Monday 31 July 2023

Branscombe Bus Bother (1)

It Seemed A Good Idea At The Time

Using an historic variety of vehicles over the years ...
... fbb's lovely little local bus company, Axe Valley Mini Travel (no longer actually "Mini"), has run route 899 between Seaton and Sidmouth. Whilst Stagecoach 9A (Seaton to Sidmouth and Exeter) ...
... follows the obvious main roads all the way, AVT runs via Beer and Branscombe.

The route is one of the unsung and little known delights of East Devon; why, even Roger French has blogged about a ride only a few weeks back.

So it was that fbb and his Mrs presented themselves at Marine Place (Seaton) on Friday last for the 1045. And, in good time, one of AVT's finest (?) arrived to carry its merry load westbound.
It used to serve the worthy citizens of Nottingham.
The Marine Place shelter has deteriorated since Streetview viewed.
It is scruffy, messy and totally uncared for.
It was not a nice place in which to sit.
It was certainly NOT a positive advert for bus travel. 

There was one positive, however. Devon County Council posts proper bus timetables, not those unhelpful lists of departures. Here are those for the Axe Valley routes.
Pity they weren't stuck in the Frame properly; and a pity the various timetable frames were scattered around and not grouped together.

The bus stop flag has a list of routes, but too small for many to read.
AVT had, sensibly, posted their own bus stop "flag" stuck firmly on the glass in amongst all the unstuck remnants.
Oh, yes; the (un)real time display was showing blank - yet again.
Right on time off we set, up Castle Hill and aiming for Beer.
The "Castle" (fake of course) was once a private residence and is now the obligatory flats but most with a view to die for ...
... even better from the upper floor apartments. The fbb's did look at making a purchase thereof, but parking is limited and insufficient for all occupants, so punch-ups were likely!

One day, when he feels brave, fbb will research roads between Seaton and Beer and be able to explain Beer Road, Old Beer Road ...
... Beer Hill and New Road. 

fbb suspects that this terrifying slope down the hill was once the main road into Beer ...
... as it re-appears at the shop located on Beer Square. The road is called, ominously, Long Hill. Below is Long Hill from the lower end, being both long and a hill, but, fearfully, also being narrow!
Thankfully, the 899 follows the "New Road" to the Village Stores. This was the bus Roger French rode.
There are some very posh pads between Seaton and Beer including this Art Deco beauty ...
... but fbb suspects that such properties will furnish few passengers for the humble 899.

The route onwards towards Branscombe involves an fascinating "loop" via an estate of houses which did not exist prior to the 1930s. It doesn't really have a name, but one of the roads called Underleys serves as a focal point. Here is a pre-1930 map ...
... set against today's version.
The key is the long straight track disappearing off bottom left on both maps.

So, off we go, up the hill of mainly 1930s property ...
... do nearly a U turn at the top with a view of rooftops just passed ...
... then more housing on the uphill side.
We drop back down to the village, just passing Peco HQ, shop and Pleasure Gardens on the way down.
We shall meet Peco again soon.

From now, for a good few miles, the roads are decidedly thin.
We are making for visitor attraction Beer Quarry Caves ...
... whereat bits of Salisbury Cathedral were chopped out! This bit obviously was not up to standard ...
... so, after months of painstaking work, it was never delivered to whomsoever ordered it; and "the lads" had to start again.

Nothing is visible from the road, but on the way there is a delightful bit of social history to be experienced. We pass a line of much refurbished quarrymen's cottages ...
... which fbb thinks were once "back to back" houses. A little further on and, socially distanced in the pre-Covod style, we see the owner's or manager's premises ...
... also much "done up".

And so we continue to Branscombe.
Only we don't!

For the time being, here is a map of our journey so far.
Wiggly, innit?

 Next Branscombe Bus Bother blog : Tuesday 1st August 

Sunday 30 July 2023

Sunday Variety

Yesterday's blog was published later in the morning. It was, as usual, fbb incompetence. The blog is republished below today's offering for those that missed all the excitement.

Re-Inventing The Wheel
S N C F have come up with a spiffing new idea to serve "low use" branch lines. There is a video.
Maybe we could copy the idea. 

Of course, such a vehicle would need to be built for UK platform height rather than the French flat earth policy. But a nice rural green livery would look good on the more remote branch lines. Some embellishment would be needed livery-wise, perhaps just a modicum of decoration on the ends. 

Would we call is "Draisy"?

I suspect Great British Railways would go for something more staid and solid. As it is like a bus on rails, how about "Rail Bus".

Here is a mock-up of the idea - an excellent artist's impression that looks almost real ...

... much like S N C F Draisy! Maybe the bus manufacturers could get involved, say by sharing a body structure?
It's a wonder nobody has thought of it before!

Baffling Buses At Bangor
Here is Bangor bus station. It is simply a line of bus shelters adjacent to the shopping centre.
There appears to be no enquiry facilities or source of timetables within the stretched out curtilage of the bus station. But, joy of joys, there is electronic information on display at several of the stops.
There they are; with screen easy to read from the pathway, as ever NOT (!). But look closely at those displays.

Oh, you cannot see them?

Well Mr K (of fbb's Norfolk bus maps fame) was visiting there recently and could enjoy the helpful signs.

Here is one of them ...
... and here's another..
Mt K is mystified. He confesses the he can identify the left hand column, namely the route number (5C, T2, T10, 4A and X4); the right hand column is the time which is certainly NOT "real".

But what is the middle column (middle but well to the left of centre)? Mt K (and fbb) guesses that it is some sort of destination code. But Mt K could find no explanation or translation. 

He did not report on whether he abandoned his journey to 8262 on the X4. BUT, in an uncharacteristic display of wanton determination, fbb has found an X4 timetable.
However, in true Arriva crackpot style all through journeys between Bangor and Holyhead involve a change of bus in Llangefni; so, delving into possible electronic argot, 8262 might be Llangefni OT Holyhead. fbb votes for Llangefni!

Utterly useless.

After a thorough photographic search ...
... fbb did find a bus going to 8262 but the driver was showing it wrongly as Holyhead!
And, in case you were trying to be clever and double-guess Gwynedd's timetable database ...
... it doesn't appear under 4 or any of the other multiple variations either; and certainly not under X4!

Corail Comfort Continues
In 1975 S N C F began the roll-out if its swish new passenger carriage design.
Corail (Confort plus Rail) brought new standards of luxury to S N C F InterCity routes.
Initially loco hauled ...
... some trains ran later in push-pull mode with a driving trailer.
With the expansion of TGV, various Corail upgrades of stock and brand were implemented ...
... in an attempt to maintain that 1975 aura of quality which, way back then, was supported by extensive publicity.
Comfy sets were featured!
In the early days they even had a bar and buffet car ...
... but now, much like most of the UK, all you get is a trolley.
Because of the larger loading gauge compared with UK, even 2nd class seats were roomy ...
... and first class even more so!
Eat your heard out poky Pendolino ...
... and even the 800 series.
Cattle trucks by comparison. And before you shout "loading gauge" at high volume, what about an original HST?
But Corail is soon to be no more. The first "Oxygene" set has just gone off to the Velim test track (Poland). The train looks good ...
... but with an utterly boring exterior livery. Inside looks posh in 2nd class ...
... and super-posh in First!
There's plenty of room to hang up your bike ...
... and one of these in the vestibule in the middle of the train.

"un comble lacune"?
So now you know! Literally a "fill-gap"!

Tomorrow we go for a bus ride.

  Next Branscombe Bus Bother blog : Monday 31 July 

Republished blog from Saturday 29th July

More Stunning Engineering

Yesterday, fbb looked at new engineering on the Forth and Clyde canal. There was the canal and the Kelpies at Grangemouth, the Falkirk Wheel linking to the Union Canal, bridges at Stockingfield Junction and rejuvenation and rebuild at Port Dundas in Glasgow itself.

In passing we met two old aqueducts, one at Kirkintilloch and one at Stockingfield.

Before we complete the job with more stunnings between Stockingfield and Bowling, just take a look at this, between Stockingfield and Port Dundas.

This is the ancient Firhill Basin, labelled "Timber Basin" ...

... used to park heavy logs etc. whilst awaiting treatment at a sawmill. The other bit, labelled simply "basin" is only separated from the canal by a low bank of earth, just a curbed smudge on the map above.

This aerial view shows a football stadium (home of Partick Thistle footy club???) and the "other basin" either overgrown or filled in or a bit of both.
And here is today's Google Earth view ...
... with a cream coloured line all the way round the bend. 

It is a magnificent boardwalk connected to new footpaths ...
... which take walkers and cyclists safely and dry-footed on the site of the minimalistic bank that separated "basin" from canal.
You can see the old "timber basin" and the footy ground beyond the canal.

Good innit?

Technically, this stuff is all in Maryhill.

As, in ancient times,  fbb set out to call on his future Mrs at Bearsden, he was intrigued to drive under this bridge ...
... and here it is with a tram on its way to Milngavie.
And here it is on a map.
The Maryhill aqueduct!

Just a quick puff on a puffer and you are at Maryhill Basin(s) with a long pond ...
... which was once Maryhill dry dock, used for ship repair.
And a small bit further on again we have this.
Now that's what you call an aqueduct. Its four arches carry the canal over the valley through which flows the River Kelvin. 

Just to the right of the aqueduct was the long lost Dawsholm terminus of the long lost Glasgow Central Railway (RED).
But that is another story.

It's All On Line - Interlude
This picture appears on a web site of old shots of the Forth and Clyde Canal. It is labelled "The Kelvin Aqueduct".

Here it is from another angle.
Top level is a predecessor of the present Kelvin Bridge carrying the main Great Western Road over the valley of the Kelvin River. Middle level is the old road at this point. Bottom level, and very dark, is the river.

The bridge was later rebuilt in iron, the main road widened and the old road has long gone ...
... and Kelvinbridge station (also on the Glasgow Central Railway) has appeared ...
... and has disappeared.
The line ran into a tunnel top left of the above picture. Most of the goods yard is now a car park for the Kelvinbridge Underground station (aka the 'Subway") which lies below and right on the above picture.

Kelvin Aqueduct is top left on the map ...
... Kelvin Bridge is bottom right. There is no canal at Kelvin Bridge!

The moral of the tale is always to treat internet sources with polite suspicion and seek corroboration. fbb spotted the error straight away; but Mrs fbb's dad's electrical shop was close to Kelvin Bridge so recognition was easy.

Down And Under
The A814 Dumbarton Road was one of the main routes out of Glasgow serving the various communities that drew their wealth and their trade from the river Clyde. As is obvious from the map above, Dumbarton Road was crossed by the canal at Dalmuir.
Dalmuir is where the North Clyde electric service via Glasgow Queen Street Low Level meets up with the revived Argyle Line via Glasgow Central Low Level.

Back in the day, and long before motorised transport ruled the roost, A simple lifting bridge sufficed at this crossing.
Along came trams and more road traffic and something bigger was needed. Say hello to Dalmuir swing bridge complete with tram.
And here it is swung; showing the girder structure that ensured electrical continuity for the overhead cable which could be too low for some boats and thus had to be moved out of the way.
So the wire swung with the bridge.

And then the trams were gone, but the bridge still swung!
But when the canal was closed in 1963, the City set about widening the road at this bottleneck point. And to widen the road ...
... you simply fill in the canal, leaving just a culvert (big pipe) to maintain water flow.


But what happens when you want to re-open the canal?

Answer, you build a drop lock

It is probably the only working drop lock in the world!
The principle is simple. You build a large tank under the road with a lock gate at each end. The bridge deck is too low to let boats through, so, once a boat is in the lock, you close the gates and pump out the water. After the boat has sunk low and passed under the bridge, you refill the tank, open the other gates and off you go, bowling along to Bowling. (or vice versa_

Watch it on video.
A simple solution to an apparently intractable problem.

There have been plenty of less spectacular but very necessary solutions.

Here is the canal NOT passing under the widened Great Western Road at Knightswood.
... and here is the new bridge.
There are many such!

And what might this be?
It is a chippy! Wikipedia reveals the owners' innermost thoughts.
McMonagle's Boat, docked in the Fourth & Clyde Canal in the heart of Clydebank, is a world class fish & chip restaurant and Scottish tourist attraction. With both formal dinning upstairs and casual seating outside, McMonagle's Restaurant provides a catering experience to suit everyone.

Memo to Mr McMonagle: try spelling Forth correctly. And what about "dinning"?

The chippie is at Clydebank ...
... just off Argyll Road.

Canal and chips - what could be better!