2011 Stored Unserviceable: 2015 Restored to Service.

It’s only fair to warn you.

Potter is back.

When I put this site to bed in 2011 I honestly thought that I was finished with blogging. Then I briefly re-started, then I stopped again. It wasn’t a hard decision to stop because I felt that I had run out of things to say. And having started my mainline career with South West Trains it was gently communicated to me that the company no longer looked with such benevolence upon my blogging. Which was a shame, since it seemed to me and others that it shone a window on the working of the railway which didn’t involve politics or grandstanding or PR talk. It was simply the thoughts of a very junior staff member, a very enthusiastic and engaged one at that.

So the blogging stopped. But the enthusiasm didn’t. I’m still happy to say that the front of a train is where you’ll find me being paid to sit. I’m still quietly in love with getting paid to charge about the countryside and around the houses. Children waving from bridges still get waved at in return, I still eagerly tell anyone who’ll listen that they really ought to join the railway because it’s the best gig on the planet and I still can’t imagine having any other career. As I take great delight in telling everyone who asks, “It beats the crap out of working for a living.” The railway is still a paid hobby. I kept up with the Twitter feed, and now have nearly 3,000 followers – some of whom are allowed to walk the streets unsupervised – but 140 characters isn’t a proper bit of writing. So I’ve decided to revisit the blogging bit for a while and see how things go. Just to enhance the Hobby aspect of the Paid Hobby. In the interests of adding even more to the rich tapestry of Anorak, it looks like the hobby will shortly become a lot more complicated. Without going in to too much detail now, the complications will be coming from something 4-coaches long with lots of doors. Life is about to get interesting.

And then today, whilst shopping for odds and ends to take with me to Prague – eastern Europe for New Year: get a load of Intercontinental Potter! –  a friend suddenly asked me “When are you going to start writing again?”I honestly hadn’t given it too much thought until he asked and hadn’t planned on resuming. But the more I thought, the more I found myself saying “Why not? If the company don’t like what I have to say they’ll damn soon tell me.”

So here we are. Back where we started. An anorak in front of a keyboard.

A lot has changed. And a lot hasn’t. We’ll see where things go from here.

 

Keep ’em peeled.

Potter

2011 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

NB:

What it doesn’t say is that Potter Minions, bred in vats concealed underneath the Controlled Emission Toilet facility at Wimbledon Park, take credit for assembling much of the wibble you read in the last year. Thanks for looking in during 2011: I promise to write more than 3 entries in 2012 and I further assure you that I will make fewer knob gags. Unless they are required to enhance the comic narrative or I’m feeling bored.

TTFN,

Potter

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 23,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 9 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

A Christmas Poem by Driver C. Page, Wimbledon Park

‘Twas the night before Christmas and across the South West,
All trains were in their depots and their crews home at rest.
But up on a roof in a small town called Ashstead,
Sat a Fat Man with a sleigh, its battery dead.
Moaned he “With the recession I’ve had to budget.
So back in February I told the reindeer to shove it.
What with the money that I saved on the hay,
I paid out to Siemens for an electric sleigh.
But when I take power, it arcs and cuts out.
I’d have expected better from something built by the Krauts!”.
At this point a drunk man appears with a totter;
Full of pre-Crimble sherry, it’s half cut H. Potter.

He slurs “I’ll help deliver your presents while it’s dark.
But hurry, we must get to Wimbledon Park!
I’ll assemble a crew of our finest men; we’ll work for 6 hours 30 and then
We’ll get something to eat and rest 40 minutes,
(To obey Mr Hiddens’ strict safety limits)”.
So they made their way over to SW19,
They picked out a train that was red, shiny and clean.

They opened the doors and loaded each gift
Then sprinkled some magic dust – the train started to lift
And soon a 455 soared high in the sky
On a mission to prevent each child asking why
(Despite behaving and being good for a year)
Santa had decided to confirm the child’s worst fear
That they wouldn’t receive bikes or dolls or FIFA Football
Instead their stockings weren’t filled at all.

But desperate to make sure this would not be the case,
Santa, Potter and crew cracked on and made haste.
They were done before sunrise & no one would know
About the faulty sleigh that would not run in the snow.
The worlds Christmas spirit was safe and alive,
And it was all down to a trusty old 455.
So the world sang carols about snow, holly, and ivy.
But never about how Santa swopped red for a High-V.

Yes, I agree with you lot – Chris should spend his break times eating sandwiches and not writing daft poems. One worries that he is, at regular intervals, allowed access to heavy machinery, sharp things and The Vote. Having said that, I thought it was rather good.

So all that remains for me to do, dear readers, is to wish both of you a very Merry Christmas and a Flourishing and Bountiful New Year.

Is Jeremy Clarkson A Cock Or What?

Yes. He is. But, since this isn’t exactly breaking news, lets move on.

The Beeb won’t fire him because he makes them a lot of money. UNISON should gently point out that but for the public service workers, some of whom work at Leeds Royal Infirmary and who were incidentally on strike yesterday, his chum Richard Hammond would be either be dead or suffering the  effects of brain damage.

If Mr Clarkson genuinely begrudges them the right to a pension, then clearly gratitude has a short shelf life.

As to his annoyance at trains not running over the remains of railway suicides, I’ll listen to his opinions after the following conditions: when he has witnessed a suicide, when he has helped to deal with shocked crew and passengers, when he has witnessed the family of the dead person being informed and finally when he has helped clean up the aftermath.

Until then Mr Clarkson, you’ve not the faintest idea what you’re talking about and are an oaf.

An oaf with an audience of millions, but still an oaf.

In the words of the Internet: Don’t Feed the Troll.

With Apologies to the Walt Disney Company

The following is respectfully dedicated to all those men and woman of the Footplate who are sliding about the network with, to quote a friend of mine, “your arse puckering in your pants, your toes digging into your boots and your stomach trying to climb up your neck to throttle your brains.” Despite anything the travelling public believes, this is no joke. Hopefully this post may raise a smile.

Leaves Leaves Leaves

The Song of the South(ern Region)

“Slippety-Doo-Dah Day? That’s the kind of day where you can’t put them ‘ole brakes on without that ‘ole speedo going straight to zero.”

Slippety-doo-dah, slippety-ay,

‘Cos of leaves we ain’t stoppin’ today

There’s a bloody great red light in my way

My arse has just healed up and my hair has gone grey.

There are SPAD-stains in my boxers.

It’s the truth, it’s actual

(Let’s hope that DAZ-ads are really factual)

Slippety-doo-dah, slippety-ay

Having a desk job makes sense for today.

For those of you who don’t know how the tune is supposed to go, by the way, CLICKY HERE.

Saturday Morning Rest Day

Time to Chill, Methinks

Good morning folks. Like David Cameron, my Muse has decided to go on holiday away from words like “recession”, “credit rating” and of course the time honoured phrase “Oh God, we’re fucked, I’m fucked, they’re fucked, we’re all fucked.” so if this latest episode in the Writings of a Fat Motorman make no sense at all, I must apologise – blame the global economy. Or at least the BBC for telling me about it. I am told that in such situations, ignorance is bliss – personally I’m not as happy as I’d like to be.

(Ooops. Break in narrative required: I must briefly chat to a  former Wetland Centre colleague. It’s always good to catch up. What’s more she’s wearing a Pixies t-shirt. Potter approves very much of any tribute to Frank Black & chums…)

Now, where was I? Oh yes – the world is screwed, the financial markets are teetering on the edge of oblivion and I can’t find the Toblerone I bought last week. As you can imagine, it’s the chocolate I’m worried about. I really fancied a little triangle of chocolatey almondy yum last night and I couldn’t find it anywhere. After the last few weeks I could frankly do with a bit a chocolate. My absence from the Blogosphere hasn’t been entirely due to an inablity to find anything interesting to write about, though – and I can’t blame disappearing confectionery either. It’s been more a case of the blog coming a long way down my list of priorities. The first and the worst thing has been the death of a colleague.

A good friend of mine once told me quite seriously about why keeping my nose clean was so important on the railway. “It’s like a family, Potter”, he said in Bruce Forsythe-esque tones. “It’s a big family but a close one. Everyone knows everyone elses business and news travels fast.” And as it applies to people who cock-up (“Did you hear about (Insert-Name-Here) – you’ll never guess what he/she/it did”?) so it applies when something more traumatic happens. I finished a late shift a few weeks back and bumped into my friend Tony Baliss. Tony is a depot driver, as I used to be, and a chap I thoroughly enjoyed working with. “Have you heard about Rick?”, he asked me. “No…?” I replied. “The doctors say he has about 48 hours left.” I went cold. Rick Searle was one of the production managers at Wimbledon Park, charged with making sure all the maintenance work on a shift was carried out and that the empty trains for service departed on-time each morning and afternoon. He was a good laugh, decent to his staff and, after I had changed from Fleet to Operations, would always greet me with “Hello Harry – what have you broken this time?” Rick had been taken ill at work some weeks before: hospital had been involved and a fairly serious operation to remove something unpleasant from his digestive system had been carried out. But he was on the mend, and when I had asked after him I had been told that he was on the mend. I thought, we all thought, that he would be back to work. I was looking forward to accusing him of having skived off and generally poking fun

I walked straight across to the Fleet Production Office. The questions I asked were the obvious ones: “What happened? I thought he was coming back…” To be told that someone I admired and enjoyed talking to was two days from death was too much. How friends & colleagues who knew him better than I coped for those few days is beyond me. I walked off the yard in tears that night. Rick died, asleep and with his family beside him, two days later – thinking about it now, I can’t help smiling at that. Rick didn’t like things to be late. The family atmosphere that I had been told of came to the fore. Friends leant on each other, a reassuring word was never far away. The funeral was packed; I thought at the time that we might as well have shut the depot for the day. Everyone who could be there was there. Glasses were raised in public and private. I went home after several shandies and played Metallica’s cover of “Tuesday’s Gone” by Lynyrd Skynyrd – I think Rick would have approved. I shall miss him.

What else to report? Well, I finally managed to report a train defect that DIDN’T TURN OUT TO BE BLOODY WHEEL SLIP INSTEAD OF LOSS OF POWER. My train left Guildford and ran like clockwork – but at Clandon one of the units in my 8-car train went “Bang” and refused to take power. After a degree of swearing and button pressing, it came back to life but it pulled the same trick at Bookham “How cross-making”, thought Potter. I reported the fault via the wonders of CSR witchcraft, and 15 minutes later Control contact my guard to say “game over at Wimbledon, mate – you’re out of service and into The Park.” Normal sensible drivers would have dumped the terminated train on the sidings at Wimbledon and skipped merrily home signing “I’ve finished 45 minutes early, hooray!” I, however, am very much aware of my reputation for reporting traction faults that are actually not faults at all – much to my embarrassment – so I went straight to the Fleet Office and discussed the problem at length before wandering back to the traincrew block to write my report. I was relieved to learn that the unit I reported (5866, for the rivet-counters amongst you) has what Fleet call “a history.” This means that it’s gone bang before and they were keeping an eye on it. So I didn’t make any time out of it, but at least i had some peace of mind. Yesterday also saw my first and probably only experience of a Flashing Green aspect. Yes folks, you might expect them on the East Coast Mainline but not on the platform start for the Down Main Slow at Vauxhall – signalling this stretch for 140mph running might be coined “over optimistic” or indeed “just bloody silly.” It looked to me like the bulb was dying inside the signal. Using the invisble talking witchcraft radio I told Wimbledon ‘box that they had a signal on the blink** (their response? “Oh good grief…” in long suffering Charlie Brown tones). I daresay the S&T boys will have fiddled with said signal by now and made it all better.

I’ve been reading with some interest in the railway press (or as one of my colleagues would have it, “Potter Porn” or “Railway Wank Mags”) that a company in Derby are looking at upgrading the venerable Class 73 Electro-diesels for the 21st Century. I approve very much of this idea, although with one or two reservations. Since railway engineering guru Roger Ford is known to read this nonsense from time to time, I shall direct my questions to him – but if the rest of you know the answers, do please chip in:

  1. Will the Westcode valve & 27-way jumpers still work at normal?
  2. Are they going to leave the cabs “as is”; they are fine places to sit & watch the world go by.
  3. How much of the electric-end of the loco will be fiddled with?
  4. How much will it cost and can I have one for Christmas, please?

I’m rather fond of the Little EDs, and it’s a tribute to the team that drew up the original design in the 1960’s that their locomotives are still working frontline services today. For all the environmental and economic benefits of replacing the 1960’s technology, though, I’ll miss the thump & whistle of a four-pot diesel engine. The plan for attack, though, is to make sure the prototype works properly and then persuade the company that we need three Thunderbirds and that I should be allowed to drive them. After all, South West Trains exists solely to provide one thing and that’s Happy Potter Railway Playtime.

Hmmm… All of which brings us to today. Here am I , Rest Day Potter, sat in a cafe in Barnes tapping away at my keyboard to bring you all the latest boring railway wibble and sipping a rather welcome cup of tea served by a severe looking lady in a black dress. She doesn’t look happy, you know. Perhaps I ought to have changed out of my pyjamas before leaving the house, do you think? Perhaps wearing the purple ones with the gold frogging & fake medals was a mistake. Maybe next time I’ll just wear the gold satin catsuit…

By the way – if you use Twitter….

@DriverPotter

Just saying!

PS: 3417 is, finally, safe and well at Bournemouth. Rest assured The Old Girl is to be fettled back to top form in the coming months. More news will follow…

** – “On the blink…?” Get it? On the blink? A flashing signal? Blinking? See what I did there? Hello…? Anyone there…?

The VEP Rides Again

ED + 4-Vep 3417 + ED

Train 895Y661 runs MO from 04/07/11 to 04/07/11 – Auto-Call
Train category EE Multiple-Unit 148 miles Applicable Timetable Service
Train service code 55460080 Catering N/A
Uid K43090 Sector 54 Sub-sector 02 Set up by TSDB on 01/07/11 Type STP

Location Booked C Pw Miles Tlod Ctg Pfm Eng Pth Consist
89366 TONB11&12 12:40 ORIGINATING PT
89363 TONBRIDGE 12:41 12:44 0 CALLING POINT
89351 SEVENOAKS PASS 12:53 2 8 PASSING POINT
88491 ORPINGTON 13:01 13:14 0 16 CALLING POINT
88490 PETTSWDJC PASS 13:17 2 PASSING POINT
88483 CHISLHRST PASS 13:18 2 19 PASSING POINT
88481 GROVEPARK PASS 13:21 2 21 PASSING POINT
88451 HITHERGRN 13:23 13:30 0 23 6 CALLING POINT
88447 PARKSBDGE PASS 13:38 2 PASSING POINT
88415 LEWISHAM PASS 13:40 2 24 6 PASSING POINT
88413 NUNHEAD PASS 13:51 2 26 4 PASSING POINT
87604 CROFTNRDJ PASS 13:57 2 PASSING POINT
87606 DENMARKHL PASS 13:58 2 27 PASSING POINT
87208 VOLTRRDJN PASS 14:01 2 30 PASSING POINT
87233 FACTORYJN PASS 14:02 2 PASSING POINT
87232 LONGHDGJN PASS 14:04 2 2 PASSING POINT
87219 CLAPHAMJN PASS 14:08 2 31 6H PASSING POINT
87149 BARNES PASS 14:19 2 35 PASSING POINT
87135 RICHMOND PASS 14:22 2 37 PASSING POINT
87131 TWICKNHAM PASS 14:24 2 39 2 PASSING POINT
87122 FELTHAMJN PASS 14:29 2 2 PASSING POINT
87121 FELTHAM PASS 14:32 2 42 3H PASSING POINT
87114 STAINES PASS 14:40 2 46 PASSING POINT
87106 VIRGINIAW PASS 14:48 2 51 PASSING POINT
86010 ADDLSTNJN PASS 14:55 2 PASSING POINT
86022 BYFLEETNH PASS 14:57 2 57 1 PASSING POINT
86031 WOKING PASS 15:03 2 60 PASSING POINT
86040 WOKING JN PASS 15:04 2 3 PASSING POINT
87043 PIRBGHTJN PASS 15:12 2 1H PASSING POINT
86042 FARNBORO PASS 15:17 2 69 5 PASSING POINT
86066 BASINSTOK PASS 15:35 2 84 2H PASSING POINT
86069 WORTINGJN PASS 15:40 2 2 PASSING POINT
86083 WINCHESTR PASS 15:56 2 103 PASSING POINT
86051 SHAWFORDJ PASS 15:58 2 PASSING POINT
86087 EASTLEIGH PASS 16:03 2 110 5H PASSING POINT
86499 ST DENYS PASS 16:11 2 113 PASSING POINT
86513 NORTHAMJN PASS 16:12 2 PASSING POINT
86520 STHAMPTON PASS 16:15 2 115 3H PASSING POINT
86703 REDBRIDGE PASS 16:21 2 118 2 PASSING POINT
86901 BROCKNHST PASS 16:33 2 129 12 PASSING POINT
86921 BOURNEMTH PASS 17:00 2 144 PASSING POINT
86927 BRANKSOME 17:04 17:07 0 147 CALLING POINT
86923 BMWT+RSMD 17:12 148 TERMINATING PT

Submitted with thanks to James Mayl for the timings, Chris Buckland, South West Trains & The Bluebell Railway for saving the Old Girl and of course Elmer Berstein for the music.