Mystery Pipe

A puzzle that the steam locomotive enthusiasts among you (you’re out there, right?) might stand a chance at solving:

The picture below is of “6040”, the last steam locomotive to be built for the Department of Railways New South Wales in Australia. She was in service as a coal/goods transporter from 1957 through 1967 before the increase in the use of diesel on the railways lead to the death of steam. She was eventually rescued and displayed by the New South Wales Railway Museum, which is where the photo was taken. There, starting from her 50th birthday, a team of volunteers have been restoring her. But that’s perhaps not the thing that’s most-unusual about her, or her class (AD60).

New South Wales Government Railways' AD60-class "6040", with mystery pipes highlighted
New South Wales Government Railways’ AD60-class “6040”, with mystery pipes highlighted

I’ve highlighted on the photo a feature that you’ve probably never seen before, even if you’re of an inclination to go “Ooh, a steam loco: I’mma have a closer look at that!”. What you’re seeing is an open pipe (with a funnel-like protrusion at one end) connecting the area behind the leading wheels to the cab. What’s it for? Have a think about it as you read the rest of this post, and see if you can come up with the answer before I tell you the answer.

AD60 "6012" under steam.
AD60 “6012”, seen in this 1950s photo, had not yet been fitted with the “mystery pipes”, which were added later.

These pipes weren’t initially fitted to “6040” nor to any of her 41 sisters: they were added later, once the need for them became apparent.

If you’re thinking “ventilation”, you’d be wrong, but I can see why you’d make that guess: the AD60 is an extremely long locomotive, and sometimes long steam locomotives experience ventilation problems when going through tunnels. Indeed, this was a concern for the AD60 and some were fitted with ventilation pipes, but these carried air from the front of the engine back to the cab, not from down near the wheels like this mystery pipe would. However, the pipe does connect through to the cab…

AD60 "6029"
“City of Canberra”/”6029”, restored to functionality (seen here in 2015), either never had or wasn’t refitted during restoration with the mystery pipes.

It’s worth taking a moment though to consider why this is such a long locomotive, though: you may have noticed that it exhibits a rather unusual shape! The AD60 is a Garratt locomotive, an uncommon articulated design which places a single (usually relatively-large) boiler straddled in-between two steam engines. Articulating a locomotive allows a longer design to safely take corners that were only rated for shorter vehicles (which can be important if your network rolled out narrow-gauge everywhere to begin with, or if you put too many curves onto a mountain railway). Garratt (and other articulated steam) locos are a fascinating concept however you look at them, but I’m going to try harder than usual to stay on-topic today.

OpenTTD slope building
Just go around the mountain! (Around and around and around…) Oh damn, I’ve gone off topic and now I’m thinking about OpenTTD.

And by the time you’re articulating a locomotive anyway, engineer Herbert William Garratt reasoned, you might as well give it a huge boiler and two engines and give it the kind of power output you’d normally expect from double-heading your train. And it pretty-much worked, too! Garratt-type articulated steam locomotives proved very popular in Africa, where some of the most-powerful ones constructed remained in service until 1980, mountainous parts of Asia, and – to a lesser extent – in Australia.

Illustration of a garratt locomotive
Each of the forward and rear engine bogies in a Garratt design pivots independently; the boiler and cab are suspended between them.

Indeed: it’s the combination of length of this loco and its two (loud) engines that necessitated the addition of the “mystery pipe”. Can you work out what it is, yet? One final clue before I give the game away – it’s a safety feature.

While you think about that, I direct your attention to this photo of the Я-class (of which only one was ever built), which shows you what happens then the Soviet Union thought “Da, we have to be having one of these ‘Garratt’ steam engines with the bending… but we have also to be making it much bigger than those capitalist dogs would.” What a monster!

Page 116 of the Minutes of Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers, Volume 1
Minutes of the meeting at which Cowper demonstrated his invention (click through for full text via Google Books).

In the 1840s, engineer Edward Alfred Cowper (who’d later go on to design the famous single-arch roof of Birmingham New Street station which lasted until its redevelopment in the 1960s) invented a device called the railway detonator. A detonator is a small explosive charge that can be attached to a railway line and which will explode when a train drives over it. The original idea – and still one in which they’re used to this day – is that if a train breaks down or otherwise has to come to a halt in foggy conditions, they can be placed on the track behind. If another train comes along, the driver will hear the distinctive “bangs” of the detonators which will warn them to put on the brakes and stop, and so avoid a collision with the stopped train ahead.

They’re the grown-up equivalent of those things kids used to be able to buy that went bang when you threw them on the ground (or, in a great example of why kids shouldn’t be allowed to buy them, at least in the case of a childhood friend of mine, detonated them by biting them!).

But when your cab is behind not only the (long) boiler and (even longer and very loud) articulated engine of an AD60, there’s a very real risk that you won’t hear a detonator, triggered by the front wheels of your loco. Your 264-tonnes of locomotive plus the weight of the entire train behind you can sail on through a trio of detonators and not even hear the warning (though you’re probably likely to hear the bang that comes later, when you catch up with the obstruction ahead).

Detonator on railway track
I heard pop-pop on the railway! (The very fact that I call it that tells you that I’m not ready.)

The mystery tubes on the AD60 were added to address this problem: they’re a noise-carrier! Connecting the area right behind the leading wheels to the drivers’ cab via a long tube makes the driver more-able to hear what’s happening on the rails, specifically so that they can hear if the engine begins to roll over a detonator. That’s a crazy bit of engineering, right? Installing a tube along most of the length of a locomotive just to carry the sound of the wheels (and anything they collide with) to the driver’s cab seems like a bizarre step, but having already-constructed the vehicle in a way that introduced that potential safety problem, it was the simplest and lowest-cost retrofitting.

In other news: this is what happens when I finish the last exam I anticipate sitting in a long while, this week (I know I’ve said that before, last time I was in the position of finishing a final-exam-before-a-dissertation). Clearly my brain chooses to celebrate not having to learn what I was studying for a bit by taking a break to learn something completely different.

Geohashing expedition 2018-10-16 52 -0

This checkin to geohash 2018-10-16 52 -0 reflects a geohashing expedition. See more of Dan's hash logs.

Location

Alongside a lane that runs through the Quinton Green Business Park, South of the village of Quinton.

Participants

Plans

I’ve got an exam in Milton Keynes in the afternoon, so it’d be only a minor diversion for me to come and try to visit this roadside hashpoint. I hope to be there about 10:30.

Expedition

Failed to turn on the tracklogger on my GPS, but I remembered to get photos at least. This was a quick and easy run, although I did get accosted by a local who saw me hanging around near the wind farm and putting up a sign… I think that after the controversy these epic windmills caused he might have thought that I was putting up a planning notice to erect some more or something. Once I explained what I was doing he seemed happy enough.

Used my new 360° full-panoramic camera to take a picture at the hashpoint; I’ll put a VR-ready version on my website and link it here when I get the chance.

Panoramic 360° VR-ready wraparound of the hashpoint

Photos

Map of 52.1675043,-0.8559224

Days Like Weeks

You know how when your life is busy time seems to creep by so slowly… you look back and say “do you remember the time… oh, that was just last week!” Well that’s what my life’s been like, of late.

Enjoying a beer at the launch of Milestone: Jethrik, the latest release of Three Rings.
Enjoying a beer at the launch of Milestone: Jethrik, the latest release of Three Rings.

There was Milestone: Jethrik and the Three Rings Conference, of course, which ate up a lot of my time but then paid off wonderfully –  the conference was a wonderful success, and our announcements about formalising our non-profit nature and our plans for the future were well-received by the delegates. A slightly lower-than-anticipated turnout (not least because of this winter ‘flu that’s going around) didn’t prevent the delegates (who’d come from far and wide: Samaritans branches, Nightlines, and even a representative from a Community Library that uses the software) from saying wonderful things about the event. We’re hoping for some great feedback to the satisfaction surveys we’ve just sent out, too.

The Three Rings Birthday Cake. It boggles my mind how they've managed to make the icing look so much like plastic, on the phone part.
The Three Rings Birthday Cake. It boggles my mind how they’ve managed to make the icing look so much like plastic, on the phone part.

Hot on the heels of those volunteering activities came my latest taped assessment for my counselling course at Aylesbury College. Given the brief that I was “a volunteer counseller at a school, when the parent of a bullied child comes in, in tears”, I took part in an observed, recorded role-play scenario, which now I’m tasked with dissecting and writing an essay about. Which isn’t so bad, except that the whole thing went really well, so I can’t take my usual approach of picking holes in it and saying what I learned from it. Instead I’ll have to have a go at talking about what I did right and trying to apply elements of counselling theory to justify the way I worked. That’ll be fun, too, but it does of course mean that the busy lifestyle isn’t quite over yet.

My sister Sarah, with TAS managing director Adrian Grant, at the UK Bus Awards.
My sister Sarah, with TAS managing director Adrian Grant, prepare to announce the winner of the Peter Huntley Memorial Award for Making Buses A Better Choice.

And then on Tuesday I was a guest at the UK Bus Awards, an annual event which my dad co-pioneered back in the mid-1990s. I’d been invited along by Transaid, the charity that my dad was supporting with his planned expedition to the North Pole before he was killed during an accident while training. I was there first and foremost to receive (posthumously, on his behalf) the first Peter Huntley Fundraising Award, which will be given each year to the person who – through a physical activity – raises the most money for Transaid. The award was first announced at my father’s funeral, by Gary Forster, the charity’s chief executive. Before he worked for the charity he volunteered with them for some time, including a significant amount of work in sub-Saharan Africa, so he and I spent a little while at the event discussing the quirks of the local cuisine, which I’d experienced some years earlier during my sponsored cycle around the country (with my dad).

So it’s all been “go, go, go,” again, and I apologise to those whose emails and texts I’ve neglected. Or maybe I haven’t neglected them so much as I think: after all – if you emailed me last week, right now that feels like months ago.

My Final Exam… Like… Ever

[this post has been partially damaged during a server failure on Sunday 11th July 2004, and it has been possible to recover only a part of it]

I feel kind of odd. And no, I’m not just referring to my (still kind-of burny) Lariam headache:

I’ve just had my final exam. And I mean ever.

I know I’m not a graduate yet (assuming I even pass these buggers), but… there’s something kind-of final feeling about leaving that exam room. It took me a good few minutes walking down the hill before it really hit me that this is the end of it.

Five years.

I’ve been a student here at Aberystwyth for almost five years. That’s over a fifth of my life. That’s pretty much all of my adult life (going by the legal definition of ’18’).

I’ve been in apprehensive anticipation of this moment all year. Perhaps longer. I’m not trying to cling on to it – I know when it’s time to let go and get on with other things – but I still feel a certain… sadness… at something having passed by. It’s not unlike… the death of a pet. Or a loved-one moving away. It’s just a hole in me that waits – not fearful… but: presentiment at what is to fill it.

Five years.

When I was in my first year, I talked with folks like Rory

Lariam

This stuff is seriously trippy. Since mid-afternoon I’ve felt nauseous. Now I have a killer headache (paracetemol seems to be kicking in, now, though), and I can hear a whistling in my right ear. I’m still in the list of side-effects I don’t need to tell my doctor about, so all’s well.

Wierd stuff, though. I did a search online for things that provided relief for the side-effects, and came accross this rather depressing article.

Time for bed. Exam in the morning. Hope I feel bouncier then.

Final Exam, And What I Will Be Answering

[this post was damaged during a server failure on Sunday 11th July 2004, and it has not been possible to recover it]

[this post was partially recovered on 12 October 2018]

My final exam is in nine and a bit hours time. It’s on “Implementing The Information Society”, the ‘fluffiest’ module in the entire Computer Science department. It could almost, almost be an Arts module.

It’s title is a bit of a misnomer. There’s absolutely no ‘implementing’ involved, and it’s only got tenous links to the Information Society as a whole. But it is a very interesting module with funky ‘what-if’ seminars and discussions about everything from national identity card schemes to security on wireless broadband connections.

Which, as it happens, are the two topics of the two-of-three questions I’ll be answering tomorrow. Unusually, this module’s exam paper is available on the web three days prior to the exam. Which makes the whole experience slightly less stressful, particularly as it’s an ‘unusual’ paper for us CompSci’s in general: we are so used to being assessed on things which have only a moderate degree of flexibility in their answers – a true Science paper – that when we’re given this kind of essay-esque arty exam we panic. Well; actually that’s not true – U.W.A.’s CompSci department are very good at making sure that our geeks are…

Busy Days

[this post was damaged during a server failure on Sunday 11th July 2004, and it has not been possible to recover it]

[this post was partially recovered on 12 October 2018]

Yay! I won an eBay auction for a copy of Everyway. For £4! Yay! Winner! Now all I need are some friends, some paper, some pencils, and no dice.

In other good news, I solved a really nasty Project: Jukebox bug.

And finally: I’ve been spending way too long (when I should be revising) in Second Life. I’m currently working on trying to build the game world’s first Bluetooth-like short-range radio system, but while building prototypes I seem to have come up with a great espionage/surviellance device (i.e. a bug). It works really well. I’ve spent the afternoon listening in on people’s conversations. I intend to sell my bugging device for L$100 ($L = Linden Dollars, the currency of this virtual world), and then, when I’ve cornered the market, start selling a de-bugging device that can detect bug usage for L$500. I am one of those people, I have decided, whom; if I ran an anti-virus company, I would write viruses to ensure that people still needed my products.

I have one exam left. The …

Post-Modernist Geography

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[this post was recovered on 12 October 2018]

Adam will no doubt correct me on this, but I didn’t think there could be such a thing as ‘Post-Modernist Geography’ until I saw this young lady’s page on it. Read the page.

It doesn’t really help Adam’s argument that Geography is a subject worthy of mention, does it? It makes it all fluffy and arty. Hmph.

Thanks to those of you who have been forcing hugs upon Claire for the last 24 hours. She seems a lot happier now. Having finished her first two exams seems to have helped, too. =o)

Claire Seems Distracted

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[this post was partially recovered on 12 October 2018]

Claims tiredness. Suspect she’s stressed about upcoming exams. Hope that it’s one or the other.

A handful of my friends keep posting entries to their ‘blogs rapidly, in quick succession. Have you heard of putting things in the same entry?. Save your friends from scrolling themselves to death!

My first exam, Monday (Formal Methods In Software Engineering), went better than expected; should have done quite well. Feel confident about The Internet: Architecture And Operation on Saturday morning.

In other news, my new soundcard arrived, giving me an audio system which doesn’t (a) short-circuit and cause my computer to crash from time to time, (b) give me quite painful electric shocks when I connect things to it and (c) gives me stereo sound all the time, without switching to mono for no apparent reason. In addition, I have a ‘front panel’ with heaps of cool-looking connectors, MIDI ports, etc. And a few tweaks later and it works fantastically with the …

Christmas Is Coming, The Exams Are Getting Written

[this post was lost during a server failure on Sunday 11th July 2004; it was partially recovered on 21st March 2012]

I haven’t done any yet.

I’ll start tommorow. Better call my mum and get some tips on what my sisters are into this year. Becky’s typically quite easy – she usually just wants the most violent computer game released in the last three months – but Sarah, who’s desires are driven by the fluctuations of what is and what is-not fashionable at any particular time (“That is so last week! Nobody listens to clip-hop any more!”)

Claire and I are going to be spending Christmas (and a couple of days before) with Claire’s dad. Then we’ll travel all the way up the country – with her dad in tow – on Boxing Day to spend the weekend with my family. We’ll be back in Aberystwyth in time for New Year. And then I suppose I’d better start revising.

For the benefit mostly of myself (this is a convenient look-up point), but also just to show you all, my exam timetable for this semester appears at the bottom of this post…

Only three exams! Woo. I feel moderately confident enough about them – although I’ll need to knuckle down and read up a lot of formal notation stuff for the SE33010 exam. I’ve also got an assignment to do for my Professional … [the rest of this post, and one comment, are lost]

Cool Thing Of The Day

Cool And Interesting Thing Of The Day To Do At The University Of Wales, Aberystwyth, #31:

Pass your first exam… with a worldsmashing score of 90%. Your lecturer, apparantly, during a pre-test, scored 95%. The pass level was 36%. Happy bunny? You bet!

The ‘cool and interesting things’ were originally published to a location at which my “friends back home” could read them, during the first few months of my time at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, which I started in September 1999. It proved to be particularly popular, and so now it is immortalised through the medium of my weblog.

Cool Thing Of The Day

Cool And Interesting Thing Of The Day To Do At The University Of Wales, Aberystwyth, #27:

(1) What with being excessivley busy, and a network failure last weekend, fail to get out a “Cool Things”. Feel the need to apologise to everybody (SORRY!), and give them three “Cool Things” to help make up for it.
(2) Be elected Communications Officer for a confidential telephone listening and advice service.
(3) Take your first exam. Gulp. Still – 20 questions, and only 36% required to pass. From the results of people in my class who’ve done it earlier this week, marks range from 30% –> 80%. Remain confident. My result is out on Monday.

The ‘cool and interesting things’ were originally published to a location at which my “friends back home” could read them, during the first few months of my time at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, which I started in September 1999. It proved to be particularly popular, and so now it is immortalised through the medium of my weblog.

Avatar Diary

Psychology in the morning was low-tone, and everybody seems to be under excess stress. Bunked off General Studies, because the recently-done exam paper hasn’t been marked anyway, and it’ll be cancelled as usual… Everything seems to be this week. Instead, took off into town with Fay, browsed the shops, put in my application for a Switch card at the bank, and ate hot potatoes for lunch. Returned to college at 2:00pm for my Mechanics exam, arriving just on time by taking a short cut through the building site. The exam wasn’t too bad.