Thursday 30 June 2022

Mystery Mailing and Matford Models

Once Upon A Time ...

The dedicated trainspotter of yesteryear was generally equipped with pencil, notebook and his "Combine". fbb's (above) cost ten shillings and six pence, a small pocket-money fortune for the callow youth. For those unaware, the pocket-sized volume listed every British Railways locomotive arranged by marque and number. The tradition was that you underlined the number when you "copped" the engine.
And you got the "namers" as well!
In case you wondered, the above pictures are from he interwebnet - fbb never "opped" as many Eastern Region locos as are underlined here. But find memories, none the less!

... But Now:-

But today there are far fewer locos and much much more information. This book popped through the letter box at fbb mansions and fbb really doesn't know why - maybe it was an offer consequent upon taking out a new subscription for Modern Railways.
It is what we must now call a "bookazine" with 148 pages which includes covers.
It is packed with information, so much so that there are three columns of closely spaced abbreviations used in the text.
Essentially you need to refer to these abbreviations to unravel the meat of the book which is a list of every diesel and electric loco operated on Britain's Railways with: date of building, renaming and/or re-engineering, date of disposal/scrapping (and by whom) plus present location if still extant.
It is too wide a list for a blogged extract but one example will suffice to explain its scope. fbb will quote the info as it reads left to right across the A4 printed page.
D1666 was renumbered as follows:-
47081  02/74
47606  02/84
47842  01/90
47606  02/93
47778  11/93

The loco was named:-
Odin  03/65 to 07/90
Irresistible 07/93 to 10/02
Duke of Edinburgh's Award 11/03 to 03/04

Built at:-
BRC - British Rail Crewe Works

In Service:-
03/65 to 02/94

Cut up:
European Metal Reprocessing, Kingsbury

Of course the "Combine" did not list deceased engines! What is quite sobering it to tot up the number of locos in each class and then look at today's much diminished railway.

You can even look up, for older locos, what its number is now and what it was before the TOPS computerised system was introduced.
There is even a list of pre-nationalisation numbers and their BR successor.
HST power cars are treated as locomotives ...
... and there is a good smattering of photos throughout the esoterica! Kestrel is there ...
... as is the byais for a slightly inaccurate model from Hornby.
If you are interested in such detail or even if you are starting off on the British Railway Anorak Study Course ...
... this publication is ideal for whiling away winter evenings (and some summer ones as well). Published by Key (publishers of Modern Railways) at £9.99 but on offer from the publishers at a fiver.

Matford Models
Folk may know the Matford Centre as a place where you might buy or sell your livestock ...
... but on Saturday 25th inst it was the home of the Exe Valley Model Railway Club's annual exhibition returning after the obligatory Covid gap.
They had hosed the floor down! 

fbb started his visit with lunch ...
... of steak and kidney pie, roast potatoes, peas and a cardboard cuppa. This fortified the old man for his perambulations.

Because not all our blog readers are convulsed with excitement about matters model railway, fbb will slip in snippets over the next few days. The aim of these mini reports will be to show things slightly out of the ordinary.

There weren't many!

Most layouts were "end to end", lacking the continuous runs of tail chasing trains familiar in fbb's youth. But there were a few like that.
It was good to see trains tunning round in circles rather than waiting for the operators to send a realistic train at realistic speed some 12 feet along a layout. Sometimes realism can be a bit tedious however detailed it may be.

There was a good O gauge layout which was designed to watch the trains go by. The sound of a train clattering over the rail joints is very satisfying in the larger scale. Sadly, fbb failed to attempt a bit of video due to memory problems. The lack of memory was not on the phone but in fbb's head.

He forgot!
There is more and more O gauge stuff available now in ready-to-run form, so, if you (or your club) had got the money and thee space, a layout in the "senior scale" is much easier to create.

Apparently no one was injured - except perhaps the diver's pride, but the situation is a little "unfortunate".

 Next Playing Catch-Up blog : Friday 1st July 

Wednesday 29 June 2022

Exciting Exeter Expedition (3)

 An Apology To Exeter Bus Station

There were some maps at the new too-small bus station; but you would struggle to read anything useful from them. They were small and posted below the leaflet rack for the Falcon service (Plymouth to Bristol NOT calling at Exeter bus station). As well as being too small to use, the map on the left (for Exeter) is the absolutely awful network map that has, thankfully, now been displaced on line but, as we see, not replaced in the information cupboard. 

These maps were so obvious that fbb did not consider the option of photographing them. Just to remind our readers, below is an extract from the awful Exeter cartographic nonsense.
There were also timetbles - again too small. They are those that appear at bus stops and were in a frame "round the corner" at the more remote end of the passenger concourse.

Design Flaw Spotted
This is stand 8, the place from where fbb's bus back to Newton Poppleford should depart. But the bus parked right in your face is, obviously (?), on stand 9. The get to the 9/9A you need to exit via the automatic doors and turn sharp left when you will be facing the entry to the 9/9A. You cannot turn right to get to the 5B bus on stand 9.

Confusing, eh?

Chaos Unlimited!

But as the old bloke arrived (20 min late, you remember) he was surprised to hear his driver tell an enquiring passenger, "Don't take any notice of what the signs say, just look out for 9A on the front of the bus!"

Whilst waiting for his return journey, fbb discovered why.

The 55 loading on Stand 7 ...
... should be on stand 10. The Axminster bus on stand 8 should have been loading on stand 7.

fbb's 9A, seen here loading on stand 6 ...
... should have been leaving from stand 8.

fbb was on "obs" for just under 30 minutes and only one bus left from its advertised stand in that time,

The system seemed to be that passengers lurked hesitantly roughy near where they thought their bus might appear. 
The driver would then nip smartly on to the concourse and announce where the bus could actually be found.

Once, and only once, during fbb's thirty minute obs session was there a loudspeaker announcement of a change of stand. fbb suspects that there was simply nobody in charge - it was a Saturday, after all.


But credit where credit is due, the drivers were doing their best to make it work and serve the passengers - so thanks to Stagecoach lads and lasses for mitigating a simply awful bus bus station design and an apparent lack of effective supervision.

Helpful Electronics - Not!

Even if it were working smoothly, the information systems were far from helpful. Remember there are no timetables displayed at any of the stands.

The electronic departure lists are clear and easy to read, although they did not show anything like real time information.
Look closely at the display on stand 7.
It appears to show an hourly service to Cranbrook. Actually all buses go to Cranbrook running every 20 minutes! There is nothing to tell you that - you just have to know.

Actually, things are much better than that (ha, jolly ha!). If you look at the screen above the stand doors (which shows the next three departures) ...
... you will see clearly (?) that the first on the list includes a full route description.

No, really it does, especially if you are carrying your portable step ladder with you; or you have a pair of antique opera glasses to hand.
From a normal viewing position and distance this important and helpful information is totally illegible.

And there aren't enough seats!

Apart from a couple of posters stuck on the glass, fbb could find no stand list in an obvious place and certainly no stand list on line.

For the record, there is one non-Stagecoach service that leaves from the bus station.
It is run by F*rst B*s - but don't tell the Stagecoach senior management; it's possible they simply don't know. But fbb saw the 1300 departure as he set off for his final destination last Saturday.

Fellowship Leaflet Quiz, Page 3 of 3

Page 4 of the leaflet examines the narrative of the rich young ruler whose wealth stood in the way of his inheriting eternal life.

 Next Exeter bus blog : Thursday 30th June 

Tuesday 28 June 2022

Exciting Exeter Expedition (2)

Standard Practice - Make It Too Small ...

... and, while you are at it, build it further from the shops! It is called "transport planning", a skill which is learned at conferences and seminars throughout the country. The old bus station (above) was tired and in need of a make-over; plus it was barely big enough for all the services that used it. so, to make more money out of development, the city has built a bus station that is very much too small.

But a cunning plan contrived to overcome the size problem. By some miracle of "negotiation" Stagecoach has banished all other operators including National Express, presumably in return for agreeing to run the shop for nothing.

Despite this it is still too small, as fbb found last Saturday on his first visit.

So let us take a look round/

There are toilets which were costly, but the machine is busted, so now free - as they should be.

Whilst there was no caff within the old bus station, there was one attached, as it were.
It doesn't look like it is selling too many bacon sarnies now! Its replacement is two slot machines ...
... and with no convivial seating area. 

The old bus station had an excellent enquiry office, staffed with knowledgeable people. Inside the hallowed portals were racks of all operators' timetables and a large network wall map - on the wall. Even when the office was closed ...
... all the timetables were displayed in frames in the back wall. It was good!

When fbb visited the shiny new facility, there was still what might be called an enquiry "office" (large cupboard) complete with a posh desk, but without any staff. Amazingly there were racks and racks of leaflets for enquirers to grab.


Let us see what was on offer. One rack was packed with Falcon leaflets ...

... but Falcon does not come in to central Exeter and there was no explanation of where to go to find it. Then there were lots of leaflets for Stagecoach Open Top services ...
... none of which runs in Exeter. 

Then we have three racks full of "guides" to Stagecoach services in North Devon ...
... Stagecoaches in Torbay ...
... and Stagecoach in Plymouth.
fbb will refer more tomorrow.

Also there are the excellent Devon County booklets but, we are told, the East Devon area book will appear "later in the Summer".

So it is really good to see lots of information for services that do not come anywhere near Exeter.

Now, let fbb think for a moment. Surely there is something missing? Now what might it be?

Yes, fbb has just remembered. 

There is absolutely NO INFORMATION about ANY BUSES that run from the bus station OR information about ANY BUSES on the Exeter City network.

Appalling is far too nice a word to describe the utter insult to existing and potential customers. Stagecoach should hang its corporate head in shame.

But there is another problem. Remember that other operators' services and National Express have been banished to join Exeter City routes stopping in nearby streets.

But where do they stop; how does a passenger find them?

The ONLY information about "other services" is shown below.

Sorry it's fuzzy but fbb's hands wer shaking with apoplectic rage. It reads "Onward connections via bus from High St and Sidwell St." If the downward arrow pointed to anything, fbb did not find it.

There is absolutely NO INFORMATION about ANY COUNTRY BUSES that run from elsewhere OR for National Express OR information about ANY STAGECOACH BUSES on the Exeter City network.

Appalling is far to nice a word to describe the utter insult to existing and potential customers. Stagecoach should hang its corporate head in shame.

But It gets worse

Although no official announcement has been made, the reason for the delay in the issue of the East Devon timetable book is becoming clear.

The cut backs are coming from July 30th and swingeing cutbacks they are.

fbb's local service, the 9A, extended from Seaton to Lyme Regis a few years ago, is to terminate at Seaton. The Lyme Regis section is withdrawn.

In passing, Colyford is to the east of the junction on the Lyme Regis section, not as shown.

Two Exeter City services will be withdrawn, apparently without replacement.

The L to Pinhoe and the K to Monkerton and the Science Park are totally withdrawn.

But the biggest chop (so far?) is for route 4/4A/4B.

From August this will simply be a local servicer to Cranbrook (map far left) leaving Ottery St Mary, Honiton and Axminster bereft of their services to Exeter and each other. This is a big big cut.

So Devon County is scrabbling about down the back of the sofa to find enough money for tendered replacements - hence the delay for the book. Whatever the outcome, it will be grim for passengers.

Build Buses Back Better is now a very sour joke!

Sadly, these withdrawals will not alleviate problems at Exeter Bus Station - of which more tomorrow.

 Next Exeter blog : Wednesday 29th June