Tuesday, 28 April 2015

GWR, GWR and GWR [1]

But Which One?
Despite disappearing from 1947 onwards (fbb was 2!) most people are familiar with this one:-
Sometimes known as God's Wonderful Railway, the original (and best?) Great Western Railway had a fame and a cachet that was second to none. Less familiar is this one:-
When First Great Western started upgrading their first class coaches, this appeared on the headrests. It was part of a campaign to build on the growing business of business travel for the top-end of the market.
Now we know that this ...
... is the new brand to be worn on the IEP trains on order for the main lines out of Paddington.

The Intercity Express Programme is an initiative of the Department for Transport (DafT) to procure new trains to replace the InterCity 125 fleet on the East Coast Main Line and Great Western Main Line, . There are to be two variants: the Class 800, which are electric/diesel-electric hybrids, and the Class 801, which are electric only.

Not only that but First are painting the trains GREEN!
Surely chocolate and cream would be better?

Perhaps less familiar to a general blog readership is this logo:-
It stands, not for Great Western Railway, but for the Gloucestershire and Warwickshire Railway. The name was cleverly chosen by the keen prservationists for obvious reasons, although the line doesn't actually cross the border into Warwickshire ...
... yet; but will soon make it into another "W", namely Worcestershire.

Two things have provoked his series of blogs. The Thorncombe Railway Activites Club (TRAC - another clever logo) is planning an excursion there later this year. New member fbb may well go, having never visited the line. Secondly, and serendipitously, our hard-working Northampton correspondent has recent paid a visit and provided fbb with some possible blog ideas.

So, by way of background, let us place this bit of heritage railway into historical and geographical context.

The line was originally part of the Great Western Railway's Cheltenham–Stratford-upon-Avon–Birmingham line, known as the Honeybourne Line, built in 1900–1906, and runs through the Cotswold towns of Winchcombe and Bishop's Cleeve. The line was run down over the years and finally closed after a derailment damaged a stretch of track in 1976, with the double track being lifted from 1979.

The preservation group rehabilitated the line, starting steam train operations at Toddington (1930 top, 2010 below) ...

... in 1984 over 700 yards of re-laid track. In 1987 the line was restored as far as Winchcombe ...

... where the station was reconstructed using the former Monmouth Troy station building. The railway continued to re-lay track west of Winchcombe, through the 693 yard long Greet Tunnel ...

... and past the villages of Gretton, Gotherington and Bishops Cleeve. This culminated in the reopening of the line to Cheltenham Racecourse in 2003, by Princess Anne.
So the line today starts from Cheltenham Racecourse station (historically only opened on race days) ...
... and continues north to Gotherington passing the site of the former Bisjops Cleeve station. It then turns east ...
... via Grettton (another station of old), through Greet Tunnel and into Winchcombe. A return to a northbound trajectory ...
... takes the line through the company HQ at Toddington. There was another intermediate halt serving Hailes Abbey but called Hayles Abbey Halt.

Currenty the line continues north to the site of Laverton Halt, but there is now no station there. The next target is Broadway ...
... where arrival is likely in three years time. Aspirations are high in the long term. The plans include extension from Broadway to National Rail at Honeybourne and even southbound to Cheltenham Spa. Big ideas indeed.

Racecourse station top right,
Cheltenham Spa bottom left.

So all we now need to do is to catch a train to Cheltenham Spa station and find our way to the Racecourse. It looks easy enough, but before we check on the route we do need to review the multiplicity of station dots in the Cheltenham area.

Tomorrow, then, we sort out the seven (eight?) railway stations that served this distinguished Gloucestershire town. 

Let's hope that fbb can get it right!

 Next rail blog : Wednesday 29th April 

Monday, 27 April 2015

One Week from Today

But first, a song.
"Under the Bridges of Paris" is a 1913 popular song with music written by Vincent Scotto, the original French lyrics (entitled "Sous les ponts de Paris") by Jean Rodor (1913), and English lyrics by Dorcas Cochran (1952). Recordings by both Eartha Kitt and Dean Martin charted in the United Kingdom in 1955, but failed to chart in the United States, though both were subsequently released as LP album tracks as well.

Other versions have been composed, and fbb has found these words on the back of an RATP poster:-
How would you like to be
Trav'ling with fbb
He'd love to ride on a Métro or two
Over the bridges of Paris with you

Then there's the RER
Enjoy a double deck car
Fast through the tunnels of Paris with you
And make your dreams come true

How would you like to be
Riding tram number three
Or four or two or tram number one
Round the ring road of Paris is fun.

There's a funiculoeur
Up to the Sacré Coeur
Also the buses of Paris will do
Over the bridges of Paris for you 

How would you like to be
Trav'ling with fbb
He will blog on transports français
On and on for many a day

This time next week, God and Eurostar willing, fbb and his chum from Leicester will have spent their first night in the expansively named Hotel Pacific ...

... on Rue de Fondary (Métro Dupleix) and a short walk from Mr Eiffel's clever (but obviously inferior) copy of Blackpool Tower.

The potential menu for the week includes:-

14 Métro lines; two driverless**
5 RER lines (think Paris Crossrail)
8 SNCF suburban line groups
8 Tram lines
2 Fully automatic tram lines
1 Funicular
2 Express bus route (reserved track)
Loadsa ordinary city buses (RATP)
Loadsa suburban buses (Veolia)

Should keep the old blogger busy for four and a half days. 
Highlights are:-

Tram Line 4

La ligne 4 du tramway d'Île-de-France est une ligne exploitée par la SNCF, mise en service le 20 novembre 2006 entre Aulnay-sous-Bois et Bondy, et longue de 7,9 kilomètres.

Elle est issue de la transformation et de la mise intégrale à double voie de la ligne de Bondy à Aulnay-sous-Bois dite ligne des Coquetiers ouverte en 1875, qu'elle emprunte sur la totalité de son parcours. Elle est ainsi devenue la première ligne française utilisant un matériel tram-train, bien que son exploitation soit entièrement assurée en mode tramway.

Looks fun!

And bus T Zen

La ligne 1 du T Zen est une ligne de bus à haut niveau de service d'Île-de-France. Elle relie les gares du RER D de Lieusaint - Moissy et de Corbeil-Essonnes. Cette ligne dessert deux grandes zones de l'Essonne et de Seine-et-Marne : Sénart et Seine-Essonne. La ligne a été mise mise en service le 4 juillet 2011.

Chatelet-Les Halles Station

Intégralement souterraine et située en plein cœur de la capitale, la gare voit converger plus de 1500 trains par jour, elle constitue le plus important pôle de transports de la région, avec 750,000 voyageurs par jour dans l'ensemble du pôle ferroviaire.

Here, five Métro lines (1, 4, 7, 11 and 14) and three RER lines (A, B nd D) intersect and all underground. There a good half day's exploration and excitement in this one station alone. (click on the diagram to enlarge)

One experience fbb cannot enjoy is the "Balabus".
It links the main places of interest but runs only on Sundays from April to September inclusive.

**14 Metro lines. It depends how you count. Lines 7 and 13 split into two branches at one outer end and lines 3 and 7 have little shuttley bits (3bs & 7bis) at one end.
The Hotel has WiFi (in French, WiFi; pronounced WeeFee) and fbb intends to summarise each day's activity. Monday 4th will be a report on Sunday 3rd and so on. In the event of technical problems, fbb will be copying the BBC etc. and publishing selected repeats from the last five years of Public Transport Experience.

Detailed blogs on Parisian transport topics will continue from time to time over the ensuing months.
 Next UK bus blog : Tuesday 28th April 

Sunday, 26 April 2015

A Partly Political Broadcast ...

... on Behalf of the South West Alliance.
Hey Gramps, what's an alliance?

Try a dictionary, Justin

A close association of nations or other groups, formed to advance common interests or causes. A formal agreement establishing such an association, especially an international treaty of friendship. A connection based on kinship, marriage, or common interest; a bond or tie.  The Alliance; the Social Democratic Party and the Liberal Party acting or regarded as a political entity from 1981 to 1988.

Is that the same as a coalition?

Well, when two different political parties work together to a form a government it's called a coalition.

Is that what is happening in your boring old railway magazine?
It says "How the Alliance Works."

This is two big Railway Companies working together. SouthWest Trains runs all trains from London to the South West and Network Rail mends the track and runs Waterloo station.
Time-lapse before Eurostar moved to St Piecrust

Why doesn't SouthWest Trains run Waterloo Station if they run all the trains?

It's a long story, Justin. Once upon a time there were hundreds of railway companies running trains all over the place. Then in 1923 the Government forced them to join together in a few very big companies. Here the big company was the London and South Western Railway.
Like South West Trains.

But after the war ...

Was that when you beat the Germans, Gramps?

... all the railway companies were in a big mess and the Government decided to take over and run the lot. It was called "British Railways". Then it was the Government that repaired it all.
But it was still a mess. So the Government got rid of steam engines and built lots of diesels. It was called "The Modernisation Plan".

That must have been good.

No, the railways were still in a mess. So the Government chose the boss of a big chemical company to make it all better.

Let me guess. It still didn't get any better.

Not much, but it got smaller. Lots of lines were closed. There were less railways but they still didn't make profits. The Government tried all sorts of things like painting all the trains blue, calling it British Rail and trying Sectorisation.

I don't understand.

Well, having joined the railways up into a big lump, they split it up again into smaller big bits. But different smaller big bits called Inter City, Cross Country, Regional Railways and London & The South East.

What happened to South West here at Seaton?

That was part of South East, obviously! It was called Network SouthEast ...
Launched 10th June 1988

... and ran all the trains to our bit of the South West.

Did that work?

Sort of. But then Margaret Thatcher, our first woman prime minister, decided that the Government didn't want to run the railways any more. So she sold everything; twenty companies to run the trains ...

A bit like 1923, then?

... one big company to run the tracks and signals and three companies to own the trains and lend them to thr operators.

So that made it all right?

Yes. And No. Instead of saving money for the Government it cost shed loads of extra money. And it was much much more complicated, slow and expensive to get things done. Taxpayer subsidies to the rail sector have reached astronomical levels. At £6 billion per year (including Crossrail), they have roughly trebled in real terms over the last twenty years.

Another mess then? But you've lost me, Gramps. What's this got to do with the Alliance Party?

Well, you'll never guess. Having split everything up into lots of companies ...

There sticking them back together again!

Yes. Nice Mr Shoveller ...
...the big boss of SouthWest Trains has formed an alliance with Notwork Rail so the trains and the tracks are being run by one team with Mr Shoveller as boss.

Doesn't that sound a bit like the London and South Western Railway?


Or British Railways?


Does the Government know what it is doing, Gramps?

No comment!

Coming soon. The Government joins WAGN, Thameslink, Southern and Gatwick Express to form a mega company. At the same time the Government decides NOT to do the sensible thing and join Northern and Transpennine.

Also speculation that Island Line will be sold to another island rail operator.
O.K. this bit is a weak joke. Sorry, Justin, what was your last question?
P.S. Also in the May Edition of Modern Railways, news that Phil Verster of Notwork Rail ...
... is to join the new Scotrail team to form an Alliance there.

And an "envoi" from Chris Sokes (much respected rail guru) ...
... in his "Between the Lines" column:-

Is it time to break up Network Rail?

Good question!
 Next Paris blog : Monday 27th April 

Saturday, 25 April 2015

A Very Mixed Bag

fbb receives lots of information from correspondents, many anonymously, which do not warrant a full blog post. From time to time these form the basis of a motley collection (?). Such is today's offering.

Motley refers to the traditional costume of the court jester, or the harlequin character in commedia dell'arte. The latter wears a patchwork of red, green and blue diamonds. It was the characteristic dress of the professional fool.
The word motley is described in the Oxford English Dictionary as a cognate with medley, although the unrelated mottled has also contributed to the meaning. The word is most commonly used as an adjective or noun. When used as a noun, it can mean "a varied mixture." As an adjective, it is generally disparaging; a motley collection is an uninspiring pile of stuff, as in the cliché motley crew.

Supertram Signs of the Times
New "next tram" signs are seen here under test at th Tinsey stop. The man at the bottom of the pole is holding it steady unto the glue sets. The signs look remarkably like those installed on large tracts of our National Railways.
Meanwhile the latest "tranche" of track renewal comes to an end on 8th May. For over a month there have been no trams to Hillsborough. The blue service from Halfway has run to Shalesmoor and the Yellow from Meadowhell has terminated at the Cathedral.
Hillsborough services have been provided by two ten minute frequency bus routes, both running through from Sheffield Cathedral.
Here in Hillsorough the uses used tram tack.
As is usual with these Stagecoach operations, all has run very smoothly with plenty of supervisory staff to help the passengers.

Beer Bus Bonanza
But nothing to do with fbb's Seaton neighbour! The area round Dronfield (Derbyshire but more closely associated with Sheffield) is blessed with many gorgeous pubs, often in picturesque settings.

On Saturday June 6th there will be a beer festival based on the "Three Valleys".
Three free bus services will be run (every 30 minutes) to enable partipants to participate in varying percentages of the 100 real ales on offer.
According to the festival web site, 8 vehicles will be used, supplies by Linburg Travel. There will be two darts ...
... and four double deckers ...
... all of them apparently converted to left hand drive for the day!
Or have the organisers already been sampling the goods?

Linburg specialises in contracted services, mainly for schools, including (nostalgically) services 714 ...
... which when operated by Sheffield Transport in the mid sixties (as similar 774) took the student not-yet-f bb from his digs to Sheffield University!

But the festival looks a spiffingly good day for aficianadi of beer and buses.

And Finally, fbb's Bus ...
... X595 FBB, previously pictured posteriorly parked at its depot, is seen here on its last trip from Axminster to Seaton on Monday last. Its slime green pal has yet to be seen in service.

 Next rail blog : Sunday 26th April