Transport For The High-Minded
He’s at it again. Kevin Spout, inventor extraordinary, is working on a remarkable new project. No doubt some Madazine readers will recall Mr Spout’s last venture, which was an attempt to bore to the Earth’s centre and bring up a variety of high-value metals. The scheme was aborted after two weeks, when Kevin drilled through his own foot. Discouraged by this setback, he turned his fertile and restless mind to an endeavour he had been thinking about for some time. As with his last exploit, the venue is the Spout family’s home in the suburbs of Sheffield, Yorkshire, England. However, on this occasion that is merely the headquarters, as Kevin’s plan is all about mobility. Once again, our occasional science reporter, Axel Griess, was invited to see how the work is progressing.
The intention is to get more people travelling by bus and to this end Kevin has come up with the revolutionary notion of a triple-decker vehicle. “I’ve always been good at lateral thinking,” he said, “and I got this idea by fusing together two apparently unconnected things. First, I was watching a film which had a clip about one of those huge road trains – a truck and a couple of trailers – crossing the Northern Territory in Australia. Not long after that, while driving through town here I happened to look at the window of a restaurant. I saw a picture that seemed to be an artist’s impression of a triple-decker sandwich – four slices of bread interspersed with one layer of salad, one of cheese and one of beef. It dawned on me that the road train comprised three things in horizontal format while the sandwich was the same in a vertical layout.
“I spent the rest of that day seeking what proved to be an elusive connection, finally making it just before midnight. Once one has grasped something like this, it seems so simple. My brainwave was to envision a triple-section horizontal object as vertical and apply the result to the field of public transport, hence my idea for a bus with three decks. This will enable us to make much better use of our limited road space.”
After pausing to take a swig of his homebrewed beer, Kevin went on: “I believe that people have toyed with this notion from time to time, but nothing has come of it until now. My finances didn’t permit me to make the vehicle from scratch, so I bought two old double-decker buses, removed the upper deck from one of them, placed it atop the other and added an extra flight of stairs. I shall soon apply for a licence to run my bus on the public highway, and while dealing with the paperwork I shall also seek permission to get an exceptional concession allowing people on the top deck to smoke tobacco. That will calm their nerves, which I suppose might be a bit jangled in the early journeys.”
Reservations have been expressed by some experts, notably Oleg Ostrogoth, former advisor to the Moscow public transport authority. He said: “Having studied Mr Spout’s project, I foresee difficulties. I am most concerned about the stability of his bus, as it is twenty-one feet in height and its sides have flat surfaces of over five hundred square feet. I mention in passing that anyone occupying the third deck of the bus will need something more soothing than tobacco to retain their equanimity. However, this man seems resolved to proceed, so we shall see what happens.”
The Spout family’s long-suffering next-door neighbour, widow Alice Neutron (94), was alarmed. “Kevin’s last escapade was foolish enough,” she wailed, “but this seems even sillier. My late sister once said that as an innovator, he was deft. I think she got the wrong vowel in that last word.”
Kevin is undismayed by adverse comments. “Most advanced concepts are sneered at when they’re introduced,” he said. “They almost always catch on and mine will be no exception. I have given a lot of thought to this scheme and carried out a variety of rigorous tests on my bus. I have no doubt that it will emerge from its road trials with flying colours.”
Madazine’s Axel Griess is not a happy man. “I don’t normally think of myself as the downbeat type,” he said, “but on this occasion I feel very apprehensive. If I’m any judge, this idea will fly like a brick. The inaugural trip is scheduled for tomorrow, Wednesday, so we haven’t long to wait.”
Excerpt from the South Yorkshire Evening Gleaner, Wednesday: Local inventor Kevin Spout today drove his revolutionary triple-decker bus on its maiden outing, starting at his home in a narrow side street. The only passengers were six representatives of the local media, including a reporter from our paper, all of them on the third deck. Thirty yards into its journey, the vehicle brought down eight telephone lines radiating from a roadside pole to nearby houses. Turning into the next street, it did the same to two lines of bunting, strung up for a local celebration.
Out on the open road, Mr Spout proceeded uneventfully for two miles before encountering a bridge, which sliced off the top four feet of the bus, causing the passengers to hurl themselves to the floor. Mr Spout did not stop for any of the incidents just described. The bus came to a halt only when it was buffeted by a crosswind which blew it over onto its left side. It demolished part of the perimeter fence of an artificial insemination centre, allowing six bulls to escape, four of them still free at the time of this report. Fortunately for the top-deck occupants, the vehicle’s fall was slowed to a gentle topple by the ten-foot-high fence, so nobody suffered anything worse than an assortment of cuts and bruises.
When interviewed by the police, Mr Spout said that he was disappointed at having achieved what he described as only a partial success. He was very surprised by his vehicle’s failure to withstand the wind, as he had tested its resistance by tying together two brooms, resting the brush end of one of them against the side of the bus at the highest point he could reach, and pushing hard. “I couldn’t move it an inch,” he said. On being asked to give his reaction to the discomfiture of his passengers, he replied: “Of course I’m sorry that they had a little scare at that bridge but after all, these news hounds don’t rank high in our social order. Maybe the experience will induce some of them to take up more useful occupations. By the way, I know some scaremongers were forecasting that I would hit the odd lamp-post. I didn’t, so I hope they are eating their words.”
We shall follow the aftermath of this strange incident and report again in due course.
Madazine’s Axel Griess, who followed the bus from a safe distance in his car, is still speechless.
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