Tuesday 31 May 2016

Crewkerne Community Cut-back Concerns (1)

On 24 April 1953 the crank axle on the central driving wheel of No. 35020 "Bibby Line" fractured whilst approaching Crewkerne station at speed. The locomotive was a Bulleid designed Merchant Navy 4-6-2; a class of locomotive that was the pride of the ex Southern Railway's fleet.
No person was injured but the station suffered from flying debris.
The incident resulted in the withdrawal of all Merchant Navy class locomotives from service whilst the cause was ascertained.

Apart from that incident, the station has had a relatively un-checquered history. The original buildings are intact and in good condition ...
... and the local community group does a splendid job in promoting that railway. The station is not ideally situated, being a mile or so along the A356 and nearer to the village of Misterton
The current bus service between town and station is Stagecoach route 99/99A, running hourl;y Monday to Friday and every 90 minutes on Saturday.
The route(s) fulfil a multitude of functions. Between Taunton and Chard an hourly service is provided via some delightful villages such as Staple Fitzpaine.
At Chard the route runs via newer housing at Glynswood ...
... and it becomes, effectively, a Chard town service. Between Chard and Crewkerne, the route splits. One leg run via Winsham ...
... which, apart from the onslaught of the motor car, is much the same as it always was. The top snap is from the 1950s, the bottom from today's Google Streetview.

The alternative route is via Cricket St Thomas (the more direct route between Chard and Crewkerne) - the grey line across the top of the map).
Cricket St Thomas House shot to fame as the supposed Grantleigh Manor in the TV series "To the Manor Born".
The grounds had a chequered history as a Wildlife Park and as home (briefly) to Mr Blobby.
The decaying remains were eventually demolished. The house is now a Warners Leisure Hotel.
A somewhat doctored view of the porticoed entrance to the right was used as the opening caption for the programme.
But back to the 99 and 99A bus. The two routes continue to form an hourly service via Crewkerne Station, Misterton and on to Yeovil.
They run via the deliciously named Haselbury Plucknett!

The first part of the village name means a hazel grove and the second part from the name of its medieval owners. Saint Wulfric arrived in the village in 1125 and was visited by Henry I and other nobility. He died in 1154 and was buried in the east end of the north aisle of the church, which became known as St Wufric's aisle, but there is no trace in the current church.

But summat's up with the 99 and 99A ...
 ... and the good folk pf Crewkerne are far from happy.

As we shall see tomorrow.

 Next Crewkerne bus blog : Wednesday 1st June 

Monday 30 May 2016

fbb's Jinty had wheels all Squinty

Currently a goodly number of our pals from across The Pond are reading this blog. fbb can't think why! But the word "Jinty" may be a mystery. It can be a girl's name; is is used in the so-called "gay" community, but for any self respecting UK rail buff, it is a small steam tank locomotive.
Design of this class was based on rebuilds by Henry Fowler of the Midland Railway 2441 Class introduced in 1899 by Samuel Waite Johnson. These rebuilds featured a Belpaire firebox and improved cab. 422 Jinties were built between 1924 and 1931; this class was just one of the Midland designs used on an ongoing basis by the LMS. The locomotives were built by the ex-L&YR Horwich Works and the private firms Bagnall's, Beardmores, Hunslet, North British and the Vulcan Foundry.

Some preserved railways paint their Jinty blue as a version of Thomas the Tank Engine.
In fact, Thomas was based on a London Brighton and South Coast Railway E2 class.
Many blog readers will be either mystified or yawningly unconcerned about the difference; but difference there is.

Triang introduced a crude model Jinty for "00" (4mm to the foot) gauge in the mid 1950s. It was really clunky by today's standards, with very little detail and solid wheels. But the buyers loved it and it was cheap!
When Triang introduced TT gauge (3mm to the foot), their first loco was an equally crude Jinty.
Later versions after the Hornby reverse take over were much improved ...
... but still weak by comparison with more recently designed locos. Competitor Bachmann produced its version with significant improvements.
It comes with brake pipes. open rails round the coal bunker; and ...
... a good representation of the rodding that links the brake shoes together.

So fbb bought a Hornby Jinty, second hand, at £21. By today's standards this was farcically cheap, with pre-owned small tanks retailing at around the £60 mark.

But it didn't work! Had cheapskate fbb bought a pig in a poke? The little loco would whizz happily round the test circuit at the model club and then come to a shuddering halt with the wheels and the connecting rod askew and locked solid.

The problem became obvious when fbb turned the loco over and looked at the other side.
A wheel had fallen off.

A little dribble of cyanoacrylate ...
... with the wheels and con-rods correctly aligned (of course!) and all is well. fbb's Jinty is no longer squinty.

Two irrelevant jottings to end. The Clyde Arc Bridge (in Glasgow, surprisingly) ...
... is known as the Squinty Bridge.

Actress Finty Williams ...
... daughter of Judi Dench, is actually named Laura. Finty was a childhood nickname which became permanent!

And to complete the model Jinty saga, you can (or could|) buy an "O" gauge kit (7mm to the foot) from Tower Models...
... whilst an "N" gauge (2mm to a foot) is/was part of the Graham Farish catalogue. 
Both brands are part of the Bachmann group.

 Next Crewkerne blog : Tuesday 31st May 

Sunday 29 May 2016

Travelling via Bristol Parkway This Weekend (2)

Bristol Parkway Station (at Stoke Gifford, upper right) is on the main lines between London and South Wales and between The West Country, Bristol, Birmingham and points north.

fbb got ticked off good and proper yesterday for complaining about the rail companies' hidden information (not?) explaining the huge disruption to all services that use the so-called Filton Diamond of train routes to the north of Bristol.
fbb circulates amongst the elderly, many of whom, it is true, have computers or smart phones (good) but do not really understand how the internet works - or doesn't. (not good). Neither do they really understand to ramifications oif our privatised railway system.

Many of them do not realised, for example, that all rail companies' web sites will sell you any rail company's tickets; and that (with a few notably exceptions) ALL these tickets are available at the same price at their local staffed station.

Many do not understand, furthermore, that when you buy and open return, saver or supersavers they are valid on any train (subject to some time restrictions. On-line sales sites often force you to book specific trains even when such is not necessary.

It is, of course, insanely complicated and VERY FRIGHTENING.

Many of fbb';s chums would not consider travelling at weekends because the risks are too great. One of those risks is inadequate information.

Here is Great Western Railway 's leaflet for the "embouteillage" at Filton.
Fair enough. Now let's look inside.
Isn't that exactly what has been written on the front cover? We are then told when it is happening again with an extra calendar graphic in case we don't know what a calendar is, perhaps. We are also told about cycle policy and ...
... ticket easements. Hands up if you know what a "ticket easement" is. Thought not. Then comes the highlight (?) of the leaflet.

The map. Ta da! (shown here is two bits because it is too wide to blog)/
(click on the maps to make them a bit bigger)
Undoubtedly, the majority or readers of this esteemed publication will give up on the map straight away. Actually is is accurate but geographically incomprehensible and too cluttered to unravel. It has been drawn up by Great Western Railway's "see how much infromation we ctan cram into a small space to save the costs of a proper information booklet" department.

But, do not despair, there is more. Three list of "things happening" as follows:-
What IS running
London to South Wales diverted via Gloucester
London to Bristol direct operating normally
South West to The Midlands (Cross Country) diverted via Swindon.

What isn't running
Bristol to Newport (South Wales)
Bristol to Bristol Parkway and Gloucester
Bristol to Severn Beach

This information is very "basic" and leaves several questions unanswered. Could, fbb, for example, ride from Bristol to Gloucester via Swindon with Cross Country?

To add to the confusion (?) there then follows a list of replacement bus services. 
All this information refers back (using colours) to the map above.

Is this really the best way to do it?

As only three routes from Bristol are affected, surely a "from Bristol" publication would be simpler to understand. This would then explain how each of these routes are covered with an addition list to cover local services.

This would deliver 5 tables.

1. Cross Country via Swindon
2. Bristol - Parkway - Gloucester
3. Bristol - Newport - Cardiff (bus and train)
4. Bristol - locals via Filton Abbey Wood
5. Bristol - Severn Beach locals

Separate leaflets for Swindon - Gloucester - South Wales, and for routes from Parkway would also be needed. Simpler maps plus understandable timetables.

The "Travel Updates" links from the GWR home page give much the same information grouped as before; High Speed, Regional and Buses. This time readers do not have the benefit (?) of a Map.
But scroll down on the "Planned |Engineering" page as you can download a PDF ...
... which is different again. For this weekend, you get this. A map on which RED shows "significant" changes and YELLOW which indicates "minor" changes.
This display shows everything of GWRs that is affected including, for example, Neath tio Swansea and local lines in the London area. The panel below is, in fbb's humble opinion (!) even more confusing, but hopefully GWR's customers will know which area they are in ...

... and the consequences of their location. fbb is sure that grouping the details by station and not by service would be easier to understand.

Not many of yesterdays comment writers would appear to agree.
Silcox Susceptible to Sinking
Dateline March 2015

The Silcox family completed the re-purchase of Silcox Motor Coach Company Ltd from King Long Ltd on 6 March 2015. The deal secures the future of the Silcox name which has been synonymous with providing the residents of Pembrokeshire with their transportation needs. The company’s operations encompass coach holidays, private hire and local bus services with a fleet of over 70 vehicles.

MD of Silcox Coaches, Keith Silcox, said, ‘We are delighted to have completed the transaction and everyone at Silcox Coaches is now looking forward to working together to contribute to the success of the business.’

Silcox runs 20 bus services, holidays and tours and school contracts in south west Wales.
But not for long?
Pembrokeshire County Council is awaiting news on the future of a long standing company that operates many of its school buses. Silcox, based in Pembroke Dock, is searching for a buyer after suffering financial difficulties.

The company employs around 100 people. Letters explaining the situation have been sent to staff by Wilson Field, a company specialising in Business Recovery, Insolvency and Financial Solutions.

It does not look good for this long established and much respected firm.

More to follow, no doubt.
 Next blog as yet unwritten! : Monday 30th May 

Saturday 28 May 2016

Travelling via Bristol Parkway This Weekend (1)

Really good advice:-


 and DON'T even try looking 
 for a TIMETABLE ... 

... because nobody is going to publish one. There isn't really much point in going to the train company web sites either. But you are welcome to try.

Cross Country services from the West Country via Birmingham are affected. At first glance the web site says nothing. There is a warning about disruption ...

Detailed information about planned track improvement work between Leamington Spa, Banbury and Oxford.

... but that is well into the future.

From 30 July to 14 August.

The main features of the site would suggest that all is hunky and dory. There is the obligatory Journey Planner ...
... and fares offers ...
... but nothing else that is in any way obvious.

Ploughing through numerous clicks, we can (eventually!) get to this:-
Timetables are available as PDF pages from the printed books.
These are just about OK for "normal" operation, but their equivalent for the weekend's disruption are simply not available. And even under normality you have to flick from page to page because all 32 notes are listed together at the back ...
... rather than being at the foot of the table to which they apply.

You might think that Great Western Railway might do better as they are "lead operator" in the Bristol area.

But no. fbb can ...
... earn bonus points ...
... and find out all about the Bakerloo Line closure.
Actually the line is NOT closed, just Paddington Bakerloo station.

But there is nothing about this weekend's disruption in the main page of the site. But, right at the bottom ...
... we can start the click-fest.

From 28 to 30 May, and from 27 to 29 August the railway between Bristol Parkway, Severn Tunnel Junction and Filton Abbey Wood will be closed while Network Rail carry out major signal improvements.
During this time, there will be an amended timetable and buses will replace trains on some routes.
Visit the Filton improvement page for more information

The tone changes a bit when you visit "the Filton improvements page".

From Saturday 28 to Monday 30 May, the railway between Bristol Temple Meads, Bristol Parkway, Gloucester and Severn Tunnel Junction will be closed with many services being amended or replaced by buses. These alterations to our normal service apply over the August Bank Holiday too - from Saturday 27 to Monday 29 August.

There then follows a huge list which we will look at tomorrow. For the time being here are the services that WILL NOT be  amended or altered.

Bristol - London Paddington
Bristol - Weston-super-Mare/Taunton (local service)
Bristol - Weymouth
Bristol - Portsmouth

Nothing else escapes the curse of Filton resignalling!
The so-called "Filton Diamond" of railway routes.

 Next Filton blog : Sunday 29th May