Since When Was Freight Cool?

The Japanese have designed the most amazing train ever. It’s a freight train, yet it is just pure genius for the network out there.

The Problem

Japan has two railway gauges in use. For the ‘standard’ railway, they use a 3ft 6in (1067mm) gauge railway, due to the mountains terrain. Their high speed lines use the standard 4ft 8 1/2 in (1435mm) gauge for speed and stability. Between the northernmost island and mainland, there is the Seikan Tunnel, a mixed gauge tunnel. Freight uses the smaller 1067mm track and the heigh speed trains use the standard 1435mm track. However, freight cannot be transported as quickly through the tunnel due to the gauge.

The Genius Solution

To solve this issue, JR Hokkaido have designed the Train on Train. This is a freight train that the narrow gauge trains can be driven on to, ferried through the tunnel on the faster standard gauge track, and then can be unloaded on to the regular narrow gauge lines. It is a work of genius. However, it is still in development. I hope it gets exported round the world, just for the cool factor.

A demonstration of the Train on Train. Used under Creative Commons Licence from Wikipedia.

Many years ago, before I could remember (hey that’s saying something!), every station on the British Rail (now Network Rail) network had a Station Master. They were responsible for looking after the station, its running and appearance. They oversaw staff and ensured the station was running at peak efficiency. In many ways, they were the face of the station. They were local and had pride in their station. And they now no longer exist.

Now we have the modern “Station Manager”, someone with some education grades and that’s it. Nothing else. They aren’t a local and often lack any form of pride for their station. They also have to oversee more than one station in many cases. This has lead to the poor running of stations, but also appearance.

For me, the railways have always been dirty, grimy and kinda disgusting. I have been stuck on southern trains all my life and their stations and trains are awful, dirty places. However, I travelled on Virgin Trains over the summer, and every station they went through, their platforms (and often all) were kept in top condition. It made a nice change.

So here is my proposal, bring back Station Masters from the local area who really care for their station. Allow them the budget to keep them nicely painted and looking clean and give the actual trains a bit of a clean. They need it.