Sunday, August 21, 2016

A bit of Ferroequinology...

Many of us on the US East Coast are Pennsylvania Railroad is one of my two favorite railroads.  The first two pictures were taken in Altoona, PA.  I was visiting their Altoona Railfest back in October of 2001. Except for the NS unit in the left background of the first picture, these could have been taken back in the 50's, or any time up till things went south for the PRR. 

The E-units were beautifully restored by a private party in Philadelphia, and Railfest arranged the use of some commuter passenger equipment through Amtrak, along with restored private cars, for several runs each day around Horseshoe Curve,  through the tunnels,  around the loop near Gallitzin, and back around the Curve in the other direction.  It was a fun train ride...too bad those trips are no longer possible.

Following is a picture I took while in Europe back in 1981, from a tour bus.  My notes are incomplete, but it's a diesel powered mixed passenger train operation, and as I recall it was in Switzerland.  The architecture on the building in the background appears somewhat Alpine...and there is still snow on the mountains in the background.

Wish I knew where it was taken...oh well!

Now, for those of you wondering about the following, and how it fits into the realm of ferro-equinology.

It's called a Hovercraft, as "while in operation it hovers over the water."  When it was christened in 1969, SeaSpeed Hovercraft GH-2007 (Princess Anne) and its sister craft (the Princess Margaret) began to ply the English Channel between England and the Continent - fast and frequent.  And they were initially operated by British Rail, complete with the BR logo on their upright rear stabilizers!  (That's their link to ferroequinology.)

These wonderful machines, powered by gas turbine engines, could make the crossing at 65 knots and in under a half hour, reportedly with 78 crossings per day between them.  They were expanded size-wise in the 1970's, and could then carry in excess of 400 passengers and 50+ automobiles.  Unfortunately British Rail got out of the business early on, and the Channel Tunnel opened in 1994, dooming these unique machines, which were retired in 2000. 

As of January 2016, they are now in danger of being scrapped at a museum in the UK.  I hope at least one of them can be saved intact...

During my visit to the UK in 1981, I had the pleasure of making a one-way crossing  (or "flight" as they called it, since they ride on a cushion of air between the craft and the water) on the Princess Anne.  I took the two pictures above on my flight.

The sea that day was choppy, and the ride was very rough.   Before I left home, I had obtained some seasickness patches from the doctor, and wisely used one that day (as well as omitted breakfast.)  The combination of the two saved me from getting sea-sick.  Many folks had gone way beyond "turning green at the gills."  Barf Bags were in short supply.  I felt bad for the many folks who had a hearty breakfast before departure (including some on my tour), and then lost it all enroute.  A half hour can seem like an eternity when you're sea-sick.

But the overall experience was fabulous, and will live on in my memory my many rides behind various steam locomotives, and flights in the old Lockheed Super G Constellations.  Too bad it can't be re-created (on a smooth-water day!) 

Stay tuned...more later!


PS:  Sue Richmond: enjoy!  Did you ever get to try riding the Hovercraft?


  1. It is interesting to follow the advances in technology and industry. At some point it looked like there would be a place for hovercraft but I guess that was not to be.
    You must have been beyond queasy to remember that feeling all these years later.
    At some point I may like to go on a cruise but my wife does not do well with motion sickness.

    1. On the hovercraft flight, I was in relatively good shape...not one of those in line to get Barf Bags. My time with being queasy was several years earlier, when the girl I was dating at the time (before I met my wife), took me on a deep-sea-fishing daytrip out of Boston with her uncle who owned a large cabin cruiser.

      That day, the fish were safe from being caught - I was the one who needed the Barf Bag. And from that day forward, I vowed to stay off boats unless they were on rivers or in harbors, and to get something for seasickness if they weren't and I couldn't avoid riding.

      My only two serious violations of that self-imposed rule were a ride on the Cape May Ferry and the one from Hatteras to Ocracoke. Luckily, I survived both of those without needing a Barf Bag.

      Maybe as we get older sensitivity to seasickness decreases? Don't count on it...LOL! Some of the folks on the hovercraft, with Barf Bags in hand, were elderly. More likely, call it luck (and smooth seas.)

      FWIW I haven't been on a cruise yet, and that is NOT on my bucket list of things to do.

      There would be nothing gained from paying big bucks for a cruise, and spending a week in my cabin, right near the toilet. Well, on second thought, it MIGHT have one benefit... By not eating or drinking anything that entire week, I could lose some serious weight!


    2. Gee, if it were a two week cruiss, maybe I could fit into a size 14 dress at the end of it...hmmm.



  2. We are in a similar situation regarding a cruise. I have a cast iron stomach but my wife is very sensitive. We were thinking that we may try a one day gambling ship cruise to see how she does on large vessels. We would like to go to Europe but she does not like to fly and has not been on a plane since Reagan was in the White House so after I retire if we want to see Europe we may have to try to get there by boat.

    1. Pat,

      Your plan sounds viable. But be sure she takes something from the doctor along, just in case. Seasickness is can sneak up on you with a change of sea conditions. Good luck with it!

      Regarding flying, we both refuse to fly commercial. Last time we were on a plane was in the late 80's, for business.

      My wife gets claustrophobic - particularly in a long metal cigar tube with 500 other unknown souls for 6 or 7 hours at 35,000 ft, and there's no way to escape for a breath of fresh air.

      I almost had her convinced to make an exception to "not flying" and break our bank account for one last extravaganza to the UK, as long as we went both ways on the Concorde. It only held 100 souls and would have been a much quicker time enroute. She had almost agreed to it.

      Then came the tragic Air France disaster in July of 2000 (which resulted in the Concorde's almost immediate demise even though it was reportedly the first and only fatal incident), and it squelched that plan. A number of prior and subsequent high profile crashes from various causes (including 9-11) resulted in reaffirming our joint decision to no longer fly commercial.

      I even considered re-activating my private pilot's license and buying a small plane for our trips. I'd happily fly us anywhere by myself. But that proved unworkable due (again) to my wife's claustrophobia. (If a cigar tube with 500 people on board for 6 -7 hours causes claustrophobia, imagine being in a small plane with 4 seats, for 6 hours at a time.)

      So, if we can't get there by train and a rental car, or by driving our own car, we just don't go. So far "not flying" really hasn't seriously affected our travels.

      But being retired sure helps...

      Happy traveling!


  3. We really are in the same boat (or car or train as the case may be). It is not that my wife will not fly it is more like your situation where she just does not do it and she is fearful of the experience to the extent that I will not push it on her. That limits us to car and train. I like to drive so that is an option. She loves train travel but our experience has been limited to the Auto Train.
    I have done a lot of traveling on business over the past 38 years, mostly domestic but twice to Japan and once to Spain. With business travel I was never able to stop and smell the roses but there are a lot of places I would like to get back to and show to my wife. For now we are taking things one day at a time. I hope to retire or at least partially retire some time next year. We are also up in the air with where we may live so we need to have some cards start to fall into place.

    1. Hopefully you can step into retirement next year. That makes traveling so much easier!

      Overseas travel has its own set of dangers nowadays...what with political and religious issues worldwide. Even "looking" American - whether male or female - can carry a heavy price to one's health and safety.

      Back in the 80's that was not an issue. Since the tour bus was full of American students, flag waving was not only tolerated, but expected. And we did.

      Nowadays, not so much. Less visibility is less dangerous. So sad.

      We'll stay exclusively domestic in our travels, even though I'd love to return to Switzerland for a visit. Had a wonderful time there.

      I guess when they build a railroad bridge to Europe...