Happy Trains between Edinburgh and Glasgow ?

This is a ‘Happy Train’ or a Class 365 Networker. They date from the mid 1990’s and have been suggested as a solution to Scotrail’s lack of trains available for The Edinburgh and Glasgow mainline (via Falkirk) route.

The ‘Happy Trains’ are coming off lease after replacement by new class 700 units for Thameslink/Great Northern.

They are 4 carriage 20 metre long units.

Scotrail’s lease arrangements for a number of diesel units is up and these are due to move south, some have already been received at Northern.

The Hitachi class 385 units that were to replace them have been held up due to an issue with vision in the drivers cabs through a curved Windscreen.

The Happy Trains are one of the few available electric multiple units that Scotrail might get their hands on.

Some online forums have speculated on a cascade of the existing Siemens Desiro Class 380’s from Inverclyde and Ayrshire to fill in.

These are already used in two sets of seven carriage formations for selected journeys on the E&G.

E&G passengers have already complained about the stub tables on the 380’s for their ‘essential laptop working’, and there’s mutterings on the lack of first class on the units and that’s there’s no particular time benefit from running in a mixed timetable with diesel units also preset on the line.

Conversely, there’s an issue for Inverclyde commuters. At times, a forty minute or longer journey is carried out by Class 314’s that don’t have toilets and the comfort or facilities of the 380’s.

Local press and politicians in Inverclyde have been noisy about the downgrade.

Rumours and speculation are abound and there’s been mention of a wholesale transfer of 380 units as well as more 320/4’s created from class 321’s.

Certainly there’s a plan for more conversions of 321’s but this may only be five units.

Perhaps, a more Simple answer for Scotrail is to procure a replacement fleet for the E&G as all infrastructure on Ayrshire and Inverclyde lines is set for the 380’s.

That’s where the Happy Train and a series of questions comes in.

Firstly, should the 380 fleet transfer over to E & G duties?

It must tempt Scotrail, but the fleet and it’s working diagrams are based out of Shields depot to the West of Glasgow.

The limited transfer of units for use on the E&G was supposed to be temporary.

A long term transfer east of the fleet would give issues and not least in terms of Ayrshire and Inverclyde passengers losing ‘their trains’.

Theres a further question of resourcing suitable units to replace the 380’s and work with the infrastructure and equipment on the Ayrshire and Inverclyde routes.

Secondly, the issue is on the E&G, isn’t it?

Proposed schedules for completion of the EGIP electrification slipped and these delays should have made sure that the introduction of the proposed rolling stock was on time.

At present, not all units are complete and not all units have been delivered.

Therefore, can Scotrail come up with rolling stock for the E&G and stop a knock-on effect on other routes and their usual unit allocations.?

Units intended for EGIP were also meant for the Stirling, Dunblane and Alloa services and for a fleet strengthening to ensure that the class 314’s could be retired in 2018.

So what should happen now?

There’s only so long that a temporary solution can be found and like any other business, Scotrail will have income to derive from its services and will want some certainty.

The question is how long it takes to resolve the issues with the 385’s, and how long to fix a solution to the window issue and have all units ready in service.

There’s a time and familiarity issue for train crew, drivers especially, and even a temporary fix in using another class of train would mean time and expense.

I’m unconvinced that it’s worthwhile for Scotrail to go to the lengths of bringing up a ‘new to Scotland’ class of electric multiple unit and train staff in using it, before converting all E & G route journeys.

The only way this might happen is if the frontages of the class 385’s need entirely replaced and with two windows on each cab end and 70 units total means 140 ‘fixes’ and quite possibly, that issue might take a bit of time and effort.

This image by Thomas Nugent clearly shows the difference in window size when compared to a class 380. Thomas Nugent Geograph

When seen together, it shows the difference in design used by Hitachi.

The original design was without a gangway between units.

The visual was later altered to Scotrail livery before the design with gangway was added.

In overall terms, it’s quite a change and there’s even a difference to the test units as captured above with the Siemens 380.

Hitachi have also had to endure some criticism of their Intercity Express Programme units introduced on the Great Western routes, however, the issue with these units isn’t at a great time and is at a point when rival manufacturers CAF and Siemens are building UK plants and where Bombadier have been introducing their Products to a number of franchises.

As to the ‘Happy Train’ Networker, it doesn’t seem likely that there will be the expense of time and effort to bring them to Scotland especially if a solution to the 385’s problems is months away.

Then again. I’ve been wrong before.


Weighing Reality and Hope (Aspergers)

At times, it gets too much. It’s lonely and boring and dull. It’s me and the TV after work. I can vary what I eat and what I watch, but mainly it’s me on the sofa and the TV. I have early bedtimes. I wind down and I sleep. I get up, follow my routine and then go to work.

Maybe that’s all I can handle. I don’t particularly want to go out, I don’t particularly want to see anyone. My weekends have the kids. I like that and I’m focused on them. Then it’s back to the week and me, myself and I.

Maybe I don’t need excitement or change or different. Just float along, get older, have the routine. Stick with it.

I’m trying to avoid accepting a decision. Accepting that ‘it is what it is’

Me and the TV. Push away the other thoughts. Accept it.

I’m 45. Not young, Not old. But, what does that mean? What should I expect? Another 25 Years? Longer? – is there something to strive for or to believe in or to think that my life can change significantly. I could push it and look for more and think ‘I want to be happy!’ – but what if maybe I am already?

The blog, the twitter, reading articles online. Building a Lego kit now and again. The odd Instagram photo. What’s coming soon on Netflix. The tips from others on what’s good. Day to day at work. A message from my daughter. A text message here and there.

Maybe, I read some more philosophy. Maybe, I look at the graphic novels publishing list. Maybe, I see the rail forum or the train and bus magazines. Think about the paintwork, think about the bathroom. Read the bills again, look at the online banking.

I’ve had a life. I’ve tried in the – what I know now is a – neurotypical world, I’ve pushed myself at 100%, their 120%. I’ve had ‘friends’, I’ve tried and I’ve been there and done that. I like my once a month meal somewhere different, I like eating out with my daughter and going to the bookshop. I like my random chats with my youngest and the mad friendly welcome from the dog.

Maybe, I accept that I’m fortunate, that I’ve got where I am and it’s good to get there and yeah, this can be better or that could improve, but I basically stop myself from pushing and railing at it all. Be content. Try to be wise and good and kind. I don’t need someone else to do that and there’s validation enough and it’s okay to be separated and alone.

I think I’ve always had the ‘romantic dream’ of miss right ‘rescuing me’, probably delusional, based on tv and film and that thought that ‘one day it’ll be me’. Maybe I met her and never knew it, maybe she walked past me, maybe she never existed. It’s a pleasant day dream or illusion as much as being a god fearing good man or to always be a gentleman.

I’ve read about involuntary celibacy and I’ve sort of questioned it. Firstly, I choose to do what I do. I might meet a woman by going drinking on my own, I might not. Social skills set deficit after all.

Obviously, if you go out on a Friday or a Saturday night drinking in places the opposite sex are, then it’s more likely. I suppose I choose not to.

That’s my voluntary choice and it reduces the likelihood of any chance encounter.

I don’t do evening classes or other activities, I don’t sit in a coffee shop for hours on end, I don’t go hillwalking or running or any of that sort of thing, again my choice and my circumstances.

Obviously the more human contact, the greater the possibility or chance. It’s odds, I suppose, you gamble a bit, you may be lucky, you may not. If you don’t play the game at all, then you’re unlikely to win.

So, therefore, I can’t bemoan being ‘involuntary celibate’. I can say I don’t go out much and I can say that I lack the practice in interaction with anyone new and that yes, I’d find it awkward and strange and a bit scary too.

Now, the question, is balance. Accept what you are and what you have or stretch out life seeking something or someone that maybe isn’t there.

There might be an equivalent woman around my age and with my interests, that’s got her own commitments, life and work and maybe feels about the tv and sofa thing as I do. She might not even be on this island. A needle in a haystack, a pin in a box of other pins. What might be out there is out there.

It’s a ‘might’ or a ‘maybe’ or a ‘what if’.

I’ve a tendency to say ‘travel in hope’ to others when they’re disheartened. I suppose I can throw in ‘it’s not the destination, it’s the journey’ and the other tidbits that one picks up along the way. I know a lot about not giving up and keeping going.

But, the question I have for myself is ‘Can you accept being alone and make the best of it?’

Accepting the life, the day to day routine and focus on the kids and be content. I’ve a way to go yet in resolving my inner conflicts, but I could make a simpler life for myself by being easier on myself by accepting what I am and letting go of fantasy and delusion and leaving dreams alone. Reality can be enough at times and getting through a day or a week is tiring enough.

I can read and ponder and keep going, but making a decision or classing myself as something? Perhaps that can wait.

Triggered (Aspergers)

I had a panic attack yesterday. I had used an in-store toilet in a supermarket and kids had shouted in and then turned the lights off.

I was trapped in the dark, I shouted repeatedly and after a few minutes the lights went back on.

Maybe it was teens pranking a friend, but it triggered a panic attack for me.

My breathing went, my head got sore. I was confused and frightened.

I could only make it to the customer service desk to say what happened and I then had to go outside and go sit at the bus stop.

I couldn’t face going to look for things. I had in my head going back into town by bus and then getting what I needed at the train station in Glasgow (another 40 minute trip).

A couple of minutes. A ‘harmless prank’. I was all over the place.

I wanted to scream, I was physically shaking. I was out of my usual.

I had walked earlier to the hospital to see a relative, but I’d mistimed it and ended up sitting in the corridor to wait on the food trays coming out. I handled that okay.

I was patient and quiet and tried distracting myself. I had looked at bus times on my way in thinking I could go and get things I needed later. My head was stressed with the timings but I tried to manage it by thinking that it was okay to wait and I didn’t want to disturb anyone.

I then walked to the big store. I needed things. There wasn’t a direct bus, I checked and it was dry, I knew I could get back by bus, so not a massive issue. Fresh air and a wander about.

Then I realised I needed the toilet, I suffered the inevitable hand dryer noise and then doors banging closed and open and again. A shout of a name and the lights going out.

I panicked and shouted ‘turn the lights on’, it was minutes in the dark. Pitch pitch black. I couldn’t see. I was stuck. I froze and didn’t know what I was doing.

I tried to say what happened when I got out using my ASD awareness card.

It took a long wait outside in the fresh air and the prospect of a long pointless trip by bus and train to make me go back in.

The lights. The noise. So many people. Having to think where things were and going an item at a time. Head full and sore. Needing earplugs and to cancel out the noise.

Getting further. Stopping. Starting.

Feeling stupid and lethargic. Glacial pace of thinking. Anger about the kids and the thought of being derailed from what I had planned to do.

Conscious of my breathing and shaking, trying to steer away and around people.

Item, think, Item, think.

Made it around. Sat down after paying to fix my bag and calm myself.

Days aren’t always straightforward and you can’t foresee triggers or stresses or panic situations.

I can write it after the event, the racing feel in chest, the tightness in head and the whirl of thoughts make ‘at the time’, so difficult.

World Autism Acceptance Week.

World Autism Acceptance Week is 26 March to 2 April 2018.

World Autism Acceptance Day is April 2nd. It was initially a United Nations initiative.

In the UK, materials are available from the National Autism Society.

NAS WAAW materials

1. What is Autism?

Swiss Psychiatrist Eugen Bleuler used the term, ‘Autismus’ in his work in the early part of the 20th Century. The meaning is essentially as ‘otherness’.

Autism was observed properly in children in the 1930’s and 1940’s by Hans Asperger and Leo Kanner in separate studies. They had a diagnostician, Georg Frankel, in common, as he left Europe for America to avoid the Nazis. He may have influenced Kanner’s work.

It is also thought that research in the 1920’s in the Soviet Union came to similar conclusions.

The English language medical model of ‘infantile autism’ followed on from Kanner’s research.

These theories were challenged in the 1970’s and 1980’s by Lorna Wing in her research. Uta Frith fully translated Hans Aspergers research papers around 1990.

The diagnostic basis were formalised in the late 1990’s and is now seen as a spectrum condition with diagnosis formalised as Autism Spectrum Disorder. (ASD).

2. Why Awareness?

It’s a prevalent condition in about 1% of the population. That could be around 700,000 people in the UK.

As a Neurodevelopmental Disorder condition, not a disease, it’s not something that can be cured as it’s a essentially a human difference like eye colour or skin tone.

It is not related to environmental factors as hypothesised by discredited researcher Andrew Wakefield who caused a panic over effects of childhood vaccines.

Symptoms vary and there are different degrees of learning disabilities or co-morbid conditions that can be associated with the principal ASD diagnosis.

Awareness of prevalence and the difficulties with social communication, social understanding and social development can help Autistic people to be accepted.

3. Why not Acceptance?

Autistic advocates would prefer Acceptance and for the concept of neurodiversity to become as known and accepted as gender equality or sexual preference equality have been in recent years.

It’s a neurological difference and if other human differences can be positively promoted in society, why not seeing the world differently?

It’s the next step in Equality thinking for many.

4. Is ‘Autistic’ or ‘Person with Autism’ better?

For me and many others it’s ‘Autistic’, whilst I understand person centred language, I don’t carry my Autism with me.

For me, Autistic Person is fine. Person with Autism isn’t.

Research suggests split views on terminology.

5. Should I ‘Go blue for Autism’?


You may see Facebook pictures with the above filter. By doing so you are supporting the American Organisation ‘Autism Speaks’.

Autism Speaks is criticised in the US by ‘Actually Autistic’ advocates because of their previous research focus and support for families and autistic people.

So please don’t ‘Go Blue for Autism’ especially if you’re in the UK.

A grassroots ‘Red Instead’ campaign exists online. I certainly support it myself.

‘Light it up Blue’ attempts to light landmarks and buildings in blue, again it’s Autism Speaks and it’s not an international campaign supported across all countries by all Autism organisations.

I think it’s inappropriate in the UK, sadly some building owners have participated in the UK.

6. Should I post a jigsaw logo on social media in support?

No. There’s not a recognised worldwide symbol.

The Autism Awareness Ribbon of the American Autism Society uses the puzzle piece design and although colourful and distinctive is based on a 1960’s jigsaw design that the UK’s National Autism Society initially used.

The puzzle piece or jigsaw piece was thought to represent the mystery of the condition and isolation of a child with autism.

Significant that the NAS moved away from the imagery as have others, such as the American Journal ‘Autism’.

It is offensive to many advocates, although it remains popular amongst some parents.

My thinking is that I have nothing missing, neither do my sons, and that we’re not a mystery or a puzzle either.

A better symbol for neurodiversity is the infinity sign, it has been used with multicoloured or rainbow variants.

7. ‘It’s just a thing boys have.’

Increasing numbers of women and girls have been diagnosed in recent years and some of the best actually autistic advocates are female and have a brilliant grasp in describing the condition and difficulties in writing.

Diagnosis for girls may be trickier as they have been better at masking or disguising the condition.

8. ‘Rain Man’

Quite a film and performance from Dustin Hoffman as Raymond Babbitt, but his savant character was based on Kim Peek, who was previously diagnosed with autism but thought to have FG syndrome, a genetic defect.

The ‘Rainman’ shorthand description isn’t accurate and isn’t the experience for autistic people and the parents of autistic children.

Often the words as used as an insult.

9. ‘Sheldon Cooper / Saga Noren’

Sheldon from ‘The Big Bang Theory’ is often thought as a high functioning autistic character and although the portrayal by Jim Parsons may point to many of these traits, the show has never made reference to him officially having Asperger’s Syndrome or Autism.

Similarly, Saga Noren in ‘The Bridge’ or ‘ Bron/Broen’ is a Swedish detective played by Sofia Helin has many traits and signs of autistic behaviour but the show never specifies her as autistic.

The characters may point toward autism and display signs of things that autistic people recognise, but are not specified in their shows as diagnosed autistic people.

Recent TV shows such as ‘The A Word.’, ‘Atypical’ and ‘The Good Doctor’ have addressed autism more directly and not just as a character quirk in a drama.

Possible that more TV shows and films will address matter in future.

More positive representation can be in reality shows such as ‘The Autistic Gardner.’

10. How can I help?


Give to local autism groups that fund or provide services to families and autistic individuals.

Other charities for often horrible and scary, but ultimately curable, illnesses get more exposure and more funding.

Autism is lifelong and affects a person from early childhood onward. It affects their ability to work or study and studies show lower levels of employment and higher suicide/harm risk as well as lower life expectancy.

Council Social Care and NHS services aren’t there in many places and donating can help to fill the gaps


Read Steve Silberman’s ‘Neutrotribes’ or look at information available online about ASD, Autism and Aspergers.


Ask your MSP, MP or similar what they are doing to help. Raise Neurodiversity with others. See how families are affected and the help that can be given.

Be a friend.

Support those you know or maybe learn enough to know ‘that kid’ in the supermarket or train might not be naughty, just different.

Read #ActuallyAutistic posts online.

Slightly Adrift.

I bet you thought before you left

I’d just sit in silence by myself

Turn this house into a jail

Dyin’ slow in a livin’ hell.

I shouldn’t really use song lyrics to try and understand life.

I guess I’ve been there though.

Sitting myself on my own, making the best of it, distracting myself and killing time until bedtime through tv and the internet.

By default, alone.

The emptiness when I don’t have the kids, a kind of pointless empty feeling. A pit in stomach feeling.

Same time, I either don’t want to go out or can’t afford to go out, so I have that lack of option pinning me down.

The idea of going out alone sometimes is overwhelming and often unappealing.

I don’t have a car usually, so getting in one and driving somewhere isn’t an option, even for a random coffee stop.

I try and immerse myself.

I get distracted and fail too. I can read the sports coverage or wiki articles or something else.

It’s temporary head filling.

Temporary distraction.

I read on philosophy, I read on how brains work. I read on the search engine on ‘Autism’ and ‘Aspergers’ set on last 24 hours. I click through the tweets on things like dementia on science journal feeds.

I probably want human interaction. I probably need it.

I’m adrift from ‘friends’, strained with ‘family’ and without a clue in many respects.

I don’t want to go out drinking alone, I don’t see a coffee shop and a book to read, as working as ‘a thing’ for me either.

There’s days at work where I don’t get any conversation directed at me.

I know why, I know I’m ‘difficult’ and that I get punished for ‘outbursts’ by being shunned.

I can’t really initiate conversation well and I don’t want to scare people by doing ‘odd, but active’

It’s unfulfilling and dull, but I can’t force myself into other’s conversation and it’s a thing I’ve generally given up on.

I find what peace I can in the day and at night. I can force myself on at work and push myself to be distracted at home too.

I still love music and songs and words and it gets to be my refuge.

Headphones on and nothing else to process, nothing more going on in my brain but the music, words and the tune.

But once in a while, I get unsettled at a lyric or an emotion, and I’m holding back tears or trying to quell the turmoil that’s been sparked.

Some songs perfectly capture where and how and who I am sometimes, sometimes too well.

(Lyric quoted is from ‘Record Year’ on the Mr. Misunderstood album by Eric Church)

‘Imagine Black..’

‘Imagine Black.’

‘No., really Black.’

‘Yeah? But, Blacker than that..’

Is how I wished I’d answered a question today.

I don’t think I answered well, I never can when it comes to describing depression.

‘When’s the last time you were happy?’

‘Dunno.’ is the easiest I guess.

I can’t always adapt quickly enough to answer verbally.

A lot of long and maybe lousy answers.

I got to say what I needed to. I addressed my 2017 issues.

I maybe set the story backwards. I maybe jumped from point to point.

I maybe didn’t have it ever framed in that verbal context.

I’ve left my hair and my beard for today.

I looked similar at my PIP medical. (The one where my lying Scottish NHS nurse practitioner said I was well kempt.)

Did I get over what I needed – HELP.

My cue cards said



We talked medications, depression and length and extent. I think I was asked can I remember a time without it.

I cued myself on ‘The Blues’ and my ear plugs.

I explained needing to keep going and keeping doing and my fear of stopping.

I couldn’t explain depression and the lows.

I fumbled at ‘friends’, I fumbled at a few issues and questions and about everything going on.

I maybe got to where I was and how I was and my fears and my concerns and what I needed.

I don’t know if they can actually help me. Nice people but, what can they access for me.

I can’t face CBT. It won’t help. I do know that the need to communicate. The phone a friend bit, the build up the communication and contact part. The re-establish ties and do the basics in talking again and going for a walk, going for a coffee.

Now, that’s it in a nutshell.

Cognitive. Yeah, that I can do. Thinking is my thing. I’m an intelligent failure. I can see through that path of treatment.

I need more like Counselling or something with a structure.

I sighed today. At times I wish I was stupider and more social. That I had the real friends.

So, I’ll see what is decided that I need. I might be an expert on me and my condition, but I’m not medically qualified to make the decisions.

Long Way

I think I finally ‘get help’ this week.

Been struggling since October and kind of ironic that appointment with Community Mental Health is at a point where I’ve had to get through ‘the worst’ myself.

Rather than tell a story to them I’d really much rather try and direct them to what I need.

I think that is formalised Diagnosis of Anxiety and whether I can get that for Generalised Anxiety and Social Anxiety is my first question.

My other is a formal diagnosis of Depression. I’ve lived with it all my life. I need it confirmed and certified.

I’ll have to tell the nurse, presumably, that I can’t follow their script to CBT.

I can accept they’ll follow whatever the GP wrote to say, so I have to think through a polite way to say ‘Stop. This is what I need’ rather than go with the flow of the appointment.

Being Listened to is the thing that I need.

I may need to write cue cards and just show them.

I may need to sink the nurse’s attempt to do a ‘usual first appointment.’ By being awkward and uncooperative.

The risk in that is that I don’t get help as I’ve not did things in the way that they want.

It makes it critical that I get those points in before they start and especially get across that I’m Autistic and not needing a neurotypicals treatment for ‘just’ depression.

So, yeah I worry about ‘getting help’, I can’t just ‘be relieved’ and go with that.

I know I need more than that and I’ll try to ask but if they’re Interviewing as a first appointment I’m scared of a screen and someone at right angles to me.

I’d like to know if other specific medication can help or if I’m trucking along. I don’t need time off or a rest or anything like that.

Help and something to guide and soothe me please.

Obviously I’ll write after Thursday and I can only hope for the moment, but to temper that with a dose of realism too.