Minutes: 2nd March 1996 - 1996 Varsity Railway Quiz

Meeting held in the The Seminar Room of Lincoln College, Oxford

Oxford fielded a full team of four, including several veteran participants, and even managed to find a spectator, while Cambridge could only muster a two-man team of Mark Waller and Graham James, both of whom had been in the team before.

Cambridge took a narrow lead during the opening "Oxford and Cambridge" round. Both sides proved to have little knowledge of service frequencies or stations on their "home" territory and still less on the other side's area. Graham managed to name all four of the closed branches radiating out of Cambridge in the correct order of closure, but Oxford could not believe that such a place as "Trumpington" existed. Having confused it with "Trumpton",this led to a discussion of children's TV programmes. Once normality returned, the end of the round saw Cambridge with a 9-7 lead.

The second round was the Vintage round. This prompted discussion of which four companies had running rights over the Forth Bridge, a long debate within both teams over BR steam locomotive numbering systems, and a story about an episode of University Challenge involving a team from Newnham College. Cambridge extended their lead during this round to make the scores 16-11.

Next was the infamous Baker round. Here the teams are given a starting station, a direction of travel, and a series of directions to take at junctions - for example, "Starting at Manchester Victoria going east; left, right, left, left." The teams' task was to name the next station they would arrive at. This, of course, must be done witout the aid of any maps. Here confusion reigned as the questionmasters struggled to make sure that their questions were correct; at one point the Oxford questionmaster admitted "Oh, I've got my lefts and rights mixed up". Oxford failed to score, but Cambridge gained full marks to make the score 20-11.

The Continental round proved a repository of humour, although whether the Oxford description of Cambridge as "girls' blouses" fell into that category was debatable. Perhaps it was the effort of providing the entertainment that meant Oxford could not find the time to score in this round; Cambridge did and thus extended their lead to 27-11.

Next was the picture round, for which both questionmasters had brought a set of slides. Here, both sides proved their strength in identifying locations across Britain from photos. It was at this point that the Cambridge Captain had to be restrained from returning the paper missile which the Oxford team had thrown across the room at him. More serious was the fact that the Cambridge questionmaster Tim Wells showed a slide with a motorway in the background; the question was to identify the motorway, a form of transport anathema to such a gathering. The score at the end of this round was 33-15 to Cambridge.

The modern round saw Oxford recover a lot of ground, scoring an almost-perfect seven points to reduce the deficit to 35-22. By this time, however, although the quiz result was becoming clear, it was also obvious that Oxford would win the prize for innuendo and heckling.

But innuendo and heckling did not help Oxford in the ensuing Minimum Connections round, in which the task was to name the fewest number of connections needed to travel between two named places. Cambridge had no difficulty with "Nelson to Battle" (three changes), and Oxford got bogged down in "Hope to Hope", leaving Cambridge, with the aid of Mark Waller's knowledge of obscure routes, to steal a point with a correct guess as to whether Manchester to North Wales trains stopped at Shotton (they didn't and hence this also needed three changes). This made the scoreline 38-22 to Cambridge and the glory already in view.

The twelve questions in the final Quickfire round could have changed the result, but Oxford proved only marginally the quicker in the cacophony of bells, buzzes and waved arms. Thus obtaining the majority of points was not enough to overcome the accumulated deficit, and the final score was Cambridge 42 Oxford 29.

So kudos to Cambridge, and commiserations to Oxford in what had been one of the most enjoyable Varsity Railway Quizzes in recent years.

soc-curc-requests@lists.cam.ac.uk - last updated 15/3/96