Saturday, 30 September 2017

Meeting A Duchess ...

... And Other Matters
Stagecoach Strikes North
The Yorkshire Company starts a brand new service from 28th October. X10 will run from Barnsley to Leeds, hourly, seven days a week.
For those of our readers unfamiliar with the geography of South Yorkshire's Pie and Pea Dinner capital, a map may be useful. Sadly the PTE cannot manage one despite having some very expensive software to do it "sustainably".

fbb cobbled something together yesterday morning on his fifteen year old steam-driven vector graphics drawing program. It took 10 minutes. (click on the map for a larger view)
The route serves all stops between Barnsley Interchange and the M1 junction at Haigh. In Leeds it calls at Crown Point Road or Black Bull Street ...
.... before crossing the River Aire and terminating at the bus station.

Offering a possible worry for Mr Fearnley and Mr Arriva, this brings Stagecoach buses (ex Yorkshire Traction) into Leeds after a very long gap.

According to a "usually reliable source" ex National Express coaches will be used - so a quality product?

How about linking the X10 with the recently introduced X65 from Barnsley to Meadowhall, extending it into Sheffield and calling it the "White Rose Express"?
Surprised that nobody has thought of that before!

Stagecoach Strikes West
The RMT Union has just announced a series of one-day stoppages (strike in-action) for The Exeter company. These are scheduled for Friday 13th, Tuesday 17th and Monday 30th October, although negotiations may well continue!

Whilst you may have sympathy with "the lads" (and lasses), withdrawing bus services is off-pitting to passengers who may well make other arrangements and stay with their new-found alternatives. Fewer passengers, fewer drivers and thus fewer jobs?

Stagecoach Spends Money
The Exeter staff newsletter reveals a new fleet.
The Duchess At Spalding
One of those unsolicited twit things set fbb's mind working (a rare event these days!). It was a video of preserved steam locomotive 46233 Duchess of Sutherland hauling "The Cathedrals Express" through Spalding/
O.K., it;s a slightly fuzzy screenshot, but it does convey something of the majesty of Stanier's powerful beasts. This preserved loco has appeared in various liveries; LMS black ...
... LMS maroon ...
... and BR green.
It was in BR green that fbb remembers them thundering through Roade cutting as he gazed on in admiration from a popular spotting point at is northern end.
None of the youff in the picture is the spotty fbb. But you could slither down the embankment and rest your Ian Allan spotters book on the top of the retaining wall just under the road bridge.
All blocked and barred now, quite rightly; not a good place for today's spotters with 25,000 volt overhead wires all over the place. But way back then, as the Duchess and her chums roared past, the earth moved!

The Duchess was also significant in the world of model railways. Hornby Dublo produced their own aristocratic lady; fbb remembers the Duchess of Montrose.
This loco was the Rolls Royce of model railways, and as you would expect, a remote pipe dream for fbb.
Many lucky kiddies might find a whole set in a large Santa sack.
Stirring around in the bowels of the interwebnet, fbb came across an advert with prices.
Notice that the locomotives have the phrase "Automatic Reversing" in their description.

What is this about?

Pre- and post- WW2 the competition was with Trix Twin. Their stuff was crude and lacking in detail but the Trix system had one bonus. You could run two trains on one track - hence "Twin".

But the locos ran on 14 volts AC. Clever technologists amongst our readers will work out that "reversing" AC current is not possible, simply.
Trix controllers had a reversing lever which sent a boost of juice to zap a relay which twanged a gear wheel which reversed the direction of travel.

It did not always work.

Hence Hornby's helpful hint to potential buyers.

Gorillas In The Mist?
Another one of those Twit extracts caused fbb a wry smile. Here is what he saw on-line.
The video clip is titled "Bluebell on the Severn Valley Railway".
But not that sort of bluebell. This bluebell ...
... snapped on a visit to the Battlefield Line (Leicestershire) a few years ago.

The steam did clear eventually!

More variety tomorrow.

 Next bus bits blog : Sunday 1st October 

Friday, 29 September 2017

Critical Cymric Contrasts (4)

Good Grief : Ghastly Gwynedd (again)
From yesterday's blog, we can note that there are timetables on the Gwynedd Council web site, all ready to print but not printed to "save money". There are no maps. Across the border in Conwy you can get a booklet with excellent maps, plenty of support information and well laid out timetables. Across he Menai Bridges, in Anglesey, there is no book but the usual maps and all the timetables sit there on-line ready to print.

It is really hard to understand the thinking at Council HQ.
But we must have a closer look at those bus stops called "Bangor Cloc" but invisible from the cloc! Thanks to correspondent Alan, we have a picture of the astoundingly wonderful information on offer at one of the stands.
Regular readers will know that fbb is not a great lover of departure lists which may offer a useful quick reminder to regular travellers but are decidedly unhelpful to tourists and those locals who might be choosing bus for the first time. Note that there is plenty of empty wall, ideal for displaying enlargements of all the book-ready on-line timetable pages.
Here, in the frame on the stop, the confuser has done what its name suggests and confusingly grouped together anything and everything going to Caernarfon.

The T2 and the 2 run on Sundays only offering four journeys to Barmouth with the three T2s continuing to Aberystwyth.
The 5A, 5B and 5C are variants of the 5 and X5 which we met at Llandudno Junction, well not "at" but "near-ish" if you can find them. In fact the main service, every 15 minutes, is the 5C ...
... with the 5A being an "oddments", also going to Caernarfon and beyond, but not included in the main timetable.
5B journeys go via Bethel ...
... a location which is a blink-and-you'll-miss-it locality on the back road B4366. Y Felinheli used to be Port Dinorwic and Fictoria (Victoria Hotel) no longer exists. fbb has failed, as yet, to identify "Bodarwydd" on the 5C timetable.

But back to the helpful information at Shelter B and services 9 and 9A, operated by Express rather than Arriva and following slightly different routes in Bangor..
9s are advertised withwith service X1 (etc) from Caernarfon to Blaenau Ffestiniog.
Notice that the headers to the departure list offer a wide range of "via" points (Coleg Menai, Y Felinheli etc.) which are inconsistent and thus useless.

Which leaves the 72 and 73. These  do NOT run to Caernarfon, but also go to Bethel ...
... via a circular route, mostly as 73s but with a few 72s going the other way round. Why are these listed with the main road routes?

Can we work out which way they go? Possibly with good local knowledge or a good map. Oh, whoops, there isn't a good local map.
But there is a bad one; which is too coarse a scale to show the 72/73.

Our trek now takes us to Caernarfon and a possible source of bus information there. Just along the road, barely 100 yards away, from Gwynedd Council offices is this building.
It is the address given for Tourist Information, as advertised on-line.

Discover more about the town of Caernarfon situated on the Menai Straits between mainland North Wales and the Isle of Anglesey, at Caernarfon Tourist Information Centre. Our premises are packed with lots of information to help you plan your trip whether you’d like help with bus & car route planning, you’re looking for bed & breakfast, self-catering or hotel accommodation, or just want to know what visitor attractions you can visit, then call in and let us offer you some advice. The area has lots to offer, including Caernarfon Castle and The West Highland Light Railway.

Here is the helpful sign in the quirky little window.
On-line is even less encouraging.
Gwynedd County has closed ALL is Tourist Offices.

Beyond belief.

Correspondent Alan writes:-

In her 2008 dissertation for Bangor University Dr. Megan Williams said of the Festiniog Railway.

The results from analysing the expenditure on food, accommodation and other purchases by visitors and volunteers, as well as spending by the Company, show that the Railway annually generates a contribution of about £9 million to the regional economy. When you add in the contribution  from   all the other attractions in the area (Portmerion, Harlech Castle, Osprey watching  etc,  etc), and allow for inflation  the tourist industry is reckoned to be worth nearly £1 billion to the local economy.

So what a spiffing wheeze of Gwynedd Council to close the tourist offices in Caernarfon, Porthmadog and Barmouth.   I admit that local tourist offices are usually hopeless at providing public transport information but at least if one  is open they might let you have a copy of the bus timetables they keep  in the locked cupboard in the back office.

Hotels and tourist attractions have stands weighed down with leaflets advertising all the things to do in the area but there are never any   local bus maps or timetables   to be  seen on them, because  of course

“It’s all on our website”

In the case of Gwynedd, of course, it isn't.

And if you thought that the bus stop information in Bangor was poor, this is a display at Dinas ...
... near a station on the Welsh highland Railway; this stop, to be precise.
Here is a closer look at the display on the pole.
Even if you could read it, it remains a huge challenge to understand what it might be telling you.
Alan's final piece of advice is this:-

So if you are planning to use public transport in the area around Caernarfon, Pwllheli, Porthmadog and Beddgelert, print out copies of any public transport timetables you might need before leaving home.

To which fbb adds:-

Or take a holiday in East Devon.
Seaton is very nice.
But there is one common sense positive public transport feature of North Wales (indeed the whole of Wales) ...
Traveline's phone service is FREE ...

... as it should be everywhere. It is an absolute travesty of common sense that customers should have to PAY to find out what bus companies have on sale.

Tomorrow we meet a Duchess, amongst other things.

 A Railway Round-Up blog : Saturday 30th September 

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Critical Cymric Contrasts (3)

Good Grief : Ghastly Gwynedd 
Gwynedd used to be very pro-bus. It encouraged operators to add a red wedge to the front of their vehicles (and insisted for Council subsidised services) and marketed the network as Gwynedd Bus. Privatisation put paid to all that, but at least there was an excellent timetable book ...
... complete with network and local maps similar to the excellent Conwy production, still available.
Northampton correspondent Alan has recently been in North Wales, travelling round using a bus and rail rover ticket. After finding no printed information at Llandudno Junction station and only departure lists at the stops, he moved on to Bangor.
It is an attractive station in very good condition. It has three bus bays right outside the building ...
... lots of information boards and a bus stop sign.
Investigation via Google Maps reveals that lots of buses stop outside the station building itself or nearby. (click on the diagram below to enlarge it - just a bit)
Stop J, says Google, has 22 more routes stopping there!

BUT ... as you may have guessed ...

Alan was frustrated (but not surprised) to find the same lack of information (on line and for real) at Bangor Station. He could, of course, trot round and see what the timetable frames had to offer; but we will take a look at these tomorrow.

He then found his way (being a clever lad) into the centre of Bangor. He was looking for Bangor Cloc.
Just as an aside, an internet usage warning.

Search for Bangor clock and you might see this.
It is most definitely a clock and it is most definitely in Bangor - but Bangor in Northern Ireland where it is called "The McKee Clock". The cloc(k) in Bangor Gwynedd (Wales) looks like this.
But you can walk round it and peer in all directions and you will not find a bus of any shape, size or colour. You might catch a glimpse of one if you look down the remains of Fford Garth ...
... because at the far end there, straight ahead but out of sight of the cloc, is the cloc bus terminus.
Turn left a the end of the cut-through and you will find the Arriva enquiry office ...
... where correspondent Alan could get Arriva leaflets and the Conwy timetable book. Gwynedd stopped producing their book a few years ago but it is, as they say, all on-line.


Here is Gwynedd's bus map.
That's it - there is nothing else of a cartographic nature.

Also on-line is a PDF "information leaflet", consisting of a near-useless list of bus services in numerical order with no index of place names, a list of operator phone numbers but no indication of which operator runs which route ...
... and this.
As the county produces nothing by way of a co-ordinated set of timetables or maps, fbb wonders what you might find in these places. A few years ago, he asked in Dolgellau and was shown a ring-bound folder with everything included and asked to pay to have specific pages photocopied. As a visitor, how would he know which pages he might need?

But all the timetables are on-line in exactly the same format as would appear in the printed timetable book if they printed one.
Notice, in passing, that Gwynedd has no truck with the "Platform 5" appellation at Llandudno Junction.

But the fact that these pages are all prepared in a ready-to-print format begs the question, "why don't you print them?" All the hard work is already done. Is the Council really saying that this minimalist saving is making any tangible difference to their budget; the cost is much less, fbb would suggest, than that of filling a few potholes. (Not that pothole filing should be neglected!)

Tomorrow, excitedly, we can take a look at what you might find at the bus stops at Bangor not-the-cloc; and we travel south to Caernarfon.

P.S. Lest fbb were to be attacked by ferocious hoardes of Gwyneddians, baying for his blood in response to the epithet "ghastly" ...
... the old man assures readers from the Principality that his antagonism is directed towards public transport information, not the people or the place!

Mae Gwynedd yn lle gwych
ac mae'r bobl yn gyfeillgar iawn.

 Next Gwynedd blog - Friday 29th September