Saturday 31 October 2020

Saturday Variety

 Make News Or Fake News?

A while ago these sketches appeared in a tweet. They purported to be new liveries for First in Sheffield and First in Doncaster. At the time fbb made two observations. He opined that the blue of Sheffield would "create more desire" if it were nearer to the former  Sheffield Transport blue-stripes blue with a lot more cream.
Nothing further has been heard of the new schemes until this picture was twittered.
It is a better colour? Or is reality better than an artist's sketch? And there is just a bit more cream.

But, so far, no official announcement has been made.

fbb was also concerned about poor Rotherham, piggy in the middle between shiny blue Sheffield and Shiny red Donny. Rotherham was always blue ...

... partnered with a distinguished mushroom tone. Maybe the idea is to have the same colours for both Sheffield and Rotherham and just plonk a big "Rotherham" on the side. But it is going to be difficult as some Rotherham services are worked from Doncaster dept and some from Sheffield.

Maybe First needs something for the whole of South Yirkshire; something completelt differeent from the constituent "partners"?

Also Of Note
A cove panel on a Sheffield bus commemorating its naming as "Giles Fearnley"; but no name on the outside of the vehicle. The man himself confessed to fbb that he was not supposed to know anything about it but he had "heard rumours".

Neither fbb nor GRF had heard anything "official" by the time this blog was being compiled.

His retirement doesn't actually start until the end of November as there is a hand-over period to introduce the new incumbent, as here in the First Bristol newsletter.

And ... Talking of Livery

Joshua Lyle buit a sugar refinery on the banks of the Thames at Silvertown.
In 1883 he started manufacturing his Golden Syrup. As a devout Christian, he sought to have a Biblical reference for his business and chose a verse from the story of Samson in the book of Judges. Samson was not the most endearing of Bible heroes, in fact he came close to being a disaster for God's people. a people whom he was called by God to lead and to save.

We can all draw much comfort from god's willingness to take our failures and frailties and turn them into His Good.

Anyway, Samson killed a lion with his bare hands (as you do) and wandered on to do a bit more of the spectacular - not necessarily hood spectacular.

On his was home, he passed the lion again and noted that a flock of bees had settled in the carcass and had produced honey. So he had a sugary snack and promounced one of his most memorable sound bits.

"Out of the strong came forth sweetness."

In a way a commentary on the few positive outcomes from his flawed life.

So Abram plonked Samson's sticky sugary but ultimately satisfying lion on every tin of his sticky sugary but ultimately satisfying tin of Golden Syrup.

In 2007 the sainted Guiness Book Of Records confirmed that the Tate and Lyles syrup tin was the longest continuously used branding ever, having been in use since 1883. It is still unchanged today.
Longevity of livery, still creating desire - as they say in Battersea!

Meanwhile in GoAhead's North East area of dominance ...

... we have a multiplicity of brands, but the design on the can keeps changing.
fbb even came across this version on-line ...
To add to the fun, Crusader is used for two very different routes ...
... the 27 (in red) and the 26 (in yellow). Both timetables are broadly highlighted in red - 27 ...
... and the more local and more wiggly 26.
As we might gather from the above extract, Crusader is undergoing a rebrand with shiny double decks.
From the bus it looks as if the 26 has been rejected from the Crusade - unless the 26 will have single decks?

Whilst there is nothing wrong with creating a common brand style for different products ...

... you have to wonder whether the significant sums spent on rebranding, repainting and creating desire might be better spent on good printed publicity, creating even more desire and, whisper it quietly, actually telling people when and where the buses run without the anguish of today's oft impenetrable web sites.

Where, for example, is Go Ahead North East's network map? Where, equally frustratingly, is Nexus' (Tyne and Wear PTE before it was branded trendily with a silly name) network map?

On the positive side, GoAhead North East have produced a timetable book!

Mrs fbb says you could't care less what colour the bus is as long as it turns up on time and get her where she is expecting to go.

Make Models Or Fake Models
A while back, fbb reported that the tank wagon above was probably a fake - a "marriage" - created by putting an old tank on a newer Hornby Dublo chassis. fbb did wonder whether ANY tank wagons had been produced officially by Hornby on the new chassis with the "open" brake gear.

Of course you remember, don't you? Up until a short time before the company went phut, ALL Dublo wagons were fixed to a crude chassis dating from 1938 with a poor representation of the brake rodding with a solid infill, easier to mould, of course.
But then fbb spotted these on EBay. (1) An Esso Tank with solid brake rigging ...
... which seemed a bit OTT on price for a common and readily available wagon type. The tank looks very shiny, though. Then (2), more interestingly, there was this.
This one had open brake gear and plastic couplings so would have come from the very last months of Hornby Dublo production. The company died in 1963. But the tank was very shiny for a model nearly sixty years old.

Then this appeared - and fbb bought it!
It has open brake gear and plastic couplings ...
...but only cost £9, a saving for parsimonious fbb of £15.45!!! It also had a very shiny tank but came without a box - so where had it been kept for 57 years to keep it so beautifully clean? And wherever it had been kept the bracing rods were tarnished ...
... like it was from 1963!

Is fbb floundering in a sea of FAKE Hornby Dublo tank wagons? There was another EBay offer of five such wagons - all shiny and ...
... with "brand new" bright red Honby Dublo 2-rail red boxes. And then this ...
... with Triang coupling (thus never made by Dublo), a shiny tank with a noticeable dent. Now come on, Mr EBay seller, you could not dent a tank wagon so heavily without damaging the paintwork. But the black is shiny black all over, including the dent.

Is this the explanation of the torrid tale?
You can buy vinyl overlays to stick over your play worn tank and make it look shiny new!

fbb is well aware of a trade in obviously fake tanks, known as "Neverwazz" ...
... i.e. they are in liveries which either could never have existed or were never produced by Hornby. As they are fake, they are usually cheap but colurful! fbb is intending to add an example to his collection in due course.

Despite the uncertainty over fbb's shiny black Esso jobbie, he will be pleased to accept it for his collection even if it lacks a little authenticity. It looks the part and that will do for the old man. 

You can take this collecting thing too far. Mrs fbb would opine that fbb had already taken it too far and she is probably right, as the collection nears a total of 60 wagons with a different construction and or different manufacturer.

And in case, like fbb, you panicked; Dublo did make a black Esso tank wagon! They all can't be fakes ...
... but they all have open brake gear and plastic couplings. Which makes the Royal Daylight wagon (with open brake gear) at the head of this item a genuine fake.!

Sheffield P.S.
No sooner had the electrons dried on the virtual page, than fbb received some pictures which brought two items above into close proximity. Above is First bus 36275 in which you would find the card wishing GRF a happy retirement - it is a bus in the new livery.
The sloping lines near the front between the decks are shiny metallic (why?) ...
... there are two bursts of coloured bubbles ...
... and, on the off side, a small flying saucer on the "Sheffield".
It might well be an orange light but you never know with modern trendy liveries! "The orange flying saucer symbol is redolent of Sheffield's engineering industry past holding together the fabric of the city". Guff like that!

The bus was used at the 2012 Olympics ...
... then moved to Leeds ...
... before rocking up in Sheffield, promoting the soon-to-be-forgotten non-Partnership.
More stuff tomorrow.

Of course GRF is grateful for the best wishes but - erm - he doesn't actually retire until the end of November.

 Next Variety blog : Sunday 1st November 

Friday 30 October 2020

This Is How It Was : An Northampton PS

 Back to 1968!

The Ford Escort made its appearance; the two tier postal system (4d 2nd Class, 5d First Class) was introduced; Dad's Army was first broadcast; 10p and 5p coins were issued ready for decimalisation in 1971 and the Government endorsed the "I'm Backing Britain" campaign. (Bruce Forsyth warbled a single to encourage us all!)
From a transport perspective, the biggie was the opening of the new Euston station; aaah, the delightful days when the concourse was not cluttered with "retail outlets."
At least the new "shelf" has removed some of the junk, leaving a bit more space for passengers who want to catch trains rather than spend their money on umbrellas, socks and overpriced burgers.
Still some grot remains, sadly!

Anyway, Alan has lived all his life in Northampton with brief absences at Loughborough Library School, so his knowledge (and possibly even his memory) of things both omnibological and Northamptonian are greatly superior to fbb who, post 1966, only paid occasional visits to see parents.

He reminds us (kindest way of recording fbb's forgetfulness stroke ignorance) that, in 1968, three Midland Red routes crept into the town, not just the one referred too in an earlier blog.

The aforementioned X96 ...
... which amazingly ran daily, crept into Derngate Bus Station from that year. 10 years later (approx) it was a 596 to Coventry only.
The route is fondly remembered (by a few old crocks?) every time they see a Stagecoach 96 which links Northampton with Rugby every hour ...
... but takes half an hour longer. Of course, back in '68 there were other United Counties services to places like West Haddon and Crick, but overall, if you happen to live on the 2020 route 96, you have a far batter service than in the good old days.

Much the same applies to service X61 ...
... running Saturdays and Sundays ONLY in '68. In a way, this route was supplanted by the MX5 service and variants running via the M1 from London.

The present X7 ...
... has had an optimistic half hourly headway in the recent past, but again takes an extra 10 minutes for the through journey. The modern X7 is a relatively recent happening but the current frequency does operate seven days a week.

The third Midland Red route, the 512 from Banbury ...
... again offers only an occasional-days' service; but, in this case, modern commercial considerations have severed any link between the two towns. You can get from Banbury to Brackley and from Silverstone (occasionally) and Towcester to Northampton but the gap in the middle is badly served and through journeys are out of the question.

In fbb's summary of "other operators", he also forgot Johnsons of Hanslope.
Their service was very much Market Day orientated ...
... and there were four round trips on Sundays. Geography has a marked effect on what services continue and what disappear. The development of Milton Keynes brought a two ended business opportunity to many routes from Northampton and today's route via Quinton is much improved - although its survival depends on external support.
Z & S run an hourly service end to end, although intermediate destinations are less well served at the Northampton end.

Which leaves us with Wesleys of Stoke Goldington ...
... a much loved and much missed local independent. Basically the route was via the old A50 (now the B526) to Stoke Goldington ...
... then via various villages to Newport Pagnell.
Again there was a strong bias to Market Day operation ...
... with extra trips on Wednesdays and even more journeys on Saturdays.
Note the 0830 from Northampton on Saturdays which ran for the benefit of pre-booked passengers on their extended Holiday tours. Also, the last bus back from Newport Pagnell on Saturdays and Sundays was advertised as "waits until the end of Theatre performance.

fbb thinks the "theatre" in question was the Electra Theatre ...
... i.e. Cinema. The building still stands but is now the less entertaining Tickford Arcade.
But what has happened to Wesleys route(s).

Until relatively recently a service 3 ran along the Newport Pagnell Road as far as Hackleton and Horton ...
Alas, this disappeared with County Council funding cutbacks. So Wesleys from Northampton to Stoke Goldington has no modern equivalent - indeed no bus at all.

But the former Wesley Villages are served Monday to Saturday by Redline 21 ...
... and Z & S 37.
It is quite hard to work out why Northampton folk want to go to Leicester and not Coventry or Banbury; and equally odd that you can get to/from Quinton but not Hackleton.

In some ways, these differences are historic skewed by changes in geography.

For whatever reasons, some commercial services have blossomed but, as usual, the more rural routes are in decline or have utterly declined. Of course, we have not asked the critical question, namely how much will your bus ride cost?

Bus fares have increased by much more than the rate of inflation which is good for the profitability of the commercial routes but has been inadequate to preserve services in the rural areas.

Is there a better way to run the nation's bus services?

Just A Good Picture ...
As built ...
1920s clutter ...
Modern clutter ...
Now replaced by ...

X57 P P S - News Just In

Readers will remember that ever since Hulleys announced their Sunday X57 ...
... your perceptive blogger has wondered about the future of the tendered T M Travel service as above. Now we know. With helpful advance notice (NOT) this has appeared on T M Traveel web site this week.

273/4 - Derbyshire have asked us to withdraw this service as the route is now covered by Hulleys X57.  This service will therefore end officially on 1st November and so effectively wont operate again.

Well, there's a surprise. Is it a bit naughty to ask what will happen if (when?) Hulley's decide that the route is not commercially viable?

 Next Saturday Variety blog : 31st October