Tag Archives: Transport

Ze Train! Ze Train!

19 Jul

<a href=”


http://www.youtube.com/v/fzGMnDOsGVQ?version=3” target=”_blank”>

Planes, trains or automobiles? What is your favorite way to travel 500 miles?

It has to be the train.  Unlike a car, I can sit, stand, walkabout.  All traffic is going in the same direction.  Unlike a plane, I won’t crash into a mountain and have to eat my fellow passengers.  Even I don’t like my food that much.  But I do like trains, so here are some interesting facts for you:

  • The earliest railway in Great Britain was built between October 1603 and October 1604.  Which was a bit of a waste of time, as trains hadn’t been invented yet.
  • The first railway in America was used in 1826.  That was in the days when ideas flowed this way to that, and not the other way round.
  • The steepest Cogwheel railway in the world is in Switzerland. It has a gradient of 48%.  Rather like their chocolate.
  • Great Britain has over 40,000 bridges on the rail system.  If you’re lucky, the one in your area will be open for use.
  • The longest straight stretch of railway is in Australia. The part without any curves is 478km (301 miles) long.  This might be the one time I’d choose to fly.
  • The heaviest train weighs more than 27,000 elephants.  In the scale of things, that’s a pretty big scale.
  • In the 1800s, trains moved at peak speeds of 25mph.  Ah, the good old days, when trains moved so quickly.
  • The only railway to go to the top of a volcano was built on Mount Vesuvius in Italy, in 1880.  The ride down was much faster.
  • There was rush hour traffic on the Oregon-California trail.  The more things change…
  • The fastest train in the world is the TGV in France. It is a similar train to the Eurostar which runs in the UK and across to France and Belgium. It can go at 515km (322 miles) an hour – four and a half times faster than a car on the motorway.  A motorway in Europe, that is; in Britain, it’s forty-four and a half times faster.
  • Central Station has the largest platform in the world.  That used to be true; now it’s Lady Gaga.
  • In test runs, the French TGV reached speeds of 584km per hour and when it braked it took 10 miles to stop.  Bet that aircraft carrier is looking mighty nippy round about now.
  • The longest possible journey on one train can be taken between Moscow and Vladivostok in Russia, on the Trans-Siberian Express. The journey is 9,297km (5,857 miles) long.  No wonder Dr Zhivago is such a boring book.
  • The largest station in the world is Grand Central in New York. It has 44 platforms.  Lady Gaga is working on a fiendish plot to steal them for her next video.
  • Even in full emergency, it can take a train a mile or more to stop.  This means if the engineer can see you, it is already too late to stop for you.  Moral: stay off the track.
  • Time was standardised by the introduction of railway timetables.  ‘The train arriving at platform 1 is due at four minutes past sunset’ wouldn’t work on cloudy days.




Redressing The Balance

9 Nov
Stockport railway station

Image by Ben Sutherland via Flickr

I wouldn’t say yesterday’s post was unfair to Stockport because I told me no lies, but I think it’s time to tell you about what’s good here.

We have the country’s only hat museum, based in our famous Hat Works Museum.

We have a much-admired Victorian viaduct.


When the railway station was built, the foresighted land owner who sold his land to the railway people had a clause inserted that all trains to and from London & Manchester must stop at Stockport Station.  It means we have one of the best services in the country – a train every ten minutes to Manchester, and every half-an-hour to London.  Or it was the best service, until the last couple of years when the powers-that-be decided to ignore a legally binding contract because it had become cost-ineffective.  Sometimes now we have to wait forty minutes for a London train.

We are part of Cheshire, but also part of Greater Manchester (when it suits us).  Think of us as a geographical Venn diagram, having a share in Manchester Airport but a much-coveted Cheshire postcode – much-coveted by Mancunians, that is, who pay more with M postcodes for home and motor insurance, presumably because everyone in Manchester is a scally and everyone in Stockport is a Premier League footballer (no class, but loads of dosh).

We get a lot of wet weather but not much severe weather.  That’s something, I suppose.

We have our own pyramid. 


If you look carefully at the photograph, you can’t see my house: it’s just out of sight on the left of the road at top right.  Another centimetre and you’d have me.

Six pyramids were planned but the developer battled to sell this one, so one it is. 

If you watch Life On Mars, when Sam is on the roof of the Police Station – which was filmed at Stopford House, a council building – you can make out the pyramid in the distance.  A tiny error only we Stopfordians we know: it wasn’t built in 1973.

We have the oldest school in the country, Stockport Grammar, founded in 1487.  My American readers might be interested to know that the NBA basketball star John Amaechi went there.  So does Spud, who’ll be lucky if he grows tall enough to wash John’s knees.

I’m sure we’ve got other good stuff, but I can’t think of anything else, so I’ll stop on a high. 


There’s a new post in my other blog, http://sapoems.wordpress.com if you care to take a look.

%d bloggers like this: