Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Fascinating Falkirk (1)

It All Started With a Book ...
... which Mrs fbb spotted on the shelves of Seaton Public Library. Perhaps not the most well thumbed volume in the library's current stock, but fascinating to fbb. The book traces the towns tram system from opening in 1905 to closure in 1936.

Author A W Brotchie concludes his introduction thus:-

The following say (after closure) Alexander's blue double deck buses were the only means of transport round the route.
Today, some 75 years later (book published in 2011) ... the circle remains a busy service.

Only it doesn't circle any more, as we shall see later.

No seems to know why, but the track was 4 foot gauge, the only such in the UK, so almost before services started the network has been deemed "unusual".

Of course, Falkirk is known to bus people as the home of Alexanders the bus builders with its present works on Glasgow Road Camelon.
The company, family owned until 1987, has had a tortuous history in recent times, but is now well known for the Enviro range of vehicles.
By 2014 55% of the shareholding was in the private non-Stagecoach hands of Brian Souter and his sister Ann Gloag.

Tourists will know the town as the home of the spectacular Falkirk Wheel.
For those that have never been , the "Wheel" is a huge boat lift that replaced a long flight of locks allowing boats to move from the Forth and Clyde Canal up the hill to the Union Canal. (click on the picture below for enlargement)
There's a tunnel as well (upper right in the screenshot above).
In fact the ladder of locks were not in the same place as the wheel as can been seen by comparing the two maps below.
A significant chunk of completely new canal was needed. Here is the new canal bridge on the B816 (bottom right on map extracts above) ...
... and, just round the bend, the old stub end of the original canal which lay just beyond the locks.

First Bus route 3 links the town centre with the wheel ....
... dropping you off right outside the very impressive visitor centre.
From here you can take a boat ride from bottom to top (and back!) but BEWARE. Boats are often fully booked IN ADVANCE, so you are advised to do likewise,

fbb would like to show you the timetable for First services 3 and 4, but sadly, they are a state secret. The company web site does not admit to any local buses in Falkirk!
Look! No service 3 and 4. Good, isn't it?

What else do we know about Falkirk?

In the 18th century the area served as the cradle of Britain's Industrial Revolution, becoming the earliest major centre of the iron-casting industry. James Watt cast some of the beams for his early steam engine designs at the Carron Iron Works in 1765. The area was at the forefront of canal construction when the Forth and Clyde Canal opened in 1790. The Union Canal (1822) provided a link to Edinburgh and early railway development followed in the 1830s and 1840s. Falkirk became the first town in Great Britain to have a fully automated system of street lighting, designed and implemented by a local firm, Thomas Laurie & Co Ltd.

In common with many areas, the town's heavy industry has mostly gone. The ravages of the all conquering motor car have changes many areas of the town almost beyond recognition and most of the main roads are now a mixture of decaying residential property and utilitarian warehousing.

We will experience some of this as we tour the tram system in later blogs.

Tailpiece - Senior Moment 456 and 456a.

Knowing that the house in Abergynolwyn is a holiday home, Mrs fbb rememberd to add condiments to the shopping list. She wrote:-

Salt and Peggy

Meanwhile, fbb, anxious as ever to help, suggested he should prepare a dish and then it could be:-

Heated up quickly in the microphone
Advent Calendar
Now we begin that simple unassuming nativity story with Joe and his betrothed trekking from Nazareth to Bethlehem.
70 miles as the fly crows but quite a bit more by track. Here is Luke again.

At that time Emperor Augustus ordered a census to be taken throughout the Roman Empire. When this first census took place, Quirinius was the governor of Syria. Everyone, then, went to register himself, each to his own hometown.

Joseph went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to the town of Bethlehem in Judea, the birthplace of King David. Joseph went there because he was a descendant of David. He went to register with Mary, who was promised in marriage to him. She was pregnant.

And forget the donkey.
Ir is pure misplaced supposition. Like the "traditional" blue frock, the couple would not have been able to afford the Donkey Hire - especially at Christmas (poor joke); especially with high demand for travel to the census offices!

They would have walked; and it might well have taken them at least a week.

But somehow the simplicity and hardship of the story makes Christmas all the more meaningful.

And fbb is well aware that clever Bible scholars have difficulty matching Quirinius with known dates of Roman census happenings. But the Romans were top-notch administrators and they were always doing census-type things, often organised at a local level. So no authentication worries there.
 Next Falkirk blog : Wednesday 21st December 


  1. I don't know where your looking because the First Bus app comes up with the timetables for the 3 and the 4 in the South East and Central Scotland Page

  2. Bradford trams were also 4 foot gauge. Where they met up with the Leeds standard gauge there was a short lived experiment with sliding wheels along a tapered piece of track to allow through running. In Bailiff Bridge, they met up with Halifax Trams (3 foot 6 in) and Huddersfield Trams (4 foot 8 and a half)and there was at one time a tramways bill proposed to have triple gauge track between Bailiff Bridge and Brighouse, which came to nothing.
    Ken traveline (ex Bradfordian)

  3. Anonymous. Please be assured that they were't there yesterday! Hence the screenshot in the blog above. First have quite a good/poor track record in listing the wrong services in this app. At one stage all or Cornwall was shown in Somerset!

  4. The First website doesn't make it easy to find the Falkirk route, buried at position no. 25 when searching for plain "3"!
    There's something decidedly wrong behind the scenes when three figure routes take precedence over the prime number.

  5. I have noticed many web sites when searching numbers locate all beginning with "1" , then "2" etc

  6. In the latest Yellow Buses blog - comment was made that the Traveline 'lookup' for V4 switched to the existing service 5a/5b. That is still the situation, is Traveline aware?


    1. Yes fixed in this weeks update (visible 22nd December) and hopefully all the other composites should be there as well. P2/3 U9/10 U6/7 R1/2 in addition to the B and V series.
      Ken Traveline

  7. Such "malordering" used to be the case with a lot of older computers, whereby it sorts strictly in order of first digit, then second digit (so 1, 11, 111, 112, 2, 22, 224, 3, 4, 445, etc), rather as you would with letters.

    Modern systems seem to have "got over it", so why it should still be a problem with websites will have to wait for someone more technically minded to answer!

  8. Computers are in essence very simple. Everything is a string of 0s and 1s which can be added or subtracted and stored in or read from a physical location in memory with an address written in 0s and 1s. These are written into "programs" with extra controls to jump about the programs. You hopefully get the individual simple instructions in the right order to make something complex Windows or a payment App. However with the millions of instructions either generated by people or computer there are often "mistakes".

    Sorting: A location in memory can be define amongst other things as a number or a character. Numbers are easy like 1,2,3 ..,123456, 123457 and they sort as you expect. A character is used for a code number to represent anything that is needed for printing; so A-Z a-z 0-9 .,;:()<> and all the European, Greek etc. UNICODE is a common coding system. If you sort these it comes out in the order of the code numbers taken one character at a time. So everything starting with A may come before B before g before 5 before %. Then you sort the A starts by the 2nd character in the same way.

    So if set as a character you get A1, B3, B*, g7, 1, 15, 200X, 3, ...

    Or you sort manually to get First's website timetables for Falkirk area, which starts routes UL, 1, H1/H2, 2/2A/2B, WM2, 3, DF3, ...

  9. Hope you spell Falkirk correctly tomorrow

  10. Coming back to the sliding wheels thing ... of course this is something which now happens in Spain on a daily basis as the trains move between the AVE high-speed network (standard gauge) and the rest of the railway system (Iberian broad gauge). I think they have to get down to something like 10 mph, but it's better than the bogie changing which used to take place at the French/Spanish border (and maybe still does?)