Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Fleetwood Ferry Fascinates

But Terrible Trouble with Tides
Many years ago, the fbb family, the famous five with Timmy Jazz the dog, hired a holiday house in Silverdale, Lancashire. fbb cannot remember the exact address (it was twenty years ago) but recalls that just up the road were extensive woodlands and "The Pepperpot"
fbb never walked to this exciting location ...
... but one night the dog did a runner and disappeared in that direction. Several hours of panic later, the dog re-appeared with a "what are you lot fussing about" expression.

One excursion was to Blackpool. fbb had never ridden on the trams and persuiaded the family that it would be fun.
The schedule involved driving from Silverdale (top right) to Knott End (near Fleetwood, bottom left). A ferry ride between the two would put the gang at the northern terminus of the trams.
The imposing railway terminus is long gone, but you can just glimpse a tram centre left in the 1950s picture above. Today you have a cafe and slot machine "place" with a tram again visible centre left.
When the fbbs crossed, the ferry the service was in a poor way and the boat was very tatty. Mrs fbb was a tad uneasy, not fancying being immersed in the murky waters of the River Wyre.
The first meeting to propose a steam Fleetwood-Knott End ferry service was held in 1851, but is was not until 1892 that the Fleetwood Improvement Commissioners reached agreement with the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway to build a ferry jetty at Fleetwood. Agreement was then made with the local landowner to gain access at Knott End. The predecessors of the Fleetwood Urban District Council assumed responsibility for the ferries in 1893, but leased the operation to local operators, 
The late 1990s and early 2000s were turbulent times for the ferry, with a succession of operators running the service (usually summer only), including Wyre Boat Services, and Swift Offshore Services).

The service was suspended in 2001 and for several years was operated erratically. Recently some stability has returned to the route, but threats of cut backs in funding from Lancashire Council continue to threaten ongoing operation.
Lancashire County Council plans to stop the £85,000 subsidy it gives to the Fleetwood to Knott End ferry. The county council, which said it needs to reduce its budget by £65m over the next two years, pays half of the ferry's running costs, with Wyre Borough Council paying the other half.

Councillor Peter Gibson, Leader of Wyre Council, said: If county withdrew their half we would really struggle to pay for all of it. We are not a transport authority at the end of the day."
But Darren Wichman, fbb's Isle of Wight chum, would use the ferry to get from Blackpool to Conder Green; and Blackpool's trams are not what they used to be either.
Wyre Council publishes the ferry timetable and there's a different one each month.
Why? Here is the reason.
At low tide there simply isn't enough depth of water to get to the slipway at Knott End. Apparently paddling through mud is deemed unsatisfactory!
September's timetable (extract only) looks like this:-
 NS  is no service
 AA  is Access for All : half hourly service.
 RS  is restricted service

fbb could find no explanation of what restricted service entailed. Perhaps that is when you only have to wade through shallow mud?
We can only hope that Darren can plan his journey to and from The Stork at Conder Green carefully ensuring that he can actually get there and/or get back.

Which brings us neatly back to the 89 bus.

If it exists.

 Finding Nemo the 89 blog : Wednesday 28th September 

Monday, 26 September 2016

Have You Been to Conder Green? [1]

An Interesting Challenge
fbb occasionally receives phone calls, txts or emails seeking information on proposed journeys by public transport; one recent such was from central France seeking times of buses from Sheffield Interchange to Aston on the X5. Fortunately, with the GoTimetable Sheffield App close at hand, that specific enquiry was dead easy.

But the particular call which has provoked this series of blogs began innocently enough. Chum Darren Wichman rang to tell fbb that Mollie's funeral was not yet arranged. As fbb already knew that, there had to be another motive for the call.

"I am going to Blackpool for the weekend (for some sort of tram "do" - fbb) and would like to stay at The Stork in Conder Green."
fbb had never heard of Conder Green.

"It's near Glasson Dock", advised Darren.
"I rang up Stagecoach for the times of the 89, but the young lady said that they no longer operated the route."

Darren is a technophobe of the highest grade and has no computer, smart phone or any kind of pad; which is why, in desperation, he turned to the chubby one. fbb in turn turned to the old xephos files and there, indeed, was Stagecoach 89 via Glasson Dock and Conder Green Stork Hotel.
We know that Stagecoach no longer serves these destinations; but who does, if anyone?

But before looking at the detail, your noble blogger needs to refresh his memory as to where these places are on the map.
Glasson Dock was built by the owners of Lancaster Docks to make it easier to get ships in and out. Access is only available for an hour or so around high tide, so the port never became very important.

The quay was connected to the railway network in 1883, operating until the closure of passenger services on 5 July 1930. Goods rail traffic continued until 7 September 1964. The track bed of the disused branch line is now a linear park and cycleway.

And here is an old map which shows a station at Glasson (red blob)  ...
... and sidings continuing westwards to the dockside. The station was not huge.
It also shows a closed station (white blob) near Conder Green. An aerial view reveals the station house as a cafe and the footpath running from the north ...
... and crossing the Conder River on the old railway bridge.
The access road to the rest of humanity curves round to leave the picture at bottom right. At the Lancaster end, this line curved sharply into Lancaster Castle Station with a spur to the dockside.
There is nothing recognisable of the line as it approaches Lancaster but a real expert might spot the remnants of a bridge abutment; the Google maps aerial view does, however, show the obligatory line of undergrowth!
Assuming Darren were coming from Blackpool he might well take the tram to Fleetwood and cross by the Knott End ferry (of which more later).

At Knott End he might, in the past, have been able to observe another little branch line.
This ran almost due east to Garstang Town station whence it turned south and ran alongside the west coast main line to terminate at Garstang and Catterall station.
This line also closed to passengers in 1930 but the station was right next to the ferry slipway.
The site is now occupied with flats and a cafe.
All of this provokes an interesting thought or two. If Darren had been making gis journey in the early part of the twentieth century, he might have chosen to go all the way to Conder Green by train.

Train : Blackpool to Poulton-le-Fylde
Train : Poulton-le-Fylde to Fleetwood
Ferry : Fleetwood to Knott End

Train : Knott End to Garstang & Catterall
Train : Garstang & Catterall to Lancaster Castle
Train : Lancaster Castle to Conder Green

Followed by a short walk to the Hotel.
The above is a menu extract published by an on-line writer; it has probably changed by now.

But enough of this nostalgic digression. Darren wants to get to Conder Green in 2016 and is starting in Blackpool. The first obstacle in the ferry at Fleetwood!
Electronic Information Delights No 34
This was Axminster Station a week ago. All signs were malfunctioning. The ticket office was closed and there are no departure posters on display outside the closed booking hall.

 Next Ferry confusing blog : Tuesday 27th September 

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Older Vehicles : Calder Valley

fbb's DMU is Quite Interesting?
Triang were always ready to take advantage of developments in the "big" railway and in 1958 the company introduced a modern two car diesel unit; but it was coveted by a relatively penniless young lad who grew up to be fbb.
Some 58 years later he finally bought his own model D M U.
It was, said the advert, a three car class 110 in BR green lovery with "whiskers". A quick check-up on what the Class 110 was.

The Class 110 diesel multiple units were built by the Birmingham Railway Carriage and Wagon Company in conjunction with the Drewry Car Co. to operate services on the former Lancashire and Yorkshire main line. They saw service uniquely is this region, which earned them the name of the 'Calder Valley' sets.

This bit of railway line was originally the main line of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway, one of the busiest early railway companies in the UK. The line ran from Manchester (Lancashire) to Leeds (Yorkshire) - there's a clue on the company name - but not via the most direct route.
The company's route passed through Rochdale, Hebden Bridge and Halifax and still carries a good service today.
Because the line is steeply graded and has sharp corners, something more powerful than "standard" modernisation plan diesels was needed. Hence the 110s. To help speed up the service the centre cars were removed and scrapped but later, in a typical volte-face, centre cars from other units had to be popped back in because, oh deary me, the route was attracting more of those awkward creatures, namely passengers.

After their BR green livery, the trains were refurbished and appeared in white with a blue stripe ...
... the dismal-looking all-over blue ...
... and the better-looking blue and grey.
Models with all these livery variants have been produced by Hornby (successors to Triang) at various times. Today's trains are the ubiquitous class 158s.
In Yorkshire (c/o the West Yortkshire PTE) the service was "branded" Caldervale ...
... which, although lacking "provenance" was deemed to be more trendy than the truth. It reverted to "Calder Valley" in 2013.

And, talking of branding, the old Northern franchise run by Abellio (Nationalised Dutch Railways) and Serco ...
... is now run by Nationalised German Railways (aka Arriva) and has spent huge amounts of our fares money in a rebranding exercise.
Or maybe used something designed by young Alex, the six-year-old son of a station cleaner from Mytholmroyd? But it will provide the opportunity, again at high expense, to repaid all the vehicles ...
... AGAIN.

And to keep up the "change for change's sake" policy, the web address used to be:-


It has now become ...


... clearly a massive improvement in service to the public

But back to fbb's class 110 model. It was "used", i.e. pre-owned, i.e. second-hand.
Hattons advert came with a warning that it was an "erratic runner" and that one of the exhaust pipes was "damaged".
Even fbb's stubby fingered incompetence should be capable of fixing the exhaust problem with a bit of cocktail stick and plastic filler. As a bonus the previous owner has added a driver ...
... and a sparse load of passengers.
But that "erratic" running did not sound good. In fact the problem was more acute. When fbb placed the driving car on his track and turned up the juice  ...

... nothing happened.

The power wires had become disconnected. Try again.

This time the motor whizzed away nicely but the train remained resolutely static on the track - not so much an erratic runner but a completely NON-runner. fbb appeared to have bough a porcine creature in a Scottish paper bag.
Best look inside. When fbb was just a lad, electric motors in model locos were really simple.
Replace the brushes, replace the spring that holds the bushes and clean the gaps in the commutator (hidden behind the brushes in the above piccy) with the point of a needle; that's all you ever had to do.

From your school physics lesson. The brushes take electricty via the commutator to the coils which create a magnetic field in sequence. The electromagnets are attracted to the fixed magnets, again in sequence; thus the rotor (spinning bit) turns.
The worm wheel meshes with cog on the axle and, hey presto, the model loco trundles along.

The motor was crude, could be jerky at slow speed but was reliable, replaceable and easily repairable.  The motor in fbb's 110 diesel unit is different.

It is a Hornby "ring field" jobbie.
fbb thinks (?) that, in this piece of design, the fixed magnets surround more of the rotor, thus ensuring smoother running and more power. But fbb really hasn't a clue!

By using his eyes, the old man noticed that the little grey spur wheel was whizzing round but not moving the black gears and thus not moving the wheels. The spur was loose on its axle.

Solution: relying on consummate skill and and encyclopaedic knowledge of small electrical "stuff", (NOT, very much NOT) fbb pushed the spur wheel back on its axle and added a dob of superglue.

Result: the "erratic" running class 110 model ran sweetly and without jerks (other than he who controlled it!) over even the roughest bits of fbb's trackwork. Here it is resting at the platform.
Hey, is that a (model) person sitting on the roof of the vintage "pug" loco displayed on the platform?
Yes, it's a sailor, off duty. fbb is a stickler for realism, even if his models are a bit ham-fisted.

So the very good news is that the DMU turned out to be a good buy, an excellent buy no less and a superb addition to the Peterville Quarry Railway.

Another "pre-owned" purchase was the wooden loco shed in which resides Toby the Tram Engine in the station picture above. This time the warning stated "sold as seen, one door broken" which is equally ominous.
But it wasn't, really.

The doors are held on with delicate "hooks" which drop onto equally delicate "eyes" on the body of the shed, 
For one door (of four, two at each end) the eyes were broken off and would be tricky to replace. Solution, more superglue and fix the door in the open position,
In all other aspects, the model was "as good as new". Another bargain.

Did railways really keep steam engines, full pf sparks and red hot ash, in wooden sheds?

 Next bus blog : Monday 26th September