Saturday, 28 November 2015

Bellicosity in Bristol (1)

But First : Fame for fbb.
Stagecoach South West publish a staff bulletin every couple of weeks. The current edition has a report on the launch of Stagecoach Gold last Friday 20th November.
The opening paragraph attracted your noble blogger's attention.
And there, in all its journalistic glory, were word for word extracts from you know who's you know what. fbb knew nothing of this accolade and can now look forward to a substantial cheque from Stagecoach HQ.

Maybe not?

If you missed the full unexpurgted version, the two posts in question are (here) and (here).

But now to news from Brizzle.

The Orange One versus The Red One
Going back a bit, Wessex bus were kings of services to the University of the West of England (UWE), alma mater of fbb's oldest boy (although he did hos stuff at the Bower Ashton site). But a while ago, things became a bit tricky with poor perfomance and the like and First were "invited" (?) to help out. 

First has developed their services to the Filton site ...
... with the recent arrival of flash new vehicles with coloured flash.
Meanwhile along the road in Bath, the two operators run head to head to their University with Wessex intruding into First's comfort zone.
Newcomer Wessex was numbered U18, matching (sort of) First's 18. fbb hasn't tried to understand the Wessex timetable ...
... but it challenges First' near identical service.

First used to be orange ...
... linking the City's two universities. Of course you are nothing in the civic stakes unless you have TWO universities! For a time there was competition from Bristol's Buglers bus business.
First's latest fusillade in the battle is to relaunch its Bath uni route with some razzamatazz ...
... and purple passages in the publicity.
New Service U1 was launched on Saturday 19 September (replacing Service 18) and operates 24 hours a day seven days a week. During the main part of the day the U1 operates every seven minutes ...

... and, for the first time, at peak times double deck buses will operate between the City Centre and University of Bath providing a U1 every three – four minutes.

All the buses on the new U1 have been painted in a distinctive purple colour complete with a new Bath Uni Bus identity. The smart new look will help students easily distinguish which bus is theirs.

The word on the street is that First is whopping Wessex big time in Bath.

Hey ho - the benefits of competition. Lots of empty buses to university Campi?

Just as a passing aside, one of the launch buses is registered KFX 791. It is seen here before Bath uniBus branding was added.
This heritage registration as once carried by a coach ...
... operated by Comfy Lux of Cattistock, taken over by Cawlett, aka the privatised Southern National.

Tomorrow we will take a closer look at Wessex Bus' aggressive (?) response to First's apparent aggressive success at both UWE and Bath.

 Next Bristol bus blog : Sunday 29th November 

Friday, 27 November 2015

Surprising Snippets from a Saunter to Sheffiel (2)

Via a Viaduct. Beauty (?) at Bennerley.
The Great Northern Rail Derbyshire and Staffordshire Extension (snappy name eh?) tends to be known as the Derby Friargate line, because, oddly, the only station of significance was Derby Friargte. Amazingly Friargate (the station) was close to Friargate (the road) and, to this day the bridge remains.
The GNR didn't make it easy for themselves. Whilst the Midland Railway struck north via the Derwent and Erewash Valleys, the GNR needed to cross over them and at significant height. A viaduct crossed north of Derby Station which was blown up in 1979.
But the structure between Awsworth and Cotmanhay still stands.
Unusually it was built of wrought iron because it was thought that a stone or brick structure would be at risk from collapse as its weight pressed down on old mine workings. When it came to demolition the quoted price was too high and the viaduct survived.

The structure is in the care of Sustrans and proposals have been on the table for ages to use it as a cycleway and footpath.
It is now a listed building "at risk".

The canal bridge at the western end is gone ...
... and there would be similar access problems at the western end. So it can't be demolished and the cost of putting in to use is probably prohibitive. Where next?

In the meantime it was particular pleasure for fbb to see her unexpectedly on his train diverted between Derby and Chesterfield due to a wonky windscreen wiper.
This wrought iron lattice work viaduct is 1452 feet long with the rails 60 feet 10 inches above the Erewash River. The viaduct was built between May 1876 and November 1877 and forms part of the Great Northern Railway Derbyshire Extension which was built in part to exploit the coalfields in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire. The contract was given by the Great Northern Railway (GNR) to Benton & Woodiwiss with the line laid out by, and the viaduct designed by Richard Johnson (Chief Civil Engineer of the GNR); Samuel Abbott was the resident engineer. The viaduct consists of 16 lattice work deck spans, each 76 feet 7 inches long supported on wrought iron columns with stone capped blue brick foundations.

And so to Sheffield. Due to bulk and old age, fbb tends to alight from his train and catch a tram one stop to the city centre. A recent development at tram stops has been railway style electronic departure screens. Ominously those at the station stop (and presumably those at every stop) were "under test" - AGAIN!
Certainly the information on the screens bore no real relationship to anything running along the track. A tram was "due" as fbb wheezed on to the platform. The announcement disappeared with no tram in site.
Worry not, there's one due in seven minutes. But just two of those seven minute had elapsed when a "rogue" tram arrived.
Yet another example of expensive technology that would appear to be of little use.

fbb's pad for the night was at Travelodge Central and his room was provided with an excellent view of tramway activity at the foot of Commercial Street.
But he had one little expedition to complete before dining extensively with the Colonel. In a blog of a few weeks ago, fbb railed against the poor publicity for Sheffield Bus Partnership services 1 and 1A. See "The Horrors of High Green 3" (read again) If you don't want to read again, here's the relevant extract.
Well, the good news is that the various agencies did provide a bus stop at the foot of Hucklow Road.
Note pool of mud for waiting passengers, lack of timetable frame; indeed, lack of anything. Looking from the Firth Park roundabout direction the flag is hard to spot in the tree (left).
Welcome to public transport in Sheffield. Remember to wear essential clothing for your bus journey.
After exploring bus stops fbb returned to the city on the new Partnership service 1 (Stagecoach) and 1a (First).
The joint service provides a bus every 6 minutes at the time fbb was travelling, one evety 12 from each operator.
The 38 "due" for Meadowhell was at the stop. fbb's 1a "due" is just behind and the second 1a "due" 12 minutes later was just approaching as fbb boarded, overtook the chubby one five stops later and the two ran nose to tail in to city.

Apparently an informed source has stated publiclly that "the 1/1a is not working as well as we would like."

What a surprise.

fbb enjoyed his meal with The Colonel ...
... but sadly that Chicken loving military gentleman is struggling with literacy.
Now that is "Finger Rapping Bad"!

And finally : the new Streetdecks for the X78 Sheffield Rotherham Doncaster ...
... don't look a bit like the Mendip Xplorers recently featured in this blog!
Well, they are both blue!

 Next Bristol bus blog : Saturday 28th November 

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Surprising Snippets from a Saunter to Sheffiel (1)

An Unexpected Blog
On Tuesday last, fbb travelled for a second time in a fortnight from Axminster to Sheffield; and was expecting an uneventful journey. Yesterday's meeting with the Sheffield Bus Partnership publicity team was bound to be "interesting", so an un-interesting journey would be a good start.

Which it was; on time and straightforward as far as Derby. There, a whistle blew and the train started to move but an ever alert fbb noticed something odd. Having arrived from Burton upon Trent and expecting to set of northwards to Sheffield, fbb was surprised to feel himself going backuds and eastbound towards Nottingham.

The young gell came onto the speaking spout and announced,

"The observant amongst you will notice that we are going the wrong way"

Yep, fbb had noticed.

"A windscreen wiper has fallen off," she says, "and the rules mean that we cannot proceed without turning the train around."
The train, by now running 20 minutes late, whizzed off from Sheffield before fbb could take a suitable photograph; BUT both wipers were still in place so "falllen off" was not entirely true. Maybe "come loose on its spindle"? But the left hand wiper was attempting to wipe the yellow bit which doesn't seem right.

Was it really necessary to delay a trainload of people for want of the second wiper? When Mallard managed 126 miles per hour at Little Bytham, fbb does not remember seeing windscreen wipers on the A4 streak.
And in "the good old days" the driver was looking out for semaphore signals with flickering oil lights at night.

The fbb train was routed via Trent Junction and the Erewash Valley. Using Google Maps, fbb will attempt to show the revised route.

Approaching from Derby (centre left) you pass through Long Eaton Station ...
... then Sheet Stores Junction (because there was once a huge warehouse storing sheets, not for beds but tarpaulins for wagons.) Then you turn left as if you were a train between Derby and Nottingham. But instead of forking right for the home of Robin Hood, Boots and the gooseless Goose Fair, your diverted Voyager forks left up the Erewash Valley line.

For track bashers, fbb thinks that this particular sequence of track bits is a rare route for normal passenger train services. 

Long Eaton Station used to be called Sawley Junction with the yellow road from the "station roundabout" being the juncting line.
This allowed trains from Derby TO London, for example, to call at Trent Station (lower right on the map above).
Trent Station was opened by the Midland Railway in May 1862 solely as an interchange station. It was not designed to serve any local community, and for this reason it is the only station in England named after a river, rather than after a town or village.

It was built on what would now be called a greenfield site, in the south-east corner of Derbyshire. It was described in one Midland Railway publication as "the junction for everywhere".

It changed little in its 106 years of existence, and even to its last day, December 31, 1967, was lit by gas lamps, never having had electricity. It was built in the Midland Gothic style, and poet laureate John Betjeman was one of those who deplored its demolition. Over each platform there was an impressive array of 27 glass canopy sections.

It had a complicated arrangement of loops, so trains with the same destination standing on adjacent platforms could be facing in opposite directions.
fbb does wonder whether the residents using Field Farm Road realise that their road might have been plied by express trains to London.

This rather unassuming gate is where the line turned sharp right to reach the station.
But fbb's train sets off north to Chesterfield passing through the original Long Eaton Station ...
... of which only the level crossing remains.
The diverted train continues northwards passing Toton Yard ...
... not quite the massive freight hub that it once was when King Coal ruled his Nottinghamshire industrial kingdom.
Likewise Toton TMD (Traction Maintenance Depot; "Engine Shed" in the old money) is less busy but is pictured here in English Welsh and Scottish Railway days.
Now a German State Railways depot (DB Schenker) ...
... it is ironic that a diverted fbb trundled past in a German State Railways Voyager operating in the thin disguise of Arriva Trains!
Two reminders that the UK still has nationalised railways, despite "privatisation". What is worse is that it's somebody else's nation.

At least one other feature of the diversion attracted fbb's interested gaze; but that's for tomorrow's blog.

But a surreal happening happened as your chubby old codger staggered down Dixon Lane to book in at Travelodge Sheffield Central.
There on the footpath was a sign which proclaimed "Utopia".
The former Castle Market area was a highlight of Sheffield's post-war rebuild ...
... but it has had its day and is being demolished. fbb found the juxtaposition of "Utopia" and the empty building somewhat ridiculous.
Musing on the mystery, fbb was accosted by a clutch of Sheffield University students.
fbb is getting old because they all looked about 13! But their spokeswoman accosted him very politely and explained that it was all a bit of "Street Art" and an exhibition would be held of locations and peoples' reactions. The fat bus bloke was duly photographed gazing in wide-eyed wonder at the "art" and edifice (?) and may well have his few moments of photographic fame at the forthcoming exhibition.


Who said anything about an uneventful journey?

 Next rail, bus and tram blog : Friday 27th November