Thursday 31 October 2019

Changes at Chesterfield (1)

It is strange, looking back, how illogical decisions colour you past, present and future. When fbb was a student in Sheffield, he was excited to travel throughout the city by bus. His home town of Northampton was just beginning to expand but Northampton Corporation buses trundled around unchanging within the Borough boundary. Just a few extensions into new estates added a little variety - but not much.

Sheffield was fascinating and  more extensive visits to Rotherham and Doncaster proved equally enjoyable. But rarely did your author venture south to Chesterfield.

In those far off days, Chesterfield Corporation buses were a rich and noble green colour.
Chesterfield Corporation buses found their way into Sheffield on joint service 12 via Dronfield and the (old) A61. With the burgeoning of the Gosforth Valley estate to the east of  Dronfield, one bus an hour wiggled that way at service 11.
To add to the mix, a limited stop 512 was on offer and thereby is a tale which will be revealed in tomorrow's blog.
Back then, fbb was invited to join an institute of transport visit to the newly opened Corporation (CCT) Stonegravels depot.
The new facility was so opulent and so huge that that one Sheffield wag asked the Manager whether CCT had aspirations to take over East Midland! Ironically, it happened the other way; Stagecoach East Midlands also acquired CCT.

One of the strange sequences of bus management seems to be (a) an introduction of long cross town services followed a year or two later by (b) splittung them up again into smaller chunks.(See also London Nortth Western Railwasy!)

Here is service 10 to Newbold as operated pre 27th October.
It is shown as a "circular" but it isn't - its a lollipop.

Stagecoach then announces that "to improve the service" it will be linked cross-town with services 82 and 83.
The map only offers part of the route.

82/3 offered a combined 15 minute frequency.
So would we expect the new through service to be increased to every 10?

Ha, jolly ha!

Here is the timetable from Sunday last.
On a positive note the timetable does show the whole loop at Newbould. There are loops a-plenty at Bolsover.
For reasons explained below fbb is unable to fathom the changes in the 83/2 timetable but traditionally buses terminate at Hillstown Water Tower.
This is, of course, a local beauty spot ...
... with lavishly appointed stops.
Do Stagecoach buses still show "Hillstown" as CCT did?

Rangoon Nadgers** Report
fbb spent a good bit of yesterday in bed and this blog is, perforce, something of a precis. Tomorrow we will (nadgering permitting) get to the new X1 service.

** shakes, shivers, sweats, somnolence and a profound lack of energy. What is far more serious is that fbb id "off his food". Horrors.

Below a small piece of Goon Show Script

This is the BBC light programme.

Mr. Greenslade, never mind the commercials mate. Enough of this splin splan slon and a hern hern. Give us a magic lantern lecture on this week's show.

As you will sir.

Lantern slide operation.

Ladies and gentlemen, on inserting the first colour slide we perceive the title to be, 'The Great Nadger Plague.'


According to the next slide it was in the year sixteen fifty-six that the dreaded Nadger plague swept across Europe like the dreaded Nadger plague of sixteen fifty-six.

Tuesday night's Midsummer Murders was switched off - lack of concentration. Tonight an old Inspector Alleyn Mystery will be attempted; but as it lasts two hours, the chances of seeing it through to the end are something less than nil.

 Next attempted X1 blog : Friday 1st November 

Wednesday 30 October 2019

Delightful Didcot in a Downpour (3)

fbb In Trouble Again!
Yesterdays piece about National Express (sales at Post Offices) produced a vehement response from correspondent Roy who purchased the lengthy ticket.
The offending blog was published early yesterday as usual and elicited an immediate riposte from Roy!

Whilst serving his fully deserved detention, fbb took a look at the NatEx web site to see if his local Post Office (just a short teeter along the road from fbb mansions) offered this service.
The results of this research will be included in a future blog.

Back to Didcot
Before the Great Western electrification, there were fast trains from London to Oxford (by-passing Didcot) and local stopping through trains serving intermediate stops. Then came the huge overspend on over-specified over-engineered overhead and running wires to Oxford was delayed, postponed indefinitely or/and abandoned.

With super-smashing bi-mode trains you could run on electric as far as Didcot then change to diesel power for the last bit to Oxford. Much fine gold saved and the Men from the Ministry (DAfT) continue gleefully in their quest to micro-manage the privatised but very much nationalised national rail network.

GWR don't have any bi-mode "local" stock so a change of train at Didcot is now obligatory for all local journeys. Great!
The green symbol at the head of the stoppers from Reading to Guildford looked like a letter "f" to fbb, but is in fact one of these:-
Crowds travelling from, for example, Pangbourne to Oxford and beyond have between 5 and 12 minutes to enjoy the stroll from electric on platform 4 to diesel on platform 5 at Didcot; thus making their journey somewhat less attractive.

Anyway the fbb party was able to see the Electrostars ...
... arriving and departing electrically. Photographs were impeded by over enlargement and overhead, but you will get the idea!
The connecting "Turbo" diesel trains passed reasonably close to the "viewing gallery" ...
This one was the two hourly Banbury train.

There Is another challenge with these "local" trains. From Oxford the timetable leaflet only shows trains as far as Reading. But they run to and from Paddington.
The half hourly trains to Reading only are due to be handed over to Transport for London aka Crossrail aka Elizabeth Line.

But think of it, dear readers, with just one change, you could ride all the way from Ealing Broadway (London) to Kings Sutton (Northamptonshire) taking just over two hours.

But the Three fbb Stooges had come to a drizzly Dicot to see bi-modes whizzing past. Sadly many of the speedy slugs actually stop at Didcot.
Nevertheless the service and the trains seem good and will be much improved from the December timetable change. fbb is already planning a second visit to the (unadvertised) Didcot viewing gallery.

Here a stopper leaving platform 1 ...
... and a non-stop approaching platform 2 (although you can't tell its speed from the picture, of course.)
Mention should be made of the "South Cotswold Line" (1215 ex Paddington on timetable above) ...
... which becomes hourly through from Paddington from the new timetable.

No 1 son, wisely (of course), decided to video a non-stop train, but 'twas too many gigglebits for Blogger to handle ...

... so hopefully (this link) will work?

It doesn't always rain at Didcot. No 1 son also sent this snap of his 0747 commute to Paddington  yesterday morning. It stood at platform 2 whilst "something to Bristol" stood alonside at platform 1
Dead juicy!

But fbb really does not like the slug colour.
Next we go to Chesterfield.

Apologies. The fbbs welcomed nephew, wife, great nephew and great niece for "tea and sticky buns". fbb spent much of the day getting the model railway up and running. The Peterville equivalent of National Rail Budleia was rife.
By the time they arrived it was dark and demonstrations were cancelled. fbb went out to put stuff away and was beset with a full-on attack of the Rangoon Nadgers (shivers, shakes. aches and flu type symptoms). Horrid.

He retired to his bed at 2000 to watch an old Midsomer Murders and to await recovery. He also forgot to post this blog! Rose bleary eyed at 0940!

Apologies if you consider that the blog is below standard; and apologies for late publication. Another detention?

 Brand New X1 Blog : Thursday 31st October 

Tuesday 29 October 2019

Delightful Didcot in a Downpour (2)

No 1 son's cunning plan for a bit of old-fashioned train watching at Didcot owed its success to the fact that he is a season ticket holder for his work at The University of Arts, based at High Holborn, in central London. He also has a season ticket to the new five level multi-storey car park.
This was built roughly where the "reservoir" is shown on the plan used in yesterdays blog and repeated here.
This splendid edifice is linked to the station entrance by a massive footbridge. This replaced the more mundane original which would have been very much exposed to last Saturdays steady precipitation.
No 1 son was doubly excited as this expedition would allow him to drive to floor 5, dizzy heights to which he had never ventured on his commute!
It was still raining!
Lifts down to level 2 brought the disparate generations to the footbridge level ...
... whence, noting the excellent advertising for the Railway Centre, the true delights of the location revealed themselves. First a long section parallel to the main line on the right and the "stopping" Oxford lines on the left ...
... followed by a right hand turn to cross the tracks ...
... continuing left via a huge ramp to the station entrance.
Well; not quite to the station entrance!
There is a lengthy sprint past the bike sheds and potentially in the rain before you get to the station itself!
Notwork Rail's on-line station information, plan and pictures thereof has not quite grasped the change in access from the car park and duly warns passengers that "the stairs are outdoors"!
They are NOT!

At the first right hander, however, was an open unglazed "viewing window" ideal for fbb's purpose.
All main line and all "down" stopping services passed close by with approaching main line "up" trains viewed via the top of the open steps opposite.
More viewing was available from the unglazed ramp down to the station itself.
So the excited three generations were ready to observe the new-look Great Western Railway and its services.

At this stage, it should be explained that everything long distance through Didcot is now worked by the green slugs (Hitachi bi-mode) so there is very little visual variety. There was no freight during the relatively short fbb visit to relieve the observational monotony.

No 1 son informs fbb that die hard train spotters accumulate at the end of the station platforms where they can spot (binoculars in hand) the trains turning right for Oxford and not passing through the station ...
... but they could be observed afar off from the car park viewing gallery. There are half hourly GWR trains fast(-ish) from Paddington to Oxford ...
... and half hourly CrossCountry services from Bournemouth via Reading to Birmingham and Manchester
Also observed on the near side of the water tower was the Railway Centre's little steam-hauled shuttle chuntering back and forth.
No 2 grandson was disappointed in the poor quality of the phone-camera enlargements, suggesting that his "proper" camera would give much better results. Sadly that was back in Wantage!

But it was not long before the excitement increased to fever pitch as main line trains hoved into view ...
... but that excitement will have to be held in check until tomorrow's blog. Boo, Hiss!

And The Puzzle Picture?
Sheffield correspondent Roy wished to make an exploratory bus journey from Chesterfield (of which more in a later blog) and decided to test-ride a National Express service as a change from the more mundane Stagecoach offerings.

In a lemming-like attempt to lose passengers, National Express has closed its enquiry office in Sheffield and has removed the self-serve ticket machines.
Of course, it is all on line, but you can buy tickets at a Post Office. You have to know exactly what you want, the PO cannot offer timetable enquiries or advice, but they will issue you with a ticket. The technology creates something described by Roy as, "almost as long as the journey itself".
The mind boggles.

Roy's vehicle was this rather splendid coach operated by Skills of Nottingham ...
... and National Express does make actual timetables available on their web site.
Roy was on the 0635 departure on Sunday last.

Printed leaflet? Don't make fbb laugh.

 Next  Delightful Didcot blog : Wednesday 30th October