Thursday 29 April 2010

The Signal that Wouldn't Die!

The famous "Woodhead" route between Manchester and Sheffield was electrified in 1953.   At the same time multi aspect colour light signalling was installed.   This clip from a signalbox diagram for Hadfield shows a very distinctive bracket signal (circled in blue), so constructed to bridge the entrance to the sidings, already disused by the time this diagram was current.   The line closed to passengers in 1970 ....
But as late as 1978, with trackwork rationalised, the long bracket signal remains. Freight traffic was withdrawn in 1981 and Hadfield became the joint terminus (with Glossop) of the local service from Manchester Piccadilly. Standing at the eastern end of Hadfield's one remaining platform, there is little left of the once busy passenger and freight route via Woodhead to Sheffield. But, what do we spy here ...
Buffer stop, warning light and undergrowth; but there; refusing to die and some 30 years after the line closed is THAT bracket signal.

And an extra note added in July 2011.
It's still there, fuzzily and at full magnification and almost engulfed with trees.

Shouldn't someone have recycled it?

Saturday 24 April 2010

I know where I'm going ...

Destinations blinds are a vital part of the public transport experience and, in the age of electronic display, can offer a bewildering array of  useful (?) information.   Over the years the amount of detail included on traditional roller-blind screens has been reduced; with recent moves in London, for example, to just show (unhelpfully) the ultimate destination with no "via" points at all.
Nevertheless, the places shown have a fascination all of their own; here are some that have mostly disappeared:-
STANKS - from Leeds; possibly the home of some foul Dr Who monster!
TEA HOUSE - from Barrow; anyone for cucumber sandwiches?
WALES - from Sheffield; a long journey!
RHODESIA - from Mansfield; even longer!
WARSAW - from Corby; and this one IS the real Warsaw (in Poland) - a service run by Barton many years ago for migrant steel workers.   As an aside, this service had its own route number and appeared in Barton's printed timetable book; in amongst local and rural services in the Nottingham area.
SWADLINCOTE via EUREKA ROAD - from Loughborough
WHITWICK DUMPS - from Coalville
PART WAY BUS - in Northampton; really helpful!
And sometimes even senior staff can get it wrong.   Back in the late 60s / early 70s (?) the bus from Sheffield to WYBOURN Estate (note, no "e" on Wybourn) moved stands at Pond Street bus station.   The replacement stand sign was the wrong size so an enthusiastic Inspector cobbled one together with paper and felt tip pen.    Unfortunately he couldn't spell ...

... the sign was photographed for posterity by fat bus bloke and rapidly removed by one very embarrassed Chief Inspector!
But at least they cared.   Nowadays we get odd bits of paper and the universal catch-all when things go wrong, "SERVICE".   Could do better!
P.S.  Why do buses say "sorry, not in service" - when nobody is actually sorry?

Friday 16 April 2010

Good Value by Bus?

It will cost you between £32 and £44 for a return train ticket from Exeter to Poole, and the single journey will take nearly 4 hours with a minimum of two and sometimes four changes.   Not a particularly attractive day out; slow, stressful, expensive and not particularly picturesque - so, maybe take the car?

Or the bus!

The bus?   Are you mad?   It takes nearly four and a half hours!

But it costs just £6 return [price correct at 16th April 2010]; there's no changing and the views are magnificent for most of the route.   I refer, of course, to the splendid CoastLINX X53, operated by "First" inconjuction with Devon and Dorset County Councils and the Jurassic Coast.   From Exeter, the route follows the main road through Newton Poppleford then drops down some spectacularly narrow lanes to Beer and Seaton, then on through Lyme Regis ...... continuing mainly inland, but still with panoramic sea views, to Bridport.  

The route then rejoins the coast via Abbotsbury to Weymouth. There are less sea views from Weymouth onwards but the countryside is pleasant.   The bit between Wareham and Poole is the least interesting, so you might want to "turn round" in Wareham.   Here you could visit the pub frequented by T E Lawrence (of Arabia) and even sit in "his" chair!

The buses are double deck (for the views) and smooth and comfortable.   Assuming the trip runs on time there are occasional 5 minute "comfort breaks" but with a 2 hour frequency (and an 0845 start) it is possible to split the journey up into more manageable chunks and still get back in one day.

£6 for 9 hours travel (if your backside can survive it!) - a real Bus Bonanza Bargain.

The question is, "can it be beaten?"

Monday 12 April 2010

Best bus station?

A recent visit to Havant (near Portsmouth) provided the opportunity to compare its bus station with the offering at Winchester (read again). What a contrast!

Havant's building is relatively new - which helps, of course - and provides its customers with a staffed enquiry facility, toilets and a shop selling periodicals and snacks.   The building is totally enclosed with doors leading outside to a canopied waiting area.   There is a departure board inside and timetable information at each "stand".

Understandably, given the prevalence of vandalism these days, the actual building is only open from 0700 to 1830 Monday to Saturday. Sadly, at other times, the "indoor" facilities are unavailable.

There is a display rack of Stagecoach leaflets - complete and up-to-date - but no timetables for the routes operated by Emsworth and District.   The contrast with Winchester is marked; tatty versus smart; welcoming versus dreary and comfortable versus exposed!

Well done Havant Borough Council for providing an attractive and people-friendly facility.   Others  should emulate this!
A shot, here, of the bus station in use.  On a less positive note, the number of stands is inadequate and some journeys leave from stops to the right.

Saturday 10 April 2010

When it WAS a service

Old age brings nostalgia and, in the debate on whether our public transport should be a "service" or "just" a business, my mind goes back to a delightful occurrence in the late 60's.

We (a chum and I) were waiting one evening at South Elmsall for the last service 70 bus back to Sheffield.   The bus was very late - unusual in those days, and particularly so for an evening journey. We debated trying for a train (station nearby) or going via Barnsley but decided to wait a little longer. Our patience was rewarded when, some 20 mins behind schedule, the vehicle (similar to the one above) passed us on its outward trip to the terminal loop at Upton.

10 mins later (now "30 down") we boarded and were greeted with profuse apologies from the conductor (remember them?).   The driver was having "trouble" with the engine; he had rung for a changeover and we would wait for the replacement vehicle in Darfield. "So," he concluded, "we can all pop into the chippy while we wait."  Which we did; passengers and crew alike!

The changeover duly arrived and, after a delicious and freshly cooked fish supper, we set off for Sheffield at a cracking pace - possibly an illegal pace! - and we eventually pulled into Pond Street bus station a mere 10 minutes late.

That's what I call SERVICE!

Monday 5 April 2010

A Transporter of Delight

Britain's transport heritage is very varied and the opportunity arose to travel from the deep south of GB to ride on the celebrated Middlesbrough Transporter bridge, one of only two such creatures still extant in GB (the other being at Newport, South Wales).  A third bridge, operating between Widnes and Runcorn, was closed in 1961 and then demolished.   In simple terms passengers and cars cross the river in a "cage" suspended from a trolley which which is hauled across the high girders by cables.

Upon arrival imagine our disappointment as the bridge was "closed for essential maintenance". Once the bridge linked industrial and residential areas on both sides of the busy River Tees - but no longer. It now links wasteland (development areas?) with wasteland and is more of a tourist attraction than an essential transport link.

Back in the "good old days" you paid to travel on the bridge itself, but a walk via steps and the high girders was free. Impoverished Teessiders would even carry their bicycles up the steps and down the other side to save a penny. This facility has long since been withdrawn. This picture clearly shows a car loaded on the "cage", the steps up on the far right and the spidery high girders above!

We expressed our disappointment to "the man" - all the more regrettable as we had travelled so far. "But", he replied apologetically, "I've got a small party booked to visit the high girders. Would you like to join them?"

Is the Pope a Catholic?

We joined, we climbed and we marvelled at the view. Somewhat "hairy" as the decking "up top" is just a metal grating with views of the turgid Tees far below the soles of your shoes. But what a fantastic experience - back in time and looking down river to the bucolic richness of Seal Sands (!). Sadly we didn't have bicycles to carry up the steps and there is no longer a "way out" on the North bank but the experience rates as one of the most memorable visits to a closed attraction ever.