Monday, 18 July 2011

Boxing Clever II

I'm not sure why but life seems to have been a bit hectic of late - I suspect Thomas is adding to this... Increasingly more mobile and ready cause havoc at a moment's notice! Anyway, in between all of this I've managed to push Botanic's signalbox forward a little. The brick's have been painted and a tasteful mortar mix washed between them. It's been very satisfying so far - especially considering the very small selection of tools required to get to this stage. This is perfect for working in less conventional places - such as work during quiet moments!

However, one job I'm not looking forward is the roof - well the slates on it anyway! It may take some time...

Wednesday, 6 July 2011


Bombardier's Derby operation has recently been dealt a severe blow. The result of which will be a loss of 1,400 jobs; these will comprise 446 permanent positions and 983 temporary contracts. Having been through the redundancy process all those concerned have my sympathies and I hope that, ultimately, they all find something.

The reason behind the decision to shed the jobs is a result of Bombardier failing to secure the contract for the construction of rolling stock for the Thameslink project. The Government's decision has, apparently, been made in line EU directives. I must admit I'm in favour of free enterprises - in fact the last thing society needs are companies with ruthless monopolies which have the potential for high prices and poor value for money - but I'm not convinced that this will offer the best value overall.

Although the cost per unit from Siemens, who did win the contract, maybe less than Bombardier's tender but the long term effects could be very expensive. In the first instance there is the obvious cost of Unemployment and associated benefits and tax credits (and I hope those made redundant have a better time with the Department of Work and Pensions than I did!) and this may mean less money in the local economy which, though small, will have an effect. Education costs if any former staff make use of state funded schemes, admin associated with the whole process too and many other costs.

Original photo can be found here.

It's possible that Bombardier will win new contracts in the future, I hope they do, but you can't create a pool of skilled and knowledgeable workers easily. It could take years to rebuild this wonderful asset, assuming they can.

Please don't think that this is in any way politically motivated, it's not. I just don't want us to loose the great assets which the, our, industry has. The overall value of contracts like this should be the prime consideration; private companies need to ensure, generally, that they have the best contract at that particular time as business but when work is publicly funded I think it's different. The wider effects and costs should be, at least, considered. And I don't think this should be any different for governments of any political persuasions either. Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, has even said that the rules are unsatisfactory and has called for a review of EU procurement regulations but this will come too late for Bombardier.

The irony of all this is that the railway system in the UK could see some major developments over the next decade or so - huge electrification plans, whether you agree with them or not, will require vast resources and, of course, rolling stock to bring the plans to fruition. It will be a huge shame if all this stock is built abroad instead of here exploiting all of the engineering talent which this country still possesses.

Further Reading

RMT response to job losses announcement at Bombardier
RMT - Protests at Bombardier Job Cuts

Sunday, 3 July 2011

In Search of Steam III

US steam was hugely different from the breed in the UK. Everything is bigger - our 'big' locos were things like 9F's which by US standards would have barely scraped 'medium' in their description. Of course our railway was hampered by a tiny loading gauge whereas the later American railways weren't quite so constrained and locomotives were far, far bigger. And, not unexpectedly, train lengths and tonnages were far larger than the norm on our small little album. Operation is totally different from the UK too, in fact it's a case of two nations divided by a common gauge...

Even the end of steam is quite different in the two countries. Whereas mainline steam on British Railways nearly made it to 1970s with dieselisation coming quite late, in America internal combustion was embraced on a much larger scale much sooner.

The special is incredibly well written - despite having little background knowledge I was just engrossed in the articles. The style of writing is very inviting and so easy to immerse yourself in, much like LTC Rolt's style which I find so accessible. David P Morgan's text shows a real appreciation of railways in general, references to English workmen building Beyer-Garrats at Gorton really sum this up whilst rather contradicting the often mentioned theory that Americans aren't aware things which happen elsehwere in the world. After all, this could apply to certain people in all countries and their knowledge of world affairs! The articles are very thoughtfully written I think and compliment the photographs wonderfully...

Speaking of which... Philip R Hasting's photographs are superb! I think they are far better, certainly in terms of composition, than many contemporary British railway photgraphers who seemed to think the only way to photgraph a locomotive was in the ¾ viewpoint. But Hasting's photos have far more in common with later photographers like Paul Riley. And one thing I love is how human life is very much a part of many of the images - people, I think, are what the railway is all about, and it applies where ever the railway happens to be.

I really enjoyed the whole of the special; the articles have clearly stood the test of time and the photos record an age which in America is further in the past than it is in the UK.