2005 Bus Tour weekend:   
29 April - 1 May 2005   

 

Here’s a report on the 2005 weekend.   More pictures are available through Paul Hollinghurst’s website - click here.

   Friday 29 April 2005


Photo: Paul Hollinghurst

Afternoon visit to the Mersey Ferry boat, the tsmv Snowdrop (formerly the Woodchurch).   The vessel is the last of the three ex-Birkenhead Corporation boats to be rebuilt and re-engined, and (sacrilegiously) given traditional Wallasey Corporation names.    We were given a talk by Eugene Davies of Mersey Ferries and then taken down in smaller groups to look round the engine room.   We stayed for two hours - such was the level of interest, we could have easily stayed for twice as long.


Photo: David Ellis

A LUPTS bus tour weekend first - a Friday evening visit.   This was to a garden railway in Wirral.   The railway runs between stations, each of which is housed in a separate shed, and each controlled by its own operator.   Communication between the sheds is by bell codes using genuine signalling equipment.   Again, we could have stayed there for hours, but most people stayed until about 21:30 in preparation for the exciting day ahead.   [It should be noted that there were certain absentees - the attraction of Tranmere Rovers v Port Vale being too much for them.   1-0 seeing as you ask.]


Photo: Charles Roberts/Online Transport Archive (CCR26131)

FRIDAY AFTERNOON’S CAPTION COMPETITION

  • I wonder whether this will squeeze under the bonnet of an ex-Blackburn Guy Arab.
    • CCR, Upton


Photo: David Ellis

FRIDAY EVENING’S CAPTION COMPETITION

  • The rumour goes round that there’s a TV set showing Desperate Housewives somewhere in the building.
    • CCR, Upton
  • Mrs Parry takes charge of the first evening Care in the Community outing.
    • Mrs Parry, Heswall 
  • We apologise to visitors for the delay to services. This is due to a leaf on the line.
    • AM-R, Nottingham
  • World Gurning Championships get off to a slow start.
    • AP, Torino 

  Saturday 30 April 2005

THE KNOTTS AND DERBY RAMBLER

A report by Jonathan A Cadwallader:

The weather on the morning of Saturday 30th April was not unexpected but was nonetheless unwelcome. A large proportion of our prospective travellers sought shelter from the steady drizzle under the canopy of a Tithebarn Street office block whilst awaiting the arrival of our bus, due at 08:00. A phone call from Charles Roberts at 07:54 informed me that the Birkenhead pick-up time of 07:45 had not been met. Anyone who has organised a tour will tell you that it is always a considerable relief to hear that the tour vehicle has turned up so I was pleased to learn on ringing Charles at 08:00 that he was aboard B962WRN on the M53 and was heading our way. I informed those around me and contacted Mark Telfer, our man in Oxford Street, to do the same.


Austerity tank engine at the head of the 10:34 train from Froghall which carried the LUPTS party. Photo: Charles Roberts/Online Transport Archive (CCR26148)

Anticipating possible traffic delays on the M6, I had built in some recovery time to the schedule, so that as we left Liverpool I was still optimistic that we would arrive at the Churnet Valley Railway in time for the 10:34 train. Our Olympian with its new gearbox was not quite as speedy as I would have wished but the M6 was clear of congestion and we were still on course to catch the train as we left the A500 for the A52 in Stoke-on Trent, pausing to pick-up Dave Ventry and daughter Sarah.

This tour had been planned around the central attraction of the new tram line in Nottingham with the other venues ‘bolted on’. Having decided upon the Churnet Valley Railway I then had to address what became the most difficult problem - where to find a bus. A return trip on the railway was a necessity owing to the lack of a station at Leek Brook Junction and a weak bridge and narrow roads in Cheddleton. Using the A52 as therefore unavoidable, but I had noticed some unfriendly looking tree branches overhanging parts of the road when I was planning the tour. This ruled out using a normal height double decker of 14’-6”. Double deckers are thin on the ground these days on Merseyside and low height ones are rare specimens. I discussed the problem with Keith “First” Nason, whom undertook to investigate possibilities within First Group. In the meantime I spoke with John Cherry of Aintree Coachline. Although his fleet is largely 14’-6” or more in height, he had acquired an ex-Ribble Olympian, fleet number 2162, largely for sentimental reasons. At just 13’-8” it seemed ideal for our tour. The problem was solved and with the bus based at Eastham we could offer a Wirral pick-up point.


Man and granddaughter get in way of picture of a Class 33 at the other end of the LUPTS train. Photo: Paul Hollinghurst

Thus it was that our party of 30 adults, 9 seniors and 6 children arrived at Kingsley and Froghall station with 10 minutes to spare before the train departed. John and Hillary Jenkins joined us for the train trip, complete with granddaughter Lucy. The diesel fans were pleased to see a class 33 on the rear of our train, probably a wise precaution as 6 Mark 1 coaches were perhaps taxing for an Austerity 0-6-0ST on wet rails! A number of the party took advantage of the buffet car as we trundled down the line through the lush vegetation, never far from the River Churnet and the Caldon Canal. Through the drizzle could be seen a pub where, many years ago, Charles and I had endured a meal of burnt roast boot served by a landlady with an inch of ash hanging from the tip of her Woodbine. We haven’t been back ...

[Given the criticism I got for my comments about the Coventry Railway Centre last year, I would like to dissociate myself from the last sentence. Ed.]

A quick reversal at Leek Brook Junction saw the class 33 take up the strain. After a brief stop at Cheddleton we returned to Kingsley where 2162 was waiting. The climb out of the Valley was steep as we barely missed more low trees, eventually proving to be too much for the Gardner engine in second gear and we had to stop for John Cherry to engage the crawler first. We eventually breasted the summit and then encountered better weather as the rain stopped and the sun began to break through. Our route took us via the edge of Ashbourne and through Derby. A brief glimpse of Toton Traction Maintenance Depot was to be had from the right hand side of the bus as we headed east.

Approaching Nottingham we engaged Humpage Navigation. As Adrian lives near the city this was an eminently sensible move and he ably guided the driver to our set-down point alongside Midland Station before taking the opportunity to explore the same places that he goes to every Saturday! 2162 was to meet us at the northern terminus of the tram route in Hucknall, so I left my OS map with John Cherry and wished him luck in finding it! The tour passengers had been given details of tram times and stops in the itinerary but I was not optimistic that everyone would reach Hucknall by 15:00, our scheduled departure time.


The Nottingham Express Transit terminus at HucknallPhoto: Chris Poole (after R E Jowitt)

I spent my time in Nottingham in the company of Charles and Dave Parker. Various photos were taken and a bit of Great Central Railway trackbed noted before we walked along the tram route to Old Market Square. Some sort of festival was in progress, complete with Caribbean music. Dave said that it reminded him of the Town Square in Warsaw. I must have missed the Jamaican Quarter when I was there ...

A well loaded tram for Hucknall arrived at the nearby stop and we climbed aboard. Various other members of the party were already there, clutching 1.20 apiece to hand to the conductor. It was as predicted, standing room only, thus obscuring a Nottingham Forest fan from the view of Charles as he mused upon the misfortune of the recently relegated team with his usual tact. However the comment was not overheard so he didn’t end up being tied to the rails or suspended from his own organiser. [My comment, on passing through the stop at Highbury Vale, was that this would be the closest Nottingham would get to Highbury for many years. Ed.]  The tram was well patronised to the end of the line and such a high level of use will hopefully bolster the case for further routes in due course.

My doubts about the ability of all our passengers to tear themselves away from city centre hostelries in time to reach Hucknall for 15:00 were unfounded, although there was a 10 minute delay due to a faulty
tram being taken out of service. We made our way out of Hucknall to the M1 before taking the A38 to join the A610 at Ripley. Although I could have found a way around it, the 13’-9” railway bridge at Ambergate was another good reason for hiring 2162. As we approached it we must have triggered a beam as a roadside sign flashed “OVERHEIGHT VEHICLE - TURN AROUND!” at us as we accelerated towards an exciting moment in the lives of those sitting at the front of the top deck. I had always had every confidence that we would fit through unscathed and there was no need for Dave Richards to carry a black bag upstairs to pick up the odd detached head. It was notable though that Dave “Network Rail” Ventry had left the tour in Nottingham!


Approaching, very slowly, the low bridge at Ambergate, the webmaster bravely risks his life to get this photograph.   Photo: Charles Roberts/Online Transport Archive (CCR26170)


The LUPTS party aboard the railcar.  Photo: David Richards

Joining the A6, we paused briefly to observe the ex- Liverpool Corporation Leyland Panther that has done duty as a roadside cafe for more years than it was in use as a bus before turning up the B5023 to Wirksworth. At the end of the day a number of participants told me how much they had enjoyed our tour of the Wirksworth Station area at the Ecclesbourne Valley Railway. This pleased me considerably as I had felt that this line had a great potential from the first time that I saw the site about 10 years ago, a long time before WyvernRail came into being. It is unusual amongst heritage railways in that it is a complete branch line, linking a town with a main line junction. Although it is still early days in the life of the new operator the staff have made very rapid progress in the last 2 years and the local support is very encouraging. I was very pleased to be able to incorporate it in our tour and would suggest a return visit in a few years. We were welcomed by officials from WyvernRail who outlined progress and plans before a short trip to Gorsey Bank and back on the single unit Gloucester RCW railcar. A tour of the station yard followed with the tunnel linking to a nearby quarry being a particularly unusual feature.

I had contacted the Wirksworth Fish Bar a week before the tour to let them know that a ravenous horde would be in town. They told me that they always had chips on the go which I thought was a wise move considering the business that they were in. They were anxious that a large number would want to eat in but I assured them that our group would stand around outside making the town centre look untidy. So it proved. I stood on a kerb acting as lollipop man for the young and old sans confectionery whilst most of the party went to get battered (cod). I am assured that the chips were top grade and it was a well fed bus load that returned via the A6 through Matlock, Buxton and Stockport. An unexpected route via Manchester was taken by our assistant driver but the return to Liverpool was only slightly later than planned and I left the bus outside “The Head of Steam” on Lime Street at the end of a very satisfying day.

My thanks to John Cherry and all who helped out before and during the day.


The compulsory group photograph.   The party pose in front of the tour vehicle at Wirsksworth.   Photo: Chris Poole

 


Photo: Mark Telfer

SATURDAY’S CAPTION COMPETITION

  • Wonder whether I can get a drive if I garble something in Polish - it works in Posnan.
    • CCR, Upton
  • Now where did that shovel go ...?
    • DFGR, Crosby
  • Modern re-make of the old Southern Railway poster fails to capture the excitement of the original.
    • AP, Torino
  • Dave considers just how successful his engineering business is, as he looks at latest release.
    • RM, Crosby
  • Confusion over the concept of scale makes wonder whether his O-gauge Austerity is a bit oversize, but it does explain why construction took longer than planned.
    • CCR, Upton
  • Hmmm ... I wonder if those sausages are done yet?
    • JC, Crosby

For the non-cognoscenti, Dave Parker is the proprietor of Buxton Model Works.

The day was all a bit too much for some people (photos courtesy of Dave Parry):

  Sunday 1 May 2005


Photo: Dave Parry

Sunday lunch at The Chimneys in Hooton Green.


Photo: Charles Roberts/Online Transport Archive (CCR26120)

Then a visit to the nearby Hooton Park.   Based around three First World War hangars, on land at the edge of the massive Vauxhall car factory site.   The history of the site was explained to us, from its earliest days as a manor house, racecourse and polo field, then  becoming an airfield and an RAF station before closing in the 1950s.  A preservation group want to restore the hangars and they already have a display of memorabilia associated with the site (and some joke exhibits - see left).  [Again, it should be noted than some people decided on an alternative venue - this time Cheshire Oaks.]  


Photo: Dave Parry

There was even time for an impromptu visit to some preserved vehicles on a nearby farm.  The very packed weekend finished at about 17:00 or so.


Photo: Charles Roberts/Online Transport Archive (CCR26187)

SUNDAY’S CAPTION COMPETITION

  • Mr Fraser wonders whether his first post-retirement challenge is a little bit on the ambitious side.
    • CCR, Upton
  • At the presentation Mr Fraser’s delight at having been chosen to receive his RAF Wings quickly turns to despair.
    • AP, Torino
  • Hmmm ... looks like I’m going to have to buy a bigger tube of polystyrene cement.
    • JC, Crosby

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Last updated: 10 November 2014


Charles Roberts/LUPTS 2005/2014