Saturday, 24 June 2017

Two Nations Separated by the Same Language

This quote (or something like it) is often attributed to George Bernard Shaw, celebrated author and cyclist, with little corroborative evidence.
He probably never rode anything like that; Osborn-Smith's Waxworks (an Isle of Wight "Attraction", now a restaurant, never let truth get in the way of a good diorama!) but the point is well made. It was a point made very clear last week when fbb was given a copy of an American railway modelling magazine with a 2008 cover dae.
Try this for a start!
Well; "dirt" is self explanatory, a "grade crossing" is a level crossing and a "gravel lot" is a gravelled yard. Totally clear. "Ties" are sleepers, "switching" is shunting, s "caboose" is a guards van and (possibly) "spurs" are branch lines. "Sidings" are definitely "sidings". "boxcar" is a goods van, but a "cushion underframe" temporarily bamboozled your author.
fbb suspects that the UK equivalent is a "shocvan".
But one thing is immediately obvious, even from a cursory glance at the magazine; there is very little modelling of passenger trains. Here is a narrow gauge mountain model ...
... and part of a huge historic 1950s model snaking round two large rooms.
These were the only two layouts from this particular edition which had any passenger traffic at all.

Adverts for passenger rolling stock are also few and far between ...
... with an upcoming model of a New York "subway" train announced from Walthers.
It would be fair to say that most layouts in the US, and thus most information in the magazine, are all about HO scale modelling. HO uses a track gauge of 16.5mm and a scale of 3.5mm to a foot. Remember that the US is not metric, so feet and inches prevail, but possibly not rods, poles and perches.

But two minority scales seem to be better supported that in dear old Blighty. The diminutive "Z" gauge ...
... is usually associated with German manufacturer Märklin. The loco above was on offer at a modest $805.76 with an unpainted kit at $213.76. Paint it? fbb would struggle to see it at 1.385mm to the foot. The loco above is barely two inches long.

More intriguing were adverts for models in "S" scale. In the UK this is highly specialist but in the US it has a strong following.
Strictly speaking, scale is the ratio of the size of a model to that of its prototype and gauge is the distance between the railheads. In the Case of "S" Scale, the proportion is 1:64 or 3/16" equals 1 foot. Standard "S" gauge track is 7/8" between the two rails.

It is historically and practically a non-metric scale!

One encouraging item in Model Railroader illustrates that even the most skillful US craftsmen have their problems.
The text that goes with this picture explains that the author was soldering the front "truck" (bogie) when the heat from the solder was transmitted through the metal body and the back bogie fell to bits!

Sounds like fbb's style of modelling!

There will be more from the US in a subsequent blog, but, for the time being, what is one of these?
In the "good old days" you might wish to contain your cows in some sort of fenced enclosure, i.e. a field. If a railway passed through the field, said cows could search for pastures greener and newer by hotfooting it along the track.

So this is the rail equivalent of a road cattle grid.
Seen here are sloping fences to accommodate the box car bodies and sharp spikes on the track to hurt the sensitive bovine feeties.

Note that there is no fencing along the track so the beasties can, quite happily (?), be pulverised by a train as long as they don't escape into someone else's bit of prairie.

Back to buses tomorrow.

 Next Sabbatical Selection : Sunday 25th June 

Friday, 23 June 2017

From Recent News

UK Invasion Continues
DaFT has announced the contenders from two new rail franchises, namely the "HS2 cobble-it-together with the West Coast main line", and South Eastern. What is significant about the short list is how many non-UK companies are involved. It looks as if bidding for rail franchises is becoming too risky (and too expensive) even for our home-bred giants. The challenging question for DaFT and the grey suits of government is to ask what damage this will ultimately do to the UK economy (N.B. Brexit!!) in the long term let alone the future of our railways.

For the record, here's the list

HS2 West Coast
First Trenitalia West Coast Ltd
First Rail Holdings Ltd and Trenitalia SpA.
Trenitalia is the primary train operator in Italy. Trenitalia is owned by Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane, itself owned by the Italian Government.

MTR West Coast Partnership Ltd
MTRCorporation (UK) Ltd
MTR Corporation Limited is a company listed on the Hong Kong Exchange, and a component of Hang Seng Index. MTR runs Hong Kong's Mass Transit Railway (MTR), and is also a major property developer and landlord in Hong Kong. It also invests in railways in different parts in the world, and has obtained contracts to operate rapid transit systems in London, Stockholm, Beijing, Shenzhen, Hangzhou, Melbourne, and Sydney.

Guangshen Railway Company,
Guangshen Railway Co., Ltd. (GSRC) is the operator of Guangzhou-Shenzhen Railway (Guang-shen Railway), the 152-kilometre railway link between Guangzhou and Shenzhen in Guangdong, China. The company is engaged in railway passenger and freight transportation between Shenzhen and Pingshi.
with addition support from; Deloitte MCS Ltd, Panasonic Systems Europe, Snowfall AB, Ltd, WSP Parsons Brinkerhoff.

West Coast Partnership Ltd
Stagecoach Group plc
Virgin Holdings Ltd
fbb does not know (nor could he find out) what SNCF "C3" is. SCNF is, of course, the French state-owned railway system.

South Eastern
South Eastern Holdings Ltd
Abellio Transport Group Ltd (Dutch state railways)
East Japan Railway Company
East Japan Railway Company (Higashi-Nihon Ryokaku Tetsudo Kabushiki-gaisha) is a major passenger railway company in Japan and one of the seven Japan Railways Group companies.

Mitsui & Co Ltd
Mitsui Group (Mitsui Gurupu) is one of the largest keiretsu in Japan and one of the largest corporate groups in the world. The major companies of the group include Mitsui & Co. (general trading company), Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation, Sapporo Breweries, Toray Industries, Mitsui Chemicals, Isetan Mitsukoshi Holdings, Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Holdings, Mitsui Engineering & Shipbuilding, Mitsui O.S.K. Lines and Mitsui Fudosan.

London & South East Passenger Rail Services Ltd
wholly owned subsidiary of Govia Ltd
Govia is a joint venture by GoAead and Keolis. Keolis is 70%-owned by the SNCF (French National Railways Corporation) and 30%-owned by the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (Quebec Deposit and Investment Fund; public pension plans in the province of Quebec).

Stagecoach South Eastern Trains Ltd
wholly owned subsidiary of Stagecoach Group plc

Trenitalia UK Ltd
wholly owned by Trenitalia SpA (see above)

Buy From The Machines!
But not yesterday morning.

People Often Ask ...
How does Mrs fbb cope with fbb's passion for public transport? The answer is that the good lady is a use of fbb's knowledge and skills when she needs it, but she has other interests day to day. The extensive grounds of fbb mansions are a challenge horticulturally; making two patches of gravel into attractive gardens is not easy.

But here is part of the north facing estates adorned by pots of nice blue flowers.
The displays featured on the fence bordering Harbour Road are bright yellow flowers ...
... and here fbb can be a little more knowledgeable. They are marigolds. The sunflower display is developing well and the richness of Van Gogh's passion will doubtless be repeated on Harbour Road in a few weeks.

TT3 On Offer?
fbb keeps an eye on second-hand model railway offers on-line. Hattons of Widnes post a new least each day Monday to Friday. This item appeared on offer recently.
It is a Triang TT horsbox. Although TT (3mm to the foot) was produced for the mass market in the past, i.e. by Triang ...
... it succumbed relatively quickly to N gauge (2mm to the foot).Production ended in 1967.

TT retains a comparatively small niche in the United States and in the United Kingdom, but growing popularity in the former East Germany; it is the second most popular scale in Eastern Europe and Russia.

Just because it is smaller than OO doesn't man that it is cheaper. The larger locos above from the Piko range will cost over £100 each.

Not the best bus news from Cambridge.
The prang which only cause superficial injuries is reputed to have happened when the bus swerved to avoid a cyclist.
The bus, operated by Whippet was on route "U" ...
... which only uses part of the busway. Here is a vehicle un-pranged.
The Dorset Damory Doom blog planned for today has been postponed. fbb is awaiting some more information.

 Next USA blog : Saturday 24th June 

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Querying Queensferry

Playing Pass The (Bus) Parcel?
The ferry has been there a long, long time; as hinted in a brief on-line history of the town.

By the early 14th century the town had become a Burgh of Regality along with Dunfermline, Kirkcaldy and Musselburgh, owing duties to the convent of Dunfermline, which also controlled the ferry passage. A charter issued by David II, King Robert Bruce’s son, in 1364, which confirmed the Burgh’s rights and liberties, is held in Queensferry museum. With the privilege of a weekly market and an annual Fair, the town’s trading activities increased.

But it is older than that.

The queen referred to is Saint Margaret of Scotland who is believed to have established a ferry at this point for pilgrims on their way north to St Andrews. She died in 1093 and made her final journey by ferry to Dunfermline Abbey. Her son, David I of Scotland, awarded the ferry rights to the abbey.

But indirect international fame came with the opening of the Forth Rail ridge in 1888.
Car and passenger ferries remained until the new Forth Road Bridge arrived in 1964.
fbb still have examples of stamps in his possession in one of the many unopened boxes that came with the move to Seaton four years ago!

Your author guesses that buses to the town were largely in the hands of Easter Scottish for many years, but waits to be corrected by more knowledgeable readers.
Successors to Easter Scottish were First Bus whose service 43 ran every 20 minutes towards their demise.
Latterly, double deck buses were used ...
... with some journeys continuing to Bo'ness.
In common with many Edinburgh services, X43s ran at peak.
Then in early 2014, news broke that First Bus had given up on Queensferry and Stagecoach would take over with routes 40 and 40A. Basically these ran alternate ways round a lollipop version of the former 43.
The combined frequency was upped to every 30 minutes each way round, effectively a bus every 15 minutes to the town.
There was a launch, complete with a piper, which fbb mentioned in a blog a couple of years ago. It all seemed to be going jolly well.

Why? Stagecoach said that the route was "not sustainable"; but what does that mean? Was it not making enough money? Or was it just a pain in the neck to operate. Uncle Brian's presence in Edinburgh is the highly successful network of services across the Forth Bridge to the Kingdom of Fife.
The 747 runs from the Dunfermline Park and Ride sites to Edinburgh Airport and the X51 exits the map bottom left on its way to Livingstone. Stagecoach has no "ordinary" buses running out of Edinburgh, just posh branded semi coaches.
The express vehicle are specific to these services ...
... which would make operating one "normal" bus service based in Edinburgh something of a pain in some tender part of the Stagecoach corporate anatomy.

But here's the thing; a statement from Lothian within days of the Stagecoach announcement.

A statement from Lothian Buses
We are unable to comment on other operators business decisions with regard to the operation of their bus services either current or future, however it has been highlighted to us today by concerned customers of Stagecoach’s decision to consult on the withdrawal of services from South Queensferry. We will,  as always,  listen to our customers comments and will in due course investigate any potential opportunities that may arise.

So along comes the ever expanding Lothian Buses (corporation transport as was) and sets up a new company specifically to take over this service.
"Country" buses are green, double deck and numbered 43 and X43.
Thought. Is this the same picture used to promote Lothian's recent take-over of First's services to the east, but doctored just a little bit?

At first glance, fares look cheaper than those offered by the withdrawing lot.
Route 43 looks like a direct copy of First's "hook shape" route.
And back comes the X43.

Lothian's frequency is back to First's as well, at every 20 minutes ...
... with the X43s running limited stop in Edinburgh itself at peak.
The timetable leaflet even explains the limited stop-ness very clearly.
There was good local publicity for the launch ...
... combined with some intriguing and thought provoking press-bites.

In a statement, Lothian said: “Historically two major transport providers First and Stagecoach have been unable to operate commercially viable services within this area with low patronage and increasing levels of traffic congestion contributing to their withdrawal. The successful continuation of bus services is wholly dependent on customer usage levels – it’s important that the community embrace our new venture to ensure its ongoing success."

So, use it or lose it - AGAIN? But, suddenly, now that the Council's company is on the job, this comment appears:-

Some of the measures whchh have now been agreed for implementation include traffic signal prioritisation at Princes Street/Queensferry Street junction ...
... and Queensferry Street/Melville Street ...
... a commitment that the existing citybound bus lane is not compromised on approach to Dean Bridge and a review of parking restrictions on key arterial city routes to allow for passing places for buses.

You have to wonder why these measures were not implements for Stagecoach. Such are the benefits of being a Council owned company negotiating, effectively, with itself!

Final question. How long will it be until the 43 is taken over by Horsburgh's of Livingston?

 Next Dorset blog (possibly!) : Friday 23rd June