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Rolling blog: Northbound

What a stunning day for travelling! The weekend weather in Surrey’s been superb. Yesterday’s Tilford fete was a ball, but now it’s time for me to leave Dawn & the rest of the Platt family behind and begin the trek North – whilst doing a bit of work on the way.

Right now I’m on the 12:30 from Farnham to Waterloo which is a busy four-car Desiro. The air-conditioning is welcome. The teenage lad sat opposite, gossiping about his mates relationships on his mobile phone less so. I feel like i’ve been press-ganged into taking part in a Surrey soap!

The weather was so good I opted to stop off in Woking to get a few pictures to top up the library. Last time I was there was in in 2010 after giving a picture show to a local group. The shots I got afterwards appeared in a number of magazines but the weather was nowhere near as good as today. mind you, the skylines changed a bit too. Here’s a couple of shots from today.

DG302664. 66955. Woking. 15.7.18

Freightliner’s 66955 pulls away from Woking with a Romsey to Eastleigh engineers train that had been recessed in the yard.

DG302678

450085 leads a sister unit out of Woking on the road to Guildford.

I stayed for an hour then headed on in to London before wending my way North. I had planned to stop off again but the closer I got to home the more the clouds rolled in, so I called it a day and headed home.

There’s always tomorrow…

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Surrey sojourn

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After running around the country for the past few days I’m having a quiet Saturday in Surrey. I’m here with Dawn’s family to attend the local Tilford fete. I’ll be posting some pictures from the raft race and other organised mayhem later. Tilford’s a quintessentially English village, as this picture shows, with cricket played on the green outside the village pub. The Institute in the background was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, who later went on to design New Delhi!

DG219537. Cricket on the green. Tilford. Surrey. 8.8.15

I’ll be back on the road tomorrow, heading North again ready for another hectic week. But watch out for fete pics later…

15:36.

Here’s the first few pictures from the fete.

M

More later.

Rolling blog: You know that feeling of deja vu?

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Thank God it’s Friday! It’s my last day of having to catch the 06:03 to Leeds. Thee was a real feeling of deja vu this morning as the day started as a replay of Thursday with carbon-copy weather (drizzle) on my walk to the station, followed by the exact same train trip – a rare event in my life. I’ve never really been a commuter.

Although this first trips the same, the destinations are different. I’m off to Leeds to catch a Cross-Country service down to Derby, where I’ll meet up with colleagues from EMT. I’m judging three more stations on their patch today. This time they’re on the Western side and we’ll be travelling by rail, not road.

Northern have provided another 2-car Class 158 today, so it looks like Wednesday’s 3-car set was an aberration (possibly because of the Great Yorkshire show being on in Harrogate). There does seem to be a little more flexibility in the fleet nowadays thanks to the influx of ‘new’ DMUs from Scotrail & GWR. I noticed a couple spare at Sheffield yesterday wheras at one time everything that could turn a wheel would be put out in the peak!

This train seems quieter too. We’ve left Bradford with plenty of spare seats so it’ll be interesting to see what it’s like when we’ve called at the busy stations of New Pudsey and Bramley.

Even I’ve opted to sit instead of perching in a luggage rack.

07:30

I’m now esconced on the 07:10 from Leeds to Derby which is a pair of Cross-Country Voyagers heading for Plymouth. It’s a quiet train although I doubt it’ll say that way for long. Seats will be occupied several times on the way to Devon.

I was going to use the wifi then realised the system was only offering minute bundles rather than that and the periods they always have and still advertise. Odd…

07:51.

Deep joy – we’ve been crawling along the line towards Sheffield for 20 plus minutes now. I get the impression that we’re caught behind a late-running stopping service, which could make my 12 minute connection at Derby ‘interesting’. To make matters more fun, my fellow judge is on the way in from Crewe and reports his train’s down to one engine and has been delayed ‘cos someone left a set of level crossing gates open!

09:07.

Made it! We’ve all met up but Friday 13th’s struck. A freight train’s causing fun on the Nth Staffs line so Donna’s nabbed a pool car to take us to the first station. We’re now bouncing along the A50 en-route to Alsager.

11.53

First visit done. Driving was a wise move as that failed freight train buggered up N Staffs services all morning. Now we’re retracing our steps before heading into Leicestershire…

13:39.

Second visit done and I’ve had chance to sample the fruit of the cherry trees at Syston station!

So far we’ve had Strawberries and cucumbers on this trip!

16:41.

Here’s the three of us at the last station of the day. Can you guess where it is?

Now our job’s done. Donna’s been a star for the past couple of days and her help’s allowed us to save a lot of time. I’m back in Derby (emailing pictures to a magazine) before heading South.

17:53.

Demobbed! Well, for a little while at least. I’ve had a very hectic (but fascinating and positive) week. Now I’m heading to Surrey for a couple of nights to be with my wife’s family and friends in time for the Tilford fete tomorrow. Although I must admit – the idea of a Saturday lie-in appeals…

Right now I’m on EMT’s 17:32 from Derby, a station that’s about to undergo a second transformation in little more than a decade. Last time the fabric of the station (buildings, canopies etc) were rebuilt. This month the work is far more demanding and difficult. Track and signalling will be replaced and both throats will be extensively remodelled whilst a new Island platform will be added to increase capacity. It’s a hugely complex task. Derby is a hub of the cross-country rail network that’ll be out of action for a while. Work like this is why I can’t help laughing at the useless anti Hs2 campaign and their “just modernise the existing network” refrain. I’ll be polite, refrain from colloquialisms and simply say ‘they know…very little’.

20:12

This is probably my last entry for the day. I’m now on Southwestern Railways 19:53 from Waterloo to Farnham. To say it’s a different railway to the one i’ve travelled these past couple of days is an understatement. No more one per hour single car DMU’s, this is 8-12 car EMUs every half hour! But, let’s be realistic. That’s because the area justifies it. I suspect that if I totted up the annual salary of everyone on this single train it would be more than all the people who use (say) the line through Market Rasen every day.

Digressing…

Crossing London earlier was fun. I’m still a cosmopolitan Londoner at heart and seeing all the people carrying their banners home from today’s protest against Donald Trump gave me hope. At least some of us are fighting against the slide into the political abyss.

Rolling blog: Going East

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I’m up at sparrow-fart again for the fourth day of judging the ACoRP awards. Today it’s the turn of three stations in the East Midlands Trains empire. As they’re difficult to all visit by rail we’ve conscripted the help of Donna Adams, their Community Rail Officer who’s hoping to arrange alternative transport. Right now I’m on my way to Nottingham to meet up with her.

After weeks of continuous sunshine this morning’s walk to the station was actually in the rain! Well, when I say rain it was more of a drizzly shower that did little else but wet the pavements before it trailed off, but it’s a start!

My first train of the day is Northern’s 06:03 from Halifax to Leeds. I caught the same train yesterday wben it was a 3-car. Today that’s been reduced to 2, so I expect it to be rammed when it leaves Pudsey later. Right now, after stopping at the new station at Low Moor it’s on the comfortable scale.

Sure enough, after stops at New Pudsey and Bramley it’s now standing room only. Or (in my case) sitting in a luggage rack!

Hopefully I’ll get a better perch for the next leg of the trip as it’s another two hours to Nottingham from Leeds.

06:58.

Well, there was no danger of having to stand on the 07:03 to Nottingham! The inward bound service was packed but this is very civilised.

I’ve a table bay of four to myself right now so it’s time for breakfast, which is a little more down-market compared to yesterday’s lunch!

After which I might treat myself to a powernap…

07:38

My train didn’t stay quiet for long. We’ve just called at Barnsley and picked up several dozen Sheffield bound commuters, so this train’s certainly earning its keep again.

08:08

At Sheffield we swapped our commuters for a slightly smaller and mode mixed batch of passengers which includes a rather Mr Bean like character sat opposite who’s travelling bare-foot!

Bare-foot man got off at Dronfield. Now, after a couple more stops, the train is full again, this time carrying commuters bound for Nottingham.

Update. 17:19.

Phew! Another busy day that’s seen me explore parts of Lincolnshire I’ve never visited before. Well, I’ve seen the stations but never visited the towns themselves. Again, I’m not going to go into too much detail but I’ve met some brilliant station groups and seen first-hand the excellent work they’ve been doing. Here’s just one example. Last time I passed through Market Rasen station it was a scene of dereliction. Just look at it now!

After we’d finished I bid au revoir to my EMT guides at Lincoln (another station that’s had a make-over since my last visit). Now I’m heading home via Northern’s 17:22 to Leeds – although I’ll probably stop off on the way…

20:35.

As my return was via Sheffield I couldn’t resist stopping off at the Tap. Judging’s thirsty work!

After a ‘swifty’ and chance to download the camera into thr laptop I headed on to Leeds on a Cross-Country Voyager. Then things started to go wrong. We were held outside the station due to congestion, so arrived 8 mins late. I still had 9 mins to make my connection so I wasn’t too concerned, especially as it was essentially a cross platform interchange from 7 to 6. Then the train that pulled in was a Class 322 EMU! I know it wasn’t going to Manchester (unless Network Rail electrified the line since this morning!) but it did confuse ordinary passengers! Then it was announced our grain was leaving from 5c. Off everyone dutifully trotted but the 158 was locked. Eventually the driver turned up, apologised for the delay ans explained he was waiting for the Guard to turn up. 10 mins after we should have left we were all told to go to platform 12c and catch the 20:39 instead! By this time passengers were getting hacked off at being mucked around (again). I can’t say I was too pleased either as it took the shine off what had been a really positive day.

And here we are…

At least we left on time! Tomorrow I get to do all this again as I’m on the 06:03 to Leeds, then on to Derby for another day’s judging. Watch this space…

Rolling blog: Who pinched the sun?

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I’m heading back to London under leaden skies which feels really rather strange after such a long run of sunny days. The weather’s still warm but I was rather hoping that there would be some rain to bring relief to the parched fields which haven’t seen any for well over a month. Sadly, there’s no sign of that. Yet…

I was up at the ungodly hour of 04:30 as I’ve an early appointment to judge a London station for the ACoRP awards. I’m in the capital for the annual press lunch held by Siemens, so I decided to kill two birds with one stone. The earliness of my appointment meant I couldn’t use Grand Central so I’m on the 07:15 LNER service from Leeds which is worked by one of the company’s (soon to be displaced) HST’s. Here it is before departure.

There was fun and games beforehand as the 06:44 LNER service to London was cancelled so the following 07:00 was rammed. I decided to catch this one instead so that I could get a seat & snooze for a while!

09:46

The weather here in London’s still cloudy but the sun’s making valiant efforts to break through! Meanwhile, I’ve swapped steeds and boarded one of the newest additions to the UK fleet, the Siemens built Class 700s. These things are real people movers! They provide much needed capacity in the peaks when older trains were overwhelmed. This one’s forming the 09:51 to Cambridge North, it’s quiet return working as it’s brought 1000s into work already.

I’m only using at far as an old stomping ground – Finsbury Park, whee I’ll be changing to catch one of the oldest passenger trains on the UK network, the Class 313s. These venerable 3-car units were introduced in 1976 when the suburban lines out of Kings Cross and Moorgate were first electrified. They still operate services to Hertford North and Welwyn Garden City, but not for much longer. Their replacements (a derivative of the Siemens Class 700s known as the Class 717) are on their way from Germany…

The 313s have served the railways well. I used to be a regular traveller on them when I lived in Crouch End, but now they’re tired, run down, dirty and unsuitable for today’s volume of passengers. Here’s the one I’m on now, 313031. They’ve changed little in 40 years other than by having their original low-backed seats replaced by this version.

10:12.

Bugger! We’ve ground to a halt just outside Hornsey station due (according to the driver) a tresspasser on the line ahead of us at Oakleigh Park! I’m really not having much luck this week. An LNER express has drawn up and stopped beside us, having encountered the same problem – although it’s difficult to see through the filthy windows on my train!

10:26

On the move again!

11:36

Visit over, I’m now off to the Dorchester Hotel for the Siemens press lunch.

19:45

Phew – what a busy day! The lunch was excellent. Not just because of the food (which was very good) and the ambience of the restaurant, what was far more important was the discussions that could be had between all those who attended.

I stayed later than intended because of it, then had to hot-foot it to Kings Cross, where I managed to catch LNER’s 17:03 to Leeds, which was rammed as the first stop was Peterborough.

To their credit, Network Rail amended the PIS to reflect what was happening in the World Cup tonight.

Back in the late 1980’s I used to travel to Peterboro regularly to say with a friend. The trains were busy then. Now the service has doubled, the formations strenghtened – and they’re still rammed!

Fortunately for me sufficient folk disembarjed at Peterborough that I managed to find a seat to Leeds

Judgment day (pt 2).

Well, it’s been a good day. Paul Cook and I have visited two very different groups and stations on the Merseyrail network. I’m not going to give anything away, all I’m going to say is what a privilege it is to see what so many groups are doing to improve their local stations.

Admittedly, getting back is a slight challenge as Liverpool Lime St station’s in the throes of a massive Network Rail rebuilding programme that’s reduced the number of platforms 9 to 2. Most services are cut back to Liverpool South Parkway, so I’ve had to wait awhile for a train. Mind you, on the way in I saw this sigh by Broad Green station which nafe me chuckle. It’s a play on an old Scouse joke. If you get it – let me know!

Tomorrow’s going to be a looonnngg day. We have to hot-foot it to London to judge one station before I head off to a Siemens press lunch, so I get to go from one end of the spectrum to the other which is always fascinating

What a Brexitshambles…

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This morning I woke up to the news that the Minister charged with leading us out of the EU, one David Davis, has resigned only a short while after the weekend at Chequers when the Government was meant to ‘unite’ around a negotiating position for Brexit. The cynic in me wonders if Davis, the man whom Dominic Cummings once described as “thick as mince, lazy as a toad and as vain as Croesus” couldn’t face the walk down the Chequers drive if he resigned then and had his Ministerial car taken off him.

To say that Brexit is a shambles is being kind. Shambles? It’s a train crash! After 2 years the Government managed to hammer out an agreement amongst itself that didn’t survive a weekend. What’s even more stupid is that agreement was never going to be acceptable to the EU, as the EU made clear years ago!

Meanwhile, whilst those determined to drag to UK over the edge of a hard Brexit cliff play out their games, more and more businesses warn of the consequences (the latest being Philips). What’s should be blindingly obvious by now is that – despite agitating for over 30 years for us to leave the EU, none of these Brextremists had a workable plan. When they finally (narrowly) got their wish, they hadn’t got the faintest clue what what to do next. Their only ‘plan’ is for the country to commit economic suicide by crashing out of the EU without a deal and then blaming the EU!

The arrogance and hollowness of the Brextremists claim that “they need us more than we need them” is plain. Not a single one of their claims has come to pass. The EU hasn’t blinked (it was never going to). Their threat to leave without a deal was always crass stupidity, the equivalent of pointing a shotgun at your own foot and saying “If you don’t give me what I want, I’ll pull the trigger. I’m serious!”

Meanwhile, the rest of us are caught up in this political (and economic) farce of epic proportions. Yet many people seem completely unaware of the consequences and dangers. They’re bored with Brexit. They just want the Government to “get on with it”, without having the faintest clue what ‘it’ is. Never has political apathy been so dangerous.

David Davis quote

Let the judging begin…

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I’ve actually had a weekend off. Well, sort of – ish…

My movements have been confined to within a few miles from home, the furthest I’ve travelled was yesterday when Dawn and I cycled along the Salter & Hebble navigation (aka ‘the canal’) to nearby Brighouse for a bit of exercise, a mooch around and a chance to slake our thirsts on what was yet another amazing summer day. Although I’ve visited Brighouse numerous times I’d never stumbled across the Market Tavern which is a small modern, single story building located in (yes, you’ve guessed it) Brighouse’s market. It’s a well run, friendly little pub with 6 real ales on. I wouldn’t have given it a second glance if I hadn’t spotted all the beer pump clips adorning the walls through a doorway.

Afterwards we cycled back in time to catch England’s World Cup match against Sweden in a pub closer to home. It’s not something I’d normally do but Dawn’s a bit of a football fan – and one time Arsenal season ticket holder, so I went along for the ride as it were. The pub was packed but what struck me was the number of people who were using the match as an excuse for a piss-up. When you see folk doing shots at 3-4 in the afternoon you just know it’s going to get messy! That said, it was a good result for England.

Today’s been more sedentary. Well, for me anyway. Dawn was our running this morning whilst I spent the time catching up on picture editing to get some of last weeks haul of pictures onto my Zenfolio website. If you follow this link, you can see which galleries have been updated. This afternoon we had time for a pleasant stroll along the canal into Sowerby Bridge and time to enjoy the sun, the papers and a quiet drink in the newly extended beer garden at Williams Bar before a quiet night at home.

Needless to say, with weather like this salads are very much the food of choice…

Tomorrow I begin my travels to visit 24 stations around the country in my role as a judge for the annual ACoRP community rail awards. It’s going to be a busy few weeks, so watch this space!

My brain hurts!

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After a few days chasing up and down the country getting scenic rail shots my wings have been clipped today. I’ve spent it working from the ACoRP office in Huddersfield as the tempo changes next week and my fellow judge and I begin the ‘grand tour’ of the 24 UK railway stations which have been shortlisted for visits in this years ACoRP awards.

The logistics of it make my brain hurt. This year there’s a few wild-cards to add to the mix due to continued industrial action, temporary timetables and the fact we’re having the longest bout of sunny weather that I can remember donkey’s years! On the bright side, some of those station floral displays should look fabulous!

Expect a few ‘rolling blogs’ as Paul Cook and I tour the network over the next few weeks. In the meantime, here’s a shot that I took on the Windermere branch yesterday now Northern Rail have resumed services.

DG301642. 153304. 156440. Staveley. 5.7.18

After the excitement of West Cost Railways operating loco-hauled trains the service has become a little more mundane. Not that ordinary passengers care as a train with wide sliding doors is easier to negotiate with luggage than heavy slam doors on old coaches. Compare that with this…

DG300787. WCR service. Kendal. 25.6.18

Have a good weekend everybody! now I’m off for one of these…

Rolling (ish) blog: Westmoreland wanderings

There’s a very slow rolling blog today. Not because I’m sat at home (far from it) but by the time I realised that I’d left my mobile phone on charge at home it was far too late to go back and get it! So, I’m enjoying a phone free existence today, which is quite liberating. It meant that when I caught the train from Sowerby Bridge to Preston I had time for window-gazing – rather than dealing with emails or keeping abreast of the news (or Twitter)! The line via the Calder valley and Copy Pit to Blackburn really is rather beautiful, but I do it so often I tend to take it for granted.
Not today.
Today I remembered to look and appreciate just how much the landscape’s changed in the past 100 years. The name Copy Pit will be meaningless to most people. To railway people it’s synonymous with coal trains and banking engines (engines that would literally help push a heavy train from behind to assist it up a gradient). Of course, now all this has gone. The sights and sounds have disappeared, and the line is quite rural. There’s barely a freight train a day rather than the succession of coal trains there used to be. Coal is no longer king.
What hasn’t changed is the destination of many of the passengers: Blackpool.