Monday 31 August 2020

Monday Variety

An Idea For Roger French
Roger's blogs about his travels around the country by bus and train are always very detailed, very revealing and very enjoyable. But he has not, so far, ventured across the Channel.

So here is fbb's suggestion for something a little out of his comfort zone.
Of course, it's not a BUS as such, you won't be able to hop off at the Ulongo Bongo Hills and catch the next one. It is not even advertised as a return. The opposite "leg" requires a flight - by aeroplane.

It is being advertised by "Adventures Overland" whose current specialism is long overland adventures (there's a clue in the company name) by car - wot you drive - accompanied by your "tour manager". And, hopefully, a trained mechanic?
The bus trip is simply (?) a long tour.
Lets hope there are plenty of "loo" stops - or are you required to develop your "trowel technique"? No doubt it offers a little more than "basic" comfort as the price suggests.
Now think, Roger, how many blogs you could write about a 70 day bus ride.

And just think of the exciting new experiences that would tittilate your travelling tastebuds?
You would obviously need wellies ...
... as well as the obligatory pith helmet!
Sadly, Mr F, your recently acquired old codgers pass will NOT be valid.

Super Excitement Part 2
We have been following GoAhead North East's boss Martijn Gilbert as his excitement grows from just plain excitement to SUPER excitement. It is all because of the launch of yet another "Uber-Style" bus service - this time in North Lincolnshire. (yawn!)
Now the exuberant Martijn has got some shiny "new" buses to play with ...
... which have been photographed at various pretties in the "county" (a k a Unitary Authority Area).
fbb guesses that the one illustrated is the first to be delivered and has been trundling around showing itself off to the photographer. But the picture taken adj The Humber Bridge gives the game away.
These are not new "new" Mercs but cast-offs from elsewhere.

Guess where?

Yep they have been repainted after a very short spell with the failed "Uber style" bus service in Sutton ...
... where it was also photographed "being pretty". There they were called "ViaVan".
Of course, you can never be certain how much of the truth you get when local authorities embark on a tirade of PR self-agrandisement, but the headline MIGHT explain Martijn's excitement.
Sadly, it looks as if Marty is only getting a part of the 9 million and it's a three year contract.
So we can all wonder where these nippy little Mercs will end up after this three year disaster is over.

Excellent Publicity From First Bus
Correspondent Peter, a Yeovillain, has drawn fbb's attention to some good news for the bus riders and potential bus riders of the town, as well as the wider Zummerset. Differing from the Stagecoach Devon area, where bus times and maps will soon be a closely guarded secret, Buses of Somerset (a k a First Bus) has ...

... wait for it ...

... produced an excellent "fold-out" timetable leaflet for their widespread area. It shows the current services some of which remain reduced after viral curtailment.

The well appointed travel shop at Yeovil bus station had closed long, long ago ...
... but, outside its bolted and barred portals, "the lads" are wont to position an "Enquiry Table". Recently thereupon has been this super exciting leaflet. Peter thinks that this is a "good thing", which it is - assuming that it will not become the permanent style.

A huge fold-out leaflet is inconvenient on-bus, on-street and even in home. The "normal" book ...
... is one of the best in the UK. It would be a real step back to cease producing it. But in these "unprecendented times" the mega leaflet is so much better than many other operators can manage. (First South Yorkshire please note!)

Each route has a full timetable ...
... together with an "adequate" route map. Those for Peter's Yeovil local services are, in many ways, more adequate than those for the longer distance routes.
Unlike the "proper" booklet, there is no network map.
The Taunton town routes are there in full detail, also with mini maps ...
... and, recognising the sad demise of Taunton's excellent and historic bus station and enquiry office ...
... we see all services now scattered about the town centre.
It follows that, if the leaflet is "temporary", it deserves a chocolate peanut or two; BUT if it turns out to be the "reduced scope" style for the future, combined with Taunton's, Yeovil's and Bridgwater's  information office wasteland, Buses of Somerset might well become another contender for the 7Ps award. The committee is considering a subsidiary award for declining printed publicity availability - a lesser 5Ps Pathetic Parsimonious Printed Publicity Plaque.

A Load Of Silly Old Buffers
Happily NOT a blog about model railway enthusiasts as such, but a mini report on a further development at Peterville Quarry Railway.

A while back, fbb bought a pack of six plastic "clip-on" buffer stops from Hornby.
With a modicum of red and white paint, they looked smart and reasonably realistic. 

fbb has JUST ONE left!

Where have the (in)famous five gone? Is there a dangerous model buffer stop thief (in a mask, of course) roaming the sheds and back gardens of East Devon nicking plastic clip-on buffer stops?

No, fbb thinks it is the wind. Although they clip on to the rails quite happily, any pressure causes them to clip off - and away they whizz into the English Channel where there are eaten by sea creatures, much to the disgust of Greta Thunberg et al.

So fbb has just taken delivery of a clutch of really ancient pre-owned Hornby Dublo three-rail cast metal buffer stops.
Currently (as this blog is written) they lie in the cutlery basket of the fbb dishwasher ...
... awaiting their fate under the onslaught of hot water and noxious dishwasher "tabs". Once cleansed, a little judicious repainting will slightly disguise their toy-like qualities.
Produced from 1939 until 1968 ...
... they clipped into three rail metal track but fell off when bashed by a badly controlled loco.

So you could screw them down to the baseboard ...
... which fbb will manage and then, hopefully, they will remain screwed.

 Next "From Wood To Empress" blog : Tues 1st September 

Sunday 30 August 2020

Sunday Variety : "It's Disgraceful ...

that's part of the blog - the Church Service isn't "disgraceful"!!!

Church Link ...
... available (here). Service starts 1030
Today's service has been pre-recorded.
The Minsters are having a break
before "Car Park" services start in September

... It Ought Not To Be Allowed."

Alan emails from Northampton with a bit more nostalgia from the early days of Children's entertainment.
He reminds fbb of the Larry the Lamb stories from the days of "Childrens Hour" on the steam radio. fbb was not a fan.

For those that are far too young to remember ...

Toytown was a BBC radio series for children, broadcast for Children's Hour on the Home Service. The plays were based on a set of puppets created by S. G. Hulme Beaman, who also wrote the stories for the series. The first Toytown plays were broadcast in 1929, and the pool of stories was re-used until the end of Children's Hour. There were 31 plays in all.

The series starred Larry the Lamb, the central character, and his clever sidekick, Dennis the Dachshund. In each story a misunderstanding, often arising from a device created by the inventor, Mr. Inventor, occurs which involves Ernest the Policeman, the disgruntled Mr Growser the Grocer and the Mayor.

"It's disgraceful; it ought not to be allowed", was nasty Mr Growser's catchphrase.

The September issue of Buses magazine reveals a Mr Growser moment.

Stagecoach South West is to close its Travel Shops in Exeter ...
... and Paignton.
Now we all know that Exeter and Paignton are places unlikely to attract visitors from outside the area, so, on this basis, Stagecoach has decided that nobody much will need to make any enquiries. After all, (all together now) ...


Well it is if you have a good idea of what the answer is when you start looking.

The article includes an explanation of the decision which says it all. Mr Stagecoach says, "We are not taking as much money at the Travel Shops as we used to, so they are no longer viable."

So that's it. An enquiry office is not for enquiring, it's for taking in the cash. The people who enquire are not spending any cash are they?

Spending on bus fares? Well, yes; but it doesn't show on the Travel Shop spreadsheet. So it doesn't count.

Will Stagecoach lose revenue as a result of this potty decision? Of course it will, but it will be blamed on the corona virus, traffic congestion, the low price of petrol, the growth of on-line shopping, the insipid influence of the Russians and the late delivery of new buses, Exeter bus station and the General Manager's new suit.

But there is worse to come.
Stagecoach Devon etc. has always produced some excellent printed material, eagerly collected, clutched, kept and consulted by droves of tourists each summer.

So, to encourage extra business year by year, the Company is to stop printing any leaflets. 

After all (all together now) ...


Never mind, proffers the press release, customers can request a leaflet and Stagecoach will print one out for them there and then.

And where will this printing service take place?

Of course, in Exeter and Paignton Travel Shops!


"It's disgraceful; it ought not to be allowed"

Put all this together and Stagecoach Devon is one of the lead contenders for the new 7Ps award.
Might this prestigious award soon sit proudly on the desk in Exeter Travel Shop?

Nice Seats - Pity About The Train Service!
A twitterer has enthusiastically twitted a picture of a refurbushed Class 156 diesel unit belonging to Northern Rail ...
... but not the unit itself, but its re-covered seats and refurbished interior.
The Twitterer writes ...
Ray Stenning adds another touch of modesty!
But Northern (that's part of the UKs nationalised railway network), has come up with a cunning plan to cope with low passenger numbers "in these unprecedented times".

They have decided to stop running trains!

Well, on at least one line.

It is all to do with Northern's staff shortages, but quite how the withdrawal of a footling little Manchester branch line is going to make a huge difference to the mess that Northern still "enjoys" is not at all clear.
And, apart from a few peak time buses there is no replacement road service. Northern have suggessted their customers should walk to neighbouring stations on other lines; for a reasonably fit adult it will only take 20 minutes.

And Mr Growser's catchphrase?

"It's A Disgrace ... It Ought Not To Be Allowed."

Positive Publicity
It deserves to win!
That's the way we used to do it ...
... but the trains were a tad slower!

More Stuff tomorrow.

Hailing At Hayling, No Longer Failing
A few days ago, fbb reported on the "new" First Bus route from Portsmouth to the Hayling Ferry at Eastney. fbb suggested, on the basis of on-line information available at the time, that the every 45 minute bus did not properly connect with the hourly ferry,

Thanks to correspondent Peter, fbb can correct this view.

The ferry company will introduce a new timetable to meet the bus.
Still no public transport on the Island side, though.

 Next Bank Holiday Variety blog : Monday 31st Aiugust 

Saturday 29 August 2020

Saturday Variety

deCourcey Demise Stagecoach Supplies
To be journalistically even handed, fbb should also report that Stagecoach also stepped up to the bus stop in a very prompt and snappy manner to run services 703 and 60 in Coventry. Both services have an affinity with the huge hospital complex at Walsgrave.
The 703 (LIGHT BROWN) has one of its termini there, then wiggles round various suburbs ...
... before finishing its somewhat erratic trajectory at ...
... Arena Park Tesco where there is a large bus station.
The "arena" is, of course, the Ricoh Arena and close by the Arena Station on the line to Nuneaton.
It is also home to the burgeoning network rail Ramps'n'Railings Extravaganza, rapidly achieving the same kudos as Hampton court Maze.

As the station built to serve the Arena, it made headlined as, when matches were being played, the station was closed. fbb is not sure whether that ticklish little problem has yet been resolved!

The 703 runs hourly and looks very much like a typical shoppers service.
The 60/60A is altogether different.
A while back the planners decided to glue together various bits of the Travel Coventry network and create a huge "outer circle". Well, nearby Brum has had one for ages, so Coventry wanted to do the same. There is a map, but it is too vast to show on a small blog template ...
... but it will expand if you click on it. As well as the hospital and the Arena ...
... it serves two more Tescos and the delightful Tile Hill Station.

This was once something of a joke amongst the railway station appreciation fraternity ...
... but now has a proper train service.
The utterly annoying Tile Hill crossing ...
...  has been replaced by a bridge, thus removing one of the much respected horrors of trying to get across the main line between Coventry and Birmingham.
These traffic engineer johnnies take away all the fun!

The 7Ps Award Contender ...
This blog item is postponed until tomorrow's posting.

Who Could Forget Gerald Campion?
He played Billy Bunter, the fat owl of The Remove, for 52 episodes of the grand old black and white TV series between 1952 and 1961.
When Campion got the part he was married with two children, yet managed to convince the viewers that he was a very chubby schoolboy!

The stories often involved potty schemes as Bunter tried to cadge extra "tuck" from his "fellows", often on the promise that he was expecting a postal order from one of a plethora of aunts and uncles.
As far as fbb can remember, the oft promised postal order never arrived. For our younger readers, the Postal Order ...
... was a means of sending finance to a recipient who had no bank account - which was certainly the vast majority of young people a generation or two ago. The perpetual non-appearance of the vital funding document was central to so many of author Frank Richards' tales.

So yesterday comes the report that Crossrail (the engineering Postal Order trainset eagerly anticipated, Bunter-style by the people of London) is yet further delayed.

Crossrail was due to open in December 2018 ...
... and as late as August 2018 the world was told that the project would be delivered on time and on budget.

But then ...
The several lots of extra money, apparently, have all be swallowed up and a new announcement has just been made.

Guess what? Crossrail itself is in need of a Postal Order yet again!

A "London" blogger summarises the progress of the central tunnel section of the line between Liverpool Street and Paddington.

In July 2018, bright-eyed and full of hope, we brought you the news of the Crossrail’s official opening date, slated for December 2018.

Yet a month later, the opening was announced to be delayed by about nine months. 

Then, two days after the original opening date, we told you that it wasn’t looking likely until at least 2020. 

In April 2019, the news was that it might be delayed until 2021. 

Then, in November 2019, news came that it had definitely been delayed until 2021 – and what’s more, the project was set to run as much as £650 million over budget.

Now, with a pandemic between us and that latest development, news has arrived that Crossrail now won’t be finished until 2022, and will require an extra £1.1 billion to complete.

Will fbb live long enough to enjoy his planned trip to London to ride Crossrail? 

He hopes so!

Tri-Mode Is Uno Super New-O
A few days back, fbb mentioned that GWR (First Rail) was obtaining some trains which would work on third rail, overhead wires and away from the electric juice supply by using an internal diesel engine to generate some volts and amps.

GWR has posted a short video to celebrate the arrival of the first such train - and yes, they are Thameslink cast-offs but have been well up-fettled.
Another step forward for decarbonisation of the trains.

But not, of course, decarbonisation at the power station!

More stuff tomorrow including the delayed 7Ps Award contender.

 Next Variety blog : Sunday 30th August