one day at a time…
Friday, 06 August 2004

Bigger, Faster, More Expensive!
CREDIT: © Charles Winpenny/CornwallCAM.com
WHERE: Truro, Cornwall. WHAT: first locomotive to reach 100 mph
MAP: Truro. Thumbnail pops-up larger image.

City of Truro © Charles WinpennyAs children, and even now in retrospect, we thought one of the more risible adult imprecations was, "You will be killed if you ever try to cross the railway!" Trains were relatively slow given the long sight lines; they were easily audible and visible; and their progress was highly predictable. There is a theory that such risks exist to improve the gene pool, though this test clearly sets the bar too low to be useful.

We thought the only real danger was to misjudge which set of rails an approaching train was using. This risk was easily overcome by standing well clear of any set of rails when a train approached. Duh! The grown up harbingers of doom, who we supposed got that way by never crossing railway tracks, seemed unaware of the very real dangers that existed crossing roads. Cars and trucks appeared from nowhere; their progress was totally unpredictable; and most of them seemed to be driven by the infirm, the insane, or the inebriated. So we walked to school alone at age six.

The difference was the Green Cross Code, a mantra that if repeated often enough ensured invulnerability. That started life as, "Look right, look left, look right again!" (translate handedness for your jurisdiction), but we know what happens when the bureaucrats become involved. The biggest downside to crossing the railway, and later to puffing dope, was that it was considered WRONG and BAD and was therefore ILLEGAL, with heavy penalties if one was caught.

A glance at some modern train speeds will quickly convince all but the most foolhardy that times have changed. Now everywhere is dangerous - even lying in bed, where one may assume arterial blockages are insidiously building at excessively high speeds. Perhaps it is time for a transport revolution, though bigger, faster, and more expensive hardly seems to be the sensible way to go. That maglev ['magnetic levitation' - the thing does not even have wheels!] two train closing speed of 627 mph seems to us to be a disaster looking for somewhere to happen.

Charles Winpenny from CornwallCAM.co.uk took the picture of the train named City of Truro and numbered 2,000, when she visited her namesake town. In 1904 the City of Truro was the first locomotive to reach 100 mph in service. That record was unofficial, and the Flying Scotsman holds the official record, set in 1934. In 1938 the Mallard established the record at 126 mph causing a big end to overheat.

That should have been a warning that maybe it was time to concentrate on comfort, reliable timetables, and more frequent trains, but these things sometimes take on a life of their own. Britain fell way behind in train speed records, though catch-up is now in progress, leaving the French TGV [Train à Grande Vitesse] and Japanese Shinkansen [often called Bullet Trains, but the translation is a more prosaic 'new trunk line'] competing between each other for the record.

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Jules Laforgue (1860-1887)
"Ah! que la vie est quotidienne."
Oh, what a day-to-day business life is.
'Complainte sur certains ennuis' (1885)