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…


3-in-1 weekend

Nothing interesting happens for months, then three days out come along at the same time! On Saturday we swam against the tide, driving past all the traffic jams heading for the coast, for Jo’s birthday present: an evening at the Old Vic theatre watching The Cherry Orchard (some famous director and Hollywood stars on stage all lost on me, but much appreciated by Jo).

Conveniently timed the day after was the league one play off final at Wembley.


Really great day out, although from Jo’s point of view, the less said the better.

Last, but not least, a chance to look round what is probably the reason for Eastleigh’s existence at the Eastleigh 100. I mostly wanted to go out of curiosity after years of passing by on the way to Winchester, but there were quite a collection of trains to have a look at as a bonus. She’ll probably deny it but Jo seemed to enjoy herself as well, although mostly for the low flying planes coming in to land at Southampton Airport rather than the trains. (More about the event from the BBC.)


And next weekend? That’ll be the Southampton beer festival!

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!

e-Ink e-Tickets

While struggling to get back from Chester on the train recently, I started thinking about how e-Paper and RFID might help. Sky has some interviews covering this year’s Hursley 50th celebration which explain both nicely (between about 0:45 to 03:45).

Instead of having a printed timetable of my journey that the train company should have already known was unrealistic, and a ticket not valid for the alternative route via London, a combination of an Oyster-like ticket and e-Ink could have got me home only 15 minutes late with no extra cost. Instead I had to pay extra to arrived an hour and a half late.

An e-Ink display would enhance the current Oyster to visually show what ticket I’m travelling on, along with a mini timetable of my route. When I get to the departure station, the ticket could be automatically updated if there are problems on the rail network, with a new timetable, and with a route upgrade if required. Things might also go wrong during the journey, but the same thing could happen when the guard checks tickets; machine scans ticket and checks it’s valid, while also checking for any known incidents on the route the ticket is displaying.

Unfortunately rail ticketing seems to be getting worse not better at the moment–searching National Rail for timetables has resulted in a few warnings that multiple tickets are required for some journeys recently–so I won’t be holding my breath.

Update: It looks like my e-ink e-ticket might finally be on the way! (16 September 2011)