Tuesday, July 03, 2012
Last days of the hovercraft
More old photos, this time of the penultimate weekend of hovercraft services accross the English Channel back in 2000.
I heard on TV that the services was to be discontinued the following weekend one Friday night. Totally out of character, I jumped on a train the next day to try and see them in operation one last time. If you've never seen a huge hovercraft moving then you won't understand just how increadible they are.
First, there is the noise. These things are as loud as an aeroplane - hardly surprising with those 4 massive propellers in action. Then there is the size. At rest the SRN4 is big. Turn the fans on to inflate the skirts and it rises up by another 15 feet or more.
Finally, there is the spray. All that air blasts the water underneath around so that the sight as it comes in to the harbour is a cloud of spray with the big beast in the centre. Something about it racing towards the shore and not stopping when it gets there seems unatural too, even though it's exactly what they are built for.
On my trip I'd also taken my passport on the off-chance of a ride. During the train journey, I rang the ticket office and was amazed to be able to book a day return. An upgrade to 1st class was even available, something I took up for the return from France.
The ride was a little bumpy and very noisy. The interior was tatty but then it was nearly the end of the line for the Princess Anne. Her customers were just the sort you'd expect when the only thing that makes the service pay is duty-free sales. I racall a lady pulling a shopping trolley arguing with the steward most of the way over the amount of fags she could buy. They went through many perumutations of brands and quantitites before she worked out the maximum number for the cash she was spending. Looking at her, she probably did the trip once a month and smoked them all in between.
Like her, I didn't bother leave the hoverport in France. It was in the arse end of nowehere. It didn't matter, I was able to watch the other member of the fleet arrive and epart as well as some one-man craft batting around the apron. Anyway, I was allowed into the 1st class lounge with all the Dansih pastries I could eat and free coffee to wash them down. What more could France offer ?
Now, another transport of the future is in a museum. One day, I hope to visit and have another look. For the moment, take a look at the view from the air. I told you they were big didn't I ?
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Modelling options are limited for these beasts. The obvious choice would be the Airfix SRN4 plastic kit, but sadly this isn't currently available. I'd love to have a go if anyone has one languishing in a drawer they want no money for.
Alternativly, the more advanced modeller, how about a scratch build ? There is a lovely model here but beware, you need to keep the weight down if the thing is to "fly" so it won't be easy to copy !