The Anonymous Widower

What Has The EU Done For UK’s Railways?

I am not a Eurosceptic although like may, I am a bit sceptical about some of the things that the EU does with our money.

An article on the Rail Engineer entitled The Freight Train Of The Future caught my eye.

Susrail is an EU project which aims to create more environmentally freight trains. This is an overview from the article.

SUSTRAIL aims to increase rail freight performance through a whole system approach which involves a number of work packages. The current system was benchmarked (WP1) and duty requirements established (WP2).

Then two parallel but linked packages considered the freight train of the future (WP3) and sustainable track (WP4), after which a business case (WP5) was developed and the new vehicle and track systems were tested (WP6). Thirty-one organisations in twelve countries shared the work for which the project coordinator was Consorzio Train, an Italian consortium of rail research institutions. UK participants were Network Rail (technical coordinator), Tata Steel and the Universities of Newcastle, Leeds, Sheffield and Huddersfield.

Initial benchmarking involved Network Rail and the Universities of Leeds and Newcastle. This analysed three selected freight routes in Bulgaria, Spain and Britain (Southampton and Felixstowe to Warrington).

It is a fascinating article and well worth a read.

But at least the EU is doing something to make freight trains more efficient and less noisy.

It did raise a chuckle, as I read how they were looking at the dynamics of freight wagons. As I remember from the 1960s, the superb dynamics of the InterCity 125 benefited from research done by British Rail, to solve the problem of the large number of freight train derailments of the time.


September 5, 2015 Posted by | Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Something To Bragg About!

A few days ago, someone asked me about the overhead wires of a railway and the pantographs, that pick up the 25,000 Volts AC current.

I can’t remember what their question was, but I said it is a difficult problem, as a train like a Virgin Class 390 Pendelino might be travelling at 125 mph in bad weather, so maintaining contact with a constant pressure between the pantograph and the overhead wire isn’t easy.

I was reading something else and found this article on the Rail Engineer web site. Research has been going on at the City University to develop a sensor that monitors the forces at the pantograph head. As you can imagine it is a particularly harsh environment and the engineers have bean using a technology called a Fibre Bragg Grating (FBG) developed in the 1990s, based on the work by the Nobel Prize-winning scientists William Lawrence Bragg and his  father; William Henry Bragg.

I won’t paraphrase the article, but it is a must read. Where it will all lead to I don’t know, but I will repeat this last paragraph.

In the long term, the FBG sensor system offers the ability to detect contact forces from the entire service fleet if combined with GPS and suitable telemetry. This offers the potential of continuous real-time monitoring of the entire overhead line network. Then the Braggs’ work on X-ray diffraction of crystals a hundred years ago could well have made overhead line dewirements also a thing of the past.

Just imagine what it would mean to the operators of our increasingly electrified rail network, if delays caused by trains bringing down the overhead wires were to be reduced.

I’ve met people at Cambridge University for whom William Lawrence Bragg was their tutor and they have described him as a quiet man, who was superb in getting brilliant work out of the students, he tutored.

This tale illustrates why we must do more and more research and often that the solution to a difficult problem is unexpected, but brilliant.



August 17, 2015 Posted by | World | , , | Leave a comment

Eyesores On Haverstock Hill

Hampstead is a very posh part of London, but walk down Haverstock Hill and you see some of the worst buildings in London.

The church is having the cheek to object to the hospital building a new research centre.

A better solution would be to demolish both the Royal Free Hospital and St. Stephen’s church and use the enlarged site to build something that fitted better into the area. Like a prison or a factory making garden gnomes.

Seriously though, the hospital was built in 1974 and it can’t be many years until, it will need either severe refurbishment or replacing.

This would surely give a chance to improve the whole area.

The church is the sort of building, that gives the heritage industry a bad name. Wikipedia says this about its restoration.

A lease on it was awarded to the St Stephen’s Restoration and Preservation Trust in 1999 and, after this body raised over £4 million from English Heritage, the Heritage Lottery Fund, local businesses and individual donors, it has restored it to a usable condition in three phases.

I’m sure all of those who play the lottery loved that their money went towards restoring an eyesore like this. I don’t play the lottery as it is a tax on the poor. I do object though that English Heritage put money in, as that could be part of my taxes. If individuals want to waste their own money on a building that would serve best as good hardcore, that is their own affair.

December 31, 2014 Posted by | World | , | 1 Comment

Energy Efficient Houses Linked To Asthma

I found this research on the Exeter University web site, after seeing a report in today’s Sunday Times.

Very Interesting!

December 21, 2014 Posted by | Health, News | | Leave a comment

To Live A Long Life Keep Your Waistline At Half Your Height

This is the headline of an article in the Sunday Times reporting on a study from the City University.

I’m 1.71 tall and my waist is about 80 centimetres. Although I have no proof, I think I’m the same size, as when I left Liverpool University in 1968.

So I think I qualify.

But then so did C and our youngest son and both are not here now!

Two personal stories would appear to support the research.

One of my father’s heroes as he saw him box, was the incomparable Ted “Kid” Lewis. The Aldgate Sphinx was probably a similar size naturally to both my father and myself, although towards the end of his boxing career, he fought and won at light-heavyweight. But he lived until he was 75.

I also used to live in Newmarket and knew several retired jockeys well past sixty. Many were still trim and seemed to be pursuing a very active live. Someone should research the health and life of jockeys!

For these reasons, I intend to stay this size for the rest of my life. Especially, as it’s so much cheaper, as I don’t have to keep buying new clothes.




September 7, 2014 Posted by | Health | | Leave a comment

Wolves And Wolf Research

We went to see if we could find any signs of wolves, but first we went to see a presentation about wolf research.

It was fascinating to see how wolves are migrating south through Sweden and the research that is being done to make sure the population is healthy and able to live easily with the human population.

I asked the researcher, if he had any views on our badger problem.  He would not have any common ground with Brian May on the cull.

On the other hand, the wolf research will hopefully lead to the understanding of how wild animals and people can live together in harmony.

September 7, 2013 Posted by | World | , , | Leave a comment

Will It Be Engineers And Scientists Who Cure Back Pain?

BBC Radio 5 had a discussion this lunchtime about back pain. The most amazing part was a statement by Brian Saunders of the School of Materials at Manchester University. He talked of how they were developing a jelly-like polymer, which could be injected into the body. Things are apparently going well!

Couple this with work, I know of at Liverpool University, where engineers have been analysing the gait of humans, dogs and horses, to get greater insight into problems and I get the feeling that over the next decades engineers and physical scientists will make great process in helping us to live longer and better. These two examples are probably just two of many similar ones.


September 3, 2013 Posted by | Health | , , | Leave a comment

Should We Embrace Fracking?

As an engineer, I have come to some conclusions about fracking.

There is certainly a lot of gas and possibly oil, buried in the ground, that can be accessed using advanced techniques like fracking in the UK.

Countries like the United States have certainly benefited from fracking with low gas prices and increased manufacturing activity.

There have been problems, as there were in Blackpool in the UK with fracking.

But are we throwing the resources of our great engineering universities, like Newcastle, Surrey, Southampton, Aberdeen, Manchester and Liverpool at the problem? I’ve left out universities that aren’t close to oil and gas reserves.

I doubt it!

Knowing engineering and engineers as I do, I suspect they could come up with better methods, that would benefit the UK and perhaps other countries, who have large difficult gas reserves and are nervous of using fracking and other methods.

So should the major oil and gas companies, be spending a few hundred millions investing in the future?

August 12, 2013 Posted by | News, World | , , , | 2 Comments

Don’t Have Your Operation On A Friday

This report on the BBC, about research by Paul Aylin at Imperial College, says that you are more likely to die, if you have your operation towards the end of the week.

Some years ago, my software Daisy, was used to examine the outcomes of surgery in a Regional Health Authority. They found, that the longer a patient was in hospital, the more likely there would be complications.

This data needs a lot more analysis.

May 29, 2013 Posted by | Computing, Health | , | Leave a comment

More CERN Photos

There are more CERN photos uploaded here to Flickr by other visitors from our Liverpool University Alumni Relations group.

May 21, 2013 Posted by | World | , , , , , | Leave a comment


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