Sunday, 21 May 2017

Anglian Come Up Trumps For Lena

Thursday was a poignant day. It was the funeral of Lena Sadler, bus campaigner and friend. She was also a member of the 165 club, a group of passengers and drivers who remained in touch after Anglian's 165 Aldeburgh - Ipswich route was axed in 2013. I thought it would be a nice idea if Anglian could supply a bus as a tribute to Lena so I approached Mickey Amey, Depot Manager at Anglian who couldn't have been more accommodating, saying that yes, as long as a spare vehicle was available he would be happy to help out.

It wasn't going to be easy to find a suitable Anglian liveried vehicle though, with 13 blue loan vehicles being brought in while Anglian's fleet gets a much needed overhaul, so my hopes weren't high. However I'm delighted to report that Mickey managed to find an Optare Versa - which had seen service on the 165 - and although it was too late to programme the destination screen, Paul the driver printed out a couple of sheets to go in the window which was quite common on the 165! And so we gathered at the Church of St Andrew, Aldringham

Anglian 308 at Aldringham Church
The tribute from Anglian
The church was packed, and a short, simple but moving service took place, with Lena being laid to rest in the churchyard after. There were no frills about Lena, and I know she would have appreciated the simplicity of the occasion, and would have laughed herself silly at the sight of the bus blocking the car park.

Members of the 165 club - Mike, Paul, Robin, Jane and Peter
Peter also took some pics, a couple of which I'm delighted to be able publish here.

Thanks, Peter.
It was fantastic to see so many people there, including some who knew Lena just from chatting on the bus. Lena was that type of person. She left her mark on whoever she met and I predict many glasses will be raised in her memory for years to come.

My heartfelt thanks and gratitude go to Mickey and Dave Smith at Anglian. I'm not sure regimes of the past would have been as willing to accommodate, and it is another indication of the positivity that has started to flow through Anglian's veins. The gesture was truly appreciated by all and certainly turned a few heads. Thanks to Paul for doing the driving, and it turned a sad occasion into a nice one too.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Tales Of The Unexpected!

Quite simply 24 hours ago I had no idea of anything contained in this post, so it's all happened a bit suddenly. First of all I was contacted last night by a BorderBus driver who rather vaguely said there was a red double decker parked up in the yard, and it could be ex London. So as I had to go to Ellough anyway today for other reasons I popped in fully expecting to see a Gemini when a rather striking Scania Omni Citi decker came into view. I have been on several of these in London and they are great buses, at least they would be if it wasn't for one tiny problem - the seats are what Satan would design if you had to spend the rest of eternity on a bus being punished. I have spent 90 minutes on one and it felt like 90 days. So it's fair to say I had mixed feelings when I saw ex Stagecoach London 15137 LX59 CNA gleaming in the Suffolk sun. COULD be ex London? Seriously!!

The Scania at BorderBus depot.
The Scania is on loan to BorderBus for fuel economy evaluation. It will be used on the 146 over the next few days, and if the fuel data is satisfactory it is likely that a number of the Scanias will be purchased. They would be converted to single door, probably have more seats added upstairs as the amount of legroom is way beyond coach standard. I'm not normally in favour of reducing legroom but with these it makes sense. And yes, the seats will be either replaced or upgraded to include foam to boost comfort. I'm not joking - those Scanias give seriously good rides, and with decent seats will really give the Geminis a run for their money. I hope the evaluation goes well, and I'll report back when the decisions have been made. My thanks to Andrew and Dave for the info and I'll watch this space with interest. In the meantime check BorderBus's Twitter account for info on what the Scania will be doing.

One thing we couldn't do, however, was imagine the Scania in BorderBus Livery. Enter Sam Larke and his computer and voila! Thanks Sam, might not look too bad!

How the Scania could look

A quick postscript now - the E300's for Ipswich P&R have coe fro the ex First Borders operation in Scotland, which is now run by a new company called Borders Bus. You probably know where this is going - Andrew Pursey has had to field multiple daily complaints about buses in Galashiels. I just wonder how many complaints are being received in Scotland - or compliments even - about buses in Wangford!

Rear view of the Scania
Next something nice, really nice. It has been sometime since I had anything positive to say about Anglian Bus. The last 3 years has seen a slow painful demise for all concerned. Blame lies entirely with Go Ahead who failed spectacularly to understand how a rural operation functioned, and also failed equally spectacularly to learn from their mistakes. If it wasn't for the drivers and staff at Anglian the company would have been history months if not years ago.

However, today it was my pleasure to meet Mickey Amey, the new Operations Manager at Anglian. I admit I wasn't sure what reception I'd receive, but the welcome couldn't have been warmer. I was there primarily on non blog related business, but obviously the subject turned to the current state of affairs at Anglian. For the first time ever I had the feeling I was talking to someone who wanted to turn the company around, put new flesh on the bare bones, and had the enthusiasm and man management skills to achieve it. Just a quick word to the Go Ahead supremos - GIVE HIM THE TIME TO ACHIEVE!!!!  With backing and investment the phoenix could yet rise from the ashes with a man at the helm who understands how a rural depot works. That was how Anglian became successful in the first place under the Purseys and if Go Ahead let Mickey Amey get on with things it can again.

Most of what I discussed with Mickey cannot be published yet, but one thing I can do is reveal why Konect have registered Beccles as an operating centre. Anglian will also be registered at Rackheath and it's purely so in exceptional circumstances such as breakdown either operator can use each other's vehicles. This will help at Norwich for example and will save time getting spare buses out from depots resulting in less loss mileage and fewer cancellations.

It was a real pleasure chatting to Mickey Amey, and I will only be too pleased to report anything positive coming out of Anglian. Let's hope the bad times are over and the rebuilding can begin.

Switching to the rails and I decided to nip into Norwich as I knew there was a test train in the sidings. Hopefully I'll be seeing a lot of it tonight, but I wanted to see it iin daylight, and so I did, with Colas Rail 37421 heading the train and DBSO

Colas 37421 in Norwich sidings
I thought that was it but no. As I was having lunch Tim rang me to tell me the Class 37 short set, which had been off the track, was coming back with an added DBSO, for storage and braking purposes. So back to Norwich Station I went and sure enough there was the set with DBSO 9705 backing onto 37403.

37403 with DBSO 9705
Apologies for sun interference
I took a video of the train leaving Norwich - with only 37423 active, and just as well as the set promptly failed at Lowestoft and was taken out of service!

So there we are, a full day, none of it expected, and all of it enjoyable and rewarding. If only all days could be like this!

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Lena Sadler

When I first started the blog I was contacted by Lena Sadler, a Leiston resident and founder member of the 165 Club, a group of former passengers and drivers who were regulars on Anglian's Aldeburgh - Ipswich 165 route. Lena was truly passionate about bus services in the area, tirelessly campaigning for the return of the 165, and encouraging me all the way with regard to rural bus services.

Lena, always bright and bubbly was riddled with illness, which she never complained about although it could wipe her out for days at a time. Very sadly her illness finally beat her yesterday, when Lena passed away at the ridiculously early age of 49.

Lena was one of those people who lit up the room with her very presence. I was lucky enough to have lunch with the 165 Club last Summer and Lena was the life and soul, even though she had to depart early for medical reasons. One of the joys of travelling on the 64 was knowing there was a chance Lena would be on board, and indeed the first time I met her was on a 64 when she was talking about my blog with another passenger - a really surreal moment I'll never forget.

Some people it's nice to know, some people it's wonderful to know. Knowing Lena was a joy, a privilege, a stroke of good fortune and an honour. Her strength and courage left a mark on anyone she knew, and there are a lot of people with a big gap in their lives today that will be impossible to fill.

God rest, Lena, thank you for being so encouraging, and I hope you're now out of pain and reaping the rewards for what you gave to others.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Ipswich News

It's been some time since I was able to put those two words together but I have enough news about the "not quite finished yet" Suffolk County Town to justify a full post.

Top of the agenda is the arrival of the first E300 that will be operating the Ipswich P&R from July. 67776 SN62 AXU came down from Scotland yesterday. Formerly First Borders, which no longer exists, it is one of what will be eventually 8 vehicles, although I understand at present the 8th is proving a bit elusive. 5 others have arrived at Yarmouth for preparation, and a couple will be used in Great Yarmouth for evaluation, although there is a debate if they will remain at Yarmouth or move to Ipswich in July. I can settle that debate as Chris Speed has confirmed to me that all will be going to Ipswich. For further details on the other vehicles see East Norfolk Bus Blog.

67776 having vinyls removed at Ipswich
 Anyhow as luck would have it I had a business meeting with a well known German supermarket in Ipswich this afternoon so took the opportunity to pop into Ipswich depot and take a look at the E300. I've said this before and I'll say it again - I have never been in a friendlier depot operated by a national company. You cannot just pop in there as everyone is happy and willing to talk. It must be the best part of a year since I was there last yet it could have been yesterday. Great stuff. Just wish more happened there. So I was invited on the E300 to take a look. I confess I don't have much experience of E300's but the ones I have been on are in a different league to the E200's. They are certainly more spacious than the Versas they will replace.

The interior of the E300
The general consensus seems to be thank God they're not Streetlites, and I have to agree. There was concern from opposition Councillors that First would put any old rubbish on the P&R but that has not proved to be the case.  I look forward to sampling them once they are in service. Someone who had driven it said it was lovely to drive, which is important too.

The E300's will have something new on them though - they are all being fitted with state of the art, GPS linked destination screens, which automatically change at terminii. I assume there is a driver override option but it's different, if a tad unnecessary for a P&R. However, it does mean that the current screens will be removed and will be put in 8 of the B7tl's that still have polka dot displays. That will be good. In the meantime 67776 is being de-vinyled and will go up to Simon Morris tomorrow to be painted into P&R colours, which not even the Engineering Manager knew the details of! Ipswich Town blue has been rumoured so we'll just have to wait and see.

The offside still with First Borders X95 branding
My thanks to Barry, Joe, and everyone else at Ipswich depot and I look forward to popping in more regularly over the coming weeks.

The other main news concerning Ipswich, as yet unpublicised, is that Ipswich Buses' 38, the free circular shuttle bus serving Endeavour House and the Town Centre is to be scrapped from the end of June. As yet I don't know if anything is going to replace it, or other routes diverted to cover the Endeavour House section, but it is another indication that all may not be well between Ipswich Buses and the two Councils. As soon as I know anything else I'll of course let you know.

The end for the 38 is nigh

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Who Needs A Diesel Gala!!!!

Before I start a couple of parish notices. Firstly I have been contacted by an operator explaining why there was a lack of attendance from local operators at the recent Ipswich Bus Rally. I now understand the situation and apologise to the operators I criticised. I hope the situation can be resolved so next year's event can be better attended for the sake of the organisers and visiting public. It was not, I must emphasise due to a lack of willingness from the operators or lack of enthusiastic drivers.

Secondly I think I have identified my anonymous abuser. The same name has been suggested by more than one party. I'm delighted it's no one of any importance within the industry whatsoever, and I will no longer subject you to his insane and spiteful rantings. I'm sorry I had to in the first place but I thought that might be the only way to get hm unmasked as others would recognise his style. It seems to have worked so let's all move on. He's not worth it.

Tim and I were due to camp out at Kimberley Park today, watching diesels of many shapes and colours go past as part of Mid Norfolk Railway's Spring Diesel Gala. However, due to circumstances way beyond MNR's control, nearly all the visiting locos had to pull out, meaning the event was severely reduced, and MNR are hoping to reschedule the gala for later in the year. DRS saved the day by sending 37424 (558) and 57007 but there were no 31's, 56's or whatever Rail Operations Group were going to send, so we decided not to go, particularly taking into account the mainline Diesel Gala we witnessed on Thursday.

The network Rail Test Train comes to our area every 4 weeks. However it starts the week away from its base in Derby on the Monday, passing Railcam's Peterborough camera, so we know what locos to expect well in advance. A treat was in store this week with the freshly repainted 37254 and what I confess to be my favourite loco of any class, anywhere, green 37057. I was determined to snap this train in more locations than ever, so after spending the morning on social duties taking an elderly friend (no, not Tim) shopping and hospital visiting I sought my first location to the west of Trowse Jct by the river. A nice calm spot I will certainly use again, but before the 37's arrived I found myself in a field of very tall grass and got a couple of East Midlands Class 158's passing from an unusual angle.

Decided that would be no good for the 37's so went back to the river and waited for the tell tale rumble. It was at this point a family of squirrels - 5 of them decided to have playtime in the tree above me. I have a soft spot for squirrels so thank God you can hear a 37 coming a mile off or I'd never have been ready to take this vid! 37254 was leading, until recently in Swallow livery. She looks superb in Colas colours but still wish they'd left her as she was, Her uniqueness has been stripped.

The joy of videos is you can find the perfect still. Had I tried to get this shot with the train travellng at speed I would never have managed. However, I love this shot, which reminds me of those pics you see of man eating tigers lurking barely visible in the undergrowth.

The shy, retiring Class 37 lurking!
Knowing the train would stop a while in Norwich I headed to Postwick Park & Ride site, hoping that the Test Train might pass the Greater Anglian Short Set there. Alas not to be, but this time with 37057 leading the Test Train went past on unwelded track, bringing back memories of the past.

I wanted to get a shot from the Acle Straight, and was in luck. I had time to get halfway down the Straight to the bend - yes I know that sounds wrong but if you know the Acle Straight you'll know where I mean, where there is a bridge. I got on the bridge and waited 2 mins and took this. Couldn't dash across as a car was coming, hence the dodgy camerawork near the end.

It was this video that has provided the new header pic, and I don't think I'll better it for a very long time. Getting that still was worth the day on its own.

I got to Yarmouth veg market sorry Station and met up with Tim, who was there with a gaggle of other snappers. I took the opportunity to get a couple of shots of my favourite 12 wheeler!

37957 at Great Yarmouth
We were then joined by the Class 68 Short Set, now with Anglia MkII coaches. This could be the last time a double headed Class 68 meets the Test Train, as it's rumoured from May a DVT will be used on the set.

68011 brings in the Class 68 Short Set passing 37254
68003 pulls away from Yarmouth passing 37254
A couple of mins later 37254 idled out of the station still managing to look good!

From there it was to Reedham, as we knew the Test Train was due to wait there for 30 mins, and it was a location neither of us had been to for enthusiast purposes. We met up with newly converted train buff and local radio DJ par excellence Grahame Bessey from East Norfolk Bus Blog and Reedham turned out to be a perfect location. Soon we could hear roaring in the distance and 37057 brought the set in.

I admit to being in awe of the 37's. They look mean, sound mean, and are well over half a century old now. 37057 carries this plate, which rather sums it all up.

Born in 1962, still going strong.
I make no apology for going overboard about this loco. I'm making the most of her being on the mainline for as long as I can, and she is so photogenic I just cannot resist!

37057 at Reedham
The most wonderful half hour then ensued, with both drivers getting out and chatting to us, not just about trains either - one of the drivers is a bird watcher and was fascinated by my visiting peacocks! A great couple of gents, who made the day for my companions, and promised me a show at Darsham later on. It honestly doesn't get much better, a decent conversation at an idyllic location with an idling 37 as a soundtrack! It summed up perfectly why I avoid the madding crowd as much as possible.

Anyway the Test Train rumbled off to Yarmouth again, and 10 minutes later part three of our Diesel Gala arrived in the form of the Greater Anglian Class 37 Short Set. The snarling 37423 was leading with the immaculate large logo 37403 "Isle of Mull" on the back. There was also another funny photo opportunity. After the lurking in the undergrowth earlier in the afternoon 37423 decided to play a game of "peekaboo"!

37423 is an angry beast, and she showed it as she pulled away from Reedham.

Grahame departed and Tim and I returned to Yarmouth, where I picked up the car and drove home, but not for long. I still had one more thing to do and that was my regular video at Darsham. My battery was just about out at this point so I left it to the last second to start it. However the guys didn't disappoint and put on the promised show - cheers gents, hope we meet again soon.

Today on a preserved line with a maximum line speed of 25mpg there were 5 locos. On the mainline, doing proper work on Thursday there were 6 locos. We are so lucky in East Anglia to have these hauled services and I'm going to really make the most of them over the next couple of years. I'm not knocking heritage lines in the slightest - they are working museums and are essential for preserving our railway history. In a few years it will be our only chance to see these magnificent locomotives in action, but until then I'll carry on finding new places to capture the locos for posterity, as I really don't want the same pics as everyone else has. Not much fun in that. My thanks to Tim and Grahame for their company, the Colas drivers for being really nice blokes, the Norfolk Countryside for being so outstanding, but above all to the people who designed and built the Class 37 locos. I hope a lot of you are still around and take a real pride in yourselves whenever you hear one roar away as good as it was when it left the factory. You have brought a lot of people a lot of pleasure. Thank you.

Addendum:  Thanks to Richard Clinnick of RAIL magazine I can confirm that the 68 short set will remain top and tail with a DVT and 2 MkIII's.  This is mainly due to DRS drivers continuing to man the 68's, who don't sign for DVT's! Thanks for the clarification, Richard.

Also to my anonymous friend I'm sure you possess the intelligence to realise I cannot reply to comments I don't publish as then I'd know for sure who you were. Your comments will no longer be published so if you desire a conversation feel free to email me. thanks for being an avid reader of the blog though, and always being one of the first to comment :)