First class 88 electro-diesel arrives in Britain

The first of Direct Rail Services class 88 electro-diesels has been delivered to the operator’s depot in Carlisle. The class 88 is the first 25kV AC electro-diesel to run in Britain, and like the DC class 73s from the 1960s is intended to be used as a electric locomotive with “last mile” capability enabling it to reach freight terminals off the electrified network. It’s now set to undergo an eight-week testing program.

As a tester I’d love to know more about the test programme. What’s involved in testing a new design of locomotive?

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Steve Hackett – In The Skeleton Gallery

A taster from the album “The Night Siren”, released in March.

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Vivarail publish report on the Kenilworth fire

Vivarail have just published a full report on December’s fire at Kenilworth (pdf) during a test run of their class 230 DEMU. They identify the cause as a fuel leak, and note several design improvements that need to be made to avoid a repetition. The whole thing is an interesting read for anyone concerned with testing.

Having your train catch fire during what amounts to a full system test is a pretty serious failure by anyone’s standards, and it’s forced the abandonment of plans for a passenger trial this May. But despite the naysayers who seemed all too keen to dance on Vivarail’s grave, it’s a long way from terminating the project.

The concept of converting surplus trains from London Underground’s District Line into diesel trains by installing underfloor diesel generator sets to power the existing traction motors is a sound one. With running gear and motors dating from 2005 the trains have twenty years’ life left in them, and the conversions are far cheaper than new-build DMUs. There is some political resistance to “London’s hand-me-downs”, but something has got to replace the Pacers.

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Alan Reed’s Honey On The Razor’s Edge Pre-Order

Alan Reed RazorhoneyAlan Reed’s second solo album “Honey on the Razor’s Edge” is now available for pre-order from The Merch Desk

Alan’s second solo album picks up where the celtic sweep of his debut left off.  But this time there’s a harder -edged incisiveness more reminiscent of his work with Pallas.  The acoustic under-pinning of the last album takes a back seat behind driving guitars and exuberant keyboards.

Lyrically it’s angry and direct, covering everything from the frustrations of struggling and moribund relationships to the rise of the post-truth narcissist.

As well as vocals Alan provides guitars, basses, drum programming and bass pedals, with Mike Stobbie and Scott Higham returning on keys and drums respectively.

There are also contributions from Jeff Green (lead guitar), Lazuli’s Claude Leonetti (Leode) and Steve Hackett (HarmonicA)  Additional vocals come courtesy of Magenta’s Christina Booth, Harvest’s Monique Van Der Kolk and Weendo’s Laetitia Chaudemanche.

The album is released on March 14th

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Blue and Grey in the late 1960s

British Rail, Rail Blue Part 1 the 1960s (New Version). from Lewisham Bill on Vimeo.

One for anyone interested in some late 1960s nostalgia, whether it’s the trains or the music that forms the soundtrack.

There’s a lot of great footage of the southern end of the electrified West Coast main line, the West of England main line and the Southern Region out of Waterloo, as well as a bit of the Eastern Region, and a very brief glimpse of Scotland. There are Westerns and Warships, Blue Pullmans, 4-CORs and Deltics.

But this is not just about the locomotives, but the coaches. What makes this one interesting from a railway modelling standpoint is that is that much of the time it shows the whole train. Because film was expensive, much 60s cine film focused on the locomotive and tended to stop after the first couple of coaches, which is frustrating if you’ve modelling the era and want to know something of the train formations. This one is different.

It’s from a time when blue and grey was beginning to dominate, many Mk1s still wore maroon, and the Mk2a was the newest carriage on the railway. There are some interesting oddities; look out for the remarkably clean Stanier BG at St. Pancras in the long-obsolete crimson livery, and the maroon Gresley buffet at Teignmouth.

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Farewell John Wetton

John Wetton

Another of the major figures of progressive rock has left us; John Wetton passed away yesterday after a long illness. My Twitter feed was flooded with tributes both from fans and from fellow musicians. I never met him myself, but a lot of people I know knew him personally, and he was much loved as a person as well as a musician.

John Wetton is of course best known for King Crimson in the 1970s and Asia in the 1980s. The three albums he recorded with King Crimson, “Larks Tongues in Aspic”, “Starless and Bible Black” and “Red” remain landmarks in the progressive rock canon, pushing the envelope for what a rock band could be with a level of improvisation previously only seen in jazz, then switching gears with gorgeous elegaic ballads. “Starless”, which closes “Red” remains on of the greatest pieces of rock music ever recorded.

The supergroup Asia were an altogether different beast, sometimes dismissed as too commercial by genre purists, their polished sound emphasising Wetton’s songwriting and soaring voice, and that self-titled début remains a classic. And then there were all the other bands over the years, Family, the short-lived UK, and stints with Roxy Music and Uriah Heep.

So farewell John, and thanks for all the music. His bandmate in Asia, Geoff Downes has asked us all to listen this song in his memory.

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Riverside return to playing live with Blue Horizon tour

Riverside 2017 TourPoland’s Riverside are to return to the live arena with an extensive European tour with an as-yet unnamed guest guitarist bringing them back up to full strength.

During “Towards the Blue Horizon Tour” we will play in a new live line-up with a guest guitarist who will make our music sound the way it should, not only because he’s a great musician but, most of all, because he’s got the kind of modesty and humility about him which has always been very important to us on stage. Additionally, we’re going to present a lot of compositions which we have not played live before. Our concerts will also be filled with emotions we haven’t felt before. Together with you, we want to dive into this and make each composition sound more mighty than ever.

We’re becoming a different band, more mature, more serious, more experienced. Piotr is gone, but he will always be with us and we are still a live band. Which we’re going to prove soon during our “Towards the Blue Horizon Tour”.

The band have announced 27 dates across April and May, including three in the UK, in Edinburgh (Liquid Rooms) on May 19th, Bristol (Beirkeller) on May 21st and London (Islington Assembly Hall) on May 22nd. A further tour will follow in the Autumn.

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The Day That The World Breaks Down

Ayreon premiere a 12-minute epic from their forthcoming science-fiction prog-opera “The Source”, which features all eleven guest singers and sees mainman Arjen Lucasson indulging in some deep guitar and keyboard nerdery.

Disappointingly only two of the eleven singers involved are women this time, but both of them are big names.

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A Formal Horse – Made In Chelsea (Apocalypse in 15​/​8)

When an apocalypse in 9/8 isn’t nearly enough.  A track from the new album by A Formal Horse released in March, and now available for pre-order in both digital and physical formats.

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Last Call for Class B Tanks?

Revolution Trains 35t Tanker

Last year RevolutioN Trains announced the Class B tanker as a new crowdfunded model. With the prototype spanning the steam/diesel transition era and the blue diesel era, which ran both in block trans and in twos or threes in mixed freights, it ought to have had broad appeal. Unfortunately pre-orders so far have been disappointing,

Ben Ando posted this on RMWEB a few days ago:

We are still a few hundred short of the minimum number we need to reach to be confident about starting tooling.

By contrast, the HOA hoppers are already well beyond the minimum and CADs are now being drawn, with tooling work to follow soon afterward.

We still can’t understand why these wagons are struggling. They fill a useful gap, can be used in block trains or in twos and threes, and are the same prototype as the iconic Airfix kit many of us remember from yesteryear. What’s not to like?

They will continue to take pre-orders until February, and if the model is still well short at that point it won’t be going ahead. So if you still want one, or a full train of them, get your pre-order in now.

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