Trainspotters A-Go Go!

31 Aug

Look at the photo below. I want you to study it carefully, noting every last detail, and I want you to try to guess what the mystery object in the picture is. Go!

No, it’s not a trick question. The big green, blue and yellow thing. What could it possibly be? Ok, so it’s a vehicle of some sort, and it’s being guided by some rails. It’s about as long as three average suburban living room sofas (possibly four), and it looks like it could be opened with a fairly substantial can opener. Also, note how the vehicle has the destination electronically plastered above the drivers window in a big, bus-like fashion. Also, note how few seats there are. You might have to squint, but there are only about, I dunno, 7 seats on these bad boys. So, it’s make your mind up time. What do YOU think THIS is?

Now, if you said “tram”, sorry! It’s not a tram. If you said “monorail”, you’re an idiot. Look! Two rails. Monorails doesn’t allow for two rails, hence the mono. If you said “something out of Thunderbirds”… a point for ingenuity, but you’re wrong.

The correct answer, in case you didn’t guess, is “train”. This is a train. Yes, a train. Admittedly, it looks nothing like the sort of train most of us would see or use on our daily business, but it is nonetheless a vehicle operating on the National Rail network (seriously), operates a daily passenger service, and it even has it’s own British Railways classification (it’s a Class 139, since you ask). But where on earth would such a tiny, odd looking train run? Simple – on Britain’s tiniest railway line – in Stourbridge.

Stourbridge, once a proud industrial town in its own right, now for all intents and purposes a suburb of Birmingham, has a station on the Birmingham to Kidderminster line. By all accounts, it doesn’t run through the centre of the town, but it’s not exactly much of a trek either. However, the powers that be decided that the station was sufficiently far from the town centre as to be a burden on travellers, so they decided to build a connecting branch line. Stourbridge Town and Stourbridge Junction are, according to Google Maps, about ¾ mile apart from each other. These are the only stops on the line, yet it takes three minutes to travel. Should you wish to do the journey, a ride on this fantastic contraption can be yours for only 80 pence, with an off peak return costing a network standard 10 pence more. Bargain.

What’s more, these trains are the FUTURE, or so we’re told. By using flywheel energy storage, they conserve energy which would otherwise be lost whilst braking, and then re-use it to power the vehicle. Remember Formula 1’s “KERS” system, where stored brake energy could be used to help pass high speed motorcars at 200 kph? It’s a bit like that, only it helps to get Brummies to the shops a wee bit quicker, and is environmentally friendly. The manufacturers, Parry People Movers, reckon these save 80% diesel consumption versus regular trains.

Problem is, though, future or not, these trains at present don’t travel very far, or very fast. Whilst the technology could no doubt be adapted for regular trains providing some carbon dioxide reduction, we most likely won’t be seeing these little railbuses anywhere else for some time. Which is a shame. I wouldn’t mind them being introduced where I live, if only so I can commute to work in something that looks like it came out of Thunderbird 2.


2 Responses to “Trainspotters A-Go Go!”

  1. Victoria August 31, 2010 at 6:34 pm #

    I feel like a better person having read this blog post. Thank you.


  2. Will fae London September 8, 2010 at 4:59 pm #

    You're welcome!


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