Sunday, 17 November 2019

Weekend Medley (2)

Nice Nostalgic Notice
Remember the launch and development of the High Speed Train?
First Great Western are paying homage to the idea with their upcoming timetable promotion.
fbb likes the allusion, but is not at all sure whether your average commuter from Didcot will spot the nostalgic touch!

It really is SO short sighted of Government to lumber tyhe train companies with the unnecessary expense of "bi-mode" trains when everybody knows that the environmental AND commercial solution is full electrification "all the way". Yes, it is expensive but it will be more expensive when it is done in ten/twenty years time. And more difficult because the railway will be fuller and busier.

Dexterous Skills Delivers Thrills
One of the depressing things about attempting to be a railway modeller is the Magazine articles which explain and illustrate other people's splendid layouts.The latest Railway Modeller mag features Sir Rod Stewart's mega layout (he claims that 90% of the scenery has been built by himself!) located across the pond.
Apparently Rod and his chum Jools Holland actually rang into the Jeremy Vine radio show to expand on their modelling interests.

One article in particular caught fbb's eye. It was a layout in "T" gauge.

"T" gauge?

OO gauge is 1:76 scale (pedantically 1:76.2, apparently). "T" is 1:450. It is a scale used widely for architectural modelling and working trains use the same gubbins that causes your phone to vibrate instead or/as well as ringing. This means the trains either go or stop; there is no deceleration for station stops, so pity the poor scale passenger as he/she is thrown about the carriage!

There is a growing range of stuff available on the market ...
... but most of the scenery on this particular layout is hand made.
When fbb considers the bodge and fudge approach to modelling that characterises his efforts, the skill involved in this set-up (just 2 ft 6 inches by 1 foot 6 inches!!) is astounding. The cottage even has a swing in its diminutive garden.
The HST power car will be about the same length as the cottages above.

A Nose Safely Preserved!
Talking of HSTs (High Speed Trains), it is good to know that a power car in the "flying banana" livery is preserved at the National Railway Museum in York.
The power car is named after\Sir Kenneth Grange, credited with the design of its front end.
In an interview soon after the naming, Sir Ken revealed that the redesign from the prototype ...
... was a direct result of thee intransigence of the Unions who insisted in having two men in the cab. So the driver was moved from a central chair thus necessitating a wider window. This change turned something which looked a bit ugly into a thing of beauty!

Far From Naff At Nafferton
Nafferton is a station on the railway line between Hull and Scarborough, one stop north of Driffied.
The station is on the southern edge of the village.
Where once stood the signal box ...
... stands one of those mysterious huts that contain some form of clever signalling stuff.
Note that the old crossing gates showed red rectangles to the road rather than the more usual red discs.

The station building cum stationmasters house still stands but now privately owned.
The village is also on East Yorkshire's hourly route 121 between Hull and Bridlington.
fbb was drawn to this fairly "ordinary" station by another example of railway modelling skills, this time in O gauge (7mm to the foot). It is a superbly accurate model of Nafferton!
You can only admire such skills - even the chimney pots are modelled to the correct but varied heights!

fbb wouldn't know where to start - actually he would know where to start, but would make a pigs ear of it!

Tomorrow we will go for a ride on a slide!

 Next Demand Responsive blog : Monday 18th November 

Saturday, 16 November 2019

Weekend Medley (1)

Rail Fares Lunacy No 128
No 3 son was travelling from Basel to Glossop for his chum's 40th Birthday (as you do). He decided to spend Wednesday night in an hotel in central Manchester and proceed to Glossop on Thursdasy morning.


NO! From a machine at the Airport he was sold a ticket for £4.
Unbeknown to No 3 this particular ticket was endorsed TransPennine Express only. The lad was berated for his disgraceful sin as he had NOT boarded a TransPennine train!

Yer what?

A quick check at 1400 yesterday afternoon revealed this astounding piece of pricing pottiness. Fares at £4 ...
... or £3.80 ...
... both off-peak day single. Also available for occasional journeys at arbitrary times was ...
... and Advance for £3.

I wanted an Airport Glossop return, and there were unmanaged queues at the ticket machines.  The airport machine conveniently sold me the attached which was invalid.

What brainless system has allowed this to happen, fbb cannot discern. But as No 3 son wrote "It is ridiculous!".

On Thursday Morning he then bought a ticket to Glossop which came as another surprise.
"Never seen one of these before!" commented the lad.

Actual ticket to use on the barcode scanner screens they have on barriers now, notionally for mobile phone tickets . So the qrcodes are now taking over, didn't work getting out at Glossop, probably because the reader was covered in slime as they are little plinths on the horizontal.

Good design, eh?

The Fruit Harvest Fails
Long-term blog readers will remember a major branding exercise for First Potteries? Each group of routes would be colour coded and named after (mainly) fruit. Lime Line, Cherry Line, Charcoal Line, Chinese Gooseberry Line etc etc.

There were well designed timetable leaflets, a really good network map and a dedicated "fruity" web site. Some routes were branded accordingly.
Sky, Cherry and Plum appeared (maybe others) then, almost suddenly, the whole thing fizzled out and buses became simply "Potteries". The dedicated web site also vanished.

Ray Stenning did a great job for network publicity but it was never sustained.

But a new kid has now appeared on the block, also the scion of the ebullient Mr Stenning. Potteries service 18 runs to Leek.
It has recently carried rather a weak "18" branding ...
... with a pale something front wedge.
Wishy washy grey line?

But young Ray has come up with a cracker, the "Leek Bus" ...
... with one of Ray's "creating desire" self-promotion adverts on the back.
The cappuccino "F" may well be the only mention of First Bus in Ray's design.

The bus, of course, is far from new; escaping from First in Essex ...
... where is once wore a little black dressing for Park and Ride.

Trolley Service of Light Refreshments
Not uncommon on the platforms of busy stations in days past. When a tiny little fbb (aged 4) was off on holiday to Colwyn Bay, he well remembers mum and dad purchasing a cup of tea from one such, possibly on Crewe station.

Your author was aghast when the cups were brought on the train and train, parents, kids and cups all set off for North Wales.

Dad had stolen some teacups from the man on the platform.

Dad tried to explain that the offending crockery would, by some administrative magic, find its way back to the trolley. The young boy was unconvinced and confidently expected a police constable to make an arrest upon arrival at their seaside destination.

P C Plod did not appear!

The Skill Of Relaxing!
Since fbb mansions became feline free with the departure of the wonderful Jacko to the happy mousing grounds via the Vet's crematorium, fbb and Mrs have to enjoys the delights of cat-life more remotely.

Here is one of Ray Stenning's cats (via a Twit message) managing to get a few minutes rest during a busy day supervising the design work.
Cats really have this snoozing thing well under control!

A Re-Tweet?
The morning train from Bradford to Kings Cross.

Fruit in Pots
If you would like to follow fbb's blogs from 2014 charting thr Fruity Bus Branding in the Potteries, start (here) and then use the links on the left of the blog page.

 More Medley on the Morrow : Sunday 17th November 

Friday, 15 November 2019

London to Glasgow (2)

fbb is not a lover of air travel and has not flown for absolutely ages. Virgin West Coast is pleased to focus on statistics which show an increase in train travel at the expense of air.

But can you really compare both modes? Trains are every hour from Euston to Glasgow Central with a few from Kings Cross. Euston departures take four and a half hours, flights at least three hours less.

The first problem fbb had was in trying to find what was available. There appears to be no single web site which lists all possible flights between London airports and Glasgow
Some sites insist that you choose (and, presumably, book!) a return journey. One that fbb found offered London to Glasgow with a change at Stockholm! Other sites offer returns OK but bring you back to a different London airport ...
... in this case from Heathrow but returning to Gatwick which wouldn't work if you were getting there by car and leaving it (expensively!) at the airport!

Here is part of the departure list for British Airways from Heathrow.
Note that the key "business" flights are ludicrously expensive!

Then you can travel from Gatport Airwick ...
... or London City - all by British Airways.
Then there is EasyJet from Gatwick ...
... or from Luton.
Then there is the fares farce. When fbb searched on Wednesday for flights for yesterday British Airways has the cheapest of the day! (OR, at least, the cheapest of the company sites he could be bothered to find.)

And you thought rail fares were daft! Off peak with Virgin West Coast looks like £140 return (off peak), cheaper than most flights (the above flight selection shows only singles).
Which leaves the impossible task of comparing journey times.

From Charing Cross (central London) via underground and train to Glasgow (where the station is central enough) would take a flat five hours.

By plane from Charing Cross via Heathrow presents some problems. For speed Bakerloo plus Heathrow express is best (40+ minutes) but it is ludicrously expensive. By the time you have got to Paddington, not a lot of time is lost by using the sl-o-o-o-o-w Piccadilly Line (journey time about 1 hour).
fbb would catch the Northern Line to Leicester Square!

The tube train journey costs a modest £6.

Next there is check-in time. No chance, these days, of the ten minutes of the Super Shuttle. Advice suggests an unbelievable two hours for domestic and European flights but the advice does vary airport by airport. The time can be reduced by on-line check-in.

But we could be spending up to three hours between leaving Charing Cross and take-off. 


Glasgow is simpler by far.
The 500 is "frequent" (i.e. at least every 10) Monday to Friday daytime and every 12/15 Saturday and Sunday. Evening service is every 20 with hourly departures in the wee small hours.

Usual running time is 25 minutes.

Single fare is £8.50.

Stops at Central, Queen Street and Buchanan bus station.

Train is simple - turn up pay and go; plane definitely isn't.

Plane can be a bit quicker, but not much and for the journey fbb has arbitrarily chosen, is far more complex. Ultimately, "convenience" decision will revolve around where you actually start from.

There will be various extras to pay for the plane sequence and only a £4.90 underground from Charing Cross to Euston if you let the train take the strain.

Tank Trucks Technology
fbb's growing collection of OO gauge tank wagons is creating significant stimulation in the old man's leedle grey cells. In the early days tank wagons were nothing but a large tin can plonked on to a standard wagon chassis.

The way in and way out was ony at the top, for fear of leakage and spillage. Unloading would have been by pump or syphon.

The big problem was how to keep the tin can on the chassis. You couldn't bolt it on in case of dribbly leakage; so the answer was to tie it on with strong metal rope!
The above old full size tank wagon has three sets of fixings, all three of which could be kept tight.
 with screw fixing.

"End strapping" to stop the tin can sliding forward or back
"Top strapping" to stop the can bouncing up and down
"Anchor supports", straps welded to the can to stop it rolling

fbb has no idea what the correct terms are, but the above will do pro tem.

As time went on, tanks were built with much bigger anchor supports and nothing else.

fbb's latest purchase arrived on Wednesday last - an EBay purchase (NO auction). It came in a nice small box ...
... with no excessive packing.
Within its Bachmann packing was the tank ...
... with heavy duty anchors bolted to can and chassis PLUS a substantial cradle to hold the can, also bolted to tank and chassis. No wire rope!

This model is currently available in the Bachmann range priced at £25.95. fbb paid half of that including postage for a model that was, truly, as good as new. BARGAIN?

fbb's collection grows as does his fascination with what he once thought was a very simple tank wagon. Far from it.

 Next Weekend Medley : Saturday 16th November 

Thursday, 14 November 2019

London to Glasgow (1)

The BBC has been quick to report on a Virgin Trains press release revealing some significant statistics from their London to Glasgow service.
Of course, these "statistics" are generated by Virgin Trains themselves and could be difficult to verify, BUT, it does appear that many folk are turning from plane to train for this particular journey.
The item above reports that flights take one hour 15 (more likely one and a half hours) whereas the train takes four and a half. But that is an unfair comparison. There are no trains direct from London Heathrow to the centre of Glasgow and no planes from London Euston ditto.

So how do you compare?

One one flight site the clever people at Virgin and slotted in an advert for the train ...
... offering cheapo fares! But of course, there would be restrictions on when you might be allowed to travel.

Things were different 40 years ago. The train was "old-style travel" and the plane would take the strain.

Imagine being able to turn up at the aircraft gate ten minutes before departure without a ticket and being guaranteed to secure a seat on the aircraft.

That may seem fanciful today – even if you had a ticket you wouldn’t even be able to go through security and would have been offloaded from the flight.

However, in January 1975 BA brought American style “shuttle” services to the UK.

Believed to be the first service of its kind in Europe, passengers travelling from London to Glasgow could turn up at the gate ten minutes before departure and be guaranteed a seat.

Not only that, if the flight was full BA would have another aircraft on standby. Flights operated every hour Monday to Saturday (every two hours on a Sunday) with a fleet of nine Hawker Siddeley Trident aircraft in a single cabin.

"The Shuttle" soon became "The Super Shuttle" in the face of competition from British Midland Airlines.
The (Super) Shuttle was heavily promoted as a turn-up-and-go service with a "hot standby" plane to take the overflow if the flight was full.
Here the implication is that the plane is, effectively, your taxi from London to Glasgow! Three other routes joined the service.
You could even get a shiny badge!
A timetable card was published and readily available ...
... and fares were simple and straightforward.
You really could (in theory?) turn up ten minutes before departure, buy your ticket and be on your way - refreshments included.
BA were only too happy to emphasise the limitations of the competition!

And with service like this you were bound to take the plane!
You can see that flying was deemed to be superior to the humdrum hum and drum of the train!

fbb once shuttled from Manchester to Heathrow. He was booked to Southampton but had ages to wait, so (on company expense account!) enquired about travelling via Heathrow, bus to Woking and train. All booked and sitting on the plane in 15 minutes. His small bag of smalls was last on the conveyor and the plane was on its way.

He avoided an enjoyable three hours in Manchester Airport (!) and arrived back on the Isle of Wight two hours earlier than previously scheduled. (click on the graphic below for an enlargement)
.At the time of the hourly Glasgow Shuttle, British Railways (remember therm?) were offering about eight express trains from Euston to Glasgow each day; not quite hourly.

Anyway, as a result of Virgin's recently published claims, fbb though he would take a look at the two modes to see how they really compare today.

Firstly, trains are now hourly direct ...
... shaded pale green above, supplemented by nearly one an hour via Birmingham to either Glasgow or Edinburgh with appropriate connections at Carlisle.

The next task was to find out what flights are available.

Oh deary deary me! What a muddle!

Of which more tomorrow.

Meanwhile - it arrived on Monday. In a big box ...
... with loads of bubbly packaging.
Deep inside was a tiny red and black box ...
... inside which was yet another tank wagon for the burgeoning fbb collection.
Now fbb had never heard of Playcraft Railways, so a little more research was needed.

Again, more later.

 Next London Glasgow blog : Friday 15th November