In 1984, for Christmas, I was given a Hornby Dublo Co Bo. Considering it was over twenty years old it was in good condition and cost Mum & Dad a small fortune! The only problem was that it couldn't pull the skin off a rice pudding! I've know that it was the magnet that was duff, but I'd not got round to doing anything about it. Until now. I bought a new one just before Christmas, installed it and now my Co Bo goes!

See here!

Etruria 3

Got a reply from my MP the other day. Enclosed was a letter from Tom Harris, Minister responsible for rail.

The work to upgrade the track in the vicinity of the now closed Etruria station, including removal of the platform, is currently planned by Network Rail to commence in late 2007. This is part of the work to upgrade the West Coast Main Line in time for further improvements to be made to services, with effect from December 2008.

Far from neglecting the provision of train services at Stoke-on-Trent and indeed the wider catchment area, there have been substantial improvements. There are two trains an hour towards Birmingham, a further half hourly service to and from London and four services an hour to and from Manchester. The area now receives an excellent range of inter-city and inter-regional services, providing the scope, for example, to attract further inward investment.

The proposed West Midlands franchise will also contain the provision of a new hourly semi fast service between London and Crewe, via Stoke-on-Trent. This will provide new journey opportunities and further enhance the quality of public transport for the area.

A considerable amount of investigatory work was carried out by the then Strategic Rail Authority and Rail Passengers Committee along with the local authorities, in connection with the closure of Etruria station.

All relevant issues concerning its potential value were considered and given the objective of making best use of the railway, there was no case to retain this lightly used facility.

 What rubbish! So I've written back.

With regards to the letter you received from Mr. Harris, and forwarded to me, it still appears that the DfT have no real interest in, or appreciation of, our area.
The removal of the remains of Etruria station and the realignment of the track will make no real gains to the people of North Staffordshire.
Trains will still have to slow down before they reach Stoke and the extra acceleration gained when travelling North will be negligible.
The proposed new semi fast service between Crewe and London via North Staffordshire is an interesting and exciting one. However, as I understand it, the service would not start until at least 2009 (a long time to wait for a train!). It is proposed that it would stop at Alsager, Kidsgrove and Stoke but not Longport (Longport, is of course, the nearest and most accessible station to a lot of people in the Borough). This is particularly relevant to the service level at Longport which with its present level of dilapidation and lack of promotion, not to mention Travellers camps, is rapidly going the way of Etruria!
As I wrote in my previous letter, it is very difficult to travel Northbound without going to all the extra inconvenience of going to Stoke first.
I hope the Minister can be made aware of these irregularities and that he will be in a position to make public rail services in our area improve.

My MP does seem supportive, so I'll just have to wait and see…………|-)

Etruria again

Just sent this letter to my MP about Etruria station. It's a year tomorrow since it was closed and nothing has happened- surprise……

Dear Paul Farrelly,

It is a year tomorrow that Mr. Derek Twigg in his then job as Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Transport closed Etruria railway station. This was despite the fact that the public inquiry's report stated that it be kept open and was contrary to local opinion and needs. The given reason was that the track was to be aligned to 'increase speeds for through trains and so deliver shorter journey times benefiting passengers'.
Since the hasty closure, the track has not been aligned and the only thing to happen to the station was the removal of the station furniture in June. In fact I am sure that Virgin Trains passengers were glad that the station was there a few months ago when a train failed in the station and the passengers were able to easily leave the train!

All this highlights the Department for Transports lack of interest in the railways and public transport in general in North Staffordshire. The current consultancy document on the future of the rail franchises in this area states that a local service from Stoke to Stafford will not be restarted until 2009!
An example of how stupid things have become is if I want to travel by train to Manchester. This should be the easiest, quickest and most environmentally sensible way to get there. I could walk to the bus stop in May Bank, catch a bus to Longport (making the assumption that Etruria is now totally out of the question) and then catch a train to Manchester. I could the make exactly the same return journey.
Except I can't. There are two trains from Longport to Manchester in the morning at 06.50 and 07.20 and one returning at night at 17.58. Not exactly helpful or convenient.
Instead I have to got to Stoke to catch a train. Stoke is in the opposite direction to where I would be going, it is also time consuming to get there on public transport (bus to Newcastle or Hanley and then on to Stoke), takes a long time to drive there (whether the improvements to the A500 make a difference remain to be seen) and there is nowhere to park unless you want to pay £5 to park on Virgin's car park. The other options are to get someone to take you there and back, which adds to the congestion and pollution or get a taxi which is expensive. All to make a journey which should be relativity easy!

I hope you will be able the speak to Mr. Tom Harris, Mr. Twigg's successor, to find out what, if anything the DfT are planning to do about this disgraceful situation in the immediate future. As you know, Newcastle and North Staffordshire is slowly grinding to a halt and no-one in Government seems interested!

Yours sincerely,

I guess I'll get a polite reply, but nothing will happen. The Government and the DfT especially aren't interested in my area!


Been meaning to mention this for a week or so.
I drove past Etruria station the other day and noticed that all the station furniture had been removed – the shelters, station names, lamp posts etc.
Now one of the reasons Etruria was closed was that it could be removed to re-align the tracks so trains could go faster through the site (saving about 10 seconds on a journey from London to Manchester!). The Government were so keen to close the station, that they completely ignored to findings of the independent inquiry, which was to keep it open and to actually stop some trains there. So why has it taken nearly 8 months (it was closed on 30/09/05) to remove everything? High priority to close it (Central Trains are not interested in my area), low priority to do anything else.

Great Day Out, But………………….

Yesterday we had a rather nice day out at the West Midlands Safari Park and the Severn Valley Railway. The safari park was great as we got there early to avoid the crowds. You can really get close to the animals, including lions, tigers, elephants and giraffes. We even had a horned cow put it's head through the window to say hello!
After the safari park we went to the railway. We only went to Bewdley, but it was a nice trip. It was interesting to see that the safari park was packed when we went past on the train! We were hauled by the 8F and the Stanier Mogul. All in all a jolly day, and we completely missed getting drowned in the showers 😉
Trouble is that yesterday's Bank Holiday, was traditionally Newcastle's carnival day. However, the political geniuses who ran our Borough Council cancelled it as they said it cost too much. This is after they spent nearly £1000 last year on Posh 'n' Becks impersonators! 
It was replaced by a Jazz and Blues festival. OK, not too bad, but all the gigs were in local pubs and not in town or at the Brampton. They still had charity stalls in town, but forgot to tell most of the charities that they could still have a stall. Well done local politicians! 


Rhyl Miniature Railway

Today, after taking Mum & Dad to town to catch their coach to go on holiday, we went for a day out the Rhyl. On the way, a loo stop was needed, so we stopped off at Asda Queensferry. This was a store that I had helped to open in 1995 and regularly visited it (sometimes more than twice a week) over the next four years. I hardly recognised the place! I think it had been extended slightly and the layout was all changed. Most strange really. Didn't see anyone I recognised either. Shame really as I used to enjoy going there. On the very slim chance they might read this, hi to Yvonne and Joyce!!!!
We got to Rhyl, well Kimnel Bay actually, and had a walk along the sea front to Rhyl itself. The wind was blowing and the sea was a bit rough. Bracing! The sad thing about Rhyl is that it's a bit grotty in places. I guess that once it was quite elegant, but now it suffers from too many cheap holidays. On the way back to Kimnel Bay we did have a ride on the Rhyl Miniature Railway 😀
Also, being sad, we popped into Asda Rhyl as this was another of my old hangouts. The store manager is someone I knew and I also saw one of the managers I knew. Odd that really. We came back the slightly longer route through St. Asaph (where my sister used to live) and Wrexham (another Asda hangout) to avoid the traffic. All in all a jolly day!