Friday, 26 May 2017

Weymouth Wanderings (2)

It Will Be Better When It's Finished?
Why might a customer want to ride the SlowCoaster rather than the scheduled X53? A collegue opines that they would be guaranteed a double deck bus, whereas the X53 occasionally suffers from single deckers, this deleting the views for which the route is famous. The 510 lingers for a few minutes at Abbotsbury viewpoint ...
... which failed to deliver for fbb on Tuesday last. In amongst the sea mist you can just pick out the lagoon that lies behind Chesil Beach. It should look like this:-
Before the viewpoint view, you could also have an extended route in West Bay. Instead of turning at "The George" like the X53 ...
... you can be whisked a whole quarter of a mile further on.
You will pass a line of fast food outlets (Baboo Gelato? yummy?) and turn at the next roundabout ...
... with view of the boats in the harbour, more chip shops and some modern and expensive flats.
After the Abbotsbury viewpoint (see yesterdays blog) and before the picturesque Abbotsbury Village, the route diverts to the Tropical Gardens down a road too narrow for two buses to pass. They are timetable not to, but the outward run was late so fbb's cordial chauffeur waited at the end for his colleague to re-appear.
fbb has it from the horse's mouth, namely the genial Simon Newport, First's boss at Weymouth, that the 510 experience is, as yet, incomplete. To go with the cove adverts ...
... and the Broadchurch-type cliff on the stairs ...
... the two liveried buses are due to be equipped with PA and a commentary.

For day visitors and longer stay tourists, that may well prove an attraction to draw them off the X53. The other bargain is the group fare for up to five people (no age restrictions).
At less than £4 A DAY for five adults this represents ludicrously good value for money - even for five OAPs. Childrens fares are about ⅔ of adult, so parents and three kiddies still do very well indeed. The ticket is, of course, valid on the X53.
The current schooldays timetable (click on the graphic to enlarge), with only two return journeys Monday to Friday, is a bit limiting if you want to stop off anywhere; but again the good old X53 comes to the rescue for most destinations.

The 510 calls at three off-route Holiday Parks. Bagwell Farm is in the middle of nowhere and provides the spectacle of holding on tight, closing the eyes, waiting for the crunch etc. as the driver wrestles with a fifteen point turn outside the office.
The bus turns right at the grey crossroads, reverses back between the buildings lower left, jiggles backwards and forwards and makes its escape back up the lighter surfaces access road.
For reasons which cannot be revealed here, fbb was unable to experience the dubious delights of East Fleet and Littlesea but Google Street view aerial pictures give a reasonable impression of the sites.
The "tour" ends with a disappointing diversion via the National Sailing Centre with its glorious views.
Indeed, so pointless is this diversion that fbb reckons it would be better to trundle along the esplanade to Bowleaze Cove like the new 500.
Even better, get out the can opener and create "cabriolet" open toppers like First Weston-super-Mud.
In the end, fbb reckons that the company will have to accept OAP passes if it wants to get sufficient posteriors on the rather minimalist seats installed in the elderly Tridents. They (the buses, not the OAPs or their posteriors?) came from Norwich, by the way.
But it is, overall, a brave commercial venture - and the bus industry really needs a bit of speculative bravery to encourage Joe Public to have a ride.

If you are in Weymouth, swallow hard, cough up the cash and enjoy the experience!

Another new route tomorrow.

 Next Weymouth blog : Saturday 27th May 

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Weymouth Wanderings (1)

A Grand Day Out By First Bus Mega Taxi!
fbb popped along to Weymouth only a few weeks ago when Mrs fbb was attending a prayer and bible study day at Crossways.

The relevant blog is (here) for those that missed it or wish to refresh their memory.

Of the three brand new services First Wessex introduced on Saturday last, it was possible to enjoy two. The third, seafront open top service 500 ...
... was too tight to schedule. As it happened, fbb could have just about managed at trip from Kings Statue to Bowleaze Cove and back , BUT ...
... it would have left no time for lunch (missable in extremis) or other important bodily functions (definitely unmissable!!!). 
Maybe another time. Perhaps Mrs fbb will join her hubby in a Weymouth Tour?

The day started with "kiss and ride" to Axminster. Yes, the old man could have gone by Ave Valley 885, but was too miserly to shell out the £3.50 fare.
The next bus on the half hourly frequency would, in theory, have made the connection but fbb is nothing if not risk averse. The 0955 was an X51 to Dorchester ...
... only it wasn't - in several ways.

The usefulless departure screens, provided by Devon County Council, hit a new low. Sometimes they are blank, sometimes they say "refer to timetable" but this time they hit plumbed depths of uselessness. There was no mention of the half hourly frequency on First's X51/X53.
fbb's bus, and all the rest, simply did not exist. Neither did the 1040 Buses of Somerset (BoS) service 30 manifest itself electronically at any time. The station booking hall could furnish the excellent Devon County timetable book and First Wessex's summer beauty.
Nothing from BoS. The Devon timetable printouts were all displayed in frames at the stop which rather makes the electronics a waste of space and money.

fbb's bus "wasn't" in another way. Upon arrival at Bridport coach station (bit of concrete and a shelter - lavish!) ...
... all passengers were summarily turfed off as the bus was going no further.
"There might be", our driver told us, "a spare bus if they can find one."

They couldn't.

There were three in the depot yard. fbb walked to the Nationwide stop on West Street and informed two waiting passengers of the unlikelihood of their bus's arrival. They wandered off disconsolately whilst your frustrated author felt nothing but sympathy for any others en route. Despite the wonders of modern science and the hugeness of the resources of First Bus, they would be left in angry suspense for a whole hour.

Of course there were electronic signs at this town centre stop on which the missing X51 appeared and, at 1107 disappeared.
If there was a twit to inform them, it never reached fbb's phone and neither prospective customer was clutching a "device". The solution is simple. Go to computer. Type in "1107 from Bridport". Click "change". Type in "cancelled - breakdown". Click "send to screens".

Except that the system is not set up for such a luxury. It is set up to run with a minimum of human intervention. No doubt Ken Traveline Dorset will send in a comment saying why it cannot happen like that; but fbb has not the slightest doubt that a competent GCSE programer could write the necessary code.

As an aside, it is really good to know that Nationwide West Street Bridport is in Bridport. For a while fbb thought he was in Wigan!

Despite all this, fbb's 510 was clearly signalled and duly appeared, setting down two passengers at "Frosts" ....
... a stop which will have to be renamed due to the demise of the long-standing and well-known Bridport retailer.
Two passengers? Not good for business. But there is a problem with the 510. It largely duplicates the X53 (via West Bay, Abbotsbury etc) ...
... but, unlike the X53, does not accept OAP passes.
So the 1137 X53 left the Nationwide stop packed to the rafters with "oldies" and the 510 left packed with ...

... guess ...

... fbb; who remained the sole passenger all the way to Weymouth. It was worth £6 to be chauffeur driven in a very large yellow double deck taxi with isolationist views from top deck front. 
But it was hardly a profitable round trip for First.

The service is branded ...
... and it does exactly what it says on the tin. It ambles slowly along the X53 route with a few diversions and a four minute stop at Abbotsbury view point ...
... to enjoy the view.

fbb will examine why you might want to use the 510 rather than the X53 in tomorrow's post.

fbb's poorly bus used to be based in Manchester. It was branded "Rivvy Rider" (with a very thin gold stripe) ...
... for service 575 between Bolton and Horwich.
Rivvy Rider is perhaps derived from Rivington Pike, a hill near Horwich. The branding was both feeble and short-lived. To serve (or not serve as it turned out!) the good folk of Wessex, the thin gold stripe has been repainted First pink.

 Next Slowcoaster blog : Friday 26th May 

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Magnificent Minehead Manoeuvres (6)

Woody Bay Oddments
Even Smaller?
As the fbb party parked their limo prior to exploring his delightful little bit of the Lynton and Barnstaple Railway (L & B), the old bloke noticed some miniature railway track alongside the visitors'  motor vehicles. A note on the web site for 2009 refers.

A new miniature railway has recently been constructed at Woody Bay Station. Built to 7¼ inch gauge, it is about 140 yards long, end-to-end. The line starts beside the entrance drive near the car park, crosses the upper station lawn, and runs into the trees at the Lynton end of the site. There is a possibility that further extensions to the line may be added at some time in the future.
The new miniature railway will not see regular operation at present, mainly because no locomotive is resident at Woody Bay. It is hoped that the line will be in operation during the annual Steam Gala when visiting engines may be available.

The Gala is usually held in September; the picture above comes from the 2013 event.

Spending a Penny
Of course the station has fine modern toilets, but fbb could not help noticing something a little more antique.
fbb expected to see a wooden door blocking his entrance, but was overjoyed (!) to see that all the accouterments were in place, in working order and plumbed in.
But, not only were the "facilities" appropriately heritage, but the good folk of the L & B had managed to re-create the oft remembered foul stench of the originals. Very clever. So much so that fbb felt he should try the heritage version out for himself.

Superb Sandwich Service
There was a caff, and it too was delightful. It spread over two rooms of what was, presumably, the stationmaster's living accommodation. One of the rooms was kitted out with a selection of older furniture ...
... plus a set of sprung seats from an old (main line?) railway carriage. The (volunteer?) "dear ladies" were outstandingly friendly and helpful and rushed in after the fbb party had consumed their comestibles to clear and tidy.
The menu was surprisingly extensive for a small establishment ...
... fbb was particularly impressed by the heading "Posh Cakes" (bottom left). The menu cover was adorned with a reproduction of a water colour painted by a L & B member.
The fbb party had a toasted cheese and ham sandwich each which came with a small salad garnish and a sprinkling of crisps; plus the traditional "pot of tea for three". It was yummy and very good value.

And fbb left his L & B guide book beside the chair, silly boy. Not to worry, one of the caff ladies sprinted up to the car park and returned to booklet to its forgetful owner. Excellent service indeed!

Extension Plans
The fbb's chum Julia asked whether the line would ever be longer and, of course, there are plans for the future which may well, eventually, bring trains all the way from Lynton to Barnstaple.
Large sections of the trackbed are undisturbed apart from their return to farming use but many bridges are gone. Rebuilding the whole line is an enormous and expensive task. After 82 years, all the track would need to be bought and rebuilt; a mammoth task.

Nevertheless the L & B is "up for it", however long it takes.

The line would have to terminate on the outskirts of Barnstaple because roads and modern buildings have destroyed the original.
At the Lynton end, the approached to the station have been built on, so the proposal is to route the line behind the new houses and round to a new terminus, still on the top of the hill but with the possibility of car parking and adequate access for all.
The new Lynton station would be in the scrubland (left on photo below) slightly nearer the town and just off Station Avenue in Lydiate Lane.
But the first "push" is south west from Woody Bay to Blackmoor Gate where a new depot would be situated.

It will be a big task, but this big-hearted little line will surely succeed.

Making Models
Those that might wish to re-create he line in miniature can now do so (at a price).  Wagons, coaches  and track are made by Peco ...
... Heljan make the loco, Exe ...
... and Bachmann's model of Woody Bay station, although no longer in production, can still be bought on-line.
But far better is to organise a visit to the line. The L & B web site is (here)

Yesterday fbb went on a mammoth bus expedition to investigate two of the three brand new services introduced by First Bus at Weymouth on Saturday last. This involved over six hours of bus riding and much to interest our readers (?). The plan is to publish blogs tomorrow and Friday.

 Next Weymouth blog : Thursday 25th May