Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Romans, Roads, Radio, Railway and Rugby

 Romans & Roads 

They built the A5 (or its equivalent) between Londinium and Deva (Chester) but called it "Route 2". Telford poshed it up a bit to form a fast route for mail coaches to carry vital government stuff between London and Ireland. 

Through England, the road largely took over existing turnpike roads and mainly following the route of the Anglo-Saxon Wæcelinga Stræt (Watling Street), much of which had been historically the Roman road Iter II. However between Weedon, Northamptonshire and Oakengates, Telford's Holyhead Road eschews the Watling Street corridor, picking up instead the major cities of Coventry, Birmingham, and Wolverhampton; this routing being far more useful for communications.

One A5 diversion was via the village of Kilsby in Northamptonshire.

The London and Birmingham Railway did not, at first, serve Northampton but passed Kilsby underground by way of the massive Kilsby Tunnel.
Its route is clearly visible by the distinctive castellated air vents.
Eventually a loop line was built between Roade and Rugby which served Northampton, Long Buckby, Althorpe (for Lord Spencer and his chums) and Kilsby & Crick Stations.
It has oft been written that the route via Northampton was a no-no because of landowners' opposition. It seems far more likely that Stephenson decided that the expense of engineering the loop was not cost effective just to serve a tin pot market town of no great importance. Better whizz swiftly to Brum! The station closed pre-Beeching in 1960.

The big rail development in the area has been Daventry International Freight Terminal built nearer to Crick.
Almost lost amongst the warehouses was The Halfway House, a traditional "roadhouse" pub.
Although much altered this dates from the 19th Century and, presumably, assumed some importance with the developments of the road network. Despite being intact, boarded up and for sale on Streetview, this piece of road-travel history was demolished in 2013.

A distinctive feature of the area and visible for miles around is the Hillmorton (or Rugby) radio station. These masts, too, are in the process of demolition.

The tall VLF (very low frequency) transmitters ...
... were commissioned from 1926 onwards by the Post Office Telephones [POT] Department ostensibly to provide international communication. Like much of the POT infrastructure then and today, part of the function has been military. It is an open secret that these towers were part of a network allowing orders to be passed to our nuclear armed subs as the cold war heated up a bit.

Now all that Rugby supplies is a signal to ensure all our electronic clocks show the right time.

Part of the site is to be developed for housing; which brings us neatly to a news report in a Local paper for ...

A new railway station in Hillmorton has been approved by Warwickshire County Council (WCC). Councillors voted yesterday (Thursday October 8) to build the Rugby Parkway station on the A428 Crick Road, on vacant land in between existing housing and the Daventry International Rail Freight Terminal (DIRFT).

 The station will connect to the Northampton loop of the West Coast Mainline and run two to three trains per hour to Birmingham, Northampton, the West Midlands, London and the rest of the UK. Scheduled for completion as soon as December 2019, it will cost a total of just under £11m, and include northbound and southbound platforms, a connecting footbridge and a 260 space car park.

Plans for the station have been tabled to serve the new housing development at the old mast site, where up to 6,200 homes are being constructed over a 15-20 year period – with a potential increase in Rugby’s population of 15,000.

It would also serve commuters to and from DIRFT, which itself is undergoing an expansion.

The local press does not have the best reputation for getting things right when it comes to public transport. It seem unlikely that Warwickshire has committed to spend £11 million. The County Council may have approved the idea of a new station but a decision to build will, undoubtedly, depend on raiding a whole heap of piggy banks for the pennies.

then there is the capacity question. There are currently three trains an hour via Long Buckby and Northampton.
It is unreasonable to expect all three to make an additional stop between Rugby and Long Buckby. In the initial stages one an hour is the best that could be expected. Local rail campaigners are already suggest that all trains are already full (they aren't!) and extra trains will be required.

Needless to say, locals are already revolting at the increased pressure on roads etc, Few pictures of the development have been released but this sketch (below) ...
... shows development surrounding the original transmitter buildings.
These buildings can be seen on the aerial view below; they are top right ...
The bifurcation of the Northampton loop can be glimpsed at "Crick Road", bottom left.

The new station plan seems a good one, BUT ...
... is it a realistic policy?
fbb wears two hats?
On Saturday 7th November the Thorncombe Rail Activities Club (TRAC) is holding its annual Model Railway Exhibition at Thorncombe; which is well hidden but sort-of near Chard.
fbb will be there as a member of TRAC and as a member of Buffers Model Railway Club (or is that Duffers?) which is showing its "under construction" layout as an example of what can be achieved with somewhat less money than the UK National Debt. fbb has contributed models to the layout and thus will be on hand to be politely denigrated by experienced and skilful modellers. Should be fun!

A couple of weekend blogs will explain all. But do pop along if you are in the area - and if you can find Thorncombe!
Sheffield Update
Yesterday (Tuesday), fbb's keen Sheffield correspondent collected what may well be the last few timetable leaflets. They are a mixtures of Stagecoach exclusive plus those for the remaining "joint" services. It would appear "joint" leaflets have been shared by the two main partners. It would also appear that, at long last, all printed information is now available. 

At least in theory.

It will be interesting to see how many leaflets fbb can find NEXT week! 
 Next bus blog : Thursday 5th November 


  1. A visit to Arundel Gate yesterday produced a reasonable (but not complete) range of leaflets with no sign of supplies imminently running out. Most are small-format First leaflets which urge one to go online for the full timetable (huh!) However in the case of the X5 timetable, for instance, the internet only offers more detailed footnotes (though these include, crucially, the peak hour extension to Thurcroft) and the odd extra timing point. The partnership leaflets include the joint 52, 120 and 1/1A and, mysteriously, 86, 88 and 57/201/SL which are all-Stagecoach operations....while the 265 is a standard Stagecoach leaflet. Most odd. Plenty of maps available.

  2. ...and I forgot to say that the First 272 leaflet ignores Hulleys' (non-competitive) journeys entirely. Partnership anyone?

  3. Yes, absolutely ridiculous omitting the Hulleys' journeys which form an integral part of the combined hourly frequency. The current service pattern is a continuation of the joint arrangements established by Sheffield JOC and North Western in the late 1920s, and Hulleys' timings are recognisably those which were once worked by NWRCC and later by Trent. Most journeys of course have just been rerouted via West Street and the Hallamshire Hospital and renumbered to 271 instead of the long-standing 272 (72 from the 1920s).

  4. ...and don't forget there is that unbelievably stupid journey from Castleton to DORE village - where it becomes an 81 (..or is 82, 181 or something like that?). Makes a complete mockery of an already stupid route map.

  5. "Local rail campaigners are already suggest that all trains are already full (they aren't!)"

    They largely are. There needs to be a complete end to 4-car operation on the WCML.