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  1. #1
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    Trainspotting: Getting the Dope - Delhi

    OK, so an admission from the outset: this thread has more to do with the practical applications of Boyles law than the film directed by Danny Boyle, but the ambiguity in the title may have made some of you open this thread that otherwise would have ignored it.

    Now some people are rather into trains...



    ... I'm not one of them


    My thoughts on trains are largely limited to reckoning that in some parts of the world they can provide a fairly decent form of transportation




    and in other parts of the world, certainly nearer to where I currently live, they are a bit more challenging




    In fairness though things are not a lot better in my home country


  2. #2
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    The other Sunday I found myself on offspring-watching duty and, being someone with a limited imagination, decided to take the kids to the Delhi railway museum for what is probably the third time in the last eighteen months.

    I like the place because it's a sort of elephant's graveyard for old railway clutter in the heart of downtown Delhi. Whilst the exhibits don't change, they are all in various states of decay and patiently await a restoration that may or may not ever come. Moreover the whole thing is in a park-like setting and really very pleasant to wander around in.

    Roobarb minor is quite fond of it because of a deep seated conviction he has that the next engine he will see is Thomas the Tank Engine. Roobarb minimus seems quite happy with anything so long as she can run around outside and poke her older sibling with a stick from time to time to provoke a reaction.

    The railway museum is not really Mrs. Roobarb's cup of tea but, as she had something else on that day, happily this was not a consideration.

  3. #3
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    The lurking interest in steam engines is really only that they represent the enormous strides made in engineering during the Victorian age. Back then people would take an idea and keep making it bigger and ever more powerful so that it did larger amounts of whatever it was meant to do more efficiently than anything that preceded it.

    It's a sort of 'hit it with an increasingly heavy sledgehammer' approach to engineering. As someone with little technical ability I admire the way they thought.

  4. #4
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    It was the British that brought Railways to Africa,Australia and India,and Indians built and ran the first railway line from Nairobi Kenya to Uganda.

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    Good point Wasabi, as a bit of background here's a few examples of what I mean by large scale Victorian engineering - all in the UK:

    The Anderton Boat Lift, North West England. Built 1875 and ran for 100 years before being closed temporarily for refurbishment.

    The problem was how to raise your canal barges by fifty feet from one canal to another without making lots of time-consuming locks.



    The answer was to build an enormous lift. Each caisson (the basin that the boat sits in) weighs 272 tons when full and will take two floating narrowboats of up to 72 feet length at a time.



    What's clever about the whole thing is that the two caissons are controlled by hydraulics within large rams sunk into the ground that are joined with a small pipe. By simply filling the top caisson a little more than the bottom one the lift automatically starts working. The whole mechanism needed very little power to operate and the framework only needs to support the lateral movement of the caissons rather than support their whole weight.

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    Impressive, but the boat lift is not thinking really big, so how about this one:

    The problem was this: How to get your steelworkers from the side of the river where they lived to the other side of the river where they worked without then having to make a four mile commute via the nearest bridge. Two things to bear in mind are that the bridge needs to allow large ships underneath and the river is very tidal which means that running ferries is not practical.

    I give you the Newport Transporter Bridge, South Wales. Built in 1906, ran for 80 years before being closed for refurbishment.




    See that little blue pointed roof thing by the left hand leg in the foreground? It's actually this thing:



    The cars give a sense of scale, the towers are about 250 feet tall





    Nowadays we would just assume that it's all too difficult and outsource the work to China instead...

    .. and China's solution for getting workers over the river may look something like this:


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    OK, the last one I promise, and this may be where the fascination in this sort of thing started for me as for a few years I grew up in its shadows:


    The Forth Rail Bridge:

    Started in 1882 and completed in 1889. It was built using steel, and this is significant because using steel as a construction material was in its infancy. The process developed to ensure the consistent quality of steel was perfected a mere seven years before construction began.




    The bridge stands 100 metres high (300 or so feet) and weighs seven times as much as the Eiffel Tower, which was completed in the same year and in technologically boring wrought iron.



    Look at the size of the train on the right. To build something on this scale using a relatively unknown material is extraordinarily brave, especially given it was started in the shadows of the well publicised collapse of the nearby Tay railway bridge just three years before, killing 75 people.




    6.5 million rivets were used in making this thing (according to Wikipedia)




    I know that to many of you this is just another bridge, but to me it's a stunning design.




    A picture of the designers, Sir John Fowler and Sir Benjamin Baker demonstrating the principle behind the bridge. Interestingly the chap in the middle, Kaichi Watanabe, had come from Japan to study engineering, and had stayed onto become a site foreman during the construction of the bridge.

    We think expat life is tough because the local supermarket sometimes runs out of mature cheddar cheese. I wonder what he made of Victorian Scotland when compared to life at home in Imperial Japan.

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    As their collective knowledge increased, rather than just dreaming bigger and bigger, inventive types began to stretch the boundaries of known technology. These were the fellows who would look at someone like me happily banging away at something with an ever heavier hammer and instead think of a clever way of doing it faster, quieter and more efficiently.

    It wasn't just engineers who were at it. There was a widespread optimism that technology would tame the dangers of nature. Jules Verne wrote '20,000 Leagues Under the Sea' in 1869. This was at a time when the most advanced submarines were hand-cranked metal tubes killing little other than their own crews in the American civil war. The sky, or in this particular case the sea floor, was the limit.

    Coincidentally, according to a man with a beard, one of the inspirations for the 'classic' Disney depiction of the Nautilus (the submarine in '20,000 Leagues Under the Sea' - see the pic below) was apparently the Forth Rail Bridge



    Link to the website below:

    http://mikespassingthoughts.wordpress.com/2010/11/08/trivia-about-the-nautilus-from-disneys-20000-leagues-under-the-sea/
    Last edited by Roobarb; 02-11-2013 at 04:14 AM.

  9. #9
    Molecular Mixup
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roobarb
    The other Sunday I found myself on offspring-watching duty and, being someone with a limited imagination, decided to take the kids to the Delhi railway museum
    hint

  10. #10
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    Steam engines, the development of which by and large spanned the Victorian era, are a great example of the engineering achievements of that time. There were many explosions, disasters and dead-ends that went simply nowhere, but overall it was evolution driven by human endeavor and daring to thing big.

    I like steam engines as they represent a man-made solution to a problem that, until then, man didn't realise that he had. It's all about progress and pushing the boundaries of our understanding, and that's a good thing.


    Whilst not the first steam engine, Stephenson's Rocket is where is all started in terms of serving a useful service to the public.



    Seen though modern-day eyes, one might cynically suggest that actually the first useful service it performed for the public was to kill a local politician during the opening ceremony for the railway it was due to serve on in 1830. For the next few years Rocket's service was more in line with its design brief before technology soon overtook it. Rocket was retired in 1862 and donated to a museum.

    Spool it forwards to just over 100 years from Rocket's debut and we reach what is probably the peak of steam engine design in the Mallard, which in 1938 created the record as the fastest ever steam engine at 125.88 mph




    This really did mark the end of steam engine development for two reasons:

    - Firstly, the second world war allowed for the rapid growth of newer technologies (plus drained resources for developing older ones)

    - Secondly, Mallard's record, whilst impressive, didn't make it the fastest train in the world. The record had already been set at 127 mph in Germany with a diesel-electric train in 1936.

    As an odd side note, the record was set by a development model of an engine that was improbably named the 'Flying Hamburger' (really, that was its name. In German it's 'Fliegender Hamburger').



    The 'Flying Hamburger'


    It even looks like one of Ray Kroc's finest, with a side order of fairly officious Germanic-looking fries.


  11. #11
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    Technology today is visually dull.



    However exciting the probable discovery of the Higgs Bosun has been, a bunch of tiny particles zapping around the Large Hadron Collider in the hope of creating a particle with a half life so short that it is nearly impossible to detect simply doesn't compare to 100 tons of glistening metal barrelling majestically through the countryside, steam and smoke billowing forth.



    It stirs the soul. This was made by men, in sheds, with hammers and bits of metal and sweat and rivets and fire and stuff.

  12. #12
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    ^^ Good Lord, you're absolutely right Blue, I seem to have meandered off on a tangent. This was about a kid's day out.

    Apologies all.

    So, if any of you ever find yourselves in Delhi over a weekend and are looking for somewhere to go to escape the confines of the hotel then the railway museum is a great way of whiling away a few hours. Take a beer or two and some sandwiches as eating options there are limited, but there are plenty of places to sit, have a picnic, read a book, have a doze and generally pretend you are somewhere else. There are normally a few other punters wandering around, but it never seems to become in any way crowded.

    To give you an idea on where it is, the red circle marks the spot:




    A bit closer in:




    Basically just behind the New Zealand and Philippine Embassies, and next to the Bhutanese one.

  13. #13
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    Getting in is a breeze, not much of a queue




    Have a look at the sign below. I can't read Hindi (so much so that in retrospect I seem to have cut off half the notice in the photo) but it does appear that irrespective of nationality the pricing is the same. 20 Rupees for adults (about 10 Baht) and 10 Rupees for children who appear to be more than three years old. Thai attractions take note...



    There are some places here that do have a Thai-style dual-pricing policy - Delhi zoo for one - but when you turn up looking foreign you are immediately guided to the front of a long queue of locals, asked to pay a fee that is only a few more Rupees than the Indian rate and a few seconds later you are in. I don't mind paying a first class fare if I get a first class service (note - in my case this applies more to Indian zoos than to air travel).

    When you get your tickets for the museum you are asked if you want to get tickets for the miniature railway at the museum, called the Toy Train. Now, be warned, this will double the cost of your visit so do think long and hard about whether it's worth it or not. If you have small kids with you then it probably is, if you don't, well, up to you. If you are still sitting on the fence and worried about going the extra twenty Rupees then you can get Toy Train tickets a bit later near to the platform it leaves from.

  14. #14
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    Interesting thread roobarb , watched a doco about the building of the forth bridge on the telly a while back , Indeed train travel in india is challenging but i found the trick is to cough up for a first class sleeper and then it would be a doddle, saw a few farangs in the 3rd class section on the madras to delhi line once, they looked like shit when we finally pulled in to delhi, fok that , you would have to sleep with one eye open

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    Once inside the entrance the first thing you come across is this jolly little number



    Before the Hong Kong fraternity get overly excited, I believe that 'MTR' actually has something to do with the engine previously working at the Marala Timber depot.

    You'll see hanging on the front of the boiler a sign with a pair of headphones. Just to the rear of the engine is a small hut where you can rent a sort of mp3 thing and get an audio tour of all the exhibits. The rental is just 75 Rupees and they have both Hindi and English commentary. You need to leave a photo ID card of some sort (foreign driving license will do).

    Now, I was expecting the commentary to be either some fearfully dull fellow rambling on interminably about couplings and signals, or someone muttering away in an incomprehensible cross between Hindi and English about Lord knows what. The cynical side of me was also expecting that the battery on the mp3 player would last no longer than five minutes.



    Sennheiser - I'm impressed.


    I was pleasantly surprised at the quality at the commentary, although I didn't actually use it that much. With two small children in tow I was already running at just about full mental capacity. What I did hear was actually quite good, if just ever so slightly odd.

    There was a young-sounding couple reading a rather well written script. The odd part was, well, you know those slightly cheesy TV ads with a youngish sort of newly wed husband and wife combo, the ones where the husband asks something only for the wife to be slightly too clever in her solution:

    Man: "How do I get these stains off my shirt collar?"

    Woman (smiling lovingly): "Give it to me. This is a job for new Wizzo Ultra. It's specially formulated to get rid of the sort of stubborn stains that normal powder just won't clean. What's more, with a non-bio conditioner built in, your shirts will come out as soft and as fresh as new"

    Man (with a look of total admiration): "Gosh darling, you are wonderful."

    (Obviously as the marriage matures what this will translate to is "God you're dull. You actually read detergent boxes. You do the laundry, I'm off down the boozer")




    This sort of dialogue is fine for washing powder, but not so good when talking about trains:

    Man: "Gosh, this is a big green engine, I wonder what it is?
    "

    Woman (smiling lovingly): "This of course if the wide gauge Chesapeake 2-6-4 with double reciprocating donkey pistons, an asymmetrical firebox and full off-road suspension. Interestingly the boiler was blah blah blah."

    Man (feeling strangely emasculated): "So it was used to pull passenger trains?"

    Woman (who can't resist a small, superior chuckle): "Yes, indeed, the wonderful thing about these type of locomotives, especially when compared with the previous generation, was that their axle configuration allowed for far greater traction on the steep inclines giving them a blah blah blah."

    Man (already left by this stage and heading down to the boozer)

    Anyway, it's good information and well presented, well worth the 75 Rupees in case you were wondering.

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    ^^ Too right there BLD. First class is the only way to go on trains here.

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    Well done Roobarb - brought back memories with that forth rail bridge - I used to live in Barnton close by

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    Not a good pic, as it was one cold day.

  19. #19
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    Iceman, it's a curiously evocative structure. We were in Rosyth, I was about 5 years old at the time. In all honesty there is little I remember of the place that inspired any form of awe other than the bridge. I hope it is more a reflection of how old I was than a reflection on Rosyth, but...

    Kevin - although having said the above, I do remember it getting mind-numbingly cold up there though. Perhaps brain-freeze is why the memories of the place are a bit limited. Really great photo BTW, many thanks for sharing it.

    I was going to update a bit more now, but I am 'getting looks' so it'll have to wait.

    Cheers

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    No Roobarb,

    There was never anything about Rosyth to inspire.

    The naval base was there - open days had some great naval and harrier displays but the town itself was a s...hole.

    No question a great bridge - much more imposing to me than it's arguably more famous and newer brother the road bridge.

  21. #21
    splendid and tremendous
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    Nice one Roobarb!

    Any chance of knocking up a Delhi Food thread?

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    tickets please

    you have to give it to the poms,of all the empire builders they always built
    train lines,meant the locals could travel a great distance in their own country.
    was on a 3rd class sleeper once in india, was sleeping in the upper bunk,
    woke up to find a local had put my shoes on,and tried to argue they were his,
    a threat of a good smack in the mouth was needed to convince him
    to hand them over

  23. #23
    Philippine Expat Davis Knowlton's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roobarb View Post
    Once inside the entrance the first thing you come across is this jolly little number
    Great thread. I lived in Delhi 83-86, and used to drop by on occasion. It looks unchanged.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roobarb View Post


    In fairness though things are not a lot better in my home country

    Having lived in London for the last 32 years one has to remember the population is a good deal bigger than it was and the transport system is now much busier. The increase in the availability of cheap flights also contributes since many travelers chose the tube as their preferred means to get to Heathrow. When I first moved to London there were times of the day when you could find quiet trains with plenty of empty seats but that seldom happens now. In addition the Thatcher era meant little or no investment in Britain's railways. We are now playing a game of 'catch up' the rest of Europe, most notably the French and Germans have much better and more reliable services.

  25. #25
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    I lived in Edinburgh and often took the train across the Forth Rail Bridge. What i love now is arriving at Edinburgh Airport and flying over the bridges.

    A lovely sight.

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