Wednesday, April 8, 2009

NOT North Africa!

In the early 80's I traveled on the "Limon Express" narrow gauge line in Alicante, Spain.

The line was incredibly dramatic running along the sides of high mountains for miles down to the sea. At that time the stock was very old and the whole thing had the flavour of a North African desert line, far removed from the touristic efforts around it.

This old locomotive has seen better days! The coaches were older if you can believe it.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Old Electrics!

Travelling around Europe in the late 80's it was still possible to see locomotives that appeared to have come out of the Ark!

Here is an FS Class E626, first in service in 1927 and still going strong 60 plus years latter. I caught this one near Misano on the Adriatic coast in 1989. Not pretty, apparently cold and not very nice to drive.... But what a thing!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Gricers Heaven. 24th November 1979

A year later we attempted a similar trip, but this time running from Euston. Woodhead again, but this time with the incredibly old Class 76 electrics and a short section in Tinsley with a Class 13.

The trip was a nightmare for BR, quite fun for us! Somehow the vacuum brakes on the rake were dragging and they kept killing the engines.

81 016 to Lime Street was fine, then 40 188 which failed between Huyton and St Helens Jnc. 25 198 came on at the rear and got us to Manchester Victoria. 25 242 managed to get us to Guide Bridge where 76 027/28 double headed over Woodhead without problem.

We were now over an hour late so missed Tinsley and the 13 altogether causing some consternation amongst the, Ahem... More focused of us! Back over Woodhead with the 76's.... Oh! Yes I have been over 3 times:-) Then 25 070 and 056 which were promptly knackered after Lostock! Eventually limped into Preston hours late. 85 033 getting us home at 12.30.

Strange thing is I was still only in my mid teens and cannot for the life of me remember how I got home. Dumped in London after midnight, last train home gone. One of my friends Father was on the board of BP at the time and once at least his chauffeur drove us home... We piled in like sardines! Probably this was the day as it would have topped things off very well.

All the photo's of my first two trips gone in a sea of old negatives somewhere. Nitwit!

My first Railtour - The Wigan Wanderer. 16th December 1978

Over thirty years ago I set out with a Friend (last I heard, now a high ranking Bank of England Official) on our first Railfan trip. We had scoured the country on our own by this point, but this was crossing some sort of invisible Rubicon! A Fan trip!

In 1978 if it moved on British Rail it was Blue, BLUE or BLUE! Then something happened, no idea what, and the "powers" allowed an old class 40 to be painted in BR green. The first most of us heard about it was when she backed down onto the train in St Pancras (the old grubby one)! People went crazy, it was water after a drought. 40 106 in shiny 1960's green. With the crazy rainbow schemes you get today its hard to imagine the slightest interest, but this was big news in 78.

The trip was such an eye opener. The fans were a great bunch and we swapped to a 37, 107 I think to go over the now long closed Woodhead route. I remember just running down towards Manchester past row upon row of lakes, quite beautiful. All gone now of course.... Madness!

The true story of FIFA Soccer!.. Well my view anyway!

Success has many Fathers, and a success as vast as the Videogame FIFA has more than most. In many ways the claim has little meaning as hundreds, probably thousands of people have worked on FIFA over the years and every one of them has had a part in its success.
Of course those who know me know I can’t even program my mobile phone, so I make no serious claim to fatherhood myself. However not many can claim to have actually been in the room when FIFA was born, only two in fact, and I am one of them.
In the early 90’s EA’s commercial business was run by David Knox, Sales Director and all round good egg. Ably, if somewhat erratically, assisted by myself on the UK and Console across Europe… we lived to multitask! For years we had been in an internecine war with our US brothers to get a football game for Europe. There was a plethora in those days. Kick Off from the boys down in Gravesend and Sensible Soccer, which we all called Sensi (because we were brain dead) come to mind. Anyway for some reason it was the relatively less well-known Microprose Soccer that really got our goat. I guess it was because they were an American company like us, AND they focused on platforms similar to us such as the ST and Amiga. Whatever it burned!
In the ongoing conversation that was EA, we kept poking our heads above the parapet and lobbing the odd Football request over the pond. Normally the response was some version of “You got Jaan Madden, you guys need to get on that”. Irritatingly Jaan Madden sold very well in the UK back then, so we were stumped. We would huddle in a crappy little office by the kitchenette and mutter dark oaths. In my mind the room was a cupboard under the stairs, but I think I’m just getting mixed up with Harry Potter.
Anyway there we were, muttering to each other under the stairs when salvation arrived! A little note asking for a forecast for a football game not made by us, but by a development team who wanted a publisher! This was it, we knew how EA worked… so we forecast BIG!
Whoa! That got everyone’s attention, Knoxxie was dragged into meetings, and I was dragged in after him. All manner of excitement was occurring! THEN we lost the deal! I think Sega won it and it became Ultimate Soccer, I don’t remember that well… FIFA squished it eventually anyway.
Whatever, we hid back under the stairs and waited, and waited, and waited! Finally the call we were expecting came! “Ahem! If we did a Soccer game ourselves would you forecast that many again?”

And lo… it was done!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Southern Belle by Mike Male and Bob Hillyer

Being both a Gamer and Railfan the arrival of Southern Belle in 1985 was a seminal moment. The first, and to my mind never equaled Train Simulator! Evening Star followed from the same team a couple of years later... then nothing! Such a shame as they just about got it right. Coleridge talked about "the willing suspension of disbelief", these games did that! You felt you were driving a real locomotive, it was about Fire, Steam and Speed!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Roman Empire 1982

If you don't count endless hours playing Galaxians and Space invaders at the local Motorway Services (and I don't), my first real experience of Videogames was playing Roman Empire by MC Lothlorien. Ah! the good old Spectrum ZX81 with its marvellous 16k ram pack.

I remember endless hours of strategy and despair, also ridiculous amounts of yelling when the fabled "Ram pack wobble" crashed the computer and killed my latest attempt at world domination! Almost 30 years later I can remember forgetting to attach troops to a particular General and sending him in to attack a country on his own.

It caused such hilarity that I still remember it all these years later. I think everything was smaller then..... And we were more easily pleased!