Sunday 12 February 2023

Crisis ferroviaria en España

Trains Too Big For Tunnels?

As a certain tennis player was wont to expostulate, "You cannot be serious!". But this is how an American news channel reported the story:-
This over-hyped news story is either farcically, well, farcical; and a dreadful indictment of Spanish national railways OR completely wrong. Whatever the truth it is all over the media and all over the world. 
Here are a couple of extracts from such articles. The headline ...
... an the explanation.
Unbelievable? Or utter journalistic tosh!

Let's begin at the beginning.

Spanish national railways have the iberian gauge of 

5 ft 2132

Some new high speed lines are built to standard gauge

4 ft 8½

There are some smaller networks with a narrow gauge of

one metre

A notable metre gauge network runs along the northern coast of Spain looking out onto the Bay of Biscay.

Map continues eastwards to Santander and Bilbao.
In relatively recent history these lines were run by a separate company ...

... with the acronym of FEVE. (Ferrocarriles de Vía Estrecha literally "Narrow Gauge Railways"). In a 2012 reorganisation, the operation became fully integrated with the national rail  operator RENFE and is now known as "RENFE-FEVE"
fbb is sure you would like to know that RENFE runs the trains but (as in the UK with Notwork Rail) the infrastructure is overseen by another state owned operation called Asif.

So, if we soak up the media, are we really supposed to believe that RENFE ordered standard gauge trains for a metre gauge line?

Maybe the media wants us to believe that, BUT it simply ain't true.

This extract from one of the reports may set us on the right path.
It would appear that reporters and news "anchors" have confused the gauge of the track with the gauge of the train. The latter refers to the overall height and width of the carriages in order, to pick up the media report, that they fit through the tunnels.

This is an age-old problem. For years we were told that the Waterloo and City line in London had trains smaller that the usual tube stock to fit in the narrower tunnels. Simply tosh! The tunnels are, in essence the same as normal tube train size. But the corners were a bit "tight" in places. Hence smaller trains.
But, with a bit of work on the corners with a large lump hammer, lo and behold, Central Line trains fit!
For countless generations we were told that the railway on the Isle of Wight could never have "full height" carriages because of the size of the tunnels in Ryde. Hence the use, since 1966, of hand-me-down underground trains.
Then someone tried actually checking the dimensions!
With a bit of encouragement from bosses at Vivarail, it turns out that "big" trains fit very well.

There has been similar tunnel angst in France ...
... and Australia.

Of course the Spanish trains are NOT too big for the tunnels. What appears to have happened is that the trains were designed for an "official" tunnel "gauge" for these narrow gauge lines. But tunnels in this part of the FEVE network are a little (emphasis on a little) narrower that the modern standard.

But, even so, you cry, surely the trains will have to be completely rebuilt to fit modern safety standards?

Aha, the truth now appears!

So pretty much a global fuss about almost nothing.

Some articles suggest that Asif (the infrastructure company) might just change the spec of its tunnels by trimming off a coupe of inches from the "approved" dimensions.

And yes, they will still be 100% safe.

Excitement At Seaton
Seaton's Co-op store closed in June 2022 much to the chagrin of fbb who could cope with its smaller size. Tesco is just too big and traumatic. In Tesco, milk is not in the dairy aisle! When Mrs fbb was hors de combat awaiting her hip replacement, fbb usually shopped at the Co-op; it was so much easier.
Takeover by Aldi was announced with an opening date in September 2022. September came and went. The new store would be ready, we were then told, by the new year 2023. 

Until just over a week ago nothing had happened; the old building was depressingly boarded up.
But work has started! The interior of the old Co-op has been gutted ...
... leaving a dark and ominous hole! Aldi are intending to glue new walls on and fit out the inside in their house style.
A recently suggested completion date for the end of March seems highly unlikely. The Seaton mafia is quoting September, i.e. a year later than originally announced.

Exciting eh?

A more positive development is this ...
... which, when adorned with its poster, might tell us an opening date.

London's Traffic - Horrendous!
Blackfriars Bridge, 1930s.

People Do The Oddest Things
A Raspberry Pi is a small but very effective and cheap computer.

Puzzle Picture
The buildings beyond the tram are still in place today! But where is it?

Please note : some of todays planned variety items are postponed to a Monday Variety. Likewise the blogs about Keith Shayshutt's book will follow from Tuesday.

 Next Variety blog : Monday 13th February 


  1. The mystery tram is not far from where one fatally crashed on the hill down to the other side of the harbour. The tramway operator was IoTESCo. The current bus company is the same one that replaced the trams in 1937 - and much of the principal Loop route still follows the tramway!

  2. I may be thinking of the wrong place - or should it be IoTET&LCo? (Perhaps they changed their name though).

  3. You are also correct Andrew - renamed during 1924.