Wednesday, 12 August 2020

Alton Towers Trains And Flowers (2)

But where to start?

To avoid too much complication, fbb will begin with the 20th Duke Of Buckingham.
Earlier dukes had developed Alton Towers and created some magnificent gardens, even adding a lake ...
... with other water features ...
... building a pagoda ...
... and a replica Greek mini-temple.
They even rebuilt Alton Castle, which sits on a hill on the opposite side of the valley from Alton Towers.
The arrival of the railway in 1849 gave the estate the opportunoity of opening up house and gardens to "invited" guests and later to the general public.

All the garden features pictured above have been restored to their former glory in recent years.

The lake ...
... water features ...
... pagoda ...
... and touch of repro Geek antiquity.
Indeed the gardens at Alton Towers are magnificent and often missed by visitors as they queue for ages to be slung about and terrified on the various horrific rides.

But it all so nearly went wrong.

Major Charles Henry John Chetwynd-Talbot, 20th Earl of Shrewsbury, 20th Earl of Waterford, 5th Earl Talbot, KCVO (13 November 1860 – 7 May 1921), styled Viscount Ingestre from 1868 to 1877, was a British peer.
During the 1890s, the 20th earl, Charles Talbot started the tradition of summer fetes at Alton. As well as the gardens, people were attracted with fireworks displays, balloon festivals, clowns, and exhibitions of instruments of torture.

But it soon went awry.

The 20th earl was a very active businessman who is now best known for founding the manufacturer of Talbot cars in 1902.

As well as Talbot Cars, the youthful 20th Earl was a public transport entrepreneur in London. He owned a fleet of Hansom Cabs, the best money could buy; and, of course, demand responsive public transport!
His cabs were lettered S T (for Shrewsbury Talbot) and they carried the family crest.

He even installed a "telephone" in the stables, so wealthy customers could "dial a ride".
He instituted a system of franchised operation whereby his drivers paid him £1 a day (a tidy sum way back when) and could keep whatever fares they collected above that sum. They often went on strike, especially in the winter when business was slack. So even back then, franchising was not the best answer.

What goes around, comes around.

In 1896, the earl and countess separated. The earl went to live at Ingestre and the countess stayed at Alton. The house began to decay and the grounds became neglected because the earl did not pay for upkeep. In November 1918, the earl decided to sell off the majority of the estate by auction. The countess continued to live on the estate for another two years after the earl died in 1921.

What remained of the grand estate was bought by a consortium of local businessmen in 1924; it became Alton Towers Limited. The grounds were refurbished and were opened to the public. 

The Alton Towers of the 20th and 21st Century was just beginning.

The Second World War interrupted development and the owners were unable to maintain the grand house. They were forced to sell off ceiling mouldings, doors and even a staircase to stave off financial ruin. Using the estate as a Military Training School did not help!

So we have had the "Flowers", what about "Trains".

Post WW2, efforts were made to regenerate the business. Boats for hire were floated on the lake, a fairground was operated on the land in front of the House ...

... and a railway was installed!
It was second-hand, and old at that!
It lasted over 40 years with the same locomotive.
It is near Farnham.
Altonia still runs and is now over 90 years old!
There are a few remnants of the line at Alton Towers. A former station is now a sales and enquiry office ...
... and, if you know where to look, a set of buffers!
Alton Towers had a model railway, constructed over a three year period in the old Chapel. It was promoted as "the largest model railway in the World" but it probably wasn't.

It was spectacular and large with a variety of UK, European and American trains trundling around incessantly.
By today's standards it was not very "interesting" and the modelling was, in places, quite crude.
Spot the Airfix kits in the centre of the picture above. But when it opened it was very much state of the art. Sadly, it was not developed and was auctioned off in 1993 to make way for a full restoration of the Chapel.
Of course, while we are in the grounds of Alton Towers, we must remember the famous monorail. It runs from the huge car park area to near the centre of activty. When fbb rode long ago it was quite a pleasant experience ...
... but now the trains are plastered with contravision jelly beans and the like ...
... making the view outside into a spotty and gloomy experience. The kiddies seem to like it!

Of course, like the miniature "steam" railway of old, the monorail is secondhand ...
... having been part of the Vancouver World Exposition in 1986.
But tomorrow, we leave the luxuries of the mansion at Alton Towers, we say farewell to the rides and queueing jollity to make our way down to the village to explore the real railway.

 Next Trains and Flowers blog : Thursday 13th August 

Tuesday, 11 August 2020

Alton Towers Trains And Flowers (1)

Some surprise was expressed by bus watchers when Hulleys of Baslow announced their X71 bus service way back in BC times. The post viral route was scaled down quite significantly, with its main destination being Alton Towers.
The Bakewell "shorts" would be numbered X70 on most days and, as another Hulleys innovation, form faster journeys between the two Derbyshire towns, significantly nippier than the pre-exisiting 170. Note that the X70 runs from Chesterfield Station - another "good idea" from the new owners of Hulleys.
The general on-line presentation of the X71 is good with attractive illustrations on the web site ...
... smart vehicles asnd something a little "different" on the blind.
Young Gavin, who does Hulley's computer "stuff" has had a jolly good "go" at reproducing Alton Towers logo ...
... in an orange-yellow dotty display.
In turn, the logo is a happy but simplified version of Alton Towers (the Grand House) itself.
So it was that, on Saturday 1st August, Sheffield correspondent Roy was mooching round a near deserted Sheffield Interchange when he observed the departure to Alton Towers.

15 persons boarded, which with en route and Chesterfield additions, seems a good start to what must be described as a "courageous" commercial venture in these *npr*c*d*nt*d times.

There is, as our readers may know, a campaign to ban the use of the word *npr*c*d*nt*d and bring in Government legislation to fine writers for its (over) use. fbb must be careful.

But what DO we know of the present-day Alton Towers, the second most visited Therme Patk in the UK? (the No 1 slot is held by Legoland at Windsor)

In fact the park's more recent history has been somewhat complex as a business.

After millionaire property developer John Broome married the daughter of majority shareholder Denis Bagshaw in 1973, he bought out the controlling stake in Alton Towers. Over the next few years, he laid the foundation for the modern theme park by installing various permanent rides and developing areas of the grounds in progressive stages.

Alton Towers began its evolution into a major theme park in 1980 with the installation of The Corkscrew rollercoaster ...
... the Pirate Ship, and the Alpine Bob sled ride. 

In 1984, the park's second roller-coaster, The Black Hole, arrived.
The ride closed in 2005.

Throughout the 1980s and beyond, more attractions, areas and rides were added to Alton Towers.

John Broome had to sell to offset some of his losses on the abortive development of Battersea Power Station.
Part of the "promo" included a "Battersea Bullet" train from a dedicated platform at London Victoria.
Despite the "way out" pictures, the trains would have been fairly conventional but blacked out with sounds and projected visuals to simulate a "space age" ride. Broome lost pretty much everything he had on the Battersea project.

In 1990, the Alton Towers was purchased by The Tussauds Group. The change of ownership heralded an era of intense development, with a range of large attractions and new areas being built at the park, including the dark rides The Haunted House (1992) and Toyland Tours (1994), thrill rides such as Nemesis (1994), a hotel complex in 1996, Oblivion (1998), and Air (now known as Galactica) (2002).
In 2005, the Park was acquired by the investment group Dubai International Capital (DIC) when it purchased Tussauds for £800 million. The Tussauds Group was bought by Merlin Entertainments in March 2007 for over £1 billion from DIC, placing Alton Towers under their control. In July 2007, the resort and park was sold to Nick Leslau ...
... and his investment firm Prestbury, who now lease the park back to Merlin Entertainments to operate on a 35-year lease.

It's almost as convoluted as some of the post privatisation bus industry dealings!

But for Trains and flowers we need to go back a bit further.

Model Shop Re-Opens
Just outside Axminster is a small model emporium located in an old filling station.
It was where fbb began his Seaton-based modelling project.
Social distancing restrictions will apply, of course.
Maybe better at model railways than English grammar and syntax?

North Yorkshire Begs for More ...
Not only does this county want HMG to pay for charging points every 20 miles along the county's A roads, but in addition ...
Another £45 million -  a snip, to reduce pollution from buses (what buses?) which we all know is such a huge problem in the county.
Maybe they should also ask HMG for funds to electrify the North York Moors Railway?

And, Remember ...
Martijn (boss of GoAhead North East) Is Still Excited ....
... about Dylan and others dressing up last Easter.

 Next Alton Towers blog : Wednesday 12th August