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I don’t believe I’ve ever mentioned colours.

You see, when you learn to drive a train the first day of class is very much like your first day at primary school. They introduce the teacher, show you where the toilets are, make sure you’ve got your uniform sorted and then dive straight into tricksy educational subjects. Such as telling one colour from another.

You might think that this would be fairly simple for a bunch of people who have passed some fairly rigorous aptitude tests and have been through medicals ensuring that nobody colourblind is given the job. You’d think.

The trouble is that when it comes to railways, colours are not quite what they seem. Let’s start with the easy one: green. Green is green. Job done, let’s move on.

Orange. Orange is not in fact orange. Orange is a fruit. We do not have orange on the railways (except for the hi vi vests but nobody ever talks about that). We have yellow. Orange is yellow, got it?

Red. Red is complicated. Red is red. But red is also green and red. Or green and white. Or nothing. There’s a whole host of things that you might think are one thing but are actually red. When it comes right down to it red is anything that is not green or yellow (bearing in mind that some idiots might think that yellow is orange). Actually that’s not quite the full story because even green can be red if somebody is having a bad day. Red’s kinda tricky.

Then there’s white. White’s ok, it’s just white. But you have to make sure it’s the right kind of white since it’s used for shunt signals and if you take the wrong white then you have passed a red. I said red was complicated! Whites can point in different directions. Other times you get five whites in a row and those are called harbour lights. Don’t ask me why we veer into shipping at this point because the answer is more complicated than colours. Remember, we’re only on the first day of traindriving school here. The important thing to remember is that you must have enough white lights. Five is good, four is middling, three is red. Just go with it, ok?

Then there’s blue. There’s not actually much blue on the tube but we have them here and there. Blue is really ‘lunar blue but nobody knows what that means or why it differs from normal blue. It doesn’t seem to cause any problems though. Don’t worry about blue.

With all this expensive education in how to tell colours apart I like to think I’m fairly good at it. So I was confident when I took a quiz on facebook entitled ‘What colour is this?’. I thought it should be simplicity itself. It turns out not. I got zero. Here are the correct answers, you may need to click on it to enlarge it a bit:

I better go do some more revision. 😦

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