Rolling blog. Harwich – from the continent…

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07:45.

I’m back in dear old Blighty (with the accent on the dear thanks to our ‘new’ Government’s policies) after a decent night’s sleep on the ferry from the Hook of Holland. To be honest, I’m looking forward to getting home now as I’ve a huge amount of pictures to edit and file – as well as begin writing my series of RAIL articles from my around Britain trip.

Right now, I’m on Greater Anglia’s 07:45 heading for Ipswich where I’ll take a pit-stop to have breakfast – and get a few pictures. Tempting as it was to have a trip to Manningtree on one of the few remaing Class 321s I’ve opted for a direct train in the shape of a Stadler Class 755. Here’s what I could have won!

08:05.

Just as well I planned to bail early. The weather here is awful and driver’s having difficulties as the motor for his windscreen wiper’s failed meaning there’ll be a unit swap at Ipswich anyway!

11:00.

I’m on the move again, this time from Norwich to Ely. It’s a roundabout way to get to Ely from Ipswich but the direct service is only two-hourly. Plus, with the weather being so dull it made sense to try my luck elsewhere. The plan worked. Norwich was (mostly) sunny so I managed a few decent shots before catching a Stansted bound train. I’m now set up on a comfy Class 745 and enjoying the scenery.

A pair of 755s at Norwich. The left hand unit is the 10:34 to Stansted Airport.

15:10.

I’m now on my way back to Yorkshire behind some vintage East Coast traction after stopping off at Ely and Peterborough en-route. Ely’s a delightful little station with friendly staff, a variety of refreshment outlets and a busy train service as it’s a major junction for the Fens. You also have entertainment provided by military aircraft on training exercises, although you can always hear the fast jets, you rarely see them. Train services are provided by Greater Anglia, East Midlands Railway, Cross-Country Trains and also Great Northern. I was surprised to see one of the Class 387/3s there as I’d forgotten they’d been transferred to the TOC in July from both C2C and Great Western.

Having shot a variety of pictures I moved on to another old haunt – Peterborough. Nowadays it’s not the most ideal place to get pictures but there’s a real variety of services and train fleets to be found, including this very shabby East Midlands Railway Class 156 working GN-GE services.

I stayed to grab a few shots before catching this beastie Northwards.

This takes me back in more ways than one.I first encountered the Class 91s here at Peterborough in 1990 when they were brand new and still being tested.

16:00.

I’m having another short break in Doncaster where this Trans-Pennine interloper has put in an appearence.

20:45.

I’m finally home and calling it a day for today. Now it’s time to unpack, wind down, eat some delicious veggie food that Dawn’s prepared and have some quality time together. Tomorrow’s another day…

I’ve a small favour to ask…
If you enjoy reading this or any of the other blogs I’ve written, please click on an advert or two. You don’t have to buy anything you don’t want to of course – although if you did find something that tickled your fancy that would be fab! – but the revenue from them helps me to cover some of the cost of maintaining this site (which isn’t cheap and comes out of my own pocket). Remember, 99% of the pictures used in my blogs can be purchased as prints from my other website –  https://paulbigland.zenfolio.com/

Or – you can now buy me a coffee! https://ko-fi.com/paulbigland68312

Thank you!

Rolling blog. Rotterdam repose…

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09:45.

A quiet night in a hotel in Rotterdam has allowed me to start catching up on sleep after a very hectic week. I resisted the temptation to go out and explore yesterday and elected to stay in my room with a beer and a laptop in order to catch up with the volume of pictures I’ve been taking this past week. Food was provided by a little Persian supermarket around the corner where I bought the Iranian version of the Greek Dolmades (stuffed vine leaves). Only the main ingredient in Dolmeh appears to be chickpeas rather than rice. They were delicious!

Now I’m about to check out of my hotel to spend the day exploring the city before heading to the Hook of Holland to catch the night boat. Sadly, this one isn’t to Cairo but back to Brexit Britain run by the asset strippers of the Tory party…

13:30.

I’m taking a short break to rest my weary bones and enjoy the sun having spent the past few hours wandering miles around Rotterdam. I’ve realised that I’ve not bee here since 2007 when I was working for a French firm who build train simulators. In one way it seems like the blink of an eye, in other ways it’s a lifetime. Here’s a few phone piics from my wanderings. As you can imagine, my real camera has been kept very busy!

I love the mix of architecture here. I spotted these doors on a building opposite my hotel.
Rotterdam is a city built for people, not for cars.
The old docks and a preserved ‘Sik’ (Goat) shunting engine.
A memorial to Jewish children killed in the war.
As you can imagine, there’s plenty of bridges here. The tall one is a former railway bridge.
The view from where I’m sitting right now.

20:00.

I’m finally on my way to the Hook of Holland after a lovely day exploring the city. There’s so much that I could write about the place and my experiences through the day, but here’s a few. Holland is a melting pot. I passed and took photos of a silent march by members of the Muslim faith where the sole purpose was to remind people that no-one is free of opression. I had a lovely chat with one of the stewards whi saw my interest. Heading back to thr hotel I popped in to a Persian supermarket to buy some if the delicacies I’d seen last night. I had a chat with the lovely he old guy running it where he talked about what’s happening in Iran right now. When I got to the metro station and started poring over the map a chap of Indisn origin worked out I was English and offered to help. We struck up a conversation as he was Sri Lankan but had livef in the Netherlands for 40 years whereas I’ve been a regular visitor to the island. I love these chance meetings and interatctions.

21:40.

It’s time to say goodnight. I’m now on the ferry back to Britain and there’s no free wifi on this one. See you on the other side as they say…

Rolling blog. Take the long way home…

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08:15.

Time to get on the road again, only with a slight change of plan. I’d originally intended to get the ferry from the Hook of Holland back to the UK tonight but having seen the way punctuality of the German rail network isn’t what it was – and my connection in Rotterdam being tight I’ve decided to have one last night in the Netherlands and not have to stress about connections as I change trains four times on the way. Right now, I’m ready to begin the first leg from Frankfurt (Oder) to Berlin. Let’s see what happens…

09:55.

I had a pleasant stroll to the station as the weather’s still mild here. En-route I passed this sobering reminder of the country’s dark past. These two brass plaques were sunk into the pavement outside an apartment block. They’re a permenant reminder of local Jews who were murdered by the Nazis.

I’d given myself plenty of time to get to the station so that I could get some shots on the way. I’d hoped to get a selection of the meter gauge tram network but the little buggers proved elusive. It was only when I was almost at the station that a gaggle of them appeared, including this example.

The weather turned gloomy by the time I’d dug the camera out at the staion which was a shame as it’s a busy place. Rehional services to Berlin are interspersed with local trains and even international expresses from over the Polish burder just the other side of the Oder river. Heavy freight trains pass through every few minutes, carrying mix of containers, new VWs, minerals, chemicals and steel.

Not wanting to push my luch and knowing just how unreliable DB are nowadays I decided to hope on an earlier train (the 09:34) to get me to Berlin Ostbahnhof rather than my booked 09:58. It was a wise move. Despite starting from here it left 20 mins late at 09:54 so I hate to think what time the 09:58 will run at! My connection time in Berlin’s 24 minutes…

11:34.

In reality the journey panned out OK. Yes, the train I should have caught was late, but only by six minutes. The extra time I had in the bank allowed me to have a wander before my train arrived in the shape of a pair of the older Intercity (ICE2) sets. I’m now set up in the quiet coach, laptop plugged in and charging. The advantage of getting the train from Ostbahnhof is the sets arrive empty off the depot, so you have plenty of time to settle in as only a handful of other passengers do the same. Next stop is the Hauptbahnhof which is mayhem as the platforms are full – and now so is my train!

It doesn’t look like this anymore…

13:45.

It was all going so well until we left Stendal…

A few minutes later we ground to a rather rapid halt. Not quite a full ‘drop the lot’ emergency stop, but a very rapid deceleration ending in a slow stop. Then the crew call alarm went – which is normally a bad sign. It means the driver needs to talk to the train manager. After a while the train manager explained the delay was down to unspecified ‘engineering work’. As I’ve bought my ticket online from the DB website, I get regular email updates about my delayed trains and suggested revised onwards connections. The latest on also mentioned engineering work and also told me I’d still make my onwards connection – which was reassuring. Of course, that depends on nothing else going tits up! With that news and the fact I’s no idea how long we’d be stuck, there was only one thing to do. Find the bar car…

The delay’s annoying as I was looking forward to some spare time as Duisburg to get a few pictures before boarding another train. Now we’ll have to see. Right now we’ve just pulled into Hannover Hauptbahnhof at least 25 minutes down. The train’s getting even busier too. One or two have got off but far more are joining and, on my trip, back from the bar car I had to step over young people sitting in the vestibules.

22:00.

I’m now relaxing in my hotel in Rotterdam after completing the trip, so I’m resuming where I left off earlier. My eventual arrival in Duisberg was over 30 minutes late which was a great shame as it looks like a fascinating station to take pictures at. It’s old and untypical of many German stations as the mix of shops in the subway is a mix of the exotic and the down-market. It was also incredibly busy. I had enough time to grab something to eat, find my train and that was about it. The station reminds me of Crewe back in the UK. It shares the same levels of faded glory and decrepitude – but with better food!

I was hoping for a more relaxed train across the border to Arnhem, but it wasn’t to be. A pair of units turned up which were busy before they arrived and absolutely rammed when they left, but at least I managed to get a seat. I’ve not travelled on the lines around here or through Oberhausen for years, so I was rather taken about by how much weeds and bushes are taking over. Again, it reminded me of the UK, apart from the fact German railways are so much bigger. The amount of freight is staggering, but then Germany is still an industrialised nation – unlike the UK, where most of our comparable industries were run down during the Thatcher government years.

I changed trains yet again at Arnhem, a recently rebuilt station which (compared to Germany) has few facilities. A Dutch four car double-deck EMU arrived to take us forward but this was far too small for the numbers and left hopelessly overcrowded. I ended up standing in a vestibule all the way to Utrecht, where I changed for the final time. The next train was another hopelessly packed EMU where I had to stand almost all the way to Rotterdam. Both trains contained lots of young people heading for a night out in various places, which may have exacerbated the situation. On the bright side? Both trains were spot on time. The downside? They were all dirty and graffiti covered, not that it seems to put people off from using them.

People often make unfavorable comparisons between the UKs railways and those of Europe. I can only assume the majority of those people have never spent much (if any) time actually travelling in trains in Europe, because if they had they’d know what simplistic nonsense is talked. The UK network is far from perfect, but the trains are in far better condition than those of many EU countries and that applies to the stations too.

Right, I’m going to bring this blog to a close. It’s time for bed. There’ll be time for a lot more thought tomorrow, before my return to little Britain…

I’ve a small favour to ask…
If you enjoy reading this or any of the other blogs I’ve written, please click on an advert or two. You don’t have to buy anything you don’t want to of course – although if you did find something that tickled your fancy that would be fab! – but the revenue from them helps me to cover some of the cost of maintaining this site (which isn’t cheap and comes out of my own pocket). Remember, 99% of the pictures used in my blogs can be purchased as prints from my other website –  https://paulbigland.zenfolio.com/

Or – you can now buy me a coffee! https://ko-fi.com/paulbigland68312

Thank you!

Rolling blog. Innotrans day 4…

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10:15.

My day began at 06:00 as usual but today the trains behaved themselves and my service into Berlin was seamless. Now I’ve finished up some picture editing in the Innotrans press centre and I’m about to hit the halls. Watch out for loads of pictures today as I’m free to roam – and it’s a bright, sunny morning…

13:50.

Having spent the last several hours wandering around halls and outdoor displays I’m taking a few minutes break to download some of the pictures, top up my water levels and use the facilities. Today’s akways the quietest as many people have already left so it’s easier to get pictures. Even so, you still need patience.

The Dubai ‘Sky pod’.
The new FPS Plus
FPS plus interior
Trenitalia and Hitachi ‘blues’.
‘blues’ interior
‘blues’ bike and luggage area.
The new Siemens U-bahn car shows why you have to be patient. There’s often someone taking extreme interest in the underfloor equipment!
Never complain about the hardness of UK train seats again. The Wein U-bahn trains are fitted with plain plywood ones!

17:10.

I elected to leave Innotrans before the bitter end as I’d done most of what I wanted. There’s not a cat in hell’s chance of getting around it all and it’s such a lovely evening I thought I’d explore the city’s railways. Here’s a couple of shots so far…

A Siemens built Class 182 calls at Friedrichstrasse.
Alexanderplatz staion in the former East Berlin with a double-deck, loco hauled set working to Magdeburg.

22:30.

I’m now homeward bound after a great few hours exploring the Berlin S and U bahn (and the areas it passes through) before meeting up with an old friend for a couple of beers and chatting about life, the universe and everything. Here’s one of the paces I discovered, the wonderful architecture of the old Berlin Pankow station.

Strange to think I’ll be moving on again tomorrow. I’ve kinda got into the routine of being a commuter and living life in a city I really enjoy.

I’ve a small favour to ask…
If you enjoy reading this or any of the other blogs I’ve written, please click on an advert or two. You don’t have to buy anything you don’t want to of course – although if you did find something that tickled your fancy that would be fab! – but the revenue from them helps me to cover some of the cost of maintaining this site (which isn’t cheap and comes out of my own pocket). Remember, 99% of the pictures used in my blogs can be purchased as prints from my other website –  https://paulbigland.zenfolio.com/

Or – you can now buy me a coffee! https://ko-fi.com/paulbigland68312

Thank you!

Rolling blog. Innotrans day 3…

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08:00.

Miracle of miracles, my train into Berlin is actually on time today! Oh, and it’s a beautifully sunny morning to boot so all’s well with the world. Admittedly, I have a slightly fuzzy head after a night out with the ‘boys’ but it’s nothing that a couple of cups of coffee in the media centre won’t cure.

I’m looking forward to a freerer day at Innotrans now that most of my commissions are done. Well, that I know of anyway – you never know what might crop up. Either way, today should be a lot more relaxed than the past two.

I’m beginning to get used to this commuting malarky after catching the same train three days in a row. I’ve not gone for the classic commuter behaviour of always heading for ‘my’ seat but I’m starting to recognise a few regulars on the route.

13:50.

Joy of joys – my last launch is done. My services were farmed out to an EU rail organisation rebrand and launch which kept me occupied most of the morning. Now I’m off the leash and free to wander around outside. Here’s a few shots.

If you wander down to the bottom of the site, Schweerbau are fuelling a party with free beer and bratwurst!

There’s some serious kit on display here…

Liverpool Mayor Steve Rotherham at the launch of the new Stadler battery trains for Merseyrail.
A bird’s eye view of some of the outdoor exhibits at Innotrans.

23:00.

The end of today turned in to a sociable one as I spent it catching up with friends from Siemens. Firstly Silke, who had tipped me off about the opportunity to get the photo shown above. We had a good catch-up on the huge Siemens stand. After the show closed I went out for dinner with Ellen and the pair of us had a great chin-wag about life, the universe and everything.

Now it’s nearly midnight, I’m back ‘home’ and ready to hit the sack before the final day of Innotrans. As yet, I’ve no commissions tomorrow so let’s see what I can get up to…

I’ve a small favour to ask…
If you enjoy reading this or any of the other blogs I’ve written, please click on an advert or two. You don’t have to buy anything you don’t want to of course – although if you did find something that tickled your fancy that would be fab! – but the revenue from them helps me to cover some of the cost of maintaining this site (which isn’t cheap and comes out of my own pocket). Remember, 99% of the pictures used in my blogs can be purchased as prints from my other website –  https://paulbigland.zenfolio.com/

Or – you can now buy me a coffee! https://ko-fi.com/paulbigland68312

Thank you!

Rolling blog. Innotrans day 2…

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10:45.

German railways let me down again this morning. My inbound train was 25 mins late so I didn’t get to Innotrans until way after 09:00. First job was to check in with my clients and find out what’s happening today. Luckily their presentation (which is on another stand) is literally next door – I was fearing it’d be in a hall on the other side of the Messe!

Next port of call was the press centre where I’ve bumped into a large chunk of the UK trade press. Tips and gossip swapped and pictures downloaded it’s time to hit the halls…

Another busy day beckons…

13:10.

Finally, a chance to sit down for a few minutes before the next gig. The problem with Innotrans is that there are so many launch or other events you’re always running from one to the other. I had Hitachi Energy unveiling a new transformer back to back with Talgo hosting the Spanish transport minister who was having a look at one of their new coaches for DB. Next I have a joint UK-Saudi signing. Still, it’s kept me occupied. Here’s a few phone pictures

Here’s one of two UK pavilions. This one has a Welsh flavour and a plan of the new £250m test track that’s under construction
It’s not just trains either. Transport needs to be integrated (and green). Here’s a new electric bus with a 450km range.

The countdown nears its end as Hitachi Energy prepare to unveil their new transformer that’s lighter and greener.

Don’t worry, there’ll be more trains soon!…

22:11.

Yet another day where my step count is getting silly! Right now I’m sat on the (late running -surprise, surprise) RER train to Frankfurt (Oder) after another great day. I still haven’t seen anywhere near enough of Innotrans but then I’ve been busy with various assignments. Then there’s the amount of people you bump into at random or by design. Innotrans is such a seminal event in the rail industry calender that almost everyone is here. It’s difficult to explain just what a vast event it is. A map doesn’t do it justice as it doesn’t give away the fact these huge exhibition buildings have several floors. I ended up recce’ing how long it would take me to get from one stand to another in a completely different building so that I knew I could do certain launches – hence one of the reasons for my step count.

We’re half way through the event so now I’m listing the trains/stands/people I’ve still not seen. Thankfully, my work calender should thin out a bit tomortow.

This evening I bunked off before the show closed as a bunch of us UK rail people had arranged to meet in the city centre for beers and food. The beers weren’t sobering but the reminiscing could be when we counted down the time and realised we’d been involved in group trips to Europe for 17 years – and I have the website pictures to prove it!

It wasn’t all a trip down memory lane, we had some new people join us which swelled our group to 13. It wasn’t a bad place to eat and drink either. It’s a bar in the railway arches West of Alexandetplatz that brews its own beer.

Rolling blog. Innotrans, day 1…

07:50.

I’m currently bowling towards Berlin on a double-deck train from Frankfurt (Oder) where I’m staying. It’s an hour away from central Berlin but vastly cheaper than trying to book anywhere in the German capital right now as the huge Innotrans trade fair i’m attending has caused prices to go crazy. Instead of paying a four figure sum I’ve a lovely hotel suite in Frankfurt (Oder) for less than 400 quid for 5 nights. Commuting on the train is costing me 30 euros for a weekly season ticket – not bad when you think the normal single fare is 18 euros! Oh, there’s also a lovely little metre-gauge tram network running old Tatra vehicles to play on if I have time!

I’m on the 07:34 to Berlin Hauptbahnhof. Typically for Germany in 2022 it’s running late. only by a few minutrs mind, but there was no obvious reason for the delay. It’s a busy service. We’ve just called at the first stop (Furstenwalde) where so many folk joined us the train’s already full! Mask wearing is still mandatory here and everyone’s complied. It feels strange now as we abandoned the practice in the UK such long time ago. However, the Germans are less cavalier and complacent about Covid.

I’ll blog in fits and starts throughout what will be an incredibly busy day but my first priority is to hook up with various clients to see what it is they want me to do over the next few days.

Catch you later…

08:15.

One observation before I go. Several of the lityle local stations en-route are having their platforms lengthened. This involves single line working as one track is being used by on-track plant involved in the work. In the UK this would never happen as there would be a complete block on both lines as a safety measure!

13:20.

Here’s the start of my InnoTrans 2022 gallery, featuring some of the new Stadler trains for the UK…

https://paulbigland.zenfolio.com/p127408814

16:45.

No rest for the wicked. After a busy day photographing, note-taking and meeting up with old friends I’m now on my way to the British Embassy to cover a trade reception….

23:30.

It’s been a long day. I’m back at my hotel and it’s time to hit the sack as the fun starts all over again tomorrow. But here’s a couple of pictures to whet your appetite. I’m hoping to cover far more of Innotrans tomorrow (depending on commissions). Hopefully we won’t be having the same stormy weather…

One of the Stadler built train-trams that will soon be appearing in the Welsh valleys…
Merseyside isn’t left out either. Here’s the interior of the new Stadler built trains for Merseyrail. I’ll be honest, I never expected to see the name of my old hometown appear on a train at Innotrans!

I’ve a small favour to ask…
If you enjoy reading this or any of the other blogs I’ve written, please click on an advert or two. You don’t have to buy anything you don’t want to of course – although if you did find something that tickled your fancy that would be fab! – but the revenue from them helps me to cover some of the cost of maintaining this site (which isn’t cheap and comes out of my own pocket). Remember, 99% of the pictures used in my blogs can be purchased as prints from my other website –  https://paulbigland.zenfolio.com/

Or – you can now buy me a coffee! https://ko-fi.com/paulbigland68312

Thank you!

Rolling blog. Letting the train take the strain…

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13:30 (European time).

Apologies for not blogging before but it’s been a busy day and I didn’t want to start anything until I was on the train to Berlin.

It’s wonderful to be back in mainland Europe. I realise now how much I miss my time this side of the channel – for a whole host of reasons. It’s cleaner, the infrastructure’s modern, prices are cheaper and it just feels more relaxed.

Arrival…

The ferry trip from the UK was great and having a cabin felt very luxurious – a far cry from my old backpacking days when I’d have just curled up in a corner for a few hours. We arrived on time at the Hook of Holland, a place that’s changed hugely since I was last there. There’s no international trains anymore. In fact, the railway station has been made redundant. It houses a Japanese restaurant but no trains. Now the line’s become part of the Rotterdam metro but the new station’s unfinished. Instead there’s a temporary one which is a good 10 minute walk – which is ironic as the ferry stops right opposite – but then you walk down a very long gangway to get off and pass through customs and immigration to get questioned on the purpose of your visit and get your passport stamped (thanks for nothing, Brexiters).

The trip into central Rotterdam’s painless, if not particularly fast. It takes around 40 minutes. That said, it’s fascinating to see all the traffic in the docks as you pass. I bailed at xxxx station and elected to walk to Rotterdam Centraal which took me about 12 minutes. I calculated it because of my return trip where timings are tight. I now realise they’re too tight so plans are going to have to change.

Rotterdam was a doddle that time of day as the place hadn’t really woken up yet. Centraal station surprised me as it has a ticket gateline – something I’m used to in the UK but not in Germany. Otherwise the station’s typically European with a long subway lined with shops and eateries which provided me with a cheap breakfast.

The station architecture’s modern and quite striking. I’d several hours to wait for my train so spent the time wandering with the camera. Even though I had a suitcase in tow I still managed to get my daily step total in before I left. Those long platforms soon eat up 12,500 steps!

Big yellow taxi – my train from Rotterdam to Amersfoot to connect with DB’s Intercity train to Berlin.

My Dutch train left at 12:35, heading for Amersfoort Centraal. Travelling overland rather than flying was a lovely experience as I had the opportunity to appreciate how many waterways this part of the Netherlands contains. Homes backing onto a canal isn’t too unusual where I live in West Yorkshire but then I’m spoiled. Here everyone seems to have access to water. You even see blocks of flats on stilts that are surrounded by a lake. Plus, there’s not the scenes of dereliction so common back in the UK. Here, everything feels better maintained or renewed.

I did have a momentary feeling of ‘oh, shit’ when my train to Amersfoot was signal-checked and ran late. I had a 5 minute cross platform connection with the Berlin train. As it was, the pair of trains arrived at exactly the same time and the coach I had a reservation in pulled up almost opposite me!

Now I’m on IC147, a loco-hauled intercity service to Berlin Ostbahnhof where we’re due to arrive at 19:34 local time.

International intercity travel, old school German style.

16:10. (German time).

The trip was going really well (apart from the heavy showers, but hey – I’m on a train!) until we got to the Dutch/German border station of Bad Bentheim where we swapped locos and crews. Dutch engine 1765 was replaced by a DB ‘lok’ of unknown heritage. Well, for now anyway. The crew also changed nationality. The whole operation is meant to take seven minutes but with DBs crumbling edge of efficiency it took far, far longer, meaning we left 25 minutes late. No announcements were made either, we just started pulling away.

This delay means my connection at Berlin Ostbahnhof will be tight. I should have had 30 mins to connect with my train to Frankfurt (Oder) but that’s looking dodgy now. Never mind, I’m not going to let it worry me or spoil the trip.

Now we’re over the border Covid facemasks are mandatory on trains. It feels a little odd wearing one again but people are more relaxed about them than they were. Right now as well as enjoying the scenery I’m people watching. There’s a table opposite me containing four middle-aged women with a fifth friend behind. One of them has been to the restaurant car (at the back of the train for some reason) and stocked up on Bitburger beers! They’re now making merry but not messy…

16:33.

We’ve now left Osnabruck which has a large railway yard full of car transporters moving VW cars and vans around the country. There’s even a hump for sorting and shunting wagonload traffic – a sight that disappeared in the UK in the 1980s…

18:00.

We’ve now pulled out of Hannover and made up quite a bit of time. I was surprised to see that most of the occupants of my coach bailed out here but I’ve no idea why. Fair play to DB, I was wortied about the delay but they send you emails to keep you updated about connections. The latest one tells me we’ll be seven minutes late in Berlin which gives me plenty of time to make my connection. Thankfully, that connection will be made undercover as the weather’s gone to ratshit. We’re running under stormy skies and patches of heavy rain.

This rail trip highlights the great difference between the UK and Germany. Germany still makes stuff – hence all the railfreight yards I’m passing. The UK has become a service sector – which makes Brexit even more stupid. What tangible exports we had (mostly food and drink) are now hamstrung by red-tape. Germany? They have all of Europe and the world whilst we just posture.

19:00.

I tempted fate, didn’t I? I praised DBs emil system that let’s you know if your connections are up shit creek. Almost as soon as I’d mentioned it we came to a stand in the midfle of nowhere for no apparent reason. The latest helpful missive tells me we’re now running 40 mins late and my connection’s up the Swannee. Ho hum…

21:20.

Today’s been a long day! My express finally arrived into Berlin Ostbahnhof 50 minutes late, adding another hour to my schedule as my next onward train wasn’t until 21:04. I’m noow on another loco-hauled service made up of a rake of Double-Deck coaches. Even this train’s running five minutes late! I reckon I should get to my hotel around 22:30 and frankly, I’ll be quite happy to just crawl into bed and get some kip. The next few days are going to be hectic to say the least so recharging the batteties now whilst I can seems an eminently sensible idea.

Oh, a little aside. I’ve travelled all the way across Germany without once having my ticket checked..

22:50.

Finally! I’ve made it to my hotel care of this beastie.

I must admit, I wasn’t expecting a suite. Shame I’m not here longer, I could get used to this!

I’ve a small favour to ask…
If you enjoy reading this or any of the other blogs I’ve written, please click on an advert or two. You don’t have to buy anything you don’t want to of course – although if you did find something that tickled your fancy that would be fab! – but the revenue from them helps me to cover some of the cost of maintaining this site (which isn’t cheap and comes out of my own pocket). Remember, 99% of the pictures used in my blogs can be purchased as prints from my other website –  https://paulbigland.zenfolio.com/

Or – you can now buy me a coffee! https://ko-fi.com/paulbigland68312

Thank you!

Rolling blog. Continental drift…

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12:20.

And we’re off! Well, I would been much earlier if I hadn’t been kicking my heels in Huddersfield for the past hour. As I’m handicapped by a suitcase and Dawn was driving in to Huddersfield so kindly offered to give me a lift I decided to head to Harwich this way.

What I hadn’t bargained on was Trans-Pennine Express excerable timetable. Forget the 5 trains an hour of the real timetable. Leeds are now hourly. I’d actually have been better sticking to Northern via Halifax. Ho hum…

Even so, i’m in no hurry. My ferry doesn’t leave Harwich until 23:00 so I’ve plenty of time to get there. Despite running such a wafer-thin service TPE still can’t run to time. The 12:10 arrived and left 7 minutes late. It’s a 6-car service that’s an all-stopper and it’s rammed. Some people have come from Manchester Airport with humongous suitcases which isn’t exactly helping.

Suitcase? I’ll bet my ferry will be carrying smaller life rafts!

13:07.

After the schlep from Huddersfield it’s a relief to be on LNER’s 13:05 from Leeds to Kings Cross. This is another busy train but I’ve managed to blag a table – for now anyway. The reservation system’s kaput so I might get turfed out at Wakefield or Doncaster.

14:05.

All’s well that ends well. Whilst we’ve picked up a load more passengers at both Wakefield and Doncaster no-one came forward to claim my table. Now we’ve just left Newark so it looks like I should be safe as far as my destination – Peterborough – as there’s plenty of spare capacity. I note from the news that people have been told not to travel to London to join the crowds queuing to pay their last respects to the Queen, so I don’t expect to encounter anyone on any of my trains today.

15:00.

Another train, another operator. Now I’ve swapped my fancy intercity ‘Azuma’ for an example of BRs finest “garden shed engineering” as the Class 158s were once described due to the many faults that bedevilled the first examples. Mine is one of East Midlands Railway’s fleet of 2-cars with high-backed seats but no USB or power-points, which is a retrograde step in this day and age.

My train arriving at the ‘new’ island platform at Peterborough en-route to Norwich having started from Sheffield at 12:45.
The high-backed seats are comfortable but they do make the unit feel claustrophobic.

15:40.

I’m now kicking my heels for an hour at the sleepy little junction of Ely. There’s not much happening here of a Sunday, so the local Starling population has found a different use for the overhead wires.

16:45

I enjoyed my break at Ely. Even on a Sunday the station has both a shop and cafe on platform 1 that remain open so I had time for a ‘swifty’ and chance to get a few pictures before moving on. Now I’m on what’s regarded by many (including myself) as the best modern train on the UK network, the Stadler Class 755 bi-modes. Swiss engineering at its best. They’re comfortable, have level access, a variety of seating configurations and plug-sockets and USB ports at every seat. Their performance is just as good too, they shift like sh*t off the proverbial shovel!

Heading for Stowmarket…
The smart, multi-level (and comfortable) seating aboard my Stadler train.

As you can see, this is a quiet train. A fair few got off at the newly reopened station at Soham which was good to see, otherwise this feels very much like a Sunday afternoon service.

18:45.

I’m getting closer to escaping…

I swapped trains yet again at Stowmarket, mainly for one purpose. I’ve always had an interest in railway architecture in general but signalboxes in particular and I’ve never managed a picture of the abandoned example at Stowmarket until now.

I only had a few minutes to wait before my next train which was a case of swapping to the Stadler 755s bigger Intercity brother to get me to Ipswich where I took another short photographic break and went from the sublime to the ridiculous. Greater Anglia has the best train fleets but it also has one of the worst. Yet it’s brand new – and units are still being delivered!

These things are bloody awful. I’m not overweight but even I struggle to make my way down the narrow aisles – not helped by the fact the grab-handles are so low they dig into your ribs and made the space even more constricted.

22:30.

Is that the time? Apologies for the blogging gap but I’ve always been on the move and sometimes it’s about experiencing things so that you can write about them later. Right now I’m sitting on the ferry from Harwich to the Hook of Holland waiting for departure time. I’ve not done this trip for so, so long. In fact the last time I did this the film they were showing was the then blockbuster ‘Flash Gordon’ with a soundtrack by Queen and the famous line from the actor Brian Blessed (delivered in his customary gusto) “Gordon’s alive!”. Gosh, so many things have changed since then. In those days I was hoping to make a home in Amsterdam with my girlfriend of the time. It never worked out but I’ve no regrets. It all seems like a different world. Mind you, so does this ferry. It’s massive compared to what I remember from those days. I’m on the ‘Stena Britannica’ and even have a cabin – but only because they’re mandatory nowadays. In the 1980s we used to get on as foot passengers and just curl up in a corner.

I arrived in Harwich in plenty of time and had chance to explore. It’s funny how things work out sometimes. I’d not been around this neck of the woods for years then end up here twice in the space of twelve months! Harwich Town’s a curious place that’s worth exploring because of it’s history and architecture, but like a lot of UK seaports it’s lost its mojo. The days of the train ferries are long gone. Now the port’s been eclipsed by Felixstowe due to the move to containerisation. Like this.

Looking across to Felixstowe from Harwich

Still, I’m looking forward to leaving Brexit Britain and the social and political museum the country’s fast becoming. The next week is going to be very different. And this ain’t a bad way to get there either..

One of several restaurants on board.
I’ve not had a cabin on a ferry for years!

23:15.

We’ve left port and we’re on our way, so it’s time for me to sign off until tomorrow. See you on the other side as they say…

I’ve a small favour to ask…
If you enjoy reading this or any of the other blogs I’ve written, please click on an advert or two. You don’t have to buy anything you don’t want to of course – although if you did find something that tickled your fancy that would be fab! – but the revenue from them helps me to cover some of the cost of maintaining this site (which isn’t cheap and comes out of my own pocket). Remember, 99% of the pictures used in my blogs can be purchased as prints from my other website –  https://paulbigland.zenfolio.com/

Or – you can now buy me a coffee! https://ko-fi.com/paulbigland68312

Thank you!

Interregnum (in more ways than one)…

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We’re back at home after a few days in London but for me it’s a brief visit. Being back in London was lovely but what a strange time to be there. It’s certainly not the city I used to live in for so many years – for a whole host of reasons.

Right now it’s time to regroup and prepare to head off to Germany tomorrow. I’m looking forward to my travels as I’ll be exploring some places I’ve not been to a very long time (and can’t really remember) as well as new destinations and the landscape in-between. As the trip involves avoiding flying it’ll take some time – but that’s part of the fun.

Keep an eye out for the next week’s rolling blogs – starting tomorrow as I head for Harwich and the ferry to the Hook of Holland. In the meantime, here’s the picture of the day which was taken at London Kings Cross station this afternoon just before we headed back North.

I’ve a small favour to ask…
If you enjoy reading this or any of the other blogs I’ve written, please click on an advert or two. You don’t have to buy anything you don’t want to of course – although if you did find something that tickled your fancy that would be fab! – but the revenue from them helps me to cover some of the cost of maintaining this site (which isn’t cheap and comes out of my own pocket). Remember, 99% of the pictures used in my blogs can be purchased as prints from my other website –  https://paulbigland.zenfolio.com/

Or – you can now buy me a coffee! https://ko-fi.com/paulbigland68312

Thank you!