Thursday, 31 March 2016

Manchester Madness Part 2

Didn't Start Very Well
On Tuesday morning, fbb awoke at 0430, twenty minutes before his alarm. A bleary eyed stagger down the stairs and a click on the confuser brought up the above notice.

 stress! 

A bus from Yeovil to Gillingham would blow the foundations clean away from the old man's trek to Leigh to enjoy the press launch of the new £68 million busway.

 stress! 

But, obediently, fbb took heart in the last sentence above and went to the real time journey planner.
One of the delights of the journey planner is that every train is "on time" until it isn't. So the 0552 would always be "on time" until it left Exeter at 0510. Unless it didn't. Anyway, ">More details" simply led fbb back to the big panel above, creating a frustrating and useless circle of non information.

 stress! 

Time to be proactive. Drive to Axminster, park in the long stay near the Co-op (the fbbs have an annual East Devon car park season ticket) ...
... and walk the short distance to the station; tripping over a fence panel that had blown over on Sunday night!
The bright lights of Tesco's petrol station ...
... guided the old man to the station and the departure board.
Looks good. Although one of yesterday's comment writers reported that the 0552 to Exeter ran very late! The worry now was that, on the previous Monday, some trains had run to London via Yeovil Pen Mill, Bruton and Westbury adding 30 minutes to the running time; which would make the whole trip impossible.

 stress! 

So over the footbridge (with no lights working!) to check on the scrolling platform indicators.
This implied that the line was open. One last check ...
... with the mysterious man at the end of a phone.

"They are hoping to get the line open by 0600" he said. "What will happen if they don't?" riposted our stressed-out potential traveller. "You'll know when they get to Yeovil," the man replied cheerily.

 stress! 

But the train did run, arriving about 5 minutes late at Waterloo; and just over 20 minutes later fbb was seated on the 0930 to Glasgow for his Pendolino progression to Wigan, arrival due at 1125.

 NO stress! 

Thanks to the wonders of the internet, fbb discovered that the bus stop for Leigh was beside Wigan Wallgate Station, itself just across the road from Wigan North Western.
The bus stop flag showed 658, the pre-planned service ...
... and very soon along came the selected Stagecoach steed, bound for Leigh and its guided busway.

 NO stress! 

Now here's a thing. fbb has oft told folk that there are very few places in the UK that he has never visited. One of them is Wigan. So a ride thence to Leigh would be a journey of education and excitement.
There are three routes linking the two communities. The most direct, via Hindley is route 598 every 15 minutes but this does not go near the stations. The long way round via Golbourne is route 600, every 12 minutes like the chosen 658. All these are run by Stagecoach but were part of the First Manchester empire until the latter sold out to the former.
How best to describe the 658 route?
There were many closed and boarded pubs, many closed and boarded shops and many tired terraced houses. These were interspersed by a multitude of closed and removed railway lines, some decayed former industrial sites and occasional patches of scrubland.

It was not aesthetically pleasing and illustrated very clearly the difference between the struggling north and the affluent south.

But the people are so friendly and astoundingly cheerful. Despite the sad environment, the Council and local groups had planted many hundreds of daffs in little plots of greenery.
Very pleasant. But soon fbb was at Leigh bus station and it was time for lunch. Inside the shopping arcade was a Costa Lot ...
... and Caffeè Dolce ...
... neither of which stimulated fbb's taste buds. But what is this he espied?
'T market! And, as expected, therein ...
... was a genuine, busy and popular market caff. All day breakfast consisted of two excellent rashers of bacon, an adequate sausage, egg, some beanz and a slurp of timmed tomatoes served with a slice of "buttered" (for want of a better word) toast plus a big mugga all for £4.

There's nowt better on a cold day. And, as if to confirm the northern-ness of it all, the bakery next door was offering ...
... hot barms. No, fbb didn't.

So it was outside to join with the crowds previewing services V1 and V2 due to launch to the public on Sunday coming.
And to complete the profusion of "local colour", it were rainin', luv.

Despite the over preponderance of stress at the start of the journey, and despite the attempts by National Rail to hide the journey from fbb, Traveline was right in every detail.
And its schedule worked perfectly.

There will be more about the busway launch itself in Saturday's blog; the slight delay being the need to absorb all the PR hype issued by Transport for Greater Manchester!

 Next bus blog : Friday 1st April 

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Why fbb Doesn't Like Journey Planners

or Manchester Madness Part 1
The question is, could fbb get to the launch of the Vantage guided bus way service, scheduled for 1300 at Leigh bus station? (click on the map to enlarge it)
Options would appear to be train to Manchester and bus; train to Warrington and bus; or train to Wigan and bus. Other options, like train from Wigan or Manchester to Atherton would add an extra complication.

Where to start? The first trains out of Axminster (10+ minutes from fbb towers by car) were: to London ...
... at 0552; and likewise to Exeter ...
... which clearly dictated the only start option.

Hesitantly, fbb asked Traveline (National), usually pretty awful and always to be treated with "polite suspicion"
One option offered was, indeed, via Exeter to Manchester ...
... but arriving too late. Another option was via Warrington ...
... with a highly risky five minute connection for the train to Newton-le-Willows, but an arrival in good time. But by far the best option was via Wigan.
That gives an arrival in Leigh 42 minutes before the get-go and the possibility of a later bus if the London train was delayed. And yipee; a bus every 12 minutes!
Looks promising, doesn't it. But then there is snag number two. fbb, being a tad on the parsimonious side, would be highly averse to paying anything other than the saver fare. So will the 0552 from Axminster plus the 0930 from London Euston be within that validity?

Better check with the National Rail site.
Back comes the answer:-
No 0552!
An hour later from Euston and a total failure to meet and greet and be guided omnibologiocally from Leigh and back. But, uselessly, the site did confirm that a Saver ticket was available at £83.65. The "FastJP" site, also confirmed the lack of an 0552 path, by the way.
Just for a giggle, fbb tried Axminster to Leigh on Google Transit, better known as Giggle Transit for its often silly answers. But it did admit to several 0552 possibilities including the Traveline version. The Google giggle answer, however ...
... would have sent fbb via Eaxter and into Paddington, a tighter path through London and the distinct possibility of a higher (astronomical) fare of over £180. And the National Rail journey planner wouldn't offer the same journey as Giggle anyway.

Could Virgin help, operator of trains from Euston to Wigan?
fbb has no idea what the above slogan means. And this one is even dafter.
Virgin's prices (with the exception of occasional Virgin-only specific special offers) are ALWAYS the same as every other train company's prices. Anyway, no sign of an 0552 path from Axminster either.
But initially the fare confirms that Virgin do offer, after all, the cheapest fares at £41.80. Until you read the note below.

The results above show single ticket prices, based on the fastest available journey, to offer more flexibility to our customers. If you are making a return journey, there may be a cheaper fare available, particularly if you are travelling with a train operator other than Virgin Trains. Please click here to check if these are available for your journey.

You do wonder how many folk have booked their two singles without checking. It is true that two Saver singles are cheaper than one Saver return!
By 5p!

But these "bargain" Virgin fares are exactly the same as everybody else's. Of course, we still do not know whether a Saver is valid on the oft-hidden 0552 path; oft hidden on journey planners but the only option for fbb. And fbb cannot buy a ticket in advance with reservations included because the journey fbb wants does not officially exist.

After some discussion with the only UK resident who understands the murky intricacies of UK rail fares, fbb decided that the Traveline option at 0552 from Axminster and via Wigan would work and that the Saver fare was valid.

The 0930 from Euston runs to Glasgow and is likely to be packed. Will fbb find a seat?

The problem, as usual, is that some journey planners make assumptions about interchange times. Crossing London is particularly fraught with such assumptions and fbb can only assume that the National Rail deep throat confuser considers 44 minutes to be too risky, despite prophesying a ten minute Underground ride.

That's why fbb doesn't like journey planners.

Of course, if Easter weekend engineering work were to overrun ...

Some lines between London Waterloo and Clapham Junction, also the lines between Clapham Junction and Barnes will be closed all weekend (Friday to Monday) for bridge works. Part of London Waterloo station will also be closed and many trains will leave London Waterloo from different platforms to normal - please check displays at station.

Due to the number of alterations to the train and bus services this weekend, it is not practical to display special timetables for all of the routes and stations affected.

Please use an on-line Journey Planner or the Print your own Timetable or Buy Tickets features from this website to check your journey details.

But, faced with a slightly speculative schedule, the worrying horror if 1 hour 55 minutes standing, an early start, a late finish, engineering overrun possibilities and the joys of creaky old age, did the old crusty actually go?

The truth is out there and will be revealed tomorrow.

P.S. This happened on Bank Holiday Monday.
It wasn't looking good when fbb callen in at Axminster Station; 1430 Monday.

 Next busway blog : Thursday 31st March 

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

By White Horse to Leicester [2] ...

... New York and Bristol.
The Abingdon Model Railway Club layout is based on Lericester Belgrave Road, closed to regular passenger services in 1953. Note first the distinctive shape of the overall roof.
To the right of the accurately modelled passenger platforms, just glimpsed above, is a large good shed ...
... also beautifully recreated by the Abingdon gang. The real thing can be glimpsed on the far left of the Belgrave Road street view above.

At a meeting on 1st December 2006 it was decided to build a new layout based on Leicester (Belgrave Road). Funding for the layout would come from a share issue. One share – one vote- £100. Non-shareholders are welcome to participate in the project but all decisions will be made by the shareholders.

But the club has changed history quite dramatically; one of the privileges of building a model.

In the re-write of hisstory, Leicester (Belgrave Road) was a great success with express trains via Peterborough to Kings Cross and via Newark to the north as well as excursions to the east coast and local services to Grantham, Nottingham and Market Harbourough.

Freight services flourished with large movements of coal, oil, scrap metal and a vast amount of merchandise traffic in vans and open vehicles.

The station entered the diesel age with a refuelling and service depot and this is the period we choose to model (1950’s and 1960’s) when steam locos in their twilight rubbed shoulders with the new diesels in resplendent green.

Which explains the model Deltic in the diesel shed!
Here is the layout under construction in 2011 with the many arched road bridge (seen in the "Deltic" shot above, still in plain plywood.
Belgrave Road was the biggest layout at the show and by far the most spectacular. All credit to the Shareholders for choosing a more difficult subject and making such a good job of it.

Blogs will return to (ab)normal tomorrow after the (abortive) North Wales visit, but, in the meantime we should take a look at a few more layouts at Abingdon.

What about this?
It is a near correct-size model of Fulton Terminal on the East River, New York. According to the layout's creator, many of these dock systems had no connection with any other railway; the sidings were merely used to sort freight cars and then convey them onward by barge or ship,
video
A fascinating insight into something very different indeed, but based fair and square on historic reality.
Less authentic, but delightful nevertheless, were Märklin locos fitted with smoke units.
Note above the "hand of God" refilling the locomotives with the model railway equivalent of vapeing fluid.

Another piece of ferroequinological history is recreated in a pastiche of "Bristol Goods Shef" in 1846
This complicated bit of track recreates the early days when Brunel was using broad gauge; a design idea that lost out to standard. But here is a siding in "mixed" gauge so both types of wagon could be loaded or unloaded.
It made for complicated trackwork and expensive transit of freight; but here it produces a fascinating layout replicating a snippet of railway history.

----------------------------------------------------
Humberstone Road - Update
WRONG! fbb is indebted to Alan, Northampton correspondent, for telling him that Humberstone Road's station building was saved and moved brick-by-brick to Shenton on the Battlefield Line.
It lay derelict for many years after being taken out of service as a passenger station. As a grade two listed building it had to be preserved, but British Rail did not have sufficient funds for such an operation. A buyer was looked for. Eventually it was sold to Leicestershire County Council for £1 plus VAT. It serves as an information point for the Battlefield and a southern terminus building for the railway.
The "Battlerfield" is, of course the site of the Battle of Bosworth Field,

The battle of is one of the most important battles in English history. It led to the War of the Roses, and planted the Tudor house on the throne of England. Henry Tudor, (Henry VII), earl of Richmond and a Lancastrian, defeated King Richard III, a Yorkist, at the battle of Bosworth Field on 22 August 1485.

The train service was, of course, cancelled for the duration of the battle! (Pathetic joke)
----------------------------------------------------
Manchester Madness
Today is the press launch for the new guided busway at Leigh, Greater Manchester. Through his contacts in the Industry, fbb received an invite. Should fbb get up at a ridiculously early hour, shell out a significant sum of dosh, spend nearly 12 hours on trains and busess and risk exhaustion for days afterwards just for a short ride along a bit of kerbed concrete?

Find the answer tomorrow, maybe.
----------------------------------------------------
 Next bus blog : Wednesday 30th April