It’s Better to Travel Hopefully …. Particularly When Trains Are Involved!
Anyone who knows me – and just over eleven thousand of you do if you check out my Twitter profile – will know that I have quite an intimate relationship with Trains. Yes, Trains. Insofar as one can be intimate with a train, that’s me – about six times a week. It seems I’m getting a train more often than I’m having sex. Who says rail services in this country are poor?
Anyway, the reason that I have developed a sudden affection for lumps of metal which run on a track between two given points in northern England is cars. Or rather, lack of cars. Actually, it isn’t a lack of them, to be honest. I must surely be in line for an award based on the person who has the most cars which don’t work cluttering up her driveway and thus forming additional Places Where The Dog Has A Widdle.
I like cars. I’m a bit of a petrol head if I’m honest. I’m quite au fait with a greased nipple and I’ve even been known to finger a gear stick every so often, although of late the DVLA have considered me only suitable to drive automatics which involves less manual manipulation of said gearstick. I’d go so far to say that driving an automatic is very similar to my sex life. There’s not an awful lot of action.
Yes, so! Cars! I do like driving performance cars too. Mine usually have letters like AMG or M3 displayed prominently somewhere on the rear of the chassis. In fact, give me a turbo charged, six cylinder engine and I’m game for most things. Which is why I’ve always despised public transport. I’m used to jumping into a vehicle with heated front seats, a steering wheel and a tendency to roar along any given motorway (usually the M62 – be warned!) in an ‘Oh – God – Get – Out – Of – My – Way – You – Stupid – Bastard’ type of fashion. I think my driving could be described as challenging.
Back to the two cars which Do Not Go, which are forcing me to partake of the delights of getting to work by public transport. Which basically isn’t a delight and quite often I am unable to get to work because of a plethora of stupid excuse such as leaves on the line, the wrong type of snow (Yes! Can you believe it? I thought it was white and cold, silly me!) and people who decide to shuffle off their mortal coil with the help of the 07.51 heading for Norwich.
So, why IS it so difficult for trains to actually operate in adverse weather conditions? Are train drivers so namby pampby that they can’t get out of bed unless there’s a mean temperature of 28 degrees or an electric blanket and a hot toddy waiting for them if they do manage to drag themselves out of their duvets.
We might be tempted to think that all rail companies are in a conspiracy to stop us getting to work on time, or at all in some cases; but actually, they’re not. If you want to blame anything – and I do, believe me – I do – them blame the weather.
That’s right. The weather, little bastard. Take hot weather (oooh, yes please, I can hear you all say as you sit shivering in offices JUST barely above the minimum guidelines for heating staff members – but don’t – not if you want to catch a train!)
Steel, apparently, does not like hot weather and of course, trains need steel because that’s what the tracks are made of. Rails in this country are stressed to 27 degrees – the mean summer rail temperature. Anything above this and they throw a hissy fit and start to overheat, and when steel gets hot, it expands which can cause a problem called track circuit failure. To you and I, this simply means ‘the 19:45 to Liverpool Lime Street has been cancelled’ and a lot of disgruntled Mancunians who want to escape from Oxford Road station start making huffing noises and begging for ice cream whilst I slap on a bit of factor 50 and hope my skin won’t drop off due to sunburn and the fact that my real hair colour when I’m very pushed to admit – is strawberry blonde. Light ginger. Yes, honestly.
Then there’s cold weather, and this is even worse because there isn’t an opportunity to get a tan and Network Rail can come up with even more excuses not to let you get to your chosen destination. Take leaves. Please. Take them away off the line because if they fall on it, they’ll compact and form a slippery layer which makes it difficult for trains to travel along at speed. Which is why railways always seem to have trees on either side of the track, and why the 10:15 to Scarborough actually won’t turn up at 10:15.
Snow and Ice are also vehemently disliked by trains because snow and ice build up at signalling points and stop them working which means neither can you (work) because your train will either be late or give up any thought of even setting out. You might as well build a snowman, or dream about a long, hot summer. Oh, wait! Don’t – because on second thoughts, the trans will only stop running again and I need them because I haven’t got a car which actually works, so I’d better go – I’ve got a train to catch!
© Amy J Steinberg 2018