Miscellaneous

11 March 2012
Today marks ten years since Transport Blog’s…
Patrick Crozier

...first post. Thought I should mention that.

18 July 2011
Crossrail goes past City Airport without stopping
Brian Micklethwait

In recent weeks and months I have been exploring the area around the big old East London docks, beyond the Docklands Towers, the ones that feature in the opening credits of Eastenders, and the ones which have London City Airport in the middle of them.

Here is the relevant bit of google maps.  Zoom in a couple of times in the middle of that, and you will see the area I’m talking about.  You will see it even better if you click on “satellite”, which I have only recently learned to do.  Do that and you can see actual railway lines and actual airplanes.

My most recent wanderings around there saw me trying to find a path beside the river, starting at the north end of the Woolwich Ferry, going west.  I didn’t get very far.  I soon came upon industrial estates and jetties sticking out, places where actual work was being done, and actual transport, on the river.  (A surprising amount of freight still seems to move up and down the river these days, in among all the more eye catching and frequent pleasure boats.) In the industrial estates pedestrians are not encouraged, although I did venture into one of them, until I got to a wall and had to turn around and go back.  As for the jetties, random pedestrians can’t get anywhere near the river near them.  Basically the Thames footpath stops.

On an earlier expedition, I had started at the same point, north end of Woolwich Ferry, and travelled East.  For a while, fine, there was a rather nice park right next to the river.  But then it again stopped.  There does seem to be an aspiration to have a continuous Thames Path in that part of London, on the north of the river as well as the south (which already has such a path), just as there is everywhere else.  But it is taking a very long to time to join up in that particular part of London.  At present the path there exists only in rather forlorn and run-down little fragments.

So, anyway, on this most recent trip going west along the river, frustrated by industry, I turned right, northwards, back towards the docks and the airplanes.  And I bumped into Crossrail.

It’s pretty hard working out where all the various railways in that part of London go, just as footpaths are also hard to identify.  Maps are not always helpful, often showing stations but not the lines between them, especially if they are in tunnels.  (Although, as I have only just now discovered, if you click on “Public transport” in Google Maps, then things like underground railways become a lot clearer.  (No, scrub that.  It doesn’t become clearer, because the blue line calling itself the Docklands Light Railway does not appear where the DLR physically is.  It merely connects the stations, like a crow flying between them.  There are separate graphics, sometimes but not always, for where the railway actually is.  Very confusing.))

Basically, there are two branches of the Docklands Light Railway, one going north of the docks, and one to the south of them and then under the river to the Woolwich Arsenal.  Plus, there is also a defunct regular railway line, that starts off on the north side of the docks, but then goes under them, and then goes along the middle of a long straight boulevard called variously (depending which side of the boulevard you are on), Connaught Road, Factory Road and Albert Road, between the docks and the river, just south of the southern branch of the DLR, and then it too disappears into a defunct tunnel that goes under the river to the south.

However this defunct railway and its defunct tunnel will soon both be funct again, because Crossrail will be making use of it.  At present, the line is a charming rural wilderness trail, fenced off, and dividing the Connaught Factory Albert boulevard down the middle.  So make up your mind good and early which side of the Connaught Factory Albert bourlevard you need to be on.

But although this means that although Crossrail will be going within a couple of hundred yards of the City Airport, which is right in among the docks to the north of where Crossrail will be, there are not now any plans for the trains to stop at this spot.  It will stop at the top left of the docks, as it were, at a station called Customs House, nearly half a mile’s walk to the airport, and it will stop on the other side of the river, but, so far as I can work out from the www, not near to City Airport.

There already is a Docklands Light Railway stop at City Airport, on the southern bit of it.  However, the DLR is, for users of City Airport, very slow and frustrating.  It takes an age to trundle its toy train way, stopping at every little stop on the way, from real London out to these docklands, which are beyond even the regular Docklands that people mean when they say that.  I imagine most users of City Airport arrive by car, typically driven by someone else.

The relationship between City Airport and Crossrail seems to have been quite acrimonious (sorry I read this on the www recently but I forget where).  The impression I get is that Crossrail is perceived by City Airport almost as a bug rather than a feature, which seems a bit strange.  It’s as if Crossrail is threatening to flood City Airport with Ryanair plebs, rather than the genteel taxi-delivered suits it now caters to.

Or, maybe all this Crossrail activity is driving up local land prices and threatening to complicate various expansion plans that City Airport has.  City Airport is certainly very busy.  Airplanes land or take off there pretty much continuously.  So I guess they figure that getting yet more people to their airport is not their problem.  Their problem is making their airport shift more people to and from the air.

I have lots of photos of this part of London that I have taken on my various trips.  I hope to post some of these at my personal blog in the nearish future, but promise nothing.  If any such snaps do materialise, I will put a link to them here.

04 July 2011
Car bureaucracy
Rob Fisher

She has a folder of information. Everyone has folders for their car stuff? How can the whole world be so organized? How can the government require that you be this organized to get through life? Why is no one protesting?

That’s from a post by Penelope Trunk who has Asperger’s syndrome, about struggling with registering her car at the DMV, which is presumably one of those rituals people in the USA take for granted. We have similar rituals here in the UK, and I can relate to a lot of what’s in that post, particularly the above quote.

03 July 2011
Mad new machine for not getting around devised by some students from Adelaide University
Brian Micklethwait

When someone invents a totally new kind of transport, usually with not enough wheels, they tend to release a video which at least tries to suggest that, although actually mad, the new means of transport has glimmerings of sanity, and might have its uses for something other than sport, where the new mad machine merely competes against itself.

But this video, of EDWARD the Electric Dicycle, seems to be going out of its way to prove that EDWARD the Electric Dicycle is completely insane, and has no uses whatever apart from turning its insane occupant upside down for no reason.

Strange.

08 June 2011
Legible London?
Brian Micklethwait

I photoed this yesterday afternoon, embedded in the pavement in the top bit of Horseferry Road, just past the Channel 4 building as I walked towards St James Park tube.

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I was baffled, and despite visiting the website alluded to, I still am baffled.  It says: What is Legible London?  Those were my exact sentiments, and they remain my sentiments.

It is something to do with the fact that walking is often quicker, for short journeys, than using the underground.  But why this plaque in the pavement?  Is there some kind of electronic gizmo underneath, with feeds into iPhones or something?

I am sure there is a semi-rational explanation, but can anyone oblige?

(The fact that two of the screws are missing doesn’t bode well, does it?)

04 March 2011
Space Shuttle launch seen from a passing airplane – science in space
Brian Micklethwait

Indeed:

“We don’t want anybody to complain that we were late …”

I don’t know quite what “late” means.  Was that the pilot speaking, and did the pilot himself offer everyone free drinks?  Feels more like a private jet with a dozen business execs on board than an “airliner”.

Anyway the upshot of this lateness was that all on board got to see another upshot, in the form of the latest Space Shuttle launch.  The very last one, I think, yes?  Anyway, one of the passengers did a vid.

The latest NASA effort, however, was not so good.

Further to that talk by James Bennett that Michael and I attended, I was reminded that Bennett also focussed on the contribution of private sector near earth orbit flights to scientific research.  It turns out that experiments work a lot better if there’s a guy up there with the experiment.  Private sector space travel doesn’t stay up there as long as clunky old government space rockets, but it is much cheaper.  Think about it.  Little and often and cheap probably makes a lot more sense than one big expensive Hail Mary, have-to-get-everything-right-first-time mega-project.

24 December 2010
Khatia Buniatishvili plays Schumann at the Wigmore Hall
Brian Micklethwait

Nearly two months ago now, I went to a piano recital at the Wigmore Hall.  An American lady was visiting a friend.  Friend was busy during the day, and needed someone to show the American lady a good time, or at least to try.  American lady likes classical music, which made me the designated local.

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The recital was given by the young Georgian pianist Khatia Buniatishvili, and the biggest piece on the programme was the first, Schumann’s Fantasie opus 17.

I have many recordings of Schumann piano music, but have never quite got him.  Oh, it’s nice and everything.  But only in a rather vicar’s tea party sort of way.  Schumann enthusiasts write about how revolutionary and disruptive his music sounds, and especially how revolutionary and disruptive it must have sounded to his contemporaries, but all I have tended to hear is what his music had in common with that of his contemporaries.  It just sounded to me like nice, classical piano music.  And I had never been able to understand the connection between all that well-mannered tinkling and the fact that Schumann died a madman, and before that had never been entirely sane.  Mad was the last thing his music sounded, to me.  Schumann lurches insanely, nay schizophrenically, between spooky serenity (the kind of music that accompanies attics full of dolls in horror movies) and explosive craziness!  Schumann is wild, man!  But I could never hear this.  It just sounded serenely serene to me.

All that changed when Khatia Buniatishvili started to unleash the Fantasie opus 17.  The American lady later told me that she admired the risks Ms Buniatishvili took with the tempos, speeding up here, slowing down there.  For me, that all helped, but it was the sheer loudness of it, when it was loud, that made the real difference.  Finally, I was hearing what I had been reading about Schumann for half a century, but had never heard before.

The Wigmore Hall accoustic is famous and much admired, but I don’t believe it would suit everyone.  The sound completely surrounds you.  And this is especially the case when someone like Khatia Buniatishvili is flaying a piano the way she did that lunchtime in early November of 2010.  I suppose I might achieve a similar effect in my own kitchen, if I were to go mad with surround-sound hi-fi and turn up the volume to maximum.  But were I to do that at all regularly, my neighbours would soon be pounding on my door.  Anything less than a detached house with a large surrounding garden and everyone else in the house away on holiday and it would be very anti-social.

My experience of listening to live classical music compared to listening to it dead, in my kitchen, has been that the fewer the number of the musicians involved, the greater the contrast between liveness and deadness. 

Strangely, the value added, so to speak, of a concert when there is an orchestra playing is far less than it is for much smaller ensembles.  It is as if, with orchestral music, the drama and the frenzy is packaged in a way that seems to survive the diminution involved in a mere recording.  The melodies, emphases, the contrasts, and above all the harmonies, the meanings of each passing moment, all get through.  But with chamber music, the loss is far greater.  With chamber music, a dead recording is merely nice.  Liveness enables you to experience all the nuances of the performance, including all the body language of the musicians, which of course means far more than it does when you watch a full orchestra all swaying about.  With chamber music, the difference between live and dead is the difference between being in a theatre, and listening to a bad sound recording of the same thing.

Some years ago, I experienced this difference with particular force when I attended a Wigmore Hall performance of the Shostakovitch violin sonata, given by Leonidas Kavakos.  Fantastic!  But then, unusually (Radio 3 broadcasts Monday lunchtime concerts live and then again the following weekend), I was able to listen again to the exact same performance on the radio that I had already witnessed live.  And on the radio it sounded … nice.  The comparison was, as the saying goes, no comparison. 

Since her recital was also a Monday lunchtime Wigmore recital, I would once again have the chance to listen again, to Ms Buniatishvili.  Would the same principle apply to her playing?  That Shostakovitch piece had involved two musicians, Kavakos and his equally excellent pianist, both striking sparks off each other.  Would the deadness-liveness contrast still apply, with only one musician?

Indeed it did, and if anything ever more so.  I listened, in particular, to that Schumann piece that had knocked my socks off in the actual concert hall, and it sounded … nice.  I was right back with the vicar, sipping tea.  Astonishing.

What a difference a journey can make.  As you can see, that’s been a preoccupation of mine here of late.

06 December 2010
New York Transit Museum
Rob Fisher

I’m visiting New York, and today I stumbled upon the Transit Museum Gallery Annex and Store at Grand Central Terminal.

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Transit Museum Gallery and Annex

Mostly it’s just a museum shop, but it does have a rather charming model with working trains. There are cutaway sections that illustrate what’s going on underground.

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Subway Cutaway

New York subway trains run just beneath the roads, so you can hear the trains when walking along the street, and you can hear the traffic when you’re waiting in the subway station.

Meanwhile I have been trying not to get arrested for taking pictures of bridges and tunnels.

24 November 2010
SpaceX gets permission to re-enter
Brian Micklethwait

This sounds good:

Technology entrepreneur Elon Musk’s California-based space launch firm has become the first commercial company to receive a Federal Aviation Administration license to allow an orbiting spacecraft to return to Earth.

I did a piece a while back for Samizdata, speculating about why Obama’s space policies are so bafflingly sensible, which would have been linked to from here, I dare say, had here been in business at the time.

LATER: More transport related bloggery from me here, including (at the end) a question which I would love to have answered, and in particular see (in a picture) answered.

21 November 2010
A few rather ancient transport links
Brian Micklethwait

Some while back I started accumulating links to interesting transport things, concerning events during the recent spell of Transport Blog outage, by googling “transport” and ignoring everything boring, which is a hell of a lot.  (Mostly politicians moaning about how they aren’t being allowed or should be allowed to waste public money on transport crap of various sorts.)

But then I got ill and forgot about this.  Today, just to clear my decks, I give you this file of links.  There aren’t actually that many, but for what they are worth, click and enjoy:

Inside the world’s biggest private jet.

Is Google the most significant transport enterprise of twenty first century?

Passengers break out of train.

Germany gets across the channel.  It’s taken seventy years for the big arrows at the beginning of Dad’s Army to get here, but now they are about to.

The mobile web is bigger than transport.

Video of train spotter failing to spot the train.  It’s behind you.

Buy more salt.  I.e. for the roads this winter.

And finally, what with Michael’s recent writings here on the subject, a couple of motorcycle links: Motorcycles - miracle or menace?, and The tireless motorcycle museum curator.  Tireless.  Get it?  Oh never mind.

See also this excellent Vietnam motorbike picture.

Patrick: please feel free to re-edit the categorisations below.

LATER:  I also agree with the commenter who reckons that this bit of road building video is BRILJANT!!!

17 November 2010
By cable car across the Thames?
Brian Micklethwait

At Londonist today, I learned for the first time of a scheme to build a ski lift across the Thames, from the Dome to the Royal Docks.

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Exactly how serious this scheme is, I do not know.  But I must say, as transport infrastructural follies go, this one does seem to me to be remarkably unfoolish.  The technology, thanks to the snow-based tourist trade around the world, is well understood.  Compared to the digging up of London involved in things like Crossrail, the cost of this thing will be peanuts.  They’re now saying £25M, so make that £100M.  With luck, corporate sponsors and operators will pick up the tab.

Best of all, this being transport and not just a static Big Thing, they will want people to go on it and will make that easy, and the views from it should be excellent.  In that part of London the views are especially good, what with the towers and the curviness of the river and view west at sunset time.  (I will believe in my right to take photos from half way up the Shard when that happens, but not a moment sooner.)

If it’s a success, maybe they’ll build other such erections, as apparently they planned to in the nineties.

The one thing it will absolutely not do is “relieve congestion”, as I saw being speculated/ridiculed by various commenters, here and there.  Create more congestion is far more likely, as people journey into London to have a go on it, or, more mundanely, travel to it and from it in order to use it.

Wanky architectural fake photo here.  TfL’s (very boring and non-committal) take on it here.

28 October 2010
So what’s in those big yellow boxes?
Brian Micklethwait

One of my favourite means of transporting myself is to go for walks, in London, and in particular beside the River Thames in London.  It is surely a significant transport issue that walking alongside the Thames in London has got steadily easier as the decades have passed, as more bits of riverside path have been added to what was already there.  I would love to learn more about who exactly set this process in motion and how it has been kept going.  Clearly, nobody is allowed to build anything next to the river now without a piece of riverside walk being included, even if it will only join up with the rest of the riverside walk years later.  Is there an office where all this is “coordinated”?

As I walk along next to the river, I see things, especially things in (or should that be “on") the river (and a lot of things go by river these days), that puzzle me.  Like this:

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I’m talking, in particular, about these:

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You see these all the time, being dragged up and down the river.  But what’s in them?

With the magic of computerised photos, I can take a close look at what looks like it could be a clue:

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WRWA?  Indeed.  WRWA.  Western Riverside Waste Authority.  Inside all those yellow boxes is: shit, basically.

Cory Environmental Ltd, the Authority’s Waste Management Services Contractor, operate two waste transfer stations situated on the River Thames in South London; one in Wandsworth and the other in Battersea.

So now I know.

When virtual meeting is not enough
Brian Micklethwait

Will the Transport Blog revival continue?  To try to increase the chances of that being so, the four of us met up last night, at the Pizza Express that is near Waterloo Station:

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Left to right, Brian (i.e. me), Patrick, Rob, Michael.  I (i.e. Brian) was holding the camera in my stretched out right hand and concentrating not on how I looked but on getting us all into the picture, hence me looking weird.  But the rest of them look like a sixties record cover, don’t they?

Once again, I think I see a big transport principle at work here.  People who do things together, however virtually and twenty-first-centurily and web-basedly blah blah blah, need to meet from time to time.  People will always want to meet.  To meet, you have to travel.  To travel, you need transport.

26 October 2010
Amphibious tourist buses ancient and modern
Brian Micklethwait

It’s good to be back.  I don’t really want to be muggins for Transport Blog, the one who is still posting when every one else is taking a holiday, but now that others are back posting, I am delighted to join in.  This first posting, i.e. this time around, is really just me checking that I still know how to do it.

And checking out also that I can still stick up pictures.  So, let’s see about that:

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That’s one of my favourite items of London Transport, namely one of the fleet of yellow amphibious buses, for taking tourists both along streets and along the river.  They are named, as you can see, after Shakespearian heroines.

While googling for further info about these yellow ladies, I came across this blog posting, which reveals that a brand new design for a yellow amphibious bus has now been contrived:

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This I did not know, until now.  Blog and learn.  This started out as a posting called nothing more than: “Good to be back”.  But it has turned into a real blog posting and now has a real title, about something.

I find myself pondering the economics of tourist vehicles, as opposed to regular A-to-B transport type vehicles.  I can’t believe that it would ever make sense to put commuters in a thing like this.  Commuters resent paying an extra few pence per journey, because, day after day after working day, that still adds up to a fortune, and because any fun would soon fade.  But tourists are happy to pay an extra few quid for the fun of travelling in a bus that can swim.  Just the once.

Which, come to think of it, makes tourism a massively important thing, transport-wise.  Tourists will pay for vehicles to take their first rather faltering and expensive steps, vehicles which may not have much of a present, as serious contributions to transport, but which may just have one hell of a future.

03 February 2009
Snow has fallen. Britain has seized up. We've been here before. And I have written about it. Summary: let it snow.

Patrick Crozier • PermalinkFeedback (2)Miscellaneous
03 December 2008
LEGO transport
Rob Fisher

Lego have some fun looking transport related products.  Somewhat related to my previous post is a fun video about the Lego container port.  Not to mention the airport, cargo truck, and train.  I wonder how generous my fellow Transport Bloggers will be this Christmas…

26 November 2008
Mondo Spider
Brian Micklethwait

This evening I was watching a rerun of QI on Dave, and they mentioned something called the Mondo Spider, and showed a bit of it in action.  It’s an eight-legged walking machine, made by some Canadian artists:

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Video here, complete with rather fine sound effects.  Website here.  The above picture, of Mondo Spider being driven by the Mayor of Vancouver, Gregor Robertson, found on flickr, here.

Clearly this principle of locomotion has very little in the way of a present, other than as entertainment on YouTube.  But does it perhaps have any kind of future?  Unmanned planetary exploration?  Domestic robots?  Small robots?  Helping oldies up steps and staircases?

07 November 2008
Transport blogging in the wild
Brian Micklethwait

Yes!  As already reported at my personal blog, I can now post not just stuff but pictures, when out and about.  And that’s what I am now doing.  I’m in Maria’s Vietnamese cafe in Lower Marsh, and very nice it is too.  I have not once been home since taking this snap:

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So, I can now transport blog while being transported.  And, my transport experience will be transformed for the better.  That’s if my dongle will work in buses, trains, etc.  We shall see.

That’s a picture of a bookshop that is also transport related, although they also stock books about war and various transport and war related toys and kits.  Sort of Old Nerd Heaven, you might say.  This shop is also in Lower Marsh, which is where I also get my second hand classical CDs.

I should report, however, that as of now it takes me about a quarter of an hour to post a photo, because it takes me ten minutes to load a picture up to Web Resizer dot com so that it can be resized.  My mini-laptop can’t seem to resize photos on its own.  Why not?  Search me.

11 February 2008
The perfect logo…?
Patrick Crozier

...for a passenger transport executive (Greater Manchester in this case).

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Hint:  In case you haven’t already spotted the flaw just imagine what would happen if you tried turning one of the gears.

Via: Association of British Drivers

05 January 2008

When I hear of some funky, new idea which is going to revolutionise the world of transport - or anything else for that matter - I ask myself one question: who’s doing it?  Because, if it’s a finger-on-the-pulse, go-getting, business, the chances are that it will work and if it is something that’s being developed in an extortion-funded university it probably won’t.  Universities are, as Brian would have it (and me, for that matter) places where “...old ideas go to die.”

So what am I to make of this crash-proof car idea?

The engineers, working with DaimlerChrysler…

Sounds good.

...Glasgow University’s Centre for Systems and Control…

Sounds bad.

What is a girl to do?

Patrick Crozier • PermalinkFeedback (0)Miscellaneous
06 December 2007
Trolley buses
Patrick Crozier

Now, why is it when our politicians want to spend huge amounts of our money on a transport scheme do they never think of trolley buses?

This was from about 1963.

22 October 2007
Do Segways have a future?
Brian Micklethwait

Ferrari are seriously pissing on their brand.  Read about Segway (and yes there is now a Ferrari Segway) engadgetry generally here.  Early last month, a fat cop used one to catch a bad guy, or so it says here.

Are Segways sane or merely the latest manifestation of the Sinclair C5 syndrome?  Do they perhaps have a future in a world dominated (a) by flat pedestrianised surfaces and insanely long pedestrian ramps to anywhere higher or lower, and (b) by vast herds of old people who will otherwise hardly be able to move at all?  Maybe they do.

01 July 2007
Tinkering
Patrick Crozier

Tinkering.  It’s deadly.  You start off trying to tart up the sidebar titles and before you know it you’ve:

  • Designed a new banner
  • Made it clickable (even in IE7, although it won’t admit to it)
  • Turned off trackbacks (waste of effort)
  • Redesigned the comments
  • Added a comments feed (it’s down there with the others)
  • And done various other stuff most of which you can’t remember

Oh well.

30 June 2007
Probably the world’s most beautiful petrol station
Mark Holland

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It’s in Asmara, which is, as you doubtless all know, the capital of Eritrea.

The Red Sea country was an Italian colony from 1890 to 1941. Presumably, along with Libya, it was their bit of the “Scramble for Africa” that kicked off when the newly unified nations of Germany and Italy along with that other 19th Century new nation Belgium looked at the British, French, Dutch, Spanish, Portugese and Russian Empires and thought, “hey, we want some of that, what bit of the world isn’t yet taken?” Thus the city of Asmara has a distinctly Italian feel. But not only that. Mussolini let Italian architects loose on the place from 1936 onwards so it is therefore full of futuristic buildings celebrating and heralding the technological age.

From The Daily Telegraph:

Giuseppe Pettazzi was one of those architects, and took his passions to almost comic proportions in the building of the iconic Fiat Tagliero building - probably the world’s most beautiful petrol station, and also one of the world’s supreme examples of Futurism, its vertical and horizontal lines extolling speed and motion and urgency.

Basing his building on the contours of an aeroplane, Pettazzi was forced by Italian planning laws to include pillar supports for the two concrete ‘wings’. Legend has it that during the inauguration he demanded the wooden props removed, and when the builders refused, he took a pistol and threatened to shoot their headman, demonstrating absolute faith in his design by standing on the tip of one wing during the de-posting process

Although I’d have expected other such windswept and interesting places about which I know little such as Dakar or Algiers - and why does La corniche Oranaise spring to mind? - to have retained some of the architecture of the period: apparently there’s nothing else quite like it in Africa. 

09 June 2007
Down towards Glasgow she descends
Mark Holland

June 8, 1959

“Rocket mail” becomes “missile mail” when 3,000 pieces of mail are delivered by a cruise missile fired from a U.S. Navy submarine.

I wonder how they catch it? Can’t see a Nightmail style net apparatus standing up to a wallop from a missile!

01 April 2007
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"In the light of step twenty-three, I think now would be a good time to give up smoking."

Andy Wood contemplates the Google Maps instructions for the New York-Dublin journey.

Patrick Crozier • PermalinkFeedback (0)Miscellaneous
25 March 2007
French road safety video?
Patrick Crozier

Via Theo Spark

21 March 2007
Lobbyists lobby politician shock
Brian Micklethwait

It’s fun to watch the rotting hulk of a bad government you never liked much finally sink beneath the waves, even if the next hulk that will heave into view will be just as unlikable.  So, I now regularly visit Guido and Iain Dale.  And Iain Dale is just now making much of a lobbying scandal that is now bubbling up from the stinking brine around Britain’s junior Transport Minister, a man called Ladyman.  I didn’t even know that Ladyman was any kind of transport minister, until this story erupted.  I knew of him, because he has a funny name, like some TV political sitcom writer invented but then discarded for being too obviously silly, but I didn’t know what he did.

Anyway, the story is that some lobbyists have been lobbying (three separate links there).  Something to do with planning permission for container ports.  Original Sunday Paper story last weekend here.

Meanwhile, it probably counts for rather more that Guido, who is now a political force in his own right, has placed his bet on Durkin being right about what causes Global Warming, with, as is his way, a piece of graphic trickery.

A (fake) Russian truck driver writes
Patrick Crozier

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This photo of a Russian highway - almost makes you proud to be British doesn’t it? - inspired this comment over on English Russia:

I drive truck in Russia, and very true that roads in bad bad condition. Something must be done! Just last week, Igor truck hit pothole in this very road, and make me spill bottle of premium Soviet Vodka. Sure only 2 or 3 sips left in gallon container, but it principle of matter that anger Igor. If roads good, Igor not spill Vodka when driving at double speed limit, and if Igor not spill Vodka, probably not lose control of severely overloaded nuclear waste transport truck and crash into full Elementary school, and if truck not crash into school and spill contents, children not grow third eye on back. It make Igor mad, and children too, because now they glow green. To fix roads would solve many problem, prevent many vodka spills.

Na zdorovje!
Igor

I think he may be taking the mick.

07 March 2007
Robot videos
Brian Micklethwait

Okay, so far, it won’t go so far.  But this certainly seems fraught with transport possibilities.  Thankyou engadget

It just seems so much smoother and more itself, if you know what I mean. As opposed, say, to this (video here) which just mimics a person, very badly.  It’s the hydraulic leg extending which makes the difference, I think.

And while rootling around some more at engadget, I found this, where there is video of a robot car parking system in New York that I got interested in a while back.

Plus, I just clicked on engadget’s complete transport archive, for the first time.  Can’t think why I never did that before.  Rich pickings.  Plus lots of black boxes to tell moron motorists where they are.

04 March 2007
Train cakes and vapour trails
Brian Micklethwait

Here at Transport Blog we have a tradition of featuring food that looks like transport.  We have, that is to say, had postings about food that looks like transport.  One anyway.

So, news of a cake mold that cranks out cakes in the shapes of a railway train:

This is one little locomotive no one will want to miss! Our ingeniously designed cake pan bakes a complete nine-car train that’s ready to decorate and eat. From engine to caboose, there’s no limit to the colors and decorative details imaginative young bakers can add to each train car. Made of durable cast aluminum by NordicWare, the pan bakes each little cake to perfection every time. The premium nonstick interior turns out cakes with beautiful detail and is easy to clean. Hand-wash. 6-cup cap.; 15 1/2” x 9 3/4” x 1 3/4” high. A Williams-Sonoma exclusive.

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Cake tin
I stumbled upon this by a route so random that it does not signify, but once I found it, how could I not pass it on to TB readers?

On a more serious note, I now have a special category at my person blog for Bridges,and have dug up and thus categorised as many earlier bridge postings that I could find.

I’ve had a Transport category for some while now.  In my opinion, this quite recent transport related posting, about a dirty-looking vapour trail, is actually quite profound.

26 February 2007
The EU fines a lift cartel
Brian Micklethwait

Do lifts inside buildings count as transport?  I don’t see why they wouldn’t.

Anyway, I have a problem.  The EU has just fined a cartel of lift makers nearly a billion euros (a new EU record for fines) for being a cartel, selling both lifts and maintenance for lifts for higher prices than they’d have had to charge if they had competed, instead of colluding which is what they actually did.  (I’m assuming that the facts of the case are as reported.)

Between at least 1995 and 2004, these companies rigged bids for procurement contracts, fixed prices and allocated projects to each other, shared markets and exchanged commercially important and confidential information. The effects of this cartel may continue for twenty to fifty years as maintenance is often done by the companies that installed the equipment in the first place; by cartelising the installation, the companies distorted the markets for years to come.

I write a weekly bit for CNE Competition, and I’d love to be able to write something very pro-free-market (as opposed to very pro-imposed-free-market) about all this.  Maybe to the effect that the EU should just stay out of this and let other competitors move in on this market.  Or maybe that the distortions are caused by other market distortions, for instance in the tall building market.  But I am too ignorant of such things.

Any suggestions?  The reason I ask this here is not just because lifts-equals-transport is an excuse, but because maybe other transport debates and dilemmas actually might shed some light on this case.

17 February 2007
Moscow of the future - as seen in 1914
Patrick Crozier

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Fascinating set of Russian postcards from 1914 predicting what travel would look like in the future.  The period just before the First World War was amazing for transport.  It had seen the birth of the car, air travel, deep-level railways, electrified railways, electrified trams and Zeppelins.  It must have seemed that anything was possible.  In a good sense, that is.  Sadly it didn’t turn out like that, especially for Muscovites.

Hmm… thinks aloud… could the revolution in transport and the outbreak of the First World War possibly be related?

23 January 2007
Car crash ready reckoner
Andy Wood

Carnegie Mellon University, in association with the American AA, has produced what looks like a nifty little tool for calculating the risks from various modes of travel. Quoth the New York Times:

...the risk of death for vehicle occupants who are 16 to 20 years old, on weekdays, is 13.86 per 100 million trips between 8 a.m. and noon. But between 8 p.m. and midnight it is 30.51 per 100 million trips, more than twice as high.

Is this because teenagers are driving their mums to the supermarket in the morning and playing games of chicken at night?

I’m not up to speed with the tool yet, so I don’t know if it can tell us whether Patrick’s claim of yore, that trams are the most dangerous road vehicle known to man, is really true.

Hat tip to Marginal Revolution.

22 January 2007
Beardy v Weirdy
Patrick Crozier

When I heard about the Blog Brother affair I was reminded of the time Tim Ireland got a name check here (February 23):

Tim Ireland gets chucked off a train - readers must decide for themselves whether he got chucked off as a consequence of a) the mendacity of South West Trains or b) because he was acting like a complete tit...link

Strangely enough that link no longer links to the original article.

27 December 2006
Inner self next left
Mark Holland

Naturally I hate to say I told you so, but not much: Use satellite navigation and you’ll miss the chance of finding your inner self thunders The Times.

But while they are considered a defining marvel of the technological age, the gadgets are destroying our ability to read maps and undermining our very sense of self, according to one of the nation’s leading geographers.

A little airy fairy perhaps. But I don’t mind. Just to have pre-empted “one of the nation’s leading geographers” is cause enough to award myself a chufty badge.

11 December 2006
Rickshaw banned - Solent Sahib unhappy  …link
 
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20 November 2006
From air back to ocean
Brian Micklethwait

e-Cargonews Asia reports on a switch back from air freight to shipping.  Key explanatory quote:

Imbriani pointed to a combination of factors that have made shipping lines a viable alternative to air freight. Sailing schedules have become more reliable, capacity is up, and the use of special equipment and containers, such as temperature and humidity control devices, have made it possible to move electronics in ocean containers, he said.

And of course, this will help too.

16 November 2006
Crazy
Brian Micklethwait

So Crozier says: “So, Micklethwait, when are you going to stick up some crazy photos of crazy transport contraptions on Transport Blog?”

Oh.  You want crazy photos, do you?  Well, here’s a crazy photo:

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And here’s some even crazier video of this amazing contraption in motion.  It won’t take long to look at this, and you really shouldn’t miss it.

Is it transport?  Well, it’s called the Animaris Rhinoceros Transport.

The Animaris Rhinoceros Transport is a type of animal with a steel skeleton and a polyester skin. It looks as if there is a thick layer of sand coating the animal. It weighes 2. tons, but can be set into motion by one person. It stands 4.70 meters tall. Because of its height it catches enough wind to start moving.

So, a wind powered mechanical walking machine covered in sand.

Does it explain things better if I tell you that it was created by an ‘artist’?  Animaris Rhinoceros Transport is ART for short, obviously.

14 November 2006
Bangladesh transport blockade
Brian Micklethwait

On the other hand, if you think London (see below) has problems, try living in Bangladesh just now:

Crowds had attacked vehicles and stopped trains across Bangladesh earlier on Tuesday to enforce the transport blockade, intended to force the removal of the election officials before polls in January.

Ports remained closed and businesses called for urgent action to end the blockade as the shipment of most goods ground to a halt in the country of 140 million people.

That’s definitely politics.

27 October 2006
Panama says yes to widening its canal.

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22 October 2006
Part of Sierra Leone's freight transport system.
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According to Brian Micklethwait, who, incidentally, is threatening to re-enlist.

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07 November 2005
Rosa Parks - made her stand on state-run transport. Privately-owned transport on the other hand  …link
 
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