Monday, 26 June 2017

Brackmills Buses Bewilder (1)

Our Loyal Reader May Ask, "Brackmills?"
It is a district of Northampton.

When fbb was just a wee lad (not so wee!) he could have ridden his (t)rusty velocipede or been taken in daddy's car down Rushmere Road (top to centre), crossing "the cut" and joining the Bedford Road. Turning left at the bottom, he would come to the Britannia Inn (left), see Rush Mills (right), cross the Northampton to Wellingborough railway via a level crossing, the lurch sharp left and continue along the Bedford Road.

Or he could lurch sharp right and continue to Hardingstone.
In the land between GREAT Houghton and HardinGSTONE you will now find Brankmills Industrial Estate.
It is almost impossible to work out what has happened to fbb's childhood cycling or being-driven experience. The green dual carriageway is the relocated A45, the green single carriage way is a diverted Bedford Road, but if we zoom in, we can just spot the remnants of past locations.
The curve of the old Bedford Road is now the white road to the left of the PH; which is the white building beyond the trees on the right in the picture below.
The diverted Bedford Road is on the left; the white van (without man) is parked on the remnants of the old Bedford Road. The Britannia Inn is still there and still trading.
It stands on the banks of a bit of the River Nene and further beyond the river bridge is a footpath that leads to where the level crossing once was.
The narrow (and gated) road which used to link the Bedford Road via "Strong Meadows" ...
... has all but disappeared. But, there it is from the Bedford Road end ...
... and here it emerges from under the bridge that carried the Northampton to Bedford branch and is subsumed into Salhouse Road, the eastern boundary of Brackmills Industrial Estate.
The Hardingstone end of this former road (named Houghton Hill) ...
... reappears on the western edge as a footpath off Caswell Road ...
It turns back from footpath and cycleway into the real back lanes of Hardingstone, called, with historic originality, Back Lane.
Historically, United Counties ran buses via Hardingstone; to Bedford via (guess what) the Bedford Road; and via Great Houghton.

Surprisingly their succesors, Stagecoach, still do - mostly.

The 41 runs hourly to Bedford but 43 is independent of Stagecoach.
The 901 is a positioning journey to get Meridian's bus to Lavendon on Sundays whence it runs four round trips as X10 to Milton Keynes.

Hardingtone has a service 7 every 30 minutes (7A on Sundays).
Service 57 was a works variant which has recently been renumbered as 7.

We will look at routes to Brackmills itself tomorrow.

 Next Brackmills blog : Tuesday 27th June 

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Sabbatical Selection

Phew It's a Scorcher!
Much mirth made it onto the very news-greedy media last week when some jolly lads at a school in Exeter were forbidden to turn up in shorts.
The story would have passed fbb by, and indeed did so until Sheffield correspondent Roy forwarded something similar.
The note Roy does not say what the "crew" were crewing, but Nantes does have some stunning trams.

John's Jolly Journey
Dorset correspondent John has been kind enough to help fbb interpret the developing story of the collapse of Damorey, indeed the near collapse of rural bus services in the county. But yesterday he was in Oxford. He writes thus:-
I am at a IHE AGM and conference (highways professional body).

Yesterday on my way up I decided to do something different in travelling from Bournemouth to Oxford - normally a two hour train journey in a very hot supposed air conditioned Voyager between the two stations.  Due to issues around Winchester with the power supply and broken down freight trains this service was being diverted via Romsey and the Salisbury bypass line.

So I caught GoAhead's "more" X3 from Lansdowne at 09.41 (ex Bournemouth Square at 09.35) ...
... with armchair seats and tables upstairs; arriving Salisbury at 11.00 on time.

Walked around Salisbury for 20 minutes then caught the Salisbury Reds X5 (also GoAhead) to Swindon ...
... with a crew change at Pewsey.
GoAhead have a depot here on the A345 at Salisbury Road Industrial Estate. Reds also operate the local buses around Marlborough. Tourist Coaches (also GoAhead) run local service 217 to Rogers Meadow.
The X5 was due at Swindon at 13.18 but arrived late with good loading from Marlborough area onwards.
On approaching Swindon bus station I saw my Stagecoach Gold 66 on stand due to leave at 13.25 (they run every 20 minutes between Swindon and Oxford) went down stairs and was first off and the 66 was next but one stand away. 
The driver was just getting ready to close the doors, and said "have you a bus pass" and waved me on.  Downstairs was full but upstairs was virtually empty.

I had worked out the bus routes to the Oxford Spires Hotel on Abingdon Road ...
... but the bus maps DID NOT. Show that Queens Street was closed for building work.
Queen Street Closure (21st May 2017 - further notice)

Queen Street in Oxford City Centre will once again be closed from Monday 22nd May 2017 until further notice. This will mean that several of our services will be affected, with necessary adjustments to timetables being made from Sunday 21st May 2017. Some of our current stopping arrangements will also need to change from that date.

city X3/X13:

Unfortunately, with no access to Queen Street, our city X3 and city 13 will be unable to serve Oxford Rail Station in order to maintain the high frequency of the service. As such, city X3 buses will replace the city 13 services and operate direct to John Radcliffe Hospital via Headley Way, while city X13 will run via Northway (see timetable for details).

Passengers wishing to travel from Abingdon to the Rail Station are advised to hop off at St Aldates Police Station ...
... and change onto our city 5, which operates from Speedwell Street stop S1 (a short walk away). Your ticket to the Rail Station will be accepted on the city 5 service. 

Sadly, John did not find this information; and even if he had, it helpfully explains what passengers from Abingdon must do, but fails to guide those arriving at Oxford Station. As is so often the case, public transport information is designed for those who know what they are doing and where they are going. The poor ignorant passenger from the wilds of Dorset has to struggle!

Once I saw the X3 and X32 buses going to/from Abingdon I knew I was nearly there.
Return today after 16.00 hours is by train as otherwise X3's from Salisbury terminate at Ringwood leaving a two hour wait in Ringwood for the last bus to Bournemouth.
Shame.

Who Pays When It's Free?
This is Carwyn Jones
A while ago, he stunned the Welsh bus industry with a shock announcement.

Carwyn Jones, first minister of Wales, has announced free weekend travel on TrawsCymru bus services, funded by the Welsh Government. The bus industry was not consulted before the announcement.

At the Welsh Labour Conference in Llandudno, Jones announced three measures which, he said, would make a tangible difference to passengers on Welsh public transport. Two relate to Wi-Fi for rail users.
Jones continued: “And to strengthen bus services, I am today announcing a 12-month pilot of free weekend travel on our long-distance TrawsCymru service to encourage more people to travel on the network.”

What he didn't announce was how the bus companies would be compensated and who would provide extra duplicates to deal with the extra passengers. Recent press comments reveal that nothing further has been arranged.
The piece goes on to warn that nothing specific has been arranged. The start of the scheme is expected "in July"!

A Tearful Farewell to fbb?
From a good friend? From a secret lady admirer? From a senior First Bus manager? Who could possibly be so sad if they did not converse with fbb ever again? (Many have suggested that they would be glad to be spared such a conversation!!)

No. It is Megabus.
Here's what Megabus says:-

Hi,

We know that you’ve registered your details with us in the last 18 months, but because of changes to data protection**, we need you to confirm that you’re happy to carry on receiving communications from us.

It’s no biggie, you simply need to click the button below and let us know that you’re still up for receiving the latest news, information and special offers from the megabus team.

As a little thank you, everyone who re-confirms their details will be put into our prize draw which could see you and a friend head off on a trip to the big smoke and bag a cool tech bundle. Hit the button below to get involved.

Factually, fbb has not registered his details with Megabus recently. In fact his one such journey was so long ago that he cannot remember when it was. The old man did a round trip in pre-blogging days as follows:-

Portsmouth to Brighton service 700 (OAP pass)
Brighton to London Megabus (£1.50)
London to Portsmouth National Express (£1)

It was soon after Megabus started running to Brighton, so 2005 or maybe 2006.

fbb did not "hit the button".

** What changes?

 Next Brackmills blog : Monday 26th June 

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Two Nations Separated by the Same Language

This quote (or something like it) is often attributed to George Bernard Shaw, celebrated author and cyclist, with little corroborative evidence.
He probably never rode anything like that; Osborn-Smith's Waxworks (an Isle of Wight "Attraction", now a restaurant, never let truth get in the way of a good diorama!) but the point is well made. It was a point made very clear last week when fbb was given a copy of an American railway modelling magazine with a 2008 cover dae.
Try this for a start!
Well; "dirt" is self explanatory, a "grade crossing" is a level crossing and a "gravel lot" is a gravelled yard. Totally clear. "Ties" are sleepers, "switching" is shunting, s "caboose" is a guards van and (possibly) "spurs" are branch lines. "Sidings" are definitely "sidings". "boxcar" is a goods van, but a "cushion underframe" temporarily bamboozled your author.
fbb suspects that the UK equivalent is a "shocvan".
But one thing is immediately obvious, even from a cursory glance at the magazine; there is very little modelling of passenger trains. Here is a narrow gauge mountain model ...
... and part of a huge historic 1950s model snaking round two large rooms.
These were the only two layouts from this particular edition which had any passenger traffic at all.

Adverts for passenger rolling stock are also few and far between ...
... with an upcoming model of a New York "subway" train announced from Walthers.
It would be fair to say that most layouts in the US, and thus most information in the magazine, are all about HO scale modelling. HO uses a track gauge of 16.5mm and a scale of 3.5mm to a foot. Remember that the US is not metric, so feet and inches prevail, but possibly not rods, poles and perches.

But two minority scales seem to be better supported that in dear old Blighty. The diminutive "Z" gauge ...
... is usually associated with German manufacturer Märklin. The loco above was on offer at a modest $805.76 with an unpainted kit at $213.76. Paint it? fbb would struggle to see it at 1.385mm to the foot. The loco above is barely two inches long.

More intriguing were adverts for models in "S" scale. In the UK this is highly specialist but in the US it has a strong following.
Strictly speaking, scale is the ratio of the size of a model to that of its prototype and gauge is the distance between the railheads. In the Case of "S" Scale, the proportion is 1:64 or 3/16" equals 1 foot. Standard "S" gauge track is 7/8" between the two rails.

It is historically and practically a non-metric scale!

One encouraging item in Model Railroader illustrates that even the most skillful US craftsmen have their problems.
The text that goes with this picture explains that the author was soldering the front "truck" (bogie) when the heat from the solder was transmitted through the metal body and the back bogie fell to bits!

Sounds like fbb's style of modelling!

There will be more from the US in a subsequent blog, but, for the time being, what is one of these?
In the "good old days" you might wish to contain your cows in some sort of fenced enclosure, i.e. a field. If a railway passed through the field, said cows could search for pastures greener and newer by hotfooting it along the track.

So this is the rail equivalent of a road cattle grid.
Seen here are sloping fences to accommodate the box car bodies and sharp spikes on the track to hurt the sensitive bovine feeties.

Note that there is no fencing along the track so the beasties can, quite happily (?), be pulverised by a train as long as they don't escape into someone else's bit of prairie.

Back to buses tomorrow.

 Next Sabbatical Selection : Sunday 25th June