Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Tilting Trains

I thought this one up whilst on, yes, the train, between Crewe (a place which has the primary significance of having a lot of trains) and London.

When I was a child, British Rail made a huge fuss about their 'Advanced Passenger Train'. Amongst other things, this train would smoothly tilt when it went around bends, maintaining safety and passenger comfort and allowing the high speed train to negotiate the steepest of curves at its full speed.

The BBC was all over it. Everyone was all over it. The Tilting Train was going to be the best thing since sliced bread. An amazing technological development.

Guess what happened?

It didn't work. And it didn't work. And it didn't work. After years of development, they gave up and produced the InterCity 125, Britain's first high speed train. It was called the 125 because its top cruising speed under ideal conditions on a straight track when it wasn't raining (i.e. never) was 125 miles per hour. It did not tilt. Not an inch. Eggs were being picked off of faces for years.

Then they came out with the InterCity 225. It had electric doors instead of mechanical ones and several other improvements. And it tilted very slightly. Just a little. No mention was made of this.

I don't know what they call the current British high speed trains. But I do know they are very comfortable, very fast...and very definitely tilt. It only took twenty years.

Why is this relevant to a writing blog?

The developers of the Advanced Passenger Train made the same mistake many newbie writers do. They hyped a product they do not have.

This is like querying your novel when you've written three pages. And yes, people do it. If you do not have the product and hype it, then what happens?

You get egg on your face when it turns out you can't produce it. And twenty years late is not good enough for the reputations of those involved.