Thursday 30 April 2015

GWR, GWR and GWR [3]

Racecourse Station with Tribulation.
Modern technolgy helps a lot. The Google Maps view of the racecourse suggests that the station may well be there, top left, surrounded by car parking or, possibly, rather poor quality misshapen crop circles(?).
A Zoom reveals what might be an entrance on the Evesham Road (bpttpm left) and what looks like a hut with a path leading to the platform building. The Geograph photo site confirms this.
Even more encouragingly Traveline has both locations in its index.
But the delivered journey plan is less encouraging.
A 14 minute walk? Seems an awful long way from bus stop to booking office. And Traveline's little map says the same; a hefty toddle!
But fbb, terrier-like in his gnawing at possibilities, thinks perhaps bus D doesn't run past the little hut, perhaps it goes via Swindon Lane? A few more slioghtly irritating clicks and we see the excellent Stagecoach map.
It seems that bus D does, indeed, pass the booking hut! Back to Traveline's ditto which shows all the stops; except that the new-look national Traveline front end doesn't mention timetables or route maps. Now fbb, as a lifelong fan of Traveline (snort of derision!), knows that you can still access the old, untrendy, regional Traveline sites.

But which region is Cheltenham in. The choice seems to be "South West" or "West Midlands"; neither of which is an ideal descriptor of the location of Cheltenham. The blue rinse brigade from the posher bits would need revival with a good sniff of sal volatile if they thought they had anything to do with Birmingham!
In fact, Stagecoach Gloucester route D is in both.
And, golly gosh and strike me down with a wet kipper ...
... D stands for "Doesn't Stop" at the railway. Why not? There is a rudimentary foorpath for passengers from Cheltenham and no visibility problems if you cross the road at the bridge.
To Cheltenham there is space for a stop after the bridge as well; even space for a bus trap (aka a lay by). There would be better visibility before the bridge ...
.. and, again, there is a footpath. There is also a sign directing motorists via the Racecourse Roundabout.
Don't you DARE try to get into the station this way; the rabid guard dogs and hefty security men with kalashnikovs will get you and intern you in a GWR siphon B ...

... (note chair for armed guard!) if you should be foolish enough to try!

This all looks very much like the work of Gloucestershire's jobsworth planning officers and/or 'elf'n'safety so-called experts.

But nobody travels to a superb example pf public transport heritage by public transport (even if buses do run every 10 minutes Monday to Saturday, every 30 minutes Sunday), that would never do!

To be fair and even handed, the GWR web site does warn its visitors of this situation ...

Cheltenham Race Course Station is the southern terminus of the GWR. The GWR's station is signposted from the the main entrance to the race course where there is ample parking for both cars and coaches. There is a GWR shop on the platform with lots of gifts for all ages.

Persons using public transport, route D, to get to Cheltenham Racecourse station are advised to walk the ¾ mile from the park and ride stop.

... but ¾ mile is a long way for those of fbb's advanced years.

An opportunity missed. Such a pity!

But there may be other options. We must investigate further.

 Next bus blog : Friday 1st May 

Wednesday 29 April 2015

GWR, GWR and GWR [2]

Considering Cheltenham Complications
This Railway Clearing House map shows Great Western tracks in yellow and Midland in green.Of these, only the former Midland line exists carrying, amongst others Crosscountry trains from the south west to Birmingham.

Thus it was in  1840  that the station we now know as "Cheltenham Spa" was opened without the Spa. It later had Lansdown added.
Queen Victoria visited briefly in 1849, hence the formality of the above engraving. The station building was grand and porticoed as befitted such an engineering magnificence.
The history of the line is complex involving predecessors to the Midland Railway and the Great Western; but the GWR arrived in its own right via Swindon and Gloucester in  1847  but veered right just before the "Midland" station and terminated at a station which became Cheltenham St James. The 1847 structure did not last and in 1894 a replacement was opened facing on to St James Square.
The road frontage is now a block of offices ...
... and much of the platform area is a Waitrose supermarket. We now have two stations, three is you count both the GWR termini! St James closed in  1966 .

In  1864   the Midland Railway opened a second station called Tewkesbury Road Bridge which was located, surprisingly where Tewkesbury Road crossed the line on a bridge, now a busy dual carriageway. 
For reasons unknown they rapidly changed its name to Cheltenham High Steet. Which is odd, because the station was not on the High Street! Station site top left; High Street bottom right.
Cheltenham High Street closed in  1910 .

In  1881  the line from Ansdoversford (etc) arrived from the east. An additional station was added at Leckhampton, later with Cheltenham added to its name. Apparently that was because some through trains from Birmingham via that roundabout route continued west without calling at either Lansdown or St James (see map at the top of this post) and Leckhampton offered such services a Cheltenham calling point.
Again,little remains apart from two bridge parapets without a bridge on Leckhampton Road. The line closed in  1962 .

It was late, in railway terms, when the Honeybourne line arrived in  1906 . This presented the managemnt of the GWR (Great Western, not yet Gloucestershire and Warwickshire) with an operational problem. To serve Cheltenham St James, trains would have to reverse ...
... so Malvern Road station was opened at the same time ( 1906 ). 
The trackbed here is a footpath and cycleway and th shape f the junction which led to St James can still be seen ...
... almost buried under a road bridge. Again closure of the station came in  1966  but the Honeybourne line itself lasted until  1977 .

Phew, we're nearly there. Thanks for sticking with it!

In  1908  a new halt was added where the line crossed High Street! And, tes, you've guessed, it was called Cheltenham High Street but with Halt added. It was just south of the over bridge that crossed yer actualy High Street and not Tewkesbury Road.
It closed in  1917 .

Lastly, number 7 (or 8) is Cheltenham Racecourse, surprisingly omitted  from Colonel Cobb's atlas, is now the southern terminus of the heritage GWR.

The station itself was opened in  1912  specifically to serve the new racecourse at Prestbury Park, home of the famous Gold Cup meeting. The platforms were extended at some stage to accommodate trains of up to 14 carriages. The station was only opened on race days and so facilities were rudimentary, but it continued to serve racegoers travelling 'by rail to the races' (as contemporary advertising put it) until the March  1976  Cheltenham Festival.

Today's facilites are much improved compared with the good old days!
So now we can try to get between Cheltenham Spa (one-time Lansdown) station to enjoy the Glouucestershire and not-yet-Warwickshire Railway.
Guide to travelling from Shoreham-by-Sea
to Watford Junction by No 3 Son

Today I tried the zone 6 extension ticket option to Watford, as buying a first class  single to Victoria in the morning limits my options.

I guessed I should buy the Shoreham to Zones 1 to 6 travel card with network rail card to return only from Victoria... £18 for a single return from Victoria to Shoreham or £15.80  for a Shorham to Victoria plus zones 1 to 6 travel card, off peak... its completely  stupid... £8 to extend return to Watford Junction, so I've probably saved around £20 I think.

Now I have to work out if I can buy a Zone extension in advance on a Southern Rail ticket machine... online.

How anyone is meant to make sense of this I've no idea...

In case you wondered, No 3 son has a contract for one day a week doing clever stuff with confusers in Watford, Herts. He lives at Shoreham Beach.

Tomorrow: Stephen Hawking CH CBE FRS FRSA and Professor Sir Roger Penrose OM FRS on how to work a National Rail ticket machine in driving rain, at night, wearing gloves ...

... and carrying an open umbrella.
 Next bus blog : Thursday 30th April 

Tuesday 28 April 2015

GWR, GWR and GWR [1]

But Which One?
Despite disappearing from 1947 onwards (fbb was 2!) most people are familiar with this one:-
Sometimes known as God's Wonderful Railway, the original (and best?) Great Western Railway had a fame and a cachet that was second to none. Less familiar is this one:-
When First Great Western started upgrading their first class coaches, this appeared on the headrests. It was part of a campaign to build on the growing business of business travel for the top-end of the market.
Now we know that this ...
... is the new brand to be worn on the IEP trains on order for the main lines out of Paddington.

The Intercity Express Programme is an initiative of the Department for Transport (DafT) to procure new trains to replace the InterCity 125 fleet on the East Coast Main Line and Great Western Main Line, . There are to be two variants: the Class 800, which are electric/diesel-electric hybrids, and the Class 801, which are electric only.

Not only that but First are painting the trains GREEN!
Surely chocolate and cream would be better?

Perhaps less familiar to a general blog readership is this logo:-
It stands, not for Great Western Railway, but for the Gloucestershire and Warwickshire Railway. The name was cleverly chosen by the keen prservationists for obvious reasons, although the line doesn't actually cross the border into Warwickshire ...
... yet; but will soon make it into another "W", namely Worcestershire.

Two things have provoked his series of blogs. The Thorncombe Railway Activites Club (TRAC - another clever logo) is planning an excursion there later this year. New member fbb may well go, having never visited the line. Secondly, and serendipitously, our hard-working Northampton correspondent has recent paid a visit and provided fbb with some possible blog ideas.

So, by way of background, let us place this bit of heritage railway into historical and geographical context.

The line was originally part of the Great Western Railway's Cheltenham–Stratford-upon-Avon–Birmingham line, known as the Honeybourne Line, built in 1900–1906, and runs through the Cotswold towns of Winchcombe and Bishop's Cleeve. The line was run down over the years and finally closed after a derailment damaged a stretch of track in 1976, with the double track being lifted from 1979.

The preservation group rehabilitated the line, starting steam train operations at Toddington (1930 top, 2010 below) ...

... in 1984 over 700 yards of re-laid track. In 1987 the line was restored as far as Winchcombe ...

... where the station was reconstructed using the former Monmouth Troy station building. The railway continued to re-lay track west of Winchcombe, through the 693 yard long Greet Tunnel ...

... and past the villages of Gretton, Gotherington and Bishops Cleeve. This culminated in the reopening of the line to Cheltenham Racecourse in 2003, by Princess Anne.
So the line today starts from Cheltenham Racecourse station (historically only opened on race days) ...
... and continues north to Gotherington passing the site of the former Bisjops Cleeve station. It then turns east ...
... via Grettton (another station of old), through Greet Tunnel and into Winchcombe. A return to a northbound trajectory ...
... takes the line through the company HQ at Toddington. There was another intermediate halt serving Hailes Abbey but called Hayles Abbey Halt.

Currenty the line continues north to the site of Laverton Halt, but there is now no station there. The next target is Broadway ...
... where arrival is likely in three years time. Aspirations are high in the long term. The plans include extension from Broadway to National Rail at Honeybourne and even southbound to Cheltenham Spa. Big ideas indeed.

Racecourse station top right,
Cheltenham Spa bottom left.

So all we now need to do is to catch a train to Cheltenham Spa station and find our way to the Racecourse. It looks easy enough, but before we check on the route we do need to review the multiplicity of station dots in the Cheltenham area.

Tomorrow, then, we sort out the seven (eight?) railway stations that served this distinguished Gloucestershire town. 

Let's hope that fbb can get it right!

 Next rail blog : Wednesday 29th April 

Monday 27 April 2015

One Week from Today

But first, a song.
"Under the Bridges of Paris" is a 1913 popular song with music written by Vincent Scotto, the original French lyrics (entitled "Sous les ponts de Paris") by Jean Rodor (1913), and English lyrics by Dorcas Cochran (1952). Recordings by both Eartha Kitt and Dean Martin charted in the United Kingdom in 1955, but failed to chart in the United States, though both were subsequently released as LP album tracks as well.

Other versions have been composed, and fbb has found these words on the back of an RATP poster:-
How would you like to be
Trav'ling with fbb
He'd love to ride on a Métro or two
Over the bridges of Paris with you

Then there's the RER
Enjoy a double deck car
Fast through the tunnels of Paris with you
And make your dreams come true

How would you like to be
Riding tram number three
Or four or two or tram number one
Round the ring road of Paris is fun.

There's a funiculoeur
Up to the Sacré Coeur
Also the buses of Paris will do
Over the bridges of Paris for you 

How would you like to be
Trav'ling with fbb
He will blog on transports français
On and on for many a day

This time next week, God and Eurostar willing, fbb and his chum from Leicester will have spent their first night in the expansively named Hotel Pacific ...

... on Rue de Fondary (Métro Dupleix) and a short walk from Mr Eiffel's clever (but obviously inferior) copy of Blackpool Tower.

The potential menu for the week includes:-

14 Métro lines; two driverless**
5 RER lines (think Paris Crossrail)
8 SNCF suburban line groups
8 Tram lines
2 Fully automatic tram lines
1 Funicular
2 Express bus route (reserved track)
Loadsa ordinary city buses (RATP)
Loadsa suburban buses (Veolia)

Should keep the old blogger busy for four and a half days. 
Highlights are:-

Tram Line 4

La ligne 4 du tramway d'Île-de-France est une ligne exploitée par la SNCF, mise en service le 20 novembre 2006 entre Aulnay-sous-Bois et Bondy, et longue de 7,9 kilomètres.

Elle est issue de la transformation et de la mise intégrale à double voie de la ligne de Bondy à Aulnay-sous-Bois dite ligne des Coquetiers ouverte en 1875, qu'elle emprunte sur la totalité de son parcours. Elle est ainsi devenue la première ligne française utilisant un matériel tram-train, bien que son exploitation soit entièrement assurée en mode tramway.

Looks fun!

And bus T Zen

La ligne 1 du T Zen est une ligne de bus à haut niveau de service d'Île-de-France. Elle relie les gares du RER D de Lieusaint - Moissy et de Corbeil-Essonnes. Cette ligne dessert deux grandes zones de l'Essonne et de Seine-et-Marne : Sénart et Seine-Essonne. La ligne a été mise mise en service le 4 juillet 2011.

Chatelet-Les Halles Station

Intégralement souterraine et située en plein cœur de la capitale, la gare voit converger plus de 1500 trains par jour, elle constitue le plus important pôle de transports de la région, avec 750,000 voyageurs par jour dans l'ensemble du pôle ferroviaire.

Here, five Métro lines (1, 4, 7, 11 and 14) and three RER lines (A, B nd D) intersect and all underground. There a good half day's exploration and excitement in this one station alone. (click on the diagram to enlarge)

One experience fbb cannot enjoy is the "Balabus".
It links the main places of interest but runs only on Sundays from April to September inclusive.

**14 Metro lines. It depends how you count. Lines 7 and 13 split into two branches at one outer end and lines 3 and 7 have little shuttley bits (3bs & 7bis) at one end.
The Hotel has WiFi (in French, WiFi; pronounced WeeFee) and fbb intends to summarise each day's activity. Monday 4th will be a report on Sunday 3rd and so on. In the event of technical problems, fbb will be copying the BBC etc. and publishing selected repeats from the last five years of Public Transport Experience.

Detailed blogs on Parisian transport topics will continue from time to time over the ensuing months.
 Next UK bus blog : Tuesday 28th April