Saturday 31 March 2012

Bouch Builds Boats for Bembridge [3]

Dateline 1847 to 1885

The Edinburgh and Northern Railway (later to become the North British) was seeking to drive its lines northwards from Edinburgh to Aberdeen.
Bridge technology in the late 1840s was not sufficiently well developed to allow the Firth of Forth to be crossed, and the finances of the railways at the time, which were mainly fairly small and locally based, would probably not have made bridges possible in any case. (Even in the 1880s the Forth Bridge was jointly financed by four companies.)
So another answer had to be found. Passenger traffic was not the main issue. Passengers were apparently willing to accept short ferry trips with most of the journey being by train; no doubt that was greatly preferable to a sea voyage from Granton or Leith to Aberdeen or, even worse, a journey by road. The real problem was goods traffic, as trans-shipment of goods from train to boat and boat to train was slow, labour-intensive and risked damage to the consignments.
An answer was found in the form of the 'Floating Railway' ferry system devised by Thomas Bouch, then a youthful and successful engineer untainted by the later Tay Bridge disaster.

Passengers were conveyed by conventional ferry ...
... from a station on Granton Pier ...
... to Burntisland, where their connecting train would speed them seamlessly to Aberdeen.
Freight wagons, however, would be rope-hauled via the equivalent of today's "linkspan" ...
... onto a fleet of paddle steamers. Yes, the ride would have been undulating in the extreme, but wagons then were short wheelbase four-wheelers well able to cope with a little (!) unevenness of track.
The service became quite intensive, the "Balbirnie" in 1863 operating day and night with two crews each working 12 hour shifts. Although the system was mainly for goods wagons, empty passenger carriages and occasionally locomotives were conveyed, as the ferry was the most convenient way of transferring stock to the different parts of the railway system. The alternative was to send them by rail over other companies' lines which would have incurred charges.

So it was that in 1884 an enterprising crook businessman, Jabez Samuel Balfour, purchased a surplus vessel from the North British company together with the necessary moveable cradles and winding engines and started a train ferry service from Langstone near Havant (Hampshire), on the branch to Hayling Island, to Bembridge on the Isle of Wight.
the remains of Langstone wharf

At the island end, unloading would be at St Helen's Quay (labelled "slip" at bottom right of this 1908 map) ...
... whence goods wagons could be conveyed via the Bembridge branch line to Brading and on to any Island destination.
The service started in 1885, but, like all of Balfour's business projects, it was not successful and ended 3 years later. Meanwhile its progenitor fled to Argentina but was brought back and found his way via numerous court cases into Debtors Prison.

Nevertheless the service was the first ever train ferry service in England and the second in the world.
fbb and Mrs are off to Preston today
via Southern Railway (without handcuffs?)
and Virgin Trains.
Returning south on Monday.
Blogging should be uninterrupted.
 Next Blog : due Sunday April 1st 

Friday 30 March 2012

Bouch Builds Boats for Bembridge [2]

Ferry 'Cross the Mersey Channel ...
and Slumbers on the Sea ...
During the First World War there was a huge demand for cross channel transport; our "boys" needed guns and even whole trains to convey stuff to points nearer the front lines. So it was that a huge dock, complete with massive infrastructure ...
... was built at Richborough, near Sandwich in Kent.
After the war, the vessels were bought by the Great Eastern Railway to inaugurate a train ferry service between Harwich ad Zeebrugge on the Belgian coast.
In 1936, the Southern Railway built a large gated sea lock at Dover to provide its train ferry service to a similarly equipped Dunkirk (Dunkerque), which, under British Railways, continued until the opening of the Channel Tunnel.
All these services were built to convey freight wagons, not passengers; with one notable exception. The Night Ferry was a sleeping car train that ran daily (nightly?) between London Victoria and Paris Nord, using the freight ferry boats. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the shunting manoeuvres on and off the boats ensured only sporadic sleep! Two rakes of coaches were shunted at the same time to keep the vessel balanced and level.
Above is an extract from the very early 1936 publicity. 
The night ferry service ran for the last time sat the end of October 1980. There were no other passenger trains conveyed on the ferries; freight was much more profitable! So, despite popular belief and the evidence of old posters, it was never possible to join the "Orient Express" at Victoria and alight at Constantinople!
The London to Paris Pullman "Golden Arrow" [Flèche d'Or"] conveyed passengers between Capitals and ports, but the channel crossing was by conventional and train-less ferry, albeit in some luxury! Watch video (here).
Passengers for the modern Venice Simplon Orient Express luxury rail cruise ...
... are conveyed (Sacrilege, Shame and Sacrébleu) by road coach via the Channel Tunnel; a process that would have been totally unacceptable to Hercules Poirot.

Sadly all the former ferroequinological ferry delights have passed into history, never to return!
"Le Tunnel Sous La Manche" is today's sanitised replacement; even its "Nightstar" sleeping car services never materialised despite the huge cost of building the actual carriages.

But we still haven't quite followed disgraced Tay Bridge engineer Thomas Bouch to Bembridge on the Isle of Wight, indirectly.

For this we need to go back further to the very first train ferry, ever.

 Next Blog : due Saturday March 31st 

Thursday 29 March 2012

Bouch Builds Boats for Bembridge [1]

No official response (yet?)
to the "Phil McCafferty" blogs.
If you missed them, then
read again (here) and (here
Back to Bouch and Bembridge

Perhaps not,we shall see ...
Thomas Bouch was born in Thursby, near Carlisle, Cumberland, England and lived in Edinburgh. He helped develop the caisson (a technique used to build bridge piers) and popularised the use of lattice girders in railway bridges as here at Belah viaduct in Cumbria.
He was knighted after the successful completion of the first Tay Railway Bridge but his name is chiefly remembered for the subsequent Tay Bridge Disaster, in which 75 people are believed to have died as a result of defects in design, construction and maintenance, for all of which Bouch was held responsible. He died within 18 months of being knighted, with his reputation destroyed.
The first Tay Bridge looked spindly but was universally acclaimed as wonder of railway engineering; lauded by none other than Scotland's worst poet, William McGonagall.
Beautiful Railway Bridge of the Silvery Tay!
And prosperity to Provost Cox, who has given
Thirty thousand pounds and upwards away
In helping to erect the Bridge of the Tay,
Most handsome to be seen,
Near by Dundee and the Magdalen Green.

Beautiful Railway Bridge of the Silvery Tay!
I hope that God will protect all passengers
By night and by day,
And that no accident will befall them while crossing
The Bridge of the Silvery Tay,
For that would be most awful to be seen
Near by Dundee and the Magdalen Green.

Beautiful Railway Bridge of the Silvery Tay!
And prosperity to Messrs Bouch and Grothe**,
The famous engineers of the present day,
Who have succeeded in erecting the Railway
Bridge of the Silvery Tay,
Which stands unequalled to be seen
Near by Dundee and the Magdalen Green**.

The tragic collapse of the bridge occurred on 28th December 1879 in a storm with gale force winds and McGonagall's call to the Almighty clearly went unheeded. 
Undaunted, William Topaz McGonagall penned a replacement verse for a replacement bridge, opened on 13th July 1887, ...
... which stands firm today, some 125 years later. The arches to the left of the picture above are still in place but the appurtenances of Tay Bridge Station that they supported have recently been demolished.
Neverthless the "new" bridge stands proud and firm, carrying far heavier trains than its designers could have ever imagined.
Beautiful new railway bridge of the Silvery Tay,
With your strong brick piers and buttresses in so grand array,
And your thirteen central girders, which seem to my eye
Strong enough all windy storms to defy.
And as I gaze upon thee my heart feels gay,
Because thou are the greatest railway bridge of the present day,
And can be seen for miles away
From North, South, East or West of the Tay
On a beautiful and clear sunshiny day,
And ought to make the hearts of the “Mars” boys** feel gay,
Because thine equal nowhere can be seen,
Only near by Dundee and the bonnie Magdalen Green.
Beautiful new railway bridge of the Silvery Tay,
With thy beautiful side-screens along your railway,
Which will be a great protection on a windy day,
So as the railway carriages won’t be blown away,
And ought to cheer the hearts of the passengers night and day
As they are conveyed along thy beautiful railway,
And towering above the Silvery Tay,
Spanning the beautiful river shore to shore
Upwards of two miles and more,
Which is most beautiful to be seen
Near by Dundee and the bonnie Magdalen Green,
To find out how Northern engineer Bouch gets linked, however circuitously, with Bembridge on the Isle of Wight, we need  to turn our inquisitive gaze to train ferries.
** Notes:-
Mr A Grothe was the engineer in charge of the actual construction contract of the first Bridge.
Mars Boys : HMS Mars was a former navy ship moored off Dundee. It was "home" to deprived and destitute boys who went there to be trained for a trade in a disciplined environment.
Magdalen Green is an open area of parkland near the northern end of the Bridge.
Magdalen Green bandstand : Tay Bridge behind

 Next Blog : due Friday March 30th 

Wednesday 28 March 2012

What to Do? Walk Through? H2? [part 3]

Paul's Missionary Journey : Mission Completed

In Yesterday's blog we were aiming to travel with blog reader Paul to Hampstead Garden Suburb, where he and fellow choristers were performing at a special service. See "What to Do? Walk Through? H2? [part 2]" (read again) There are two churches at Central Square. To the south is ...
... a magnificent edifice ...
... under the jurisdiction of the Church of England; and, to the north of the "green" ...
... an equally splendid PW; place of worship, unattached denominationally.
It was here that Paul was performing, and it was somewhere near here where he needed to get off the bus. The Transport for London [TfL] journey planner does not count churches as of any interest and offered only this:-
What of "i-bus" ...
"iBus keeps you informed every step of the way"
... the on-bus electronic screens controlled by some remote computer system, backed up by satellite, the Russian Mafia and the Chinese Tangs.

Sadly this is what you get for your money:-
Paul also reminds fbb that the destination screens are now unhelpful. Once they told you ...
... where you were going, but now they tell you ...
... where you are starting from.
So, let's summarise:-
The destination screens are useless
On-line maps are unhelpful
There are no bus stop signs
The journey planner can't find the church
There is no timetable
There is no map at the stop
The i-bus system is useless
Paul's driver refused to speak to him
So much for TfL's much praised technology.
Well, you are desperate to know; how did it all work out? While the first bus load of choristers were having an unguided tour of the Garden Suburb to get to Central Square and the Church, Paul was advised by a helpful fellow passenger ...
... to get off the bus behind at Heathgate (just past Linnell Close on the non-stop bus stop list) and walk through to the Church; "not that one, that's St Jude's, but the one at the other end of the green." He arrived at the Free Church just in time to see his thoroughly confused colleague choristers getting off the previous bus, having had a full (almost) circular tour of Hampstead Garden Suburb.
Technology nil; real people 10/10! Yes, fbb has spotted it's left hand drive, but you get the idea, surely?

Finally, here's an extract from the timetable that TfL won't let you see:-
London timetables are available on Robert Munster's splendid and reliable site (here).

Perhaps Transport for London could provide a link from its swirly twirly confusing site so that Paul and his chums could find a timetable?
One solution would be to provide a web site for London bus and train information. But nobody seems to have thought of that.

 Next Blog : due Thursday March 29th  

Tuesday 27 March 2012

What to Do? Walk Through? H2? [part 2]

seen yesterday in a toilet
at St John's Church, Grove, Oxon.
So, where ... erm ... do you ... erm ... actually ... go?
Back to the H2.

Eyeing the Iconic I-bus!
Blog reader Paul Bunting has arrived at Golders Green Station (in London, England) by Underground, together with other members of a choir. They have been advised, correctly, that the H2 bus will drop them very near to their Church. Pauls observes one group zooming off in their low floor Arriva midi-bus whilst he waits expectantly for the next, a mere 15 minute later.

The big question is, "Where do we get off?"

You can find, on-lne, a downloadable copy of the Transport for London (TfL) North West map.  It's not particularly easy to find and most might well give up. If you persevere it does show where the bus actullay goes.
... but not the Church. Or there is the "interactive" route map, also on-line ...
... which only shows five stops. Helpfully (?) the red line route technology obscures the road names whilst enlarging the map to read the names has the effect of "losing" the overview. But no churches.

fbb's Greater London street atlas shows two crosses on the "green bit" centre left within the "circle". Of course, the high tech interactive map doesn't tell you which way round the loop the bus goes.

What does the Golders Green station bus stop offer? A timetable ...
... no chance; they are a state secret and simply never revealed. But it does list the all stops with one minor and eventually obvious snag ...
... namely, there aren't any stops (!) because most of the loop is "Hail and Ride" ...
Hail & Ride on Northway

... with the possible exception of "Stop W" at Market Place on Falloden Way (see map above).
this might be "Stop W"

Which bring us to "i-bus":-
Next-stop visual displays and audio announcements keep you informed every stop of the way. It makes travel easier for everyone, especially for:
Visually or hearing-impaired passengers 
Infrequent travellers
Passengers facing language barriers
People travelling in an unfamiliar area
iBus keeps you informed every step of the way
i-bus for Sciuridae?

Tomorrow's blog will complete this mini-series by explaining how Paul and his chorister colleagues managed to find their performance venue.

You'll never guess how they did it! 

 Next Blog : due Wednesday March 28th