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Southport Reporter®

Edition No. 113

Date:- 23 August 2003

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FOLLOWING a tragic incident at the weekend when a child was killed on the track at Bootle Oriel Road station (Merseyside), Network Rail has appealed to all parents to impress on their children the hidden dangers on the railway that they may not be aware of.

Trains on the Merseyrail network that stretches from Southport, Ormskirk and Kirby, through the centre of Liverpool to New Brighton, West Kirby, Ellesmere Port and Chester take their electricity from a third rail laid alongside the railway lines. To the ordinary member of the public it looks just like any other piece of rail, but it's not - it carries up to 750 volts of DC electricity. Anyone stepping on it or coming into contact with it in any way will find themselves stuck to it like a magnet and will receive severe burns and could quite possibly die.

Other parts of the railway network such as the west coast main line, local lines in south Manchester and in parts of Cheshire take their electricity from overhead power lines. These carry 25,000 volts of AC electricity, the same type household electricity - but over 100 times stronger. You don't even need to touch the power lines, just getting close is dangerous enough because AC electricity will jump the gap and 25,000 volts will kill you outright.

Even in areas where the railway is not electrified, it is still a dangerous place to be and nobody should even think about taking a short cut across the tracks or playing on the lines.

Trespassing on the railway is an extremely dangerous thing to do, even on a line that has relatively few passenger trains. It is quite possible that there may be engineering or freight trains in the area or other diverted services.

Modern trains are fast and quiet. They can be virtually on top of a trespasser before they know it, and unlike a car, the train driver cannot swerve out of the way. They also cannot stop in a short distance. Inter-city passenger trains can weigh several hundred tones and, traveling at up to 110 mph, can take almost a mile and a half to stop.

A Network Rail spokesman said:- "What happened at the weekend was a tragedy. With two weeks of summer holidays to go before children return to school we have got to make sure there is not another accident like this. We appeal to anyone who has contact with youngsters to impress upon them the danger that they can put themselves in if they use the railway for
anything other than its intended purpose."

Anyone who sees somebody trespassing on the railway or doing anything else that they should not, is urged to report it to the British Transport Police on FREE PHONE 0800 40 50 40.


Spaceship cruises over Southport, unseen..... or was it?

AS many of us just socked up the sun or tried to work in offices, on Thursday August 14, as Southport enjoyed brilliant sunshine and high temperatures, the world's only manned spacecraft , the International Space Station, slipped quietly overhead. Traveling at nearly 17,000 miles an hours more than 300 miles above our heads the station orbits the Earth 16 times a day passing over the UK on a regular basis. Each orbit of the earth takes roughly 95 minutes. Thanks to John Locker this event was not missed. But however what made last Thursday different was the fact that as ISS, manned by two crew members, as it cruised overhead, it also passed across the disk of the sun, not once, but twice during two consecutive orbits. 

Termed "Solar Transits" these events are rarely seen by ground based observers. The corridor within which an observer needs to be is less than three miles wide. The sky needs to be clear and timing has to be spot on as the actual transit takes less than one second. Not surprising then that video records are very few. Undeterred and following hours of preparation, Wirral based journalist John Locker decided to attempt to achieve what has never been done before, capture both transits on video.

This involved traveling to the first location, just north of Banks, where a specially filtered camera equipped telescope was set up. The equipment needed to be located in a precise area, determined by GPS. Just before 3pm, right on time and with camera rolling, the station zipped across the face of our nearest star. The first pass had been successfully captured. 

John had just the time taken for the station to orbit the earth, to pack up the equipment and drive south to a second location to catch the next pass at 4:25 pm.

The second chosen site was on common land to the east of Royal Birkdale Golf Club.

As temperatures soared into the upper 70s and holiday makers packed the resort , John headed off down the coast road.

Making good time he was able to set up and await the second event. By now the heat was taking it's toll on the telescope and the thermal currents in the tube assembly were making it difficult to focus on the sun, but, the second transit was captured successfully as locals went about their business, blissfully unaware of the spectacle going on overhead.

You can see the results on John's web page:- www.satcom/isstrans.htm

If you are interested in space, why not join UK SEDS? Visit for more information.

Report with many thanks to John.

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Southport Reporter is a registered Trade Mark.   Copyright © Patrick Trollope 2003.