Clayton Tunnel

Tomorrow is the last of the 2010 Heritage Open Days and while searching through for something to do this weekend I spotted Clayton Tunnel North Portal on the list.

(c) Aaron Concannon. Some rights reserved.

By strange coincidence I finished my MSc 13 years ago tomorrow and my dissertation was based on the Clayton Tunnel accident. As Jo rightly points out, it’s not really that freaky a coincidence, but why let logic spoil a good story! My project was basically about modelling the accident, which is nicely explained by this more recent poster. After digging around some old files, I discovered a diagram of the tunnel:

…some screen shots of some exciting grey telegraph dials:

…and a bunch of other images; thirteen years on and .gifs are still going strong. The actual dissertation on the other hand was a little more tricky to look at. After several unsuccessful attempts with Microsoft Word Viewer, Lotus Symphony and Google Docs, OpenOffice finally did a passable job opening the ancient Word format:

Being able to step in and take on an agent’s role is one of the best ways to gain understanding about a system. In the Clayton Tunnel accident, and I suspect many other situations, there are interactions between agents that depend on the other agents having a different perspective on the model. Brown and Killick provide an excellent example of this. At one point in particular the difference between their views of the world results in the last mistake leading up to the accident. As far as Killick knows there are two trains in the tunnel whereas Brown is only expecting there to be one. Now when Killick sends, “is tunnel clear?”, to Brown as a train leaves the tunnel, Brown relies, “tunnel clear”. The modeler is omniscient about the model and hence can’t step in and act on behalf of agents with a limited view of the world without bringing with them knowledge the agent shouldn’t have: there’s a conflict of interests. This limits the modeler’s ability to accurately reproduce an agent’s behaviour.

I wonder if the Open Document Format will prove to be any more future proof. (I still have an original print out just in case!) I keep thinking it would be interesting to recreate the project in Second Life or Open Sim at some point. Maybe I’ll give it a go if I get a chance, although I would be surprised if either of those are around in the same form in 10 years time, unlike the tunnel.

Sadly the Clayton Tunnel tour was fully booked so we’ll have to find something else to do instead. Maybe it’ll be open again next year.


My first PC

While clearing out a load of junk important historical documents from the spare room, to make it more first time buyer friendly, I found a leaflet for my first ever PC:

My first PC

I pushed the limits of performance by going for the 386 DX-33 model with not one but two floppy disk drives! Blisteringly fast! The receipt was also up there and, since I was at school at the time, it took a fair few paper deliveries to pay for it! A year or so later I’d saved up enough money to buy a 40MB second hand HDD! That wasn’t my first computer though. Oh no, before that I had some pretty advanced built in tape deck technology in the form of a Spectrum +2A, which in turn had replaced an ergonomic miracle of rubber key equipped ZX Spectrum 48k joy.

Happy to report that’s as far back as I went. No encounters of the punch card kind here!

Just noticed that the leaflet includes the ‘Turbo’ button… my current ThinkPad could do with one of those.