back to article Serial killer spotted on the night train from Newcastle

Welcome to another in The Register's inexplicably long-lived series of digital signage suffering the odd public whoopsie. Today's entry in the Bork of Shame is a little retro and was snapped by Register reader and frequenter of the comments section "Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese" at Newcastle Central Station in the years before the …

  1. Mike Shepherd
    1. AndrueC Silver badge

      I bet you're feeling a bit sheepish now.

  2. Warm Braw Silver badge

    This was a regular sight at Newcastle. A worse problem these days is when the displays on the hopeless new Azuma trains don't work: there isn't even a sticker on a bulkhead to tell you which carriage you're in, so good luck finding your reserved seat. And if you've reserved a "window" seat it's likely to be a "wall" seat. Mind you, I suppose we have to be grateful the trains ran at all, given that in initial tests they completely borked the ancient signalling north of York.

    Not that it matters at the moment as they're all empty.

    1. DJV Silver badge

      Our new local trains didn't play properly with level crossing gates at first. The nearest crossing to me had a couple of near misses!

      1. David Hicklin Bronze badge


        Hells Teeth, no-script had a dicky fit there - had to scroll down the list so gave up.

        1. Martin-73 Silver badge


          Ublock origin freaked out and closed the tab!

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Indeed!

            Pi-Hole blocked it all nicely. Worth persevering though - footage from the train cab as it approaches a crossing clearly shows the crossing lights on red with cars waiting; the lights go out, the barriers lift, the cars start crossing and the train misses by millimetres.

        2. Jan 0 Silver badge

          The EDP website is a festering pit of scripts. It makes other newspaper sites look refreshingly home grown.

      2. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
        1. PhilipN Silver badge

          **** me!

          How about a Green Cross Code for vehicles going over a rail crossing??

          Two drivers will be having nightmares.

        2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

          Ta for the link.

          Er, *gosh*, that was quite "unnerving" even when you know the ending. Presumably the driver survived? Poor sod. That's one hell of a bad day at the office.

      3. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

        FLIRT with death?

        The BR Class 755 are part of the manufacturer Stadler's FLIRT (Fast Light Intercity and Regional Train) family.

    2. ChrisC Silver badge

      Along similar lines, the display at Furze Platt spent the best part of a year displaying an error message related to its GPRS modem.

      Mind you, that was about as useful a means of determining when the next train was due to arrive as the actual arrival messages were once the modem problem got resolved, perhaps even moreso given that it at least didn't even attempt to suggest anything regarding when the next train might deign to put in an appearance. I have my suspicions the ETAs on that board are generated by a RNG within its own firmware rather than being based even vaguely on any externally available data regarding the whereabouts of the trains it claims to be informing us about...

  3. John Jennings

    Ah Haynes commands... Remember them vaguely

    ATDT 123456

    AT &F



    or something - I cant remember the details

    1. FatGerman

      Those are *Hayes* commands.

      Haynes commands are what you shout at a broken-down vehicle.

      1. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse

        Or, looking at their ever expanding repertoire... an AT-AT or Millennium Falcon.

        1. Psmo

          "Of course I'll have to replace it!"

          Or for when you don't know where your ship learned to communicate.

      2. ChrisC Silver badge

        Based on my own experiences, I was under the impression that the "Haynes" commands were the ones you used to break something, and the "Senyah" commands were the ones required to get it back into working order again...

        1. John H Woods Silver badge


          Have a solitary one

        2. Sanctimonious Prick




    2. Frank Bitterlich

      Re: Hayes commands

      "Trust me, I know what I'm doi+++ATH


      1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson

        Re: Hayes commands

        I was half expecting

        +++ OUT OF CHEESE ERROR +++

        +++ REDO FROM START +++

        1. hoola Silver badge

          Re: Hayes commands

          There must be a point when the Hayes manuals simply become useless. There appears to be so little that you can do to a modern car without plugging in the diagnostic tools (laptop with very expensive cable attached), the traditional method of fixing it with an ill-fitting spanner, screwdriver and WD40 is a thing of the past. About the only thing you can do is the brakes and wipers.

          Last year I attempted to replace the brake pads on my wife's VW UP! as they were getting worn and the dealer wanted £££££, the service place £££ for what looked like a simple job and parts at £.

          Needless to say it took the hours (and started raining) as the caliper had to be removed to replace the disks needing a 7mm allen key. Who the hell keeps & actually uses 7mm allen keys? We had to keep putting the wretched thing back together to go and get tools/parts as SWMBO was out in my car.

          I do see why the just replace the disk when doing the pads though, it saves having to measure the thickness and make a decision and adds profit to the job.

          1. Missing Semicolon Silver badge

            Re: Hayes commands

            You always need to do some research. In this case, a 7mm Allen is often available as a "brake caliper wrench" (been there, done that, got one). Some cars require the caliper to be removed even if just changing the pads. It's also worth changing the disc if it's significantly scored, as otherwise the new pad will take some time to bed in.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      There is only one

      The only Haynes command is "assembly is the reverse of disassembly"

      1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

        Re: The only Haynes command is "assembly is the reverse of disassembly"

        The most popular manual for Reg readers to acquire, if it were ever commissioned would be "The Haines Guide to PlayMobil".

        1. Spanners Silver badge

          Re: The only Haynes command is "assembly is the reverse of disassembly"

          I would have thought of "do not dissamble.. number 5 is alive!"

      2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

        Re: There is only one

        That's a "hacker " command, in the original (and only true) sense of the word.

    4. Sandtitz Silver badge


      I remember testing for the fastest speed my telco would understand the DTMF tones with AT S11 register setting and saving it for the initialization string in Telix/Telemate/Terminate. When you were calling several BBS's (sequentially until an answer), it would really cut down the time used a second or two.

      1. Spamfast

        Re: DTMF

        When you were calling several BBS's (sequentially until an answer)

        Let's play ... Global Thermonuclear War.

  4. Stuart Castle Silver badge

    When I were a mere slip of a lad (back in the early 90s), they had just rebuilt East Croydon station. It went from a frankly run down mess of a station to a gleaming, all-glass very modern looking station. A technician was working on the (then state of the art) crt platform information displays. His tool of choice? A Commodore 64 set up on the platform connected to the overhead display via a rather long serial cable.

    1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
  5. Roger Greenwood


    That's just twerk, as we say oop t'north

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: M35:P1091-Plat

      Your are confusing being down south in Yorkshire as the North.

    2. Arachnoid

      Re: Thats just Twerk

      Are you using your tea break to look at her with the large gluteus maximus again?

      1. Sanguma

        Re: Thats just Twerk

        large gluteus maximus?

        No, actually she of the large glutinous maximus. I don't know how you namaged to get the two confused together!

        1. Arachnoid

          Re: glutenous

          "[Google says] What is Glutenous?

          adjective. tending to eat and drink excessively; voracious. greedy; insatiable."

          Have you been drinking too much during your abstention from work and missing out on your hour in the exercise yard!

      2. Spanners Silver badge

        Re: Thats just Twerk

        I thought Gluteus Maximus was the Roman Legionary equivalent of an RSM...

        1. WereWoof

          Re: Thats just Twerk

          He has a wife you know . . . .

      3. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

        Re: Thats just Twerk

        Off-topic, but a tenuous link via this post, to Brian May's mangled gluteus maximus

  6. tin 2

    I remember... maybe late 90s perhaps, they installed new displays - nothing like these - in the underground stations on Merseyrail. They showed testing and then something like "look at the front of the train" for many months, perhaps years. I'm pretty sure they never displayed any actual information and at some point were replaced with the more conventional ones you see these days.

  7. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

    So long as the train service... not operated at Full Duplex along a single track line.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: So long as the train service...

      I hope they use proper CTS/RTS hardware flow control and not rely in software XON/XOFF with proper interrupt support.

      1. Sandtitz Silver badge

        Re: So long as the train service...

        Big Buffers would also help in case of collision.

      2. Paul Herber Silver badge

        Re: So long as the train service...

        CTS/RTS = Crap Train Service/Rubbish Train Service?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: So long as the train service...

      Token Ring is what you need for railways!

      1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

        Re: So long as the train service...

        Well they did use a physical token on certain single track sections.

      2. XSV1
        Thumb Up

        Token ring

        > Token Ring is what you need for railways!

        Exactly! Never any collisions :-)

  8. This post has been deleted by its author

  9. Boufin

    I can't work out if it is a driver problem, or simply the wrong platform? OK, I'll fetch my slippers.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "The borked display itself appears to be a LED matrix, and while tracking down a definitive manufacturer proved tricky"

    My guess would be Data Display (as was) which is now Daktronics UK.

    1. ElectricPics

      Re: Manufacturer???

      It was Ferrograph. Based just six miles from the station (and three from me) and still a major supplier to Network Rail.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Jan 0 Silver badge

        Re: Manufacturer???

        Ferrograph? The British company that used to build reel to reel Wearite tape recorders?

    2. paulf

      Re: Manufacturer???

      It's the rest of that paragraph that is interesting to me as I followed the link to Trueform.

      They do anti-terrorist bus shelters with a suitably dramatic explosion added to the picture by the Photoshop intern.

      1. Allan George Dyer

        Re: Manufacturer???

        I noticed that too....

        I can't help thinking, if someone shouted, "there's a bomb, take cover" while I was waiting for a bus, I would probably run AWAY from the risk of being shredded by broken glass, not hunker down inside.

        I hope they add prominent "bomb shelter" signs.

        1. Rich 11

          Re: Manufacturer???

          I hope they add prominent "bomb shelter" signs.

          Why would they want to provide somewhere for the bomb to shelter? Doesn't it work in the rain?

  11. Christian Berger

    It is perfectly adequate technology for this

    After all that is just a sign that can display text. Serial lines are more than adequate to get the data there. This probably uses something like RS-485 which works much better for long lines, but is otherwise nearly identical to "normal" serial lines. Also it works over normal twisted pair and doesn't need higher grade cable you would use for Ethernet. BTW you can run such a system in a unidirectional mode so an attacker on the bus can eavesdrop and modify the data, but not access the master.

    I mean this makes a lot more sense than what a German railway company did, using Windows PCs to directly drive their station signage... with the obvious result that eventually they were hit by ransomware.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It is perfectly adequate technology for this

      Buying a train ticket is a form a ransomware in this country

    2. mikecoppicegreen

      Re: It is perfectly adequate technology for this

      Address would also imply to me that it is RS-485. In which case, no CTS, etc. just the X-on/x-off

  12. TechHeadToo

    and that's not all - when they DO work...

    Ah, how I don't miss platform 2 at Newcastle. The journey time from NCL to DUR (Durham) is 11 minutes, so if a Northbound train was, say, billed as being 6 minutes late you merely cursed a bit and waited, and waited. In the 11 minutes though, some form of dark matter took over, and just as 5 minutes had elapsed - so the train must be within a mile of Newcastle - almost in sight, it would mysteriously become 12 minutes late. More cursing. and again, and again.

    The real pity is that if they just said 'It's going to be a half hour late' then there's time for a pints worth of delay at the handy bar behind platform 1 (through the barrier) - but 6 minutes - never enough to risk abandoning your spot next to the eventual carriage door. many lost pints you could almost plot on the brewery sales figures...

  13. Paul Cooper

    It would never have happened in my uncle's day!

    My Uncle was one of the head signalmen in the very important box at Newcastle! This would never have happened in his day - mainly because such electronic shenanigans hadn't been invented when he retired. In fact, his tenure was back in the day of signals being operated mechanically, with substantial skill and strength being required to operate a distant signal, connected to the box by potentially miles of rods. But in those days, when we were going to visit him, my Mum could calculate without a shadow of doubt when he'd be on a suitable shift - his shift pattern didn't change for years.

  14. StargateSg7

    In case anyone is wondering, the error message the data portion of the modem is sending data at 57,6K baud (similar to bits per second) using 8 data bits, one stop bit and no parity bit which means data can EASILY get borked by line noise.

    The synchronization (i.e. return acknowledgement line very likely) is running at 19.2 K baud (i.e. bits per second) also with 8 data bits, one stop bit and no parity (parity bits are kinda like error correction)

    The 44/2CH address is the hex memory address that the modem gets data from and sends data to. 2CH is almost always means it's attached to an ANCIENT (i.e. MS-DOS or an actual 80's/90's era UNIX OS) In many cases the memory address used is full-duplex (i.e. to and from communications can happen simultaneously) BUT older gear was half-duplex or messages had to be fully send and received on the other side before a return transmission was made form the other side.

    Based upon the error codes, I'm pretty sure these are part of RACKS of old bear-proof/industrial-grade Gandalf Modems from the late 1980's/early 1990's which were sold EVERYWHERE within industrial control systems because they ran and ran for years and even decades without servicing! I still have a few from 1988 AND they STILL work in the year 2020! We use them in amateur RF radio for long-distance (300 km+ over the air!) acoustic-based communications. Sometimes the old technology STILL works!

    Because the data stream is 57.6 kilobaud, I'm pretty sure its a modem from around 1991/1992/1993. The older 1988 series Gandalfs were 19.2 Kbaud or even 9600 baud!

    ANYWAYS, if you see a set of Gandalf modems on eBay and you are into Shortwave/Amateur radio BUY THEM and set up a long distance point-to-point or point-to-many email system (i.e. a modern version of FidoNET!) Our record point-to-point is 300 km of reliable full duplex 56 kilobaud data comms in the HF band at 25 watts up to 60 watts (i.e. within unlicenced bands). With advanced software compression, I can do 180 by 120 pixel stamp sized 15 fps video AND voice which I scale up on our end to 640 by 480 pixel video windows for low-bandwidth videophones! WORKS GREAT!

    See link:

  15. W.S.Gosset
    IT Angle




    1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

      Re: Hayes


      Part of the Covid-19 Error Correcting Protocol

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