EAST GRINSTEAD MODEL RAILWAY CLUB 2015 EXHIBITION

Our fourth year at the East Grinstead Model Railway Club’s exhibition coincided with the club’s seventy-fifth anniversary. Arriving around 8.0 on the Saturday morning we were pleased to find ourselves setting up next to ‘Simply Southern’, our regular trading neighbours at this event with whom we always manage to spend the weekend sharing humorous banter and life philosophies. Meeting up with regular friends be they exhibitors, fellow traders or customers is always a joy at the events we attend throughout the year, even if we do only see some of them once a year!

Having enjoyed the traditional railway show breakfast of bacon rolls and tea, at 10.0 it was time to open the doors to the public and for the real activity on the displayed layouts to begin. Not surprisingly the exhibition featured many layouts with a Southern bias, but there were also those representing continental and American locations.

For me, the railway element of a layout is only part of the attraction. Many contain beautifully crafted townscapes and street scenes. Jean Luc-Pineau’s ‘Bohemia to Albion Road’ depicted a fictitious line somewhere in West London in the late sixties, with a wonderful period feel to the surrounding roads and buildings.

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‘Cannon’s Reach’, displayed by the host club showed us a small dockside on the Kent side of the Thames shortly after the First World War, with three levels depicting a busy street complete with an operating tramcar, the main line to London and the dockside at river level respectively.

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Others afford us a glimpse into old rural England as we like to imagine it such as Chris Bassett’s ‘Hobbs Hill’, a Southern Region layout somewhere in Devon around 1960.

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The EGMRC Exhibitions are now a regular feature of the Junction Ten events calendar and we would like to thank them as always for their hospitality.

For information of the East Grinstead Model Railway Club visit http://www.egmrc.org.uk.

ANY COLOUR AS LONG AS IT’S POPPY RED OR LEAF GREEN….. OR WHITE.

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It was sometime in the autumn of 1972 when I caught my first sight of it. Arriving at Victoria Coach Station on a Southdown express coach from Crawley and seeing all the other coaches in their various operator liveries one vehicle in particular caught my eye. It was painted white all over with the word NATIONAL in red and blue with a double ‘N’ insignia formed like an arrow along the sides and much smaller ‘Midland Red’ fleetnames above the front wheel arches. A couple more turned up from various other companies and it slowly dawned on me what was actually happening and I have to confess that unlike many other bus observers at the time, rather than being horrified I actually had positive feelings about this.

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I remember having those same positive feelings when for the first time I saw a London Country SM newly adorned in the National Bus Company’s corporate leaf green. Given that we all knew that the inherited London Transport image would soon fade away and that the London Country livery hadn’t really had time to settle in (similarly with the short lived Alder Valley maroon), the NBC colours looked quite smart. Around that time there was a TV commercial showing vehicles from all the NBC fleets parading around an airstrip in their new colours, it all looked rather impressive. The policy was simple, poppy red for the ‘red’ companies (e.g East Kent, Ribble) and leaf green for the ‘green’ companies (e.g London Country, Eastern National). There was also a blue variant for the few companies using that colour but sadly this was short lived. Dual-purpose vehicles (i.e bus bodies with coach seating) were painted white from the waist up, while coaches were all-over white.  Yes, of course it had occurred to me that we were losing the handsome colours of the neighbouring  Southdown and Maidstone And District fleets but, hey, this was 1972, time for change!

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The stumbling point for the new look was that it rarely suited the variety of older vehicles being operated by the component companies of the NBC. Southdown’s ‘Queen Mary’ PD3s took on a rather drab look, while many single deckers found themselves without any form of the white relief that had been applied to the double deckers. Ironically the London Country RTs looked fine when they received it in 1977. On newer buses the change of colours was not so painful, many carried it rather well, while NBC’s new standard single decker, the equally loathed and loved Leyland National had the advantage of rarely having worn anything else, similarly the case with the Bristol VRT as the chosen standard double decker.

The individual liveries of the component companies had largely vanished by the mid-seventies leaving what was in my opinion a rather neat and unified look. True, at first glance a Maidstone and District Leyland National in Tunbridge Wells looked indistinguishable from the Southdown one parked behind it, but while the colours may have been the same, details such as the style of lettering on destination blinds and internal publicity differed from one company to another. Anyway, a true bus enthusiast could ‘smell’ the difference between a Ribble Bristol VRT and a Cumberland one! The all-over white livery of the coach fleet was gradually improved with the addition of red and blue ‘go faster’ stripes over the front wheel arches.

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For many observers though, the image was too unified and generally unloved and many welcomed the prospect of a return to the individual colours upon the sale of the component companies in the mid-eighties. This, however, was short lived as the new giants of the bus industry, Stagecoach, FirstBus and Arriva snapped up much of what was left in the wake of the NBC’s demise. One corporate image was replaced by three and somehow, to me at least, they have never looked the part. The NBC image, plain as it may have been, was at least applied traditionally and in traditional colours with the individual operators fleetnames retained. Call me old fashioned but buses in purple and pink, blue with orange swirls or in turquoise and beige just don’t look right to me. A Bristol VRT or Leyland National in leaf green or poppy red looked ready to take me anywhere and wherever it ended up, there would be another one to take me further, with maybe a white coach to take me further still. Bland? Maybe. Ubiquitous? Certainly. Neat, unified and practical? Most definitely.

 

THE JOYS (AND THE PERILS) OF THE OPEN TOP.

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So, you’re strolling along the promenade, soaking up the sun and taking in the sea air with half an hour or so to kill. At a bus stop alongside you an open top bus pulls up with decals promising “Breathtaking Sea Views”. There can be no finer way to admire the coastal scenery.

Brighton, Hove and District started it all back in 1936 with a small fleet of specially built double deckers painted in a cream livery, a trend soon copied by almost every operator within sight of the sea.

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The ride can be stunning. From the sixties through to the eighties Devon General’s Torquay to Brixham service with it’s ‘Sea Dog’ Leyland Atlanteans was always a joy, riding along the cliffs and hills beside the bay and deviating from the regular route to hug the coastline at every available opportunity. During the same period Southdown’s route 102 from Brighton to Arundel could boast at being the world’s longest open top service. Currently Wilts and Dorset’s service linking Bournemouth with Swanage is highly recommended with it’s unhindered views of Purbeck (looking up at the hills- no windows or bodywork remember!) and a ride on the Sandbanks Chain Ferry thrown in. On the Isle of Wight Southern Vectis’s ‘Island Breezer’ climbing out of Alum Bay to the Needles Battery is simply wonderful, though you do need a good head for heights.

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It must be remembered though that these services are at the mercy of the fickle seaside climate as I discovered on Brighton and Hove’s route 77 to Devil’s Dyke. “Breeze Up To The Downs” it said on the side of the bus. They weren’t kidding, “Breathtaking Sea Views” meant just that! I could have retreated to the lower deck but I was among a dozen (fool)hardy souls who were being terribly British about this, determined to have our open top bus ride by the sea and damn well enjoy it!

There are of course the open top tourist buses giving guided tours and running commentaries in our major towns and cities. Being tour buses they are more expensive but they can offer a superb opportunity to see the sights from a very different angle, the  unrestricted views looking up at the tall buildings while on the move on the London tours are impressive.

For me the real joy of the open toppers is when they generally operate as normal buses, either substituting traditional vehicles or as summer services superimposed on the normal timetables. Panoramic views and a chance to travel with the locals, all for the price of a bus ticket.

Geoff.

IT WAS SIXTY YEARS AGO TODAY……..

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RM1, the first prototype Routemaster was unveiled to the press and bus industry at Earls Court. It wasn’t a stunning debut, it’s single-box destination screen and square ‘flat front’ look compared unfavourably to it’s predecessor the RT, as did the huge LT bulls-eye where the radiator should have been (it was located underneath).

It wasn’t a unanimous success when it entered service two years later, drivers found it difficult adapting to it’s lightweight construction and semi-automatic gearbox. Along with three other prototypes it spent a short life in and out of service undergoing structural and mechanical alterations before being retired as a training vehicle at the end of the ‘fifties.

After five years of research and development the first production models finally entered service in 1959, initially replacing the electric trolleybuses in the suburbs before being entrusted to the busy central London routes, by which time other major cities had introduced the more modern front entrance Leyland Atlanteans and Daimler Fleetlines, the Routemaster now looking somewhat out dated.

It wasn’t until around 1963, after much tweaking and fine tuning that the Routemaster settled into the shape and design that we came to know, and Londoners came to love. For a while it was just another bus, sharing the streets with the RT’s until their withdrawal in 1979, coinciding with near full scale driver only operation across the rest of the country. I believe it’s at this point, nearly five years beyond it’s original life expectancy that the RM became became an icon, making London the only place where you could still ride an open platform bus with a conductor.

After several failed attempts to replace it with something more ordinary and functional, the last Routemaster in normal service rolled into Brixton garage at the end of 2005. Ten years later it’s successor, the New Routemaster is settling in on the capital’s streets, just as controversial and facing the same indifference from the press and industry as it’s predecessor, but many Londoners are taking to it and it’s enthusiastically received by visitors to the capital. A few original RM’s survive on a heritage route across London, sometimes sharing road space with their descendants allowing visions of past, present and maybe future icons of the London street scene.

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Happy Birthday RM1

Geoff Nash.

People of Reading LOVE Their Buses!

 

For once there’ll be no bus talk from me. Well, maybe a little but nothing too technical, for while the 2014 open day at Reading Buses depot in Great Knollys Street inevitably attracted the usual crowd of bus enthusiasts, the event was aimed at the citizens of Reading who attended in their droves, all coming to admire and pay their respects to the good efforts of their local transport provider.

 People thronged to the event


People thronged to the event

They have a lot to be proud of. The main mission of Reading Buses seems to be good public relations, this being the main core of their recruitment and training, their bus drivers holding a PCV licence only being part of the job requirement.

Then there’s the branding. Long gone are the days of the corporation crimson and white livery, each route is identified by a colour which is perpetuated by the vehicles running the service, through the timetable postings and even the bus stop flags, thus if you’re living along the No 17 route then the purple bus IS your bus, and that’s how the customers using the service see it: it is THEIR bus, with the drivers being regarded as neighbours or the local shopkeepers. Backing this up with a frequent and reliable service while being truly answerable and accessible to the customers makes it clear to see why the operation is held in high esteem by the locals.

Throughout the open day a selection of vehicles, one of each of the route colours is parked in a semi circle around the trading stalls and partially obscured by other displays and attractions. The high point for many comes at the end of the day when the area is cleared to reveal what is referred to as the Rainbow of Buses which then depart in a line to run a cavalcade around the town.

Junction Ten Merchandising

Junction Ten Merchandising

The pride and admiration for the local buses was clearly reflected in the sales of our merchandise, with any key ring or magnet with a modern Reading bus being quickly snapped up by those who regularly used them, everybody wanted to take THEIR bus home with them! Of course, there were some enthusiasts who bought items depicting the older Reading vehicles but the emphasis was on the modern and the new, this being another key factor in the public image of Reading Buses.

The company have been at the forefront of running vehicles on alternative fuels, be it hybrid-electrics or gas powered buses and they are keen to let it be known on the vehicles and in the service publicity. This has resulted in some people (regular customers as well as enthusiasts) going for a ride just to “try out” the new bus.

The latest addition to the fleet, the gas powered Leopard

The latest addition to the fleet, the gas powered Leopard

I have never known a bus operator to be held so dearly by it’s customers. Of course there are other companies who have worked hard at creating a good public image, but the people of Reading LOVE their buses as we discovered when Reading Buses became the first “fleet” in our merchandise to completely sell out at a trading day.

Launchpad stand

Launchpad stand

The proceeds of the day’s event went to their charity of the year, Launchpad, a local charity that helps the most vulnerable and disadvantaged people in Reading to turn their lives around and fulfil their potential.

The start of the rainbow...

The start of the rainbow…

....and the end

….and the end

Thanks and congratulations to all at Reading Buses for a very enjoyable day.

Geoff Nash.