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11th September 2013: The world's gone mad and I'm the only one who knows
30th August 2013: Isn't sarcasm a wonderful thing?
25th August 2013: Operation Yewtree has turned British justice on its head
13th August 2013: Black is white. Fact. End of.
11th August 2013: Why 'human rights' is nothing of the sort ...
11th August 2013: Electric cars, not as green as they're painted?
6th August 2013: How the British nation treats its friends ...
8th July 2013: The BBC biased? How can that be? They're so NICE!
26th June 2013: Think this country is a bastion of freedom and justice and a shining model for the world? Think again.
18th June 2013: Wrinklies unite, you have nothing to lose but your walking frames!
17th June 2013: is the end finally approaching for this evil woman?
31st May 2013: Now it's official - the BBC really is a left-wing propaganda machine
31st May 2013: Those evil bastards are at it again. Yes, you've guessed it - social services!
27th May 2013: Well-known TV presenter talks sense. No good will come of it.
24th May 2013: British justice is best? Only for the very poor, apparently ...
17th May 2013: Some actual FACTS about climate change (for a change) from actual scientists ...
10th May 2013: An article about that poison gas, carbon dioxide, and other scientific facts (not) ...
10th May 2013: We need to see past the sex and look at the crimes: is justice being served?
8th May 2013: So, who would you trust to treat your haemorrhoids, Theresa May?
8th May 2013: Why should citizens in the 21st Century fear the law so much?
30th April 2013: What the GOS says today, the rest of the world realises tomorrow ...
30th April 2013: You couldn't make it up, could you? Luckily you don't need to ...
29th April 2013: a vote for NONE OF THE ABOVE, because THE ABOVE are crap ...
28th April 2013: what goes around, comes around?
19th April 2013: everyone's a victim these days ...
10th April 2013: Thatcher is dead; long live Thatcher!
8th April 2013: Poor people are such a nuisance. Just give them loads of money and they'll go away ...
26th March 2013: Censorship is alive and well and coming for you ...
25th March 2013: Just do your job properly, is that too much to ask?
25th March 2013: So, what do you think caused your heterosexuality?
20th March 2013: Feminists - puritans, hypocrites or just plain stupid?
18th March 2013: How Nazi Germany paved the way for modern governance?
13th March 2013: Time we all grew up and lived in the real world ...
12th March 2013: Hindenburg crash mystery solved? - don't you believe it!
6th March 2013: Is this the real GOS?
5th March 2013: All that's wrong with taxes
25th February 2013: The self-seeking MP who is trying to bring Britain down ...
24th February 2013: Why can't newspapers just tell the truth?
22nd February 2013: Trial by jury - a radical proposal
13th February 2013: A little verse for two very old people ...
6th February 2013: It's not us after all, it's worms
6th February 2013: Now here's a powerful argument FOR gay marriage ...
4th February 2013: There's no such thing as equality because we're not all the same ...
28th January 2013: Global Warming isn't over - IT'S HIDING!
25th January 2013: Global Warmers: mad, bad and dangerous to know ...
25th January 2013: Bullying ego-trippers, not animal lovers ...
19th January 2013: We STILL haven't got our heads straight about gays ...
16th January 2013: Bullying ego-trippers, not animal lovers ...
11th January 2013: What it's like being English ...
7th January 2013: Bleat, bleat, if it saves the life of just one child ...
7th January 2013: How best to put it? 'Up yours, Argentina'?
7th January 2013: Chucking even more of other people's money around ...
6th January 2013: Chucking other people's money around ...
30th December 2012: The BBC is just crap, basically ...
30th December 2012: We mourn the passing of a genuine Grumpy Old Sod ...
30th December 2012: How an official body sets out to ruin Christmas ...
16th December 2012: Why should we pardon Alan Turing when he did nothing wrong?
15th December 2012: When will social workers face up to their REAL responsibility?
15th December 2012: Unfair trading by a firm in Bognor Regis ...
14th December 2012: Now the company that sells your data is pretending to act as watchdog ...
7th December 2012: There's a war between cars and bikes, apparently, and  most of us never noticed!
26th November 2012: The bottom line - social workers are just plain stupid ...
20th November 2012: So, David Eyke was right all along, then?
15th November 2012: MPs don't mind dishing it out, but when it's them in the firing line ...
14th November 2012: The BBC has a policy, it seems, about which truths it wants to tell ...
12th November 2012: Big Brother, coming to a school near you ...
9th November 2012: Yet another celebrity who thinks, like Jimmy Saville, that he can behave just as he likes because he's famous ...
5th November 2012: Whose roads are they, anyway? After all, we paid for them ...
7th May 2012: How politicians could end droughts at a stroke if they chose ...
6th May 2012: The BBC, still determined to keep us in a fog of ignorance ...
2nd May 2012: A sense of proportion lacking?
24th April 2012: Told you so, told you so, told you so ...
15th April 2012: Aah, sweet ickle polar bears in danger, aah ...
15th April 2012: An open letter to Anglian Water ...
30th March 2012: Now they want to cure us if we don't believe their lies ...
28th February 2012: Just how useful is a degree? Not very.
27th February 2012: ... so many ways to die ...
15th February 2012: DO go to Jamaica because you definitely WON'T get murdered with a machete. Ms Fox says so ...
31st January 2012: We don't make anything any more
27th January 2012: There's always a word for it, they say, and if there isn't we'll invent one
26th January 2012: Literary criticism on GOS? How posh!
12th December 2011: Plain speaking by a scientist about the global warming fraud
9th December 2011: Who trusts scientists? Apart from the BBC, of course?
7th December 2011: All in all, not a good week for British justice ...
9th November 2011: Well what d'you know, the law really IS a bit of an ass ...

 

 
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This story will interest the many ... er ... more mature gentlemen who, like The GOS, maintain an interest in the steam railways of their youth.
 

 
The iconic and beautiful No.4472 “Flying Scotsman” is probably the most famous locomotive in the world. A member of the A3 class of 4-6-2 express locomotives designed in the 1920s by Sir Nigel Gresley, it spent its working life mainly running between London and Edinburgh on the East Coast main line and set two world records - the first steam locomotive to be officially clocked at 100 miles per hour in 1934, and the longest non-stop run by a steam locomotive when it ran 422 miles in 1989.
 

4472 Flying Scotsman in wartime black livery

 
Retired from British Railways service in 1963 after covering over 2 million miles, “Flying Scotsman” has passed through several owners and spent time in both the United States and Australia. It now belongs to the nation, as represented by the National Railway Museum in York, which is part of the Science Museum and therefore taxpayer-funded.
 
Working steam locomotives have to undergo extensive overhauls every ten years. Because boiler-related accidents can be highly dangerous, their boilers are only certified as safe to run for ten years, and before they can be re-examined and issued a new certificate there is usually some major and costly work to do. This is more pronounced with preserved engines because, unlike the old British Railways locos, they don't run every day and the process of repeatedly heating up and then cooling down again causes stress in metal parts. Owners therefore plan to do all the non-boiler maintenance at the same time.
 
Eight years ago “Flying Scotsman” fell due for such an overhaul, in this case a particularly thorough one which might almost be classed as a restoration job. The work was to be done in the Museum's own extensive workshops and the budget was £750,000.
 
Now, eight years later, the overhaul is far from finished and the cost has risen to about £3 million.
 
In an attempt to find out the reasons for this embarrassing cockup, the Museum commissioned an independent investigation, and the results were reported recently in the specialist press. To quote “Steam Railway” magazine, “there was no system of work, work had been carried out in a haphazard manner and loco parts were scattered all over the works. The Chief Engineer started to distance himself from any involvement in the programme/task planning, he stopped attending meetings, and had a negative approach to any form of planning. It was clear that the Chief Engineer was not giving instruction to the workshop staff, and they were getting frustrated with the lack of direction.”
 
“Loco parts were constantly being moved around the workshop, parts had become lost, loaned to other locos, removed from the loco and not inspected, and placed in the stores van and forgotten about. A vast amount of time was wasted looking for parts and starting overhauling parts that should have been properly assessed when they were removed from the loco. There was no sense of urgency, but a sense of entrenched laziness.”
 
Wow. And this is the National Rail Museum, spending taxpayers' money, with its own lavishly equipped workshops, its own professional staff, and presumably all the specialist expertise that befits the curators of the national railway collection of over 280 locomotives and other railway vehicles.
 
The reason we're reporting this story is that it shows with dreadful clarity the abuses that can arise when public servants are allowed to spend public money. By contrast, The GOS knows a small group of railway enthusiasts who are slowly rebuilding – not just overhauling, but rebuilding from what was pretty much a kit of worn and rusty parts – a steam loco on a budget of just under £100,000 which they raised themselves. And that includes the cost of buying the loco in the first place. They are doing it by learning how to do jobs themselves – and none of them are proper engineers – and by getting parts made and mended by small local firms on a piecemeal basis, which takes many hours to organise but keeps costs way down.
 
Admittedly it's no Flying Scotsman and it won't ever run on the main line at 70mph with hundreds of passengers behind it. It's about half the size and weight, and will run at a stately 25mph – but the restoration budget is not half Flying Scotsman's, it's only one thirtieth!
 
The same magazine recently reported about a splendid chap called John Beesley, who spent the last 17 years restoring “Beatrice”, a little tank engine that lives on a preserved line in Yorkshire. Despite living 200 miles from the loco, he completed most of the work by himself and raised most of the £100,000 cost himself as well. The restoration was very thorough and he made many of the new parts himself, part of the time working in the open under a tarpaulin.
 
One imagines that John Beesley would be bitterly amused at the news that Jubilee class loco “Bahamas”, another major express engine, is to be overhauled with the help of a lottery grant at a cost of £700,000.
 
The London Transport Museum is another public body with grand ideas. To celebrate the 150th Anniversary of the underground they got £422,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund and another £150,000 from their own Friends' association, and spent it on restoring ... wait for it, not a locomotive, not a station, not a stretch of railway line, but ... a coach. One wooden coach, that used to run on the old Metropolitan Railway.
 
All right, it's said to be the oldest underground coach in existence. But how the hell do you spend £572,000 on rebuilding one coach? They could have bought an entire bloody train for that, couldn't they? They could have restored FIVE little tank engines, or provided nearly a hundred African villages with clean water and drains, or bought a lovely detached house and put some Middle Eastern terrorist detainee and his family in it. We're sure it's a lovely coach, all made of wood panels and beautifully painted in authentic colours and wonderfully upholstered and historically accurate in every detail, but what's it going to do after they've celebrated the 150 years? Sit in a museum, probably, so people can look at it and say “Wow, so that's what half a million quid looks like!”
 
There's a really serious problem here. The GOS is totally committed to preserving beautiful and interesting things from the past – he's a fairly beautiful and interesting thing from the past himself – but he's also committed to the idea that money should be spent sensibly by sensible people. A few blokes getting together, putting some cash in and restoring an old steam loco is brilliant. It's so brilliant that they ought to get some help from the lottery, but of course they won't.
 
To get lottery money you have to be an organisation, you have to have proper headed notepaper, you have to have nice upper-class people talking hooray-henry-speak all over the place, you have to have nice premises and a comfortable office to phone the Lottery Fund up from, and you have to be really good at throwing other people's money around.
 
A couple of blokes in a field with a blow-torch, a socket-set and loads of enthusiasm? Forget it.
 

 
The GOS says: Actually, this article was just an excuse to publish a picture of a wonderful steam engine. So here's another one ...
 

ex-GER Class N7 0-6-2T

 

 

 
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