Wednesday 30 September 2015

A Frustrating Time in Bus-bereft Lyme [3]

Confusion in Profusion
As per yesterday's blog (read again) fbb has joined the Axe Valley Mini Travel [AVT] 899 to Lyme Regis (not to be confused with the AVT 899 to Axmouth, OR the AVT 899 to Sidmouth OR EVEN the AVT 899 to Exmouth). Two return trips plus revised positioning journeys on schooldays and operation of these trips on non schooldays (but nothing on Saturdays) replace a two hourly X53.
Loadings were not heavy on this first "new" trip. Apart from fbb who was there from a sense of duty, there was one "senior" from Seaton (confused) ...
... one slightly less senior from Sidmouth (not confused) ...
... plus dog (out of focus - it moved!)
The dog proffered no opinion on the matter in hand.

This No 2 lady was not confused because she had read the East Devon timetable book. She was doing another bit of the Jurassic Coast path, walking back from Lyme to Seaton. Had she come a week earlier, she might well have been confused because the timetable book is dated 20th September, but the X53/899 changes took place on 27th thereof with nothing to indicate this in the book.
fbb (you will remember) had asked the driver where he might be terminated (omnibologically, not by assassination).

"I can only get to Coram Tower" he had replied.

"Will you go round the loop?" counter-queried fbb.

"What loop?" can the swift response. fbb was able to direct the driver to the clearly unmarked Langmoor Gardens ...
... where arrival was at 1034, eight minutes late.
R454 FVX has travelled south from Stagecoach Manchester.
But back to the business in hand. If Shuttle Service X53 or even Shuttle Service X54 really existed, it was timed to depart from the secret Lyme Regis terminus stop at 1120. So how was fbb to fill his time? Of course, breakfast!

Just up from the abandoned Co-op stop was the delightful Penny Black caff ...
... deriving its name from being linked internally to the Post Office. fbb enjoyed a sausage sarnie and a mugga ...
... in the alfresco courtyard at the rear. At £5.50 a bit pricey for fbb's normal miserly budget, but convenient for part two of his journey.

At 1105 your well-refreshed author repaired to Langmoor Gardens to be greeted by two gentlemen clutching X51/X53 leaflets (un)helpfully supplied by First Bus. TOTALLY USELESS. Surely whoever distributed these should have added a photocopied warning? The shambles lasts for 5 weeks!

One gent was adamant that when Lyme Regis was "closed" First "always" ran the 31 (or X31, or X51) to and from Lyme Regis via Hunters Lodge and why wasn't that happening this time.


With a bus every half hour between Bridport, Charmouth, NOT Lyme Regis and Axminster it would have been simple to cobble together an emergency timetable. Why was this not done?


The evidence suggests that First Bus had a corporate sulk ...
... and decided that, as Dorest had given them no notice of the road closure, they weren't going to make any (expletive deleted) effort at sorting it out. Dorset would have to pay for the shuttle bus! Or people could walk to Hunters Lodge. So there! Ha!
Boss Simon Newport doesn't look the sulky type.

As 1120 approached the gaggle of potential passengers grew to a crowd of 16, of which approximately 100% had not the faintest clue what was happening. 50% were there for the scheduled X51 (or 31 or X31) to Axminster (1120) so they were OK; but confused when an X53 arrived.
Were they expecting an X54? Who knows? Who cares?

The other 50% were expecting the 1116 to Bridport and were thus utterly disappointed. fbb was kepy busy doing First's job for them. One party of three were aiming for Weymouth for the day and were equally disconsolate when fbb told them they could get there but upon arrival would have missed the last bus back!

They decided to go by car.

It was an appalling example of GROSS MISMANAGEMENT by First Bus; as an absolute minimum, with no bus top signs and contradictory information all over the place First should have provided staff at Lyme Regis to explain.

And changing at Hunters Lodge? Misses the connection by about 7 minutes. Changing at Axminster Station? The Shuttle arrives 5 minutes before the eastbound X51 or X53 departs. fbb's shuttle was early in ...
... so let's hope everything always runs on time.

Unless, of course, you wanted the first X53 through from Exeter which was running 22 minutes late.

Exhausted and profoundly disappointed by what he observed, fbb caught the ever reliable AVT 885 back to Seaton; and an opportunity to check with the now open TiC.

"Do you have any X53 leaflets?"

"It's all in the new Devon Book."

"But it isn't right; buses are not running to Lyme Regis."

"Yes, we know."

"But have you any information about the special arrangements?"

"We did have ONE COPY (fbb's capitals) of the shuttle timetable but it's gone."

So no printed timetables from First Bus in Seaton. It's no wonder the service "wasn't performing well" if the company doesn't bother with publicity! DISGRACEFUL. And no information about the Lyme Regis blockade ANYWHERE in fbb's little town. .

FIVE WEEKS of corporate inspired ignorance.

Beyond belief.

Shuttlebus X54 (sic) is on First's web site. Great.

 Next bus blog : Thursday 1st October 

Tuesday 29 September 2015

A Frustrating Time in Bus-bereft Lyme [2]

Derision about Revision
Apparently, First Bus think there is more business to be had between Bridport, Lyme Regis and Axminster. So, despite the onset of the Winter timetable, the service has been doubled to every half hour. To achieve this the two hourly X53 Jurassic Coaster is diverted to Aminster with some extras to fill the gaps.

Very occasional journeys extend from Axminster to Seaton and Exeter much to the anger of fbb's neighbours who lose their faster journey to Exeter and the opportunity of going direct to the Hospital.

All this kicked off yesterday; except it didn't because Lyme Regis is closed to through traffic. Information is a mess. One notice says ...
... that from 27th September you will have to make your own way to either Hunters Lodge (as per yesterday's blog) or Charmouth roundabout as seen here.
There are, of course, no stop signs! But beside (or below, depending on location) is another slightly less negative notice advertising a shuttle bus.
Another notice referred enquirers to First's web site. Last week fbb found two identical X53s and an X54 (Shuttle Service) thereupon.
But neither last week's X54 ...
... nor a shuttle X53 could be found yesterday. The only X53 on-line was the "fill your screens with thousands of dashes" timetable.
And it was the old superseded timetable as well. USELESS! No shuttle of any kind.

But IF such a service existed, the temporary map would look like this:-
So it was that fbb set off from his Seaton mansion at 0930 yesterday to investigate. First stop; the temporary Information Office ...
... alas closed until 1000. Then to the "tramway" stops on Underfleet. First, those for buses eastbound. X53 timetable? ...
... NO. Axe valley timetable for added journeys to Lyme Regis?  NO. On the opposite side of the road, for westbound journeys on the X53.
YES! Timetable for both directions. "Use the stop opposite" instruction for the bottom one, NO CHANCE. And was there any indication that buses would not be running to Lyme Regis for five weeks? OF COURSE NOT.

And so a further totter round to Marine Place, the main sea front stop. Here there were First Bus timetables as above, but DEEP AND FRABJOUS JOY, Devon Council had replaced everything with the NEW timetables (cheers) but INCORRECT ones for X53 (boos). Even the stop flags had been amended ...
... with reference to Auntie Frances' 899 to Lyme. Even better (?), the X53 timetable only showed the pitiful three journeys via Seaton; no unnecessary clutter as provided by First.
The whole shebang would have been really good if Devon had bothered to stick in a note reminding us (if we ever knew) of the Lyme Regis bus-less blockade. DISGRACEFUL. On second thoughts, maybe neither Frst nor Dorset county bothered to tell Devon. Now that IS disgraceful! But not a proverbial dicky-bird. This holiday-making lady from Sutton Coldfield ...
... was decidedly dis-chuffed to be told by fbb that her expected X53 wasn't coming and she would have to wait nearly and hour, then to be told further that her intended trip to Weymouth and back would be impossible. She and her hubby ruefully decided to go to Charmouth instead.

But fbb was intent on catching the aforementioned 899, provided on a de minimis tender to give some limited service along the road via Rousdon cruelly vacated by First. But 1000 came - and went. fbb felt a disaster was impending but whilst anxiously scanning the approach roads he was able to offer somewhat negative advice to three other disappointed X53 potentials.

But, six minutes late, the bus arrived. fbb was so anxious to board that he forgot to take any meaningful pictures; just managing to capture part of the side destination. It showed "Woodroffe School" but the bus wasn't going there.
Axe Valley Mini Travel hadn't managed to update their electronic screens. But, hey, use the school bus setting, no-one will bother. And no-one did.

"Where in Lyme will you be stopping?" asked fbb as he boarded; with his OAP pass, as usual, failing to excite the ticket machine.

The answer, and the rest of the trip, will be revealed tomorrow.

It's almost as exciting as episodes of EastEnders!

 Next Lyme Regis blog : Wednesday 30th September 

Monday 28 September 2015

It OUGHT to be Simple ...

... But Palpably it Isn't.
fbb was at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital recently, not for any personal re-plumbing, but to chauffeur and elderly (should that be "more elderly"?) chum. Whilst waiting for the lift he espied the above. The only necessary notice is this one.
The "E149" can be used as a code to explain all the rest to whomsoever has need to access that very important door. If, as we are to assume, there has been a recent outbreak of storing tins of baked beans in a lift machine room or, heaven forfend, passing electrical engineers coming in and accessing the lift machinery without authorisation, security will be improved by NOT advertising the purpose if this particular door.

But when joe public wishes to find a bus stop, secrecy is inappropriate but, sadly, very common.

The shambles at Lyme Regis has gone through several stages, the latest coming into effect today. But initially, potential passengers from Lyme Regis were advised to catch the X53 and change at Hunters Lodge.
With passenger's confusion meters in the red zone, you would expect the management at First Bus to do everything it could to make this bus-swap as simple as possible. In the "good old days" companies would put large signs on their stop poles, augmented with temporary stops and clear direction signs to the replacements.

So ubiquitous are these in London ...
... that you can buy a shoulder bag appropriately emblazoned!

Now let's go to Hunters Lodge and begin with on-line infromation.
The pub is botttom right next to the road to Lyme Regis. The chunk of the A35 shown is at the start of the Axminster by-pass with Aminster to the left and, ultimately, Dorchester to the right. the single westbound stop is called ...
... Hunters Lodge Garage. And here it is.
Does the bus stop at the stop sign? NO. Does the bus stop at the shelter? NO. It stops in the layby ahead where the car is parked. There is no Hunters Lodge Garage! It is long gone. But, at least, there is some hope of catching a bus.

Opposite this stop are stops in the other direction, notably "Opp" the non-existant Hunters Lodge garage.
Next to it is a second stop ...
... called Raymonds Hill. Neither of these is marked by a stop sign, shelter or road markings.
The empyrical evidence suggests that these stops, like the mythical ghost garage, simple do not exist.

Perhaps there are stops on the road to Lyme Regis? Google Maps shows them.
 Here they are, unmarked in reality ... 
... and called "Stonecrest" which is a name equally invisible to the uninitiated. But better than nothing you might think. Maybe not. They are 500 metres down a busy road with no street lighting or footpath. Great for bus interchange.

And if you were coming from Axminster on a diverted X31 going straight along the A35, and resolutely NOT serving Lyme Regis ...
... how would you know where to board your X53 down the hill?

But what is this that fbb espied when he parked in that bus layby to investigate?
There; blink and you'll miss it. fbb did on two previous visits. 
it is a road sign cunningly disguising a bus stop. The stop is not marked on any map. The Traveline stop lists don't list this stop anywhere but fbb suspects that it is a replacement for the invisible "Raymonds Hill" and "Opp Hunters Lodge Garage". It is placed there so bus drivers on the X31 can pull into the right turn lane and get round the corner "safely". In order to support this safer manoeuvre, passengers have to lurk on a busy roadside with no light, no pavement and the distinct possibility of a vehicle turning left off the A35 and crushing them to a pulp!

A few questions to resolve, then.

Where does the diverted X31 stop as it travels eastbound to Charmouth?
Where does the diverted X53 stop as it approaches Hunters Lodge after climbing the hill from Lyme on its way east to Bridport?

If anyone has tried to make the interchange there, how many have ended up in Casualty at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital? At least there they have a surfeit of signs and notices to enjoy.

Does anybody know? Does anybody care?

Fear not, for from today the arrangements at Lyme all change. fbb is out and about observing the revised set up, consoling the occasional lost passenger and boiling with rage at the success of local authority's and bus company's combined skill at putting people off bus travel for life.

Conclusions tomorrow.

 Next Lyme Regis mystery bog : Tuesday 29th September 

Sunday 27 September 2015

He is Sceptical about Electrical ...

... and Wiring is Tiring!
A youthful fbb's first model railway ran on track like the above. It was Tri-ang, a recent arrival in the toy train market. His layout was little more than an "oval" of track, a passing loop and a single siding. It also came with a transformer and controller. With two basic trains it cost his parents £10 (£225 at today's prices). It was pathetic (ungrateful child) but it was a start.

Triang upgraded to "Series 3" track like this ...
... and nobody knew what happen to "Series 2"! Several things then happened quickly (and fbb can't remember the order of events).

Triang produced Super 4 track ...
... Hornby Dublo annouced its two-rail range and Peco started making its now world famous Streamline flexible track. Your blogger-to-be had to decided what to do. So he bought Hornby points and fixed curves etc. for the tricky bits and one-yard lengths of Streamline for the easy bits. Exactly the same general principles apply today! But Hornby points presented a particular problem.
They had three mysterious terminals next to a flat brown box; and they weren't for electrical operation of the points. They were for coping with some of the problems of 2-rail electrics. It became obvious to beginners that "proper" two rail wiring might be a bit more complicated than they thought.

Suffice it to say, without going into tedious detail, things can get very tricky. fbb-to-be had no truck with such complications and managed with a simple two wire connection to the track (one red and one black) and a few plastic rail joiners.
You still have the same problem with points, you can have complicated or simple wiring and the plastic rail joiners are still available at the shop at Peco's Beer HQ and from all good stockists!
But a revolution in model railway control has happened. In the early 1980s Hornby announced its "Zero 1" system which the company had developed at vast expense. This was the first example of Digital Command Control, although the "DCC" tag had not yet been invented.

Yer what?

Basically the idea is simple. (Oh yeah?). You send electricity (12v DC uncontrolled) to the whole of your track. Each loco has a decoder chip installed. (With it so far?). Then the controller ends a signal of pulses ...
... through the track which, via the internal chip, tells the loco to start, stop, speed up and slow down. By keying in an appropriate code, your controller can "drive" any number of locos and crash them into one another causing hundreds of pounds-worth of damage.

Although that's not the best idea!

Here's a diagram showing the principle.
The diagram above shows other uses for chips; altering points ("switch" in the US) and working sound and lights in your little engine.

So "simple" was the idea that early sales blurb spoke of "just two wires to run the whole if your layout". (Ha, jolly ha!)

Decoder chips are priced at between £20 and £30 depending (click on the digram below to enlarge) ...
... on whether you want chips and system to do lots of stuff. Now you can have the same train control system, plus signals, sound and lights in buildings, extra transformers and power boosters, and detectors to tell you where your trains are. Two wires, eh?
Which brings fbb to last Tuesday. There was a gathering of model club members and others at Buffers shop near Axminster to see a presentation by Richard Johnson, the big cheese of "DCC Concepts", an Australian company that specialises in all this technical flummery.

Very impressive. He showed us firstly ...
... a kit which enabled the modeller, very simply (grunt of derision?), to build their own digital push button control panel to run points and signals on their layout, but connected by only two wires. (Plus ├ža change.)

Item 2 was a more shiny pre-boxed version of the same. This would cost "in the region of £100".
Richard ebulliently (aren't all Ozzies ebullient?) extolled its technical prowess whilst fbb silently gibbered behind a pillar. The third item was a smaller box ...
... referred to by the slick salesman as "the Swiss Army Knife of train control" which, as far as fbb could gather, was a thingamuffin control box to control all the other control boxes. This was still "under development" but would retail at "about £125".

Going back to the big diagram, fbb notes a "feedback bus" and a "cab bus" and wonders whether, if he was operating Faller electronic road vehicles, he might need a "bus bus"?

Where will it all end. On the Railway Modeller Christmas 2014 DVD we were entertained by a group of old codgers whose huge layout was totally controlled by computers. All they had to do was to set it all going and it would run itself while the modellers went to the pub.

It's called "defeating the object".

And a final thought.

Technical developments which are expected to mature during the next five years or so include the use of plastic for rolling stock bodies and the use of new electronic apparatus for reducing the complexity and cost of control systems, particularly for traction equipment.

These words are from the closing paragraph of the 1959 review of the 1955 British Railways Modernisation Report.

Still waiting on the real railway!

And on fbb's back yard layout?
One red wire and one black wire, just like 55 years ago!

 Next bus blog : Monday 28th September