As you might expect, there’s a wealth of specialised terms and expressions
used within railway parlance. The SKLR volunteers must be getting used to my
face going completely blank as they launch into an explanation of some
operational detail about which I haven’t the foggiest notion. One piece of
terminology I did catch up on is known as The Whyte Notation. It sounds like
a tense spy novel, does it not? Well, I hope you won’t be too disappointed
but there’s not going to be any cigarette lighters masquerading as exploding
parachutes or Moldovan supermodels painted tip to toe with gold in this
The Whyte Notation is actually used to designate the number of locomotive
wheels. First, it counts the leading wheels, then the driving wheels
followed by the trailing wheels each separated by dashes.
Thus you might have an engine with a 0-4-0 wheel configuration or, if you
fancied yourself as a character in Dr Zhivago, you might get to travel on a
pre-revolutionary Russian 2-6-2 the train with the pointed nose. Just to
really muddle your train brains, the French and Turkish use a system that
counts the axles rather than the wheels. So a 2-6-2 would become a 1-3-1.
All this specialised language and the potential for deep confusion brings to
mind my local Turkish restaurant. There they serve two similar salads. One
is called the Coban Salad and for your three pounds you get a mix of chopped
tomato, cucumber, red onion, peppers, parsley and an olive oil sauce. The
other is called the Sicak Ezme Special and for your four pounds you are
offered a melange of chopped tomato, onion, pepper, parsley and an olive oil
sauce. Can you spot the difference?
So I said to the guy serving, “Hey, does this mean I have to pay an extra
pound merely to get the cucumber excluded from my salad?”
“Yes”, he said, and nonchalantly asked if I was interested in a
baked sea bass.
I can envisage this ‘negative food economics’ making a fortune for a Jamie
Oliver type. “Yeah guys, that’s fish ‘n’ chips for £13 or we can do you
chips on their own for £18. We call them Chips Solo. So, what’ll it be,
“Wow, we’ll take the solo chips”.
post by sound artist Jim Whelton