16 July 2017

Jodie Whittaker is the 13th Doctor

Came running up in the odds in the last couple of days - and it was clear that the people putting bets on knew what they were talking about. Does the BBC have rules about insider trading?

Anyway, a very good choice - it was definitely time to have a woman in the TARDIS - and a very good reveal. Kris Marshall would have been bored.

So, come Christmas, it will be time for 13... and she looks very intriguing.

11 July 2017

Trump: Smoking Gun #1

We now have clear evidence that Donald Trump's son knowingly attempted to get "dirt" from the Russian government to discredit Hillary Clinton.

There's a word for that sort of thing, especially if a quid pro quo is involved. 


09 July 2017

Berlin railyard - Innotrans 2016

This is the second part of my trilogy of posts relating to my visit to Berlin, Germany in September last year. If you want to read the first part, please click here.

In this particular instalment, I will provide a general guide to the site that I saw on the first public day - Saturday 24 September - including some of the key exhibits that I saw.

Certain pictures are linked to rather than posted in order to reduce loading time of this entry and to avoid breaking up the text too much.

Also, Wikimedia has over 300 photos here including many interior shots from the non-public days.

The site

Innotrans takes place at Messe Berlin, a huge trade fair site dating back to the 1930s, located in western Berlin. It was a fairly long walk from my hotel; especially as you had to go all the way round the site to find the entrance for the public viewing. While walking anyway in Berlin, you have to of course remember that jaywalking is illegal.

The trade days featured a string of interior displays in the halls themselves, but these were not open to the public. All they got was the exterior displays, in which a large array of trains of the present and near future were placed on display in a large rail yard. Multiple long lines were filled with locomotives, multiple units, wagons etc.

Here are some of the highlights.


The bi-mode version of the Class 68 (which operates Chiltern's very nice loco-hauled service), the Class 88 aka the Vossloh Euro Dual is a mixed traffic locomotive designed to haul both freight and passenger stock. These are capable of 100mph operations and will probably be pretty popular for charter services. Class 47s and 86s may have character, but when you're paying several hundred a ticket, you want something with a couple of million less miles on the clock.

I believe this is a Newag Dragon locomotive built in Poland for the Freightliner Group - which is the privatised version of the old British Rail freight transport business. Powered by electricity, I think this also has a diesel engine for 'last mile' operations as overhead wires don't tend to mix very well with freight yards.

Another bi-mode; this is the Vectron AC. This particular version is intended for Finnish use and thus will be on broad gauge tracks i.e. 1,520 mm versus the standard 1,435 mm; hence the special yellow supports underneath to deal with the latter track at Innotrans. Finland was part of the Russian Empire until 1917, so its railways use the same gauge as used there and across the former Soviet Union, which resulting operational difficulties. Believe this will be mainly used for freight.

This old German steam locomotive called Emma, built in 1925 was travelling back and forth, being available for cab rides. The queue was rather long, so I choose to skip this.

Loco-hauled coaches

Locomotive-hauled stock is getting increasingly uncommon as the multiple unit becomes more popular - after all a locomotive takes up extra space that could be used for passengers. However, it still survives in sleeper services - underfloor traction motors aren't conducive to a good night's sleep.

This particular coach is intended for use in Azerbaijan and the wider Caucasus region (i.e. to Tbilisi); therefore it is also using 1520mm gauge... but can also be adjusted for operations on standard gauge lines - such as into Turkey. Changing gauges without physically lifting the carriage off its bogies will save a lot of time at the old Soviet border.

I believe this will be replacing older Soviet-era stock.

Diesel Multiple Units

This Hungarian vehicle is a two-car Rail Diagnostic Train. As the name implies, this is used to drive over railway lines and electronically inspect them for any defects so that they can be fixed before they become a more serious problem. The interior has sleeping accommodation as well for use on longer trips.

This is a Pesa Link diesel multiple unit operating with the private operator Niederbarnimer Eisenbahn; this provides rail services in the north and east of Germany, with trains crossing the border to Koztryn. This is actually a Polish built unit - the first to get certification to run in Germany - and I would ride in one later on my trip.

PP is the Croatian state railway passenger arm and this is one of their newest trains - the three-car diesel electric (where a diesel engine runs an electrical generator to provide power for traction motor) HŽ 7023 intended for regional use. Locally produced, it is capable of 120 km/h - not fast (only 75 mph) - but most of Southern Europe isn't exactly high speed. Low floor entry as well; very useful on stations with barely any platforms.

Electric Multiple Units

Some of my readers may well have used the new Class 700 Siemens Desiro City units currently entering service on Thameslink. While I quite liked them, there have been issues with the seat quality and the accuracy of the seat display system. It seems very much that a short hop commuter unit is being used for too many roles at once; Thameslink is also a medium-distance service and an airport train, which have somewhat different needs.

There should be less issues with the South West Trains cousin to the unit, the Class 707, of which three of the five carriages of 707006 were present at Innotrans. Some of these have now arrived in the UK for testing and service entry was intended for June, but has now slipped. These will be used on Waterloo to Windsor services, allowing for the Class 458s that work the line to revert to Reading operations and in turn allowing the 450s to go elsewhere. Access to the interior wasn't possible, but the photos I have seen elsewhere look quite nice and with journey times of under an hour, there should be less of an issue with the fact there are no toilets. These five car units will also often run in pairs to provide ten-car trains.

However, it appears that this won't be long for the South West as the new franchise holder has managed to find cheaper trains, namely Bombardier Aventras, but with the capacity to fit them for AC operation, these will almost certainly find a new operator quickly.

I fancy another visit to Windsor at some point at any rate.

This rather nice looking train processes one of the stupidest appellations for a railway family I have seen in my life time. This is the Stadler Fast Light Innovative Regional Train... or FLIRT for short. They also have the double decker KISS (komfortabler innovativer spurtstarker S-Bahn-Zug or comfortable, innovative, sprint-capable suburban train), which I actually rode on a few times while I was in Berlin. It kind of begs the question of where you go next in the naming department...

Anyway, I was particularly interested in this one as a modified version will be operating on Greater Anglia from 2019 onwards, with a 12-car electric version for London to Norwich services and a 4-car bi-mode version for services on the diesel lines. These will replace the Class 90 loco hauled trains on the former and 153/170 DMUs on the latter. I will miss the former, but not exactly the latter.

While the interior of the train is nothing like what it will be in UK service; there will have to be modifications for the loading gauge, one particular feature of the FLIRT will be a lowered door area that will make it much easier for wheelchair and pushchair users to enter the train.

The Stadler EC250 is a 250km/h capable unit initially designed for Milan to Zurich operations by SBB (Swiss Federal Railways) and entering service this year. This is another low floor unit - apparently the first such single deck unit in the world. I was able to go inside this - very nice inside.

This is an 36WE unit, built by Neweg of Poland for Przewozy Regionalne, the regional operator operator formed when PKP was broken up (as a result of EU regulations) and now owned by the regional governments. These are three car units, capable of operating at 100mph and are part of the Impuls family.

An interior shot can be found here.

This is a Turkish high speed train - specifically a Siemens Velaro, a relative of the new e320s in operation on Eurostar. Known as the TCDD HT80000, this entered service in March 2017 on two Turkish high speed lines.


A new tram currently in service in the Slovak capital of Bratislava, built by Škoda Transportation. I don't believe that they are part of the same company that makes the car any more; that is a VW subsidiary that has managed to bury its bad reputation.


A Zagro road-rail vehicle - capable of driving on both.

A double deck car transporter. It's more efficient to transport them this way...

Shopping and food opportunities

There were a number of stalls selling new and second hand items, including model railway equipment, old caps from Deutsche Reichsbahn (i.e. the East German operator) and various old badges. I bought a little model of a Marder Infantry Fighting Vehicle (main carrier of West German and contemporary German mechanised infantry) and also another non-running N-gauge model of the V200 locomotive. The latter diesel-hydraulic loco is considered a German classic and was licence-built in the UK (in a modified form for our smaller loading gauge) as the Class 42/43 'Warship' Class. There were other model carriages there, but as I don't have a model railway, I couldn't justify the cost to myself.

In terms of food, there were various stalls selling that, but I seem to recall that they were all rather expensive and not exactly a full filling meal. I certainly didn't have lunch there, that's for sure.


I had planned to stay the entire day, but in the end, I was only there for just under two hours before I had pretty much exhausted everything that there was for me to do there - I am far too old for children's rides, that's for sure. Not being able to see the interior displays or that many train interiors was somewhat disappointing, but I did get to see a lot of railway stuff I don't normally get to see.

The admission fee, which was either three or six euros, was enough to cover the time that I was there. If this had been the sole reason that I came to Berlin, it would have been a big disappointment, but there were many other experiences for me to have...

This will be covered in Part Three.

03 July 2017

Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Loves of Hercules

This is a very silly swords and sandals movie dominated by two stars' chests. The SOL crew have a lot of fun and there are many chuckle inducing riffs, although none truly brilliant. 

The vocalising at the end is superb but the rest of the episode is merely very good. 


02 July 2017

Berlin post

The second post in my Berlin trilogy has been completed and will appear next Sunday. I will then do a post covering some of the other places that I visited in this city, which hopefully will not take too much longer. I certainly intend to have it up by the anniversary of me actually going there.

01 July 2017

Doctor Who: The Doctor Falls

More of an emotional episode than an action one, this very much gives some good closure to many of the characters, while leaving the door open for returns. The Cybermen are again great here and there's some nice tying together of all the different origin stories, so to speak. Capaldi's Doctor is a bit moany through much of this, but as a way to 'die' – although he hasn't quite gone yet – it's a superb one. Two Masters were pretty good fun, but not as much as it could have been.


Another great ending though; Christmas will be very interesting indeed.