Saturday, 28 March 2020

Variegated Blog (part 1)

Management By Computer 1
In these troubled times, bus managers are having to work their computer systems very hard. In the case of Stagecoach Yorkshire and or Chesterfield, the mantra for next week's emergency timetable is Sunday service on Monday to Saturday with extra early morning trips for those seeking to get to their place of work.

Undertandably, with the decline of passenger numbers, running empty buses is a pointless exercise.

Thus it is that Stagecoach will no longer be running the normal Monday to Saturday route 80 that rambles between Chesterfield and Eckington then on via Killamarsh to Sheffield.
It runs non stop EVERY HOUR between Crystal Peaks shopping centre and Sheffield Interchange.

The traditional route between Killamarsh and the city is no longer served except for a few evening and early morning oddments.

From Monday, and to reduce operating costs in the face of a collapse of customer numbers, Stagecoach will, indeed, be running a Sunday service with additional early trips. And because it is Sunday, surely it will be less frequent.
Erm, no. It runs hourly, just as it does on Monday to Saturday. And it takes almost the same time, 36 minutes as opposed to 37 between Killamarsh and Sheffield! 

Maybe there is a good reason.

Management by Computer 2
Here is the emergency timetable for route X5 from Sheffield to Dinnington,
The service "normally" runs every 20 minutes Monday to Saturday and  thus has a worse-than-Sunday frequency. Maybe First made its decisions AFTER Tuesdays lockdown announcement whilst Stagecoach did not anticipate that particular development.

Here is the return table.
Notice the problem? Indeed; buses run TO Monksbridge Road but don't come back. It SHOULD read ...
Modesty precludes fbb from revealing who explained this error to First Bus.

It was, of course, a "computer error".

There will be more from the Omni Shambles Of Sheffield tomorrow.

Bug Boxes Or Small Birminghams?
The Small Birminghams, commonly known as Bug Boxes, are the small four-wheeled carriages built by Brown, Marshall & Co of Birmingham, which are the earliest passenger carrying vehicles on the Festiniog Railway, dating from 1864-7.

In old Company times, they were known as "Small Birminghams" to distinguish them from the bogie carriages built by the same company. The term "Bug Box" is thought to have been given to them c.1955 by LNER driver Bill Hoole as it was a term used for ancient four and six wheelers on the North Eastern Railway. The main square internal frames are thought to be original as well as the door handles. They share - with the original Talyllyn carriages of 1865-66 - the distinction of being the oldest railway carriages still in regular use in the world.

If you are a modeller of narrow gauge railways (and the breed is growing) you can now own a set of these, beautifully made by Peco.
There are not kits but fully assembled models, part of an increasing range of narrow gauge stock produced by the Beer-based company.
They do come at a challenging price of £30 each (actually £29.95) although some retailers do a little bit of judicious discounting.

It is fascinating to see what would have been considered as specialist models in the past now available to the "ordinary" enthusiast unable (or unwilling) to craft their own.

Arriva Arrival
Leicester chum David travels (travelled?) often on Arriva bus routes from Groby into town He was not surprised to see a bus like this approaching his stop in the village.
This was not particularly revolutionary until David spotted something odd. It had two sets of doors; a centre exit no less. These were very popular in the past, a useful facility to speed boarding but helping off-getters avoid impingement with on-getters.

Sheffield had lots.
London still has lots, specifiying them even on midi buses!
Dual doors are making something of a comeback, for the same reason that they were popular in the past - and they are ideal for tapping out have previously tapped in. They have total command of Bristol's Metro routes and are spreading further round the city.
But not in Leicester - until now.

It transpires that David's bus (with centre doors eschewed by passengers and driver) was originally in use at East Midlands Airport.
Does anyone know why they have left their airline duties?

Cat News; Cat Mews?
The fbb's new cat, now officially named Mr Tubbles, is currently struggling with the cat flap. He can get his front legs, head and first chunk of torso through with ease but struggles with the back end. Apart from this, he is settling well and there is usually a doorman on hand to help with ingress and egress.

"Is he settling in?" asks a correspondent? Judge for yourself!
It is a tough life, being a domestic cat!

 Next Variegated blog : Sunday 29th March 
Short Thought

Critics of the Bible often joke about the prophets being mongers of doom. And here God is promising action, unpalatable action, in response to "bad things" going on in the nation of Judah.

Here are a few "bad things" laid out for Habbakuk.

Wealth is deceitful; greedy people are restless.
Before you know it you will be in debt and paying high interest.
You schemes have brought shame on your family.
Your city is founded on crime.
You have humiliated the weak.
You have cut down the forests of Lebanon.
What is the use of worshiping an idol?

Sounds familiar doesn't it?

Friday, 27 March 2020

It's All On-Line - And All In Print (3)

The Grant Palmer timetable for services which may (or may not?) start this coming weekend is a really good example pf how to publicise a set of bus services. 
We have been higlighting the 74 which changes by extenstion to Hitchin replacing part opf a Centrebus service. So, naturally, there is the full timetable ...
... and an excellent map from FWT.
The quality is superb, sop much better than those Google map oveprints that many operatpors use to save them the bother of doping the job properly. Google maps are fully scaleable and geographically accurate, but their electronic creation denied the bus operator of the ability to highlight things that matter. On the above extract, we see Tesco, as important shopping destination ...
... and the Priory Business Park from where Grant P may hope to glean a few commuters.
Not marked as such, but difficult to miss, are the famous Cardington sheds ...
... where the R101 Airship was built and garaged.
R101 crashed in France in the early morning of 5th October 1930 on its way to Karachi in India. 46 people were killed in the fire. Development of airships was halted.

It is hard to grasp the size of this vessel, but here are passengers boarding at the top of its mooring tower ...
... and here is the multi storey tower!
Modern airships, built with more consideration for safety, have been developed, but, as yet, the idea of a gentle flight rather than a fast jet has nor proved commercially attractive.

But, yet again, we digress. The second half of the map takes us south to Hitchin.
Henlow Camp, by the way, is a smallish village which takes its name from RAF Henlow, home to four huge hangars, not as tall as Cardington, but still huge.
They were built during World War 1.

But, yet again, we digress. The 74 timetable also includes a guide map of stops in Bedford ...
... and just one in Hitchin.
It's not just the new and extended 74 that gets the treatment; each route included in the booklet has a similarly excellent map.

And to complete this review of the Company's publicity, there is also a route 74 only leaflet.
This also contains example of season ticket priced and return fares.
Overall this set of leaflets is one of the best combinations of timetable, graphic and general information fbb has experienced in recent years.

If there were "a golden ticket machine" award for bus publicity, Grant Palmer should be one name on the golden envelope ...

Worrying News For Seaton
It appears that the redoubtable Frances May Searle, proprietrix of Axe Valley mini Travel, fbb's local bus operator, is in trouble with the Beak.
Frances is no spring chicken and, if the company goes under or madam simply gives up, it is hard to see any other operator taking it on. And all this was in motion well before the Corona Virus crisis developed.

It is unlikely that the hearing will take place next month BUT it will hang, like the sword of Damocles, over the company until it does take place.

Damocles thought it would be really nice to be king. The King, annoyed by Dammo's perasistent bleating, offered to swap places and allow the covetous courtier a whole day seated on the regal throne. but he hung a sword above Dammo's head, suspended by a single horse hair. It was meant to symbolise to high level of responsibility that came with kinging. Dammo stopped complaining!

 Next variegated blog : Saturday 28th March 
Short Thought

In Answer to Habakkuk's second complaint about the "coming" of the "brutal Baylonians", God was equally enigmatic.  Godinstructed the prophet:-

Write down clearly on tablets what I reveal to you, so that it can be read at a glance. Put it in writing, because it is not yet time for it to come true.

But the time is coming quickly, and what I show you will come true.

It may seem slow in coming, but wait for it; it will certainly take place, and it will not be delayed.

Coming quickly? Seems slow in coming? Wait! It will certainly happen! It will not be delayed.

But what? And why? And when?

Thursday, 26 March 2020

It's All On-Line - And All In Print (2)

Grant Palmer produces printed timetable booklets of exceptionally high quality for a small family-run company. Or maybe the high quality stems from the fact the the company is small and family run; so cheery Grant ...
... knows the needs of his passengers and knows full well that a large percentage of them would not, or could not, grapple with the hassle of seeking information on-line.

fbb has received just one of his booklets, that which deals with some changes from 30th March. 
The red blob (upper right) says "includes new 74 service to Hitchin.

Well now, when fbb was nobbut a lad (actually married with a couple of sproglets) his woprk, marriage and family somewhat denuded him of the enthuisasm and opportunity to explore the highways and byways of the UK's bus and rail network. There wasn't much spare cash either!

But, for a while, United Counties (UC) produced a loose leaf timetable book ...

... and offered a leaflet update service by post. So fbb  can confidently (?) aver that, in 1979, UC ran a service 180 from Bedford to Biggleswade ...
... running via Ickwell of Thomas Tompion fame. (see yesterday's blog). There were also other routes between the two towns.

176 : Bedford - Mogerhanger - Biggleswade
177 : Bedford - Mogerhanger - Biggleswade
179 : Bedford - Old Warden - Biggleswade

In 1979 these were all grouped on one of UC's loose leaves.
UC soon closed the scheme (on cost grounds) but at least you could maintain a complete set in good order.

With many changes over the years, this has become Grant Palmer's route 74 ...
... now running via Old Warden and thus incorporating the 1979 route 179.
Now we must take a look at a Centrebus service. Currently the 188 and 189 ...
 run from Sandy ...
... via two different routes to Biggleswade and then on to Hitchin. From this coming Monday (30th March) Centrebus are removing themselves from the Biggleswade to Hitchin leg and ...


... Grant is extending his 74 to replace it. Hence the booklet with the red blob!
Needless to say it is all very well explained in the newsletter.

But Cwentrebus do leave us with a little problem.
Is is MoGerhanger (United Counties) or MoGGerhanger (Centrebus)?
It looks as if Centrebus get the prize, certainly according to Google Maps ...
... AND The Ordnance Survey.
The road signs concur.
A chocolate peanut for Centrebus!

But maybe not a raspberry for UC? According to Wikipedia ...

Moggerhanger is a village in the English county of Bedfordshire. It is west of Sandy on the road to Bedford. Its population in 2001 was 636,[2] but had reduced to 620 at the 2011 Census. In the twentieth century the village name was spelled variously as: Moggerhanger, Mogerhanger, Muggerhanger and Morehanger. Local pronunciation of the name is as Morhanger.

The OFFICIAL civil parish name is Mogerhanger.

It seems that the name was changed at some stage in the village's history
But we digress. Indeed we digress so much that a full review of the forthcoming 74 (if, indeed it forth comes!) will grace your screens tomorrow.

 Next Grant Palmer blog : Friday 27th March 
Short Thought
The Assyrians, who had obliterated the northerners, suddenly disappeared from the annals of history. They were quickly replaced by the Babylonians and Habakkuk did not like the idea of the big brutal Babylonians "coming" to Judah, as "promised" in a vision from God.

How can you, our God, treat people like fish or like a swarm of insects that have no ruler to direct them? The Babylonians catch people with hooks, as though they were fish. They drag them off in nets and shout for joy over their catch! They even worship their nets and offer sacrifices to them, because their nets provide them with the best of everything. Are they going to use their swords forever and keep on destroying nations without mercy?

The Babylonians' lifestyle was, suggested Habbie, worse then even the declining morality of Judah. It looked as if things were going to get worse rather than better.

What was God up to?

P.S. The Babylonians were not all bad. They kept meticulous astronomical records, could predict eclipses and the phases of the moon and were jolly good at sums. Sadly, despite trying, they failed to predict earthquakes and plagues.

But they were utterly dominant politically and militarily.

Wednesday, 25 March 2020

It's All On-Line - And All In Print (1)

Sad, Frustrated Chappies ...
On Tuesday morning the Railways were taken into government control - See It, Say It, Sorted.
And a from-the-heart-response from a senior bus manager of an "independent" operator.
Good questions.

Also yesterday, Halifax independent T J Walsh ...
... ceased trading. The effect of Coronavirus was "the last straw".
The first of many?

Happy Chappy!
It is so refreshing to be able to report on a bus company that believes in informing ALL its passengers and potential passengers. Cheery chappie Grant Palmer produces amazingly excellent material which formed the basis for yesterday's intruductory blog.

Whilst printed publicity will no doubt be abandoned throughout much of the industry during the present crisis, causing frustration and anger amongst the few remaining passengers, it is really sad to see larger bus groups talking proudly about being "paperless".

But Grant isn't!

Document 1 - a brief company history:
The firm is justifiably proud of its heritage and is happy to say so.
Just A4 folded to A5 but informative and good PR. 
And he is still there today!

Document 2 - A Newsletter:-
This is produced as necessary with the stated aim of keep everyone informed, recognising that a huge percentage of customers do no "go on line", either because they have no such facilities; or, sensibly,  because they realise how much stress and hassle it is to struggle with the bits and bites instead of opening a pamphet!

It is from the latest newsletter that fbb culled Graham and Thomas for yesterday blog.
There are suggestions for outings, sadly irrelevant at the moment. But it never ceases to amaze fbb that bus companies don't try to sell a bus ride as a jolly good outing in its own right. Far too many companies put their products (the bus) on a shelf (the bus stop) and sort of hope people will buy.

Too reactive and not at all proactive!
fbb is not sure that he would want to "explore" Intu Milton Keynes (a shopping centre), more a short term prison sentence - BUT the frog is well worth a look!
The Newsletter also has details of company developments ...
... of more smart new buses ...
... and enhancement to the services.
Wixams is a new town and civil parish located in Bedfordshire, England, which has been under construction since early 2007. It is expected to become the third largest settlement in the Borough of Bedford after Bedford itself and Kempston, and one of the largest new settlements founded in England since the British new towns movement of the first twenty five years after World War II.
The Retirement Village is in the triangle of road between to re-routed A6 and the originally A6 upper right. It post-dates streetview but looks rather posh.
And here it isn't on Streetview in the field to the right of the lorry ...
... and here is one of Grant's new stops.
Or it will be when Streetview catches up!

Thomas apologises about long term roadworks ...
... and, until Boris' most recent prognostications, you could have a Routemaster at your wedding.
All very chummy, personal and comforting.

Top marks for both documents.

And tomorrow - a timetable BOOK! Deep joy.

 Next Grant Palmer blog : Thursday 26th March 
Short Thought
God's answer to Old Testament prophet Habakkuk was not what the visionary wanted to experience. The remnant of the Kingdom had witnessed a great miracle when the ferocious Assyrians, having obliterated the norther territories came and besieged Jerusalem.

Was this the end for the tiny remaining nation, now called Judah?

No - because the Assyrians suddenly packed up their siege engines and went home. No good reason, they just skiddaddled!

Miracle indeed! Praise the Lord; Hallellujah; Great Rejoicing : God is Good (etc.)

But it didn't last. Judah had quickly sunk back into social, moral and legislative decline. Hence Habbie's complaint to God. Why don't You do something?"

So God told him what he would do.

I am bringing the Babylonians to power, those fierce, restless people. They are marching out across the world to conquer other lands. They spread fear and terror, and in their pride they are a law to themselves.

Their horses are faster than leopards, fiercer than hungry wolves. Their cavalry troops come riding from distant lands; their horses paw the ground. They come swooping down like eagles attacking their prey.

Didn't go down too well ...