west end there were 14 reception sidings. There were 50 main sorting sidings and 25 secondary sorting sidings; 15 staging sidings and 13 departure sidings. In addition, three sidings were provided for internal services.

The footbridge that provided safe access for the staff to the centre of the yard, consisted of lattice girders, recovered from the old 120ft span footbridge which formerly crossed the lines at the north end of Darlington station.

Today the yard stands silent and overgrown. The only trains to occupy the once busy sidings are condemned locos, and rolling stock awaiting there last journey to the scrap yard.

More photographs: