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Axeman Jim
Nov 20, 2010

The Canadians replied that they would rather ride a moose.

Libluini posted:

Don't be so fast with your wishes. Ultrasonic remote controls weren't all that good, either. I faintly remember our family visiting the now dead father of my stepfather once. His ancient TV still used a ultrasonic remote which kind of surprised my dumb young self at the time. I of course had to play around with it while my parents and my step-grandfather talked in the kitchen. At the time I didn't yet know dogs could hear some stuff we humans could not. Cue the second surprise of that day as I used the remote on my step-grandfathers dog pretending it was a phaser or something. The dog instantly flipped out and fled the room, howling as if I had used a real phaser on him. The old guy of course stormed into the room only seconds later, demanding to know what I had done to his dog. (The rest of that visit I was forbidden from watching TV and had to sit with my old folks in the kitchen, enduring incredible boredom while listening them blathering on and on and on.)

In short, I think I prefer remotes who won't upset my pets every time I change a channel.

One of my schoolfriends had one of these remotes and a parrot that could both hear and imitate the sound, therefore changing TV channels at random, all day. Said parrot also learned to imitate their telephone and would have family members rushing out of the shower or the bed to answer the "phone" only to find it was the parrot.


Axeman Jim
Nov 20, 2010

The Canadians replied that they would rather ride a moose.

Veotax posted:

Funny, I have never seen those in the UK. When I was a kid I din't understand why people jumped on those mats or whatever in cartoons to open the doors.

Fairly sure when I was last in Paris they were still using these for the exit turnstiles on the Metro.

Axeman Jim
Nov 20, 2010

The Canadians replied that they would rather ride a moose.

More mental trains!

In the 1940's it was very clear that diesel locomotives had some big advantages over steam - it was cleaner, cheaper (if you had oil), easier on the crew, more reliable, easier to produce very high power from, and operationally much more flexible.

Absolutely none of these problems were solved by O.V.S. Bulleid's insane "Leader" class of 1949. Apparently, what steam locomotives really needed to compete with diesels was to look like a diesel. And so, three years of development by the old Southern Railway, and for some mad reason by British Rail after nationalisation, BR's Brighton works produced this:

Well it certainly looked like a diesel. But underneath it was a surprisingly old-fashioned steam locomotive. Basically, all the new and innovative features of the "Leader" were unnecessary or didn't work, and all the things that needed modernising about steam locomotives were left in place. A good example of this faulty thinking was the position of the fireman. The "Leader" had a cab at each end, meaning that the fireman couldn't be in the cab, because the firebox would be at the other end of the locomotive half the time. There were two ways this problem could be solved:

1 - Using a mechanical coal stoker which had been been successfully employed in more modern steam designs in North America and Africa for a couple of decades.
2 - Install the boiler back-to-front, trapping the fireman in a hellbox between the firebox and the bunker in the middle of the locomotive, causing him to get roasted alive as he worked and have to communicate with the driver via a bell on a string.

Guess which they chose? Better still, the fireman only had a door on one side of the locomotive, so in the event of an accident in which the locomotive ended up on its side (and given how top-heavy the "Leader" was that was more than likely), he would be trapped in his fume cabin and get either incinerated or scalded to death depending on whether the steam or the fire got to him first.

They did install a corridor down the side of the locomotive to enable the driver to change ends. This required the boiler to be mounted to one side, which not only restricted its size (lack of steam was one of the "Leader's" many problems but, more seriously, made it lean severely to one side (the side within which the fireman was sweating), making the ride terrifying and destroying any track and points the "Leader" happened to pass over. This problem was solved by the kind of no-nonsense engineering that won World War II - they filled the corridor with scrap metal, trapping the fireman more completely in his roasting-hot coffin-to-be, making it impossible for the crew to move around the locomotive (a big point of the design in the first place) and adding loads of weight without increasing its pitiful steam production.

So, with the wobble cured (and the rest of the crew given earmuffs to cut out the sound of the fireman's screams of fear and pain), they tried to move the train. This did not go well.

You will notice in the picture that the wheels of the "Leader" are very unusual for a steam locomotive, sitting in bogies like a diesel rather than the conventional rigid centrally-mounted wheels of a normal steam locomotive. This aping of diesel design required two sets of cylinders, one on each of the pivoting bogies. This required an insanely complicated system of getting the steam to the wheels in the first place (which leaked steam and lubricating oil all over the place), and a design of cylinder valve that hadn't been put in a locomotive for 40 years (and for very good reasons) to get sufficient power to six wheels in a very restricted space. Having two completely unconnected sets of wheels caused a unique problem whereby they would "centre", with the forces on each bogie balancing out, preventing the wheels from moving at all if they happened to be in a certain configuration. It's not quite each set of wheels moving in opposite directions, but it's a similar principle. The upshot was that every now and again, the "Leader" wouldn't physically move unless it got a shove-start from a more sensible locomotive.

Also, on the rare occasions that the "Leader" got some steam up, it was found that the cab at the smokebox end of the loco got as hot as the fireman's sweatbox, so in trials the "Leader" was only run in reverse - completely eliminating the one remaining advantage of the locomotive (and the main reason for its pants-on-head retarded design): its ability to run equally well in either direction without needing a turntable. The tests were "notable for their absence of praise" for the "Leader"'s capabilities.

It was quietly scrapped in 1951 and British Rail instead ordered a whole bunch of locos that were diesels inside and out - but some of them were almost as terrible as the "Leader", and I'll get on to those in another post.

Axeman Jim
Nov 20, 2010

The Canadians replied that they would rather ride a moose.

Crap British Trains of the 1950s

British Rail 10100

Inspired by the lunacy of the "Leader", British Rail decided that their diesel designs could easily reach equal levels of bugfuck insanity, and proved it with 10100. Whilst the US designs of the period were amazing art-deco masterpieces, 10100 looked like this:

Still, the ugly outside succeeded in only drawing attention away from the sheer madness of what was inside.

Why have one engine when you can have five? Yes, 10100 had five separate diesel engines, four for traction and one to power the auxiliaries. For many designs, just having five engines jammed into the chassis would be eccentric enough, but no, the madness was only just beginning - for that, we need to examine 10100's truly deranged transmission.

Most large diesels use electric transmission - the engine drives a generator or alternator connected to electric motors in the wheels. A few use hydraulic transmission. 10100 was designed for mechanical transmission - physically connecting the engines to the wheels via clutches, shafts and gearboxes. Hence the need for four traction engines - if you put more than about 500Hp through the clutches of the time they'd disintegrate, so to get 2000Hp you needed four.

Each of 10100's engines was connected via a hydraulic clutch to a gearbox. Changing "gear" consisted of switching in more engines, 1 in first gear to 4 in top gear. So yes, you read that right, 10100 produced 1/4 of the power when starting as it did at top speed - despite the fact that you clearly need more power to overcome inertia at low speeds or when climbing hills. So to counteract this, the engines were turbocharged, with the auxiliary engine blowing the engines that were engaged, producing 4 times the turbocharging when running on one engine.

The astonishing thing is that this Heath Robinson transmission sort of worked, and once 10100 got up to speed it had serious haulage power, though hills were a problem and failure of any of its five engines would cause the locomotive to stop working completely. In 1958 it caught fire, possibly out of shame, and was scrapped.

British Rail Class 16

One of the big advantages of diesel traction is that you can easily put a cab at either end and clearly see the line ahead of you instead of having to peer down the side of a massive, smoke-belching boiler. That means you can reverse the locomotive simply by driving it from the other cab rather than using a turntable. This is especially important in a country like the UK (less so in North America) where journeys are shorts and reversing is frequent.

But to keep the cost down, and to enable shunting without having to swap cabs every minute, some smaller diesels were built with only one cab. This provided good visibility in only one direction, which was a compromise but saved weight and cost and made maneuvering in yards faster and less hassle.

Or you could place the cab like this, giving an equally bad view of the track in either direction:

This magnificent piece of design is the BR class 16. Ten of these monuments to uselessness were built.

As it happened, the visibility problems weren't so big of a deal, because they were only a problem if the locomotive was moving, which was not often. By the time they were scrapped (not very much time at all), they had spent more time under repair than actually available for servce. Bad design (particularly inadequate engine ventilation) combined with bad manufacturing tolerances on almost every moving part combined to make them the most unreliable diesel ever to run in Britain, and they had fierce competition for that honour (see below). The only reason they lasted as long as they did was that they were under warranty, and the manufacturers, NBL, had to spend so much time and money repairing them (and various other defective diesels that they built for BR) all the time that they went bankrupt. With no more warranty spares, they were withdrawn and scrapped.

British Rail Class 17

What's worse than buying a locomotive that doesn't work properly? Buying a locomotive that serves no useful purpose even when it does work. What's worse than buying a defective locomotive that you don't need? Buying 200 of them, that's what.

Thus is the disaster story of the class 17. Designed for the kind of light, pick-up freight work that had been lost to road transort a decade before they were even built, British Rail were so pleased with the design that they ordered 200 of them without bothering with a prototype or a pilot scheme (as with the class 16) - despite the fact that the "Clayton", as they were known, was powered by a very similar engine to that in the class 16.

So the class 17 flopped around the rail network for a few years, breaking down a lot and failing to serve any useful purpose. Attempts to assign them to heavier freight trains in pairs failed miserably, the hard work causing them to fail and break down even more than usual. BR tried to flog them off to industrial operators, who, being privately owned, actually wanted locomotives that worked. So they were all withdrawn, and aside from one preserved example, scrapped. Some had been in service for less than five years, 10% of their anticipated lifespan.

British Rail Class 31/4

Now the class 31, despite being a noisy, underpowered, overweight and sinfully ugly bucket of rivets was actually very successful. It was fast, easy to maintain, and, (once they'd replaced the original engines with ones that actually worked) very reliable.

Well British Rail weren't going to let that kind of poo poo go on for long, so they set about ruining one of their better diesels in ingenious fashion.

With the demise of steam on BR in the late 1960's it was increasingly pointless to have passenger carriages heated by steam. Most 1950's diesel designs had boilers for this purpose, which were a maintenance headache and increasingly unnecessary. So both coaches and locos were converted to electric heating, usually by tapping some amps from the loco's main generator to feed batteries in the coaches. To offset the loss of traction power this caused, some designs (like the very successful class 47) allowed the driver to temporarily interrupt the train supply when full power was needed, such as when starting or climbing hills. Not so with the class 31.

First up, the genuises who planned the conversion decided that the class 31 needed to be able to generate a massive amount of electrical power, despite being a pathetically underpowered rustbucket to start with. The idea was that Class 31s would be attached to crack expresses before they set off to heat the coaches while the bigger, express locos, hung around the green room snorting coke or whatever it is big express locos do instead of pre-heating their own drat carriages. In the event, this almost never happened. Worse, unlike all the other types, there was no way to turn the ETS system off, so the class 31 lost 500 of its meager 1500Hp permanently, whether it was hauling passenger cars, freight, or just crying in the toilets about the loss of a third of its manhood. The 31/4 was so underpowered that in the 1990s, several unconverted examples were re-built with through ETS wiring (as 31/6), to allow one class 31 to heat the train whilst the other actually pulled it. Embarrassing.

Axeman Jim
Nov 20, 2010

The Canadians replied that they would rather ride a moose.

TinTower posted:

Did someone say crap British trains?

The British Rail Class 140 "Pacer", functionally obsolete for years. Under disability discrimination legislation passed in 1995, these trains must be out of service by 2019, but it's unlikely that will happen. It's a problem that many trains in the North of England are pretty much life expired but there aren't any replacements.

And they use two-car Pacers at 5:30pm to take people out of Leeds to the commuter belt stations.

drat, I'm working on a write-up of the Pacer, you are correct as to its serious penny-pinching shitness. First, though, I'll post some crap trains from the 1960s, there's some amazingly bone-headed engineering there that this thread needs to know about. Update this evening.

Axeman Jim
Nov 20, 2010

The Canadians replied that they would rather ride a moose.

Crap British Trains of the 1960s

British Rail Class 74

The Southern Region of British Rail had great success with the class 73, an electro-diesel locomotive. An electro-diesel is an electric locomotive that can operate from an auxiliary diesel engine when away from the juice. The 73 was versatile, but not very powerful, offering only 1500Hp as an electric locomotive and 600Hp as a diesel. What the SR wanted was a more powerful electro-diesel that could haul main-line express trains both on and off the juice. In particular, they wanted it for the London-Weymouth Line, where trains from London had to change locomotives at Bournemouth to run the remaining 30 miles or so to Weymouth, which was not electrified.

It just so happened that the SR had a bunch of redundant class 71 electric locomotives lying around not doing much. The 71 had serious performance (3000Hp and a 90mph top speed), but its inability to run “off-juice” limited its range and work was drying up for it. So why not shove a diesel engine in it and turn it into an ED?

Well there were a number of very good reasons why not, actually. The 73’s limited performance was due to the limited space available to stick both diesel and electric equipment into one loco and have it all work properly. The 71 wasn’t much bigger than the 73, and was already pretty full of electrical gear to start with.

Unperturbed, BR decided to wedge a diesel engine in it anyway. Unfortunately, Tetris hadn’t been invented yet and BR’s engineers couldn’t find a way of fitting all the bits they needed into the class 71. The solution: nail various important pieces of equipment to the roof of the engine compartment to free up enough floor space. Trouble was, the class 71 was designed on the “cowl” principle common in North America – it was a big steel frame, onto which all the necessary bits were bolted, then a wafer-thin roof was put over the top to basically just keep the rain off. The roof of the class 71 had no load-bearing capacity at all. So, undaunted, they rebuilt the roof, with big, heavy, strengthening beams.

Even with all this work, the biggest diesel engine they could cram into the class 74 was the same puny and notoriously unreliable Paxman engine fitted to (drum roll) the class 17 (see above). Uh-oh. It put out only a miserable 650Hp, making it only very slightly better than the existing class 73. Plus they had to strip out quite a few electrical components anyway, reducing the power output when operating as an electric loco. The rebuilds were so complex and difficult that BR worked out that by the end it would have cost half as much to just build new locos from scratch, but at the end, they got 10 shiny new(ish) class 74 electro-diesels. Result!

It even looks a bit ashamed.

The class 74’s engine compartment was so cramped with electrical and diesel equipment that the diesel engine wasn’t ventilated properly and seized up. Plus, oil, soot and fumes from the diesel engine found their way into the electrics and broke them. And repairing it was a nightmare due to all the bits crammed in wherever they would fit. Repairing some equipment would require the loco to be almost completely dismantled just to access it, and as the 74 broke down all the loving time this was a big problem. It was also outrageously noisy, as there wasn’t room for a proper silencer.

Due to the newly-added diesel engine, associated equipment and the strengthening beams, the 74 was much heavier than the 71, and was too heavy for many of the dockyard lines and lightly-built branchlines that it was supposed to run on.

It was just about light enough for the Weymouth line however, but that was where the good news ended. The Paxman engine often wouldn’t start at Bournemouth, so had to be started at the depot at the beginning of the day and kept idling all the way from London to Bournemouth. That was assuming it wouldn’t just stop of its own accord, which often happened, usually at the least convenient moment. Alternatively, having the diesel engine running while on electrical power (which was not designed for) would confuse the control systems, which would disconnect the electric power and leave the train running on diesel power without warning. And even if the 74 could set off from Bournemouth, the puny 650Hp output reduced trains to a crawl, and then stopped them altogether as they gave up under the strain. Instead of redeploying the diesels from the Weymouth line, as had been the idea, BR had to keep them at Bournemouth to rescue stranded 74s.

The 74s were withdrawn in disgrace and scrapped, after less than 10 years in operation. Diesel haulage from Bournemouth to Weymouth continued until the line was electrified in the 1980s.

British Rail class 124

The trans-Pennine route from Leeds to Manchester is a tough one, featuring steep climbs and frequent stops. BR decided they needed something special to replace steam on the route – and something special was truly what they got, but not in that way. Introducing the class 124:


BR decided to go with a multiple unit (a self-propelled train) rather than diesel-hauled coaches for this line because an MU could have more powered axles, and thus perform better when starting and climbing hills. True to form, the 124 featured 16 powered axles across its six cars. To distribute the power across the train, the 124 had 8 separate diesel engines, one for each powered bogie. Controlling all those separate engines would be a challenge, especially as two trains could work together, putting 16 engines under the control of one driver. The right transmission system would be crucial.

BR decided to literally give it a stick-shift.

Yes, they gave each engine its own mechanical clutch and gearbox, under the control of a single clutch lever in the driver’s cab, with pneumatic pipes to connect everything up. This gave the driver just one control to operate up to sixteen different clutches at the same time. Of course this would only work if the clutches were perfectly aligned, the air pressure in all the pneumatic hoses was the same and none of them leaked, and that the ratios for each gearbox were precisely aligned and in harmony.

This was BR in the 1970s. What do you think happened?

To travel in a class 124 was to hear very worrying sounds from beneath your feet. If you were lucky, you got to hear the groaning and grinding of controlling 16 mis-aligned clutches and gearboxes from one pedal. If you were unlucky, well…

The class 124 was withdrawn after a number of alarming incidents in which its gearboxes would violently disassemble themselves en route. On one occasion, a flying gearwheel sliced through the floor of the train and embedded itself in the ceiling of the passenger compartment above.

Even British Rail didn’t want the passenger compartments of their trains to look like scenes from a Saw movie and in the end, the 124 was replaced by, of all things, the class 31/4 we have already seen. When even that nasty little underpowered shitbox of a locomotive is considered better than the expensive, custom-built units you procured, you know you are dealing with a really Crap Train.

Next: The 1980s – expensive crap, and cheap crap.

Axeman Jim
Nov 20, 2010

The Canadians replied that they would rather ride a moose.

Basically, because of politicians, trade unions and a vastly misplaced sense of

When BR was privatised, Wisconsin Central, who bought up 3/4 of Britain's railfreight network, took one look at the locos they had inherited and promptly made a huge order with GM, sending all their locos (some of which were basically brand new) to the scrapheap or exporting them.

Axeman Jim
Nov 20, 2010

The Canadians replied that they would rather ride a moose.

No more than to say that for British politicians in the 1960s and 70s, to not "buy British" was political suicide. If BR had tried to import anything from abroad there would have been a general strike, despite the fact that BR's engineers were turning out trains that were an embarrassment compared to what was being built in the US, or even China.

And if you think that trains of that period were bad, you should really see what the British car industry was turning out at that time.

Axeman Jim
Nov 20, 2010

The Canadians replied that they would rather ride a moose.

Crap British Trains of the 1980’s

British Rail class 142 – Cheap Crap

In the early 1980s, BR had a problem. Well, obviously, BR always had problems, but this particular problem was that the majority of its diesel multiple units were 30 or more years old and worn out, and there was very little money to replace them. Many of them had been built in a rush and to a budget to replace steam and had short lives and myriad problems. So clearly, what was needed was to build a load of trains in a rush and to a budget to replace them, seeing as it worked so well last time. This is what they came up with:

Yes, that’s exactly what it looks like. It’s a bus body nailed to a railway underframe. They then stuck a coupling on the front, painted some stripes on it and called it good.

That wasn’t what passengers called it. The class 142 featured all the noise, vibration, draughts and bad ride of a bus, but without rubber tyres or proper suspension. The 142’s ride was so rough that when it approached its top speed of 75mph passengers would regularly get bounced out of their hard, plastic nasty seats. How bad is it? Here's a video.

It got worse. It was so underpowered (they didn’t bother to upgrade the standard bus engines despite the huge metal underframes) that they were banned from steep inclines due to their tendency to get stuck and ask passing trains for a push like a child on a swing. Their construction was so flimsy that they were reduced to splinters in the slightest accident.

You will also notice that the 142, unlike almost all passenger rail vehicles, only has four wheels per car instead of 8. The four wheels are mounted rigidly more or less the far corners of the car and don’t turn. This creates interesting effects when going around corners, as the grinding of the wheels against the rails produced sounds severe enough to threaten hearing damage, and drivers refused to drive them on certain lines due to the screeching, ear-buggering noise. It also did no favours to either the wheels or the tracks. The old units had to be re-introduced to those lines, and some of them coughed on until 2003, by which time they were half a century old.

In a truly amazing display of chutzpah, BR loaned a 142 to Canadian National to see if they would like to buy some. The Canadians replied that they would rather ride a moose.

The privatised rail companies that inherited the 142s soon realised that they had been sold a pup. They introduced proper seats, changed the doors to ones that didn’t whistle above 30mph and installed nice carpets, but there was nothing they could do about the godawful ride, and passengers on routes served by 142s decided that if they were going to ride a bus anyway they may as well pay a bus fare for it and deserted the lines in droves.

Plans are afoot to replace them as soon as possible. I’m sure that they won’t be replaced in a rush and to a budget. Really sure.

British Rail Class 370 “APT” – Expensive Crap

By the 1970s, British Rail were the laughing stock of the world railway industry. They had rushed to replace steam with a motley assortment of unsuitable and defective trains, the tracks and stations were underfunded and falling apart and punctuality was literally a national joke. BR decided that it needed to show the world exactly what they were capable of. The APT did exactly that, but not in the way they intended.

The problem that the UK railways have, which other railway systems don’t, is their age. The British built railways first, when passenger numbers were low and trains were slow. So the UK railway system has all kinds of sharp curves and bottlenecks that didn’t bother Victorian trains that would putter around twice a day at 30mph, but are a real loving nuisance when you’re trying to run a 125mph service at 15-minute intervals.

The French had a similar problem, which they solved by building new lines, and giving a Gallic shrug to anyone whose house got demolished or who suddenly had 180mph TGVs blasting along the bottom of their garden all day and night. Well, that might be all good and well for the frightful Frogs, but we’re British, dammit, and we love our countryside too much for all that frightful line-building. (Plus we were broke.) So the challenge was on to find a way of raising speeds on the existing lines.

The solution BR came up with was to design tilting trains that could take curves faster. This had only been tried once before, in Canada, where it was a dismal failure. So this was precisely the sort of project for BR to get its teeth into.

The Advanced Passenger Train (APT) was originally going to be powered by gas turbines, but by the time pre-production trains were built that had changed to electric power. The APT was going to be so advanced that almost every component – power systems, tilt, brakes, controls, everything, was going to be totally new and radical. Not evolution, revolution! And it looked pretty cool in an 80's sports car sort of way:

The rest of BR told the Research division that that was all well and good, but they needed new trains and needed them right now. So they threw together some fast diesel trains to stop the other departments whining and got down to their revolution.

The problem with the APT was that not only was every single component new, it was also untested. In its first year of operation, it failed to complete a single test run without going wrong. The problem was that a different brand new and untested system would go wrong each time. The brakes would seize, the tilt mechanism (which made people feel sick) would jam, the power would go out, the controls would misbehave, each and every time necessitating a humiliating trip back to the depot and the drawing board. Even if the problem was fixed, it proved impossible to work out how each new system talked to each other system and any problems that would arise from the emergent behaviour of so many systems under test at once.

Eventually though, BR were confident enough to let some journalists ride it. And of course it broke down almost instantly on leaving the terminus. The write-ups sealed the APT’s fate, and the programme was abandoned, with billions wasted.

The tilt technology was sold to Fiat, who realised that if they just developed the tilt technology on its own without literally reinventing the wheel they could make it work, and suddenly perfectly functional tilting trains were running all over continental Europe. And in 2002, in one of the biggest ever embarrassments for the British rail industry, Fiat sold tilting “Pendolino” trains back to Britain, which now run, 20 years later, on the same timetables that the APT was supposed to follow.

And those stop-gap diesel trains? Those were the Intercity 125, probably the greatest modern train this country has ever produced, expected to have a useful life of 50 years or more.

Axeman Jim
Nov 20, 2010

The Canadians replied that they would rather ride a moose.

The Deltic is an amazing piece of engineering and one of the greatest railway achievements of the 20th century. It was the most powerful diesel loco in the world when it was built and for quite some time afterwards.

Amazingly, one example that is owned by preservationists gets still gets hired out now and again to cover for loco shortages despite being 50 years old.

The Deltic and the HST are probably the two greatest things BR ever created - the latter almost by mistake as they were only supposed to be a temporary solution until the APT was finished.

Axeman Jim
Nov 20, 2010

The Canadians replied that they would rather ride a moose.

Crap British Trains of the New Millennium – Crap to the future

Britain’s railways were returned to private ownership between 1994 and 1997. In that time, investment had been pretty much zero, and the new privatised rail companies found themselves with outdated, rusting trains that themselves had been rushed into service to replace steam. Showing the planning and foresight that has always made the UK rail industry stand out, the new companies rushed a large number of untested new types into service - again. The results were predictable.

Alsthom Class 458

The biggest need for new trains was in the London area, where some of the stock had passed half a century in service and was literally falling to pieces. It all was also completely in violation of modern safety and disabled access requirements.

South West Trains had literally hundreds of rickety old electric units to replace, and fast. It turned to Alsthom for a pilot class of 30 units for the busy London-Reading line. This nasty, ugly plastic toy was the result:

You will notice that the cab space is, er, cozy to say the least:

The driver was squished between a retracted corridor connection and the side of the train. But that wasn’t the only problem, far from it.

The onboard announcements used a GPS system that went haywire at every opportunity. I travelled on one of these wretched things for the first time in 2001, and at every station the train proudly announced to the passengers:

“This station is Brentford. The next station is Brentford.”

Aside from the horrible, Twilight-Zone implications of being stuck in Brentford forever by some kind of space-time vortex, it also needs to be noted that the train was not timetabled to stop at Brentford at any point on that journey.

Not long after, a member of a sister class (class 334) sitting unmanned in a depot decided that it didn’t fancy applying its brakes any more and went for a leisurely trundle around the back routes of Glasgow, resulting in the entire family of trains being withdrawn for modifications. That was fixed though, as was the GPS problem, so sighs of relief all round, right?

Enter (cue Carmina Burana) the Health and Safety Executive.

The HSE declared that the 458 was in breach of disability regulations because its dot-matrix destination displays were half an inch too small. They decreed that the entire fleet be withdrawn as a menace to the disabled.

SWT had no choice but to comply, and were forced to re-introduce the previous rustbuckets on the Reading line. The ones with no disabled access whatsoever. Also, many of the old trains had already been scrapped and there weren’t enough of them to cover for the 458s, and so they had to run in half-length formations, making the trains so overcrowded that disabled people hadn’t a chance in hell of getting on them anyway.

The Health and Safety Executive declared that it was satisfied with this outcome.

SWT were tempted to hand them all back to the leasing company, as they had already signed a contract with Siemens to procure some trains that actually worked, but in the end the displays were made half an inch bigger and the 458s continue to spread joy and goodwill to passengers on the Reading line (including Brentford) to this day.

Alsthom Class 180

One of the new private rail companies, Great Western, took one look at the misery of the 458’s introduction and decided that they wanted some of that, and ordered some high-speed diesel units from the same manufacturer. What they got was this:

Well at least it looked cool. But that was about it for the class 180’s good points. It had the same brake system as the 458 and 334, which sometimes decided to turn itself off. They replaced this with a new system that was a vast improvement in that it often wouldn’t turn itself off even when you asked it to. It was the first 125mph diesel train in the world to use hydraulic rather than electric transmission, and it turns out there were good reasons why that hadn’t been done before – the transmission broke, and often. Sometimes the doors wouldn’t open, but, for variety, sometimes they wouldn’t shut.

So bad was the 180 that it was 6 months before they could even test one on the main line – it literally broke down before leaving the depot. Even then, it took another 18 months for it to enter service, and so unreliable was it that GW handed it straight back to the manufacturers as soon as they could and replaced it with 30-year-old HSTs instead.

Since then, the 14 members of class 180 exist as trains of fortune, moving from company to company and route to route with promises that all the problems have been fixed this time, no, really, and then being promptly handed back to Alsthom with rude words scrawled on them when they gently caress up yet again. Maybe you’ll see one on a line near you? If you do, take the bus.

Bombardier Class 375 “Electrostar”

Let’s be clear – the class 375 is not in itself a crap train at all. It’s fast, modern, safe, comfortable and accessible, with air-con, wheelchair-accessible toilets, CCTV and comfortable seats. The Electrostar order was another of the orders made by two of the privatised rail companies that serve London to replace hundreds of outdated and unsafe electric commuter units dating from the 1950s and 1960s. Unlike many of the orders placed by the privatised companies, the Electrostar was built in Britain, to spec, and on budget.

All that safety equipment and mod cons made it quite heavy, much more so than the trains it replaced which were basically roller skates with seats, but the Electrostar made up for that with modern traction motors, controls and electrics, giving it ferocious power and acceleration despite the extra pounds. All in all, the Electrostar was pretty rad.

Well it was, right until the moment that they put one on a track and switched it on, at which point every traction current fuse for miles blew in a shower of sparks.

Yes, in the midst of a multi-billion pound order for hundreds of state-of-the-art trains, with consultants and project managers and procurement contracts and regulators and who knows what else, not one of the idiots involved in its procurement thought to check whether the power infrastructure in London could actually cope with the number of amps the Electrostar drew from the track – which it couldn’t.

Even when they got an Electrostar to move, by restricting it to 75% throttle, drivers of passing trains would report that their train suddenly lost power whenever an Electrostar was in the vicinity, such was its drain on the substations.

In the end, they had to bite the bullet and upgrade the power infrastructure for thousands of miles of track across South-East England. Of course, as this had not been anticipated it wasn’t budgeted for, and the cost was passed on to passengers and the taxpayer. For the next 18 months, as the emergency power upgrade was carried out, brand new, stationary, useless Electrostars started to accumulate in every siding and yard in South-East England, as life-expired trains rattled past them, a monument to everyone that British Rail may have gone, but its fine traditions of incompetence and bad planning continued.

Next - a 1950's miscellany of bad ideas

Axeman Jim
Nov 20, 2010

The Canadians replied that they would rather ride a moose.

A lot of things. Massive post-war indebtedness that forced everything we built to be done to a budget, the rise of nationalisation and state Socialism which resulted in everything being designed by committees of politicians rather than anyone who had a clue what they were doing, "Butskellism", a strange type of state corporatism that was supposed to promote a mixed economy, but ended up combining the worst of state inefficiency and corporate profiteering, and being undercut by non-unionised labour in the Far East which we didn't take seriously because of rampant racism. By the late 1970s the entire manufacturing economy of the UK had collapsed, we had a 3-day working week and we had to be bailed out by the IMF when the state essentially went bankrupt.

People talk about Thatcher, but more mining and manufacturing jobs were lost in the 1970s than in the 1980s.

It's not just the railway industry. From the 50's to the 70's, Britain's car-making, shipbuilding and aerospace industries went into a death spiral, uncompetitive, massively over-subsidised and inefficient, unwilling to change working practices or mechanise and ready to down tools and strike at the slightest thing, as the rest of the world overtook them. I would have no less difficulty in finding examples of terrible British cars and aircraft from the same period, victims of the same malaise.

Axeman Jim
Nov 20, 2010

The Canadians replied that they would rather ride a moose.

Crap British Trains – Back to the 50’s

Loving all the in this thread. Also, I don't know much about cars, so some of these designs are completely new and mind-blowing to me. But aircraft I can do, and I'll move on to those next.

Well I got all over-excited about modern useless trains and I hadn’t even scratched the surface of the rubbish that BR rushed into service to replace steam. Here’s some more of their greatest hits:

BR Class 28

This charmless gargoyle of a diesel featured a noisy, unreliable two-stroke engine that was completely unsuitable for railway use and belched smoke like the steam trains it was supposed to replace – but that didn’t stop its manufacturers, Crossley, exporting similar power units to Ireland and Australia and loving up their railways too.

The class 28, bizarrely, featured a two-axle bogie at one end and a three-axle bogie at the other, meaning that what track it was permitted on depended on which direction it was facing. Also, its cab windows had a tendency to fall out of their frames at high speed and hit the driver in the face. The 28 soon found its way to the scrapyard.

BR Class 23

The class 23 was powered by a complex opposed-cylinder engine that broke often and was difficult and expensive to repair when it did.. The chief advantages of opposed-cylinder diesel engines (as employed successfully in the legendary “Deltics”) are their very high power and very light weight compared to conventional designs. The class 23 somehow managed to be both under-powered and too heavy for the lines it was designed to run on. So bad was the weight problem that BR’s engineers were literally reduced to drilling holes in its chassis to reduce its mass, reducing its key load-bearing structure to Swiss cheese. After an expensive rebuilding programme that failed to solve any of their problems, they were scrapped.

The Class 23 in its natural habitat - in a depot with the engine removed for repair.

BR Class 21

Another hit from the people who brought you the class 16, the class 21 used a dreadful GEC engine (a poorly-engineered clone of a successful German design) that conked out on a depressingly regular basis. So frequently did the Class 21 break down that BR relocated the entire class to the area around NBL’s factory so that they wouldn’t have to drag them so far every time one of them died and went in under warranty.

NBL soon identified the faulty GEC power unit as the source of the trouble, and in a move of the utmost brilliance, decided to replace it with the same terrible Paxman engine that had blighted the class 16. To eliminate any possibility of success, they uprated the engine from the 800Hp that was already too much for the class 16 to 1350Hp. Strangely, this failed to solve any of the problems and the entire class was cut up for scrap after only a few years of operation.

BR Class 84

North British Locomotives (NBL) were one of the great steam locomotive builders, but hoo boy did they struggle with anything else. Having procured the hopeless class 16 and 21 diesel locomotives from them, BR were sufficiently impressed to have them build a pilot batch of 10 electric locomotives for the newly electrified West Coast line. For their part, NBL decided to enlist the assistance of GEC, without whose help the class 21 wouldn’t have been the laughing-stock that it was. This winning team built the class 84:

The class 84 used mercury-arc rectifiers (as detailed earlier in this thread) to change the AC current from the overhead wires to DC current for the traction motors. The class 84 suffered from defective suspension, and as it bounced around the mercury in the rectifiers would slosh and bubble, cutting the traction current in and out, burning out the traction motors and, on occasion, causing the entire locomotive to catch fire at 100mph.

BR wanted rid of them, but the powers that be declared that the electrification be extended and, instead of buying the new locos they desperately needed, the class 84 (along with a couple of other poorly-performing electrics) would be re-built in an attempt to acquire new locos on the cheap. This went about as well as expected and after extensive (and expensive) rebuilding the 84 showed no signs of improvement, and so they were scrapped and new locos were built anyway.


Hey, those gas turbines are big these days. Let's mount one on a steam chassis, rendering it obsolete before it's even built. And let's give it mechanical transmission:

In the event, the only thing GT3 was any good at was turning large amounts of fuel into even larger amounts of noise, but everyone had fun and no-one got hurt so I guess no harm done.

Blue Pullman

With the rise of domestic air travel, British Rail realised that it needed to compete in the premium market or lose even more money than it already was. BR couldn't hope to compete with the airlines in terms of “speed”, or “getting to the destination without something important falling off”, but they could do “luxury”.

Or so they thought.

The Blue Pullman was quite technically innovative – a set-formation trainset with a power car at each end. The train could easily reverse without having to run a locomotive around the train and the power cars could be easily swapped out for maintenance.

The coaches were based on an existing and successful Swiss design, but British Rail couldn't resist tinkering with it and managed to screw it up. They altered the suspension and installed smaller wheels, giving these “luxury” units a bone-shaking ride that would spill the fruits of the on-board catering into the passengers' laps on a regular basis. On starting, the two power cars would often accelerate unevenly, bouncing the carriages back and forth between them, adding to the “luxury” yet further.

And also, needless to say, they broke down all the time – but you guessed that by now, right? They didn't last long.

Axeman Jim
Nov 20, 2010

The Canadians replied that they would rather ride a moose.

Ensign Expendable posted:

Neither of these possess any armament.

Why would they need to? Just stick some spikes on them and drive them at the enemy.

Axeman Jim
Nov 20, 2010

The Canadians replied that they would rather ride a moose.

There were dozens of commercially unsuccessful designs, especially compared to what Boeing and McDonnell Douglas were putting out. I'm working on an aircraft write-up, but it's harder than with the trains. When a terrible train is released into the wild and spews smoke and springs everywhere that's funny, but when an aircraft falls apart in mid-air and kills everyone on board that's not quite so hilarious.

There are a couple of entertaining stories to tell though, I should hopefully have them some time tomorrow.

Axeman Jim
Nov 20, 2010

The Canadians replied that they would rather ride a moose.

Hauling no more than 2 or 3 coaches at a time!

And thank you, anonymous benefactor!

Axeman Jim
Nov 20, 2010

The Canadians replied that they would rather ride a moose.

Crap British Planes

The Bristol Brabazon - White Elephants can Fly

In 1943, which, as you may recall, was in the middle of a massive loving war a committee of politicians got together under the decidedly fat and pompus Lord Brabazon and decided that they would decide what airliners would be needed after the war. In so doing, they overlooked a number of important facts:

- The MASSIVE loving WAR that was going on, causing rapid changes in technology and making it impossible to predict anything to do with aircraft tech or what, if anything, civil aviation would look like after the war, assuming the allies won it.
- They knew nothing about aircraft (though Brabazon was Britain's first ever qualified pilot, he hadn't flown a plane since 1918)
- They knew nothing about business or markets
- Maybe aircraft-building companies would know more than they did about what aircraft were needed

Undaunted, they decreed that Britain would build a number of new aircraft when the war was over. The flagship would be the "Type 1", a trans-atlantic airliner. It would be based on the very latest technology - in 1943 - and be the last word in luxury. The idea that the "common man" might want to travel to the USA didn't occur to Lord Brabazon or his claret-swilling friends, so they ordered the construction of an aeroplane just for them - and in a fit of modesty Lord Brabazon named it after himself.

Behold, the magnificence:

The Bristol Brabazon was the size of a DC-10, despite only carrying 100 passengers (for comparison, the DC-10 can carry up to 380). To haul its corpulent bulk into the air required EIGHT piston engines, powering four countra-rotating wooden props.

Every passenger was afforded eight square metres of space - the size of a medium-sized car. The plan was to fit it out with its own cinema, a bar, a dining room, and separate sleeping berths for 80 people. And they'd certainly have time to watch a film and have a snooze - the Brabazon's cruising speed was a pathetic 220 Knots (for comparison, the contemporary DC-6, hardly noted for its speed, could manage 300).

As the prototype lumbered across the skies in 1949, it was already yesterday's plane - the wrong aircraft with the wrong engines for the wrong market at the wrong time. Thought was given to equipping it with turboprops but by then it was obvious that it was a pointless endeavour. Whilst the Americans had developed the Stratocruiser, the Constellation and the DC-6, the Brabazon committee had wasted the entire budget of debt-crippled post-war Britain on a useless Titanic with wings.

The development costs for the Brabazon were an eye-watering 6 million pounds - probably closer to 6 billion in today's money, from a country crippled by war debts and subject to rationing for basic commodities.

Let's be clear about what happened here. Lord Brabazon spent a colossal amount of taxpayer's money, in a country that needed every last penny to rebuild its shattered infrastructure, on a plane to carry him and his fat aristocrat mates across the Atlantic in more luxury and comfort than most people in Britain had in their own homes - and hundreds of thousands didn't have a home at all. And he named it after himself.

WHAT a oval office.

Axeman Jim has a new favorite as of 09:26 on Jul 4, 2013

Axeman Jim
Nov 20, 2010

The Canadians replied that they would rather ride a moose.

What up, rubbish tilting train buddy

Crap British Planes

The Saunders-Roe Princess - White Elephants can Float as well

The insane gigantism that seized the West's aviation industry after WWII (creating the Spruce Goose in the states and some hilariously rubbish Soviet planes as well) hit Britain particularly hard.

Once again, the new "Socialist" government of the UK decided that what the taxpayers of massively-indebted Britain needed to be paying for was luxury travel for rich people (especially politicians) and in 1945 ordered a model of truly enormous flying boats for transatlantic luxury travel:

Like the Brabazon, the sheer ambition of its size was countered by the obsolescence of its propulsion technology, and it required TEN, count them, TEN engines to haul it into the air. Like the Brabazon, it was slow and only carried 100 passengers, making it hopelessly uneconomic, with even worse fuel economy than the Brabazon due to its flying-boat construction.

Flying boats were big in the inter-war years because there was a lack of paved runways large enough to land heavy, long-range planes on in most parts of the world. Landing the plane on a nearby sea or lake got around this problem, though it did make the aircraft heavy and less than ideal aerodynamically.

It seemed to have escaped everyone's notice that as a result of the MASSIVE loving WAR that had just ended, there were in fact very large number of paved airstrips all over the world that had been built as bases for bombers and transport aircraft, and you'd have to be some kind of PRIZE IDIOT not to realise that these would be turned into commercial airports, rendering the flying boats obsolete.

It took BOAC (one of Britain's two state-owned airlines) SIX YEARS to realise that the Princess was a white elephant (or should that be whale?) and in 1951 they told the government they didn't want it after all. By this time, four had been built and one was flying. The government tried to interest the RAF in it, who said no. A private airline offered a massive Ł4 million for them, but the government weren't going to sell their glorious Socialist luxury aeroplane to a bunch of bourgeous capitalist pigdogs who might have the temerity to run them at a profit and told them to go hang.

Instead, they covered them in tarpaulin and left them floating just off the Isle of Wight, waiting, supposedly, for more powerful engines to become available. For two entire decades, the massive floating Princesses became a landmark for pilots approaching airports in London, bobbing folornly in the water awaiting a purpose that never came - and chances are that the transatlantic pilots flying over them were flying decadent, capitalist American aircraft.

Finally, in 1964, the government relented and agreed to sell them at a pittance to an American entrepreneur who wanted to hire them to NASA to haul rocket parts around. Except that when the maintenance contract expired several years earlier they forgot/didn't bother to renew it, and when they unwrapped the Princesses they were corroded beyond use. The four Princesses, only one of which had ever flown, were broken up in 1967.

Axeman Jim
Nov 20, 2010

The Canadians replied that they would rather ride a moose.

I am OK posted:

I physically shuddered when I scrolled down. So many memories. All of them horrific.

Are you OK?

Axeman Jim
Nov 20, 2010

The Canadians replied that they would rather ride a moose.

Remember that in this thread we're just posting the disasters. Of course there were plenty of trains/aircraft/cars that were perfectly fine, even British ones occasionally, but they're less interesting to talk about or learn from.

With particular respect to British Rail and its successors, the big problem in the 1950's was that nobody in the UK had any experience in applying diesel traction to the railways. As there were no manufacturers with a track record, and desire to safeguard jobs prevented working with foreign (particularly American) companies who did, BR had to order pilot fleets from pretty much every manufacturer and cross their fingers. Some manufacturers, such as English Electric and Brush Traction (now Bombardier), coped well and their products formed the backbone of BR's fleet. Others didn't, and we've seen the results in this thread. At least most of the disasters we've seen here were prototypes, pilot classes or small fleets, with the exception of the class 17 which was ordered into squadron service without a prototype, with ruinous consequences.

Also, the wartime mentality of centralised, bureaucratic procurement was extended to peacetime, civilian purposes and was a very poor fit. The Labour government of 1945 founded the welfare state, but along with that came the nationalisation of most of the country's major industries, which were run into the ground by clueless bureaucrats and politicians who made terrible decisions. In both air and rail procurement, huge committees of idiots completely misjudged the future markets of both air and rail travel and ordered types that not only didn't work, but also weren't needed. As an example, the reason so many of BR's diesels were so pitifully underpowered stemmed from a belief that the railways would continue to provide local freight services when it was increasingly clear that door-to-door distribution was moving to the roads. BR ended up with a horde of low-powered diesels when it really needed fewer, more powerful locomotives. Likewise, with air travel, the Americans knew that the future of air travel was to cram people into tubes and blast them at their destinations as fast and as cheaply as possible, whereas the Brabazon committee decided, with reference to nobody and nothing, that stately luxury was the future of air travel, when it demonstrably wasn't.

Axeman Jim
Nov 20, 2010

The Canadians replied that they would rather ride a moose.

What the gently caress?

At least the British wouldn't let their trains get into the hands of dictators...

...oh wait we totally would.

The Class 56 heavy freight loco. For some reason BR decided to outsource the construction of the first 30 to Electroputere, the state train builder of Ceauşescu's Romania.

No, I don't know why either. For some reason the first 30 never seemed to work as well as the others and had short lives. Like Ceauşescu.

Axeman Jim
Nov 20, 2010

The Canadians replied that they would rather ride a moose.

Crap British Planes

The Nimrod AEW3

With the Americans deploying the Hawkeye and the Soviets developing the TU-126, the British decided that they needed to get in on the AEW/AWACS action - an aircraft carrying a massive radar that can detect enemy aircraft hundreds of miles away and direct fighters to intercept them. The only AEW (Airborne Early Warning) system the RAF had was the Avro Shackleton, which was basically a turboprop-powered Lancaster dating from 1951, affectionately known to its crews as "10,000 rivets flying in formation."

In 1977 the US government offered to sell the RAF the then in-development E-3 Sentry, but with the British government pretty much held hostage by the trade unions (who brought down 3 governments in 5 years in the 1970s by calling general strikes) there was no way the RAF was going to buy some decadent imperialist capitalist AWACS, when we had perfectly good socialist aircraft of our own.

Except we didn't. The biggest airframe we had was the VC-10, and its T-Tail configuration made it unsuitable for a radome, so we decided to use some surplus Nimrod anti-submarine aircraft, based on the Comet airframe that first flew in the same year as the Shackleton it was supposed to replace.

The government decided that this would be a joint venture between BAe, who built the aircraft, and GEC Marconi, who would build the radar and systems. This helpfully ensured that when anything went wrong, the two companies would blame each other and nothing would get resolved. And things did go wrong. A lot:

- Rather than a big radome on top like almost all over AWACS aircraft, the Nimrod AEW3 had one radome at the front and one at the back, that were supposed to scan in sync. Of course this almost never worked properly.
- Each radome produced a vast amount of data, more than was strictly needed, that often got out of sync and tended to drop packets.
- The computer that was supposed to co-ordinate all this data, as well as navigate the plane and run all the other systems, had a grand total of 2.4Mb of storage space. On average, it would crash every 2 hours, which was a nuisance, as it took 2.5 hours to boot up, using cassette tape.
- The cooling system used the aircraft's fuel to dissipate heat and stopped working if the aircraft went down to less than half fuel. There was no room for an in-flight refuelling probe, so the aircraft could only stay aloft for a couple of hours at a time with its radar actually switched on
- The radar was so dysfunctional that the only way it could detect any aircraft at all was using the IFF transponders - but only the ones carried by NATO aircraft. In other words it couldn't detect Soviet planes which was kinda the whole point.
- The Nimrod airframe was much smaller than the E3. Hop over to AI's aircraft thread for stories about how overweight, cramped and hot the E3 is to work in. Now imagine cramming all that equipment and the people to run it into an aircraft 2/3 the size and powered by engines a generation older. Yeah.

By 1987 and a decade of failure, the government, now under Thatcher, had had enough and cancelled the project, with Ł1 billion (in 1987 money) down the toilet. We sheepishly returned to the Americans and ordered the E-3. The 1951-vintage Shackleton rattled on until 1991, when the RAF's long-overdue E3s came onstream.

Axeman Jim
Nov 20, 2010

The Canadians replied that they would rather ride a moose.

PhazonLink posted:

The best thing about cell towers are when you get people saying they feel like crap or have problem ______ and the tower isn't on yet or even built.

I can verify this. I worked answering complaints for a Local Authority in the UK. There was a cell tower on top of the Council's main building, and a woman wrote in complaining that the emissions from the tower had interfered with her crystal healing business and made her go broke and have migranes. She also said that she could "feel the radiation pumping into her mind". A quick call to facilities revealed that the tower had been switched off for two years after the Council lost the contract with the phone company. I suggested she see a doctor about her headaches.

My mum has decided that Wi-Fi is witchcraft and won't allow wireless internet in her house. She also installed copper strips under the new wallpaper, under the carpet, and across the ceiling in her bedroom in an attempt to turn it into a Faraday Cage where THE EVIL WON'T GET TO HER.

Axeman Jim
Nov 20, 2010

The Canadians replied that they would rather ride a moose.

You guys might find this interesting:

Inverkip power station was an oil-fired power station that was completed in the late 70's, just in time for the oil crisis and subsequently very rarely generated any power - all the original systems are still in place from the 1970s. It's being demolished today.

Any ID on that computer? (Nice monitor burn btw)

Axeman Jim
Nov 20, 2010

The Canadians replied that they would rather ride a moose.

People have been trying to jam synths into guitars for decades, and it still hasn't caught on. The first problem is that a guitar makes for a rubbish MIDI controller, just like any other string instrument, as its output varies in frequency constantly (through vibrato, string bending, imperfections in string quality and intonation and just plain ol' being out of tune), which maps really badly onto MIDI, which is designed for whole notes. So guitar synths have a horrible tendency to "hunt" between MIDI notes as the A/D converter keeps changing its mind about what note you're closest to, changing your sweet vibrato into something that sounds like it should be fixed to the roof of an ambulance.

The second problem is that their manufacturers make them look like this:





Those last two are attempts by Casio and Aitken to get around the hunting problem by abandoning the use of piezo pickups to tell what frequency the string was vibrating and instead measure where your fingers were - not unlike a Guitar Hero controller. Thus you don't tune the "guitar", you simply place your fingers in the appropriate place and pluck the relevant string (which isn't connected to the strings on the fretboard) and the instrument outputs the midi note that corresponds to. Thus you end up with basically a keyboard that you play like a guitar, and that has all the disadvantages of both instruments and none of the advantages.

What a loving stupid instrument. And people keep making them.

Axeman Jim
Nov 20, 2010

The Canadians replied that they would rather ride a moose.

A lot of pro musicians still use Minidisc players - I know several function players who won't put their backing tracks on anything else. MDs don't skip like a CD, they have better sound quality than an MP3 player (in terms of both bitrate and noise) and almost never go wrong. One guy I work with has played over 500 weddings with the same Minidisc player and has yet to have to use his backup (used to be a laptop, now an iPad) even once.

Axeman Jim
Nov 20, 2010

The Canadians replied that they would rather ride a moose.

I can't help but notice from those two links that a site devoted to criticising bad or unreadable interfaces has a hideous colour scheme (orange text on a white background, argh!), ugly, hard-to-navigate frames and no capital letters like a lovely 1999 "E-commerce" site.

Axeman Jim
Nov 20, 2010

The Canadians replied that they would rather ride a moose.

At least that one starts sentences with caps.

Axeman Jim
Nov 20, 2010

The Canadians replied that they would rather ride a moose.

Gibson is going through a bad time at the moment as a company. Poor quality and construction standards, excessive price tags for the quality they have, some poor acquisitions of other brands and even getting busted by the feds for using illegally imported wood.

I think that the importance of the guitar itself in the overall sound has been underplayed a bit. Particularly when it comes to pickups and the quality of wood in construction. The reason that vintage tele sounds better than a Variax modelling the same thing is that the older wood in the Tele has dried out over the decades, causing it to resonate better in sympathy with the strings. Those resonances feed back into the strings, causing them to change their harmonics and sustain notes longer. Cheap or poor-quality wood will muffle the strings. Brian May's "Red Special" sounds so amazing because it was made out of wood from a 400-year old antique fireplace - that, and its very unusual electrics, are why no other guitar on Earth sounds like it.

Not all guitarists are as conservative as some of you make out. I no longer gig with an amp at all, I run modelling software through a laptop because it is cheaper, lighter, more reliable and the sound guy can do much more with my sound than mic'ing up an amp, and a lot of other guitarists are doing the same thing.

There will always be classic guitar designs but for those on a budget, you can save a huge amount if you innovate. My PRS cost half as much as a Les Paul and in my view it's a superior guitar, albeit it's not quite able to recreate a Les Paul's sustain due to it not having the dense (and possibly illegal) mahogany body.

Axeman Jim
Nov 20, 2010

The Canadians replied that they would rather ride a moose.

As an occasional mastering engineer I can report that I will stop mastering for loudness just as soon as clients give me notes consisting of anything beyond "loud as gently caress, please" and stop sending me reference tracks that sound like an argument between a chainsaw and a Formula 1 engine.


Axeman Jim
Nov 20, 2010

The Canadians replied that they would rather ride a moose.

Also I master the way I (usually) do because there's still plenty of places where the loudness war is fought in earnest - such as internet radio and streaming.

When I produced my first album in 2010, for my then-band, I had to do the mastering (another point to make is that the producer in a pro production will almost never do the mastering, and often not do the mixing either) because there was no money to pay anyone else. So I asked for advice and got told "keep the dynamics, don't over-compress" by everyone and their dog. Idiotically I listened to them and produced a master of excellent dynamic range. I felt really pleased with myself, right until we got our first airplay. Our track sounded literally half the volume of the tracks that came before and after it. It was hideous. I then heard it on shuffle on my own mp3 player and yep, compared to every other track in the same genre, it basically wasn't there and I had to crank the device's volume (causing the next track to be deafening if I forgot to turn it down again). I had to do the whole mastering over again and since then I have little choice but to brick-wall it, at least in the loud sections.

Also the default earbuds that come with iPhones aren't half bad - certainly compared to the pieces of poo poo the came with my Samsung Galaxy. Decent bass response, and a habit of showing up any noise or errors in a mix that even my nice Sennheisers seem to miss. I set of iPhone earbuds is one of my main monitoring systems when mixing alongside some nearfield monitors, a cheap mono speaker and the proper reference cans. These days you have to mix/master to how 99% of your audience are going to listen, and for every hi-fi dork listening through his $3000 solid gold speaker cables personally blessed by the Dalai Lama or whatever, ten thousand are listening to a Spotify stream through iPhone earbuds.

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