Real Ale Train

After a recommendation after my last trip on the Watercress Line way back in 2009 I finally made it on to the RAT! (And it was another birthday present… in fact it was a coordinated effort from the in-laws which included the ticket, beer, @mrsjtonline sitting and a lift back from Alton! Thank you!)

I suspect that there may have been a few regulars on the train who knew what they were doing and arrived earlier than we did. Fortunately there was still space right at the back/front of the train (it spends the evening going to Alresford and back):


It was a fantastic evening with a superb mix of beer, company, food, weather, views and the steam train of course. Best evening out for a long time and well worth the wait.

There was plenty of time to get off the train as well, with a chance to peek inside a signal box:


Or just spend time outside on the platform:


Definitely should have done this sooner! Maybe I’ll get a chance to try the dining train in another six years or so…


Heritage Open Days 2013

Three years on from discovering that Clayton Tunnel was open to visitors for the Heritage Open Days event, we finally managed to book a tour. No mean feat as this was the first time we’d been away from home with a baby! It was such a hot day, I’m glad we left the baby with the grandparents…


…ok, there may have been a spot of rain. Very pleased I had a human shield to take the worst of the bus-induced puddle tidal wave!

Fortunately the tour was well worth the wait, and the drenching. The current resident knows a thing or two about the cottage and its history, and the view out of the window is certainly unique, if not a little disconcerting.

I’ve lived right next to a railway before and, while not quite as calm as our host described (it’s amazing what you can tune out!), this was much much quieter.

There are some much better photos, and contact details, on the Clayton Tunnel webpage.

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.

All aboard for 2009!

Thanks to an inspired birthday present from Jo, I kicked off 2009 in style yesterday:


Luckily for all the passengers on the 11:00 train from Alresford, I wasn’t actually driving; I was on a Watercress Line footplate ride. After a night of -6 temperatures, it was a pretty chilly start, especially in the back of the train. Jo just had this to keep her warm:


Whereas I had this:


I win!

One of the things about working with computers for a living is that moving 1s and 0s around all seems a bit ethereal. A keyboard, mouse and a bunch of icons can’t really compare with some really solid valves, dials and a giant kettle. (I’m not even allowed a kettle at work!)

I was fortunate to get two crews during my footplate ride. The first had a driver, trainee driver and trainee fireman which was a good way to find out what they should have been doing, although to be fair they both did a great job. Just a couple of wheel spins- maybe the train should have had an L plate on! They were relieved for a lunch break one stop from the end of the line by a two man crew who certainly knew what they were doing. Instead of things like changing gear, I found out a bit more about the signals outside the train on the final leg. Definitely over too soon, although everyone was keen to point out new volunteers are always welcome! Maybe one day… and the real ale trains sound pretty tempting.

Hope the rest of the year is this fun!