Saturday, 25 June 2022

Sherpa'r Wyddfa (dwy)

Newidiadau Mawr i Arbed Arian?

There has always been a conflict is managing the bus services to get people car-free to their walk routes aiming to ascend Snowdon. There is the ever-present desire to save money but the even more ever present problem of car parking!

Vehicles parked illegally in Snowdonia face being towed away, police have warned in the wake of chaotic scenes in the national park at the weekend.

More bus services are to be laid on, and extra staff will be deployed to prevent a repeat of what happened on Sunday, when hundreds of vehicles parked on the Pen-y-Pass and made it unpassable for motorists.

On weekends the car park at Pen-y-pass will be a drop-off site for buses and taxis only. Park bosses hope this will reinforce the message that walkers should park in Llanberis and Nant Peris and use the regular Sherpa bus services.

This years's Snowdon Sherpa services have been re-jigged to help balance those two contradictory objectives.

How It Was
As recently as September 2021, Roger French was taking a look at the Snowdon Sherpa. In Essence five routes were operated.

S1 Park and Ride
This ran from Llanberis, via Nant Peris to the Pen y  Pass bus terminal and the start of two walk routes to the summit. The Pyg Track and the Miners Track leave from there.

S2 Betwys y Coed
This provided a useful bus link from the rail network on the line from Llandudno Junction to Blaenau Ffestiniog running to Pen y Pass and Llanberis with occasional journeys continuing to Caernarvon.

S4 Beddgelert
This ran from Caernarfon, following the line of the Welsh Highland Railway, to Beddgelert and round to Pen-y-Pass

Just off the above map extract is:-
S97 Porthmadog to Beddgelert
Again offering a convoluted connection from the Cambrian line with a change at Beddgelert.

But just scroll back to the main map and note two services that are NOT part of the Sherpa network. These were:-

85 Bangor to Llanberis
88 Caernarfon to Llanberis
Seen in the pictures above when in the hands of the disgraced and collapsed Padarn Bus. The route of the 85 is hugely simplified!
Also on the above extract we espy:-

S6 Bethesda
Buses which ran from Bangor via Bethesda and round to the Pen y Pass interchange.

How It Is Now
So, for the 2022 season, there has been a significant re-jig of the network. In essence the Sherpas have been integrated with some local routes, a decision which, presumably, has been designed to make the revised network more financially viable (or less financially unviable??)

For comparison purposes, we could use the map in the Gwynedd timetable book ...
... but we won't - for obvious reasons! And it is out-of-date.

Instead we turn to the excellent map on the Snowdon Sherpa timetable leaflet. It is geographically accurate, but a bit too detailed for a brief blog. So fbb will, again, use extracts and hope his hip-hop and happening readers will be able to follow!

These will NOT follow in  numerical order, but will start with the easy and continue geographically (sort of).

S4 Beddlegert (was S4 and 83)
As before, this follows the Welsh Highland Railway but now terminates at Beddgelert. From this route you can access the Snowdon Ranger path and the Rhyd Ddu path for the tough and energetic! But from Caernarfon (off map, top left), the S4 takes over the former local route from Caernarfon to Dinorwig (not shown on the 2021 diagram).
Here is the S3 timetable.
Caernarfon to Dinorwig was originally route 83 ...
... seen above, when much of the network was in Arriva's hands. There is far less Arriva in North Wales these days!

While at Beddgelert we can explore the new S4.

S4 Porthmadog to Pen y Pass (was S97 and part S4)
This gives access to the Watkin Path (top right) on its route to Pen y Pass. This is the least frequent of the revised Sherpa routes.

S1 Caerarfon to Betwys y Coed (was S2 and 88)
This absorbs the former service 88 between Caernarfon and Llanberis.
Caernarfon is off the map top left and Betwys y Coed ditto lower right.  A hourly service runs all the way!

S2 Bangor Llanberis Pen y Pass (was 85)
This has absorbed the former 85 (the complicated 85?) from Bangor and is extended to Pen y Pass to enhance what was the former Park and Ride shuttle.
It is not the neatest timetable to follow ...
... but, unless you are looking to ride to some of the intermediate villages, it provides a good route from Bangor to the mountain.

S5 Llanberis Pen y Pass (was S1)
S1 and S2 provide a half hourly frequency from car parks to Pen y Pass and at busy weekends the S5 (YELLOW) is added to create a 15 minute frequency from Nant Peris ...
... with some of the additional journeys starting at Llanberis at busy times. 

The whole Sherpa network is now in the hands of Gwynfor Coaches. This company was based at Llangefni on Anglesey, but opened a second depot to run the Sherpa. Here is a typical vehicle in a shiny new "wrap" for the network ...
... replacing a somewhat boring white plus logo.
The vehicle started its life serving the car parks at Manchester Airport.
Certainly the bus is smarter than simple white!
The changes to the Sherpa network are substantial and it remains to be seen if the links with previously "normal" village routes will bring profitability, or if not oodles of cash, then some stability to the finances.

Puzzle Picture
was a view straight down from the glass floor in the upper walkway of London's Tower Bridge.
Below is a view of a Japanese navy vessel passing through with roadway fully open. 
A fully open bridge is exceedingly rare, as below for the Queen's Golden Jubilee Thames Pageant.

With a steady improvement for Mrs fbb's mobility after her hip replacement, fbb is tackling his first solo awayday by public transport since the start of the lockdown. He is off to today's Model Railway Exhibition at Exeter which will also involve fbb's first visit to the new Exeter bus station.

Expect blog reports to follow in due course.

 Next Variety blog : Sunday 26th June 

Friday, 24 June 2022

Sherpa'r Wyddfa (un)

The Traditional Steam Ascent

Rack and pinion steam locos push their single coach steadily (but slowly) up the UK's only proper mountain railway from a terminus at Llanberis. 
But diesels now appear with posh new coaches which offer the same glorious ride but, somehow, without that warm glow inside - inside the passengers as well as the engine's firebox!
Diesels? New-fangled things, they'll never catch on!

There is a well-worn saying that if you cannot see the summit of Snowdon, it will be raining up there.
On the other had, if the summit is clear ...
... it will be thick cloud and driving rain by the time you get up there. The weather was, at best, varied when Tim Dunn rode the very first train of the season.
Did you spot that the returning staff train and the train delivering water were both diesel hauled.

Everything has to be taken up to the Summit caff ...
... which is a great improvement on the old terminus facilities.
Timmy's video may be from a previous year as the visitor centre and caff are closed until 2023 with trains terminating at Clogwyn.
There is building work in hand at the summit!
Or mayhap Timmy's staff trains were supplying the building staff? He doesn't say!

fbb has ascended by train twice. Once when he was a little lad, with mum, dad, grannie and sister; and once with Mrs fbb and the three younger fbb sprogs. 

When a spotty oik, fbb remembers approaching via the Llanberis pass ..

... and spotting three teensy-weensy little trains chuffing wearily, one behind the other, atop that escarpment as seen above. It was utterly exciting to think that he and the family would soon be all the way up there! No one seems to have captured such a view, but imagine it to be something like this ...
... but viewed from the valley floor to the right and very much below.

The mountain ride is expensive, but should be experienced at least once in a lifettime - and, even better, once when the sun is shining all the way!

But the fit will be keen to walk up the monster.,. fbb has never felt that sense off keenness and potential achievement!

There are SIX possible routes ...

... of which the easiest parallels the railway (BLUE) from Llanberis. The Pyg Track (LIGHT BROWN) and the Miners Track (MUD GREEN) leave from Pen-y-Pass ...
... which is very easy to get to by public transport. The other routes, Snowdon Ranger (DARK BROWN), Rhyd-Ddu (GREEN) and Watkin (GREY) are also all accessible by bus.

As our astute readers will know (and maybe some non-astute readers?) the Watkin Path is named after Edward Watkin ...

progenitor of the very first "High Speed One", namely the Great Central Railway. There is no evidence that our Ed trekked up Snowdon with great regularity, or even planned a standard gauge line spiralling round the peak to its summit, but he did have a house nearby!

Had Watkin succeeded, trains could well have been running between Manchester, Sheffield, Nottingham, Leicester and Rugby (for Birmingham) then on via his tunnel to destinations in Europe by 1900! No one seems to have worked out what they would do with the smoke!

An earlier 1802 version would have had chimneys for ventilation!

Less of these digressions : tomorrow fbb will look at the Snowdon Sherpa bus network as recently revised.

Meanwhile the leaflet for the fbb's July Fellowship meetings has been prepared, so below is a fairly easy quiz section from page 1.
Easy, innit!

After carefully checking and printing 55 copies, fbb has just noticed some laughable errors above. It should read "A God-like entity, nemesis of Jean-Luc Picard".

Why do you only spot them after you have printed the whole batch?

Puzzle Picture
Where is this?
And a clue:-
Answer tomorrow - if fbb doesn't forget!

 Next mountaineering blog : Saturday 25th June 

Thursday, 23 June 2022

Underground Building Overground (2)

 Filling In The Gaps

Back in the 1960s there was a plan to guild completely over South Kensington stations exposed tracks and platforms. A hotel and flats would have put the whole District/Metropolitan Line complex underground - well, under buildings! But it never happened.

The recent plans are less ambitious, but before we examine what ha been proposed, fbb will take you on a brief tour of the roads that surround the present station.
North of the station cutting is Thurloe Street, the western end of which is pedestrianised. Here there is one of the two entrances to the station.
Note the splendid historic lettering above the portals! To the left of that entrance is a block of property ...
... consisting typically of shops with flats above.

If you enter the station you will find yourself in a small arcade ...
... through to the Pelham Street entrance ...
... where the lettering is delightfully, well, delightful.
Originally there was a totally separate entrance for Piccadilly Line trains ...
... serving, of course, the separate operating companies.
Pelham Street was given a little wiggle to provide extra space outside the entrance.
It has properties on its south side and just a wall on the north ...
... over which you could see - if you were about twelve feet tall - the remnants of the demolished extra westbound platform.
So here are the proposals.
Three areas of rebuild are shown. The block next to the Thurloe Street entrance is to be rebuilt/refurbished (GREEN); the single storey area including the arcade, now with the name "bullnose", is to be replaced ...
... with something more substantial (PINK).
The big change is on Pelham Street, where a completely new block (YELLOW) will stand on the north, presumably using land where the original platform was demolished.

You would guess that the proceeds from this development would pay for the various upgrades to the existing station; and leave quite a bundle of notes for other good things.

The plans have been rejected by Chelsea and Kensington Council but a revised scheme, much the same but in a style "more in keeping with the neighbourhood", seems to be going ahead.
Let us hope that glorious traditional entrances will be retained! Articles and artists' impressions show the arcade (and presumably entrances) as untouched structurally but brightened up visually.
And, despite the misgivings of the Council, the present "bullnose" is hardly inspiring ...
... but then it never was!
So fbb did not miss much in his youth as he strode purposefully through the tunnel to and from the Science Museum!

Rail Strike Snippet
Two pictures of a very deserted London Bridge Station on the first strike day.
Spookily empty!

Transport Policy - Funding.
And a key thought about public transport finances.
If society were really serious about the "green agenda", surely a hefty subsidy for buses and trains would make sense.

Transport Policy - It's Electric!

And Electric Again

Tomorrow, we go to Wales.

  Blog Sherpa'r Wyddfa nesaf 
 Dydd Gwener Mehefin 24ain