Blogging from the train

Picture 1

I’ve never blogged from a moving train before. Unfortunately, I won’t be tonight, either. While the GNER train is – miraculously – moving, I just don’t believe you’re so desperate to read my thoughts, dear reader, as to justify my spending £3/hour for access. It’s not the most expensive connection in the world, but still… ugh. Thanks, but no.

On the other hand, I am quite intrigued to know how they manage to keep a stable connection from the train to the outside world. Satellite? Trackside repeaters? Now if only I was online, I could Google around and find out…

DSC00135For a fleeting instant, I thought there might be something about that on the internal gateway server (which may, in fact, be routing outwith the train, I’m running a traceroute now). But the link is so $DEITYsawful slow, it’s not even loading the page. Oh, and the traceroute isn’t managing to do the reverse-DNS lookup thing, but is hopping furiously – so it looks like the gateway isn’t onboard. Interesting.

Quern:~ jonathan$ traceroute

traceroute to (, 64 hops max, 40 byte packets

1 ims.gnerwifi.train ( 32.219 ms 67.311 ms 31.421 ms

2 * * *

3 * * *

4 * * *

5 * * *

6 * * *

7 * * *

8 * * *

9 * * *

Has anyone actually coughed up for this? Is it as turgidly slow as I suspect?

The photo is just South of Berwick, by the way. I’m still reading Kafka on the Shore, but this is more PowerBook Zipping Past the Shore. Close, the mood my PowerBook’s been in of late.


  1. I worked – briefly – on a business case for on-board WiFi back in the dot-com slump, when WiFi was the only thing hot enough to get an investor’s pulse racing. Apparently Virgin were vaugely interested.
    We could work out how to get connection to a satelite. We could work out how to use GPRS/3G as a backup for when there was no line-of-sight to the satelite. But we couldn’t work out how to avoid everybody’s VPN connections being dropped every time the train went through a tunnel, so we gave up.
    Seems that GNER followed the same process as us, but – since projects in big organisations get a momentum – they didn’t stop when we did. Nor did they realise that their service will cost almost all regular travellers more than a 3G data subscription (and I know what I’d rather have).

  2. I think they’re just trying to persuade people to upgrade to first class.
    Since Mel’s got a job in Aberystwyth, I’ve resumed my residence on the railways. I think of this as an opportunity to pursue the more exploratory pencil-and-paper side of my work. Trouble is, our Aberystwyth place is in a black hole, so I’m writing this from a bar. I’d still have to drink an espresso every ten minutes to match GNER’s prices.

  3. GNER use the Orange network and a large aerial sitting on the rear Driving Van Trailer (DVT). Not sure how they manage in the tunnels, but curiously in recent months I’ve noticed I don’t get drop outs in all the tunnels between here and the Big Smoke.
    Not all the GNER Mk4 sets seem to have WiFi yet. Rumour is the “Mallard” refurb will finish in July this year, by which point all the train sets will have it. It’s a key element of their franchise renewal.
    Only know this because of a how-to conversion for the Hornby trainset DVT in one of my occasional model making reads 😉
    What I want to know is how long a connection I’d get sitting at Stevenage station with them whilsting past every 15-20 minutes!!

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