Friday, 12 July 2013

The Nice People Who Solved Our Space Shuttle Problem

I am reliably informed by a member of our friendly catering team (which means that I haven’t checked any of the facts that follow, but I’m going to repeat them anyway) that the rocket boosters on the American space shuttle were built to a size based roughly on the width of two horses’ backsides.

You see the boosters had to travel to the launch-pad by train, passing through a tunnel along the way. The gauge of the US railway line, 4ft 8½ inches, dictated the width of the tunnel - and the American rail tracks were based on our own British ones. So how was the gauge of our tracks determined? Well they were based on the width of the tram tracks which came earlier. The tram tracks were set at roughly the same distance apart as the ruts created by horse-drawn vehicles, to avoid putting unnecessary pressure on the wheels. How far apart were those ruts in the road? …About the width of two horses trotting side by side.

Now I don’t want to sound too dramatic, but NASA aren’t the only organisation to have faced an issue that originates from the days of horse-drawn vehicles.  Here in the medieval village of Cartmel, people often wonder how we manage to get 20,000 racegoers through the narrow roads and rural lanes that surround the racecourse.

If I had a pound for every person who suggested that we should build a new road around the village, I might just be able to pay for one; not that anyone who has received my tips on a regular basis is likely to give me a pound for anything. (This Saturday, by the way, I’m going for Jonny Delta in the 4.40 at York).

So we went to “plan b” – and brought in the professionals. SEP Events Ltd have been helping the public to gain access to many of Britain’s busiest events since 1989 including: the Aintree Grand National, the Goodwood Festival of Speed, music festivals and this week’s Great Yorkshire Show. In addition to helping us devise a traffic management system which is sanctioned by the County Council, SEP Events design the appropriate road signage, set out thousands of road cones and provide staff for all the key positions including most of our car parks. They are the NASA of the car-parking universe. 
SEP’s traffic management system involves the creation of dedicated one-way routes into the racecourse, which are reversed half way through the day to facilitate the get-away. In the meantime, we try to keep surrounding lanes available for local residents to negotiate their way around the village to continue with their normal business. So if you’re approaching the racecourse next week and think you know a short-cut, please help us to avoid gridlock by sticking to the signed routes and don’t rely on your sat-nav, especially if you’re driving a space shuttle or a horse drawn cart.


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