Welcome to the Lickey Incline blog devoted to the celebration of the railway and in particular the great days of steam trains both standard and narrow gauge, on the railways of Britain.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

100 defining aspects of British Rail

The '100 defining aspects of British Rail' is a fascinating list of those characteristics, happenings and products which we loved and loathed and BR will be remembered for. It was certainly not all bad as some will have us believe. Much listed here is still with us including HS125 and the ticketing system. See here for the full list and below for the first 10


 Buy a computer and by the time you unpack it and plug it in it is obsolescent. Back in 1985 BR commissioned the new All Purpose Ticket Issuing System (APTIS). And 18 years later, 1.5MB of bubble memory and all, it is still sitting there in booking offices, unmatched for speed and flexibility.
2) APT

 A victim of irrational over exuberance at conception, the Advanced Passenger Train so nearly succeeded. Cancellation followed a loss of nerve when the BR Board should have toughed out the media ridicule and given the P-Train the resources it needed.

3) Acronyms

 BRUTE, LOVERs, RAVERs, TOPS, SPAMS: BR was the master of memorable acronyms that were easy to pronounce. How do you say IKF or NFRIP?

 4) AWS  

Pioneered by the Great Western, the Automatic Warning system was seen as nice-to-have, rather than essential, for most of BR's 46 years. After all, it was the driver's job to obey the signals.

5) Derby Research  

Often dismissed as an ivory tower inhabited by PhD and Bar scientists, BR Research left an enduring legacy including the first real understanding of vehicle ride dynamics, high speed pantographs and the world's most successful computer based interlocking. But don't mention the Railbus. 

6 Black Macs  

More than the bowler hat, the black gabardine raincoats worn by supervisors identified the hard men at the sharp-end who made the railway run.

7) Beeching  

Hero or villain? As BR Chairman Dr Richard Beeching undoubtedly cut too deeply, but he also sparked a revolution in operational thinking which created the modern railway – particularly in freight.  

8) Black books  

At the end of the 1960s, Director of Design Walter Jowett produced two black-jacketed publications – ‘Locomotives for the 1970s' and ‘Diesel electric multiple unit trains'. The first was a missed opportunity but the second gave us IC125  

9) Blue book

Published in 1985, ‘Main-line locomotive renewal programme 1985-2009' forecast 850 new freight diesels, 390 passenger diesels and 260 electrics. Production would have peaked at over 100 locos a year in the 1990s. BR naiveté at its most extreme.  

10) Chief Inspecting Officers  

Invariably retired military men, Chief Inspecting Officers brought authority, rigour, common sense and man management to accident investigation and safety regulation.