Rolling blog: If at first you don’t succeed…

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08:15.

After yesterday’s abortive attempt to get to Manchester I’m having another crack at it this morning. I’m currently getting ready to head down to the station, hoping services are running more smoothly today, despite the gloominess and wetness of the weather. Let’s see what happens…

09:02.

I’ve walked down into soggy Sowerby Bridge to catch the train. The weather’s less than inviting and the “sunny periods” mentioned on the forecast have failed to put in an appearence, but at least the rain’s stopped for now. As I crossed the Calder I noticed the river levels shrunk. It’s still looking angry, but not livid!

My first train of the day is the 09:06 to Wigan Wallgate. My least favourite type of train’s turned up on it. The Class 150. This one’s an ex-GWR set that’s been refurbished to make it reasonably presentable, although it still has 3+2 seating.

09:30.

We’ve just crossed the Pennines into Lancashire where the weather’s just as grim as it is in Yorkshire! As we passed the site of the culvert I featured in yesterday’s blog I saw that it’s still blocked and flooding the track, with little sign the torrent has lessened any.

After calling at Littleborough our train’s rammed which is no bad thing as the extra bodies might generate some heat as it’s freezing on here!

15:00.

Sorry for my absence for the past few hours. I’ve been too busy taking pictures to blog! The weather’s been pretty mixed here in Manchester but at least it stayed dry. Now the day’s moving on we’ve even seen some of the sunshine we were promised. Most of my attention has been focussed on trying to fulfil a brief I’ve been given by RAIL magazine. Sadly, it’s not as easy as it once was due to the ever-changing nature of the railways, but I’ve given it my best shot(s) as it were. Time will tell if the pictures do what they’re imagining.

Whilst I was at Piccadilly I noticed the new East Midland Railway franchise seems to be rather short of serviceable regional trains. Whilst I was there a ‘double Dogbox’ and Class 158 passed through on a Liverpool Lime St – Norwich working, then this turned up – ‘double dogbox’ and a Class 156! This is only for the hardy, 75mph max and no air conditioning…

This was the 07:46 from Nottingham to Liverpool Lime St which was terminated at Manchester as it had no chance of keeping to time. It left Sheffield 44 mins late and was 63 minutes late by the time it got to Piccadilly.

Having got the pictures off to RAIL I’m now having a break in the warm and catching up with blogging before heading out again. I’ve lots of pictures to add to my Zenfolio website later and a bit of travelling to do yet today. Let’s see what happens next…

23:00.

Apologies for the way this blog got lost. It’s now late and I’ve been back at home for several hours, sorting out pictures from the day and also scanning yet another batch of old slides.

After sending pictures off to rail I hung around in Manchester for a couple of hours to capture another series of library shots along the Castlefield rail corridor. Here’s an example of just how congested it is.

On the left a Northern Class 195 is held at signals on the approach to Manchester Oxford Rd. In the background a TPE service is sat at Manchester Piccadilly, waiting for the Northern service to clear the section so that it can follow. Meanwhile, a Freightliner service from Trafford Park heads in the opposite direction.

My time in Manchester was interesting as it made me realise just how much the railways have changed in the past year because of the introduction of new trains. Both Northern and Trans-Pennine Express services have altered tremendously with new trains and new routes. The only Pacers I saw were operating services to New Mills in tandem with Class 150s, a situation that’s a far cry from how it was just a couple of years ago. Once all the new trains have entered service the railways around Manchester and Leeds are going to look very different. Not that the changes stop there. Next up is electrification and expansion of the railway from Huddersfield to York, which (hopefully) will make a big difference to the reliability of trans-pennine services.

Tomorrow I’m going to enjoy a day working from home as I’ve got a lot of pictures to edit, so expect to see some appear in a blog and the rest on my Zenfolio website. After today’s perambulations (my Fitbit tells me I’ve walked just over 14 miles today) I’m looking forward to a more relaxing day. For now, I’m going to bid you goodnight!

Rolling blog: cancel the Ark (for now)…

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11:31.

Like the waters themselves, the concerns about flooding have receded. Despite last night’s atrocious weather the Calder didn’t burst its banks overnight. Today the rain has eased and storm Dennis didn’t produce much menace for us.

That said, South Wales has taken a pounding and Pontypridd has flooded.

Right now I’m on a train from Sowerby Bridge that’s heading to Hebden Bridge (where trains to Blackpool North are terminating due to planned engineering work) we’re running late and right now we’re at a stand just West of the Sowerby tunnel at the 27m 35 chain mark due to lineside flooding! Water has been running down the hillside and the driver’s got out to check to see that the ballast hasn’t been washed away, affecting the stability of the track. Having returned, she seems unsure. This may be a short trip!

11:47.

Our Driver and Conductor are now waiting for advice from Control on what to do next. In the meantime, we sit and wait…

11:54.

To add insult to injury a Class 195 has just passed us at speed in the opposite direction! There’s only 12 of us passengers aboard this 2 car Class 158. Presumably, most people have made the sensible decision to stay at home today. Good for them – not so good for the many businesses along the line that rely on travellers.

12:10.

Our Conductor has just informed us that Network Rail have a MOM (Mobile Operations Manager) on site inspecting the track, so we should know our fate soon…

12:30.

The MOM has requested extra staff as they’re going to dig a drainage ditch to divert the water from the track. In the meantime, we sit and wait. If only this was a Class 195 I was stuck on. I could have had wifi and got on with some work!

12:41.

We’re finally on the move, heading for Mytholmroyd…

13:07.

At last I’m on the way to Manchester! The train I was on was terminating at at Hebden Bridge before heading back to York. Following on behind it was a Manchester bound service. Nowadays, due to the December timetable change and deletion of stops Sowerby Bridge and Mytholmroyd travellers are forced to change at Hebden more often.

15:00.

Well, that was an interesting couple of hours! After passing through Todmorden and seeing the lineside flooding I abandoned my intention of going to Manchester and bailed out of the train at Walsden – just in time to get caught in a hailstorm! For the best part of a couple of minutes it hammered down. For once, the line hadn’t flooded at this point. I managed to grab a couple of shots of Eastbound workings but everything heading West was cancelled so I decided to get some exercise and walk back to Todmorden to check out a couple of locations. The amount of homes along the road that had flood barriers across their front doors told the tale. The valley around Gauxholme is steep and narrow, which provides ample opportunities for flooding, especially as the river’s been hemmed in and constrained by centuries of human activity. I headed for a footbridge over the railway just West of the railway station where I’d spotted lineside flooding. It was quite a sight when I got there as you can see from this picture.

The culvert you can see here passes under the railway and empties out into the Rochdale canal which is 100m out of shot to the left. It’s not neglected. The steep approach off the hill to the left was relined just a couple of years ago and the parapet and railings were put in at the same time. But it’s been blocked by debris washing down off the hill and through the woods so water has spilled onto the tracks, washing away the ballast and breaching the formation to the right of the alignment just inside the fence. It’s also running along the left hand track, trying to find a way across.

Here’s a close-up of the culvert. I have to say, I’m not sure that was the best place to locate some equipment cabinets! The water from the blocked culvert is flooding past them.

Here’s a closer view of the damage the flood water has done to the trackbed. It’s actually washed away part of it and deposited a large amount of ballast and other material on the other side of the fence, where I’m standing. Nearby, homeowners have built makeshift dams to divert the water away from their homes and into the canal.
Water from the blocked culvert seeping through the trackbed. The potential for damage here is obvious as the weight of water can easily cause the formation to shift.

Our Victorian railways simply weren’t designed to withstand this weight of floodwater and rebuilding them to do so would be a horrendously expensive task. I hate to think how much it would cost (and the level of disruption it would cause) just to widen this one culvert.

Menaced by Dennis…

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Today’s been a weird day for several different reasons. It started badly when I logged on to Twitter this morning and found a message from a mutal FBPE (Follow Back Pro Europe) follower where they announced their intention to commit suicide on Valentine’s day. Alarm bells ringing I did a bit of checking and found that it’s almost certain that they went through with it. I’m still trying to process the awful news, especially in light of the information that they left behind. I’m not going to blog about it now as I need time to think about it – because I think their utterly tragic story is worth telling, but I don’t want to cause more harm than good by relating it. My only hope is that this poor tortured soul is finally at peace.

Meanwhile, we seem to have found ourselves menaced by the latest storm. This one, named ‘Dennis’ – arrives just a week after the floods in the Calder Valley that affected Hebden Bridge, Mytholmroyd and Sowerby Bridge. We seem to be back here again in a chain of events that used to be described as ‘once in a lifetime’.

The latest warning is that the River Calder will reach its height at 4am Sunday morning. People have been advised to get their flood defenses ready today, and hope…

The weather’s been pretty crap all day with a combination of high winds and torrential rain that’s running straight off already sodden ground. The pair of us had planned to get out for an hour despite the conditions but in the end circumstances and the climate beat us. I finally ventured as far as the local supermarket a couple of hours ago and got battered by the winds and near horizontal rain. At least on the way back the shopping provided a bit of ballast! Mind you, I also popped in to our ‘local’ for a swift pint and a change of scenery, which also helped. Now I’m back at home, determined to salvage something positive from a pretty negative day.

I’m currently keeping myself occupied by scanning an album of old rail pictures from the summer of 1990. Looking back through them it seems like a different age in so many ways. Not just because how much has changed on the railways, but also because of what I was doing that that stage in my life. In those days I was young, free and single – and in the process of saving up to travel the world. Just over a year later I would pack in my job, pay the rent on my shared flat in London for 12 months and book a single ticket to India. The railways, the UK and my life would look very different when I got back…

Here’s a couple of samples of the pictures I’ve been scanning today, just to show you how much things have changed in 30 years.

Where do I start on this picture? This was taken on the 20th July 1990, from the rear of a train heading South from Stirling in Scotland. You wouldn’t recognise this scene now. For a start, the days of being able to stick your head out of a train window to take a picture like this are gone. So are the old semaphore signals. The goods yard to the right of the picture’s been a car part for years and the view of the station is now dominated by a massive footbridge which crosses the picture from left to right. Oh, and the place has now disappeared under electrified wires as the Scottish Government has rolled out railway electrification North as far as Dunblane.

Here’s another Scottish shot that you wouldn’t recognise now…

On the same day in 1990 a ‘push-pull’ fitted Class 47 backs on to its train at Glasgow Queen Street before working a service to the North of Scotland. Nowadays the skyline beyond is dominated by a massive shopping centre, the Buchanan galleries, and the car-park which was built across the top of the railway to close in a lot of the approaches to the station. This engine (47706) soldiered on for several more years. In November 1990 it was transferred South of the border to Crewe where it became a parcels train locomotive. It lasted in that role until May 1995 when it was stored. A few months later, in August, it was cut up for scrap at Crewe works.

Whilst I’ve been scribbling this the rain has stopped and the wind’s abated. A sign of a positive change – or literally just a lull in the storm? Tomorrow could be interesting…

Rolling blog: you win some, you lose some…

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13:10

Today’s been one of those mixed days where you never know quite how things are going to turn out!

When I woke up and gazed out of the bedroom window this morning I looked out on beautifully clear skies and idea weather for heading out with the camera. I’d a list of shots that I needed to get for a client so as soon as I had breakfast and sent some emails I headed out.

Typically, by the time I got down to Sowerby Bridge the weather had changed as the clouds had rolled in rendering it impossible to get the shots I needed. Instead (on a whim) I decided to head over to Manchester and reconnoiter some different images. Unfortunately I’d just missed a Manchester bound train. Northern’s new timetable has cut a lot of trains that used to at Sowerby so I had the best part of 45 mins to wait for the next one. Eventually, a Class 158 arrived. To my shock, it was the 11:06 running 5 minutes early! I’m not used to such early running. Needless to say, it waited time and I had an uneventful journey Westwards across the Pennines on an uncrowded train. Whilst I was travelling I heard that an interesting job I’d had pencilled in for next week was cancelled, which was a disappointment, but that’s the nature of freelance work.

Once in Manchester I grabbed a few shots but the weather was still damp and miserable. On another whim I plumped to head over to Liverpool in an effort to find some sunshine and check out a couple of locations. Here’s the beastie that’s taken me back to my birthplace.

68021 blows some dust off the roof as it arrives at Manchester Victoria on its way to Liverpool Lime St.

My timing was less than perfect. Plugging in my new laptop on its maiden voyage away on the rails I checked my emails and found one from a magazine asking for a potential cover picture of – Manchester! It looks like my Liverpool visit is destined to be brief…

14:10.

– as indeed it was! I’m now racing Eastwards again, this time aboard on of TPE’s Class 185s. They may be the oldest trains in their fleet, but they still over the best ride qualities. I seem to be heading back towards sunshine too – so maybe this particular change of plan’s paid off…

16:26.

Well, my gamble almost worked! The weather played ball in Manchester. Sadly, the trains didn’t and the juxtaposition I was hoping for never quite came off. The photo I hoped to recreate with the current liveries is next to impossible now. Even so, I did manage a few useful library shots before heading off to Stalybridge to do a quick bit of shopping and see if I could get a hair cut (natch). Interestingly, whilst I was there I came across the pubs that’s in the Guinness book of records for having the shortest name in the UK whilst just a couple of doors down is the Inn that could quite possibly have the longest!

17:45.After a quick ‘libation’ in the renowned Stalybridge station buffet bar I headed back to Manchester Victoria on a Class 153/158 lash-up that was shuttling between the two locations. Almost empty heading back into the city it had crowds waiting for its arrival.In the adjacent platform was a 2 – car Class 195 heading to Leeds but I was already rammed. Then, as I watched, the lights failed. That’s when I noticed the engines had already stopped running. I decided to abandon that odea and make a dash to get a sabdwhich fron the Co-op across the road vefore trying my luck with the 17:37 to Leeds. When I came back the 195 was still stuck in platform 1, but the 17:37 was in at 6 and it was worked by a 3-car Class 158. OK, it was rammed and I was stuck in a vestibule, but these things nornally disgorge 20-25% of folk at Rochdale anyway.

And so it came to pass…

21:55.

Right, it’s time to sign off for the day folks. After getting home and sorting out some of today’s pictures I made an effort to catch up with the past by getting through a few old slides I had set up before my ‘other half’ came home. Here’s a sample.

This is Ely, back in July 1990 before the world changed. These are some of the remnants of the old semaphore signals that had controlled the railways almost since their inception. Ely had a veritable forest of them, but they were all being chopped down to make way for the modern, electrified railway. I miss them, but I don’t mourn their passing as the railway had to modernise.

You might not get much of a blog tomorrow as it’s Valentine’s day…

StopHs2. The final chapter was written today.

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Finally, after weeks of waiting and all sorts of political shenanigans’ and uncertainties the announcement has finally been made. HS2 is going ahead.

To be honest, it wasn’t much of a secret, or a surprise. The final decision’s been slowly leaked to the media over a number of weeks – as have dissenting views (not that they mattered).

Today, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the news. To be fair announced is hardly the right word. Those who thought the Government were ashamed of their decision were completely wrong-footed. This was no apologetic slipping out of unpopular news, this was a full-bore celebration with a fanfare and 21 gun salute. Johnson stood at the dispatch box and made a meal of it. This was bombastic, bellicose Boris in full flow. And, for once, he actually seemed to have some idea what he was talking about, because he wasn’t announcing vague plans for yet another bridge. This was the culmination of 10 years of planning, re-planning and co-operation between people on a huge scale. There was plenty of detail to be had – and Johnson made the most of it. Why wouldn’t he? He has an 80 seat majority and HS2 has huge cross-party support. It’s simply not a contentious issue and he desperately needs something like this to celebrate to take everyone’s mind off what comes next in the EU negotiations.

You could see that the penny was dropping with some of his back-benchers (old and new) as it became clear his Government were going full-tilt for HS2. Those ‘newbies’ who have ambitions but who represent constituencies on the route are starting to realise that opposition to HS2 could severely limit your career – especially when opposition is futile. Of course, for a few of the old hands like Chesham and Amersham MP Cheryl Gillan – whose career is already over – it’s not so much of a blow, but then she didn’t even bother turning up. The announcement also contained another gem. As I predicted in a blog back in August last year, Phase 2b of HS2 is to be re-aligned and merged with ‘Northern Powerhouse Rail’ (always an unwieldy name) to be rebranded “High Speed North”.

This is clever on a number of levels.

For a start, HS2 is now the project that’s already got the go-ahead and it’s a railway between London and Crewe (because phase 1 and 2a have been merged). It isolates the StopHs2 ‘campaign’ from the North. Why? Because the anti HS2 campaign was always based on phase 1, the railway from London – Birmingham. It’s where their grassroots and groups (like Hs2aa and StopHs2) were.

What do they have on the rebadged “High Speed North”? Nothing.

They have a tiny bunch of MPs who’re opposed – most of whom are newly elected and easily neutered as they have ambitions – and little else. In contrast, the North has massive political and business support for what was HS2 but is now clearly a Northern project that will deliver far more than HS2 could do in isolation. Don’t forget that 50% of the new ‘Northern Powerhouse Rail’ tracks would have been HS2 tracks. So, how many Northern MPs are now going to be brave (or foolhardy) enough to say “I oppose HSN” And why would Southern Tory MPs who’ve been outflanked on HS2 phase 1 put their own government at risk at the next election by opposing HSN when they no longer have a dog in the fight?

I could write more as I’ve not even touched on the Oakervee review yet, but I’m going to save that for another day. All I’ll say is that the review has made fools of much of the mainstream media. Why? Because they fell for the spin and briefings from Lord Berkeley that the cost of HS2 had risen to £106bn and they ran with it. In fact, the only refence to that figure in the Oakervee report is to dismiss it, not to endorse it.

StopHs2 is dead. Is anyone going to be stupid enough to try and rebrand it as “Stop High-Speed North”?

After the floods…

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Despite some awful weather last night where the wind howled and the rain beat down, the waters of the River Calder subsided and the flooding abated. We’re not out of the woods yet as the forecast isn’t exactly brilliant, but Ciara, the storm that’s caused so much damage has blown over. Now there’s time for the poor sods who’ve been flooded to start picking up the pieces. Again.

I’d originally thought I might head over to Mytholmroyd to document the damage but I’ve been too busy to tear myself away from the computer long enough. I had a big batch of pictures to get finalised for one client, then deal with enquiries and picture requests from another, so I’ve spent most of the day huddled in the office cross-referencing picture databases. It’s not the most glamourous side of the job, but it has to be done.

Finally, after getting the pictures away to the client I went out for a stroll to stretch my legs and also clear my head. The wind may not have dropped, but the temperature certainly has. An arctic blast followed me most of the way, especially up on the promenade above our local woods. I’d have liked to have stayed out longer but as I gazed out across the valley I could see the next storm approaching, blocking out the view of the Calder Valley towards Mytholmroyd as it made its way Eastwards.

Uh, oh – it’s coming my way…

Thinking it was a snowstorm I decided to get home before it caught me. I almost made it before the hailstorm (for that’s what it was) nailed me a few hundred metres from home! Drying out at home I thought I’d venture out again once it had passed, but the bugger keeps coming back. Every time I poke my head outside I find fresh hailstones on the door mat!The weather across the North-West and Yorkshire’s looking pretty mixed tomorrow so I may end up having another day in the office. If the Government does finally pull it’s finger out and the speculation is correct, tomorrow will see some big announcements on investment in infrastructure, which *should* include the new HS2 rai line. That said, we’ve been here before, but I’ll be glad to have the time to sit, analyse and blog about the contents of any announcements and see how the predictions I made when the Oakervee review was announced last August have stood the test of time. You can read that blog here.

I suspect we’ll see a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth from those opposed to HS2. Most of it will be pure social media froth from the reprogrammed pro-Brexit trolls, plus the dwindling bunch of real people who live on the route but who’ve spent the past 10 years pretending to themselves that they were some sort of coherent campaign that actually had any political clout. I think for some of them the decision will take some time to sink in as they’ve listened to little else than the voices in their own little echo-chamber for so long. I’ll be interested to see what the announcement does to the tiny protest groups that are on several sites on the route. Will the announcement make more of them realise the futility of what they’re doing? After all, it’s all very well thinking that the decision whether to go ahead with HS2 hasn’t been made so you might actually achieve something. But when it becomes obvious that’s not the case…

Either way, we’ll be moving on to a very different chapter as construction of HS2 ramps up. No doubt there’ll still be some hiccups. On a project this size it would be a miracle if there wasn’t. I’ll look forward to what’s said with interest.

Once the nights get a bit longer I expect to be busy documenting the construction of Phase 1 and some other UK rail projects too…

Storm Ciara floods the Calder Valley.

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This morning we woke up to the sound of the arrival of storm Ciara as strong winds and driving rain hit the Calder Valley. This is how it looked and sounded from our bedroom at around 10:30.

It’s certainly been a heck of a storm. I can’t remember when I last saw so much torrential rain arrive in such a short time. When it subsided I started checking social media and found that Ciara was already causing chaos in the valley. Both Hebden Bridge and poor Mytholmroyd were flooding, despite the millions that are being spent on new flood defences – especially in the latter town. Then I saw that our own town, Sowerby Bridge was also flooding for only the second time since 1968.

Dropping what I’d been planning to do I donned my waterproofs, grabbed the camera bag and headed out. Here’s a collection of photographs and videos of some of what I saw.

My first port of call was the new bridge over the River Calder which is almost immediately below the house. The bridge itself is a massive modern structure which was in no danger from the floods. Thankfully, the new housing estate which is sandwiched between the river and the canal was also safe, although the canal was also perilously close to overflowing.

The River Calder at Copley. That group of trees normally sit on an island in the middle of the river. Beyond is the embankment of the railway from Halifax to Sowerby Bridge.
A Landrover drives through floods outside the recycling centre on Copley Valley Rd. Much of the road was flooded, cutting of large parts of Sowerby Bridge from the other, including the railway station. The video below shows the level of the water in the Calder immediately behind where I’m standing. You can see the recycling centre through the trees.

Industrial units on Walker Lane on the banks of the Calder are flooded. The river runs behind them. Note the tail lights are illuminated on the red car as the water fuses the electrics

The river is normally flowing to the left here! This container was bobbing up and down gently, but thankfully it hadn’t broken free to drift downstream. Notice the ironworks has got its flood protection barriers in place. I just hope they worked. Further upstream towards the centre of Sowerby Bridge I took the next video which shows the level of water at the bridge by the old Gasworks site.

The river is overflowing into the Calder and Hebble Navigation in central Sowerby Bridge whilst narrowboat owners can only sit it out and hope their homes don’t get beached.
Debris builds up on a bridge across the Calder.
Looking back from the last shot with the railway passing overhead.
The A58, West St is submerged under several feet of water. This is the lowest point in Sowerby Bridge. Behind me is the Calder whilst the Ryburn flows behind these buildings to the left, where it joins the Calder just under the railway bridge. This area bore the brunt of the Boxing Day flooding in 2015.
The view of Sowerby Bridge from the bridge over the Calder.
Flooded properties in central Sowerby Bridge next to the river.
A drowned car in a residential carpark with the river behind.
Water boils under the main bridge across the Calder in the centre of Sowerby bridge whilst detritus builds up against it. Police had closed the bridge due to the flooding on the other side.

16:29.

The storm (for now) has abated. But more gales and rain are forecast later. It’s been impossible for me to get over to Mytholmroyd as the roads are flooded, as is the railway further down the valley at Walsden. So, spare a thought for those who’ve been flooded out of their homes once more.

Here’s a look at the railway at Walsden which graphically illustrates why the Calder Valley line’s closed.

It’s now 23:41 and I’m about to call it a day. I’m lying in bed listening to the wind and the rain beating against the window once more. God knows how things will look in the morning…

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Waiting for the wind to blow.

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After the past few days gallivanting I’ve enjoyed a restful domestic Saturday at home with Dawn today. Because there’s been a severe weather warning and people have been warned not to travel discretion seemed the better part of valour. Besides, I had an awful lot of pictures to edit and get onto my Zenfolio website, which kept me out of trouble for most of the morning.

I’m writing this at 20:00 and whilst the wind is certainly starting to rise it’s hardly hurricane conditions out there. Even so, we’ve battened down the hatches which in this part of Yorkshire means that we’ve moved all the plastic recycling bins into the porch. There’s not a lot else to do where we live as we’re high up on the valley side. If we needed to sandbag the front door against flooding it wouldn’t just be us who’re in trouble, it’d be the whole damned planet!

Meanwhile, as we wait for everything to blow over, here’s a couple of examples of the pictures I’ve been taking and adding to my Zenfolio website.

Northern’s new CAF built Class 195s continue to spread their wings. Here’s one of the two-car versions arriving at Chesterfield whilst working a Leeds to Nottingham service.

Don’t tell the Woodland Trust! The overgrown lineside at Chesterfield is being cleared of trees and scrub that’s being encroaching on the lineside for the past 30 years. This area used to be the operational railway but as freight patterns changed many goods yards were abandoned and became overgrown. The problem is these trees can cause a danger to rail safety and need to be removed.
The end is near for the BR built Pacer trains as their derogation for disablity legislation runs out in the next few months. This is now a rare sight at Manchester Piccadilly. To make the services compliant each Class 142 is operating with a Class 150 which is fitted with a disabled toilet.
Gorgeous winter light at Manchester Piccadilly station yesterday.

Rolling blog: go West…

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09:44.

Today weather’s far too good to be stuck at home so I’m having another day out with the camera. This time I’m heading West from Sowerby Bridge – and hoping I’ve not made a mistake in doing so!

I’m currently sat on the 09:22 from Sowerby Bridge to Chester. The weather in the Calder valley was wall to wall sunsine and the valley looked stunning. Then we passed through the Summit tunnel into Lancashire and arrived into a blanket of fog! It’s a fine example of what a barrier the Pennines are and how they can influence the weather.

13:07.

Phew! Now, where was I? I’ve been on the move so much and making the most of the weather that I haven’t had a chance to blog. I’m currently on a service from Manchester Piccadilly that’s heading to Blackpool North.

After disembarking at Victoria earlier I strolled across town to Piccadilly in bright sunshine. The fog I’d encountered earlier had quickly burned away, leaving Manchester’s reputation as a wet city in tatters. My first move was out to Stockport, where I wanted to get shots of trains crossing the famous viaduct. With the sun in the right place you can have fun with a long lens here, but the shadows from the overhead wires present a challenge. I’d been hoping to grab a shot of a Pendolino in the new Avanti livery, but there was no such luck.

Moving back North I stopped at the elevated and open station at Levenshulme where the overhead masts span all four tracks to give a wide vista. Plus, the bare lineside trees don’t cast heavy shadows at this time of year. There’s also the opportunity for some interesting backlit shots.

I moved on again when I felt the shots were in danger of getting repetitive. Heading back to Piccadilly I changed trains once more to enjoy a brief stop in Bolton. The new CAF 331 that carried me there had a noticeably rough ride on the way. Something I’d never noticed before so I can’t ascribe it to train or track. I’d be curious to repeat it in an old DMU to see if there’s a difference.

Bolton was a bit of a bust. Heavy shadows blocked any worthwhile shots, so I’m now on my way to Wigan…

15:40.

My Wigan sojourn was interesting, but it didn’t yield many pictures as the light (or me, depending on your viewpoint) was in the wrong position for the shots I had in mind. On the bright side, I’m now fuelled-up on chips and curry sauce – which is giving me a few calories to burn off!

Right now I’m on another Northern service. This time the 15:24 from Wigan North Western to Manchester Airport. Oddly, it’s worked by a diesel Class 195 as it originated from Windermere. Hardly the most ‘green’ diagram as it’s ‘under the wires’ all the way from Oxenholme.

16:50.

I arrived back in Manchester as the sun was just at tipping point. I had intended to visit an old vantage point on the Castlefield Corridor but the volume of new building in the past year has meant it’s disappeared. The sun’s been blocked out by high-rises, casting the whole area into shadow. Instead I added some pictures around Piccadilly, then backtracked to Oxford Rd. Abandoning the railway I wandered the backstreets to explore to photo opportunities in the new skylines. I’ve always found architecture and cityscapes fascinating. They make for some great pictures, so the past hour’s been spent exploring to find photo opportunities that will become impossible by the end of the year as the railway from Castlefield to Piccadilly will become hemmed in by new building.

Here’s another sight that will disappear even sooner…

A pair if Pacers at Manchester Piccadilly. In a sign of the times these units now work in tandem with Class 150s as they’re fitted with ORM compliant toilets.

21:33.

My day in Manchester was rounded off by what could be the inauguration of the the first branch of the Irish Railways Record Society outside of London. 50 people from across the North turned up to hear Dick Fearn and Tim Morton sound out the idea.

Rolling blog: plan B…

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08:38.

My computer problems continue, which means life is less than planned at the moment. I did manage to resurrect my old machine yesterday by reinstalling Windows 10 but by the evening it developed Alzheimers again. First it ‘forgot’ how to send emails, then it gradually lost the will to do everything else as well! I’ve now had to reset it for a second time just to get a few bits and pieces done. The new machine has been ordered and will arrive tomorrow*, so I’ll be spending yet another day installing programmes and gubbins.

As this leaves me somewhat incapacitated I’m heading out for the day in order to get some new library pictures even though the weather’s not exactly at its best. The law of Sod has been invoked and tomorrow’s forecast is looking far better. I might have to be crafty in what I do with getting my new machine delivered.

Right now I’m just packing the camera bag and working out where will be best to head for. Stay with me to see how the railways behave today…

10:45.

I’m on my first train of the day, but not from Haliax as I hitched a lift with Dawn this morning. Now I’m on a TPE Class 802 as far as Leeds although the set itself is going to Edinburgh. This is one of the trains TPE have reinstated after the December timetable debacle. Mind you, Edinburgh isn’t the only exotic new destination served by direct trains from Huddersfield. You can now visit the fleshpots of Redcar Central too if you were so inclined…

11.28.

The trip to Leeds was both pleasent and uneventful. The service was a minute late at Huddersfield but easily made that up by Leeds. The front coach of the Hitachi built set was only 10% occupied so there was no problem getting a seat. The extra capacity the new TPE trains are providing’s making travel on the crowded Manchester – Leeds corridor far more pleasent now. Gone are the days when it would be a miracle if you bagged a seat.

11:32.

My sojourn in Leeds was rather shorter than last weeks! I had about 20 mins to observe the station in action before catching the 11:11 Cross-Country service that’s heading for Plymouth. Despite the fact it’s only a 4-car Voyager I’ve managed to find a seat on here too. As usual with XC there’s a real mix of humanity aboard.  Grannies laden with suitcases, student types with their headphones and laptops, the occasional businessman and there’s even a pooch staring balefully at me from between the seats.

16:05.

That’s been an entertaining few hours. Having stopped off to get pictures at Sheffield I was greeted by lovely sunny weather. The station’s in a state of flux at the moment as Northern’s new trains are putting in an appearence on more and more services, but the place is still a stronghold of the old Class 144 ‘Pacers’ who operate a lot of Northern’s short-haul services to the likes of Doncaster and Huddersfield. The newer interlopers (the 195s) have taken over further reaching stuff like the Lincoln services, whilst Class 170s are working to the likes of Scarborough.

If you want to bag a Class 144, Sheffield’s the place to visit!

Having got some shots in the can I headed off to Chesterfield where I hit a weather front. A band of cloud extended South but it still allowed me to get some interesting shots from the old footbridge North of the station and allowed me to shoot what would’ve been straight into the sun otherwise. Network Rail’s contractor’s have been busy removing lineside vegetation which has opened up views that haven’t been possible for decades. The work provided me with some good scene-setting shots too. I didn’t hang around long. Just an hour, as there’s no point repeating the same shot ad nauseum. Having got what I wanted I caught the train back to Sheffield where the weather was less dull.

It might not be the most attractive view that’s been opened out by the lineside clearance, but it’s still a view!

Having grabbed a few more shots and resisted the temptations of the Sheffield Tap I’m now heading back to Leeds on a Northern ‘Express’ service. Well, it would be express if the 90mph Class 158 diagrammed was available. Instead, it’s being worked by a rather clapped-out Class 150 which is only cleared for 75mph. As you can imagine, our timing is a tad awry…

16:05.

The 150 finally staggered into to Leeds where the poor quality of the light’s made me decide to cut the day short and head home to Halifax. Admittedly, I have an ulterior motive. Tonight Dawn and I have planned a lovely evening together at home so I’m happy to get back and make the house feel the part in preparation.

My ride back from Leeds is aboard another 3-car Class 195 on the York – Bkackpool North diagram. It’s running 5 mins down which the Conductor has apologised for, citing ‘technical issues’ with the set earlier.

18:00.

The weather may not have been too good in Leeds, but it’s a lovely sunset here in the Calder Valley…

*Well, that’s when the Dell website claimed it could be delivered by, only that changed when I’d actually specced the machine.

Abandoning their website I put in call to a real live human being and spoke to a charming Indian lady who placed the order for me and told me that the problem at the moment is getting the processor chips, so my new machine won’t be ready for at least a week. This delay means I’m going to have to be creative with my use of backup laptops and nursing my old machine until the new kit arrives. Now I’m praying no last minute, urgent jobs crop up until it arrives…