The Anonymous Widower

Fun With COVID-19

I find the term COVID-19 rather bland and you may have noticed that on this blog, I am tending to call it the Covids.

I feel, that the Covids has a certain edge to it. A superhero might kick someone in the Covids.

It also offers possibilities for creating a long name based on the letters.

How about Chinese Orrible Vaccine Impossible Death Syndrome?

I’m sure someone can do much better than that!

September 27, 2020 Posted by | Health | , , | 1 Comment

Environmentally-Friendly InterCity 125 Trains

InterCity 125 trains are not the most environmentally-friendly of beasts.

  • They do not meet the modern emission regulations.
  • They still emit a lot of carbon dioxide.
  • They is also a deadline of 2040, when UK railways will be net-carbon-free.

There might also be individuals and groups, who feel that these elderly trains with so much history, should be replaced by modern zero-carbon trains.

  • Would the same groups accept electrification with all the wires?
  • Would the train operating companies, accept battery power will long waits for charging?
  • Would hydrogen be viable on the numerous branch lines in Devon and Cornwall, with some difficult access to depots by road. Especially, if the hydrogen had to be brought from say Bristol or Southampton!

But various engineering solutions are emerging.

Biodiesel

This is probably the simplest solution and I suspect most modern engines can run on biodiesel with simple modifications. InterCity 125s have modern engines from German firm and Rolls-Royce subsidiary; MTU, so they probably have a solution in their tool-box.

Computerisation

I have never built a computer control system for anything, but I did work with the first engineers in the world, who computerised a chemical plant.

They always emphasised, if you could nudge the plant into the best area of operation, you’d have a much more efficient plant, that produced more product from the same amount of feedstock.

At about the same time, aircraft engine manufacturers were developing FADEC or Full Authority Digital Engine Control, which effectively let the engine’s control system take over the engine and do what the pilot had requested. The pilot can take back control, but if FADEC fails, the engine is dead.

But judging by the numbers of jet aircraft, that have engine failures, this scenario can’t be very common, as otherwise the tabloids would be screaming as they did recently over the 737 MAX.

Now, I don’t know whether the MTU 16V4000 R41R engines fitted to the InterCity 125, have an intelligent FADEC to improve their performance or whether they are of an older design.

If you worry about FADEC, when you fly, then read or note these points.

  •  Read the FADEC’s Wikipedia entry.
  • Your car is likely to be heavily computerised.
  • If you took a modern train or bus to the airport, that certainly will have been heavily computerised.

You could be more likely to meet someone with COVID-19 on a flight, than suffer an air-crash, depending on where you travel.

Rolls-Royce’s Staggering Development

Staggering is not my word, but that of Paul Stein, who is Rolls-Royce’s Chief Technology Officer.

He used the word in a press release, which I discuss in Our Sustainability Journey.

To electrify aviation, Rolls-Royce has developed a 2.5 MW generator, based on a small gas-turbine engine, which Paul Stein describes like this.

Amongst the many great achievements from E-Fan X has been the generator – about the same size as a beer keg – but producing a staggering 2.5 MW. That’s enough power to supply 2,500 homes and fully represents the pioneering spirit on this project.

This generator is designed for flight and the data sheet for the gas-turbine engine is available on the Internet.

  • It has a weight of under a couple of tonnes compared to the thirteen tonnes of the diesel engine and generator in a Class 68 locomotive.
  • It is also more powerful than the diesel.
  • It looks to be as frugal, if not more so!
  • Rolls-Royce haven’t said if this gas-turbine can run on aviation biofuel, but as many of Rolls-Royce’s large engines can, I would be very surprised if it couldn’t!

Rolls-Royce’s German subsidiary is a large producer of rail and maritime diesel engines, so the company has the expertise to customise the generator for rail applications.

Conclusion

I think it is possible, that the Class 43 power-cars can be re-engined to make them carbon-neutral.

September 25, 2020 Posted by | Computing, Health, Transport | , , , | 1 Comment

Is It Time To Use The Humour Option?

I was coming back from Hampshire tonight, and this guy was checking tickets in Winchester station.

 

His simple mask says “To The Trains” with a tasteful arrow! It certainly made me smile.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic started, we have used all serious and politically correct methods to fight the virus.

And we all seem to be getting more worried and miserable!

But what would those great comedians of the past like Arthur Askey, Dave Allen, Les Dawson, Ken Dodd, Groucho Marx and Max Miller have said and what songs would the likes of Spike Jones have sung?

I find it strange, that you see so few humorous masks and how many have been dressed to amuse, by perhaps wearing a mask, which matches, what they are wearing?

I know if C were still alive and I was still making her summer dresses as I sometimes did in the 1960s and 1970s, I’d have made her at least one flowery dress with a matching mask.

Humour is a very serious business!

September 23, 2020 Posted by | Health, Transport | , | 4 Comments

Chief Scientific Advisor And Chief Medical Officer Briefing On Coronavirus (COVID-19): 21 September 2020

The title of this post, is the same as that of this page on the Government web site.

The page gives full transcript of what was said.

This is a paragraph.

When people have an infection, the vast majority of people get an antibody response, and we know that some of those antibodies are so-called neutralising antibodies. They do indeed protect against the virus. We also know that they fade over time, and there are cases of people becoming re-infected. So this is not an absolute protection, and it will potentially decrease over time. What we see is that something under eight per cent of the population have been infected as we measure the antibodies, so about eight per cent, so 3 million or so people, may have been infected and have antibodies. It means that the vast majority of us are not protected in any way and are susceptible to this disease. There may be other forms of protection that increase that number a little bit, other parts of the immune system, but it does mean the vast majority of the population remain susceptible, and therefore you’d expect spread throughout them. The number of people with antibodies is a little higher in the cities, and it may be as high as 17 per cent or so in London. That may confer a little slowing of spread but not much more than that. At that point I’ll pass over to Chris to take you through some of the other features of the epidemic. Chris.

Note that I have indicated some of Professor Vallance’s words in colour.

What does he mean?

Could he be alluding to some people having a better immune system than others and are less likely to get COVID-19?

  • I am a coeliac on a gluten-free diet.
  • Research by Joe West at Nottingham University has shown that coeliacs like me, are 25 % less likely to suffer from cancer. Could this be because of our condition or our diet, coeliacs like me, have a very strong immune system?
  • I have various coeliac contacts, including several who read this blog and so far, I haven’t heard of one, who has suffered a bad dose of the covids.

Research should be done to see if there is a beneficial link between coeliac disease and COVID-19!

Conclusion

Patrick Vallance was certainly alluding to something!

September 21, 2020 Posted by | Health | , | Leave a comment

Cleethorpes Station – 16th September 2020

On Wednesday, I took a trip on the South Humberside Main Line from Doncaster to Cleethorpes and back.

Cleethorpes station is a terminal station on the beach, with cafes not far away.

This Google Map shows the station and its position on the sea-front and the beach.

The station organisation was a bit shambolic at present, probably more to do with COVID-19 than anything else, but the station and the train services could be developed into something much better, when the good times return, as they surely will.

Improving The Station Facilities

The original station building is Grade II Listed and although it is only only a three-platform station, there used to be more platforms.

Five platforms or even six would be possible, if there were to be a need.

But as the station has wide platforms, is fully step-free and has most facilities passengers need, most of the improvements would involve restoring the original station building for a productive use.

The Current Train Service

The main train service is an hourly TransPennine Express service between Cleethorpes and Manchester Airport stations via Grimsby Town, Scunthorpe, Doncaster, Sheffield and Manchester Piccadilly.

The trains are Class 185 trains, which are modern diesel multiple units, which entered service in 2006.

There is also a two-hourly service along the Barton Line to Barton-upon-Humber station.

It should be noted that all services to and from Cleethorpes, call at Grimsby Town station.

Could The TransPennine Service Be Run By Battery Electric Trains?

The route between Cleethorpes and Manchester Airport can be split into the following legs.

  • Cleethorpes and Grimsby Town – Not Electrified – 3,25 miles – 8 minutes
  • Grimsby Town and Habrough – Not Electrified – 8 miles – 12 minutes
  • Habrough and Doncaster – Not Electrified – 41 miles – 56 minutes
  • Doncaster and Sheffield – Not Electrified – 19 miles – 29 minutes
  • Sheffield and Stockport – Not Electrified – 37 miles – 41 minutes
  • Stockport and Manchester Piccadilly – Electrified – 6 miles – 10 minutes
  • Manchester Piccadilly and Manchester Airport – Electrified – 11 miles – 12 minutes

Note.

  1. At the Manchester end of the route, trains are connected to the electrification for at least 44 minutes.
  2. The longest non-electrified leg is the 52 miles between Cleethorpes and Doncaster stations.
  3. Doncaster is a fully-electrified station.

This infographic shows the specification of a Hitachi Regional Battery Train.

TransPennine Express has a fleet of nineteen Class 802 trains, which can have their diesel engines replaced with battery packs to have a train with the following performance.

  • 125 mph operating speed, where electrification exists.
  • 56 mile range at up to 100 mph on battery power.
  • 15 minute battery charge time.
  • Regenerative braking to Battery.
  • They are a true zero-carbon train.

What infrastructure would be needed, so they could travel between Cleethorpes and Manchester Airport stations?

  • If between Cleethorpes and Habrough stations were to be electrified, this would give at least 20 minutes of charging time, plus the time taken to turn the train at Cleethorpes. This would surely mean that a train would leave for Manchester, with a full load of electricity on board and sufficient range to get to Doncaster and full electrification.
  • If between Doncaster and Sheffield were to be electrified, this would give at least 25 minutes of charging time, which would be enough time to fully-charge the batteries, so that Grimsby Town in the East or Stockport in the West could be reached.

I suspect that Doncaster and Sheffield could be an early candidate for electrification for other reasons, like the extension of the Sheffield tram-train from Rotherham to Doncaster.

Could The Cleethorpes And Barton-on-Humber Service Be Run By Battery Electric Trains?

Cleethorpes And Barton-on-Humber stations are just 23 miles apart.

This is probably a short enough route to be handled on and out and back basis, with charging at one end by a battery electric train. Vivarail are claiming a sixty mile range for their battery electric Class 230 trains on this page of their web site.

If between Cleethorpes and Grimsby Town stations were to be electrified, this would mean that a range of only forty miles would be needed and the batteries would be charged by the electrification.

A full hourly service, which is surely needed, would need just two trains for the service and probably a spare.

Cleethorpes And London King’s Cross Via Grimsby Town, Market Rasen, Lincoln Central And Newark North Gate

The Wikipedia entry for Cleethorpes station has references to this service.

This is the historical perspective.

In the 1970s Cleethorpes had a twice daily return service to London King’s Cross, typically hauled by a Class 55 Deltic.

That must have been an impressive sight.

And this was National Express East Coast’s plan.

In August 2007, after National Express East Coast was awarded the InterCity East Coast franchise, it proposed to start services between Lincoln and London King’s Cross from December 2010 with one morning service and one evening service extending from Lincoln to Cleethorpes giving Cleethorpes a link to London and calling at Grimsby Town and Market Rasen. These services were to be operated using the Class 180s but was never introduced. These services were scrapped when East Coast took over the franchise.

It came to nothing, but LNER have been running up to five trains per day (tpd) between London King’s Cross and Lincoln.

I will split the route into legs.

  • London King’s Cross and Newark North Gate- Electrified – 120 miles
  • Newark North Gate and Lincoln Central – Not Electrified – 16,5 miles
  • Lincoln Central and Market Rasen – Not Electrified – 15 miles
  • Market Rasen and Habrough – Not Electrified – 21 miles
  • Habrough and Grimsby Town – Not Electrified – 8 miles
  • Grimsby Town and Cleethorpes – Not Electrified – 3.25 miles

Note that a  round trip between Newark North Gate and Lincoln Central is thirty-three miles.

This means it would be possible for one of LNER’s Class 800 trains, that had been fitted with a battery pack and converted into one of Hitachi’s Regional Battery trains, would be able to run a London King’s Cross and Lincoln Central service without using a drop of diesel or needing a charge at Lincoln Central station.

Would it be possible to extend this service to Grimsby Town on battery power?

I suggested earlier that between Cleethorpes and Habrough should be electrified.

As Newark North Gate and Habrough stations are 52.5 miles apart, it would be rather tight for a battery electric train to cover the whole route without an extra charge somewhere.

Possible solutions could be.

  • Fit a bigger battery in the trains.
  • Extend the electrification at Newark North Gate station.
  • Extend the electrification at Habrough station.

I;m sure that there is a solution, that is easy to install.

Conclusion

If between Habrough and Cleethorpes station were to be electrified, these services could be run by battery electric trains.

  • Cleethorpes and Manchester Piccadilly
  • Cleethorpes and Barton-on-Humber
  • Cleethorpes and London King’s Cross

Note.

  1. The Manchester and London services would be run by Hitachi Regional Battery Trains converted from Class 800 and Class 802 trains.
  2. The Barton service could be run by a Vivarail Class 230 train or similar.

The first two services would be hourly, with the London service perhaps 1 or 2 tpd.

Cleethorpes would be well and truly on the rail network.

September 18, 2020 Posted by | Health, Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

LNER’s Cheaper Advanced Tickets Can Be Bought Just Before You Travel

Yesterday, I had a ticket on the 15:47 train, back from Doncaster to London Kings Cross. I had bought it on-line a few days ago for £23.50.

But, I was unable to complete what I wanted to do, so found myself at Doncaster station, with three hours to wait for my train.

Usually, I buy open returns, but LNER have stopped that because of the covids!

So rather than wait, I decided to buy another ticket.

A new Off Peak Single with my Railcard would have been £60, but I found the machine could sell me an Advance Single Ticket for £31.

So I got home in time for the cricket. My ticket also got me two seats, including a window.

LNER seem to be getting their act together.

September 17, 2020 Posted by | Health, Transport | , , | 2 Comments

A Hand Sanitiser In A Quiet Corner

This corner at Moorgate station never gets any passenger traffic, but thousands pass within three or four metres or so.

So what a good place to put a hand sanitiser.

I often use these sanitisers, when I pass and wonder if they should be a permanent feature, even after COVID-19 has passed.

Would they help in the control of winter influenza?

September 17, 2020 Posted by | Health, Transport | , , | 2 Comments

A Brief History Of My Left Knee

In March this year I had an accident in my bedroom, which I wrote about in An Accident In My Bedroom.

I said this in the post.

It is now Monday morning and the first picture says a lot. Note the the mat by the step is out of line. It slipped, I then tripped over the step and hit my head on the basin. There is also an overturned stool in the bathroom, which I must have fallen on and this probably did more damage.

My GP  thinks I may have a blood pressure problem, so I am regularly taking my blood pressure, sitting and then standing up after five minutes.

But it seems to be behaving itself. If you want to look the figures are in Fighting My Way Through The Covids.

And then last Thursday, I nearly had another fall.

I was getting out of bed at about seven and rolled myself to my feet. I stood up and then my left knee gave way. As I hadn’t fully stood up, I was able to just sit on the bed. So no harm was done!

I didn’t feel light-headed or anything other than fine and I just went to the toilet, brushed my teeth and walked through to my living room and checked the computer, as I always do first thing in the morning.

This isn;t the first time, that my knee has done this.

It must have been in the 1970s, when the knee was doing something similar and I went to see my GP, who recommended seeing a specialist and having an operation. I didn’t.

Nothing much happened again, until perhaps 1980, when after moving to Suffolk, I went to see another GP.  He decided, I needed to do a set of exercises, which seemed to work, especially as I was doing a lot of horse-riding, which seemed to help.

Later, when I moved across Suffolk, I swapped real tennis for the horse riding and I’ve never really had any trouble since, until I moved to London.

One strange thing though, was I went to see a specialist fitness trainer after my left-sided stroke in 2010, who said strangely, that my left leg was stronger than my right.

Since the stroke, I’ve had the following falls.

  1. Two trips on Islington’s bad pavements, where I just picked myself up, dusted myself down and started all over again.
  2. In one, my knee possibly collapsed, I thought I was having a stroke and I ended up in UCLH.
  3. I rolled out of bed in a hotel in Strasbourg, when I was dreaming about my late wife.
  4. I rolled out of bed at home in another vivid dream and needed hospital attention.
  5. The recent fall, where I ended up in the Royal London.

I certainly feel that 2 and 5 are down to the dodgy knee, I should also say, that in all the falls except for number 2, I felt very normal, although perhaps a bit surprised and stupid.

These are a few random points.

  • As a child, I always hopped on my left leg.
  • A couple of friends have told me I don’t stand straight.
  • My left humerus was broken by the school bully and badly set in Highlands Hospital, so I avoid using it. Does this affect my stance and put pressure on the knee?
  • At times in my life, I’ve worn an elastic bandage on the knee.
  • I sometimes had trouble with my knee, in intimate moments with my late wife.

As the knee has never been looked at using modern technology, perhaps now is the time.

 

 

 

September 13, 2020 Posted by | Health | | 3 Comments

World’s First Hydrogen-Powered Passenger Train Hits The Rails In Austria

The title of this post is the same as that of this article on Silicon Republic.

This is the first paragraph.

This week in future tech, an Alstom hydrogen-powered train will start taking passengers in Austria for the first time.

But for the covids, I’d be on my way tomorrow to do a bit of advanced-level trainspotting.

September 12, 2020 Posted by | Health, Hydrogen, Transport | , , , | 4 Comments

Israel Becomes First Nation To Announce A Second Coronavirus Lockdown

This title of this post, is the same as that of this article on The Times.

Israil had done well to control the first lockdown, but now they have over 4,000 new infections per day.

This paragraph gives some details.

About two thirds of the infections are in the Arab-Israeli and ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities, which together account for almost a third of the 8.8 million-strong population. Experts attribute the levels of infection to both groups’ insistence, despite restrictions, on holding weddings with as many as 1,000 guests, and the resumption of study three weeks ago in the ultra-Orthodox seminaries.

With 4,000 new infections in a population of just under nine million, their rate is much higher than in the UK.

September 12, 2020 Posted by | Health | , , , | Leave a comment