Wednesday 31 July 2019

Farewell To An Old Friend (3)

First, An Apology.
fbb and his ex-brother-in-law, ex-Sheffield flatmate and ex Sheffield Transport Department employee assembled a detailed list of Sheffield route changes from 1913 to the arrival of the PTE in 1973.

Whenever he is writing about history, your noble blogger goes to the files (the heap) and extracts the relevant pages of typed script. After completing his ramblings on service 4 earlier this week the sheet for service 31 disappeared in to a temporal and spacial vortex (the place whither one sock of a pair vanishes!) where it was, of course, invisible to the old man.

It re-appeared yesterday morning in the most unlikely and unpredictable place.
Which partly explains why fbb wrote (later corrected) that the service to Upperthorpe started in 1919 rather than 1913 and why he also wrote 1945 instead of  1954.
By way of repentance, here is the early history of the route:-

And we thought modern-day public transport was unreliable!

The new service started from the Royal Hospital in Glossop Road ...
... closed in 1978 and demolished in 1981.
The only remnant of this venerable pile is the listed frontage of the former Mount Zion chapel on the east side which was taken over in 1922 and formed the Outpatients Department.
Was part of the purpose of the 31 to provide a link from the Royal Hospital to the Royal Infirmary ...
... whose back entrance is at Upperthorpe? The main hospital block remains, joined by a Tesco which removed some less admirable buildings.
More bizarrely, the 31 also ran via Victoria Station!

Whatever the "policy" at the beginning, on 3rd April 1955 the 31 was revised to run from the bus station, omitting Victoria Station,  with its route unchanged until 1969.

It left the city centre via Scotland Street which in 1771 was a big brave extension of residential property into open country ...
... but many houses had their workshops in the back yard. By 1954 it was a mix of housing, small works and a few pubs. A few remnants of those days could be found ...
... but mostly the run is through light industrial units ...
... lacking the character and cohesion of ancient times.
The route crosses the supertram and inner ring road (Netherthorpe Road) ...
... but the pre-dual carriageway route up the hill was St Philips Road crossed by the 31 running on Watery Street
Here there used to be a small shopping centre but trade is not so good today!
Slowly, low grade housing was demolished ...
... and replaced with the Netherthorpe tower blocks.
In the late 60s, however, when this route became an fbb favourite, there was plenty of the "traditional" Sheffield to enjoy!

Then we come to Upperthorpe, still alive but in decline ...
... before the real fun part of the route begins. It is something of a mountaineering expedition.

First comes the narrow, blind bend of Daniel Hill.
It has been opened up in recent years with much of its traditional housing demolished ...
... but looking back down towards the corner with a 31 descending ...
... you can see what "fun" it used to be. Then there is the steady assault on Whitehouse Lane and Walkley Road.
The climb seems to go on for ever. Again, looking back down the hill, the older photo shows what it was like when there was more densely packed housing on both sides of the road.
And as soon as you reach the summit, just short of Walkley Library, your 31 would turn sharp right ...
... and begin the long steep Walkey Lane descent to Hillsborough ...
... right back down into the bottom of the Upper Don Valley.
Obviously Streetview pictures do not show the gradients as well at personal experience as the noddy car was already going up (or down) the hill, but, for a residential route it was, and currently is, something special.

As we shall see tomorrow, the 31 disappears completely after service on 31st August, but there is a replacement for part of the route. This requires a bit more explanation which will conclude in tomorrow's blog.

There may be steeper climbs elsewhere in the UK, but there is no route full of so much variety and social history in its short 18 minute running time.

 Next farewell blog : Thursday 1st August 

Tuesday 30 July 2019

Farewell To An Old Friend (2)

Sheffield Transport Department ran a number of single deck buses. Services Derbyshire etc. tended, as country buses, to be only one-storey.
Most of these could be operated by double deck vehicles, but overhanging trees would be a problem. One route from Sheffield just HAD to be a single deck. Service 99 to Chesterfield via Ford had to negotiate a very low bridge in the Barrow Hill area (?) and was, therefore, always single deck.

Route 85 between Retford and Gainsborough was always single deck but fbb cannot remember whether it had to be!

Likewise the Stocksbridge local services (257 and 357) were always "the little bus", possibly because of steep hills.

Within the city of Sheffield area the only bus that needed to be single deck was the relatively short-lived service 100 to Parkwood Springs.
The bridge was under the railway line that led to/from Sheffield Victoria. For most of its life the area managed without a bus and, soon after its introduction, work started to demolish the whole estate.
But it was a close-knit community with Co-op ...
... and pub(s) seen here with a passing 100.
The bridge is still there ...
... but where stood houses full of happy chatter and merry Sheffield banter is now an undistinguished and rather scruffy light industrial area culminating, at the top of the remaining road network, with the lavish Sheffield Ski Village.
It was destroyed by fire in 2012.
The other, much longer lasting single deck route is service 31.

It was so equipped, fbb surmises, because of steep hills and tight corners although there is no reason why a modern double deck bus should not be used. To the best of fbb's knowledge no double decker has ever been that way since the route started in 1945.

The route remained much the same for many years as here in a 1960 route map.
But a bus ran part way on a route from Heeley to Upperthorpe way back in 1913. (on the 1960 map, above, Upperthorpe is at the junction of Springvale Road and Fox Road).
Upperthorpe (and its twin Netherthorpe) were heavily built-up with areas of closely packed housing ...
... that lay between the tram route to Walkley (still bus 95 today) and the tram route to Hillsborough etc. (still bus 82 amongst others).

The centre of the community is surprisingly unchanged ...
... with the grand Library building attached to the the Public Baths (left).

The 1913 route was erratic in operation and eventually ended in 1921. The two tram routes were always far more frequent and fbb does not have any official information as to why the new route started in 1945.

Between the two tram corridors was a steep hillside ...
... so the prudent would be advised to walk down to infirmary Road for a tram into city, and to return via the Walkley route and walk down to return home! Looking from below, the steepness can be gauges from the building on the left ...
... and it is like that all the way up (or down!). This is Addy Street which carried the old inner circle routes 8/9 and, at a much lower frequency, is the route of today's 10/10a.

But, for whatever reason, the 31 started in 1945 and tomorrow fbb will review the route and its delights.

Whenever fbb welcomed friends to Sheffield in his student and early working days, he always invited them to join him for a ride on the 31. In its own way it was both eclectic and spectacular!

 Next farewell blog : Wednesday 31st July 

Monday 29 July 2019

Farewell To An Old Friend (1)

But First - It's A Result!
Yesterday's blog reported the sorry take of a correspondent who was fleeced of £18 for his ride from Sheffield to Chesterfield (£5), from Chesterfield to Bamford (£7) and for the day on the H1/2 Hope Valley Explorer (£6).

A response arrived late-ish yesterday evening from Matt Davies, boss of Stagecoach Yorkshire.
At least someone is thinking! Of course what he ought to have been charged ideally was simply an Explorer at £7 for the whole trip. The anomalous state of the H1/2 remains wholly unsatisfactory, but at least one mess is sorted.

Thanks to all concerned for prompt action.

In Sheffield, What's Going On?
In Sheffield on Sunday 1st September the timetable changes that presage the start of the new school term are being implemented by the operators.

In the first place First Bus is making significant adjustments (reductions?) to MOST of its commercial services.

Stagecoach is not making huge changes, but, as is usual these days, is tinkering with the odd journey here and there. The net result is that MOST Stagecoach services will have new timetables, albeit with very minor retimings on certain journeys.

Then there has been a "tender round". Every three years (currently) every service that receives a little bag of gold coins from the PTE goes back on the shelf and all operators are invited to submit bids.

ALL tendered services are changing their route OR their timetable OR their operator or in various combinations of all three.

The net result is that you can count the routes that do not have some change or other on the fingers of two hands.

Happy times for Sheffield bus passengers NOT!

fbb is frantically getting updates for GoTimetable Sheffield ready to send off to the technical team. There are also maps to redraw (currently 17 of the approx 25 needed are ready for uploading) and the aim is to get most of the work dome by the end of this week.

Fat chance - because one operator, which has won most of the tenders, is very slow in responding to requests for timetable files.

fbb is very glad to say the both First and Stagecoach have offered excellent co-operation. Their timetables were neatly lodged on fbb's confuser within days of their being registered.

But if there has been any deficiency in blogs over the last few weeks (further panic expected for another two weeks), readers will understand why.

Oh yes, and the technical department is changing the presentations of the tables slightly to help users find their way round the alterations. But a slight change involves quite a lot of lines of code.

But There Is Sad News
Two long-standing Sheffield bus route disappear completely; both of them being held in high esteem, for various reasons, by fbb. Both of them are currently tendered by the PTE.
Bents Green was no more than a hamlet, part of Ecclesall parish, with its few properties (on the map "Hill Top") clustered around the junction of Bents Road and Ringinglow Road.
The "Inn" was (and still is) The Hammer and Pincers a much extended and improved hostelry which began its life in ancient times as a smithy.
It existed mainly as a refreshment stop on the track over the moors to Hathersage, long before the A625 was developed as the main road to the Hope Valley.

As the city expanded, housing development began in the "triangle" south west of Ecclesall church. Thus it was that on Monday 11th November 1926, Sheffield Transport Department started a bus service (route 28) from Ecclesall tram terminus to Bents Green.
Initially the service ran Monday to Friday only and shut down mid morning! It ran round the triangle ...
... from a superb turning circle and shelter opposite the tram terminus.
The luxurious facilities included Ladies and Gents toilets (the latter oft frequented by fbb until they closed) and windows to the rear gazing on to a patch of shrubbery. Occasional journeys ran to the hamlet of Ringinglow. as service 27

The shelter and turning circle are still there ...
... but bereft of toilets and windows! Just across the main Ecclesall Road was the tram terminus ...
... whither passengers from service 28 would be expected to trot across the then less busy road to join the tram for a ride into city. The former tram track has been adapted to provide extra parking for the lucky residents of Millhouses Lane.
The route into town eschewed the main tram route and used Psalter Lane ...
... (pronounced Salter, of course, thus bringing confusion and mystery to anyone wanting or giving directions!).
Psalter Lane continued as Cemetery Road and ran past the end of Grange Crescent Road ...
... where, at No 3, fbb shared a flat with chum John.
The cross-city links varied over the years but in 1960 all buses were numbered 4 and ran to the north of the city via Brightside Lane, Wincobank and the steep Newman Road to Firth Park.
From 1971 to 1984 this was the route occasionally used by fbb to get to and from Hinde House School where he rose to the dizzy heights of head of the RE department. The school has since been demolished and rebuilt but is still on the same site, upper left on the map above, just adjacent to Jepson Road. 

A creepy footpath led from bus stop the to school which, each morning, was filled with a flowing crowd of kiddies (plus fbb!) eager to enter the much anticipated halls of academe. (yeah, right!)
Inexorably, the via Wincobank service eventually got reworked but not after a highlight in 1973 when the whole route was equipped with Videmat Machines.
You dropped coins into the red slot and the gubbins printed the actual coins on a strip of paper. The fare for the whole length of the 4 was 22p so the aim was to accumulate &44 frac12; coins and grab the longest possible ticket.

Surely fbb would not be so childish? Oh yes he would and he did!

But the 4 via Psalter Lane was much longer lasting as here in 2010.
The present 4 (operated by T M Travel) runs hourly and has returned to its traditional terminus of Bents Green ...
... with occasional trips to Ringinglow.
Things looked bad for Psalter Lane, Bents Green and Ringinglow when T M Travel decided to send its half hourly service 218 between Sheffield and Bakewell that way to avoid traffic congestion on the "normal" Abbeydale Road route.
The 218 runs every 30 minutes (seven days a week for the extended Summer dates) and is commercially operated. The 4 runs every hour and is tendered.

Clearly the PTE is not going to spend its diminishing box of pennies on the 4 when the same operator is operating a better service tender free.

So it is that on Saturday 31st August the 4 ceases to be; the tender has not been renewed.
"And what about Ringinglow?", we hear you cry. The long standing occasional 4 will disappear; but the PTE has come up with a cunning plan to replace it. But that's another story.

Tomorrow, another number vanishes from history.

 Next farewell blog : Tuesday 30th July