Wednesday, August 1

Eclipse bus ride to Hovercraft Museum at Lee On Solent

Had a bit of a day out to visit Lee On Solent and the Hovercraft Museum. The museum isn't normally open so just walked along Marine Parade to take photos of the hovercraft from the road. Also used the Fareham to Gosport Eclipse bus service as a part of the trip and that was interesting to.

First of all I took the bus from Waterlooville to Cosham, then took another bus from Cosham to Fareham. At Fareham had some lunch in the Whistler fish and chip shop/restaurant. Then walked to the bus station to get the Eclipse bus to Gosport.

E1 Eclipse bus
The Eclipse buses are pretty cool inside, they have leather passenger seats and the buses know where they are on the route, so can display electonic info about the next bus stop. A display at the front of the bus shows the stops coming up and where the bus is on the route. At the bottom of the display is a little news 'ticker' that displays the latest news (I think it is BBC news).
As well as the display, a programmed voice says what the name of the next bus stop is. A few metres from the bus stop the voice says 'arriving at' followed by the bus stop name.

The great thing is that this technology actually works and the voice guidance means you don't have to ask the bus driver or passengers where to get off if you are unfamiliar with the route.

The other cool thing about the bus service is the bus and cycle only road that it travels along for part of the route. The road was built on an old rail track, so it is long and straight. In fact this stretch has a speed limit of 40 miles an hour with no other traffic other than some cyclists. Actually that is the other great thing about the road, it's perfect for cyclists. See the video I took (note the video was taken on the return journey):

You'll notice the automated bus stop announcements in the video and also it's just like travelling on a train or tram! Even the bus stops look like train stations. Other parts of the route are normal and I would say the E2 service is quicker than the E1 service for getting between Fareham centre and Gosport centre.
Another cool thing I haven't shown are the special maps at each stop that have a circle on them indicating the 15 minute walking radius from the bus stop to show what is within range of the stop. The same idea I had here with my google map and 1 mile walking circle.

At Gosport I had to change buses again and took a 34 to Lee On Solent.

Below is a photo of one of the huge SRN4 hovercraft at the museum, in this case The Princess Margret which I think was 'stretched' later in its life. A relative of mine worked for BHC at Cowes in the late 1960s and I had the privilege as a child to go up into the cockpit of one of these when it was being repaired at the Cowes factory. These beasts are the biggest hovercraft ever built and carried cars and passengers across the channel to France before the channel tunnel was built.


There are two smaller hovercraft parked in front of the SRN4, but I don't know what they are, I think one is a military vehicle. 

Below is a close up of the vehicle entrance of the SRN4. Not sure what the two window cabin inside the vehicle deck is for. I think its either for cabin crew/staff access to the passenger deck via the vehicle deck, or maybe contains control panels, or is for access to the engines??

SRN4 main door to vehicle deck

Talking of military hovercraft there was a military looking vehicle parked at the front of the musuem, painted navy grey. I don't have a clue what that cylindrical tower is for (see photo below). A look out post?? On the opposite side is a crane, so I assume it is some sort of amphibious recovery vehicle.

In the to the rear you can see the 2nd SRN4 at the museum, minus the propellors and a Hoverspeed logo on one of the tail fins.

Military vehicle with 'tower'

Whilst I was there a young lad was testing out a small hovercraft, unfortunately I didn't get any video, just a photo:

Operational small hovercraft

Haven't been to Lee On Solent shopping centre before, but was quite impressed with it's two butchers, a grocers and a fish monger!It was just like an old shopping centre and seemed quite busy.

Part of Lee On Solent shopping centre

Overall seems like a pleasant place. I think if I were to do the journey again, I would take the bus down to Gosport Ferry, take the ferry across and then the number 34 or 4 to Lee On Solent. Might be a bit more expensive, but fewer bus changes.

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