Friday, 15 November 2019

London to Glasgow (2)

fbb is not a lover of air travel and has not flown for absolutely ages. Virgin West Coast is pleased to focus on statistics which show an increase in train travel at the expense of air.

But can you really compare both modes? Trains are every hour from Euston to Glasgow Central with a few from Kings Cross. Euston departures take four and a half hours, flights at least three hours less.

The first problem fbb had was in trying to find what was available. There appears to be no single web site which lists all possible flights between London airports and Glasgow
Some sites insist that you choose (and, presumably, book!) a return journey. One that fbb found offered London to Glasgow with a change at Stockholm! Other sites offer returns OK but bring you back to a different London airport ...
... in this case from Heathrow but returning to Gatwick which wouldn't work if you were getting there by car and leaving it (expensively!) at the airport!

Here is part of the departure list for British Airways from Heathrow.
Note that the key "business" flights are ludicrously expensive!

Then you can travel from Gatport Airwick ...
... or London City - all by British Airways.
Then there is EasyJet from Gatwick ...
... or from Luton.
Then there is the fares farce. When fbb searched on Wednesday for flights for yesterday British Airways has the cheapest of the day! (OR, at least, the cheapest of the company sites he could be bothered to find.)

And you thought rail fares were daft! Off peak with Virgin West Coast looks like £140 return (off peak), cheaper than most flights (the above flight selection shows only singles).
Which leaves the impossible task of comparing journey times.

From Charing Cross (central London) via underground and train to Glasgow (where the station is central enough) would take a flat five hours.

By plane from Charing Cross via Heathrow presents some problems. For speed Bakerloo plus Heathrow express is best (40+ minutes) but it is ludicrously expensive. By the time you have got to Paddington, not a lot of time is lost by using the sl-o-o-o-o-w Piccadilly Line (journey time about 1 hour).
fbb would catch the Northern Line to Leicester Square!

The tube train journey costs a modest £6.

Next there is check-in time. No chance, these days, of the ten minutes of the Super Shuttle. Advice suggests an unbelievable two hours for domestic and European flights but the advice does vary airport by airport. The time can be reduced by on-line check-in.

But we could be spending up to three hours between leaving Charing Cross and take-off. 


Glasgow is simpler by far.
The 500 is "frequent" (i.e. at least every 10) Monday to Friday daytime and every 12/15 Saturday and Sunday. Evening service is every 20 with hourly departures in the wee small hours.

Usual running time is 25 minutes.

Single fare is £8.50.

Stops at Central, Queen Street and Buchanan bus station.

Train is simple - turn up pay and go; plane definitely isn't.

Plane can be a bit quicker, but not much and for the journey fbb has arbitrarily chosen, is far more complex. Ultimately, "convenience" decision will revolve around where you actually start from.

There will be various extras to pay for the plane sequence and only a £4.90 underground from Charing Cross to Euston if you let the train take the strain.

Tank Trucks Technology
fbb's growing collection of OO gauge tank wagons is creating significant stimulation in the old man's leedle grey cells. In the early days tank wagons were nothing but a large tin can plonked on to a standard wagon chassis.

The way in and way out was ony at the top, for fear of leakage and spillage. Unloading would have been by pump or syphon.

The big problem was how to keep the tin can on the chassis. You couldn't bolt it on in case of dribbly leakage; so the answer was to tie it on with strong metal rope!
The above old full size tank wagon has three sets of fixings, all three of which could be kept tight.
 with screw fixing.

"End strapping" to stop the tin can sliding forward or back
"Top strapping" to stop the can bouncing up and down
"Anchor supports", straps welded to the can to stop it rolling

fbb has no idea what the correct terms are, but the above will do pro tem.

As time went on, tanks were built with much bigger anchor supports and nothing else.

fbb's latest purchase arrived on Wednesday last - an EBay purchase (NO auction). It came in a nice small box ...
... with no excessive packing.
Within its Bachmann packing was the tank ...
... with heavy duty anchors bolted to can and chassis PLUS a substantial cradle to hold the can, also bolted to tank and chassis. No wire rope!

This model is currently available in the Bachmann range priced at £25.95. fbb paid half of that including postage for a model that was, truly, as good as new. BARGAIN?

fbb's collection grows as does his fascination with what he once thought was a very simple tank wagon. Far from it.

 Next Weekend Medley : Saturday 16th November 

Thursday, 14 November 2019

London to Glasgow (1)

The BBC has been quick to report on a Virgin Trains press release revealing some significant statistics from their London to Glasgow service.
Of course, these "statistics" are generated by Virgin Trains themselves and could be difficult to verify, BUT, it does appear that many folk are turning from plane to train for this particular journey.
The item above reports that flights take one hour 15 (more likely one and a half hours) whereas the train takes four and a half. But that is an unfair comparison. There are no trains direct from London Heathrow to the centre of Glasgow and no planes from London Euston ditto.

So how do you compare?

One one flight site the clever people at Virgin and slotted in an advert for the train ...
... offering cheapo fares! But of course, there would be restrictions on when you might be allowed to travel.

Things were different 40 years ago. The train was "old-style travel" and the plane would take the strain.

Imagine being able to turn up at the aircraft gate ten minutes before departure without a ticket and being guaranteed to secure a seat on the aircraft.

That may seem fanciful today – even if you had a ticket you wouldn’t even be able to go through security and would have been offloaded from the flight.

However, in January 1975 BA brought American style “shuttle” services to the UK.

Believed to be the first service of its kind in Europe, passengers travelling from London to Glasgow could turn up at the gate ten minutes before departure and be guaranteed a seat.

Not only that, if the flight was full BA would have another aircraft on standby. Flights operated every hour Monday to Saturday (every two hours on a Sunday) with a fleet of nine Hawker Siddeley Trident aircraft in a single cabin.

"The Shuttle" soon became "The Super Shuttle" in the face of competition from British Midland Airlines.
The (Super) Shuttle was heavily promoted as a turn-up-and-go service with a "hot standby" plane to take the overflow if the flight was full.
Here the implication is that the plane is, effectively, your taxi from London to Glasgow! Three other routes joined the service.
You could even get a shiny badge!
A timetable card was published and readily available ...
... and fares were simple and straightforward.
You really could (in theory?) turn up ten minutes before departure, buy your ticket and be on your way - refreshments included.
BA were only too happy to emphasise the limitations of the competition!

And with service like this you were bound to take the plane!
You can see that flying was deemed to be superior to the humdrum hum and drum of the train!

fbb once shuttled from Manchester to Heathrow. He was booked to Southampton but had ages to wait, so (on company expense account!) enquired about travelling via Heathrow, bus to Woking and train. All booked and sitting on the plane in 15 minutes. His small bag of smalls was last on the conveyor and the plane was on its way.

He avoided an enjoyable three hours in Manchester Airport (!) and arrived back on the Isle of Wight two hours earlier than previously scheduled. (click on the graphic below for an enlargement)
.At the time of the hourly Glasgow Shuttle, British Railways (remember therm?) were offering about eight express trains from Euston to Glasgow each day; not quite hourly.

Anyway, as a result of Virgin's recently published claims, fbb though he would take a look at the two modes to see how they really compare today.

Firstly, trains are now hourly direct ...
... shaded pale green above, supplemented by nearly one an hour via Birmingham to either Glasgow or Edinburgh with appropriate connections at Carlisle.

The next task was to find out what flights are available.

Oh deary deary me! What a muddle!

Of which more tomorrow.

Meanwhile - it arrived on Monday. In a big box ...
... with loads of bubbly packaging.
Deep inside was a tiny red and black box ...
... inside which was yet another tank wagon for the burgeoning fbb collection.
Now fbb had never heard of Playcraft Railways, so a little more research was needed.

Again, more later.

 Next London Glasgow blog : Friday 15th November 

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

Rubbish Routemaster Reporting

As part of fbb's on-going but slow recovery from the Rangoon Nadgers, the old man has been watching far too much telly than is good for him. One such programme was an episode in Channel 5's series about transport in London.
The programme trailer was effusively exciting and announced that a feature of the episode would be a new bus for London based on World War 2 technology! The vehicle in question was, of course, the iconic Routemaster.
An interested 11 year old fbb grabbed his delivered edition of Meccano Magazine and read the lead article avidly, disappointed that such a splendid vehicle would be unlikely ever to grace the streets of Northampton - not in normal service anyway!

And where was the radiator?

The programme showed pictures of Routemasters being built - except they weren't. They were, obviously to most, RTs on the production line at Aldenham works!
There was even a close-up of this amazing new London bus being "assembled" ...
... i.e. yet again an old London RT.

One of the most ghastly inexactitudes was when the voice-over informed the eager viewers that the biggest innovation for the Routemaster was its open rear platform, allowing passengers to hop on and off with ease. Again the illustration was as inappropriate as the commentary!
Surely open rear entrances were universal on double deckers ...
... until well into the second half of the 20th century with the arrival of the rear engine front loading decker and later one man operation.
But the Routemaster fake news was not the only laughable piece of very poor journalism.

To keep buses running smoothly, we were told, London Transport simply "ditched the timetable".

Well, no, not really. We were shown pictures of controllers in front of computer screens covered with coloured arrow symbols ...
... which showed where every bus was and whether it was on time. This was a glimpse of London's i-bus technology.
We were told that buses could be held back (but not speeded up?) to ensure that buses were evenly spaced. One interviewee implied that before this wonderful technology you could wait over an hour for a bus then three would turn up at once; the implication being that such horrors were a thing of the past.

fbb is not sure that all London bus passengers would agree!

For an informed viewer there was little that was new in the programme and much that was barely a half-truth. There were a few memorable stills as here at Victoria ...
... with a multitude of Merlins as one relatively short-lived cunning plan to solve all of London's travel challenges was in full swing.

There was a piece on the Victoria Line ...
... now very much old news! The programme also suggested that it solved many of London's traffic problems.

There was talk of how much nicer Hoxton station was now that the Overgound had appeared.
There never was a Hoxton station before the Overground, so you suppose that it must, by definition, be "better" than nothing but it certainly was not "much improved" as implied.

The Elizabeth Line (a k a Crossrail) got a passing mention but with very few pictures as the programme was put together long before the present delays hit the headlines. The main Elizabeth Line "news" was all about the moquette for the seats ...
... and its designers.
Perhaps Channel 5 will make a new programme when the line is up and running, but the purple looks very good indeed in situ.
Apparently, we were told, the colour purple was chosen for the line ...
... because it was the only colour left! Really?

fbb knows better. It had to be purple to match Her Maj's coat and 'at!!
fbb is well aware that Channel 5 does not make transport-based programmes for pedantic and easily-irritated enthusiasts, but it is sad to see the editorial team playing fast-and-loose with historical truth; very much a dumbed-down documentary.

It was nice, however, so see a working computer simulation of the first ever traffic signal in central London.
The signal was a failure!

 Next London Glasgow blog : Thursday 14th November 

Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Denched at Drenchworth (2)

Readers may well remember that a foot crossing on the Great Western main line between Grove and Denchworth was a possible locus in quo for fbb's observation of First Great Western Railway expresses. No 1 son eventually took the old man to the new footbridge between multi-storey car park and station entrance at Didcot ...
... where much observational fun was had by all, sheltered from the pouring rain! The foot crossing alternative would have been very soggy.
Going back pre WW2 this right of way would have been the only direct route between Denchworth and Grove (just off the map, bottom right).
With the opening of Grove air base in 1942, the old road south through the base was closed and a proper road provided from the railway bridge, parallel to the tracks then curving gracefully round to Grove.
The above map shows the new curve (top right) and the old Denchworth Lane and Barwell Lane cruelly interrupted by some runways! A modern map extract confirms that the pathway was diverted to join the new (in 1942) road.
The long red dashes signify not a footpath but a bridleway. An alternative map shows the bridleway in green ...
Another map, larger scale, shows the ctossing as LC - Level Crossing.

Which is where the problems begin. A bridleway (there's a clue in the name) provides for pedestrians, cycles, horses and other animals but NOT motorised vehicles.
This was enshrined (re-enshrined) in legislation in 1988 and as later amended.
Under certain circumstances the landowner may grant the right for motor vehicles to use a bridleway, a situation which can be difficult to prove either way and is often contentious.
Clearly a foot bridge would be considered unsuitable for a bridleway which is why the flat crossing remains.

Then evidence for the track as it crosses the road nearer to Denchworth is clear from the little green finger post ...
... but there is very little evidence of usage by anything. Even an aerial view shows little evidence of ear and tear.
But a bridleway it is and a bridleway that crosses a very busy railway line. It follows, therefore, that Network Rail has the job of designing and maintaining a safe crossing for walkers, cyclists, horses and other animals - even if the route is little used.

Closure would undoubtedly bring a "pitchforks at dawn" response from country folk, despite that fact that there is now a road route where once there was none.

So it was that No 1 son and No 2 grandson paid a site visit to said crossing, in the wind and the rain, one week after the fbb's had returned Seaton-wards.
The weather was wet and windy!
Although the signs did mention vehicles, No 1 son was fairly certain that you could not actually get a vehicle across, except, perhaps, a quad bike.

But there were warnings a-plenty ...
... covering most eventualities.
There was the bog standard generic warning ...
... plus a catch-all red frightener advising a phone call to the "crossing operator".
 Except that, of course, there is nothing to operate.
The contact was via phone to wherever in the world the "crossing operator" might be located.
Fortunately, for the safety of all concerned, the track is straight with unimpeded views at this point; but the whole set-up was described by the damp and wind-swept visitors as "very scary"!

No 2 grandson enjoys making videos, and as a conclusion to this intriguing episode, his take of the Denchworth foot crossing is spectacular and ...
... really very scary!

Yet again, you do wonder whether the railways should be obliged to provide this "safe" facility for very few users.

And, for the record, please note that the rest of the former airport site is now being developed with a huge housing estate.
The Denchworth road and bridle way are top right. The estate has been names as Wellington Place after the bombers that once used the air base.

 Next Routemaster blog : Wednesday 13th November