Saturday 30 January 2021

Sunday Variety



Today's service is live and ON-LINE.
with no congregation attending.
 Click on this link (here),
which will take you to the YouTube page.
Then click on the page for today's date.


This Is Sam ...

... and he posts videos on his YouTube channel. Many of these ar "unboxing" films. For those unfamiliar with the concept, the presenter, usually overflowing with excitement, opens a new model and describes it in considerable detail. Sam has proper sound (see the mike clipped to his T-shirt), lights, a proper camera and, often referred to, a white background to more adequately display the model.

fbb has none of these, and so herewith presents the non-video, non-sound, non proper lighting, phone camera unboxing of the Trix Twin bogie tank wagon. (Pause for gasps of excitement!)

Here is the box, dating from the 1950s ...

... and here is the label on the box.
Here is the wagon inside the box ...
... and here (can it possibly get more exciting) here is the wagon outside the box.
Sam would be impressed with fbb's unboxing skills.

The only thing that fbb knows for certain is that Trix Twin did produce a series of American outline wagons with UK couplings presumably for sale in the UK.
Amongst these were two liveries of the single dome tank wagon.
Several questions need answers. When was this model produced? Is it a model (crude though it be) of a real tank wagon from the USA? |And - how does it compare with today's products? (Don't laugh!)

fbb would appreciate any help with dates of production, but will try to answer the other questions in tomorrow's variety blog.

Farewell Ten Years Ago
Yes it was ten years ago that Wrexham and Shropshire Railway ceased running. Tears flowed freely on the last day and it was a very good service.
The food was excellent, boil in the bag but excellent and the staff showed a true personal commitment to good service.

Bully-boy Branson played the "abstraction" trump card and Chiltern (owners of the long-named company) were not allowed to serve Birmingham New Street or International. fbb and a chum used it to attend a bus and coach exhibition at the NEC, and has to travel on to Tame Bridge and catch a train back to International, repeated on the return run.

There simply weren't enough passengers for the through journeys available to make it viable.

Farewell 91
East Coast's last class 91 locos were withdrawn earlier this month. They have gone into store (just in case?) but their have served the many owners and many millions of passengers very well. The Azumas are cheap, nasty and sardine-like by comparison to the former "proper" trains.

Yet More Beautiful Boxes
Sometimes, fbb's ignorance astounds even him. He had never heard of the Avoncroft Museum, just off the A38 at Bromsgrove. Currently closed for the duration, it is well worth a visit once it re-opens. It is a fine collection of old building plus something completely different.
It is home to the official collection of British Telephone Boxes. In our digital age, these beauties are now a rapidly disappearing breed; but pre mobile technology and back in the day when few "normal" homes were "on the phone", the phone box was an essential part our our society.
And the came in a huge variety of shapes and sizes.
Diamond Bus 145 or 145A will collect you from Longbridge or Bromsgrove stations and deposit you at the end of the lane to the Museum - once Boris lets you out! Buses run approx hourly.
Travelling southbound it is the stop after Morrisons.

fbbs Phasered?
Not quite! But, yesterday afternoon at 1540 and 1545, the odd old couple were Pfizered; they received their first dose of the difficult-to-store vaccine. It was all delightfully straightforward administered at Seaton Hospital and arranged by their GP whose minion phoned the appointment through last Monday.
Meanwhile, the NHS sent them a letter, which arrived on Thursday, offering them an internet booking at Taunton, Christchurch or Bristol. Which version of this co-ordinated service would the fbbs choose?Tought call! But the pages of "stuff" did allow fbb to brush up on his Tagalog ...
... which has been a bit rusty of late.

Whilst waiting in case the dayglo orange shoots sprouted from the old man's extremities, he foolishly read all the things that might happen to him after being jabbed. The list was extensive and which of them happened will doubtless manifest itself overnight. Meanwhile, all is well!

Excellent and efficient service.

The vulnerable in Crawley have an even better service.
The vaccinations can come to them via a Go Ahead Metrobus bus.
What a very good idea!

Tomorrow's Variety Blog features, amongst many other goodies, Jellied Eels and Pilchards!

 Delayed Weekend Variety blog : Monday 1st February 

It's All On-Line In Manchester (3)

 Hydrogen's Hidden Horrors

We are all called upon to rejoice in the zero emissions double deck buses in Aberdeen, powered by hydrogen, the most prolific material in the universe. So before returning to Manchester, just a bit about the carbon footprint of hydrogen.

Although there is, indeed, many an oodle of hydrogen in the universe, getting it into a tank to fill the buses is a complex process. The current method is "Steam Methane Reforming" or SMR.

The extracts below come from a technical article on the process and fbb has tried to choose bits that can be understood by the average elderly bus blogger.

The carbon footprint of hydrogen production via SMR can be broken down into two parts.

Firstly, 100% of the carbon in the incoming methane is ultimately converted to CO2 (Carbon Dioxide - i.e. the nasty stuff). In the process of producing one molecule of CO2, four molecules of hydrogen (H2) are produced, with the steam contributing the additional hydrogen.

Thus, per 1 million standard cubic feet (SCF) of hydrogen produced from methane, 250,000 SCF of CO2 will be produced. There are 19,253 SCF of carbon dioxide in one metric ton, so 1 million SCF of hydrogen will produce 13 metric tons of carbon dioxide.

The second part is the carbon footprint associated with the individual process units. Steam must be generated, the reactor must be heated, etc. But steam is also created when the SMR exit gas is cooled, so that helps offset the carbon burden.

Additional steps in the process create a further 6.3 metric tons of carbon.

Adding this to the carbon dioxide produced from the natural gas reactions, the total becomes 19.3 metric tons of carbon dioxide produced per million SCF of hydrogen. However, researchers noted that this is the theoretical minimum. Due to heat losses and inefficiencies, the actual number in practice in a large hydrogen plant is 21.9 metric tons.

This converts to 9.3 kilograms (kg) of CO2 produced per kg of hydrogen production. One kilogram of hydrogen is the energy equivalent of one gallon of fossil fuel, which produces 9.1 kg of CO2 when combusted.

In fbb's pea-brain terms this all means that a hydrogen powered bus is LESS "GREEN" than a diesel powered bus.

Its key advantage, however, is that its pollutants are not doing their stuff on the streets of Aberdeen but somewhere else. But somewhere else is being polluted!

Of course, it is not quite as simple as the above. There are other, less horrid, methods of hydrogen production but they are, currently, uneconomic.

Back to TfGM's Well Hidden Stuff
That inviting word "More" needs to be explored. And there, amongst a load of useless stuff, we have ...
... and a journey planner, perhaps.
"Maps" links us to the collection of Manchester area network maps. You need some knowledge of the city to find which one you want )there is no index) but fbb guessed (correctly!) that he wanted ...
... and there was our route 41.
Even the mysterious Bank House gets a mention, as does Chapel Lane.

Then there is the Manchester journey planner.
Only there isn't. We are redirected to Traveline which should, in theory, give the same answers.

Armed with our hard-won knowledge that there is a through bus from Bank House Chapel Lane, we can now use the journey planner to work out the plan for the best journey to get to MRI (Manchester Royal Infirmary) in time for our theoretical appointment.

Of course it is much easier using a proper timetable, but that, too, is so well hidden in the site which is  ...
... that we might have missed it.
For a 1400 appointment we will have to arrive at 1334, which means getting on the 41 on Chapel Lane ...
... at 1229. We can confirm this with the Traveliner journey planner.
Only there is no Bank House Chapel Lane! Of course we all know that we are looking for a departure from ...
... "Castlemere Road (nr) on Chapel Lane, Ba ..."

Remember, the timetable tells that us our 41 bus is at 1229.
But Traveline doesn't. There is no mention of the 1229 whatsoever.

Mostly, the journeys involve a fairly lengthy walk to neighbouring roads. Some journeys even invite you to travel into Manchester and CHANGE to a service 41!
The through journeys, the ones a normal passenger would choose to take, simply do not appear.

Yet again, Traveline is useless.

No doubt comment writers will opine that fbb is just choosing a "difficult" journey; or that the old man has been deliberately dense for journalistic effect (perish the thought!!!), or even that the old man is just dense.

What the TfGM site SHOULD provide is quick one click access to the information most people will want, namely

1 The timetable

2 A map of the network

3. A map of the route

4. A journey planner that plans journeys

These four should be accessible loud and clear from the "home page".  All the other stuff can be relegated to the "inside pages" and much of it could be removed completely.

Then TfGM might be making a real start on ...
The bus operator, Go North West, is a little batter. On the home page there is loads of irrelevant stuff ...
... but there is a link to a network map. Hooray!

Along the top of the home page we can click for timetables and a journey planner. Hooray!
The "timetable" is a real timetable and not a departure list. Hooray!
And, tada, the journey planned finds the through buses. Hooray!

Why it gives a different result from Traveline is a mystery which fbb cannot solve.

Of course, this improvement is only of any use if you know in advance that Go North west runs the 41.
But, be bold, be brave and battle through - because ...


 Next Weekend Variety bog : Sunday 31st January 

Friday 29 January 2021

It's All On-Line In Manchester (2)

 Bank House Chapel Lane to MRI

You might guess that Chapel Lane is in Middleton (just along from the Congregational Church); but you would be wrong. In fact you are looking for Chapel Lane Manchester ...
... but you would struggle to find ANY mention of Bank House apart from on Go North West's timetable.
Fortunately the company network map gives us a clue.
What does the Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) journey planner tell us ...
... as travel is made easier by the PTE?
Travel is made easier by looking up live departure times, stop by stop; by checking on updates ...
... and by knowing how wonderful TfGM is in every possible way!
... but no timetables, maps or journey planner. The things you might want to make your travel better are simply not there, up front and obvious.

But what is this at the top of the web page?
"Ways to travel" looks promising?
Timetables - goody, and ...
... some other boxes to tick. Still no maps and no journey planner.

Undaunted (actually already overcome with substantial amounts of daunt!), we go to timetables ...
... which looks a bit like a departure list. But, lo and behold, Bank House appears.
And it is a departure list.
But if you click on a particular journey, you get times at every stop down the line. Scroll 45 stops and you will find what time you are due at Manchester Royal Infirmary. Of course, if that schedule doesn't suit, you have to go back and, tediously, call up another journey.

Furthermore, you can find your departure stop on a map.
But still no timetables or maps.

With daunt growing all the time, fbb tried "bus routes". Surprisingly, this is a list of bus routes in numerical order.
Clicking on 41 ...
... we get much the same as under "timetables", i.e. NOT timetables - but there is hope, a beacon of shining optimism.
A click on the PDF button reveals, tada (and again tada!!) ...
... the Manchester timetable leaflet that we all know and love. Encouragingly, it has the same times as the operator gives us on their web site.
Every leaflet has a simplified map of the route (click on the map for an enlargement) ...
... continuing on to central Manchester and MRI ...
... and on, again, to Sale.
These maps are a bit crude, but still very helpful for working out where the buses go, especially if your destinations is a notable one, like MRI or Northern Moor. These maps

They also shown rail and tram stops. The detail in the central area is very helpful indeed.
But is there a network map? Or has that perished?

And is there a journey planner? Many regional planner sites have been closed, so maybe that facility has been summarily withdrawn?

There has been no sign of either on the bits of the TfGM web site that we have unearthed so far.
Hmmm ... ???

Maybe fbb has missed something.

A Bit More Aberdeen
Extracts from the Press Release:-

The world's first fleet of double decker hydrogen buses officially launched into service yesterday (Thursday, 28th January) in Aberdeen.

The single deck Hydrogen buses for Aberdeen ...
... were not a success, despite bein g hailed as "the future"!!

Run by First Bus in a project led by Aberdeen City Council, the hydrogen buses represent a major step forward in reducing climate change, as cities across the world witness how far innovation in the transport industry has come.

The zero-emission fleet emits nothing more than water from its exhausts as the fuel is made from just wind and water. Furthermore, plans are in place for Aberdeen to make its own hydrogen to power the buses, making it an even greener energy source for the local community.

But, surely, there is a cost, financial AND environmental in making all this lovely hydrogen?

While prototype hydrogen buses have been designed and used previously, as the transport industry explores how it can make use of universe’s most abundant element, these double deckers are the first of their kind to go into operation and welcome customers on board.

How do the costs work out set against a conventional evil diesel?

Andrew Jarvis, Managing Director at First Bus, said: "Today marks a significant milestone in our industry and the way that people choose to travel. Scotland will be home to COP26 later this year and it is fantastic to know that we'll be setting a stellar example of just what can be achieved with new technology as we welcome leaders from around the world."

And how much of the project is really political?

Most authorities are of the view that hydrogen power will not be a cost-effective way of keeping the buses running, so somebody will need to pay a subsidy.

This is how the first single deck Hydrogen buses were introduced:-
Is the jury out?

 Next Manchester On-Line blog : Saturday 30th January