UKIP. Schadenfreude’s such a lovely word!

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I can’t help but look upon the imminent demise of UKIP without a certain frisson of pleasure. A party that’s done more to ruin the UK’s reputation abroad and helped deliver the shambles that is Brexit is about to get its come-uppance – as blogger Tim Fenton mentioned today.

Ukip’s most recent accounts show it was £380,630 in debt before the 2017 election which weakened the party’s finances even further. The party’s so skint it can’t even put up candidates in local elections. The parlous state of the party’s finance have been the subject of infighting in the past and an open secret amongst members (link).

Now UKIP can’t afford another leadership election, which might save the skin of the latest temprorary Leader (the 4th in 15 months), Henry Boulton, despite the revelations about his openly racist girlfriend – Jo Marney. Jo’s provided social media with an open goal, so I make no apologies for sharing this pic of the couple caught together on the London Underground after their supposed ‘split’. Oh, and the Twitter commentary from Scott Ballantyne is inspired!

human

Meanwhile, former UKIP leader Nigel Farage has got himself embroiled in the murky world of American politics, Trump, Assange and Russia…(link). There’s no chance of him riding to UKIPs rescue as there no money in it for him anymore which leaves the party stuffed. Even MEPs and some of the remaining local Councillors are jumping ship. John Arnott, the MEP  for the North East of England, said he had lost confidence in Mr Bolton but thought no better of those “jockeying” to replace him.

Here’s a list of recent desertions, with links. Arnott

All 3 Plymouth Cllrs quit

All 5 Hartlepool Cllrs quit

Will the last one to leave please turn out the lights?

Of course, UKIPs collapse spells even more trouble for another bête noire of mine, the Stop Hs2 campaign!

I’ve not seen any evidence that UKIP helped the campaign financially or practically, other then lending it support via social media & having members who had a foot in both camps. But UKIP did help draw attention to the campaign. Their opposition to Hs2 was nothing more than a cynical ploy to attract votes from disaffected Tories who lived on the HS2 route. The problem was that the Stop Hs2 campaign had always exaggerated how much support it had, so the avalanche of votes UKIP hoped for never materialised – even in the Chilterns, which was the ‘hotbed’ of anti Hs2 activity. They gained (and then lost) a couple of Council seats but never seriously threatened to unseat any MPs.

UKIPs demise will leave the Greens as the only party opposing Hs2 – and they’ve got their own problems as their standing in the polls and share of the vote in recent local elections has fallen dramatically. As an illustration of both parties troubles, here’s three local election results from Thursday.

green results

We live in interesting times…

 

Hs2 protests? Twyford Down they ain’t…

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I’m puzzled. The anti Hs2 mob have always sworn blind that they’re the majority. That (depending on which clickbait poll you care to read) the whole country is united  in opposition to Hs2. It’s been the one single message that’s run through their campaign like the lettering in a stick of rock. Everybody opposes Hs2…

OK, so let’s bin the clickbait polls and the posturing, cut through the crap and look at reality. Let’s crunch some real numbers and look at events on the ground.

For a start, how many people live in the 63 constituencies that Hs2 passes through? According to the Government website Hs2 antis often use for their petitions, that’s 6,567,433 people. Yep, over 6.5 MILLION – hardly an insignificant number. So, first question. If that’s the case, why’ve less than 0.37% of them signed the latest Stophs2 petition? I’m typing this at 12:53 on a Saturday. Here’s the score on the door as I do. 24,814 – out of 6.5m

petition 20 jan

In fact, the position’s worse than that total suggests. 24814 is the total nationally, it includes the 3 received from the Orkneys & Shetland (where Hs2 is obviously a burning issue and dominating the inbox of the local MP). It also includes 2 signatures from Mid Ulster, another area which is clearly vexed about Hs2. So, what’s the real total for the 63 constituencies? I crunched the numbers yesterday. Here they are.

numbers

Having taken out all the signatures from constituencies away from the route we’re left with the fact that just 0.21% of people living on the route of Hs2 have signed the Stop H2 petition! 0.2%! So much for the strength of the support Stop Hs2 claim. But then this is what happens when you look beyond the hype to the real numbers.

It’s the same when you look at the campaign on the ground. They used to hold annual conventions, the last one was at The Staffordshire showground in June 2013. Their last national rally was in April 2014, the day Parliament passed the Phase 1 bill with a stonking majority of 411. Less than 100 demonstrators countrywide turned up.

DG177046. Anti Hs2 demo. Westminster. London. 28.4.14.

Now the focus has switched to ‘direct action’ to prevent Hs2 being built. Apart from the fact this is a tacit admittance of their failure, it’s also proved to be a huge embarrassment due to the miserly turnout. Take Euston as an example. On the 12th January a local Vicar and another protester chained themselves to a tree in Euston Gardens. How many protesters were there? Less than the number of media who turned out to watch! (link).

Now this was central London and a borough that the protesters tell you is dead set against Hs2? So where are they all? One of the people interviewed, Keri Brennan is from  Hillingdon, not Camden! Stophs2 should have had hundreds of people here, but they didn’t. Why? Because most people have given up. What you see in the TV interviews are the same few faces.

It was the same a few days later when the gardens were closed. How many demonstrators staged a sit-down protest? THREE.

Havkman

This is Camden (pop 143,242) and this is the best they can do? One of them is from Hillingdon!

If this is the best they can do it really is laughable! If they can’t get people to turn up in central London then they really are in trouble. Meanwhile, what about that other protest in Harvil Rd in Hillingdon? It’s no better there. Harvil Rd has been organised by Hillingdon Green party. One of the stalwarts of the Harvil Rd protest is a woman called Sarah Brooks. Wait a minute, Sarah, that name sounds familiar? Yep, it’s the same Sarah who was at Euston in the pic above. There’s so few people involved that they have to be shared between protests!

sarah

Harvil Rd isn’t exactly a hotbed of protest either. They have a small camp opposite the site entrance and occasionally make a nuisance of themselves by climbing on heavy plant or blocking the site entrance. Here’s an example.

Harvil Rd 2

Not exactly the Twyford Down protests, is it?

Corralled behind those barriers are a grand total of FOUR protesters! Hs2 Ltd have announce that they’re seeking a High Court order to restrain the protesters. They’ve named SEVEN people in it – that’s all the regulars involved! Here’s another view produced by the protesters themselves that includes a plea for extra people to join them.

Harvil Rd.

In the video on the left hand side is another familiar face. The ‘spokesman’ for Hillingdon Green party, Mark Kier, who produced this load of tosh back in December. I mean, come on folks! This isn’t exactly on the scale of the Twyford Down or the M11 link road protests is it? This is their problem. The anti Hs2 groups have always written cheques they can’t cash. They’ve always pretended that they have more public support then they had. Sadly, the national media has always swallowed their claims without questioning them. This blog doesn’t. It was the same when the Hs2 plus report was launched in Manchester in 2014. None of the handful of demonstrators  outside was from Manchester (which doesn’t have a single StopHs2 group in the whole of the city), they were all from Cheshire!

DG173935. Anti Hs2 protest. Manchester. 17.3.14

If Greater Manchester says ‘No’ to Hs2, why a you lot all from Mid-Cheshire then, you lying toads?

Of course all this is a sideshow. Hs2 Phase 1 is under construction. On the 30th January the spotlight shifts and the Hybrid Bill for the next phase of HS2 – the section from Birmingham to Crewe will get its second reading in Parliament. It would take a miracle for the bill not to pass as Hs2 has always had cross-party support. A fact that makes these futile protests look even more pointless.

Hs2 news: Phase 2a to Crewe Hybrid Bill 2nd reading.

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The 2nd reading of the Hs2 Phase 2a West Midlands to Crewe Hybrid Bill has been scheduled for Tuesday 30th January.

phase 2a

A number of important decisions are made at 2nd reading. Firstly, the principles of the bill are established. A debate is held, the length of the petitioning process is decided and finally, the premise of the bill is assured. This final bit means that 2nd reading is regarded as Parliament’s intent. If the bill passes with a large majority (as the phase 1 bill did), Parliament’s intent is very clear. After the Second Reading, there can be no amendment which can destroy the principle of the bill.

In addition to referring a hybrid bill to select committee, the House may also give instructions to the select committee. Instructions can prevent the Hybrid Bill select committee from amending certain provisions or allow it to make alterations to infrastructure provided for in the Bill

After the bill passes 2nd reading the petitioning committee (made up of MPs unconnected with the project) will be established.  The composition of a select committee reflects the party balance in the House. The select committee will mostly sit in a quasi-judicial capacity. It will not be looking at principle or policy; its focus will be restricted to addressing mitigation, compensation and adjustment.

So, what does this mean for the Stophs2 campaign? They’re toast! It means the focus has moved away from phase 1 and shifted North. Their campaign’s always been very weak and disorganised on this section. All their national groups were Phase 1 based. There are very few active ‘action’ groups locally. Staffordshire’s is a great example of this, they were always divided by the ‘cult of personality’ as local eccentrics or ‘kippers’ (UKIP supporters) tried to use the issue for their own ends. As UKIP has collapsed and is on the verge of bankruptcy, don’t expect much organised opposition there! The recent Stop Hs2 petition on the Government website is a useful indicator as to the health (or otherwise) of the anti Hs2 campaign in the area. Here’s a spreadsheet from yesterday which has a breakdown of the signatures by constituency. From this it’s easy to see how few active anti Hs2 ‘action groups there are.

revised petition

There will be  number of things to watch out for at 2nd reading, including the size of the majority for the bill, the number of MPs who vote against – and where their constituencies are. After that there’ll be about 10 days for people to petition the Committee. The number of petitions will also be of interest, especially as this time electronic submissions will be accepted. For phase 1 petitions actually had to be delivered to Parliament in person.

I wonder if StopHs2 will be organising a rally outside Parliament on the 30th the way they did for 2nd reading of the Phase 1 bill. That was an embarrassment as less than 100 people turned up!

DG177046. Anti Hs2 demo. Westminster. London. 28.4.14.

This was meant to be a national demonstration from all the different phases of Hs2. Remember over 6.5 million people live in constituencies Hs2 will pass through, yet less than 100 people turned up to protest!

If there’s no demonstration this time it will say an awful lot about how far the Stop Hs2 campaign’s collapsed.

 

 

The changing face of the Great Western Main Line.

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I popped down to London yesterday to take a spin out to Reading on the Great Western Main Line from Paddington which has just seen electric services extended as far as Didcot Parkway.

The change at Paddington is noticeable for two reasons. Not only are there a lot more shiny new GWR green Electrostars in evidence, there’s also many more Hitachi Class 800s knocking around too. These trains are like a breath of fresh air – literally – as electric is replacing diesel traction, improving the atmosphere in the station and on into our capital, which has once again become notorious for poor air quality.

DG270157. 387136. Paddington 17.5.17

Goodbye ‘Thames Turbos’, hello ‘Electrostars’ – the future of suburban trains at Paddington.

That said, it was still one of the venerable HSTs that took me out to Reading as there’s  plenty of them still in service. Bowling along towards Reading I saw how much of the route has changed in the past year. The new tracks for Crossrail were very obvious around Westborne Park and Old Oak Common, along with the dive-under the yard entrance at Acton Main Line which has been commissioned. Platform extensions were another clear sign of change at several stations, not just on the Relief lines at places like West Ealing and Slough but also on some of the the Main lines.

Of course, Reading is the biggest change of all. Only the 1860 station building with its prominent clock tower survives, almost everything else is new. If it wasn’t for the fact I’ve got shots of the station going back to the 1980s I’d find it very difficult to picture how it used to be as the transformation’s so great. However, one thing that hasn’t changed is the biting wind, in fact the new design feels like its channelled it! I always remember how chilly it could be in winter and yesterday was no exception – even when the sun did break through! But that’s the price you pay for being stuck out on the end of platforms taking pictures rather then hiding in a warm waiting room like any sane passenger.

DG288463. 387148. Reading. 16.1.18

A GWR Class 387 weaves its way Westwards towards Didcot through an avenue of OHL masts and wires.

Photography’s a lot more challenging than in past years. Not only because of the plethora of masts wires and signal gantries casting shadows in the low sunlight but also because of the assortment of new office buildings which have risen up on the South side of the station over the past couple of decades. The length of the trains presents new challenges too – a 10 car Class 800 takes up most of the platform and the days of running down the ramp onto the ballast to find the space for a nose shot are long gone. Even the 4 car 387’s pull right up to the platform ends rather then stop on the middle of the station so you have to get used to how the new station & services operate to get the pictures you want. One thing I did notice is how quickly the Class 800s accelerate away from the station. After being used to HSTs they certainly seem quicker off the mark.

DG288441. 800023. Reading. 16.1.18

Two 5 car Class 800s with 800023 trailing call at Reading en-route to Paddington.

As the weather was closing in I opted to return to London and sample one of the Electrostar stopping services which are a step-change in quality from the old ‘Thames Turbo’ DMUs. They’re light, bright, clean and with plenty of space. They’re quiet and warm too as they’ve a modern HVAC system as opposed to hopper windows. Add in the fact they’ve tables and plug sockets and GWR are really onto a winner with them. They’re just about everything you could wish for in a modern train.

DG267563. Interior. 387130. Acton Main Line. 1.3.17

The Thames Turbo DMUs have been the staple of Thames Valley services since 1992 but the world’s moved on. Here’s the interior of a GWR Class 387 EMU.

I broke the return trip at Twyford so that I could get a few more pictures before the sun disappeared for the day. Installing overhead wires has altered the feel of the place, but not as much as some other stations which have lost their old GWR footbridges in order to provide the necessary clearance. Platform extensions were very much evident in Twyford, but on this occasion they were on the Main line, not the relief.

DG288483. 387159. Twyford. 16.1.18

387159 arrives at Twyford to carry me back to London.

On the final leg to Paddington I cast a critical eye over the new electrification masts which have been supplied by Furrer & Frey. They won’t win any awards for aesthetics, but they look like they’ll stand up to anything – including a nuclear attack!

DG279884. GWML OLE masts. 24.7.17

Furrer & Frey electrification masts on the GWML. The word ‘butch’ springs to mind, but after suffering so many delayed journeys on the ECML due to the fragility of head-spans, I’m beginning to like them…

Back at Paddington I grabbed a few more pictures before heading to Kings Cross for the journey back to Yorkshire. The curse of the East Coast Main Line struck again as my return train was delayed near Huntingdon because we were requested to run at low speed to inspect the line ahead. As it was an OLE issue I couldn’t help wishing that the East Coast head-spans had been as bomb-proof as the equipment I’d seen on the GWML earlier!

DG288512. 800018. Paddington. 16.1.18

In with the new, out with the old. GWR Class 800 No 800018 at Paddington next to one of the venerable HSTs it will replace.

 

Hs2 and Twitter. Never a good mix. Add in Carillion and…

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When major news stories break Twitter can be a very strange place. It can educate, amuse and frustrate all at the same time. It can also make you seriously wonder about the sanity of some of your fellow citizens – the one’s who never let the fact they know absolutely nothing about a subject and clearly have a tenuous grip on reality stop them sharing their ‘wisdom’.

The collapse of Carillion and the fact it had some contracts to build Hs2 is a classic example. If you believed some of the nonsense, Carillion was solely responsible for building the line which is now going to collapse as a result of them folding. Needless to say, those opposed to Hs2 have leapt on the story, grasping every straw they can find to claim that either this is the ‘end’ for Hs2, or that the Government should now cancel the scheme as a consequence. Here’s a superb example of the bat-shit crazy!

Lance-watkins. 16.1.18.PNG

Meanwhile, Joe Rukin of StopHs2 returned from semi-retirement (he’s not written anything since 22 Nov) to pen this on their website;

“Today, crisis-hit Carillion has gone into liquidation, less than six months after it was awarded the contract to design and build all the tunnels on Phase 1 of HS2.”

Carillion were designing and building all of the Hs2 tunnels? Really?

No. It’s Rukin lying through his teeth again. In fact, Carillion weren’t involved in any bored tunnels. Here’s are the details of the 3 construction contracts (that were divided into 7 lots) which were let to different Joint Ventures (JVs). The information comes from the official Government website.

HS JV contract details..PNG

Carillion were part of the CEK Joint venture, along with Eiffage Genie Civil and Kier Infrastructure and Overseas. They won lots C2 and C3 – neither of which involve boring tunnels. All the tunnelling sections were won by other JVs. The other members of the CEK JV have stated that they have contingency plans in place to deal with the collapse of Carillion, so it’s very likely they’ll continue without them whilst looking for a replacement.

Of course, none of this will stop the ill-informed frothing as people sound off, but eventually the penny will start to drop with some as it becomes obvious that Hs2 is continuing. One very public sign of this is all the work at Euston. The gardens at the front of the station closed yesterday. This led to a futile protest by three demonstrators who were quickly removed from the site before the fencing went up.

The other protest site further up the line at Harvil Rd isn’t exactly a hotbed of activity either. The protesters tweeted out this picture the other day. Four people corralled behind fencing, outnumbered by the people protecting them is more Watership Down than Twyford Down!

Harvil Rd 2.PNG

So, has the public furore over Carillion and the anti Hs2 protesters attempts to grab media attention by chaining a Vicar to a Euston tree helped their cause? Not in the slightest. Their petition on the Government website continues to underwhelm. By close of play yesterday it had garnered a grand total of 24,136 signatures since September 2017. The only problem is that to be in with a chance it needed 66,200 plus! The maths are inescapable. On average it needs over 1150 signatures per day until March 21st. Yesterday it managed 188. Today it has 10. Its average is dropping daily and currently stands just over the 200 mark. It’s toast.

Meanwhile, away from the doomed Stop Hs2 protests, I’m sure that some awkward questions will be asked about the failure of Carillion and the behaviour in the company’s boardroom. Once such question would be how is it that so many hedge funds had short positions on the companies shares, yet this wasn’t sounding alarm bells with others?

I’m asking for your help. Not for me, but for the Railway Children charity.

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In March I’ve signed up for a charity challenge. I’m going to be riding 450km across Northern India in 5 days to raise money for the Railway Children charity (you can read all about their fabulous work here). It’s going to be a tough challenge, but it’s great to be able to put something back and help those less fortunate.

So, I’m asking you all a favour. Help me to help them by donating to my charity challenge via my JustGiving page, which you can find here.

You can read more about the challenge via this link. 

I’ll be blogging about my training and the trip itself, so feel free to keep popping back and having a look. In the meantime, please, give as little (or as much as you can) to help.

Thank You all!

Paul

2018 is the start of the end for Pacer trains, so here’s a pictorial review.

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*NOTE*. This blog is currently under construction. More pictures will be added to it over the next couple of days as I’ve a huge selection of pictures to choose from…

I’m not intending to go into a full history of the BR built Pacer trains as that’s been done many time before. Instead I’m going to go through my archive to illustrate their life and times whilst offering some personal recollections.

Pacers have been a feature of the railway scene since the mid 1980’s but now their time’s drawing to a close. The first sets will go off-lease after the May timetable change, then there’ll be a steady decline in the numbers until – one day – they’ll all be gone (which is due to be by 2020). Whilst disliked by many passengers (especially commuters) they’re not universally unpopular. Many train crews I’ve spoken to actually admit to liking them! I’ve a soft spot for them too – mainly because they allow you such good views of some of the scenic lines they’re used on. In that respect they’re far superior to the Class 150 fleet. Pacers have also earned their place in history. There’s little doubt that they helped save many a branch line from closure back in the 1980s so we should be grateful for them in some ways. Admittedly, they were far less fun when they were doing their maximum speed on jointed track. I’ve travelled on them coming back from Sheffield  to Huddersfield  several times when they were more like bucking bronco’s than nodding donkeys!

I’ve no recollection of travelling on the original narrow-bodied Class 141 Pacers, but I do remember encountering many of them during my travels around Yorkshire back in the 1980’s-90’s – especially around Leeds (they were based at the city’s Neville Hill depot) and Sheffield. Here’s a few memories.

01489. 141113. Sheffield. 16.9.90.

141113 stabled at Sheffield on the 16th September 1990. The unit’s sporting the West Yorkshire PTE livery that was applied to the 141s after they were rebuilt. This particular unit survives today. It’s preserved by the Llangollen Railcar Group.

13306. 55541 from 141120. Wolverton.15.12.03

Vehicle 55541 from unit 141120 awaits scrapping at Wolverton works on the 15th December 2003. It was cut up the following year.

Over the years the Pacers have carried a variety of liveries. There’s also a wide variation in their interiors and other detail differences. Here’s a look at a  few of them.

00487. 142015. Southport. 17.2.90.

142015 at Southport on the 17th February 1990. It’s still wearing the mock GWR livery that was applied to members of the fleet which had been operating in Cornwall and Devon. Branded as ‘skippers’ they were unsuited to the sharp branch line curves so were eventually transferred North. Unusually, the unit is seen on the Wall side siding. This has a pit, which suggests the set needed inspecting.

01250. 142002. Southport. 27.5.90.

142002 at Southport on the 27th May 1990. Its wearing the orange and brown livery and branding of Greater Manchester PTE.

02559. 142516. lime St. 17.6.91.

‘Skipper’ liveried 142516 at Liverpool Lime St on the 17th June 1991. I’m trying to remember why some of these units were briefly renumbered in the 1425xx series. If I remember correctly they were units allocated to Heaton depot in Newcastle.

02125. 142059. 1220 to Mcr. Blackburn. 3.4.91.

This scene is unrecognisable today! 142059 stands at the old Lancashire and Yorkshire railway station at Blackburn on the 3rd April 1991. 059 is one of two Class 142s to have been scrapped due to accidents. Later that year it ran-away and collided with the buffer stops at Liverpool Lime St, which led to it being withdrawn.

06602. 142020. Middlesborough. 30.4.97.

142020 along with a ‘Skipper’ liveried set stands at Middlesbrough on the 30th April 1997. It’s wearing Tyne and Wear as well as Regional Railways branding.

11551. FNW Class 142 passes over the Leeds and Liverpool canal. Wigan. 28.11.2002

Operated by First NorthWestern but wearing a revised Greater Manchester PTE livery, an unknown 142 passes over the Leeds and Liverpool canal on the approach to Wigan Wallgate station on the 28th November 2002.

DG05344. 142044. Hoscar. 9.2.06.

142044 speeds past Hoscar on the Southport-Wigan line on the 9th February 2006. This unit carries Merseyrail livery. These sets had been refurbished with a new interior and better destination blinds. The small bus-type ones were replaced with a much larger dot-matrix type.

DG05341. Northern 142. Hoscar. 9.2.06.

Also seen at Hoscar on the same day in 2006 was this First NorthWestern, blue and gold liveried Class 142

DG08772. 142015. Newcastle upon Tyne. 12.12.06.

On the 12th December 2006 Arriva liveried 142015 crosses the Tyne at Newcastle

DG10626. Northern class 142. Burnley. 25.5.07.

A Merseyrail liveried 142 crosses the Burnley viaduct whilst working a Colne to Blackpool South service on the 25th of May 2007

DG12553. Northern 142. Parton. 22.9.07.

An Arriva liveried 142 passes the Cumbrian coast at Parton on the 22nd September 2007. This beautiful line is a delight to explore on a Pacer because of their big windows and all round views.

DG45979. Interior. 142052. 12.3.10.

The refurbished interior of Merseyrail’s 142056, showing the low-backed replacement for the original bus-style bench seats and the new PIS screen at the back of the cab bulkhead.

DG192563. Northern Class 142. Edale. 7.9.14.

A Northern 42 heads through the beautiful Hope valley at Edale whilst working a service from Sheffield to Manchester Piccadilly on the 7th September 2014.

DG18202. 142064. Dawlish. 4.8.08.

142064 leads a classmate along the beach at Dawlish on the 4th August 2008. A dozen Class 142s were loaned to First Great Western from Northern in 2007. The last ones returned in 2011. All were based at Exeter, which was nicknamed ‘the Donkey Sanctuary’ by some FGW staff.

DG55897. FGW 142 and Lympstone. 22.6.10.

A FGW 142 passes the Swan Inn at Lympstone on the Exmouth branch on the 22nd June 2010.

DG56173. 142001. Exeter Riverside. 23.6.10.

The first built Class 142 was one of those loaned to First Great Western. Here it is climbing the bank between Exeter St David’s and Exeter Central on the 23rd June 2010

 

DG199592. 142038. Summit tunnel. 31.10.14.

142038 is about to enter the Summit tunnel on the Calder Valley line on the 31st October 2014

 

DG214110. 142029. 150137. Todmordon. 17.5.15

A Class 150 and 142 in multiple are seen from across the rooftops in Todmordon whilst working through the Calder Valley on the 17th May 2015.

 

DG14628. Northern conductor at work. 29.2.08.

A Northern conductor prepares to open the doors on a Pacer

 

As well as the British-Leyland/BREL Class 142s, BR also purchased a different design from Andrew Barclay. These were based on an Alexander bus body and were built at Kilmarnock between 1985-86. They were originally put into service in the North-East before being transferred to South Wales and the South-West. After privatisation the Class was split between Arriva Trains Wales and Wessex trains (later First Great Western)

DG277275. 143601. Cardiff Queen St. 24.7.17

First of the class 143601, sporting the original Arriva Trains Wales livery leaves Cardiff Queen St for Cardiff Central on the 24th July 2017.

DG277341. 142076. 143625. Cardiff Queen St. 24.5.17

Two varieties of Pacer pass at Cardiff Central on the 24th May 2017. Leyland/BREL 142076 in old Arriva livery and Barclay/Alexander 143625 in revised Arriva livery.

DG10460. 143603. Standish Jn. 2.5.07.

On the 2nd May 2007 143603 passes Standish Junction whilst working a Gloucester to Swindon service.

DG19110. 143621. Bristol Temple Meads. 3.10.08.

On the 30th October 2008 a rather tatty 143621 approaches Bristol Temple Meads. Many 143s had been given different advertising liveries. In this case ‘Visit Bristol’ – although I’m not entirely sure the train or the state of it was a great  advert for the city!

DG249998. 143619. Copplestone. 15.8.16

143619 Calls at Copplestone on the Barnstaple branch whilst en-route to the end of the line on the 15th August 2016. By this time all the units were in the attractive First Great Western ‘Dynamic lines’ livery (with the lines made up of place names on the network).

Two of the Class 143 sets gave themselves Viking funerals back in the early 2000’s, these were sets 143613 and 143615. The effects of the fires were rather spectacular, as these two pictures show.

DG04501. 143613. Crewe works open day. 10.9.05
The fire had been so severe on this car of set 143613 that the underframe has buckled and drooped. The unit was at Crewe works and could be viewed at the open day on the 10th September 2005.
DG04505. 143615. Crewe works open day. 10.9.05

143615, bearing Valley lines livery was the other member of the class that self-combusted. It’s also seen at Crewe works open day in 2005.

The final batch of Pacers are the Class 144. These were Alexander bodies on BREL underframes. They now operate across Yorkshire, especially around Leeds which is where they’re based. At one time they did used to have diagrams which took them across the border into Lancashire.

DG204045. 144022. Huddersfield. 6.1.15

Northern liveried 144022 crosses Paddock viaduct in Huddersfield whilst working a Huddersfield to Sheffield (via Penistone) service on the 6th January 2015

DG160605. 142091. 142018. 144012. Huddersfield. 22.9.13.

A trio of Pacers stabled for the weekend in the yard at Huddersfield. Along with their Class 15x brothers, the units work services to Sheffield, Leeds, Bradford and Wakefield

DG83479. 144015. Neville Hill. 3.6.11.

144015 sits inside Leeds Neville Hill depot on the 3rd June 2011. The fleet are based at and maintained by the depot.

DG12743. Northern 144s. Halifax. 25.9.07.

A pair of Class 144 Pacers arrive at Halifax, West Yorkshire on the 25th September 2007.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who nicked the sunshine?

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It’s been one of those days! I’m heading to London but the trip’s not been without hiccups. The day started well. Despite all the cars on our road being covered in frost the temperature seemed quite mild and my walk to the station was slip-free and pleasant. Halifax is quiet at 06:30, so there’s little to disturb your thoughts – which makes a nice change! The station was quieter than normal too, mainly because it’s another Northern Rail strike day, but as I was using Grand Central I wasn’t bothered. One of their ‘new’ ex-GWR sets arrived (on time) to take me South but my plans were immediately thrown into confusion as the wifi was up the spout.

I normally use trains as mobile offices as much as anything else and factor in wifi as a vital part of the service. However, every cloud has a silver lining, so not being glued to my laptop screen meant I could savour the view from the window. Yorkshire looked beautiful. The landscape was covered in thick frost, lakes were frozen and a sense of stillness was palpable. To cap it off the sunrise through a cloudless sky was sublime, it illuminated the contrails of a gaggle of airliners all heading East towards Europe, leaving me wondering where each one was actually heading for. Sadly, the experience was marred when I got to Doncaster as a cab fault led to my train being cancelled! Grand Central did their best to provide an alternative by arranging for a Sunderland – Kings Cross service running 10 mins behind us to stop & scoop everyone up but I decided to wait for an hour and catch the next Southbound Bradford. My unexpected break gave me time to use the station internet access which was just as well as the 08:31 was another former GWR 180 without wifi! 

Now I’m heading through Cambridgeshire, typing this on my phone. The stunning weather we had up North came to an abrupt end when we met a solid wall of cloud North of Peterborough. It’s dull misty and rather depressing here, which is a shame. Still, let’s see what London brings…

The winter blues…

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“I woke up this morning” – is the opening line of many a blues song – only in my case this morning was more like being wrenched into wakefulness by a paroxysm of coughing and spluttering. Like many people, Dawn and I have gone down with the traditional post-Christmas bug so it’s been a much more laid back Saturday then I intended. The pair of us have been coughing and hacking so much anyone walking past the house would be forgiven for mistaking it for a TB clinic.

The winter blues are one of the reasons I normally go abroad this time of the year. Everything seems subdued and miserable after the festive season, many people rein their horns in and count the pennies they haven’t got after overspending on Christmas so towns and pubs seem quiet. Even the weather has done it’s best to contribute to the general air of doom and gloom by pissing down for most of the 2018 we’ve had so far. A brief break in London helped lift my spirits but I’ll be glad when this damned cold’s buggered off – for both of us.

Meanwhile, in the spirit of a surreal age, when an American President takes to Twitter to assure everyone he’s not nuts but one of the smartest people on the planet – I’m heading for the drinks cabinet – whilst it and I still exist. Because, when this is the infantile level of the President of the United States – and supposedly the leader of the free world, we are all, deeply, deeply f****d.

trump 1trump 2

 

A look at Huddersfield station

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Don’t ask me about best laid plans, mine seem to change all the time! It’s one of the beauties and frustrations of being freelance! Today I’ve found myself working from the ACoRP (Association of Community Rail Partnerships) water tower cum office in Huddersfield which is part of the superb grade 1 listed station. How’s this for a place to work?

DG138747. ACoRP Office. Huddersfield. 17.2.13.

The water tower stands in what’s now a car park but in the 1960’s it was a locomotive stabling yard, complete with a turntable which was situated right outside the building.

I love Huddersfield’s architecture. Well, most of it anyway. George Square outside the station is surrounded by a selection of stunning Victorian buildings that make a fantastic backdrop for the annual food and drink festival which is held over 4 days in August.

DG160608. Wilson statue outside the station. Huddersfield. 22.9.13..JPG

The grand entrance to Huddersfield station seen from the square, complete with statue of former Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson, who was born in the town in 1916

 

DG60541. Crowds. Huddersfield food drink festival. 14.8.10.

The food and drink festival in the square outside the station. The building on the left is the (closed) George Hotel which was the place where Rugby league was born.

The station’s a real community hub. Not only is it the gateway to the town, it’s also a destination in its own right. It’s most well-known for its two pubs (The Head of Steam and the Kings Head) and Felix, the station cat (who even has its own Facebook page). But there’s a lot more too – as well as having a warm and welcoming café on the island platforms which does a mean bacon teacake (as they call them in these parts) the lobby hosts a range of food providers on different days of the week. For example, on Wednesdays you can buy artisan breads from this stall. The area also doubles as an exhibition space for local artists.

DG176254. Handmade bakery selling loaves at Huddersfield station. 16.4.14

Here’s a look inside the Kings Head pub on the Leeds end of the station. It’s undergone a fantastic restoration job in the past few years, which has exposed the wonderful ceiling and reopened side rooms. The work’s led to it winning a Railway Heritage award.

DG283267. Interior of the Kings Head on the station. Huddersfield. 4.10.17

So, what’s not to like? Trains, food, beer and architecture. If you’ve never been to Huddersfield station before – why not pay a visit? But beware, because it’s on the Rail Ale trail it can get extremely busy at weekends – and if Huddersfield Town are playing at home it can be bonkers, so I’d recommend a weekday if you can make it.