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Rolling blog: dodging the rain…

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11:55.

Having been busy at home this morning I’m escaping from the office for a few hours to get some pictures of the latest investment in rail in the Leeds area. You know, the stuff Joe Rukin of ‘StopHs2’ claimed back in 2018 wasn’t happening as there’s no rail investment for the next 20 years “anywhere on the network” because HS2 had sucked up all the money! You can watch him lie through his teeth here.

It’s not an ideal day for getting out and about as the weather’s pretty crap, but I’m under time constraints as there’s a lot to see in the next month. The changes in the rail network are ramping up as more and more new trains are introduced and work continues to expand the network. On the bright side, the rain means there might be some good shot reflection shots to be had. Let’s see how it goes…

12:25.

As you can see, the weather’s best described as “changeable”!

14:20.

As is my wont, I’m taking the scenic route into Leeds! I changed trains at at Bradford and walked between the two stations. It breaks the monotony of taking the same route all the time and gives me chance to see something different. I’ve added to the detour by taking a trip out to Ilkley, where I’ve not been for a little while.

16:07.

I’m heading to Leeds, honest! I’ve just got sidetracked as it were. After Ilkley I stopped off at Baildon, which is a station on the single track link from Guisley to Shipley. The original station building still survives, although it’s been vacated by the tyre company that had been using it. Despite that, the stations environs are kept looking smart by the local station friends group. I’d not been here since 2010 and there were a couple of photo opportunities (despite the weather) so I decided to stop off.

18:30.I’ve finally made it to Leeds after even more detours and an Aire valley rail service that’s suffereing from lots of delays. It was worth it. The new station concourse may still be a work in progress, but it’s looking good! As well as the cleaned up concourse the old gateline has been removed and a new oone comissioned which-whilst it might be slightly smaller, provides much more room for folk as they flood off trains in the morning rush.

19:21.

Having got a selection of useful shots I’ve called ot a day and I’m heading home, bouncing my way from Leeds to Halifax aboard a Pacer bound for Huddersfield. With the teething problems associated with the new CAF built units, I wonder how long these sets have left?

On October 21st the CAF 195s are meant to take over the recently introduced hourly Leeds – Chester service, which will see the first of the units operating passenger services through the Calder Valley. This should free up a few 150x type units to displace more Pacers.

22:10.

I’m back home in the warm and dry and not a moment too soon! It’s a foul night! The rain started the minute I got off the train in Halifax and it’s not stopped since, the wind’s sprung up and all I can hear is the rustling of the trees and torrents of water running off the terraced garden walls outside my office window. To finish, here’s a small selection of shots from today. You’ll be able to find the full set on my Zenfolio website tomorrow.

331110 calls at Baildon whilst working 2D64, the 1516 Bradford Forster Square to Ilkley.
The 322s won’t be around for much longer but for now they’re hanging on. Here’s 322481 working 2D63, the 1451 Ilkley to Bradford Forster Square.
Inside the leading vehicle of 322481, showing the rather dated moquette and 3+2 seating layout.
There was a lot of late running on the Aire and Wharfdale services today. Here’s 322482 approaching Shipley. It was running empty as 5S40, the 1640 Bradford Forster Square to Skipton as was taken off the service it was diagrammed to work due to the driver turning up late.
Here’s 5Z75, the 1636 Skipton Broughton Rd C.S. to Skipton driver training run seen at Bingley on the return trip. These diagrams run to Shipley before reversing.
One of TPE’s new Nova 3 sets at Leeds this evening
Journey’s end. My Pacer’s a blur as it pulls out of Halifax on its way to Huddersfield
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The latest anti HS2 dross from the Adam Smith Institute.

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It’s been several weeks since the last load of rubbish about ‘alternatives’ to HS2, so the right-wing lobbyists, sorry ‘think tank’, at the Adam Smith Institute have dug up self-styled ‘rail expert’ Adrian Quine to cobble together the latest one. It’s a bit like Frankenstein’s monster, it’s made up of loads of old parts from previous ‘alternatives’ plus some new stuff that’s completely made up – as you’ll see shortly.

But who is Adrian Quine I hear you ask? Good question, I had to ask that too as I’ve never encountered him in all my years of working with or commenting on the railways. On Twitter he bills himself as a “Thought leadership consultant” (Gawd! Ed) as well as an ex-BBC broadcaster & “occasional Telegraph columnist”. So, no operational or practical experience of the railways then! Some ‘expertise’. Of course, the rail industry is quite familiar with ex-BBC types claiming that their stint at the Beeb makes them experts at everything.

Quine’s long, cobbled-together piece can be found at this link. Titled “Don’t railroad it through: Rethinking HS2” It’s clear that “rethinking” in many cases means “let’s just make it up and hope me claiming to be an ‘expert’ gives me credibility I don’t deserve”!

Here’s a few examples. This is from the opening page.

” Under HS2, a number of key northern cities destinations will lose direct trains to London, including Lancaster, Carlisle and Durham”

Really? And what evidence is offered to support this claim? A link to an HS2 document on the Crewe hub that contains an illustration of a possible service pattern that’s used for modelling purposes and that’s clearly labelled as such, and err – that’s it…

Now, you would expect a ‘railway expert’ to know that any timetable and stopping pattern on HS2 and the East and West coast main lines won’t be decided by HS2 Ltd. It will be decided by the Department of Transport, along with input from Network Rail. So this claim is demonstrably false.

There’s more…

There are still sections of railway where 4 tracks are reduced to 3 or even 2 creating bottlenecks and severely limiting further growth. The mainlines do not directly serve cities such as Birmingham, Manchester or Leeds, requiring the use of slower regional connecting lines that halve speeds for the final 20-40 miles.

Leaving aside the fact that the line from London to Birmingham is the original main line (not a ‘regional connecting line’) and that Hs2 will be running into Curzon St, the site of the original London & Birmingham railway station, Quine has shot himself in the foot. This isn’t an argument against HS2, it’s an argument FOR it. The idea that you could four-track the line from Rugby to Birmingham through Coventry except at massive expense, disruption and destruction is risible – and 4-track a live main line whilst it’s still in daily operation? Oh, please!

Next we have this:

“maximising current infrastructure by targeting bottlenecks on conventional lines, including building flyovers at key junctions, upgrading the Chiltern route to Birmingham or reopening the southern section of the Great Central railway, raising line speeds to at least 125mph;”

Not these old chestnuts again? “targeting bottlenecks” is like playing ‘wack-a-mole’, all you do is move the problem elsewhere, as those involved in the Staffordshire Alliance work at Norton Bridge know only too well. You’d think a railway ‘expert’ would too, but that’s the problem with Quine’s work. There’s lots of airy statements about ‘solutions’ but no serious attempt at analysis of them because he’s not capable – and he’s clearly not talked to anyone who is, hence the equally daft claim that you can upgrade the Chiltern route. A few minutes talking with any of Chiltern’s Management team would soon have put him right on that one. Unfortunately, the document is no longer available on line, but back in (around) 2012-13. Chiltern Railways wrote to the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on High-Speed Rail in support of HS2. They pointed out that the Chiltern route could never be a substitute for HS2 as it didn’t have the capacity along the route, it was impossible to four track all of it and that there was no space left for extra services at Marylebone. Since then there’s even less as Chiltern have opened the new line to Oxford via Bicester. This is a complete non-starter, as any real ‘rail expert’ should know.

As for reopening the Great Central – give me strength! I blogged about that nonsense at length here. On page 23 Quine adds an extra dimension to this lunacy by suggesting that an “existing spur” between the WCML at Rugby and the Great Central at Rugby could be “reopened”

“Reopen the southern section of the Great Central railways far north as Rugby where it would connect with the WCML and a new or upgraded existing spur at Rugby from the WCML to Birmingham via Coventry and Birmingham Airport.”

What “existing spur”? The two lines were never ever linked! Will someone please buy Quine a map? Here’s the area surrounding Rugby station and I’ve highlighted the route of the old Great Central in Red. How on earth are you going to build a Southbound link between the two without demolishing large parts of Rugby? Oh, and if you did by some miracle manage to get it built, how are you going to deal with the fact several miles of the route is now designated as SSSI’s? Get past them and there’s the teeny little problem there’s no capacity left (and no space to build any more platforms) at Marylebone. The idea’s a complete non-starter.

On page 22 we’re told…

“The Euston Express proposal is designed to fully integrate both HS2 and classic WCML services into the existing station, rather than HS2 having a standalone station alongside”.

However, genuine rail expert William Barter tweeted this.

There’s much more. On page 11 Quine opines that,

“HS2 has unnecessarily used 400kph (250mph) speeds in its modelling to promote more impressive ‘end to end’ journey times.”

This is complete nonsense of course, and yet again William Barter (a man who knows a thing or two about such modelling) puts Quine right.

In fact, once Quine tweeted a link to this nonsense, a number of rail professionals and Journalists have jumped in and picked his rubbish to pieces. Here’s just a few examples.

You can find more at the #HS2 hashtag on Twitter. Suffice it to say, this rehash of failed ideas and fantasies is going nowhere. I could spend most of the day tearing it to pieces, but you get the gist. There’s all the usual nonsense about how digital signalling removes the need for HS2 (without the slightest analysis of how this works, especially on a mixed traffic railway), and just about every other excuse you can find. None of which are actually analysed or referenced. Many of the references listed in Quine’s article aren’t from academic sources or journals but from sources that you wouldn’t touch with a barge-pole! They include many media outlets like The Spectator and the Daily Mail, and those paragons of truth and accuracy, the Taxpayers Alliance!

But then Quine is hardly independent, as a few minutes browsing his Twitter account (@adrianquine) shows. He’s singing from the same libertarian, pro-Brexit, anti Hs2 song-sheet as the people he retweets, the odious Julia Hartley Brewer, the IEA’s Richard Wellings, Kate Hoey MP, Brexit Party funder Richard Tice and many others. This makes his next statement on page 26 especially laughable, and also deeply hypocritical.

“The rail industry is notoriously incestuous and is run almost entirely by engineers and career railway people rather than innovators”

Yet again the right-wing lobbyists try to turn their fire on HS2. Yet again they turn out to be using pop-guns….

Rolling blog: Pennine travels…

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10:06.

I’m out and about with the camera today, hoping to make the most of a spell of sunny weather to get a selection of client and library shots. Dawn gave me a lift into Huddersfield which was basking in beautiful sunshine but right now I’m ln a Trans-Pennine service heading West into Lancashire where I seem to have hit a weather front. The entrance to the Standedge tunnel appeared to be in fog, so my plans may have to be fluid. Let’s see how the day goes…

13:00.

Perhaps I was a little too optimistic with the weather, but for once, the rain Gods have smiled on me. After leaving Huddersfield I headed for Mossley, a station on Trans-Pennine line in Greater Manchester. There’s some great photo locations around the village, so I headed for a couple of familiar locations where footbridges cross the line with rather scenic backdrops for the pictures. I ended up playing hide and seek with the sun, but for once it played ball just as the train I was after appeared. Here’s the shots.

One of Northern’s new CAF built Class 195s passing Mossley whilst on an empty stock movement, 5Z07, the 0915 Allerton Depot to Huddersfield Sidings.
The one I was waiting for. One of TPE’s new Nova 3 sets which was working 1F60, the 0941 Scarborough to Liverpool Lime Street. It was signal checked right in front of me, allowing me to get several shots. Just as it arrived, the cloud cover broke and the sun arrived!
The signal check allowed me to ‘leg it’ to another nearby bridge an get a different shot. Here’s 68030 bringing up the rear.

Within a few minutes of getting these shots the sky turned dark and threatening, so I decided to beat a hasty retreat back into Mossley. It was a wise choice. I was within 200 yards of the station when the clouds burst and we were treated to yet another torrential downpour!

Right now the skies are clearing again and I’m deciding on the next move – possibly back towards Huddersfield. Let’s see…

15:31.

After a brief foray to Manchester to check out the light I’m now back in Mossley where I’ve grabbed a couple of useful shots of trains passing along the back of the homes and shops on the main road. The fact the railway is literally knocking on people’s back door causes such space constraints that you get scenes like this!

Whilst waiting for photo opportunities I made the mistake of checking the news too see the latest on the Brexitshambles. It is not good. The British (or more correctly, the English) have humiliated themselves in the face of European unity and the unwillingness of the EU 27 to cave in to Johnson’s unworkable ‘plan’ – and I use that word in the loosest sense. So now the blame game is in full swing, as it was always planned to be. Now we have the pathetic sight of the Leave campaign resorting to crude nationalism and German bashing. It’s sickening, but entirely predictable. Most Leavers don’t have the nous to see this is Schrodingers Brexit, where we can simultaneously have “taken back control” and be ‘bullied’ by the EU (and especially by Germany). It’s the ultimate in fcukwittery, but nothing surprises me about this country anymore.

18:15.

After crossing the bider back into Yorkshure I tried for a few shots around Marsden, then Slaithwaite, onky to find locations I used just a few years sgo are now obscured by tree growth. It’s one of those things that makes me laugh about the Woodland Trust’s scaremongering campaigns. I’ve been living in Yorkshire for less than a decade, but in that time I’ve seen tree growth rise and spread. Look back at old photos of West Yorkshire from the 1950s and the growth of woodland is even more apparent. I was left with just one option, go higher up the valley side. I’ll add pictures later. Of course, by the time I’d climbed a sodding great cloud appeared, but at keast kniw I know where I need to be in the future!

Right now I’m heading back to Manchester to get a few blurry night shots to add to the library. There has to be some advantages to the nights drawing in…

Another week begins…

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It’s been another damp start to the week here in the Calder Valley with little sign of autumn sunshine, just murky low cloud and mist. It’s a great excuse to stay indooers and catch up on paperwork, picture-editing and chores in the hope I can get out and about for the reat of the week to catch-up with the changes on the Northern rail network and also farther afield as I’ve a long list of shots that I need to get for a commission…

The weekend was a chance to have a lie-in and catch up on my sleep deficit, even if Jet (our cat) had other plans by waking me up at 06:20 on Saturday morning! The little bugger wanted feeding and made a real hue and cry until I did.

The weekend wasn’t all down time. I had to finish editing the pictures from the ACoRP awards ready for Monday morning, so the moggie did me a favour in some ways as I’d got them done by Saturday breakfast-time. On Sunday I started tackling another long-standing job – scanning the 1000s of old rail slides that I have to get them onto my Zenfolio website and available for sale. The album that’s in the queue now is pictures from 2000 when the railways looked very different. I scanned a small selection of pictures from the Manchester area, a few samples of which appear below. In those days Virgin trains were all still loco-hauled as the introduction of the Pendolinos and Voyagers were still a couple of years away. First group ran the North-Western franchise and used an assortment of old BR built trains, including first generation Class 101 DMUs built by Metropolitan-Cammell back in the late 1950s – early 1960s, along with old electric units cascaded from London and the South-East in the shape of ex-Eastern region slam-door Class 305s and 309s. Apart from the liveries, very little seemed to have changed then despite several years of privatisation, but change was certainly in the offing…

On the 14th April 2000 a pair of Metro-Cammell Class 101 DMUs pass at Guide Bridge whilst working services out to New Mills. On the left is 51230 and 45056 whilst the other pair is 51201 and 54347. All four cars were built in 1958. The last handful of 101s were withdrawn in 2003.
Former ‘Clacton’ unit 309623 stands in Manchester Piccadilly on the same day. Seven of the units were brought out of storage for use in the North-West in 1994 and remained in service until later in 2000. The 309s were BRs first 1000mph capable electric units.
Also on the 14th April 2000, Fragonset Railways 47712 crosses the Stockport viaduct whilst on hire to Virgin trains. It was working the 15:36 from Manchester Piccadilly to Birmingham New St. Fragonset went bust in 2006 and the loco was sold to Direct Rail Services (DRS) who still operate the engine to this day.

The Class 313s cling on to the South Coast

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The BR designed Class 313 EMUs have finally been withdrawn from service on the Great Northern routes out of Kings Cross and Moorgate and headed off to the scrapyard, but 19 of the Class hold out on Southern metals, working ‘Coastaway’ services centred on Brighton. Numbered 313201-217 and 313219-20, the units were converted and renumbered from former Silverlink Class 313/1’s that had been used on the North London and Watford DC lines before being displaced by the new Bombardier Class 378s. The 313s were refurbished at Wabtec, Doncaster where they received alterations to the seating and a Passenger Information System, but no toilets, which has proved controversial as they replaced Class 377 units which did have them fitted.

The units began operating on Southern from the May 2010 timetable change, working Eastwards from Brighton to Lewes and Seaford and West to Littlehampton. Nowadays they operate as far afield as Portsmouth in the West and Ore in the East. Southern has no plans to replace its Class 313s. The franchise runs until 2021, so expect them to be in service until after any franchise change. Here’s a selection of images showing their area of operations.

The first of the class, 313201, stands at Shoreham-by-Sea whilst working a service to Brighton on the 8th June 2018. This unit has been repainted by its owners (Beacon rail) in the old BR blue-grey livery, albeit with doors that are DDA compliant.
On the 13th November 2015 31202 (left) and 313217 (right) pass at Lewes whilst working Coastaway services to the East of Brighton.
It’s the 1st July 2014 and 313203 pulls away from a stop at Emsworth (East of Havant) with a Brighton bound service.
313204 arrives in Brighton from Seaford on the 11th November 2015.
It’s the 7th June 2018 and 313204 is reversing in the turnback siding at West Worthing ready to return to Brighton. A number of services from Brighton terminate at this location.
313205 at rest in Brighton Lover’s Walk sidings on the 10th November 2015.
On the 1st July 2014, 313206 comes off the Bognor Regis branch at Barnham with a service to Brighton.
On the same day as the previous shot, 313208 sits in platform 1 at Littlehampton before working a service back to Brighton.
On the 30th June 2014, 313209 is between trips at the single platform terminus of the Seaford branch before heading back to Brighton.
A look at the interior of 313209, showing how the original seats have been replaced with typical Southern-style seats as used in their Electostar fleet.
On the 10th November 2015 313210 sits at Brighton’s wooden platform 8 before working along the coast to Seaford with an early evening service.
313212 leaves Hove with a service to Brighton. The lines off to the left are the Cliftonville spur which carry traffic North towards London, avoiding Brighton station. 10th November 2015.
On the same day and looking in the opposite direction to the previous picture, 313213 pulls out of Hove station with a Brighton service.
It’s the 30th June 2014 and 313214 (left) and 313208 sit in platforms 2 and 1 which are used exclusively by trains heading to Hove and the West.
Another view of platforms 1 and 2 taken on the same day as the previous picture, only this time the units are 313203 (left) and 313215 (right).
A shot of the promotional branding applied to 313215.
On the 24th July 2019 313216 calls at Angmering (West of Brighton) with the service back to the South coast town.
313217 leaves Hastings and prepares to enter the tunnel towards St Leonards Warrior Square whilst working a Brighton service on the 12th November 2015.
313219 rounds the curve past the old goods yard which in now a housing estate as it approaches Goring-by-Sea station from the West on the 8th June 2018.
On the 30th June 2014 313220 arrives at Newhaven Town whilst working a service to Seaford.

The evening after the night before…

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This isn’t going to be a long blog. The pair of us are starting to flag after getting to bed at 03:30 this morning before getting up again just a few hours later at 07:30, but it was well worth it. The ACoRP awards was a fabulous night that went without a hitch due to the great team that delivered the event. The full list of winners can be found here on the ACoRP website.

The days when Community Rail was seen as a sideshow and something eccentric or even irrelevant are long gone. Now the awards are seen as a ‘must attend’ event and have the support of the Department of Transport, Network Rail and the Train Operating Companies themselves, hence the regular attendance of the DfT’s Peter Wilkinson and Network Rail’s Chief executive Andrew Haines to name but two. But the evening belongs to the groups, most of whom are volunteers – who put in the thousands of hours that make such a difference to their stations, and their communities. As one of the awards Judges I feel very privileged to get to meet so many inspiring people who’re doing such fantastic work up and down the country. The community rail awards is our way of ensuring they get the recognition and appreciation they deserve for all the brilliant work that they do.

Here’s a few pictures to give a flavour of the event.

The stage is set and we’re all ready for the guests to arrive…
The coveted trophies and certificates waiting to be awarded.
LNER’s Richard Salkeld is an old friend of ACoRP and helps out every year to organise ‘Heads and Tails’ a fun game that raises thousands of pounds for charity each year.
Two of the guests demonstrate how you play ‘heads or tails’. You win or lose on the flip of a coin. The last one left standing wins a bottle of champagne.
The winners gather together onstage at the end of the awards.

Right, it’s time for bed. Normal service will be resumed tomorrow when I’ve lots of pictures to add to my Zenfolio website. Watch this space…

Rolling blog: tonight’s the night…

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– As Rod Stewart sang, only this night is going to be akright as it’s the annual ACoRP community rail awards. This year it’s being held in Telford, Shropshire.

Right now I’ve a few hours off to explore before the big event. I’ve never been to Telford before, so after breakfast I had a wander. Built as a new tiwn back in the 1960s you can see that the motor car featured heavily in the town’s design. It’s sprawling and features a lot of car parks. That said, obvious efforts have  been made to provide plenty of footpaths and even some cycleways to compensate. I don’t think the place will win any architectural awards tho’…

12:09.

Not having long I popped down to Wolverhampton for a flying visit to grab a couple of shots before heading back up the line to a place I’ve not visited since 2005, the delightful Codsall station. The old station building was converted into a pub many years ago. Run by Holden’s brewery, it’s a delightful place to visit for a pint, a sandwich and a browse of the railway memorabilia that decorates the walls.


What is it about pubs on stations? You can almost guarantee that you’ll see someone you know! On this occaision and location I bumped into Mike Lamport, an old friend from the industry who used to work in PR, latterly for Silverlink trains and then the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA).

13:00.

Sadly, the weather’s not been kind to me. I’ve managed to get a few shots for the library, but now it’s time to head back and get ready for tonight and a very different style of photography…

16:13.

Right, it’s time to head for the big event. Suitably ‘suited and booted’ and with all the camera kit checked and ready to go I’m off for the staff briefing…

Rolling blog: on the Telford trail…

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07:24.

It’s time to say adieu to the Calder Valley for a few days as we’re off to the ACoRP awards in Telford, Shropshire. First port of call is the ACoRP office in Huddersfield to meet up with other members of staff, then begin our rail journey to Telford via Manchester and Shrewsbury. The rain’s abated, the skies are clear and the sun is rising. What could possibly go wrong? Nothing, hopefully, so stick with me and see how the day goes…

08:50.

Oh, the joys of driving in the rush-hour! Dawn’s usual route from home to Huddersfield is via the infamous Ainley Top roundabout by the M62. On a good day, without traffic or a motorway snarl-up it can be done dorr to door in 15 mins. Today, 35m after leaving home we’re still queueing at the Ainley Top traffic lights!

09:24.

Finally, after 50 mins in the car, we arrived at Huddersfield, having missed the train we were aiming for. All’s not lost as we’re now on TPE’s local service to Piccadilly, where we’ll catch up the others before getting the Transport for Wales service to Shrewsbury. This time of day our train’s quiet. After years of travelling ln jam-packed 185s, I can’t get used to seeing them like this…

Despite our train starting in Huddersfield it still had a 3 minute late departure, but at keast we’re on our way and Dawn can let others worry abkut the driving…

What a beautiful day for crossing the Pennines. The sunshine’s highlighting the seasons change in the leaf colour of the trees en-route. It’s a perfect day for lineside photography, but I’m stuck on a train! We may have been empty at the start but after stopping several times on the way we’re now about half-full. To TPE’s credit, the conductor on this train’s excellent, keeping oeople informed of delays and connections in an informative but relaxed way.

10:40.

Time for a change of TOC. The gang’s all here on Transport for Wales 09:31 to Shrewsbury. At least we’ve all got seats at tables, even if there’s no power sockets.

11:31.

Not a great day on the trains today. Our TfW service is now 9 mins late, having dropped time ever since leaving Manchester Piccadilly. This means we’ll miss our connection at Shrewsbury and have to get the later train. No big deal, but frustrating nonetheless.

12:15.

The enforced delay allowed a mad dash for sustenance as the group tried to find food tgat suited all tastes. Mission successful, we’re now on West West Midlands Railway’s 12:13 to Telford. The weather’s not as cloudless here, but it’s still a great imorovement to the past few days – and it’s dry!

15:00.

On arrjval in Telford we went straight to the venue and got stuck into the various jobs that needed sorting, such as last minute table changes, cancellations and checks. We even found the time to set up a production line and stuff the 450 goody bags we need…

17:09.

Preparatory work done, a group of us are off for a littke jolly to Wolverhampton thanks to WM Trains. You’ll see where they’re taking us shortly….

20:20.

– well that was the plan anyway! We were taken on a trip to a museum I’ve never visited before, but the snapshot we had of the Black Country Museum was so enjoyable I’ll definitely be coming back to explore more of what it has to offer.

We’ve been treated to a private night at the museum, complete with rides on a trolleybus, drinks in the rebuilt Mechanics Institute building, tours of selected old shops and fish and chips from their vintage chippy. I’ve too many pictures to add now, but I will do in the morning (along with links to the museum). Right now we’re being taken back to Telford by road, ready for the big day tomorrow.

The months (and seasons) roll on…

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Here in the Calder Valley October began exactly where September left off – in the rainclouds! The rain’s hardly stopped all day except for a few moments when you feel emboldened enough to set foot outside, then it creeps back laughing and soaks you! I went for a walk up through our local woods earlier, all the paths had been turned into rivulets as the ground’s so sodden the water’s nowhere else to go. Apart from me, a few soggy squirrels and a couple of determined dog-walkers the woods were deserted. For the past few days I’ve been lucky to see the other side of the valley, never mind further afield.

I’ve not minded too much as I’ve got plenty to do at home. In fact, this enforced sojourn has allowed me to catch up on a huge amount of paperwork and also led me to have a bit of a clear out of stuff I’ve been hoarding for years but never looked at for decades – and certainly not since I left London. You see, this month hold a rather significant birthday for me. It’s my 60th, and it’s make me somewhat introspective. When you’re younger you collect all sorts of ephemera and stuff you physically clutter your life up with. I’m now of an age where I’m thinking “do I really need this stuff anymore? What value is it going to add to my remaining years”? It’s not as if I haven’t got enough to keep me occupied with all the pictures that I still need to scan so that they see the light of day after decades of sitting in albums. Some of this decluttering is actually a catharsis, allowing me to focus on what’s really important.

Tomorrow all this changes as we escape the valley and me the office to head down to Telford for the ACoRP awards. The weather forecast promises something other than continual rain, so I’m hopeful I’ll be able to get a few library shots to add to the collection as well as everything else. No doubt there’ll be a rolling blog or two coming your way at the same time. In the meantime, here’s a couple of pictures from last years awards which was held in Glasgow.

Compare Richard Salkeld (left) of LNER with Scotrail MD and awards presenter Alex Hynes.

Enjoying the drinks reception before the serious business of the night starts – the awards themselves.

Another month whips by at lightning speed…

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Where the hell did September go? One minute we’re chugging slowly and sedately towards the end of summer with some cracking days full of sunshine, the next it’s full-blown autumn, with the leaves already beginning to fall in their droves, encouraged by the torrential rain and gales that have been an on and off feature of the month.

Mind you, it’s not just been the weather that’s stormy. The political scene’s been pretty tempestuous too as Boris Johnson continues to both wreck Britain’s political standing in the world and make the country ungovernable in his hell for leather pursuit of a no-deal Brexit. No lie is to large for the man to tell it and no scenario too preposterous. Parliament’s fought back and now we find ourselves at a political impasse and the party conference season. The bits that I’ve seen of the Tory conference make it look like a cross between the Benny Hill show and a zombie movie, as this little gem shows. Add some batshit crazy speeches from a few clueless Cabinet Ministers and you can’t help but wonder what our European neighbours make of this mess when they see the scandals around Johnson unfold and hear the bonkerssruff coming out of the mouths of his Cabinet. It’s no wonder so many delegates are choosing to take a nap…

Tomorrow October arrives, which is going to be a pretty full-on month. On Wednesday we head off to the Community Rail Awards in Telford for ACoRPs annual celebration of everything that’s best about the sector. It’ll be a busy time but also a great opportunity to catch up with friends and colleagues from around the country. Hopefully the weather will be kind to us as there’s a couple of ‘jollies’ included in the programme.

So, bye-bye September…