Tuesday 31 January 2012

Let us Now Praise Famous Buses!

with thanks to the 123 preservation group : web site (here)
In the 1960s, Chesterfield corporation built a splendid new bus depot at Stonegravels. It was huge.
A youthful fbb was privileged to join the Sheffield branch of the Institute of Transport for an official visit. All the fleet could be parked undercover with space to spare. The facilities for staff were magnificent and even included a bar, which could be used on days off and after a turn of duty!

One "wag" on the tour asked if the Corporation had designs on taking over the East Midland bus company. "No comment" was the politically sensitive reply; although, at the time, there were no such plans. But thirty years later that takeover went the other way. Stagecoach bought "Spire", privatised successors to Chesterfield Corporation.
It was in these premises that a remarkable piece of bus rebuilding took place.
Vehicle Withdrawn - 123
1973 Daimler Fleetline (NNU 123M)
11th September, 1981.

This premature withdrawal was the result of the bus sustaining severe fire-damage on 9th September 1981.

As part of schedule trials involving linking the duties of a bus working one of the new Alfreton School contract services and route 200 Clay Cross to Sheffield Limited Stop, this bus operated Service 366 (Stonebroom School - Mortimer Wilson School, Alfreton). It then worked light to Clay Cross to operate the 0910 service 200 journey.
At 0950, whilst en route to Sheffield, the bus halted at Low Edges ...
... and a bus change was requested by the driver as there was a smell of fumes in the saloon. A replacement bus was brought from the depot and mechanic Malcolm Hartshorn returned to Chesterfield in 123, preferring the old A61 road through Dronfield to the by-pass. However, as the bus passed through the centre of Dronfield smoke and fumes suddenly poured from the lower saloon. Mr. Hartshorn drove on through the narrow main road until he reached a lay-by on Chesterfield Road, Dronfield.
Flames spread rapidly from the rear of the lower saloon and despite a speedy appearance by the Dronfield Fire Service, the bus was gutted.
After being returned to the depot, the shell of 123 was examined by fire, police and forensic scientists. These investigations continued until the end of the following day.

Vehicle Reinstated - 123
1973 Daimler Fleetline (NNU 123M)
15th July, 1983

A complete rebuilding of its bodywork was undertaken in the Sonegravels depot.
From May to July 1983 the final stages of the rebuilding work progressed rapidly, with the overhauling of its engine and finishing of the interior of the bus. It was fitted with power-assisted steering and received several minor modifications compared with the other buses of its batch. A minor external difference being a small vent in the nearside of the front panel beneath the windscreen. This is for the driver's cab heating system.

The final stages of its return to service were as follows :-
Rebuilding completed - early July, 1983

Repainting - 4th to 11th July, 1983
Road Testing - 12th July, 1983
M.O.T. Test - 13th July, 1983
Re-licensed - 14th July, 1983
In Service - 15th July 1983

Its first working on return to service being service 200 at 1420 (Chesterfield to Clay Cross, Limited Stop). Note the changed timetable!
It has also received a small plaque near the stairs in the lower saloon. This reads 'BUS 123 Rebuilt Chesterfield Transport Workshops After Fire Damage July 1983.'

Finally, the bus was withdrawn on 31st July 1996; last day of service on 29th July 1996. Its last run was the 1758 route 81 from Hillstown to Chesterfield.
Later "privatised" Spire Livery

The celebrity vehicle was purchased by the 123 Group direct from Stagecoach East Midland had who acquired 123 with the business of Chesterfield Transport Ltd.(trading as "Spire") in July 1995.

And this beauty is the repainted, restored and refurbished bus 123.
Let us now praise famous buses
 and the builders that begat them.
The roads hath wrought great glory by them
through their great power from the beginning.
With apologies to the Apocryphal Bible book of Ecclesiasticus : see also "Let us Now Praise Famous Men" (read again).

 Next Blog : due Wednesday February 1st 
    tomorrow we return to Hayling Island   

Monday 30 January 2012

Getting Liverish about Livery

peevish, bad tempered
(Shorter Oxford English Dictionary)
FirstGroup’s UK bus division had launched ‘Better Journeys for Life’, a new brand promise which sets out the group’s aims and plans, which will involve working more closely with all stakeholders including customers, staff and external partners. One of the first visible signs will be a new ‘refreshed’ livery which is being rolled out on First bus fleet across the UK (excluding London) in the next few weeks. This is the first stage in the company’s fleet modernization programme which gains momentum in 2012/13.

The new livery will have a standard template, however, there will be flexibility for local teams to customize certain areas of the vehicle’s exterior to prominently show town and city names or route specific identities ; fitting in with the group’s desire to provide local services for local communities.
the bland leading the bland?
wishy-washy and wejected (thankfully!)

New vehicles coming into the fleet in 2012/13 will feature not only the new livery but a range of internal changes, including redesigned interiors and leather seats.

The new livery has, it must be said, gone down like the proverbial lead balloon on the blogosphere. Typical are the comments that were attracted by the "Omnibuses" blogs a couple of days ago. (read here and here)

Badgerline based in Bristol was merged with Grampian ex Aberdeen Corporation to form First Bus. The yellow and green badger was distinctive and fresh; it would still look good today, even if the name was (and is) meaningless!
But the later all-green badger was poor by comparison.
Harsh economics (and a lack of varnish!) may prevent a return to the care and cleanliness of, say, Southdown in its heyday ...
... but, surely, a livery should enhance the image of the company and the vehicle and suggest to the customer that quality and reliability are pre-eminent. First vehicles become "tired" in appearance far too quickly and it is largely the lack of colour that creates this impression.

In this respect, at least, the revised, refreshed and roundly ridiculed new offering offers little improvement. Maybe try again, using colour?
Any colour as long as it isn't white!

a distinctive colour scheme on a vehicle indicating its owner
(Shorter Oxford English Dictionary)
There's a clue there, somewhere.
liver and onions : nicer than First's new liver(y)

 Next Blog : due Tuesday January 31st 

Sunday 29 January 2012

A Wee Hurl to West Hayling [3]

A Bit of Bother with the Bridge

See also "A Wee Hurl to West Hayling [2]" (read again)

The London, Brighton and South Coast Railway had intended to save some of the costs of expensive land purchase and build their line to Hayling on an embankment in the tidal mudflats of Langstone (Langston?) Harbour.
The map above shows the proposed and soggy route! But the flow of water washed away the trackbed, so a conventional route by land was eventually constructed. The bridge from Langstone to North Hayling was built of timber and with lightweight use in mind.
This view looking north also illustrates a further problem. The grandiose plans for a canal via Chichester and Arundel all the way to London eventually collapsed leaving a waterway for ships of up to 100 tons into the centre of Chichester itself. The railway was required to provide an opening span for the proposed traffic.

The box behind the train above controlled this swing span. It was opened rarely, if at all, and required the operator to walk out along the bridge. Only the bases for the timberwork remain today, plus a more substantial chunk of foundation for the swing section.
But one lovely "dinosaur" still remains and was clearly visible when fbb journeyed that way earlier in January 2012. The signal post protecting the swing bridge still stands on the southern bank 49 years after the line closed!
Southbound trains then arrived at the lavish North Hayling Station ...
... which, as its name suggests, served the community of Stoke. North Hayling is off over fields to the east with no direct link to its eponymous station.

The site is now a car park for those using the former line as a path or cycleway. There is also access to the beach and mudflats for bird-watchers.
The line continued south through open country until the terminus at Hayling was reached.
As one might expect from its "shoestring" construction, the station was some way from any potential beach facilities and somewhat further from the main Island appurtenances at Mengham.

From the very early days, the bridge restricted the line to small tank engines; becoming the preserve of Brighton "Terriers"  for most of the line's life. The service was never very frequent as this extract from the 1923 ABC timetable guide indicates. All trains involved a first change at Havant and possibly a further change depending on which London terminus was the required destination..
Nothing remains of the station at Hayling ...
... or the impressive housing nearby. But the good shed still stands, seen here in use ...
... here being rebuilt ...
... and now, much extended, as the HQ of Hayling's thriving Theatre group.
It was inevitable that, with the financial pressures on the railways in the 60s, the potential cost of maintaining the bridge, and the inevitable short-termism of the politics of the day, the line would close in 1963. There was an abortive attempt to re-open the branch as a private venture and to this end, a withdrawn Blackpool tram lay forlorn in Havant goods yard for a while.
The project never took off, and former Blackpool Tram No. 11 now resides at the East Anglia Transport Museum at Carlton Colville, near Lowestoft.

Sigh! What might have been ...
So today, travel to Hayling Island is by bus ...

 Hayling blogs will continue later next week 

 Next Blog : due Monday January 30th 

Saturday 28 January 2012

A Wee Hurl to West Hayling [2]

The Railway Arrives ... 

The line was opened by the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway (LBSCR) for goods on January 19, 1865, and for passengers on July 16, 1867. The delay was because the inspectors found rotting sleepers on sections of the line and demanded rectification before passengers could be carried.

The line itself was mainly used during the summer months as people from the South Coast would travel down to the beach on Hayling Island. The coaches would often be overflowing during these months; they would be virtually empty, however, during the winter, which would become a problem.

The LBSCR quickly ran into difficulty during the construction of the railway, as they had attempted to save on the cost of buying land on Hayling Island for the line by constructing an embankment on the mud flats in the sheltered waters of Langstone Harbour. This was an ambitious plan, which also involved the construction of wet and dry docks at Sinah Lake.

In the end, the line became a simple branch with no appendages.

The "Norfolk Lodge" pub, named after landowner the Duke of Norfolk, way renamed "The Ferryboat Inn" in the 1950s; the proposed docks would have been a development of the inlet to the right of the hostelry.
fbb remembers, as a teenager, travelling through Havant on his way to holidays on the Island, and there, in the bay platform, would be this little train ready to depart for Hayling.
Also there would be a line of clean, shiny green and cream Southdown buses. The young lad knew he was on holiday then!

The branch train would leave the platform and immediately negotiate New Lane level crossing ...
... where today the entrance to the rail replacement footpath is guarded by crossing gates now fixed in a semi-open position.
The line and the path run under East Street ...
... where are rather poor quality video clip captures a branch train.
The line then curves round towards the first stop at Langston, ...
... the station omitting the terminal "e" of the little village it served.
The present-day footpath and cycleway ends at the main road (to restart south of the Langstone Bridge); but the properties behind the station show the location clearly ...
... with the track passing to the left of the white weatherboarded cottage glimpsed through the trees behind the platform fence in the old photo.. Managing the level crossing required bravery and skill as the gatemen attempted to find a gap in the busy holiday road traffic.
Tomorrow, we shall complete our journey on this quaint little line as we, and our train, cross the 1000 yard Langstone Bridge ...
... the highlight and ultimately the downfall of this much-loved little branch

 Next Blog : due Sunday January 29th 

Friday 27 January 2012

A Wee Hurl** to West Hayling [1]

The Hayling Ferry

fbb has resided on the Isle of Wight since 1984 but, confession time again, had never visited a neighbouring sea surrounded locality, namely Hayling Island. So, it was a week or so ago that, with Mrs fbb off for as trip to London, the chubby one paid his first ever visit.

There were three (now only two) means of public transport to the Island; possibly the oldest being the Hayling ferry that runs from Ferry Point near the Ferry Boat Inn on Hayling Island to Eastney Beach, Portsmouth, across the mouth of Langstone Harbour.
The rights to run a ferry belonged to the Lord of the Manor of Hayling Island, the Dukes of Norfolk, to whom the land had passed on the dissolution of the monasteries. Rowing boats were used until 1901 when the the ferry rights were bought by the Hayling Island Steam Ferry Company, who constructed pontoons, made up the road on the Hayling side, and acquired a small steamer. The service was soon abandoned due to the unsuitability of the steamer. The pontoons survived, and eventually a motor boat service was operated by G.O.Spraggs and his sons Cecil, George and Jack. Post-war boats were the 'Sinah',
'Folkestone Belle' and 'Tarpon'.

In 1961 Portsmouth City Council took the ferry over.
By the late 1970s they ran the 'Iris' of 1968, which carried 55 passengers. She was joined by the 'Irene' of 1976. Portsmouth City Council operated the ferry until April 1981, when it closed, no other operator having been found.

The pontoons were in poor condition by this time, and the Eastney pontoon was removed (and is believed to be in use near Warsash). However Hampshire County Council soon found a company who would take over the service, with subsidy for unprofitable periods.

Dutfield and Edwards started the new service, initially using the 'Hayling Enterprise' and running onto the beach at Portsmouth until a new pontoon was built (the Hayling pontoon has also been replaced).
The current boat is the 'Pride of Hayling'. The service runs 360 days a year, with a break over Christmas/New Year, and carries commuters and school children, plus tourists in summer.

But using this route to get from Portsmouth to the main settlements on Hayling Island (and vice-versa) presents a snag. First Bus, successors to Portsmouth Corporation run the hourly service 15 to the pontoon at Eastney.
The Hayling side offers the Ferryboat Inn ...
... and a lovely turning circle and bus shelter ...
... but no buses! Once upon a time you could take a lovely summer ride from the ferry to Sandy Point by open top bus.
Winter services to the ferry were decidedly sparse. In the late 70s and early 80s there were frequent changes to Southdown timetables and services; the open top route gradually faded and disappeared. Now there is nothing to take you from the pontoon to the built-up areas of Hayling.
Morning "peak", then hourly; winter ferry times.

A brisk mile-and-a-quarter walk takes you to the end of Staunton Avenue South Hayling to pick up a Stagecoach Bus on route 30 ...
... at the stop here, on the right. Once you're safely seated on the Stagecoach steed, the journey to Mengham (the "capital" on Hayling Island) is still circuitous, involving a ride via the aforementioned Sandy Point at the far eastern end of the Island before doubling back to the main street.
Sandy Point is about a mile further west, to the bottom right of the map above.
Not surpisingly the number of passenger has declined in recent years; the loading consisting mainly of cyclists and car-borne commuters from the Hayling side; supplemented by energetic tourists in the opposite direction in the summer. Perhaps the various parties should look again at relaunching the "through" service; it could be much quicker than plodding pedestrianly by public transport via Havant. The ferry owners appear to have only one boat, so mechanical failure can lead to cancellations. Windy weather is also unwelcome!

But it is still a particularly pleasant experience in summer sun!

The next public transport arrival on Hayling Island was the train.

Meanwhile, a thought for a Hayling and Portsea Island expert. Was it ever possible to travel by open top bus from the centre of Portsmouth to the Hayling Ferry, as here ...
... then by boat for transfer to the Hayling open topper on the other side? That would have been something very special!

** "A wee hurl", a phrase as used by Scottish Mrs fbb. It means "a short trip"; "an outing" but with connotations of a certain amount of speed!

 Next Blog : due Saturday January 28th