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About LTSV.com
Contents
What are Service Vehicles? What is a Dynamic Website? Get involved
About MeAccuracy of dataRegistration, privacy and security
Background to LTSV.comThe LTSV forumAcknowledgements

What are Service Vehicles?About Me
Since Victorian times, London has had an extensive network of public transport services, including buses, trams, trolleybuses, and both surface and underground trains. From 1933 until the mid-1980s the majority of these were provided by an organisation called London Transport, and despite numerous changes since then this name is still used colloquially for the bus and tube services.
The operation of the network involved a large number of vehicles, both to carry passengers and to support the operations. The latter fleet is the subject of this web site, and such vehicles are commonly referred to as service vehicles.

The service vehicle fleet has included a variety of types, with standard lorries, vans and cars being the most common. More specialised vehicles include tankers, tow trucks and mobile generators while in the past there have also been ambulances, fire engines, cranes, gully emptiers, overhead wire tower wagons and lubricators, tree pruners, mobile canteens and tractors. Other miscellaneous items covered include trailers, demountable bodies and sweepers.

I have lived in London all my life (apart from three years studying in the North East) and inherited an interest in railways from my father. This grew to include other forms of transport, particularly buses as my two local garages were both rather "special". Clapham played host to a large number of withdrawn and experimental vehicles while the marvellous Stockwell was a maintenance base for the LT service vehicle fleet. The open days during LT's Golden Jubilee celebrations in 1983 broadened my sphere of interest and my only regret from this period is that I did not have a camera. And perhaps that I bottled out of the chance to drive an RMC bus at the age of 12!

As I grew up my interests changed but I returned to the subject of SVs in 2003 when I decided that it was the ideal subject for an experiment in web site design. Hunting SVs can be a frustrating affair with a large amount of patience and/or luck required. Fortunately many people have got in touch to help by supplying information and photographs.

Background to LTSV.comWhat is a Dynamic Web Site?
In summer 2003 I was required to gain some web development skills as part of my job, and I was sent on a two day course on the Macromedia Dreamweaver package. To practice the techniques involved I decided to create my own web site and set about trying to find a suitable subject. Very little information on service vehicles had been published over the past ten years and even on the internet the coverage seemed to be limited to a couple of pictures of preserved vehicles. I therefore chose this for the main content of my web site.

The initial site was launched in October 2003 and consisted of static HTML pages designed using Dreamweaver. I was put in touch with some other interested parties and a reasonable supply of pictures and data was made available. The images were processed using Paint Shop Pro, while Adobe Acrobat was used to produce printable fleet lists.

Over the following months, the site grew, with many more pictures and a variety of fleet information added. In mid-2004 I was invited to produce a book on the subject of service vehicles for the London Omnibus Traction Society and the research for this occupied most of the remainder of the year. At the same time, I started investigating the possibility of making the web site more dynamic and linking it to a database of service vehicle records. Maintenance of the existing site was becoming labourious and the static design made the inclusion of large amounts of data difficult.

A house move and the publication of SUP15B delayed these plans until mid-2005 which was when I started using PHP and MySQL. PHP is a scripting language that allows information from a database (in this case MySQL) to be displayed on web pages. As my knowledge is limited to what I have gained from other web sites and reference manuals I will refrain from trying to give a more technical definition. However, I would mention that using the PHP/MySQL combination should not be beyond the abilities of anyone with a little patience and some knowledge of database structures!

To get started I installed Apache, MySQL and PHP, all of which are open source and can be downloaded from the internet for free. The Apache server is required to turn your computer into a server, thus allowing the designs to be tested "at home". Ironically the designing of the pages themselves used less software than the original website; all of the pages were written using just Notepad. The downside of working in this non-visual way was that a single missing comma or full stop could render a whole page unworkable. This is where the patience comes in useful!

The design of the new site had several key aims;
1. To allow more information to be included.
2. To allow this information to be extracted by users more flexibly.
3. To allow users to add their own content in the form of comments, messages and sightings.
4. To make the process of adding new pictures and data as simple as possible.

The subject matter of this site lends itself to the application of a dynamic design. This basically means that much of the information is stored in database tables rather than being written directly into the web pages themselves. Instead the pages display selected parts of the information from the database, making them much more customisable.

Databases come into their own when dealing with large amounts of data with repeating characteristics (for example in a telephone directory, where each entry has a name, an address and a number). In this instance the two main repeating elements are the photographs included on the site, and the data on the service vehicles themselves. To gain the maximum benefit, other sections have also been included in databases, including the site and fleet news 'stories', the posts and replies in the forum, and the articles.

To illustrate the advantages of using a dynamic design the best example is the galleries section of this site and its predecessor. In both designs, each photograph is stored in two forms; full-size and thumbnail. In the original design, each picture also then had a HTML page to display it. There was also a range of gallery pages to show thumbnails of similar vehicles. However, each time a new photograph was added, many of the galleries had to be manually rewritten to include the new thumbnail in the appropriate position. The net result was that to display 985 photographs required 1970 image files and a total of 1090 HTML files. The new design still requires the 1970 image files but uses just two PHP files; one to display the range of thumbnails that the user selects, and the second to show the chosen photograph. When a new photograph is added, the details are added to the database and it is then included automatically in the relevant pages.

A potential complication was that a photograph may show more than one vehicle. This is accomodated by having two linked tables; one to show the basic details of the photo (e.g date, location, photographer, etc) and the other to list all the subjects of each photograph. Relational databases allow this type of 'one-to-many' linking and it explains why the result of a selection may be something like 101 links to 100 pictures have been found.

Accuracy of dataThe LTSV forum
This web site contains a large amount of data on a subject about which little information is available. In some cases, best guesses and approximations have had to be made. This is particularly true of the allocation information as most of this comes from observations. If a vehicle is seen parked at an SV location it may be listed as being allocated there on this basis. Because of this, the allocation information on this web site should be treated as indicative rather than absolute. Obviously, the submission of more sightings will help a more accurate picture of allocations to be built up and you are therefore encouraged to report any observations you make.

With date information, an un-prefixed date or month indicates a known piece of information. Otherwise it may be prefixed by c. (for circa) or by. A two part structure has been used in the databases with a visible text field and an invisible date one. The latter is used to display records in date order. Where an exact date is unknown, a nominal date is entered in the date field. For example, a vehicle shown in the text field as new in 8/90 may be entered in the date field as 15/8/90. It would therefore not be listed in a view of the fleet at 14/8/90. Similarly, a vehicle shown as new by8/90 may be entered as 1/8/90. Even if it had actually been in stock in 7/90, it will not show up if a date in this month is entered in a search. Once again, your submissions of sightings could help to improve the data.

Information on vehicles leaving the fleets is equally important. A sighting will confirm that a vehicle is in service, but a lack of sightings will not confirm that it is not! Observations of vehicles with subsequent owners would be particularly appreciated.

The forums provided on this site are currently unmoderated, both in terms of membership and postings. This means that anyone can register as a member and post their comments. Postings will be checked on a regular basis and any inappropriate items will be removed. Visitors are requested not to post comments that are abusive, obscene or defamatory. Information that is personally or commercially sensitive should also be avoided, this including things such as the addresses of houses at which service vehicles are parked. Members are free to post personal information about themselves but should bear in mind that this will be visible to anyone with internet access.

The situation will be reviewed from time to time and, if necessary, the forum can be changed to be moderated, whereby all postings will need to be approved by the webmaster before appearing.

Get involvedRegistration, privacy and security
You can help make this website better! As mentioned above, a lot of the data here is based on people's observations, and more observations make for better data. To help determine the allocations of service vehicles, visitors can log their own sightings. To do this, you first need to register and log in, then find a given vehicle using the fleet data pages. Go to the details page for that vehicle and scroll down to the sightings table, then click on the "Add a sighting" link.

It is appreciated that many people will only take a note of a vehicle the first time they see it. To build up an accurate picture of allocations, it would be useful if subsequent sightings were also recorded and there are a number of ways to do this. The first would be to add a new record for each sighting in the way described above. An alternative would be to record the first sighting and refer to subsequent ones in the comments field. For example "Also seen here on 25/12/04 and 31/12/04" or "Also seen at Acton on 1/2/05". The third way would be useful if you have a large number of sightings. If these are in a computer file in a common format (such as DOC, XLS, MDB or TXT) then you could e-mail this file to me and I will add them to the relevant table. They will still be marked as your sightings unless you request otherwise and can later be edited by yourself. This option could also be used if you prefer to remain anonymous and not register on the site. In this case, these sightings would be marked as being made by a "Non-member".

A "Report new vehicle" button is provided on the Fleet Data Options page. Use this if the vehicle you saw is not yet included in the lists. This button will allow you to enter the vehicle details as well as the sighting date and location. Note that, once entered, your sighting will not be visible (or editable) until the administrator has seen your entry and added the vehicle. Checks for new entries will be performed as frequently as possible.

You can edit or delete sightings you have made previously by clicking on the "View my sightings" button on the Fleet Data Options page (you need to be logged in to see this). Each sighting has links enabling it to be edited or deleted.

Another useful contribution would be to use the forum and/or picture comments functions to report any errors or queries on the existing fleet data. Finally, as with the previous site, submissions of pictures, articles, comments and suggestions are always welcome at tom@ltsv.com.

This web site has been designed to allow regular visitors to register their details. By doing this you will then be allowed to add your own comments and sightings. You will also have the option to receive regular updates by e-mail each time new content is added to the site.

To register, click on the link at the top of any page. You will be asked to supply certain information. The name you use can be your own or a nickname. A valid e-mail address should be entered but you then have the option of hiding this from other visitors to the site. E-mails will normally only be sent to you if you choose the option to receive updates or if there is a technical problem or query over an entry you have made. If you choose not to hide your e-mail address then any visitor to the site will be able to see it and they may contact you directly. All the information is stored in a database so should be safe from malicious e-mail harvesters, etc.

You will also be asked to enter a password and a reminder question and answer. If you later forget your password, you can use this question to receive a reminder but it is suggested that you make the question something only you would know the answer to. Examples could include the street on which you lived as a child, the name of your first pet or partner, or your favourite holiday destination.

Finally you will be asked to enter some information about yourself. This is entirely optional but would allow people with similar interests to get in contact with you (provided that you have made your e-mail address visible of course).

Once you are registered you can log in to the site and links will be provided for you to add comments in the forum and against individual pictures, and to record your own SV sightings. If you do add any content, your chosen name will appear against it and other visitors to the site can see certain information about you by clicking on this. You can edit any content you have previously entered by clicking on the edit link.

If you subsequently want to change or remove your information, click on the "View My Details" link at the top of each page (you will need to be logged in to see this). Your information will then be shown and you check, change or delete it. If you delete your details, any comments or sightings you entered will be still be displayed but will be attributed to "Former Member".

It is worth mentioning that the process of sending e-mail updates is not entirely automatic, so you don't need to worry about being bombarded with messages each time someone adds a comment or sighting. The updates will only be sent when a new batch of pictures, or a significant amount of news or data, is added.

If you have any comments or concerns on this subject, please contact me at tom@ltsv.com.

Acknowledgements
A large number of people have helped by supplying pictures, information and feedback since I launched the LTSV website in 2003. All of this was greatly appreciated but I would like to mention a few people individually.
Kim Rennie supplied the initial fleet data that made the web site worthwhile, as well as many of the photographs. As one of the authors of the Capital Transport book he was also able to provide a lot of background information and guidance.
Colin Lloyd of LOTS gave me access to his large collection of photographs, and was instrumental in getting the SUP15B project launched. He also performed masses of proof reading. Thakns Conil!
David Stewart also of LOTS is to be thanked for making the process of publishing SUP15B as painless as possible, and for including an SV column in most recent issues of their TLB magazine.
Clive Greedus was an early and enthusiastic visitor to the site. As well as a number of pictures, he has contributed an excellent series of articles on modelling SVs.
Steve Newman and Neil Fraser have also contributed articles on specialised subjects that I would never have been able to cover.
Damon Cross, John Lloyd-Martin, David Rowe, Colin Smith and Peter Edgar have turned their cameras on many interesting subjects and kindly shared the results.
Stephen Howard, Paul Snelling and Mel Cousins have been my eyes on the street, supplying tons of observations and reports.
James and Michael Mair spent many many hours scouring published sources, and their own large photo collection for information that went into both SUP15B and this site.
Julian Bowden-Green shared his treasured box of historical SV photos, many of which were used in SUP15B. Although copyright issues are often tricky, permission has been obtained to use some of these pictures here.
Brian Bunker and Lawrie Bowles are masters of the archives, and provided much of the data on the older vehicles.
Finally, Ray Monk is the latest "recruit", and has travelled across much of London photographing service vehicles, as well as supplying tons of observations dating back to 1959.
To anyone else I may have forgotten; your contributions are valued, and if you send me a snotty e-mail, I will add your name!