An Old Scouting Postcard

A while back I borrowed an album of old postcards from my Uncle He has some postcards of the area where I (and he used to) live, as I wanted to copy them. Amongst these I found a postcard that I’d actually found for him many years ago.

NS Scout

It’s a postcard produced by the North Staffordshire Railway to promote the little narrow gauge Leek and Manifold Light Railway which used to run through the Staffordshire Moorlands. Railways often produced these type of postcards to show the beauty of the areas through which their railways travelled. If you click on the image you will get a larger version and you can see the beauty of the landscape. However, notice the two figures. Yes, they’re Scouts, and  in the old traditional uniform from when Scouting started. This would be because the postcard was issued before 1923 when the North Staffordshire Railway ceased to exist.

Of course it’s interesting to think that Scouts were walking in that area over 90 years ago and still do to this day. If you area ever around North Staffordshire, I would highly recommend a visit.

The rail fan in me also loves this film of the Leek and Manifold Railway before it closed!

All Change Please

As I’ve been blogging more and more, I’ve noticed that the majority of my posts have been Scout related. And as the people who have been good enough to link to me from their blogs are also Scout related, it made me think that the majority of them aren’t all that interested in me waffling on about trains etc (correct me if I’m wrong someone).

So I’ve decided to spin off the non Scouting bits to Nick’s Other Ramblings Blog and keep this on just for Scouts. All the previous content will stay in place here and the other categories will survive as well and I may duplicate some posts on both. But generally non Scouting related stuff will be on number 2.

Lets just hope I can cope with two!

Arrow

A New Sport for the Olympics?

With the British team doing so well at this year’s Olympics and the games in 2012 being held in London isn’t it time to introduce Mornington Crescent as an Olympic sport? 😉

mornington

40 Years Ago Today….

The last main line passenger train to be hauled by a steam locomotive was run in the UK. Well not quite technically, as many others have run since, but it was the last one run by, organised by and with locomotives and stock owned by British Railways.

There was a re run yesterday, which included one of the original locos (Oliver Cromwell) on the same route.

Photography is now Banned (Apparently)!

There seems to be an increasing trend that people who take photographs of landscapes, buildings, transport and general everyday scenes are now considered potential terrorists or paedophiles.

There was a story in the media this week of a chap who was getting abuse for taking photos of buses! This is despite the fact he’s done it in all innocence for many, many years.

It’s quite common to read in the train mags of officious jobsworths stopping people taking pictures of trains on stations as it’s against ‘regulations’ or a ‘health and safety issue’. This is despite Network Rail issuing clear guidelines that say it’s not a problem as long as the rules are followed. Mind, I read the other day that a Train Operating Company had employed someone to do work for them which involved taking photographs on their stations, but when he went to do his job the station staff banned him from doing so! Again ‘health and safety’. Great own goal that I think!

I used to enjoy standing on a station for hours on end taking snaps of the passing trains, but now I’m quite reluctant to do so. Having said that, I’m less likely to do so as things are more boring these days!

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A class 501 EMU at Gospel Oak taken around 1982 and a class 86 entering Stoke station around 1980

So there we go, two photos I took many years ago, when photos could still be taken without suspicion!

In fact, things have now got so silly that the MP Austin Mitchell has now tabled an Early Day Motion in Parliament about this issue.

Etruria’s Gone!

Well not the whole area, but the remains of the station. Thanks to the Dft‘s shortsightedness another bit of public transport in North Staffordshire bites the dust! Only about 9 more to go and then we will have no more stations!

Well to be fair, Wedgwood, Blarlaston, Stone and Norton Bridge are all effectively closed as no trains actually stop there, just buses! Stone is pretty safe, but the others aren’t. Angry

Comfort on Trains

Last week we went down to Paignton in Devon for a couple of days. Travelling down on the train we went via Reading, which is an odd way to go as it’s a greater distance but cheaper! Anyway, to get to Reading we travelled on a CrossCountry Voyager and from Reading on a First Great Western HST.

The difference between the the 6(ish) year old Voyager and the 30(ish) year old HST is amazing. First of all the MK3 coach is a lot quieter as there isn’t a 750hp diesel engine underneath your feet. As there is no engine under the floor there is also no vibration and rattles! There is also more space for the passenger and more seats 8 coaches as opposed to 4! Shame Virgin didn’t think about this when they bought them!

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The view from the train at Dawlish!

It’s also interesting to note that First Great Western are using the HSTs in a dual role as an express from London to Exeter and then as a local from Exeter to Paignton! Interesting way to do things! Shame they’ve had to start using the ‘Nodding Donkeys’ again!

It was a cold weekend with a bitter wind coming off the sea, but we had fun.

BETT & St. Pancras

Yesterday I managed to go to see the BETT show at Olympia in London. BETT is one of the largest educational IT shows in the world. We could have spent our IT budget very quickly there! In fact there is so much to see it is slightly overwhelming!

On the way back to Euston, we stopped off to see St. Pancras station.

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The photo is poor as it was taken against glass with my phone! The station is fantastic and is really worth a look!

Longport Station Is Improved

Happy New Year – better late than never!

Between Christmas and New Year, I went to Llandudno for the day. Carol was working late so I thought a day out to North Wales would be nice as I haven't been for a while, especially on the train. When I got to Longport, I noticed that arrival and departure boards had been installed, along with a PA and CCTV.

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These were the improvements that were paid for by Stoke City Council and not Central Trains who operated the station at the time. Still it is nice to see some investment in the station.

As to Llandudno, well it was nice to be there, but it was absolutely chucking it down with rain and I got soaked!!!

Goodbye 2007

As 2007 closes, time to look back at the year. Only positive and good things I think, there’s too much doom and gloom around already!

2007 has seen a number of centenaries both personal to me and personal to everyone else.

My Mum’s parents were both born in 1907. It’s hard to think of them as being 100, although Grandma nearly made it to 92!

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Grandma’s 75th birthday.

Mr. William Thomas Vickers and Mrs. Alice Irene Vickers

I could have got into real trouble for announcing to the world that Grandma’s first name was Alice! It’s a shame Grandad never got to see all the computer and interweb stuff as he would have been fascinated. The first radio (wireless) he had, he built himself!

Newcastle (Staffs and District) Camera Club was 100. Grandad and Mum were / are members and they had an exhibition to mark their centenary. Mum had a couple of here photos displayed.

Of course, one of the big events of the year was the Scout Centenary. Looking back at some of my scribblings from 2007 and looking at my Scout Group’s web site you can see some of the things we did. I think my highlight was restarting the Scout Troop after 18 months and investing the new Leader and new Scouts at our District’s Centenary camp.

The other two personal highlights were finally seeing Paul McCartney live and actually driving a real locomotive – albeit up and down the yard at Cheddleton a couple of times!

Goodbye 2007 and hello 2008.

Warley MRC Exhibition

Dad and I went to the NEC on Saturday to visit the Warley Model Railway Club’s annual exhibition.

Very good it was too. It was absolutely packed as usual. Strangely they only seemed to use 3/4 of the hall, but there was as much stuff there as normal. Trouble was the hall was a bit badly laid out in places so there were a few crushes.

The 12 inches to the foot ‘models’ this year were a couple of industrial Hunslets.

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This one was built in 1971 (a very good year!) and the other in 2005.

I ended up with some Triang TT stuff and a couple of Video 125 DVDs. Good day out really!

Local Rail Services 2

After I'd received the reply to my e-mail from East Midlands Trains , I thought I'd reply –

Thank you for your reply.

I have to say that I'm not over confident that the Crewe Derby route is going to be treated as a priority. You talk about the fact that ‘We will link stations progressively over the next few years and this will enable passengers to speak directly to an information controller….' Being cynical and based on the fact of the lack of investment and interest in the route by previous companies, I feel that the Crewe Derby route stations will be amongst the last to receive these improvements!

Of the 70 ticket machines you talk about, will Longport be included?

I also hear on the grapevine, and please correct me if I have misheard, that you are to run the single coach Class 153 units on the route, thereby reducing the seating capacity and moving the two car units to other areas.

My final worry is that you are expecting local authorities to pay for the upgrading of your stations! Why should they pay to improve your facilities when it is in your interests to improve services etc. to increase passenger numbers?

I'm sorry if this all seems a little negative, but local train services in North Staffordshire have been eroded away over the last 15 years or so and your predecessors seemed to treat this area as an inconvenience!

Yours sincerely

And the reply –

Thanks again for your email.

We will not be installing ticket machines into the Longport station.

We are proposing to run single coach Class 153 units on the Crewe-Derby route from December 2008, however, this has not been finalised. We are currently consulting with stakeholders on our proposed December 2008 and their feedback may have some bearing on this decision.

We do have funds to undertake station improvements however, we are also looking to local authorities to assist. We will be looking to invest in stations where we can make a valid business case for it.

Kind regards
David Horne
Mobilisation Director
East Midlands Trains

That reply doesn't exactly instil confidence does it? The trouble is that it's an East Midlands franchise serving the West Midlands / North West. Time will tell I guess, but I'm not holding my breath for improvements.

Local Rail Services

I e-mailed East Midlands Trains last week to find out what they were planning with regard to our local train services. Here is the e-mail I sent –

Dear Sir,
I would be interested to hear what your company is proposing to do to improve the Crewe to Derby service and the stations along this line.
As the majority of this service is in the North Staffordshire and South Cheshire area, I am somewhat surprised that it is being run by a company whose main area of focus is the East Midlands. In the past, Central Trains and to a degree Regional Railways treated this service and its stations as an inconvenience and little or no investment has been made in the route. A lot of people in the North Staffordshire area aren't even aware that there are open stations at Longport or Longton!
In fact, one of the stations, Etruria, was closed two years ago. It is also noticable that the majority of stations currently operated by Central Trains (the exception being Kidsgrove) are unstaffed. Most of the stations are in a poor state of repair, although some new shelter facilities have been installed at Longport, but this was not financed by Central Trains! The stations do not provide a welcome to the travelling public – your potential customers!
 
Can you reassure me that the level of service you will provide, the state of the stations, the staffing of the stations and the publicity of the route will be improved when you take over the service?
 
Yours faithfully

And this is the reply –

The level of service will be broadly similar to that operating today, but from December 2008 there will be some changes to train times in conjunction with major timetable changes across the country. We have been told exactly when our trains can operate throughout the day by Network Rail.

East Midlands Trains (EMT) intends to deliver improved ambiance at all stations by investing in deep cleaning, painting, improved CCTV Help Points and signage.  The CCTV and Help Points will be connected to a new Information and Security Centre collocated with the new integrated control at Derby.  We will link stations progressively over the next few years and this will enable passengers to speak directly to an information controller to obtain accurate and up to date information.

 Further enhancements may be possible if local stakeholders are able to provide additional funding and a number of local authorities have already stated that they wish to join with EMT to improve stations.  

 We will also be installing over 70 ticket vending machines across our network.  Staffing levels will remain as now but our management arrangements will be developed to ensure that stations are kept clean and provide a welcoming environment for passengers.

Regards

Hmm, can't say I'm too reassured to be honest. I've got a copy of the new proposed 2008 timetable 😉 so I'd better take a closer look to see what's planned!

Train Driver!

Today I’ve been to the Churnet Valley Railway’s scenic railcar weekend and rode up and down on a class 104 DMU and a Derby Lightweight single car DMU (Iris). It’s quite interesting to actually be able to see out of the front!
It was also nice to travel on older trains which sounded ‘proper’ and had a bit of character.
I always find it interesting when on a preserved railway, how quiet the carriages generally are (DMUs and hordes of screaming kids excepted). The thing is there is no air conditioning or engines under the floor. At least with a first generation DMU the engines chug along and rattle a bit!
Iris
But best of all, I got to finally drive a locomotive!! The owner of 37075 was letting people drive up and down the station yard at Cheddleton. Apparently, I was quite good at it!
37075
Must get myself on a full driving day sometime! Smile