Harringay online

Harringay, Haringey - So Good they Spelt it Twice!

We live in Wellfield Avenue, Muswell Hill, and most afternoons we are alarmed by what sound like massive explosions. Visitors to our house are as astonished as we are but we can never tell them what the noises are because we don't know. We used to think there must be civil engineering works going on underground, perhaps connected to Ally Pally or Crossrail but those guesses proved wrong. Then we thought they might be ground movement, but the Geological Survey knew of nothing. Our current assumption is that it's a localised meteorological phenomenon, like thunder, caused by air parting and then coming together again on either side of the Muswell Hill hill, as it were, but the Met Office says it knows of no such phenomenon. What is oddest of all is that Haringey has never heard it, or of it, and nor have most of our neighbours, although it is very evident in our northe-east facing garden and in the rooms that back onto the garden. Typically it happens once a day, but we have heard it three and even four times - always in the afternoons and early evenings, but never in the mornings or at night. Is anyone else familiar with this strange and rather scary bang, and can anyone explain it?

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Interesting link. Photo of the lady is funny. Mysterious indeed. The Ham & High even provide a useful selection of possibilities to vote for;

Poll: Highgate “explosions”

What do you think the explosion sounds are?

*Gas explosions

*Cars backfiring

*Children playing with bangers

*Sonic booms

*Weather phenomenon



*Faulty substation

*Basement or building works


*Other: comment below

Muswell Hill Vegetarian Society dinner ... collective appreciation after first course of fermented lentil soup.


Back when you (or at least I) were a lad, there were things called 'cap guns' which had a reel of paper with (presumably) gunpowder discs at regular intervals. When you squeezed the trigger a hammer hit the 'cap' which detonated and a spring-loaded mechanism moved the reel forward one step so the next cap was ready to be detonated.

Railway detonators are simply a bigger but less fun version: they are the absolute last line of defence to stop one train colliding with another, disabled, train ahead. They are little used today, with mobile phones and in-cab radio being quicker and more effective.

In that case, the following train's wheels rolled over the detonators clipped to the rails: the compression actuated the detonators - three of them, regularly spaced, and the train driver could not miss that alert.

And they were demonstrated on the recent 'Full Steam Ahead' series on BBC2.

Railway detonators are still in existance because as yet no one has invented something better. Ever since rail privatisation, private rail companies have been desperate to get rid of them because their insurance companies don't look kindly on all railway vehicle driving cabs and guard's vans carrying a container of 8 of them! Also signal boxes! They adjust their insurance premiums upwards accordingly! BR never had insurance it just maintained a massive contingency fund.

"Dets" have now been withdrawn from most railway vehicles, leaving only two track circuit clips which don't work unless the track is track circuited! It was always practise to have 2xstrings of 3 dets hanging by the signal box door for the signalman to grab as he ran out to stop the train. Railtrack finally managed to produced a risk assessment that allowed dets to be taken out of signal boxes.

Dets survive as protection for engineers' possessions of the line as so far nothing as so simple or reliable has been found to replace them.

Never heard of railway detonators, but I can't imagine they'd be going off once, twice or even three times a day. In addition to which, if the wind wasn't always blowing our way, other people would have heard this noise when the wind was blowing elsewhere, but no one seems aware of the phenomenon apart from a couple of neighbours who, oddly, don't seem bothered by it.

Which is my point - very rarely used     

On the contrary: we hear them as much as three times a day. That's not rare.

The first of these links very accurately describes the phenomenon that I'm talking about in Muswell Hill. (The second link doesn't open.) But your next link, with its discovery of grenade simulators, seems implausible. There's a way of checking it, though: have Haringey set off some trial grenades, and tell us when it'd doing so, and I'll tell you whether I can hear them and whether they sound anything like what we've experienced over the fast few years. (Haringey has never expressed any interest, in spite of its call on residents to report the explosions to the council’s noise team on 020 8489 0000. I did. Nothing.)



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