Monday, June 23, 2008

Built to last?

click photo to enlarge
Everything associated with a railway seems made to last - the buildings, the track, the rolling stock - everything. Yesterday I was looking at a steam engine that was built in the 1880s. Some of the metal-work was dented, some was worn, and some seemed as fresh as the day it was made. Parts of the structure will have been replaced during a renovation, but a couple of the steps up to the coal tender were clearly the originals, and though they showed signs of wear, they probably had a couple more centuries of use in them!

What a contrast with, say, the modern motor car. Use one carefully, spend a fortune on maintenance, repairs and replacement parts, and it might, at a push, give you a mere twenty years of regular use. I suppose the argument can be made that newer, safer, and more efficient technology will come along in that time, so building a car to last longer is counter productive and wasteful. And there are those who will say that the steam engine I admired was "over-built" because its parts didn't need to be made to last so long. Maybe, but isn't one of the world's problems that we keep using up resources to make things, then we throw them away! Perhaps there's a lesson to be learned from our Victorian forbears, namely that we can make things to last and we should. I've often waxed lyrical about the idea of an open-source, modular car, with the essential components built to a standard, interchangeable, and as easy to put together and upgrade as a PC. I'm sure there's a market for such a vehicle.

I don't know how old this railway carriage is. When I came across it the wheels had been removed and it was waiting to be renovated. Its steel frame, and the covering of wood and glass, looked in pretty good condition considering it's probably seventy or eighty (or more) years old. Many of these carriages ended up, years ago, as cheap summer houses and garden sheds. It looks as though this one might return to its original life on the rails, carrying passengers, albeit on a heritage line.

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 42mm (84mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f6.3
Shutter Speed: 1/100
ISO: 400
Exposure Compensation: -0.3 EV
Image Stabilisation: On