Wednesday, 6 July 2022

Wednesday Not Much Variety

The Taster : Trace A Pacer

Above is Pacer 144001 at Filey. It wears the livery of "Metro", The West Yorkshire PTE. Later the livery was improved, i.e. made more dull by abandoning the lines of the vehicle in favour of meaningless swirls.
Its final paint job was the even less appealing blotchy Northern Rail mix of purple and blue wedges ...
... and white curly bits. Sadly (fbb was the only one who liked them - as built with bus seats from which you had the best view out of any train!) Pacers are no more. But half of 144001 has taken on a new life at Huddersfield Station.
It is based on the old Platform 1, the bay used by trains for Penistone until the station was re-jigged and they moved to a new Platform 2.
fbb is not sure whether the part Pacer replaces the blue-painted Mark 1 carriage or is in addition.
Whatever, the half-Pacer was craned in from the street alongside the former bay platform.
Steady as she goes, as the body is placed on piles of sleepers due to lack of wheels!
The blue buildings are Portakabins, but to their left we can see end of the blue coach.
Roy, having travelled from Sheffield, has sent a picture of the half in place ...
... viewed from Platform 2.

And our astute reader will have guessed where the other half has "showed up"!
There he/she/it is, arriving at Airedale General Hospital, Roy's destination on the Sheep Bus for Sheep Town. And here the half-Pacer being settled in its new home ...
... this time, sitting on its very own piece of track.
Roy sends back some detailed pictures from his visit, so you could learn to appreciate the beauty of a Pacer ...
... and even be reminded of at least one line that unit 144001 served.
In its new life at Airedale it will provide "space" for younger patients to have fun!

Kirsty Randall, matron on the children’s ward, said: “We’re really excited to have the Pacer train carriage onsite and can’t wait to start using it with our patients and their families.

“We’re planning on using the space for children and young people who need to be in hospital but not necessarily on the ward at all times."

And what could be more fun that "riding" in a Pacer, albeit stationary?

Thanks to Roy for setting up the story for fbb.

A look at the sheep-bus leaflet will now appear tomorrow, because ...

East Devon Cut-Backs Put Back
There was considerable anguish when Traveline South West published the withdrawal of buses to Honiton and Axminster, to Lyme Regis and to Pinhoe, Monkerton and The Exeter Science Park.

fbb's conclusion was that Devon County would find some tender money "down the sofa" and replacement services would be provided.

This is what has happened. As predicted in this blog Axe Valley Mini Travel will run FIVE return trips from Seaton to Lyme Regis and Stagecoach (Presumably, as it is they who have made the announcement quoted in the local press) will provide alternative services to Honiton and Axminster and, via a rejig of several Exeter City routes, will continue to serve Pinhoe, Monkerton and the Science Park. These revised services will now be subsided by the East Devon council tax payer. 

When actual timetables appear, fbb will reveal the detail. It may, yet, not be as grim a replacement as fbb at first surmised.


Puzzle Picture
This is a Stagecoach service 200 at Woodford Halse at the western edge of Northamptonshire.
The service is hanging on by a thread of tyre rubber, namely a short-term tender until the end of the summer.
But the question fbb asks is this:-

What did Woodford Halse have that was very helpful, back in the day, for railway operation in the area? It was a fairly unusual railway facility available "in the sticks" of a rural county.

 Next Variety blog : Thursday 7th July 

Tuesday, 5 July 2022

Tuesday Variety

A Sheep Town Bus to Hospital

As you can clearly see (?), the letter "C" in Old English was either pronounced as the modern "K" or, using phonetic symbols shown above, as something more like our modern ""CH", The variation changed over time and depended also on geographical location.

So the Old English (derived from Anglo Saxon sceap) was either pronounced SK - E as in hay - AP as in App which begat "SKIP" or S - CH as in choochoo - E as in hay - AP as in App which begat "SHEEP".

So "SHEEP TOWN" becomes "SKIPTON".

Sheffield correspondent Roy was very impressed with what fbb used to know as Keighley and District Bus route 66. 
It seemed, as they say, replete with sheep ... inside ...
... fenestrated ...
... outside in detail ...
... and overall.
The bus stop flags were so adorned ...
... and there were printed leaflets.
The Keighley Bus Company is part of the Transdev group.

This sheepish livery is called "branding", a concept that could be learned by First Bus in Somerset and in Dorset and as revealed at Axminster on Saturday last!
They have a nice branded livery for Jurassic Coaster as per the twitter below.
But it would be even nicer if the buses on routes X51 and X53 were actually wearing it!

A copy of the Dalesway leaflet arrived yesterday morning at fbb mansions c/o Royal Mail and will be fully reviewed as part of tomorrow's variety blog.

But why had Roy travelled all the way to Keighley to catch a Sheep bus to Sheep town?

Actually, he was only going as far as Airedale Hospital ...
... which lies happily on the 66 bus route (ORANGE) ...
... easily distinguished from the orangey brown of the other route (branded Mainline).

But what dreaded disease would require the lad to travel all the way from Sheffield to Airedale Hospital? What medical speciality would lure him to the NHS in the north western fringes of West Yorkshire. 

Sadly, Roy was suffering from Ferroequinologica Paceritis - a disease for which there is no known cure but for which Airedale Hospital and Huddersfield might offer some temporary respite.

More in tomorrow's blog.

Sheffield Partnership News
(Don't Laugh)
Sadly the video seems to have disappeared, as have most references to the chummy scheme announced a good while ago.
The idea was that Stagecoach and First Bus in partnerships with each other (No, don't laugh) and also in partnership with the South Yorkshire PTE (Please, don't laugh, it makes them cry!) would work together (You are laughing now!) to improve bus services throughout the city. (fbb thinks he can now hear you crying!).

The latest outworking of this chumminess was outlined by First's boss-man, Nigel Eggleton, in a recent piece in The Star, noble journalistic beacon of truth (You're laughing again!) for the city.
As part of the on-going partnership, operators have decided all together not to bid for tendered work that comes up for renewal at the end of July. This leaves their partner PTE (Laughing again?) no option but to withdraw this block of tendered stuff.
So service 32 ...
... a mash-up of various bits and pieces created when The Peoples Republic of South Yorkshire was aiming to serve everyone with a bus past their front door, IS WITHDRAWN COMPLETELY. It does remove the last vestiges of a direct service to city from the Shirecliffe Estate ...
... which once ran every 15 minutes.

Although far from busy, hourly service 32 provides a very useful link from Sheffield estates to the huge Northern General Hospital. That link will be very much missed by many elderly folk with appointments at NGH.

SERVICE 135, which in fbb's youth was route 31 to Lower Walkley, and once the home to these rear entrance single deckers with open platform and staircase up to the seats ...
... becomes Monday to Friday daytime only ...
... losing some early morning, all evening, all Saturday and all Sunday buses.

The 31/135 serves some hilly bits of the city that lie between Infirmary Road in the valley (bus 82/82 and tram) and Walkley on the hillside (bus 95) so, apart from Monday to Friday daytimes, there will be more heavy breathing on the backstreets of Upperthorpe and Lower Walkley as Sheffielders ascend and descend!
Maybe not quite as steep as that!

Evening and Sunday services are withdrawn from two other services (208 and 73) but the removal of these "usual suspects" is worse in Rotherham with four more such cuts.

But, be very afraid! 

Nigel continues ...
... there's a 25% cut to come.

On behalf of Sheffield residents, fbb cries, "OUCH"!!

 Next Variety blog : Wednesday 6th July 

Monday, 4 July 2022

Monday Variety - Three Aces (2)

Atlantic Coast (non)Expresss?

The ACE was renowned as the "crack express" of the Southern Railway's western division, running from Waterloo (traditional departure at 1100) via Salisbury and Exeter and serving North Devon (and North Cornwall!) holiday resorts. Wikipedia summarises the train's history and fbb summarises Wikipedia.

Saturdays were always the busiest and in August 1939 the ACE was shown in Bradshaw's Guide as five separate trains departing from Waterloo; serving Ilfracombe (10:36), Padstow (10:40), Ilfracombe again (10:47), Bude (10:54) and a final departure at 11.00 with portions for Padstow, Bude and Plymouth.

At various times Exmouth, Sidmouth, Seaton and Lyme Regis had through coaches.

In the winter timetable, one train was sufficient for all of the branches, and stops were made at all but the most insignificant stations west of Exeter. Significant delays were frequent at the junctions, as coaches were detached or attached and shunted between the various sections of the train, belying the name of "Express".

The 1950s marked the highpoint of the ACE, with the first mile-a-minute timing on the Southern Region (as the Southern Railway had become) with a 12:23 arrival in Salisbury, 83 miles from Waterloo. Gradual improvements in schedules continued until the final acceleration in autumn of 1961, when the journey time from Waterloo to Exeter Central came down to 2 hours 56 minutes.

It is worth noting that today's stopping service of class 159 trains ...
... takes abour three hours twenty minutes for the same journey - not bad at all for 18 stops.
Note also that the splitting of the ACE trains and the shedding or collecting of through coaches at branch line junctions could cause delay and often did!

Expresses from Paddington are, of course, much quicker to Exeter these days but there are now no regular through services to the North Devon coast by either route - because there are no stations! Just in case you are about to point out an fbb error, Newquay and St Ives were never ACE stations.

But fbb was intrigued to see an advert for a re-run of the ACE by preserved train.
To be fair, the publicity said "using part of the route of the Atlantic Coast Express" which actually meant its passengers has a day trip to Exeter and back but hauled by steam. The journey back to London was via Taunton and not the ACE's route!

The day out was not cheap.
And it was definitely NOT express. Below is a selection of actual timings from the advert.
The "Express" left Waterloo at 0752 ...
... and arrived at Exeter St Davids at 1330; five hours and thirty-eight minutes of steam-hauled joy!

Of course, the reason for this pedestrian saunter along the South Western main line was the need to fit in with scheduled trains, especially on the partly singled stretches west of Salisbury.

And there was a long stop (40 minutes approx and longer than planned) at Salisbury to fill up with water.
There should have been an eight minute wait at Gillingham, but the delay at Salisbury wiped that out, and maybe delayed a Waterloo bound trains in the process.

More waits further down thee line ...
... twenty minutes at Chard Junction (alas no station there any more) ...
... and 15 minutes at Honiton.

The train was scheduled to pass Axminster at 1224 and Mrs fbb offered to integrate this timing with a call at Axminster Co-op. Seaton Co-op has closed but used to stock Mackies ice cream - easily the best ever ("Scottish, you know!", says Glaswegian Mrs fbb, pointedly).
A trip to Axminster Co-op might well achieve a further stock replenishment. It did!

The train was scheduled to trundle through Axminster on Platform 2, and, using his worldly wisdom, fbb worked out that to traverse the junctions at both ends of the loop, the train would need to be travelling reasonably slowly.

It was raining!

Then the ever helpful ticket clerk at Axminster announced that the train would run via Platform 1. General chaos ensued as keen photographers hurried across the footbridge from 1 to 2 to get a good sideways passing picture. Others hurriedly migrated in the other direction to see the loco pass by at close quarters.

fbb does not do "nipping across footbridges" these day, so stayed where he was, phone camera at the ready and drizzle dribbling down his neck. 

It really is so annoying when your phone camera automatically switches off when it thinks nothing is happening. fbb's did as the train stormed at high speed under the road bridge at the London end of the station. By the time the old man had gibberingly (and incompetently) prodded his slightly soggy phone screen, the train was screaming past in full cry.

A magnificent, but un-photographed, experience.

The old man did not even spot which loco was at the front!

But thanks to train watcher Jason, who showed admirable sympathy for the old bloke's oldness, fbb was gifted a video.

And here it is!
Many thanks Jason!

It doesn't take much imagination to remember the power and magnificence of steam-hauled rail travel, even if it was ludicrously inefficient technically and very expensive to staff! Certainly as your slightly soggy blogger stood within feet of the monstrous beast powering through Axminster's Platform 1; well, he found it quite scary.
But maroon coaches; on the Atlantic Coast Express - scandalous!

Incidentally, the advert for this excursion showed a splendid picture of Clan Line in full roar ...
... exiting the Shakespeare Cliff tunnels near Dover! Maybe steam-hauled gricers don't mind where they go, as long as they get a good meal and can lean out of the window and get hot smuts in their eye!

Not Much Variety? Snippets!
Illegal Legal Lettering?
Every PCV (Passenger Carrying Vehicle) must carry the name and address of its owner/operator in lettering 1 inch high (might be 2.5 centimetres now?). If the vehicle os borrowed by another operator, it must carry a label stating "ON HIRE TO" its temporary operator.

So fbb suggests that this "legal" lettering on an Arriva bus ...
... is certainly not legal at all.

Too Much Information?
Manchester Piccadilly has two very busy through platforms, seen below, lower left.
Is this signage helpful or confusing?

ACE a P.S.
The Atlantic Coast Express branches - no longer open.

Barnstaple to Ilfracombe

Okehampton to Bude and Padstow

Okehampton to Plymouth

In tomorrow's blog we meet lots of sheep, go to hospital and put a train back together! And there will be news of more servicer cutbacks.

 Next Variety blog : Tuesdau 5th July