Website conversion and a brief retrospective.

1987; the year we began

An Amstrad PC1512. This image is reproduced under Creative Commons rights. Amstrad_1512_DD.jpg: KoS derivative work: Ubcule (talk) - Amstrad_1512_DD.jpg
An Amstrad PC1512. This image is reproduced under Creative Commons rights.  KoS derivative work: Ubcule

When I began this task of website conversion from hand coded pages into contemporary WordPress format it struck me just how far on the industry has come from the first iteration of the Island-Publishing business. Back in those days I had been using computers since 1981 and extremely primitive models they had been too. Then came the IBM PC revolution, and in due course I obtained an Amstrad IBM clone.

Although I had been published as a writer before this it was with an Amstrad that I can say Island Publishing began, initially producing simple ribbon banners for a few local clubs and together with, what now seem very primitive, newsletters printed on dot-matrix printers for photo-copying. That all seems so primitive looking back but was a big advancement over spirit duplicators and typed stencils.

Traditional printing gear
Traditional printing gear as used into the 1970s.

When I started the modern internet was way in the future, networking was carrying a disk from one unit to another! The printing press had evolved from impress type machines like that above to more modern off-set litho’ processes but the thought that in the not too distant future we would have quality laser printing available to everyone was the stuff of science fiction.

Desk-top publishing began the revolution that has, today, encompassed the e-book and self-publishing.  All ideas undreamt of back in 1987. My late father had taught traditional printing, fine-art and illustration; I like to think he approves, even though the gear he used is now almost all scrapped or only existing as museum pieces. Absolute quality in writing and printing may have declined but we have gained from the low-cost availability of the published word.

The key of course as a consumer is to seek out the material that suits you, we may be swamped via social media, e-books of varying quality and citizen journalism, but it isn’t all froth and there is still good stuff out there if you care to seek it out.

However, those primitive beginnings do mean that next year we will be celebrating Island Publishing’s  3oth year!

Website conversion

This site is being converted, not only because the upgrade is long overdue, but also as a test-bed for updating The Stephenson Locomotive Society‘s web-site too. As it is a pioneer project for me there is a learning curve, there will inevitably be conversion changes and issues arising and being overcome as I go. For these changes I apologise in advance, however, I think the end product will be worth it.

Last week I caught a train

Trains, the ticketing nightmare
Southbound Cl 185 Trans Pennine Express at Shipton by Beningbrough (Yorks). The acceptable side of train travel.
Southbound Cl 185 Trans Pennine Express at Shipton by Beningbrough (Yorks). The acceptable side of train travel.

Trains are an interest, last week I even rode on one just like that pictured above. For people who know me well, or sometimes visit this blog, that probably seems an obvious statement. I am PRO for a railway society (The SLS) and manage the website for two other rail related groups so train travel should be a norm. Unfortunately it isn’t, partly down to geography/available routes, and partly down to the nature of the rail industry today. This blog post is reflections on trying to actually plan/use the train to make three main-line trips from the major UK rail hub of York; for only one was the train actually usable!

Tickets and cards.
Tickets and cards.

It used to be easy, you turned up, you bought your ticket and got on the next train. These days each Train Operating Company (TOC) has its’ own range of discounts and options; woe betide the person who gets on a wrong train or thinks they can just buy one from the guard/ticket collector. On Friday I was 50:50 lucky, there was a very substantial discount to travel restricted to Trans Pennine Express but it meant leaving at a set time to get the last train back. Why was that only 50% lucky, the event over-ran so I missed the last few minutes.

Empty reservations

Even though I take advantage of it because it is there what is annoying to me as a passenger is the discount for advance payments. This is for two reasons, (1) the number of no-shows means reserved seats get left empty and (2) it is simply illogical from a passenger perspective. It may make wonderful commercial sense to travel providers, be they train or airline operators, but for the passenger it means the turn-up and go fare payer (where there is all the risk of no seats etc.,) pays the premium rate. The premium should be for the early booking guarantee of a seat. Why this observation; in my coach on Friday of the 10 reservation slips visible only 4 were actually occupied for the leg specified!

Parking and evening buses

Another issue that creates an issue for train choice is parking and lack of late evening buses. On top of the train fare you have the parking tax as the lack of evening buses means a car or taxi is needed to get you home, and if the journey is rural, that can be surprisingly early. A Park & Ride scheme is great, but useless for the inward journey if the car-park is locked after 8pm so you can’t get your car out even if you get a taxi back to the P&R site after the last bus.

Why do I write this? In a fortnight I want to go to an evening meeting. It is in a neighbouring town to York and the expected 9:40 to 10pm finish is hardly late! However, I will be staying over that weekend at a relative’s house and there is no public transport option back out of York to their village after 7pm, outcome will be a 90 mile round trip drive.

My experiences using Scotrail whilst on holiday earlier in the month were slightly better but these general principles still have validity for services north of the border too.

Seating and people types
A southbound Voyager near York
A southbound Voyager near York. The route I won’t be taking!

The final straw, to this cumulative disaster, is the Cross-Country Voyager train. My Saturday afternoon meeting in Derby shortly coming up has to be another 100 mile plus round trip car journey as everything conspires to make the train a non-starter. The first blow, no evening village bus home and the park and ride alternative would be touch and go for getting back on the last one, so dare not risk.  Car park fee at station -don’t ask! However even if I pay that fee the train has such jammed in seating that as a tall man I can only sit in First Class with a guarantee of getting enough leg room.

So another weekend another motorway journey, not from a lack of motivation to use public transport but because it isn’t available as a practical alternative.

Going back to that Friday trip last week, people watching sure is fun. What a mix. Outward it was fine despite the train being pretty full but another downer for evening travel are the parties of tipsy and drunk fellow travelers. Not fighting on this occasion but raucous and with hardly the most desirable language choice at times.